Yessir, the Savannah Stopover is mighty impressive, and we're lucky to have it every spring. When it comes to multi-indie band festivals, however, no place in the Peach State does it better than Athens, which has an event so energized it's been going strong, and growing bigger, for 16 years.
The 2012 Athfest takes place June 20-24, and around 150 bands and artists will play on three outdoor stages and inside a dozen venues. There's a film series, and visual art, and even kiddie stuff.
Like so many American college towns, Athens has an incredibly fertile music scene. So much so, the majority of the performing artists at Athfest are from the city itself.
One notable non-local will be Savannah's Dare Dukes, whose acclaimed second album, Thugs and China Dolls, was released in January on the Athens-based label Mazarine.
The two-time winner of "Best Acoustic Artist" in our Best of Savannah readers' poll, Dukes and his Blackstock Collection band are scheduled be part of a Mazarine showcase June 22.
The now-you-see-them, now-you-don't Athens pop/punk legends the Glands will make an appearance June 23. Last August, the band's writer, singer and guitarist Ross Shapiro closed Schoolkids, the indie record store he'd operated for 30 years.
Here are some names for you to ponder, should you be considering a response to the Athfest siren song:
Atlas Sound, Reptar, the B-53's (look carefully at the name), Yacht Rock Revue, Randall Bramblett, Betsy Franck & The Bareknuckle Band, Buxton, Ponderosa, Modern Skirts, Twin Tigers, PacificUV, Dodd Ferrelle, Supercluster, Velveteen Pink, Grass Giraffes, Elf Power, the District Attorneys, Ike Stubblefield, Jimbo Mathus & the State Coalition.
The schedule is online at athfest.com.
In additional Athenian news, the 1985 documentary film Athens GA/Inside-Out will be screened at 7 p.m. June 28 at the Jepson Center in an event sponsored in part by Connect Savannah. It's all part of Stranger in Paradise: The Works of Reverend Howard Finster, an exhibition of works by the late folk artist who's probably best known for the covers he painted for R.E.M.'s Reckoning and Talking Heads' Little Creatures.
R.E.M's song "Maps and Legends" (on Fables of the Reconstruction) was written about Finster, who died in 2001.
The Alabama-born former preacher created more than 46,000 pieces, most with visions, verses and prophecies into his unusual, colorful paintings. "I think there's twenty-six religious verses on that first cover I done for them," he famously said of the Talking Heads album. "They sold a million records in the first two and a half months after it come out, so that's twenty-six million verses I got out into the world in two and a half months!"
Finster appears in the documentary, along with R.E.M. and other Athens pioneers including the B-52's, Flat Duo Jets and Pylon.
Stranger in Paradise: The Works of Reverend Howard Finster will run June 29-Aug. 19.
Down the road
@ Bug. June 22-July 1. Bay Street Theatre.
@ Laughs For Lemonade. June 23. Lucas Theatre.
@ Film: Casablanca. June 23. Trustees Theater.
@ Savannah Asian Festival. June 23. MLK Arena.
@ Corey Smith. July 27. Johnny Mercer Theatre.
@ Film: True Grit. June 29. Lucas Theatre.
@ Films: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid/3:10 to Yuma. June 30. Lucas Theatre.
@ Film: Forrest Gump. July 7. Trustees Theater.
@ Film: Cape Fear. July 14. Trustees Theater.
@ Film: Big. July 21. Trustees Theater.
@ Film: Breakfast at Tiffany's. July 28. Trustees Theater.
@ What the Butler Saw. The Collective Face. Aug. 3-18. Muse Arts Warehouse.
@ Film: Superman. Aug. 4. Lucas Theatre.
@ Avenue Q. Bay Street Theatre. Aug. 9-26.
@ Jim Gaffigan. Aug. 10. Johnny Mercer Theatre.
@ "Son of Rockin' Rockin' Cigar Box Guitars." Aug. 11. Ships of the Sea Museum.
@ George Jones. Aug. 17. Johnny Mercer Theatre.
@ Eddie Griffin. Aug. 18. Johnny Mercer Theatre.
@ Elton John. Sept. 15. Martin Luther King Arena.
@ Ron White. Sept. 30, Johnny Mercer Theatre.
@ Savannah Folk Festival. Sept. 12-14, various venues.
@ Bonnie Raitt. Oct. 13. Johnny Mercer Theatre.