Friday Night Music Club (FNMC) hit the Winston-Salem music scene in early 2017, and it’s quickly grown from one man’s passion project into a team effort that could aid many groups within the Triad, from nonprofits to students to musicians at large. Considering FNMC’s potential impact, it’s lucky that Doug Davis found time to create it.
“I have way too many projects,” Davis laughed. “My music life tends to be pretty schizophrenic.”
In addition to running his recording studio, Flytrap Music Productions, the Winston-Salem resident plays in at least five bands, as well as writing and performing original songs. Now Davis has added FNMC to his roster. The monthly gigs combine singers and musicians who would not otherwise get the chance to play together into wildly different shows from month to month.
“My idea, from a musical standpoint, is that I don’t want to throw three bands on a bill and call it a benefit,” said Davis. “We’re trying to program something every month that people have never seen before and probably won’t see again.”
Proceeds from each show’s ticket sales benefit a new local nonprofit each month. Giving back has been a constant goal of FNMC ever since Davis first envisioned it as something of a one man show.
“I’ve always loved being part of that downtown bar scene, but I found myself at a point where I didn’t really have an excuse for being there,” Davis said. “I realized I wasn’t doing it for the money. So I thought, this might be something I could do for charity.”
The original plan was for Davis to play these charity shows himself, but his wife encouraged him to think bigger by mining contacts from his other projects, including Doug Davis & the Solid Citizens, The Plaids, and the Vagabond Saints Society. The last group also creates one-time themed shows that Davis staffs with musicians from his Rolodex. Davis wanted FNMC to be different, so he flipped the script by asking musicians what they really wanted to play.
“Friday Night Music Club is a little more guerrilla in nature,” said Davis. “So I can go to people and say, ‘I can give you six or seven songs in front of a pretty big crowd. What’s your dream project?’ Cover, original, whatever it is that makes somebody’s strange idea of a good time, we can do that.”
FNMC has so far kept a low profile, but a string of good experiences has Davis actively promoting May’s show. “Winston Covers Winston” will feature community musicians covering songs written by other community musicians, including Drat the Luck, Gulley, The Hitchcock Fugitives, Clay Howard & the Threadbare Trio, Will Jones, Corky McClellan, Ken Mickey, and Jeff Wall.
Previous FNMC shows were held at Bull’s Tavern, but this month the setting will change to The Garage. Davis is eager to reach a wider audience by playing in different settings.
“Danielle Bull has been very supportive of this idea,” said Davis. “We’ll continue to do lots of things there, but the goal is to move around. We don’t want to use same venue and target same demographic every time.”
June’s FNMC will be performed outdoors as part of a street festival, and will feature all original music. Later in the year, FNMC will tackle something Davis has wanted to try for a while: a band lottery in which musicians of all stripes volunteer to have their names randomly selected to create a one shot band.
“We throw a lot of names in a hat and that self-created band can do anything they want with their 30 minutes,” said Davis. “They could get together and write songs, they could cover a bunch of Frank Zappa songs, whatever they want to do.”
Davis hopes this emphasis on new partnerships and new material will inspire emerging local musicians and possibly generate some fresh bands, all while collecting cash to be donated to Triad charities.
“Winston Covers Winston” will benefit the nonprofit Authoring Action, which empowers teens through arts and leadership workshops. Revenue from the show will go to fund a scholarship for one creative local student.
“That’s the kind of thing I’m interested in getting involved with. I know we won’t be able to contribute $10,000 for an endowment, but for now, $600 or $700 can be very useful to a local nonprofit,” said Davis.
As the audience grows and more people come on board to help, FNMC is developing a life of its own, which suits Davis just fine.
“I would love for this to become a self sustaining thing that’s bigger than me,” he said. “Every show we do, people talk to me about getting involved on different levels, whether musically or working with nonprofits or handling administrative stuff. I love the idea that this could develop into a real community project.”
Wanna go? The next Friday Night Music Club will take place on May 19 at The Garage, 110 W. 7th St., Winston-Salem. The show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7 at the door.
Mia Osborn is a Greensboro-based freelance writer who hails from Birmingham, Alabama.