For the love of original music: SWET celebrates 39 years
The Somewhere Else Tavern, located at 5713 W. Friendly Ave. in Greensboro, to most locals is a landmark and an institution that has supported the area’s original music and musicians for almost 40 years now.
“We are celebrating 39 years July 3, 1979, ” owner Burley Hayes said.
It all started as a family business, he said. But as time passed, he ended up taking the reins. Even though the club has been in business for 39 years, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has been a money-making machine.
“Fortunately, I have been there for so long,” Burley said. “[The owners of the building] believed in me and they’ve kept my rent low and reasonable. I’m not after the dollar bill, basically, when I came over here the music was flowing. I was open six nights a week, I was running 90 to 110 bands a month, and basically, the way things are now, it is really getting hard to get people out. We survive, but we don’t do it for the money.”
“We definitely don’t do it for the money,” Crystal Floyd Hayes said in agreement.
Burley and Crystal are strong-believers in preserving the art of original live music. And they are, in a way, the caretakers of the music scene in Greensboro.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is not what it once was,” Burley said. “[But] we believe in it.”
Burley and Crystal said all are welcome to play in the venue (except cover bands) and that they want to foster and help aspiring musicians grow by giving them a chance to play.
“We do all original music, no covers at all,” Burley said. “Basically why we are alive today is for the love of the music. It has always been about the music, not about the buck, not about being who you are, we give a format for every person to come and play.”
Burley said SWET was the first club in North Carolina to become an all-ages club. Today it still remains that way so that all musicians from every walks of life can have a place to start out. Burley said SWET isn’t the type of place where musicians are required to bring all of their supporters in order to be able to play there.
“We have never had that attitude,” he said. “We are here strictly to give you a show and it is not about the numbers that you bring in, it is about the personal growth of your band.”
“We had 4-month-old babies coming in here with noise-canceling headsets all the time. We have had young kids come in, like 13 or 14 years old, they make me cry,” Crystal said with a shaky voice and tears in her eyes. “And they say ‘Thank you, it is our first time we didn’t play at our school, our church, our garage or friend’s garage, you gave us our first chance.’ And then you have somebody come in (that is my age) and they say ‘Thank you for still being here, you gave me my first chance and I am still playing music.’ And that is what it is all about.”
“Giving somebody a chance to grow and watching them grow and turn into incredible musicians, I am passing on a gift, “ Burley said. “It is a learning experience, you can help guide them on how to make things better. To help them for their musicianship, it is a learning process. Social skills, dealing with people, getting people that are introverted, to bring them out and to be better people. That is what it is, for the love of music. It is beautiful.”
Burley and Crystal aren’t the only ones who appreciate what SWET gives to others. Burley said, “thousands and thousands” of people love and are attached to the venue. One of those people, in particular, is Louis Money (frontman of Trailer Park Orchestra), who has been supporting the club as a patron and musician for over 25 years.
“The Somewhere Else Tavern is a Greensboro institution that everyone takes for granted,” Money wrote in a Facebook message. “Burley Hayes has opened his doors for live local original music for almost 40 years and he can’t be making much. I’ve seen touring bands on a Tuesday during a snowstorm. I’ve seen almost every local musician who is worth a damn on that stage at one point or another. I’ve seen many bars that ‘supported local music’ open and close while he keeps chugging along. If you are [a] musician in this area he has probably helped you out at one point. Every musician in this town, including myself, should be kissing Burley Hayes’ big pimply butt.”
Though there is no big celebration planned for its 39th anniversary, Burley said SWET is planning a big celebration for its 40th anniversary that many local musicians have already shown interest in being apart of. Burley said he is considering an outdoor festival.
“It is up in the air, I take one day at a time,” Burley said. “All I do is try to keep the doors open and keep the magic happening.”
As for the near future, Burley would like to set up a foundation so that SWET can stay open and continue to support local music. “It needs to be done so bad,” Burley said. “All we need is a helping hand to make it happen.”
“Local music is just as good but you got to go out and hear local music and everybody has to start having an open heart,” Crystal said of what others can do to support the future of SWET.
“What I do it for is, everybody that plays here, they all grow and leave, but eventually they all come back,” Burley said. “And when that one person comes through the door and says ‘thank you’ it is worth every bit of what I do. It is a beautiful thing, this place is magical.”
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.