One of the most famous music clubs in Georgia, if not the United States, the 40 Watt Club of Athens received its reputation mainly based on its association with the local legends of the Athens music scene. Many Athens bands, including R.E.M., the B-52’s, Widespread Panic, Love Tractor, Pylon, the Method Actors, Vic Chesnutt, and the Squalls, got their start at this club. The first unofficial incarnation of the 40 Watt was in the College Street apartment of Pylon band member Curtis Crowe; the club’s name referred to the power of the only light source in the apartment. The first show, held on Halloween in 1978, featured Crowe’s band Strictly American.
The club soon moved across the street to a space above a restaurant, and it officially opened for business in May 1980, with the Side Effects playing. Now at its sixth downtown Athens location, the 40 Watt is housed in a former furniture mart at 285 West Washington Street. The club opened at this site in April 1990, and R.E.M. played an acoustic set there in June 1991 to promote their album Out of Time.
Most up-and-coming and established small-venue acts make a point of playing at the 40 Watt Club, in the town Rolling Stone magazine in 2003 called the best college music scene in the country.