Not nostalgic anymore

by Amy Kingsley

Nostalgia – as it relates to music venues in Greensboro – is nothing if not a wasted sentiment.

Believe me, I speak from experience. I’ve lived and played music in this town for the better part of six years, and during that time, the indie rock crowd has changed homes more often than a hermit crab.

When I first moved to Greensboro, the independent music scene revolved around Gate City Noise, the narrow record store on the corner of Tate Street and Walker Avenue that hosted several national touring bands. Gate City went the way of the dinosaur a couple years back, a victim of digital technology and economic doldrums. Into the void stepped the Flying Anvil.

That club stoked a lot of excitement. People speculated that it would raise the profile of Greensboro’s scene, bringing it to the level of an Asheville or Chapel Hill – both of which have venerable live music institutions.

But the Anvil vanished almost in the blink of an eye, banishing original musicians to their old vagabond existence. Which is how it goes in this town.

It’s Saturday night and I’m trying to come up with some sort of sentiment to attach to the final show at Two Art Chicks. Resignation is the best I can do.

At 10 p.m., the venue is at barely a third of capacity. It doesn’t look like gallery directors Melodi Fentress and Emily Stewart have done much in the way of packing. Bright metal sculptures swing from the ceiling and the walls still hold birch-board paintings from the final exhibit.

“Do you think they’re going to take those chairs to the new space?” someone asks.

She’s pointing to the handmade furniture on top of a low wall. One of the strangest things about having rock shows here is watching scummy musicians navigate the gallery, learning not to set sweaty beers onto custom glass tabletops or slouch against a wall of pastel portraits.

Odds are things will be more comfortable, at least for the sleazy set, in the new space. Wherever that is.

Fentress and Stewart already have plans for a new gallery called Focal Points. They’ll host shows and have already invested in a bigger and better sound system than the one at Two Art Chicks.

It’ll open in December, and in the meantime bands will play at Square One, a practice space and sometime venue on Grove Street in Glenwood. Other places will pick up, variously, the crust punk shows, UNCG band shows, Guilford College shows and experimental shows.

Most of those bands will end up playing houses. The plight of the Corndale house – so named because of its situation at the corner of Cornwallis and Lawndale – provided some of the inspiration for this column. Corndale had shows for years, and passed its legacy through several generations of resident musicians.

More than a year ago, the last of Corndale’s post-collegiate denizens moved out and onto respectability, cohabitation and even marriage. Now the empty house is the subject of a zoning dispute between the residents of ritzy Irving Park and developers who want to turn it into a mixed-use facility for retirees.

I practically lived at Corndale when I started dating my boyfriend Mark, who lived there. But I won’t be devastated if it’s leveled.

Part of it is just my personality. I’m not terribly sentimental – just ask Mark. But my unsentimentality has been aggravated by circumstances that have turned my friends and me into a band of musical refugees.

Sure there are other rock clubs in Greensboro. Somewhere Else Tavern is something of an institution, but I was well out of high school when I moved to Greensboro and way too old to enjoy it. Ace’s Basement turned into Greene Street and began catering almost exclusively to primped emo kids.

College Hill does its part, hosting dirty rock bands in the corner near the front door nearly every week. But the pub can hold only so many people in the aisle between the bar and the booths.

Structures don’t stand forever. Bands break up. People move. Still, it would be nice to have a club for all the original musicians who can’t find a regular place to play. Something like a Cat’s Cradle or a Local 506, dark and eternal.

My girlfriends and I joked about opening that kind of club – more 506 than Cradle – the last time we brunched. Between the five of us, we have dozens of ideas and practically no capital. So we’re looking for a moneyman (or woman). You can send your pledges to the e-mail address below.

Right now there’s a band I have to see. Marijuana Wolf is playing Two Artichokes for the last time, and that’s the last time I get to make that joke. By this time tomorrow, I’ll be working up new puns for the next unlucky soul staking his future on Greensboro’s music fans.

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