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Interview with Gordon Lamb, January 9, 2019

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:18 - Childhood and Music

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Partial Transcript: Gordon, talk a little bit about how you grew up...

Segment Synopsis: Gordon Lamb discusses his childhood and moving around the country with his parents. It was in Miami that he began to take interest in listening to music. Lamb moved to Athens, Georgia in 1989 after graduating high school in East Cobb, Georgia.

Keywords: A Flock of Seagulls; Asheville, North Carolina; Caribbean music; Godley & Creme; Los Angeles, California; Men at Work; Miami, Fl; Music Television (MTV); North Miami Beach, Florida; Peaches Records and Tapes; Reseda, California; Sam Goody; San Fernando Valley; Soca music; Sprayberry High School; U2; Vibrations; reggae

00:04:06 - Playing Music and Coming to Athens

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Partial Transcript: Had you been playing music up to this point...?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb explains that before coming to Athens, he had never played an instrument. He began learning guitar at twenty years old. Lamb also discusses accepting admittance to the University of Georgia almost explicitly for the music scene in Athens. He had been attending shows in the area since his junior year of high school, so he knew it was where he wanted to be.

Keywords: 7 Seconds; Athens, Ga; Brown University; Frederick (Fred) R. Newman; Harvard Law School; Marshall Howard Crenshaw; Metroplex; Miami, Florida; R.E.M.; UGA; Yale University

00:09:50 - Studying at the University of Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, and I mean I came to, I moved up here...

Segment Synopsis: While studying as a freshman at UGA, Lamb joined the concerts division of the University Union and became the coordinator. However, he didn't last full term because he was academically suspended after focusing more on music than his grades. He had the opportunity to re-enroll after one quarter, but never went back, which resulted in him being academically expelled. He later earned his degree in his thirties.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Lewis Grizzard; WUOG

00:17:11 - Music in Downtown Athens

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Partial Transcript: Did you, so when you, uh, started hanging out downtown...

Segment Synopsis: When Lamb arrived in Athens, he thought he wanted to be in a band but didn't have any connections and didn't take it seriously. He thought of people just a few years older than him that were producing records and tapes as "scene gods". He discusses seeing many bands and artists in some of his favorite places, pausing on a particular experience seeing Vic Chesnutt at the original location of The Grit.

Keywords: An Evening with the Garbagemen; Ballard Lesemann; Benjamin Smoke; Cabbagetown; Curtiss Purnice; Deacon Lunchbox (Timothy Tyson Ruttenber); Hoyt Street; John Mayor; Ken Sweeney; Russell Hall; Single Family Ordinance Law; The 40 Watt Club; The Downstairs; The Jody Grind; Tortilla's Burrito Hut; beatnik

00:26:11 - Beginning to Play Guitar

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Partial Transcript: Well did you start messing around with a guitar around this time?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb recalls acquiring his first acoustic guitar and writing two-chord folk songs with his friend, Brendan Lasalle. He and Lasalle would perform at The Downstairs on open mic nights. After buying a new guitar, Lamb taught himself how to play, but stopped improving after the first six months of practicing. Rather than reading music or playing by ear, he learns three chords and makes a song out of it.

Keywords: Electric guitar; Squier Stratocasters; The Ramones; punk rock

00:31:45 - First Band/ Producing Music

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Partial Transcript: You started, uh, was it Mercy Union...?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb discusses his experiences with his first band, A Mercy Union. Although it saw members come and go in six years, he says his favorite and most successful version was the final lineup. By the time they started doing well, punk rock in Athens had a very small scene. Before their break up, they were playing shows with more successful bands such as Of Montreal and The Olivia Tremor Control. He explains the record manufacturing process he learned from Maximum Rocknroll, a DIY punk magazine.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Augusta, Ga; Elephant 6; Maximumrocknroll (MRR); Neutral Milk Hotel; Squeaky's Tip Top; Synthetic Flying Machine; The Capri Cinema; Vinyl Manufacturing Process

00:40:07 - Ultramod House-Shows

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Partial Transcript: And were, uh, did a lot of the booking for...

Segment Synopsis: Lamb reflects on moving in with the members of Ceiling Fan at the Ultramod House for a few years. While he lived there, Dan Geller and Ryan Lewis of Kindercore Records informed him that Calvin Johnson wanted to perform with Dub Narcotic Sound System in their house. The show was very successful so he continued booking it for house shows for several years. To keep it inexpensive and insure the band got paid, they had people bring their own alcohol and charged an entry fee at the door. When Lamb moved out in 2002 to go back to school, the band kept hosting shows until the property was sold.

Keywords: Athens, Georgia; Daniel Geller; Jason Griffin

00:46:44 - Back to School/ Writing for Flagpole

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Partial Transcript: So you're, you got back in school...

Segment Synopsis: When Lamb went back to school at UGA, he began working for the Main Library on campus and writing for Flagpole Magazine. He got the job at Flagpole by emailing the editor, Ballard Lesemann, to say he noticed the magazine didn't cover hip hop, and asked if he could be the writer for it. He eventually was given the column "Threats & Promises" after being recommended by Joe Silva. He briefly describes the history of different versions of the column, starting with "Heckler" by John Brett. Lamb has now been writing the column for seventeen years.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Caledonia Lounge; Emerson Dameron; Jason Slatton; John Britt; Orkin; Peabody Awards Collection; University of Georgia

00:51:39 - Criteria for Reviews

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Partial Transcript: What's your criteria for what you're going to write about...?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb shares that he never intended for "Threats & Promises" to be a weekly column about gossip and people's secrets. He describes his gossip as informing people of what shows are happening, and only publishes what he finds newsworthy. When reviewing records, he feels he remains unbiased at all times.

Keywords: Athens,Ga; Flagpole Magazine; charity concert

01:00:31 - Writing Widespread Panic in the Streets of Athens, Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk a little bit about your book...

Segment Synopsis: Lamb wrote Widespread Panic in the Streets of Athens, Georgia after Jordan Step was given permission to pursue the idea of a book. She gave the suggestion in a UGA Press meeting after Cornell's publication of a book about Grateful Dead's concert at Barton Hall in 1977. Lamb agreed to write the book in April of 2017. He spent June through August researching, and six weeks writing, allowing the book to go from contract to completion in four months. It was eventually published in April of 2018 on the twentieth anniversary of the Panic in the Streets show.

Keywords: Cornell '77: The Music, the Myth, and the Magnificence of the Grateful Dead's Concert at Barton Hall ; Athens, Ga; Cornell University; Cornell University Press; University of Georgia

01:06:06 - Editing Process

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Partial Transcript: Anyway, so, yeah,so, we went from contract to completion in about...

Segment Synopsis: Because the University of Georgia Press is governed by the Board of Regents, Lamb's book had to go through peer review, objections, defense, and he had to agree to make changes. He explains that during his writing process he had already done his own editing as he wrote, so the main objections made were those of clarity. He says that the published work is essentially ninety-five percent of how it was when he completed it.

Keywords: Widespread Panic in the Streets of Athens, Georgia ; Athens, Ga

01:10:16 - Planning Panic in the Streets

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Partial Transcript: At least a couple big stories though...

Segment Synopsis: Lamb explains that in his research he found that Panic in the Streets was planned much more quickly than he initially expected. He discusses the key actors in the planning of the show, its timeline, and the role of Mayor Gwen O'Looney. Lamb compares the event with the volume of travelers for UGA football, which brings a similar volume of people, but is very culturally different.

Keywords: Art Jackson; Athens Downtown Development Authority; Athens-Clarke County Fire Department; Athens-Clarke County Police Department; Athens-Clarke County Public Saftey; Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department; Athens-Clarke County Unified Government; Athfest; Capricorn Records; Chesterfield Café; Clarke County Sheriff's Office; Dave Schools; Georgia Bulldogs; Jared Bailey; John Bell; Macon, Ga; Paris, France; Philip (Phil) Walden Jr.; SEC Football; Widespread Panic

01:25:26 - Police Involvement in Panic in the Streets

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Partial Transcript: I had heard that, I don't know if this is true or not...

Segment Synopsis: Lamb describes situations in which the police department was demoralized because they were unable to perform their job correctly. However, he feels they did a wonderful job at keeping people safe and showing restraint in arrests. The officers prioritized safety and only made arrests when absolutely necessary. There were several rumors that had to be taken seriously on their part, most of which were false, though Lamb shares a few of the true stories involving drug smuggling.

Keywords: Widespread Panic in the Streets of Athens, Georgia ; Amsterdam; Arcade Police Department; Athens, Ga; Athens-Clarke County Police Department; Barrow County Sheriff Department; Charlotte, NC; Clarke County Sheriff's Office; Dave Schools; France; Gainesville Highway; Jefferson Highway; N Peter St; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Route 78; Widespread Panic; hash

01:35:37 - Personal Experience of Panic in the Streets

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, just as the last thing, what do you remember...?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb describes his opportunity to volunteer and work behind the scenes of Panic in the Streets, but not being able to take off from his job at Wuxtry Records. After leaving work, he managed to stay for a few songs, but then began making his way back out of the crowd because of how uncomfortable it was. Curtiss Purnice and Lamb discuss bars and restaurants running out of supplies because they didn't know how to prepare.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Dan Wall; Garrie Vereen; Jim Stacey; Kevin Sweeney; Manhattan Cafe; R.E.M.; Widespread Panic; Wuxtry Records-Athens

01:40:45 - Widespread Panic's Perspective of Panic in the Streets

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Partial Transcript: What was the band's perspective?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb shares that he feels Widespread Panic found their performance acceptable due to the fact that they released it as a live album and included performances from the event in their movie. He also assumes that the emotional and cultural significance of the event would have obscured their own self criticisms. To Lamb, the main significance of the Panic in the Streets was that the band members were natives to Athens.

Keywords: Georgia Bulldogs baseball; John Bell; Kentucky Wildcats baseball; SEC Baseball; The Earth Will Swallow You; University of Georgia (UGA)

01:44:30 - Problems with an Annual Festival

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Partial Transcript: You think it would happen again?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb claims that Widespread Panic does not think they'd perform another Panic in the Streets event again because they don't want to be financially responsible for people and their businesses. He discusses the complications of large annual festivals, as well as how they are constantly trying to be better than the others, raising expectations for vendors and entertainment.

Keywords: Athfest; Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival; Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival; Lollapalooza Chicago; Music Midtown; Woodstock

01:52:57 - Development of Athens

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Partial Transcript: One thing, one point I would like to make though...

Segment Synopsis: Lamb mentions that in his experience, people who move to Athens tend to stay and develop a lack of appreciation for what the new generation brings with them. With the development of Athens, rent prices have changed and downtown is no longer empty at night, but he feels it's important to keep in mind how excited the youth are, much like the older generation was when they came.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Gang of 4; R.E.M.; Tina Chestnut

01:57:28 - Evolution of Local Athens Bands

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Partial Transcript: But, uh, do you think there's fewer bands?

Segment Synopsis: Lamb feels that the number of bands in Athens has increased greatly because there are more stages and bars in town. With a stage in almost every bar and more alcohol being served, even on Sundays, there are bands playing all through downtown. With the increase in DJs, dance culture has also been on the rise. Lamb discusses dance culture in Athens, specifically during the dark wave industrial scene, and how it has evolved over the last decade.

Keywords: 40 Watt Club; Boston; Crush Girls; Georgia Theatre; Groove Trolls; Hi-Lo Lounge; Hoyt Street Station; Jarvik 8; Manchester, England; Michael Husky; Mike Church; Paradise Garage; Pylon; Sky City; T.K.Harty's Saloon; The Downstairs; The World Famous