The Georgia Theatre is a historic music venue located in the heart of downtown Athens, GA. Nestled in amongst impermanent bars and restaurants that seem to change names with the seasons, The Theatre proudly displays its UGA-red signage out front, and has been since 1978. We were able to catch up with Katie Carmody, a fellow UGA grad, music lover, GA Theatre employee, and philanthropist, to gain a little insight into the music venue and her experiences in “the biz.”
BG: So Katie, you work at a prominent music venue located in downtown Athens, GA. Having attended the University of Georgia myself, I had the privilege of enjoying many concerts there—never leaving one with anything other than a big grin on my face.
My first question, that I think everyone out there is interested to know—can you, get me, free tickets?
BG: Okay now that we have that out of the way…Tell me—how long have you been working at the GA Theatre and what is your current role there? i.e. what is some cool stuff you get to do at work that will make me and every other music lover insanely jealous?
KC: At Georgia Theatre I am the marketing director and head of artist hospitality. I have worked here since 2007! I started as an intern and over time took on more and more responsibility. My day to day involves planning marketing strategies for upcoming shows, executing those strategies, advancing with the artist’s management about their needs day of show like transportation, lodging, food beverage etc., and executing those details day of show. It’s very much a balancing act of planning for the future and daily execution of those plans.
BG: Is this your dream job? Are you one of the fortunate few that can tell their kids one day that following one’s passion can lead to fulfilling work?
KC: Yes, this job has been fantastic. I have always said from the beginning that if 16 year old me could see what I’m doing now I would have freaked out! Yes absolutely I can’t wait to be that parent telling my kids and their friends my “cool rock and roll job stories”- I feel very fortunate to legitimately LOVE what I do, and those I work with.
BG: Having so much interaction with the band members backstage, can you tell us an outrageous story that the audience would be oblivious to but that you had the privilege of taking part in or witnessing…that won’t get you fired, of course…
KC: There have been so many incredible moments.
One of my favorites has to be with George Clinton from George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic in 2011. The show had just ended and I went up to the dressing room to ensure they all had everything they needed. It was just George and his assistant. George was sitting/propped up on a stool next to the wet bar. I told him how great I thought their performance was and asked if he needed anything. Winded, he asked me “you got any mayo?” I ran and grabbed some mayonnaise from the fridge, and he proceeded to make a sandwich of turkey, white bread & mayo. I stood there and spoke with him for a good 30 minutes. I asked him for a hug—then another hug. I was beaming, let alone from the concert as I’m a huge funk fan, but from casually conversing with the grandfather of funk over a turkey sandwich :) Such a cool guy.
BG: When was your first show at The Theatre and who did you see?
KC: My first show at Georgia Theatre was STS9 in 2003 while I was in high school. Pretty sure I snuck up to Athens to see it ;)
BG: The Georgia Theatre has had some amazing feet tapping on its stage over the years—feet belonging to Widespread Panic, REM, Dave Mathews, Beck and SO many more.
Is there one show that stands out to you amongst all the others you have seen there? In my college days, there was nothing better than seeing Robert Randolph followed by a couple slices and a turkey and cheese sub from Little Italy next door.
KC: WOW- tough one, I’ve had so many incredible musical experiences at Georgia Theatre… most recently I would have to say having Dave Rawlings Machine here featuring John Paul Jones of Led Zepplin. Also notable is Portugal. The Man, Charles Bradley & Tycho.
Another would be seeing my roommates get engaged there.
BG: How, in your opinion, has the opening of a Waffle House next door impacted post-show, late-night grubbing by the exiting audience?
KC: Yeah, its an easy go to for sure. I’d say it’s a tie between that and Little Italy, of course.
BG: In 2009, a fire erupted and decimated the historic venue—even causing the roof to collapse in. I think a lot of us remember seeing the images of flames shooting up towards the sky that day. What can you tell us about your memories from June 19th. Did you at any point think this is the end of the Georgia Theatre forever?
KC: I woke up to the phone ringing at 7am. Since I work late at night, I tend to reject calls that early, after a few calls I finally answered to the news. I felt like I was in a complete dream. I rushed downtown immediately and watched it burn in horror and disbelief for an hour or so. I decided to go home and sleep some more, and returned immediately to the corner of Lumpkin & Clayton. At that point, I knew there’d always be a Georgia Theatre. I literally began a fundraising campaign over drinks that afternoon- we sold thousands of rebuild The Georgia Theatre t-shirts to supporters all over the globe.
BG: I must say, the newly renovated Georgia Theatre received quite the facelift—with added balconies, open-air rooftop with a full bar and many more perks. Would you consider the fire, now that all is well and the shows are going on, a blessing in disguise and that the new Theatre upgrades were needed? Or do you still miss parts of the pre-fire venue?
KC: Complete blessing in disguise. We’ll always miss parts of the old Georgia Theatre but its such a better room to work in, a better place to see a show, and now with the addition of the rooftop bar & restaurant, it’s so much more of a community place. Anyone can come enjoy the view and grab a bite to eat.
BG: What do you think separates The Theatre experience from other local venues like the 40 Watt and Classic Center?
KC: The range of talent we book, our history, and our staff!
BG: The Georgia Theatre hosts viewing parties to watch the Bulldogs play on Saturdays and now serves delicious food provided by a local restaurant. What are some other facets about The Georgia Theatre that a regular knows about, but that an amateur may not but needs to be taking advantage of?
KC: When ordering tickets choose the print at home ticket option- it comes with coupons to local downtown businesses!
BG: Music is clearly something you are very passionate about. While you are helping to put on these great concerts, you have also started a non-profit to help ensure the audiences can safely listen to the music. Tell us about ”We’re hEAR For You”
KC: We’re hEAR For You is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the awareness of noise-induced hearing loss, hearing loss prevention, and the use of earplugs among the music community. We provide education & free earplugs at music venues, recording studios, music festivals and on tour with select bands. We are based in Athens, GA and have chapters in Atlanta, Nashville and Denver (coming soon!)
BG: So you are not only distributing the earplugs in Athens, but also at festivals and concerts around the country?
KC: Yes! We have worked with Hangout Festival, Athfest, Jam Cruise, South by Southwest, Tomorrowworld, Phish, Widespread Panic, Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, Drive-By Truckers, Moon Taxi and more! Our organization has experienced a great response since the beginning. It’s a cause the music community can really get behind. We are super excited for the future, and hope to continue expanding.
BG: Lastly…What is your favorite song and band right now–not all time—I wouldn’t dare put you on the spot with that question—but what and who are you running on repeat right now that the Bohemians need to check out.
KC: I’ve been listening to Portugal. The Man literally nonstop since 2011. The album, “In the Mountain In The Cloud”- nonstop. Sleep Forever is my jam. Also, Phosphorescent. Saw them perform at SXSW this past March and I’m HOOKED.
Song for Zula, and The Quotidian Beasts, both off Muchacho. So good.
Also, CHARLES BRADLEY.
Yeah, unfair question- I listen to waaaaay too much music to narrow it down to 1
BG: Katie, thanks for sharing your stories with us! I know I can’t wait to get back up to the Classic City soon.