Grace Elizabeth Hale, "Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture" (UNC Press, 2020)


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In Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture (University of North Carolina Press), Grace Elizabeth Hale tells the epic story of the Athens, Georgia music scene.

Hale explains how a small college town hard to get to even from Atlanta gave rise to dozens of great bands. Some of them are household names like R.E.M. and The B-52’s, but perhaps more interesting is the great music you might not know: the jittery dance-punk of Pylon, or the anguished, poetic songwriting of Vic Chesnutt.

Hale also explores how these bands negotiated questions of race, class, sexuality, and authenticity. Cool Town shows how Athens, Georgia created a model of how you could “make it” without ever leaving your small town, and how a homegrown scene could feel like the biggest thing in the world.

Grace Elizabeth Hale is the Commonwealth Professor of American Studies and History at the University of Virginia.

Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA program at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts. His plays have been produced, developed, or presented at IRT, Pipeline Theatre Company, The Gingold Group, Dixon Place, Roundabout Theatre, Epic Theatre Company, Out Loud Theatre, Naked Theatre Company, Contemporary Theatre of Rhode Island, and The Trunk Space. He is currently working on a series of 50 plays about the 50 U.S. states. His website is, and he can be reached

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