Athens, Georgia, and music wouldn't be what they are without each other's influence. The Classic City played a significant role in the early growth of alternative rock as the home of internationally acclaimed bands like The B-52's, R.E.M and Widespread panic. And the lively music scene is in great part what makes Athens such a vibrant place! The city is a renowned summer destination for music lovers looking to experience the Athens sound, and for musicians seeking community, creativity and inspiration. Your visit to Athens won't be complete without enjoying its vibrant music scene! Check out these awesome suggestions for a memorable summer getaway filled with electrifying Athens tunes.
Summer Music Festivals
Summer is the perfect time of the year to enjoy the Athens live music scene due to the variety of vibrant festivals that take place throughout the season! If you are a fan of outdoor music, barbecues, and refreshing drinks you can't miss these iconic music festivals.
For three days of creative energy attend the annual AthFest Music and Arts Festival, which showcases all local and regional talent on three different FREE stages and an Artist Market filled with visual artists, artisans, and makers. The event also offers a Club Crawl which features even more lineups at Athens' best venues and clubs. AthFest has tons more to offer, from Beer Gardens and food trucks to KidsFest, a kid designated area filled with music for the young and fun!
For an all-American 4th of July celebration attend the Classic City American Music Fest. Annually hosted at Southern Brewing Company, the family-friendly festival features local Americana bands and offers refreshing local beers and delicious BBQ. The festival is usually followed by the Star Spangled Classic Fireworks display.
The Sunflower Concert Series combines the fun of live music performances with the beauty of the Flower Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. This local favorite spans throughout the entire summer from June to September, featuring performances by Abbey Road LIVE, The Original Splitz, Elf Power and Randall Bramblett Band. Grab a picnic blanket and a friend, relax on the soft green grass, and let Athens summer sound take you to your happy place!
In addition to the iconic music festivals that Athens hosts every summer, the city is home to internationally known and nationally acclaimed venues that put on live music shows all summer long! From artists in the rise to stardom to renowned bands, you can enjoy a variety of genres and performances at fabulous venues such as The Foundry Athens is home to one of the nations most iconic venues, the 40 Watt Club, where major touring acts such as Nirvana and Snoop Dog have performed. For an unforgettable experience, attend a live show at the historic and notorious Georgia Theatre. Or head to the Rooftop restaurant to enjoy some tunes out in the fresh air and a beautiful view of downtown.
Food & Drink
The Athens Sound can be found all around! Even in the city's restaurants and breweries which frequently host live music shows.
Head to one of the six local breweries for a unique beer to complement the tunes. Some of the breweries have their own recurring music events, such as the weekly Jazz Sundays at Creature Comforts or the Bluegrass Jam at Athentic Brewing Company. Check out the Bands & Brews Itinerary to learn more about how to make the best out of Athens' brews and music scene!
Athens is known to have one of the best college music scenes thanks to the many nightlife spots in town. For a fun night out filled with live music make sure to visit Boar's Head Lounge, a quintessential college bar with indoor and outdoor spaces and recurring shows! For a live performance with a groovy atmosphere head over to Hendershot's, an Athens staple that offers a full bar, full kitchen and daily acts! Grab a cup of coffee (or maybe something stronger) while you enjoy one of their various shows, like the monthly Big Band event.
Your visit to Athens is not complete without trying the amazing local food scene accompanied by some live music! Visit Porterhouse Grill for a flavorful fine dining experience with background live tunes. The Globe, an Irish-style pub frequented by musicians and artists, occasionally hosts live music and has a wide selection of food and drinks. Or if you're in the mood to create music of your own, head to Shokitini to sing karaoke and relish their extensive sushi menu. A music lover interested in history must stop by Weaver D's Fine Foods. The classic southern soul food isn't the only reason to indulge at this historic spot, as the restaurant sign's slogan "Automatic for the People" inspired R.E.M.'s 1992 album title.
The memorable Weaver D's isn't the only Athens musical landmark. Download the self-guided Music History Walking Tour to check out all the spots that have made Athens the music central it is today! The tour highlights landmarks such as the Morton Theatre, where Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong once performed, and the Trestle in Dudley Park, which you may recognize from the back cover of R.E.M.'s debut album. Families and groups can arrange a guided tour through the Athens Welcome Center to witness how the Athens music scene has changed throughout time.
Expand your music history knowledge at the UGA Special Collections Library for an extensive lesson through audio-visual collections. Listen and learn from the Georgia Folklore Collection of over 700 cassettes, and the Peabody Awards Collection, which features interviews with musicians from the 20th century and beyond. The well-rounded music history at the Special Collections Library is a must-see attraction for locals and visitors!
Take home a piece of Athens' music scene
Take a piece of Athens' vibrant energy and electrifying vibes home with you by shopping at one of the music stores around town! Award-winning Wuxtry Records is the meeting place of R.E.M. band members and one of the best spots in Athens to buy some classic tunes. Wuxtry is home to all genres and collections, and you can broaden your taste by browsing through the vinyl Employee Picks selection. Then walk over to Low Yo Yo Stuff Records to browse through their LPs, CDs, and cassettes, and you'll likely find items that you typically can't find elsewhere. The Classic City is filled with Vintage stores that sell vinyls, CDs, vintage band T-shirts, and even musical instruments. You'll never know what you'll find, so go check it out!
On your next visit to Athens make sure to check out the city's iconic live music scene and discover what makes this city the Live Music Central. Head to the "Live Music in Athens" page to plan your perfect summer live music experience!
This blog was originally authored by Kayla Nichols. It has been updated by Isabella Martinez for 2023.