Two great bands from the Athens 80’s heyday recently played a special reunion show at the fabled 40 Watt Club. This was a magical evening in Athens. I got to the club early and watched it fill up from the back bench, dozens and dozens of people who I recognized but whose names I didn’t remember. This was a homecoming (all ages!) show of sorts. Pretty quickly when I recognized John T. Edge (director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, if you watch food TV on PBS you’ve probably seen him). I knew it was going to be a zub night! Next up, saw members of Pylon Reenactment Society (our PRS Podcast tinyurl.com/zubmesenger) including amazing bassist Kay Stanton. I was too starstruck to say hello!
Shortly afterward, Michael Stipe and entourage appeared. He looked really good and was smiling and happy. Pretty much everyone in a band in Athens was there, including Mercyland/Sugar bassist and Drive By Truckers producer David Barbe (Our Mercyland Podcast tinyurl.com/zubmercyland).
The place filled up fast, and Oh Ok took the stage, singer Linda Hopper, bassist and singer Linda Stipe, and the aforementioned Kay Stanton on second bass. They had a drummer, keyboardist and guitarist as well. Oh Ok launched into ‘Permanent’ from their Wow mini album and the dance party was on. The two singers sang great and looked wonderful. Linda Stipe plays an old Danelectro bass that is so small, maybe smaller than small scale. It sounds amazing though, and backed up with Kay’s Fender sound the minimalist, light dance pop of Oh Ok sounded wonderful. It wasn’t long before third bassist Trish Whatley (Flash To Bang Time) appeared, and later a FOURTH bass player, Armistead Wellford from Love Tractor. Four basses all playing on stage! For reals!
The crowd absolutely loved Oh Ok. They played 45 minutes, pretty much everything they know (most of their songs are about two minutes long), and ended, as they usually do, with the first song they played - ‘Permanent.’
The crowd thinned just a little bit before Love Tractor, so I was able to get up front. Our band, The Beef People, opened for Love Tractor a few times in Athens in the 1980’s, and always had a great time with them. They have a very unique sound, kind of Southern Gothic Surf. Most of their tunes are melodic instrumentals, but there are a number of songs with vocals. The three original front guys headed the band again: Armistead on bass and Marks Cline and Richmond on guitars . This is an all-Fender guitar band, bright and snappy. They were joined by two members of The Glands, guitarist/keyboardist Doug Stanley and drummer Joe Rowe. They had one or two special guest drummers as well.
Opening with ‘Beatle Boots,’ the band played and sounded great. Standouts included ‘Rudolph Nureyev’ and ‘Spin Your Partner.’ Armistead played clarinet on one song and it was great fun. Love Tractor played a long set and, like with Oh Ok, the crowd ate it up. The true highlight was when R.E.M.’s Bill Berry appeared on stage, with his handsome and talented young son Owen, both playing acoustic guitars on Love Tractor’s cover of Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights.’ It was a great arrangement and it was killer.
Love Tractor played a couple of great encores. They were as good as they ever were in the 1980’s. Along with Oh Ok, it is so great to see the older punks and DIY bands doing their thing. The sense of community and esprit de corps among musicians in Athens is unmistakable. It was definitely a Zub kind of night!