What better way to celebrate R.E.M.'s debut album Murmur than to have R.E.M. appear onstage to thank you?
All four band members – vocalist Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry – strolled onstage at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia during a show by an R.E.M. tribute band, which happens to be fronted by Academy Award nominee actor Michael Shannon. See the video below, courtesy of @scenesc.
The backstory: Shannon and collaborator Jason Narducy have been making music for close to a decade. In July of 2023, the duo and their "friends" – Jon Wurster (drums), Dag Juhlin (guitar), Nick Macri (bass), and Vijay Tellis-Nayak (piano) – played a one-off gig at Chicago's Metro, celebrating not only the club's first rock gig – R.E.M. on July 25, 1982 – but the 40th anniversary of R.E.M.'s Murmur performing it in its entirety. After Mike Mills jumped onstage to sing, Shannon and Narducy (whose credits include playing with Superchunk and Bob Mould) decided an entire tour was worthwhile.
Fast forward: a February 2024 tour and the band's gig at the 40 Watt Club in Athens. The club, already deemed as one of the most well-known venues in the U.S. (along with San Francisco's Great American Music Hall, Seattle's the Crocodile and Providence, RI Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel) was the locale where R.E.M. began their journey, first trying to scrape together enough coins just to get in and then later as a fully-fledged band, using it as a launchpad to start their music dominance in the '80s and '90s.
Never miss a story — sign up for the Q newsletter for the latest music news on all your favorite artists, all in one place.
While the gig at the 40 Watt Club was momentous and emotional, as Michael Stipe stepped up to the mic to exclaim "Speaking on behalf of Bill and Mike and Peter, we are so f**king thrilled to be here tonight," it's a foregone conclusion that there is no reforming R.E.M. for any tour or festival. Drummer Bill Berry, who had collapsed onstage at a 1995 show due to a brain aneurysm, departed the group in 1997. Although his duties were filled out by several R.E.M. colleagues, Stipe, Buck and Mills released their last album, the compilation Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982–2011 and handed in their pink slip in November 2011. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
Michael Stipe has been fairly front-facing, with assurances that he will have a debut solo album out. In several media outlets, including an interview with The New York Times Magazine last December, Stipe noted he is moving very slowly, confessing "I could keep working on this record for a decade and let my insecurities get the better of me."
In the same interview, he revealed that as he was working at Electric Lady Studios in New York, he shared studio space with Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff and Matt Healy – presumably at the time when Swift was working on 1989 (Taylor's Version) – which hopefully we will hear something from Stipe later this year.