J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Playlists, podcasts and music from WQFS Greensboro's J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Friday, April 27, 2007

Notes From Underground - #4
Razed in the City

This is a regional specific topic, but with the subject having come up several times amongst people recently, I thought it appropriate for the column. Plus it may be something that some of you in similar cities can identify with: why can't Greensboro seem to support a live music venue that operates as strictly a live music venue?

Greensboro is home to bars, art galleries, and all sorts of other places that play host to live music, but our latest attempt for a dedicated live music venue, the Flying Anvil, came to an unceremonius halt less than a year after its opening. Operational costs were the main reason, but part of that was that a consistant enough turnout wasn't happening. Raleigh's hip-hop phenoms, Little Brother, who easily should've sold out a venue of the Anvil's size, failed to do so. Ticket sales were also slow for Dead Prez and I was certainly underwhelmed at the turn out for the tremendous Oakley Hall. You can look at a lot of things - the Anvil's location, parking, etc. But their advertising was solid, the bands they brought in were great, their facilities were a relaxed, warm place to enjoy a show. Greensboro just didn't come through.

And it's been that way for awhile. Winston-Salem has, in one way or another, been able to support three mid-sized venues in Ziggy's, the Garage and the Werehouse. Chapel Hill has the legendary Cat's Cradle and Local 506. Raleigh has Disco Rodeo (formerly the Ritz), the Pour House, the Lincoln Theatre and others. Charlotte has its turgid (but operational) Tremont Music Hall, Amos' Southend, the Visulite Theatre and the Evening Muse. Where is Greensboro going wrong? Shows happen here - but at venues that aren't dedicated to live shows. The Flatiron and Two Art Chicks are two recent entrants into the 'yeah, we host shows' fray and they've both done a fairly good job at it. But you can't guarantee that you're going to walk into either of them on a Friday night and see a show. That's the problem.

Then there's the elephant in the room: does Chapel Hill sap us? Are we too close to another place that draws good sized music crowds that bands (let alone audience people) don't see the point in making the two stops? All of the Cat's Cradle's main competition is either in Asheville (the Orange Peel) or occasionally Charlotte. But no one questions the wisdom of playing at the Cradle when you come through North Carolina. But they might question the wisdom of playing a city a scant 45 mins to an hour and some change to the west. It may just not make sense economically.

So what things prevent a city from supporting a dedicated live venue? Turn out is one thing - but if other similar (or smaller) sized towns can do it, why can't Greensboro seem to get off its duff? What things are necessary for a successful live venue?

With that in mind, a reminder: Greensboro's Filthybird is playing their CD release show at the Flatiron tomorrow night, Saturday, April 28th at 10pm. I might be there in a suit. You never know. But it's a chance to let some people know that supporting live music in Greensboro is a great, great thing.



  • At 5:34 PM, April 27, 2007, Blogger Beth said…

    I'm completely confused about it too, I don't understand. We have a bunch of colleges here, we should be able to support more music venues. Apparently the Independent wrote an article about this too - http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A41220

    "If they want the town to be more than a musical cemetery, dragging their dead asses out to support live music is the only chance for a needed resurrection."

  • At 9:09 AM, April 28, 2007, Blogger J. Neas said…

    You also need a good venue that people might want to show up at regardless of whether they know the band or not. The Flying Anvil, I feel, was that kind of place, but maybe location had something to do with it or something else. Either way it didn't fly (no pun intended).

    Greensboro's other downtown nightlife has really taken an upswing in the past few years - the Anvil's location on Elm Street would've seemed to be prime real estate for that. But danceclubs with shitty music seem to rule the day over live bands with more adventuresome listening.

  • At 1:56 PM, April 28, 2007, Blogger Frances said…

    you know, i hated to think it, but when i walked into the flying anvil for one of the first shows, i immediately thought it might not make it. a couple things: the suffocating area close to the stage and the fact that it was hard to see (b/c of those pillars & the long wall) the stage from anywhere outside of that space. all this shouldn't make a big deal but maybe it does? also, i think it's hard to start big with tremendous overhead -- you need more to keep going. cat's cradle started smaller before moving to c'boro (where it's cheaper, or was) -- downtown g'boro looks good but it's quickly becoming a pretty upscale place. i don't know if any of this played a part -- in addition to folks being lazy. i just think there needs to be a crappy place in a not-so-happening part of town, like one of those empty shopping centers on randleman road, build it slow. maybe? i know that often when i go to the garage or even the werehouse, they aren't full. the garage has struggled a lot.

  • At 4:35 PM, April 28, 2007, Blogger J. Neas said…

    I actually liked the quasi-separation of the stage and bar area. It allowed you to sit outside and actually talk to people if you weren't interested in the band currently playing, but I thought there was enough visible space from out there to make it a good place to sit.

    Your point about overhead is well taken. They had to sink a lot of money into that place to get it open and with the rising cost of downtown, you're probably right. I always thought the old Quaker Cinema over near Guilford could make a great place with the right people. Or your suggestion also. There's a reason clubs aren't generally in the best/safest of areas of a city.

  • At 5:17 PM, April 28, 2007, Blogger Satisfied '75 said…

    i have been fortunate to spend the majority of my life in cities with more than enough live music venues (atlanta, athens, los angeles).

    a friend of mine here in LA was a booking agent for CAA artists, and he repeatedly told me of clubs shutting down in smaller towns across the U.S. as you described above.

    As an outsider, my guess would be that Chapel Hill is so close and on most bands touring roster. Logistically it may not make sense to play to a town 40 minutes away. This is even the case of ATL and Athens.


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