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On the scene

How the local landscape has changed over two decades

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It's an immense task trying to condense the past two decades of local music into a mere two pages of print. Fortunately, we didn't have to look far. Collectively, this distinguished panel of former music editors and writers (all current contributors as well) has covered the scene for nearly as long as CL has been on newsstands.

How has the Charlotte club scene evolved during the past 15 years?

FARRIS: Considering my first music club experiences here consisted of watching wannabe glam/metal bands in a dark, borderline seedy, teenage hangout called Weekends (suspiciously sandwiched between an adult meat market and a most certainly seedy XXX video store) and the occasional night out to one of the adult bars for an "all ages" show with Sugar Creek, it would be easy to think we've come a long way. But what Charlotte still desperately lacks is a concentrated music club district and (of course) more support and awareness of original, local music. Sure, we've got a handful of decent to better-than-decent venues now that get decent to the occasionally exceptional bookings, but I'd have to say regular attendance at the restaurant/bars and dance/party clubs still exceed the music venues by far.

SCHACHT: It's a mixed bag, in my book. Losing places like the Pterodactyl, 13-13, Fat City, The Room, even the Steeple, offsets positives like the Milestone cranking up again, the Casbah stage at Tremont, the Visulite, Amos' expansion, etc. The issue is booking, not so much the venues. The lines are way too rigidly drawn: Wanna see a jam band or funk act? Go to the Neighborhood Theatre. Punk or Emo? Go to Tremont. Blues? Double Door. Singer/songwriters? Welcome to the Evening Muse. There's variety within their niches, but you know exactly what kind of act is going to be on stage that night without consulting a calendar. In the mid- to late-90s there was a decent show at Tremont almost every week, and they were all over the map: You could see Frank Black, Spiritualized, Elliot Smith, Son Volt, Whiskeytown, J. Mascis, Morphine, Tricky, Iggy Pop.

DAVIS: It's been said a number of times, but not having a university (a downtown university, and CPCC doesn't count) severely impairs the original music options you're going to get in a downtown-style scene. There are now numerous restaurants and pubs and such, but most of them take the singer-songwriter-with-Ovation-guitar-playing-a-"funky"-cover-of-"Gin and Juice" route. The best clubs going ­-- Tremont, Milestone -- are pretty much in down-and-out areas in the middle of nowhere. Unless you're 18, you're not so much champing at the bit to see a show when you know there's a fair chance someone's gonna toss a brick through yer window. Maybe that's not a punk thing to say, but it's true. (PS: Truth is as punk as it gets -- see Joe Strummer's thoughts on the subject.) NoDa hasn't quite developed like everyone thought it would, with the Evening Muse and the Neighborhood Theatre left to anchor the area with the closing of the venerable Fat City Deli a few years back. The Muse still books admirably, and sometimes the SK Net Cafe, but there's a limit to what you're going to get in such an intimate venue. The Neighborhood Theatre is overwhelmingly tilted in the patchouli direction, but still gets some cool shows from time to time. That said, that place could hold a Broken Social Scene concert easily, and for bands looking for a stop-off between Asheville and Charleston (not to mention Chapel Hill and Atlanta), it would seem to be a natural. The Steeple/Spot/whatever the fuck they call it now had some real promise, as did The Room, but neither establishment could keep the doors open or the riffraff out.

Expand on a thought from Fred Mills' earlier piece: "One of our CL prime directives from the get-go was support local music ... To that end, we set out to champion our rock & roll underground -- what the hell, let's crash the party and get drunk with the rest of the freaks and challenge the rest of the populace to keep up with us."

DAVIS: I think this is what we've always done, or at least tried to do. Nothing against, say, the Charlotte Observer, but the local alt. weekly has a little more free rein to get in the nooks and crannies of a music scene and report truthfully (at least the truth as they see it) about what they find. Of course, this caused/causes no end of cover bands (what I like to call ostensible cover bands -- bands that sound so much like, say, Creed that they're indistinguishable from a cover band), and other folk from filling our answering machines with all manner of vitriol about how us "(expletive) don't understand _____ music anyway, and all you listen to is ____ and you (expletives) don't know about the real scene." Which is ridiculous, of course, and which also didn't stop people from bold, two-faced schmoozing when, say, one of us was eating dinner or otherwise trying to enjoy ourself. (Most of these bands are no more, it should be said, and some particularly annoying "scene" folk I know are hapless drunks or, in the case of a few folk, even serving time in the hoosegow.) But at the risk of sounding self-serving (or salary-serving), I think we far and away championed more new bands, good new bands, than any other outlet in town (see The Sammies, The Avett Brothers, Lou Ford, Benji Hughes, Todd Busch, Lindsey Horne, The Houston Brothers, The Others -- whose name is even cooler considering they had the moniker pre-Lost -- and Pigfucker. Sorry, just wanted to get Pigfucker's name in there again.) We didn't get everybody, of course, but I'd say we hit on -- still do, incidentally -- quite a few artists that have and will stand the test of time, if not the Almighty Dollar. And, being a weekly, we have the freedom to wrap those stories and profiles in interesting prose, even if we get the old "y'all use big words" criticism from time to time. As author Toni Morrison once said to Oprah after the latter complained about having to really pay attention to a piece of Morrison's writing, "Honey, that's what's called reading." Not saying we're writing Beloved here or anything.

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