It’s no secret that the acts and artists that make up the Augusta music community toil under a certain measure of obscurity. While there have been a few acts with Augusta ties in recent years that have enjoyed minor and major success (Dead Confederate, Turf War, Veara and, most notably, Lady Antebellum), most have found a following only after leaving town.
To most of the world, Lady Antebellum is from Nashville, Tenn., and Turf War is an Atlanta act. Augusta, despite fostering a vibrant musical culture, just doesn’t seem to attract much attention.
Part of the problem, of course, is the Internet. The accessibility of songs available for digital download has decentralized the regional music tradition.
No longer is an act’s hometown – be it Nashville or Memphis, Seattle or, yes, Augusta – part of its identity. Music doesn’t come from a specific community. It lives on the Internet, and getting a community noticed and talked about has become exceedingly difficult.
Augusta, if it is to evolve, to get noticed by that larger and more diverse audience, must do something bold, something that makes a statement. In the past I’ve suggested showcases and road shows, and I would still be interested in seeing what results those projects might yield. But this weekend, I heard of an idea that seemed so obvious, so smart and insightful, that I’m a little embarrassed I hadn’t thought of it earlier.
Augusta needs to go to the movies.
The idea belongs to Sky City’s own Lee Landers. I was on my third of 14 bands last weekend (it was a busy one for me) and he was probably on his 23rd of the week (the bar’s Festivus of Bands series is always busy for him) and we were commenting on some of the acts and the depth of Augusta talent. Armard Andrews had been documenting that talent, shooting a lot of the Festivus performances. Landers said he would love to see it cut into a documentary.
Good idea, Lee.
There is a history of films like this. Hype! documents the rapid ascension of the Seattle music scene and features early performances by soon-to-be-stars such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Athens Ga. – Inside/Out cast the college town as a hotbed of creativity responsible for much more than R.E.M. and the B-52s.
Now is the time to give Augusta a similar treatment. Not only do I think the acts currently producing music are some of the most thoughtful and interesting we’ve seen around town in a while, I think music fans, both regionally and farther afield, are ready to embrace another town, just as Athens and Seattle and, to a lesser degree, Minneapolis and Raleigh, N.C., were embraced.
It’s a project I’d love to see happen.
MCCRANIE GOES ELECTRIC. I got an early Christmas present this year.
At the annual 12 Bands of Christmas concert (kudos to Joe Stevenson and company on another excellent event) I was approached by Augusta ex-pat Will McCranie, who continues to keep himself musically busy in New York.
“You remember telling me I should dump the acoustic and pick up a Telecaster?” he said as he handed me a CD. “Well, here it is.”
Here it is indeed. Will is currently working in a real power trio – the Will McCranie Trio, to be precise – and the result is another interesting step for an artist who always continues to evolve. It’s a set of seven songs, aptly titled Will McCranie Trio, that works best when it works less. There are moments, moments when the three players are letting the song, the arrangement and the sound of amplified instruments do the heavy lifting, that are truly powerful.
Do I think this is the last stop on McCranie’s always-interesting artistic journey? No. I think McCranie would agree. I’m pretty sure there is no last stop.
But it is an interesting, and appealing, move ahead. I look forward to whatever comes next.