St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Athens, Ga.Milestones is a periodic feature marking important album releases, concerts and figures in the history of ’80s college rock.


CONCERT: St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Athens, Ga.; April 5, 1980

PERSONNEL: Michael Stipe (vocals), Peter Buck (guitar), Mike Mills (bass), Bill Berry (drums)

BACKSTORY: The members of R.E.M. played their first public concert 30 years ago today at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Athens, Ga., as part of a birthday party for Kathleen O’Brien, Berry’s then-girlfriend who had introduced the drummer to Buck. According to “It Crawled From the South,” the band couldn’t settle on a name, so they called themselves Twisted Kites for their debut performance before several hundred friends and Athens townfolk. “It was really fun,” Stipe told author Marcus Gray. “I don’t remember the last half of it.” The band played for about two hours (see possible setlist below), and about one-third of the set was made up of covers (Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen,” Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner,” among others). In “It Crawled From the South,” Berry offered a slightly different take: “We were scared shitless!”

LEGACY: The concert, held at the church where Stipe lived at the time, has become a central part of R.E.M. lore, and remains a landmark in Athens, even if all that’s left of the 139-year-old structure is the steeple (see video below). And since that fabled night, R.E.M. grew first into one of the driving forces of ’80s college rock, then led the full-scale crossover of once-independent acts going mainstream by becoming one of the biggest bands in the world in the 1990s.

See the possible setlist from R.E.M.’s April 5, 1980, concert after the jump…

Possible setlist: R.E.M., St. Mary’s Church, Athens, GA, 4/5/80

1. “I Can’t Control Myself”
2. “God Save The Queen”
3. “Narrator”
4. “Just A Touch”
5. “Baby I”
6. “Action”
7. “Needles And Pins”
8. “Hippy Hippy Shake”
9. “There She Goes Again”
10. “All The Right Friends”
11. “Shakin’ All Over”
12. “Secret Agent Man”
13. “A Girl Like You”
14. “Permanent Vacation”
15. “I Can Only Give You Everything”
16. “Dangerous Times”
17. “Different Girl”
18. “Mystery To Me”
19. “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”
20. “Lisa Says”
21. “Nervous Breakdown”
22. “Schéhérazade”

1. “Honky Tonk Women”
2. “One Nation Under A Groove”
3. “Roadrunner”
4. “California Sun”
5. “Gloria”

*Possible setlist assembled by the R.E.M. Timeline




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