Pop Rocks: Viewing downtown alongside tourist brings fresh perspective

Human nature dictates that we will more often recognize our successes in retrospect rather than as they occur. Sometimes this can mean a matter of minutes or hours. Sometimes it will be years before the true measure of a victory can be appreciated.

 

Difficulty in coming to that moment of clarity is often compounded when we find ourselves inside the story. It’s easier, as an outsider, to see those things that are working well. It’s the old story of seeing the forest for the trees.

This week, I had the pleasure of showing a journalist interested in Georgia’s musical culture around Augusta.

Our time was brief – a single evening – and I hope that the things I showed and shared were interesting and helpful. Even if they weren’t, I don’t feel like it was time wasted. Not only was the company excellent, but it offered me the rare opportunity to, by association, see a small slice of the city through the eyes of a stranger.

Over the course of a few short hours I was able to see some familiar acts, eat in familiar environs – albeit with new menu and management – and check out a handful of landmarks and in doing so, came away with a real appreciation for some of the city’s successes.

Here are some stats:

The Soul Bar has been open for nearly 20 years, Metro for nearly 15 and Sky City – a relative newcomer – is about to celebrate lucky No. 7. In bar years, that’s unheard of. And those are not exceptions or anomalies.

Driving down Broad Street on a crowded Saturday night, I was struck by how many businesses have become mainstays. Sometimes we forget that longevity is good not only for those businesses, but a business district. It’s particularly exciting when we consider that all the downtown successes are part of the long climb out of the abandonment that coincided with the construction of Regency and Augusta malls in the late 1970s. Downtown recognize and represent.

Musically we also fall into that same trap. Over the course of my night out, I was able to check out a couple of acts that have fairly extensive gigging histories in Augusta, bands that I have seen on numerous occasions, bands that I thought I knew.

But watching both the Ramblin’ Fevers and a stripped-down version of Delta Cane with someone unfamiliar with the histories, songs and musicians allowed me to invest in the sets in a different way.

Delta Cane, a band I felt had tremendous potential but too many covers in its set, became an act with a wholly unique ability to rearrange classic rock songs and make them new. It’s almost a jazz band’s approach to restyling standards.

The Ramblin’ Fevers, which I admittedly wrote off as yet another act with too many Avett Brothers records in its collection, proved itself to be a talented combo with excellent songs and, more significantly, excellent players. Top it off with excellent barbecue at the still showroom-fresh Southbound Smokehouse, and it all adds up to an evening of illumination.

Several years ago the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau initiated a program called Be a Tourist In Your Own Hometown – encouraging people to rediscover their community and see it as a stranger might. Turns out there is real wisdom in that approach.

 

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