Athens is a town filled with all kinds of music from Blues, Bluegrass, or Big Band, to Celtic or Country, Gospel, or Motown. Chances are on any given night you’ll find someone, somewhere, playing something you’ll love.
And where should we go to hear this music? Let’s face it, at our age, we want to be able to sit down, we want to listen without needing ear plugs and we don’t want to be too crowded. Ideally, we don’t want beer spilled on us, we want close and safe parking, and an early start time.
I and many of my Boomer friends have spent many hours of listening enjoyment in the bars, lounges, breweries, and restaurants listed below. I also checked in with Mayor Kelly Girtz, music lover and a driving force behind Athens Music Walk of Fame, on his favorites. He says, “Anyone new to town should check music listings, park in one of the three public decks, and take a chance on anything that looks interesting. On a good night, you have multiple options … many times I have started at one venue and then gone to a second (or even a third!) over the course of an evening.”
And then there’s Winterville – a small community that loves its music. You’ll find four musical venues in or nearby and Mayor Dodd Ferrelle, who is also a musician, is currently responsible for two of them – the Front Porch Concerts and the recently renovated Marigold Auditorium.
“As a performer, it is important to me to make sure the auditorium is a well-rounded building for everyone to enjoy, whether musicians or an audience sitting for two or three hours watching a show,” he says.
For those of us 50 plus, exploring Athens’ music scene can provide a nostalgic journey, reigniting memories while also introducing us to contemporary sounds. And many of Athens’ music venues foster a warm, communal atmosphere, encouraging connections and shared musical experiences. So, grab a spouse, grab a partner, grab a friend, go by yourself (you will definitely make a friend)! We hope to see you out there!
All the following venues, with their distinct charm and musical offerings, contribute to the rich tapestry of the local music scene. Whether you’re seeking an intimate acoustic evening or a lively big band performance, you won’t be disappointed. Attire is usually casual, and most shows start at 8 p.m. Check websites and Facebook for timely details.
Creature Comforts Brewery | 271 W Hancock Ave. | creaturecomfortsbeer.com
This downtown Athens brewery doubles as a hub for cultural events. Apart from its acclaimed craft beers, Creature Comforts occasionally hosts music nights indoors and outdoors. There is also a Sunday Jazz concert, but sit on the left, close to the band or it will be hard to hear.
Flicker Theatre & Bar | 263 W. Washington St. | flickertheatre.wpengine.com
Known for its cozy atmosphere, Flicker is a bar and music venue that supports local artists. It’s a great place to catch a low-key acoustic set or an experimental band, making it a favorite among Athens’ residents. Great muddled drinks and mocktails.
40 Watt Club | 285 W Washington St. | 40watt.com
This legendary spot has been operating since the late 1970s. It has hosted innumerable acts, from local bands to international legends. Today, it’s synonymous with indie rock and the vibrant sounds of Athens. Shows are SRO but there is some seating in the back, first come/first serve.
The Foundry | 295 E Dougherty St. | graduatehotels.com/athens/restaurant/the-foundry/
One of my go-to places, The Foundry is very popular with the 50 and beyond crowd. It’s a hub for diverse sounds from Motown to rock to jazz and folk. Three levels of seating, great food, and a small dance floor.
Georgia Theatre Rooftop | 215 N. Lumpkin St. | georgiatheatre.com
A historic landmark, the Georgia Theatre remains a cornerstone for music in the city. While the large main stage presents bands most Boomers have never heard of, the Rooftop has a state-of-the-art performance area along with a full bar and stunning views of Athens and the campus.
The Globe | 199 N Lumpkin St. | facebook.com/globe.athens
A cozy pub setting, the Globe has its distinct place in Athens’ music scene, from jazz nights to classical music performances; there’s often a Celtic jam on Sundays! Pub food is available and no cover.
Indigo Hotel | 500 College Ave. | Ihg.com
A blend of luxury and comfort, the Indigo Hotel in downtown Athens frequently hosts live music events in its chic Rialto lounge and outdoor bar. It’s a perfect venue for those seeking upscale ambiance with their tunes.
Little Kings Shuffle Club | 223 W Hancock Ave.
This spot is as quirky as its name suggests. Little Kings is not just a music venue but also a social hub, known for its vibrant dance nights and local band showcases. With a laid-back atmosphere, it’s a go-to for those seeking a fun, low key night out.
Nowhere Bar | 240 N Lumpkin St. | nowherebarlive.com
A beloved locale for many Athenians, Nowhere Bar has a strong emphasis on jam bands and improvisational music. Its eclectic vibe and tight-knit community make it a unique spot to experience Athens’ musical culture. Pub food, pool, and live music!
The World Famous | 351 N. Hull St. | facebook.com/theworldfamousathens
They pack a lot into a small space. There’s a bar, a stage, and a kitchen. The music can range from indie to hip hop and beyond.
Just Outside of Downtown
Athentic Brewing Co. | 108 Park Ave. | athenticbrewing.com
A microbrewery that’s become a community meeting spot, not just for the Normaltown neighborhood where it’s located. There’s a patio and an indoor stage for music and trivia nights. A food truck is available on many nights.
Hendershot’s Coffee | 237 Prince Ave. |hendershotsathens.com
By day, it’s a coffee shop. By night, it transforms into a lively music venue. Hendershot’s is renowned for its fusion of the arts, from a wide range of music and poetry readings to open mics. The ambiance is uniquely welcoming, emphasizing community and creativity.
Terrapin Beer Co. | 265 Newton Bridge Rd. | Terrapinbeer.com
While primarily known as a brewery, Terrapin also serves as a music venue. Its outdoor setting, complemented by top-tier craft beers, creates a relaxed environment. Regularly hosting live bands, it’s a favorite spot for those looking to enjoy tunes in a laid-back atmosphere. Take a chair and eat before you go.
VFW Post 2872 | 835 Sunset Dr. | facebook.com/vfwpost2872
Very popular with the Boomer crowd on Friday nights, this large venue features a great dance floor, tables and chairs, a bar, and free parking. Other nights might find line dancing or Rabbit Box storytelling.
A Little Further Out
Cali N Tito’s Eastside | 1245 Cedar Shoals Dr. | calintitos.com
Known for its delicious Pan Latin cuisine, Cali and Tito’s Eastside also delights with its lively music nights. The venue is spacious and often hosts local bands, generally on Thursdays. Easy access, their own parking, and an option of outdoor dining.
No. 3 Railroad Street | Arnoldsville | 3railroad.org/index.php
This quaint venue with a country store ambience in Oglethorpe County generally hosts local singer/songwriters and has since the 1970s. The concerts, indoors or out, offer potluck meals but bring your own drinks. Sunday shows start at 6 p.m.
Southern Brewing Company | 231 Collins Industrial Blvd. | Sobrewco.com
Set against a backdrop of crafted brews, the outdoor stage offers a relaxed ambiance for musical evenings. A food truck is available, although you can bring your own food; definitely bring your own chairs. Parking is free.
Winterville Marigold Auditorium | 374 N Church St. | cityofwinterville.com/
Built in 1953, the beautifully restored Marigold Auditorium and Deck frequently hosts musical performances, showcasing both local talent and visiting artists in a state-of-the-art facility. Troy Aubrey, an Athens area booking agent, says it is one of the best music venues around. A bar but no food; free parking.
Front Porch Concert Series |102 Marigold Lane | cityofwinterville.com/front-porch-bookstore
Featuring local artists and bands, these concerts start at 6 p.m. in spring and fall on the Front Porch stage of the Winterville Bookstore. Always free but bring a chair! $1 water, hotdogs/chips at the Doctor’s Museum and the Bookstore has a sack of books for only $10. Kids and dogs are welcome!