Baity’s Reunion and a Farewell to Ziggy’s
It is a journalist’s job to remain somewhat objective. We are meant to be a bit obscure, the proverbial “man behind the curtain” and present the story, the facts, to the reader. I will tell you up front, in this endeavor, I will fail. This article is ingrained into the heart of me and I cannot present it any other way than from a personal perspective.
On Friday, February 19 th , 2016 as my best friend and I approached Ziggy’s to attend the Baity’s Music Garden Benefit Reunion, I was very much aware that this would be the last night I would walk through those doors. The parking lot was packed and streets were lined all the way around the block. For those of you who may not remember Baity’s Music Garden, it was a somewhat pieced together nondescript little joint that was located in Winston- Salem off of the appropriately named Baity Street and directly up the road from the original Ziggy’s location. It wasn’t really fancy, but to those that were regulars, such as myself, it was a home away from home and a place where we could meet with others of our ilk and feel accepted. There was an underlying feeling of family that joined us. The venue showcased names both local and those that could be heard on Rick Dee’s Weekly Top 40, the ones we would sit by the radio with finger poised over the record button and anxiously await to hear. It wasn’t long before those big names hit both venues and rather than it being a huge competition, the street quickly just became the place to be and a few regulars would even drift between both places, depending on who was playing, and didn’t mind two cover charges because the music and the atmosphere was well worth it. For me, the feeling of family flowing between both establishments was something of an enigma I have yet to experience anywhere else. Local bands developed a large following as well and everyone would come out to support them when they played.
Then, in 1993, tragedy hit. Baity’s burned to the ground. Susan Marsh Bartley attended the benefit this past Friday night and said, “I remember the exact moment I heard on the radio that Baity’s had burned down. I will never forget that feeling of loss.”
Things did feel different. Things did change, but Ziggy’s upheld the traditions established on Baity Street and carried it further at their new location, expanding into a bigger venue and adding even bigger outdoor music concerts. All along the east coast and beyond, Ziggy’s had a name and was respected among artists. Just this past summer, I stood in awe and watched the legendary George Clinton and The P Funk grace the stage. From P.O.D. to Cannibal Corpse, Snoop Dogg, Puddle of Mudd, and Beebs and Her Money Makers, the entertainment was always diverse and there was something for everyone.
So, to tell you that the Baity’s Music Garden Benefit Reunion was a big deal to a lot of people really doesn’t put it into perspective. First and foremost, it was the opportunity to reunite local bands, some that haven’t played a public venue together in 20 plus years, but whose songs and names still danced on the tips of our tongues and lived in the memories of our younger days: CircusBaby and Typsy Gypsy to name two.
It was even more bitter sweet for Circus Baby to take the stage. All original band members were there, save one, Matt Overstreet who passed away much too young this past year. Even though the event was organized “to benefit Susan G. Komen NW NC in memory of Sherri Roberts Biallis and Joan Marie Barrett who both lost the war against breast cancer (and it was also) dedicated to Peggy “Ma Baity” and Ralph Blanco who were lost to other forms of cancer,” they took the stage in memory of Matt as well. Mike Pope stepped into those shoes, having been a lifelong fan of Matt’s. Mike’s dedication to the event went beyond just attending practices with the band. Robbie Tedder, wife of bass player Chris Tedder stated, “(Mike) has been studying Matt religiously for the past couple months and locking himself in a room learning those songs in Matt’s style. He really put in a great effort and is the only reason they were able to pull this off. I hope they will come back out as a band again, with Mike on board!” Mike was rather humble when asked about the events of the night.
“Back in the day, Circus Baby was one of the more edgy, unique bands around and obviously left a lasting impression in a fairly short amount of time. Matt was a big part of that in personality and musicianship. A great guitarist. He would have loved to have been there and I wish he were.”
Still of The Night, a White Snake Tribute band, played the reunion and has key members of the band Dimage that played Baity’s years ago. Scott Board and Nicholas Dimage Benfield, who I have always known as Nikki, took the stage as I always remembered, by storm. Having remained active in the music industry all these years, Scott’s vocals were just as crisp and clear, if not more, as they were years ago. His range is astounding and for those that choose to leave earlier in the evening, they truly missed out on something spectacular. His voice had no problem filling the cavernous room rafters to floor. A nearly 10-minute rendition of a Deep Purple song, Burn from White Snake’s The Purple Album, a cover of a cover of sorts, was the showcase for the guitars, bass, and drums for the evening proving they match Scott’s vocals in skill. Scott stated, “It was a bittersweet experience playing Ziggy’s Friday not only because we’re remembering those we’ve lost to cancer but also remembering and celebrating a time of fun and music that we all had back in the old days that will never be able to be revisited. Such a great music scene we use to have… Really hate to see ‘another one’ go.”
Tim Mabe, owner of Baity’s, was in attendance at the show but was quick to point out that he wasn’t instrumental in the execution of the evening. He gave credit where it was due.
“”I think Cat Pighini, Ian McCurty and Jimmie Vaden did an outstanding job with the event. It was great seeing so many old friends who shared the many great years we had at Baity’s Music Garden. It was also my pleasure to lend the name to an event that honored my mother and two former employees of the club. Having the venue for the event as Ziggy’s was very appropriate as well. The fact that we shared so many of the same customer base when we were both located near the coliseum area but that this was one of the final shows for Ziggy’s too. Another club I am sure will be missed by live music goers in Winston- Salem.”
The entire line up was amazing. Other bands were Wicked Wayz, Suicide King, David Reavis Band, and Al Yountz was the comedian that night. Robert Fleischman, original singer for Journey and Vinnie Vincent Invasion, was the MC for the evening, courtesy of Ian McCurdy. Ian was instrumental in other ways, making an impact to ensure the night was one patrons wouldn’t forget.
“So, I called my friends in the music business to see who wanted to offer any items for doors prizes and/raffle items. Lita Ford (original guitarist for The Runaways), Erik Turner of Warrant and Eric Singer of Kiss were my first phone calls. And, they all sent signed items for the event. Including a signed KISS drum head, Signed Warrant posters and cd. And Lita sent a package including signed photos, cds, and shirts. Everyone was very generous with their items.”
At the end of the night, after the last song played and the stage was being broken down, I walked around the floor. I had spent the majority of the evening side stage singing, snapping photos, dancing, and back stage with old friends. I was living out the fantasy of so many nights at shows as I peeked and tried to see backstage when the doors opened. It was my perfect last night, last show. I couldn’t have asked for more. As we walked toward the exit, I looked up on a pole in the middle of the floor and saw the iconic no smoking sign with the red slash over both a cigarette and an adjacent marijuana leaf. Impulsively, I reached up and began to take it down. Before I knew it, two other friends were helping me peel away the thick clear tape. It became a mission as we watched around us to see if anyone was coming to stop us. I had to have the sign. I wanted to take it home to put on the wall beside all my posters from concerts I had attended there. I wanted to take a piece of Ziggy’s with me and I did.
There are those that complained and said that Ziggy’s should have booked a big ticket name for their last weekend, but those are the people that didn’t get it. Ziggy’s wasn’t just the music. That isn’t what made it special. Just as those of us that spoke of Baity’s that night understood that it wasn’t just the music. The bands were amazing and they rocked the house, without a doubt, but it was the resurgence of the memories and the reconnection of old friends. That is what brought us to the show.
Ziggy’s was the people. It was a place to meet up with friends during the middle of the week when you had a rough day at work. They understood what that meant at the bar. They poured that first drink a little bit stronger. They remembered your face and soon after that your name. They asked about your family. The walls weren’t just papered with posters from past events and graffiti, the murals on the walls were done by local artist Kendall Doub whose name and art work is a permanent part of the city. If you are a native, you knew that. You knew which nights they met and played the blues. You knew when you could hear reggae or rock. You knew that you could meet up for a Cloud Competition if you were a vaper. Ziggy’s was an extension of the community. There was a lot going on and so it was much more than just a weekend haunt. I hear talk that someone else might pick the building up and open it for music. That’s good, I guess, but I am uncertain if I will go. For me, it would be like walking into a ghost. !
PAT BERRYHILL is a local Writer and Artist associated with AFAS and Red Dog Gallery that can be found on Face Book at www.facebook.com/PatPunkPop and