Burning the bar at both ends with Josh Crocker
Josh Crocker, the celebrated College Hill barkeep, will hop on the other side of the aisle for a show with Corporate Fandango and Paint Fumes on Feb. 16 at the Corner Bar in Greensboro.
A notable fan of chicken wings and fancy birthdays, Crocker was born in Memphis, and followed his family to Greensboro, where he’s made his own amongst friends and fellow fans of dives, chords and flowing drinks.
“I’ve lived most of my life in North Carolina,” Crocker explained, referencing stints spent in Illinois and Michigan, “I moved down here to be closer to my father and sister.” He picked up the bar trade while living in Chicago, roughly nine years ago. “I learned how to bartend in a spot called Miska’s, by an old man with flashcards who would constantly ask me what time it was.” It helped pass the time, work-wise, and keep time, music-wise.
Crocker’s history with music has been brewing since his teens, “I started performing when I was 16 and haven’t stopped since,” he said. “I’ve been in punk bands, metal, hardcore, pop-punk and folk acts,” he recalled of his musical history. “But I’ve always had my solo folk project. I enjoy blues and a lot of folk,” he added, with a nod to the styles of tunes born in the same Delta. “It certainly comes out in my music.”
And indeed, Crocker’s noted influences vary amongst singer-songwriters like Irish artist Damien Rice and Shakey Graves, from Texas, with a splash of the Boston hard-core group Everytime I Die.
Though guitar remains his main instrument, Crocker also plays bass and drums. His experience has largely involved live-shows more than making records. “I love the emotion and drive people have behind live performances,” he said. But there are plans to lay tracks this year. “I only have videos right now, but I’m working on an EP.”
Entitled “Take,” the five-song release is currently in the recording stages. “It’s gonna be mostly about my life in Greensboro, and the struggles I’ve watched my family and friends go through.” Crocker is imbued with a certain perspective reserved for bartenders and therapists.
“Take care of the ones you love, don’t talk over people, listen and don’t take for granted what you have,” Crocker noted of his outlook and drive. He hopes to pay it forward, space-wise. “I’m currently working on saving to open up my own venue in Greensboro,” he explained, “a place where people can come share their music poetry and art with the community.”
An all hands on deck sort of dude, Crocker’s proverbial bar wisdom and charm has honed cherished friendships and a few accolades. He was featured as a YES! Weekly “Hot Pour Bartender of the Week” in July 2019 and was voted “Best Male Bartender” in YES! Weekly’s “Triad’s Best” awards for 2017 and 2018. Humble about the experience, Crocker’s once again in the running, “vote for whoever you think is the best,” he said.
Other words of wisdom from his service-side include: don’t pay with folded money, don’t move to cities and complain about noise, and be aware of the company you keep. “Take a look around. When you are having a shit day realize who’s standing next to you,” he noted. It’s advice that goes both ways.
On the positive end, Crocker falls musically within the folkster crowds, often playing with the likes of Jon Charles Dwyer, Emily Stewart, (who was also born in the Delta and made a musical home in Greensboro,) and Bob Fleming, with whom Crocker shared an episode of the Nathan Stringer Summer Music show, (along with Rachel Amick, DC Carter, and the Grand Ole Uproar,) in 2017.
But like his influences, Crocker’s not limited to a particular twang, which makes him suited for a showbill of punks and horn players. After all, he’s played with punks before. In 2018, he shared a set at Boxcar with Michael Joncas from Harrison Ford Mustang for GSOFest. And Crocker’s frequently worked with Kylo Renzo, aka Lorenzo Hall from Cold Tony, with whom he appeared on Matty Sheets’ Gate City Port Authority program on WUAG in 2017. ”He sounds like a congregation of angels confronting their demons,” Hall once said about a bill they shared.
Crocker plans to play more often and admitted his calendar is seemingly more sparse than fans and followers would prefer. “Dear Reader,” he addressed to his Facebook about the upcoming show, “y’all talk about how I never play: come out.” Here’s your chance.
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report, a radio show that runs like a mixtape of bands touring NC, 5:30-7 p.m, on WUAG 103.1fm