The Gets F* Weird concert held at the Chop Shop last weekend was sold out, as much for the EDM event itself as for the underlying celebration — it was the NoDa music venue's last hurrah. The concrete and brick club is set to be bulldozed to make way for condos in the coming weeks.
As electronic music filled the building on Saturday night, owner Jay Tilyard stood near the bar with a drink in hand, taking in the weirdness around him. His focus was split between making sure the bar had enough booze for the night's patrons and what needed to be done the following day — taking everything that wasn't bolted down for his next possible venture.
When it comes to what he'll do next, Tilyard says he's still weighing options. Seeing the success of the Chop Shop is probable motivation for doing something similar somewhere in town — at least that's the hope I have.
It was only four-and-a-half years ago that Tilyard gave me a tour of the Chop Shop shortly before it opened. He showed off repurposed materials that were used to make the bar and other items throughout the club. This included the welded barstools, the Cadillac benches, the backlit space mural and the bathroom lighting fixtures made from tailpipes and car parts.
It was a lot of work, sweat and money — from Tilyard and others — to get the Chop Shop looking like it did. In hindsight, people probably wonder why Tilyard dropped so much effort into the venue, knowing that it would one day close for lightrail development. I've never asked him, but I can assume it's an easy answer.
Tilyard loves the Charlotte music scene. He's been a part of it through a number of bands (Iron Cordoba, Psycle, Pornokopter, Black Acid Disco) and if you ever ran into him at a Chop Shop concert, he was quick to smile and joke around. You can tell he wanted people to have a good time at events and did everything he could to make sure it happened — even if it meant losing sleep.
The Chop Shop quickly became home for a wide range of events — concerts, art shows, beer fests, fashion shows, performing arts and more. I even know of some people who got married there.
What started out as a small music venue with a medium-sized stage grew into one of the area's biggest venues, as Tilyard tore down a wall and opened a bigger, back-room stage that welcomed everyone from Sturgill Simpson to Mobb Deep.
Now, just as the dust settles around the Chop Shop, music fans will be ready to mourn the loss of another, older music venue in December when Tremont Music Hall shuts its doors for good, also to make room for development.
The first concert I saw in Charlotte was George Clinton at Tremont in the late '90s, before I even lived in the city. Since then, I've been back countless times to see all kinds of concerts.
There's something about both of those concrete jungles that stand out for what they are — each with different personalities and each providing a home to certain events/bands that are hard to fathom being hosted anywhere else.
Aerialists utilized the Chop Shop's tall ceilings while larger events took advantage of the venue's three stages (including one outdoors). Tremont's industrial feel is perfect for the onslaught of Gwar's variety of fluids. It will be interesting to see where those events go from here on out.
Of course, as two staples get pulled away, one has to wonder what's next. Rumors have been rampant in the last few months that the block which is currently home to the Visulite Theatre has been sold to Novant Health and will be flattened when current leases are up from tenants. Of course, no one will confirm or deny those rumors (the Visulite's owner could not be reached for comment), so it might not be time to panic — yet.
It's tough to see when the employees of all of these places are as close-knit as families. They should be supported as much when they are thriving as when they announce a closure.
While it's sad to see any venue go, something will surely take their place — and fans of the Chop Shop are eager to see what Tilyard does next.
"I look at it like a book," he said on Saturday, the bass thumping on the big stage. "People have been reading this book and they think it's awesome. They're on the last page and are really happy with it. Well, this book's done. I'm glad so many people enjoyed it. Those who did will probably pick up the next book to see if it's even better than the first or they at least want to see what happens next."