By Chris Cooper
Last year I wrote a “suggested Christmas play list” for the holiday. It may have been a stretch (Miles Davis and Joe Satriani may constitute MY ideal soundtrack for Dec. 25, but maybe not everyone else) but at the very least it was an effort to encourage music lovers to pursue the sounds that simply make them feel good during the holidays.
This time, though, I’m going to take a little artistic license and map out a kind of “what I want for the new year” list in regards to music, Sylva, and, well ... everything else.
I would like to see continuing growth and diversity in our little music scene. And by no means do I think it’s not happening already; we have electronic craziness, bluegrass, metal, punk, funk and jam admirably represented. But I want more of it all — maybe more cross-pollination of local projects, better opportunities for the singer/songwriter crowd. How about a blues project? A rockabilly band?
By the same token, live music needs an audience. Attendance is a bit of an issue around here. Otherwise, you’re playing for bartenders that want to go home and a depressingly empty room. With the economy in its current state, everyone’s taken a hit. Venues that were slammed last year, no matter how cold it was outside, now more often find tumbleweeds blowing through the bar where there once were patrons. But if you compare average cover charges around town to those in Asheville, we’re still getting a pretty good deal. But there has to be something going on to make people want to come out in the first place. See above.
This one’s kind of tricky. And maybe I got spoiled in Charlotte, where it seems that every little hole in the wall joint has a reasonably workable sound system. But the point is: if you’re going to have live music, you need a PA system that functions! It doesn’t have to be some massive, state-of-the-art NASA thing, either. Two mains, a couple monitors, some mics and cables and a powered mixer will do the trick. It’s difficult to get, and keep, the crowd’s attention if a) they can’t hear you, and b) what’s coming off the stage doesn’t sound very good. Now if those bad sounds are coming from the band, no fancy PA will fix it. But a good band can sound fantastic in a small room with the proper equipment. Something to consider, and an investment that will pay itself back in spades.
Continuing with that whole diversity thing, there’s enough room on Main Street and beyond for a few more funky little places that serve good food and provide live music. We don’t need another furniture store. Or a burger joint. How about a good Thai restaurant? Maybe some Indian food, with matching atmosphere and sounds to boot? A cool little sushi bar? It’s not impossible, but it’s up to whether Sylva wants such things. I tend to think it does. It’s not that what we have now isn’t good enough, but more options would help with the whole “burned out from going to the same places” problem, and it would certainly liven up the nightlife around these parts.
Finally, I’d like to see, and sense, a little more appreciation for what we do have in Sylva. I’m not going to beat the same horse I always seem to flog, but I’m still inspired that In Your Ear Music Emporium has made it 15 years in this town. A decade and a half. With the alarming rate at which indie music shops are going the way of the dodo and the brontosaurus, Lauren Calvert has — against the odds of digital downloading, burning, Best Buys and Wal Marts — made this thing work. This falls into the “attendance” idea, a bit, as well as the theme downtown of supporting local businesses, holiday season or not. Walk into a big box store looking for some new music, ask the kid in the blue shirt what’s new and cool, and he’s probably going to point to some massive display rack of whatever artist just signed an exclusive release deal with his employers.
Walk into IYE (or any smaller, independent shop for that matter) and you’ll get into a 30-minute discussion about who you like, who influenced them and who’s making similar noises. And you’ll likely walk out with an armful of good music. That’s just the way it is. In many ways, same goes for Bubacz’s Underground — the guy roasts his coffee in house, and buys it fair trade. And he’s got wheatgrass shots. Hot damn. Jen Pearson’s Guadalupe Café has a menu I never tire of, even if now they can safely assume that I’ll order the black bean burrito with gorgonzola and guacamole, and chase it with a 90 minute IPA almost every time I go there. As well, she supports local farms and offers the most eclectic fare on Main Street.
And there you have it. Hope you guys get at least a chuckle from all of this, and maybe something to think about. Hope your holiday was all you wanted, and in the new year, listen to some music. It’s good for you.