Apparently it happened sometime over the past weekend. I got a call from my former roommate Tony Evans (Garbage Island) Tuesday afternoon telling me about it. I ran shows there from 1996-2003 and then the other guys in the house continued the theme but with more local bands and fewer touring bands. Previous to my living there the guys in Ceiling Fan (R.I.P) had started the phenomenon by throwing band parties in the house. Seems ordinary enough, right? Lots of towns have house venues and they last for a while and then shut down. Happens all the time. The Ultramod, though, was the longest running house venue in Athens music history (approximately 15 years!).
And our landlord never had a clue.
Literally hundreds of bands played there over the years. I never made a comprehensive list of who played when and with whom but I wish I had. I’ve still got tons of fliers and photos from shows, though. That’s probably good enough.
Anyway, this post is going to be completely self indulgent. It has to be. These are my memories.
I moved into the white, cinder-block house at 1060 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway in the Summer of 1996. Athens band Ceiling Fan used the main living area (which was about 50′ X 20′) as a combined living room/practice space. I was willing to pay a little extra rent and so I got the only bedroom that had its own bathroom after Ceiling Fan’s drummer, Dave Gerow, moved out. Dave had started playing in my band A Mercy Union so we started practicing there also.
Someone had nailed carpet up over the windows in order to baffle the sound and by the time I moved in the sun had baked all of into into a dry-rotted mess of dust and fibrous debris. The kitchen was a disaster, but it was HUGE. Seriously, big. All the appliances had been pulled from other properties the landlord owned and, in 1996, they were easily 25+ years old. The walls of the house were lined with discarded couches and bench seats pulled from vans. The hallway and bedrooms were, inexplicably, tiled like a public school cafeteria. There was no heat except for a wood burning stove in the main room and only very shoddy air conditioning (until the major air-co renovation of 1998!). The place had no insulation, was rumored to have previously been a whorehouse (this was never confirmed to my satisfaction although I did get confirmation that the place had once been a junkyard.) I once met an old man who told me he used to play cards at the house in the early 1970’s. At no time was the rent ever more than $550/month for the whole place. I remember when I moved in my rent was $112/month and when I moved out 7 years later it had jumped to $125/month.
It was a wreck and it was ours. It practically begged to have something happen in it. So we made it happen. Previous to my moving in the place didn’t have a name. I dubbed it “The Ultramod Compound” after a tiny, little label I ran at the time called The Ultramod Label.
I can’t remember all the bands who came through out doors but they include Dub Narcotic Sound System, Murder City Devils, The Promise Ring, The Gloria Record, Q And Not U, Sweep The Leg Johnny, The Tight Bros. From Way Back When, Damien Jurado, Dave Fischoff, Lois, Sarah Dougher, Benji Cossa, Junior Varisty, The Jewws, Flaherty-Corsano Duo, The Capricorns, Rabbit In Red, Boyracer, Volcano The Bear, Destroyer, Milemarker, Against Me! Quintron and Miss Pussycat, and many, many more.
Absolute boatloads of local bands played here, too. Way, way too many to remember let alone name!
After I moved out I told the guys that still lived there I wanted to take the name with me so I could use it for other projects. Thing is, though, no matter what anyone tried to call it the name always stuck. In retrospect, it was kind of a dick move on my part to think I could just strip the place of its identity by asking for a name change. Sure, I worked my ass off getting good shows in there but The Ultramod wound up being much bigger than just me. I can’t tell you how many people have moved out of town over the years, come back to visit and then I run into them and they tell me how many good times they had there. Whatever else we were doing in that God-forsaken, dumpy house in the middle of a ghetto…we were making memories.
So, yeah, I’m pretty damn proud to have been both a part of this and a catalyst for it. A couple of people have remarked that the demolition of The Ultramod marks the end of an era. Yeah, sure it does. But people always seem to use that phrase as coded language. What they mean is “those were the best times; there won’t be times like that again.” Yes, there will be. And there are. The best stuff is always the stuff yet to happen. Nostalgia is a killer. If anyone who ever attended a show at The Ultramod is out there reading this I hope you enjoyed yourself and I hope you were inspired to do your own thing.
MP3: Quintron & Miss Pusycat-Fly Like A Rat
MP3: The Promise Ring-The Deep South
MP3: The Gloria Record-Start Here
MP3: Q And Not U-We Heart Our Hive
MP3: Murder City Devils-Press Gang
MP3: Dave Fischoff-Ghost Of An Afternoon
MP3: Against Me!-Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong
MP3: Dub Narcotic Sound System-Fuck Shit Up