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Venues of live entertainment in Athens bring varied talent

Athens has its fair share of varied venues for music and other performance, as patrons look for entertainment during the week.

Whether it’s a bar, a coffeehouse or a renovated garage, performers have no shortage of places to share their music or other art with their fellow Bobcats.

Those looking for rock shows can venture to the Smiling Skull Saloon, 108 W. Union St., The Union Bar & Grill, 18 W. Union St., Casa Nueva, 6 W. State St., and Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery, 24 W. Union St. Many student groups and established acts roll through these bars, delighting audiences who spend the night drinking and catching the bands who play throughout the year.

These venues can be versatile too — The Union plays host to electronic music act Dave Rave every month, according to the DJ duo’s website.

In addition, there is a monthly event called the Athens Hip-Hop Shop, put on by Athens rap group The Dysfunktional Family that lets local emcees come out and perform on stage while also expressing themselves through breakdance or graffiti.

Each venue, including The Over Hang, 63 N. Court St., which opened last year, also books folk, jazz, punk and bluegrass acts.

Jackie O’s, which recently renovated its BrewPub, has two stages that allow for different acts to perform.

“We recently hosted Alash, Tuvan throat singers, as part of a new Quiet Concert series we have started,” said Evan Reed, booking agent for Jackie O’s. “These types of more intimate and mainly acoustic shows are going to be more of the norm at the BrewPub as opposed to the larger, and louder, Public House shows that we all know and love.”

Reed said Jackie O’s has an eclectic group of performers who regularly play at the bar, from reggae band, The Clifftones, to jam band The Werks, to OU Jazz combos from the School of Music.

In addition, Jackie O’s hosts an Open Jam, where musicians will be able to perform with each other on stage.

“This is different from an open mic because it has the opportunity to become an improvisational exercise on stage,” Reed said. “It is a mélange of rotating musicians where nothing is predetermined until the moments before the music starts.”

While the open jam is unique to Jackie O’s, there are also plenty of open mics in town: Donkey Coffee and Espresso, Casa Nueva, the Skull and Front Room in Baker University Center all have open mics where musicians can try their hand at performing covers or their own tunes.

Donkey Coffee, 17 W. Washington St., can also compete with the bars, providing a stage in the backroom for everything from acoustic performances to rock shows, comedy and short plays, said booking agent Troy Gregorino.

“(The stage) resembles a theater environment,” Gregorino said. “As far as the audience goes, people lock into the entertainment because it is intimate and more quiet (unlike bars).”

Another venue, Central Venue, 29 E. Carpenter St., is a garage converted into a multi-purpose stage. Athens musicians such as Southeast Engine, Bruce Dalzell and an experimental percussion ensemble played there as part of last year’s film festival, in addition to Cleveland rock band Cloud Nothings. 


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