US Road Trip Epilog: 17th June 2005

I thought the Days Inn was too good to be true - cheap rates, big rooms with a fridge, wireless internet access that works - and so it proves. After a great nights sleep I awake to find I'm covered in bites. Fleas, and the room is obviously infested with them. I let the management know that I want to change rooms then pack my stuff up and put it back in the car. Whilst they clean another room for me I think I'll have another look around town.

Athens Welcome Center
Athens Welcome Center.

Never underestimate little old ladies. The one at the welcome centre (who actually isn't that little or old, but just about fits in the category) surprises me with her enthusiasm for the music festival - AthFest - which is on next week. Then I ask her about the Drive-By Truckers and she not only knows all about them but confirms they're from Athens as well.

She may wonder why I don't ask about two more famous local acts, the B-52's and R.E.M. The simple answer is that I'm not that keen on either. The B-52's always seemed like a novelty act (especially with that Flintstones nonsense) and I saw R.E.M. a few years ago and wasn't impressed. Ok, truth to tell I actually saw R.E.M. around 20 years ago, maybe on their first tour of the UK. They've made the odd decent single since, and I've even bought an album or two on the strength of them, but I haven't heard anything much to change my opinion. I realise I'm probably in a minority of one here, so I'll shut up about music for a while.

Whilst wandering around Athens trying not to scratch my bites it occurs to me that if one room in the Days Inn is flea-infested then others may be the same. A walk around the other motels in walking distance reveals that the Marriott still wants $99 for a room but the Holiday Inn Express has almost halved their rates for the weekend. After checking-out of the Days Inn and a short drive I'm installed in a - hopefully - flea-free room.

Later in the day I'm off out to see what Athens has to offer. Whilst enjoying a quiet beer before looking for some live music, the barman notices my accent and wants to talk soccer. This is the second time this has happened in as many weeks, and makes me think that the sport may be a bit of a sleeping giant here in the US.

The barman I was chatting to back in Springfield was taking his coaching badges, following a playing career cut short by a knee injury, and this guy played for his college team. Both are now keen followers of the sport (there's a cable channel here that shows European soccer, as well as the domestic league on ESPN) and both, incidentally, are Manchester United fans. Which makes them both full of questions when I tell them I had a season ticket at Old Trafford last year. We also chat about the US national team and their impressive progression towards 2006 World Cup qualification.

Now it's time to look for some music. To be honest I can't find an awful lot on. Maybe it's still too early or, more likely, I just don't know where to look. Eventually I end up spending $7 to get in the Georgia Theater.

The support act are called Indecision, and they play a pretty traditional sort of southern rock music. Think the theme tune to the Old Grey Whistle Test and you won't be far off the mark. The only bit that confuses me slightly is when the band bring on a guy who plays what looks like a silver child's saxophone. Except I'm fairly sure he isn't actually blowing into it, and the sound it produces is like a full horn section. I suspect some electronic trickery going on here.

Bloodkin on stage at the Georgia Theater. If you think this is blurred, you should see the other photos ...

The sound quality for the support band was really good - loud but clear. A few songs into their set, however, the main act Bloodkin decide to up the volume (in the best Spinal Tap tradition, they obviously want it up to 11). The previously sharp sound then becomes a muddy distorted mess. I doubt if anyone from Bloodkin is reading this, but if you are and you're wondering why half the audience left early during your homecoming CD-release-celebrating gig then I think I may have the answer for you. A short while later I decide to do the same myself.

US Road Trip Epilog: 18th June 2005 >