R.E.M., Neutral Milk Hotel Donate Items to Save Iconic Church Steeple

Local musicians supporting campaign to save the steeple from St. Mary's Church in Athens, Georgia, where R.E.M. played their first show

R.E.M. perform at Twickenham Rugby Stadium on August 30th, 2008 in London, England. The group is donating items to save a church steeple where they first performed. Credit: Michael Stipe and Peter Buck

Alternative rock legends R.E.M. played their first show on April 5th, 1980 at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Athens, Georgia – one destination on Rolling Stone's list of Music Landmark Attractions. But the building was demolished in 1990 to make room for condominiums, and all that remains of this iconic fixture is the steeple, which has been under threat of destruction since 2011.

As A.V. Club reports, Athens-based suicide prevention organization Nuci's Space has teamed with local musicians – including members of R.E.M., Neutral Milk Hotel, of Montreal and Drive-By Truckers – for Reconstruction Of The Steeple, which aims to fund a reconstruction of the music landmark while also raising awareness for Nuci's Space.

By donating to an IndieGoGo campaign, supporters can earn music-themed rewards, including three Rickenbacker guitars signed by all original R.E.M. members, assorted items autographed by Neutral Milk Hotel, clothes worn onstage by of Montreal's Kevin Barnes and actual bricks from the steeple. 

According to a description on the IndieGoGo site, the group aims "at the prevention of suicide in Athens’ music-making community through the obstacle-free treatment of depression and other related disorders." The organization's eventual goal for the steeple is to make it an area for quiet reflection. 

Check out the campaign video below, which features a number of area musicians, including Widespread Panic's Dave Schools, Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood and of Montreal's Dottie Alexander, giving an history of the site and explaining the mission of Nuci's Space. (It also features an adorable child duo singing R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It" while strumming ukeleles.)