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U2’s intersections with Atlanta over the years have gone beyond the city as a requisite tour stop. For a band from Europe intent on deconstructing the myth of America, Atlanta—its imperfect icons, its musicians, its leaders—has been a specific, if rarely noticed, part of U2’s journey, not only for the city’s social justice movements of the past but for the present, too. In anticipation of U2’s first Atlanta concert in nine years, two generations of Georgians talk about the band.
Since its start as a rehearsal space for pioneering alt-rock band Pylon nearly 40 years ago, the 40 Watt Club in Athens has launched world-renowned local acts like R.E.M., the B-52s, Of Montreal, and Drive-by-Truckers, and hosted headliners from Snoop Dogg to Nirvana.
There was just one souvenir left behind from Pylon’s original era: a live recording of their farewell concert on December 1, 1983, at The Mad Hatter, a now-defunct Athens club. Lost for decades, the recording was recently rediscovered by Pylon fan and record producer Henry Owens, who, with the band's blessing, worked to transfer the masters to vinyl.
R.E.M.’s beginnings were modest but extremely weird. I first saw the band in the spring of 1981 while working on a story about the then-burgeoning music scene in Athens, Georgia, R.E.M.’s hometown.