The 40 Watt Club is one of the most famous and iconic music venues in the world.
In addition to national acts, the club has served as a music home base for many of Athens’ most beloved bands over the last 35 years, including R.E.M., the B-52’s, Pylon, Love Tractor, Vic Chesnutt, Olivia Tremor Control, Five Eight, Neutral Milk Hotel, Jucifer, Drive-By Truckers, of Montreal, The Whigs, Maserati, and more.
Originally a nickname given to Pylon’s rehearsal space located above 171 College Ave, the first “40 Watt Club” was christened in 1979 with a Halloween party hosted by drummer Curtis Crowe. In May of 1980, following a series of increasingly wild underground events and hullabaloos, the club moved a few doors down to 101 College Ave. and officially opened as a nightclub—with The Side Effects headlining the first night, followed by Love Tractor on the second.
By 1982, the 40 Watt had already outgrown the loft space and relocated to 256 West Clayton (currently the site of the Caledonia Lounge), where the club operated until 1984, when it temporarily shifted locales to 364 East Broad St. Despite its increasing popularity and recognition as one of the seminal New Wave and College Rock music venues, a change in ownership caused the 40 Watt Club to close briefly in 1987. After some restructuring and reorganizing, the club returned to its previous West Clayton location that June under the direction of current owner Barrie Buck and present Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Jared Bailey.
In April 1991, the 40 Watt Club moved to its fifth and present-day location, at 285 West Washington Street, into a building that housed one of the first grocery stores in Downtown Athens and was then being used as overflow storage for the Potters House. Some of the earliest shows featured local stalwarts Flat Duo Jets (featuring Dexter Romweber) and a reunited Pylon.
Other artists that have graced the “fabulous” 40 Watt Club stage—ranging from punk to pop and country to rap—include: Nirvana, Snoop Dogg, Iggy Pop, Flaming Lips, The Strokes, Sonic Youth, Pavement, Run-DMC, the Black Crowes, My Morning Jacket, Dierks Bentley, X, Sugar, Patti Smith, The Killers, Ween, John Mayer, the Melvins, Kings of Leon, Kenny Chesney, Gnarls Barkley, Band of Horses, Sugarland, Against Me!, Jamey Johnson, and Guided By Voices to name a few