A documentary on uptown Athens’ oldest live-music club was released online in November, and film director Chris Croft plans to release DVD hardcopies in the coming months.
The hour-long film, “The Last Call – The Union Documentary,” depicts the history of The Union Bar, long considered the center of rock ’n roll in Athens. The film highlights its importance in the local music scene while also showcasing the community’s support and outreach after its building burned in November 2014.
Over the years, The Union has hosted numerous big-name acts, many before they got huge, including the White Stripes, the Black Keys, Guided by Voices, Jesus Lizard, and Athens’ own metal stars Skeletonwitch. One of the most memorable shows, in May 2002, featured former Kinks guitarist Dave Davies and his band.
Croft explained how he came to make the film. “After it burned, I was like ‘someone should make a movie,’” Croft said. “Oh yeah, I make movies. I should make the movie.”
“Last Call” has been a passion project for Croft since February of 2015, he said, noting that he spent nearly four years to complete the documentary. A loyal patron of the bar for about 10 years prior to that point, Croft has been living in Columbus for the last five years, working full time as a photographer.
“It’s a love letter to that town and something of a goodbye to my time there. It definitely means a lot to me,” he said.
After the 2014 fire burned the roof off The Union building and otherwise heavily damaged the structure, the future of the establishment remained in limbo for over a year. With community support and some crowd-funding efforts, the formerly celebrated “dive bar” was the first of the buildings affected by the fire to reopen after extensive renovation, unlocking its doors for the public in May 2016.
The downstairs bar remains largely similar to the original, but the upstairs bar and stage have transformed from what they once were. The venue now boasts higher ceilings, a larger floor, and the infamous support beam in the center of the stage has been removed. Out back there’s now a patio that’s about half of the size of the venue space that features a mural from local outdoor/graffiti artist Mathew Glass.
“Now that the place is nicer, people respect it a little more,” Croft explained. “There’s a little less anarchy and chaos but it can still get a little wild. For the most part, the soul is still there.”
He said that this film will appeal to anyone who has interest in the underbelly of local rock while also providing a look into the Athens music scene.
The film first premiered to an audience of about 100 and is currently available for rent or purchase online with Vimeo on Demand.