Bull’s Tavern hosts inaugural Hot Seat Challenge by Friday Night Music Club
By: Jon Epstein
When looking back on the history of popular music in the United States you find that the common denominator shared by all successful musical genres, scenes, moments, or trends is that they initially arise within a specific community. This largely explains why many genres of music have a geographic adjective in its description, for example “Kansas City Jazz,” “L.A. Metal,” “Delta Blues,” “East Coast/West Coast” Rap, “North Carolina Jangle Pop,” “The Seattle Sound,” …and on it goes.
The point often overlooked when using these descriptions of different music scenes is that these descriptions go far beyond the actual form or style of the music itself, and actually describe the organic, engaged and supportive community within which these genres can evolve and grow. In order for a music community to thrive it must have musicians who are not only engaged in their own work but also have a real interest in what their peers create, and an openness to new ideas, often from unexpected places.
Music communities, however organic they may be, are often driven by several specific individuals who, for whatever reason, take it upon themselves to pursue activities that serve to solidify that community. In Winston- Salem, that individual is Doug Davis, and along with Karon Click, and the community that has evolved from their Friday Night Music Club.
“My goal for the Friday Night Music Club,” Davis told me, “is to foster new relationships among the Triad music scene by getting musicians out of their comfort zones and providing unique, one-off musical experiences that challenge the musicians and create unexpected and exciting shows for the community.”
Additionally, the Friday Night Music Club shows serve as fundraisers for local nonprofits, for which around $10,000 has been collected for organizations such as City with Dwellings, Triad Musicians Matter, The Salvation Army Academy of Arts and Music, Kimberley Park Elementary School, Phoenix House, Stepping Stones Canine Rescue and a number of other worthy organizations. The musicians involved in the FNMC are not paid for their contributions, agreeing that the money raised is better used to enhance the community.
I became involved with FNMC when Davis asked me if I was willing to throw my name in the hat for the FNMC band lottery (I was), for which around 20 musicians were randomly assigned to a “band” and instructed to create a set to be played at the FNMC held at The Garage last September. The musicians I worked with for that project, drummer Lionel Sanders, bassist Matt Weiser, and vocalist/guitarist Dale Cole, were extraordinary musicians, and we had no difficulty creating a set which included songs by Tom Petty, REM, The Beatles and Robin Trower (my personal favorite). Following the performance, Cole and I agreed to continue to work together, resulting in the formation of Band II, so named because at the time it was a second project for the two of us.
Band II (which now includes keyboardist Steve Mowery, bassist Chris Dometrius and vocalist Bekkah Moss) was asked to perform for this month’s FNMC event, which was titled “The FNMC Hot Seat Challenge”, for which a panel of local music scenesters assigned a setlist to each band, with three weeks in which to learn, rehearse, and perform a 10 song set at Bull’s Tavern in Winston-Salem on March 2. The setlist we were given included songs by Deep Purple, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Steppenwolf, The Kinks, Badfinger and Van Morrison, none of which any of us knew prior to our first rehearsal. By asking a number of friends (Bob Campbell, Chuck Dale Smith, Bekkah Moss, Vance Cabiness and George Hodge) to help out with vocal duties, we were able to present an entirely new set to the crowd that Friday, and surprised a number of our contemporaries by going full-on soul and R&B, including backup singers in an area that, with the exception of Cole, none of us are known for doing. To call it exciting to stretch like that without a net is an understatement. All of us recognize that it is Davis and McKinney who brought us together, and we are deeply in their debt as a result.
Musically, the goal of the FNMC is to have completely different formats every month, to be able to program special, one-night-only performances involving different musicians, venues, genres and demographics. Original music, covers, tributes, songwriting circles, competitions– each month is a unique format. The organizers are always on the lookout for new ideas and formats and encourage musicians to pitch ideas for future shows. “No idea is too weird to consider, ‘consider’ being the operative term,” Davis said.
According to a Facebook post by FNMC made on March 4, they were able to raise $636 on March 2 for The Salvation Army of Greater Winston-Salem, NC‘s Academy of Arts and Music. Stay tuned for next month’s FNMC event, where Click will be “curating a night of Jazz.” Follow FNMC on Facebook for more details and to find out the date and place for the next Hot Seat Challenge.