There are no doubt many tightly held secrets down at city hall. But Creative Loafing didn't think the details surrounding the mayor's decision to proclaim Aug. 27 "The Avett Brothers Day" would be among them.
About three weeks ago, CL was amused to learn that the mayor planned to honor the alternative bluegrass band's accomplishments with a mayoral proclamation.
The news left our music editor, Kandia Crazy Horse, and the rest of the staff wondering whether Mayor Pat McCrory grooved to the Avett Brothers in his spare time. We just couldn't quite picture the mayor getting down to the band's unique blend of old-time country, bluegrass, pop, folk, rock & roll, honky-tonk and ragtime.
We wanted to know exactly how big of a fan the mayor was. Did he listen in the car? Did he take his wife to their gigs?
So about three weeks ago, CL set out to write a cutesy little piece about the whole affair, never suspecting that it would become an investigative project that would require use of the Freedom of Information Act to crack.
Everything seemed fine when we initially asked Pam Young, the mayor's secretary, about it. She said the mayor would give us a call back soon. A week and half and a dozen unreturned calls to the mayor's office later, we began to suspect something strange was going on.
So did Dolph Ramseur with Ramseur Records. Ramseur said that folks at the mayor's office seemed a little "miffed" after they found out that Ramseur had let the media know about the proclamation.
"We thought it was newsworthy and we're honored he would do this," said Ramseur, who e-mailed CL to let us know the proclamation might not happen after all. "I'm sorry they wouldn't return your calls."
Ramseur was puzzled by the whole thing because the 2003 proclamation from the mayor of Concord, the Brothers' hometown, had gone so much more smoothly.
Unlike many other mid-sized cities, the Charlotte region's music scene hasn't lately produced a break-out band that made it nationally. Some believe that the Avett Brothers have a shot at being that band.
A few days after Ramseur sent the e-mail to CL, he found out that the proclamation had been signed and was in the mail.
Once again, CL tried to get a copy. But after a staffer at the mayor's office refused to even divulge the day the mayor had declared as the Avett's own, CL sent the mayor's office a Freedom of Information Act request to get a copy of the apparently top-secret proclamation, which they sent back by e-mail.
"Sorry this wasn't made available to you earlier, as we don't usually want the media to have to operate by FOIA requests," wrote Assistant to the Mayor Dennis Marstall.
"However, we usually don't want the Proclamations to go out too early (it was mailed today), as often times they are a surprise or publicized by the group in the manner they want. However, I understand Dolf (sp.) is all too eager to let people know about this Proclamation, so here it is."
Since CL's multiple phone calls to the mayor on this issue remained unreturned at deadline, we're still not sure just how much of a fan McCrory is. An assistant to the mayor promised Ramseur in an e-mail that the mayor would listen to the group's latest CD while driving around in his car.
But one thing is clear. Whoever wrote the Avett Brothers Day proclamation seems to have a keen grasp of the creative angst the Brothers have struggled through to produce their current sound.
"WHEREAS, the acoustic music became the sound that Scott and Seth Avett felt was more natural than anything they had created before," the proclamation reads before going on to praise the brothers for continuing "to provoke thought, change perceptions and bring something new to the world through their music."
McCrory's signature is signed neatly across the bottom, next to the city seal.