Rumors and history mix at ‘Spilledge’ housePosted: April 26, 2012
In May, a tree fell on Serra Ferguson’s house.
While she was working across the street at Taco Stand, it hit her home on Milledge Avenue.
Ferguson and Jacky Ryder had just moved into the house in April and were in the process of cleaning up after the past.
“Before we moved in, there were some people squatting in here,” Ryder said. “They had turned off the water and electricity and were trashing the place.”
The house had been called “Spilledge” by many of its patrons and wasn’t just a rickety rental property — it had been a haven for local musicians, couch surfers and rumors.
“It was sort of a revolving door,” Ferguson said. “There was something of a heyday when all of these musicians used to come in and out of there.”
The house was once sibling to two others nearby: one called “the Zoo” and the other simply called “the green house on the corner.”
Legends surround all three.
“The green house,” it’s said, was the site of the first B-52’s show in 1977.
Kurt Wood, manager of the Taco Stand on Milledge Avenue later moved into “the green house on the corner” in 1980.
By that point “the Zoo,” became a “crash pad:” people passed through as they hung out in Athens.
“It became kind of a weigh station for people that wanted to live cheaply,” Wood said.
Then, at night, the house would transform.
“They would have a lot of parties and they were quite enormous,” Wood said. “Maybe two bands in different rooms at the same time.”
Supposedly, “Spillege” sheltered a myriad of people, maybe including Jeff Mangum and Will Hart, though the history there is hazy.
Wood said these houses were a part of a general house-show community, which was a necessity for up-and-coming bands, and which helped form a basis for the city’s rock ‘n’ roll history.
“In the late ’70s that was all you really could do, ‘cause until the early ’90s there were only two bars in Athens,” Wood said.
Despite its history, “the Zoo” was torn down around 1990, and “the green house” reverted to a normal rental a few years later. But, by that time the people living in “Spilledge” had begun to carry the DIY torch.
As “Spilledge” changed hands over the years, the atmosphere faded away.
Ferguson said the previous residents were bitter about being evicted.
“They invited people over to just take whatever they wanted from the house,” She said. “Stuff that can’t be replaced.”
In an effort to revitalize the house, Ferguson made a deal to do renovations in exchange for lower rent, and soon after the tree fell across the house — but there was a silver lining.
“It was kind of a good thing,” Ferguson said. “We had a legitimate insurance claim, and got the money to have it all fixed.”
For a while, Ferguson and Ryder lived with an improvised skylight, but now the house is mostly repaired.
Since then, they have hosted a number of bands, such as the Humms, the Rodney Kings, Timmy and the Tumblers and StreetViolence, and are trying to promote an expansion in the punk music scene.
“It’s not a scene that’s really big here, and in, like, Atlanta Athens is a big joke. They think we’re a bunch of weird indie stoners playing kazoos or whatever.”
Initially, repopulating shows at “Spilledge” was difficult.
“Initially we couldn’t get 10 people to show up for a band from 500 miles away,” Ferguson said.
Plus, the couple was hosting bands so often that it became a financial burden.
“If you’re having shows every week eventually you get burnt out,” Ferguson said.
But something clicked and people began to venture back to “Spilledge.”
“Now it’s like people know it’s going to be fun, or there’ll be booze and will show up no matter what,” Ferguson said.
In January “Spilledge” saw a huge breakthrough when it teamed up with two other houses and the Secret Squirrel to host the “Rodney Luther King Jr. Rock ‘n’ Roll Daze Fest.”
The shows brought more than 100 people — and a noise violation.
“It’s great that the house has functioned as a creative musical thing,” Ryder said. “It can be pretty dysfunctional, but it’s a pretty cool place.”