Music by Turner: From the ashes

The Georgia Theater is consumed by fire in downtown Athens, Ga., on June 19, 2009. The landmark that has been the center of the town's music scene and featured REM and the B-52's reopens Monday for two weeks of special performances.

If you rebuild it, they will come -- especially if you do it right!


The famed Georgia Theatre in Athens reopens with a brand new face Monday with two weeks of special shows. The folks in Athens are all abuzz ... and for good reason.

OK, let's call it a full-body makeover because the tragic fire on June 19, 2009, that practically destroyed the original 1889 structure required Herculean measures to reconstruct, remodel, and update the famous venue to new building codes.

Basically, only the walls of the Georgia Theatre were salvageable. Most everything had to be replaced, from the 300-year-old heart pine roof trusses and almost all of the steel, which was ruined by the fire's estimated 2,500-degree flames.

New interior walls, larger bathrooms, a bigger stage, and more detail than a New York Times wedding announcement was required ... and the work is now completed. A third viewing level was added as well, bringing the capacity level of the Theatre to more than 1,000!

Remember those sticky, slanted floors that caused many an over-served patron to trip, stumble and fall? They are now as flat as central Florida. All of the seats now have much better sight lines as well.

Some of the acts featured in the two-week grand opening include Rolling Stones keys player Chuck Leavell and Friends on Tuesday and Blackberry Smoke (who are recording a new DVD that night) on Aug. 5. Bela Fleck and the original Flecktones are set for Aug. 10, and the always-astounding Gillian Welch on Aug. 14.

Nostalgia will still be everywhere in Athens next week, as the memories of performances from Pylon, the B-52's, Tom Waits, and even The Police (who played in front of a scant few concertgoers there in 1979) can never be erased. I've been told that I had a "real swell" time at the Soul Asylum show there in '92 too ...

A quarter of a century ago Georgia Theatre regulars REM sang Cuyohoga might be "gone" but soon the Georgia Theatre breathes and lives once again. Yes, occasionally life is actually fair because sometimes you really can go back home again.

HERE'S THE "SKINNY" DEPT. More good news involves the return of the Chickasaw Mudd Puppies. The swamp-rock duo only released two major albums White Dirt (1990) and 8 Track Stomp (1991) in their all-too-short existence, but they are back with original members Ben Reynolds and Brant Slay on board. Now a threesome with the addition of drummer Alan Cowart, the band plays at the Buckhead Music Festival this Saturday.

Reynolds is now a professor of photography at the University of Georgia while Slay works as a land-protection manager. Anyone ready for some Chicken Scratch ?

IT ALL ADDS UP TO 9 DEPT. The death of Amy Winehouse at age 27 is another in a long line of senseless and avoidable deaths of musicians. Among those dying at the same age were Rolling Stones original guitarist Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, "Pigpen" of the Grateful Dead, and Badfinger's primary lead singer Pete Ham. In every case other than Ham (who hanged himself over money issues) they were because of substance abuse.

LAST WEEK'S contest winner is Louis Kirschner, who wins a romantic, "weekend in-town getaway" from the Warrick Motel on Broad at Fourth. Swimming pool, free local phone calls, and yes, it's air-conditioned! Their fancy "vibrating beds" are a quarter extra.

TURNER'S QUICK NOTES: Bob Dylan performs at Chastain Park tonight ... 311's 10th album, Universal Pulse, is new this week on CD and vinyl and clocks in at a cool 28 minutes in length ... Steely Dan's two shows Aug. 6 and 7 in Atlanta's Chastain Park have almost sold out so Danheads better hurry ... Blondie visits Atlanta's Verizon Shed on Sept. 23 ... 3 Doors Down's fifth studio set, Time of My Life, is out now on CD and vinyl. Yes, the vinyl one always sounds better!

Athens' Georgia Theatre reopening after fire