Posts Tagged With: Brewery

Ryan’s Raleigh: “Faithless Street” is no more

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 11.46.18 AMI have always found it quite amusing that the real-life “Faithless Street” — one of the actual places where Ryan Adams lived in Raleigh during Whiskeytown’s early days, where events transpired that would turn up in songs on the band’s 1996 full-length debut Faithless Street — was actually right next to a place literally called Hope. Back then, he was living in the neighborhood adjacent to NC State University; an old rental house located on Logan Court, at the corner of Logan and Hope Street, just off the Hillsborough Street strip and about a block away from Sadlack’s.

But alas, time marches on, there’s no stopping progress and so on. As with Sadlack’s, the Brewery, the Velvet Cloak and so many other landmarks from Raleigh’s 1990s-vintage Whiskeytown era, the wrecking ball has struck again. Below is what the block where Ryan used to live looks like now, no doubt on its way to being transformed into another faceless residential/retail development. I guess there’s just too much money to be made for it to be otherwise, but it still kind of breaks my heart to see this happen — again and again and again…

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The Velvet Cloak checks out?

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 1.09.24 PMOne of the most recognizable “Old Raleigh” spots along the mid-1990s Whiskeytown era’s Hillsborough Street strip is in a sad state of disrepair, and getting sadder. This is the scene right now in the front driveway of  the vacant  Velvet Cloak Inn — which is currently blocked by one of the most gigantic tree branches I’ve ever seen that’s not an actual entire tree. Seriously, these pictures don’t accurately convey just how huge it is.

We’ve had some pretty big storms here in Raleigh the past few days, and I guess one of them took this branch down (with a fearsome amount of noise, no doubt). The place was completely deserted when I was driving by and stopped to snap these pictures a little while ago. And since every door and gate appeared to be chained shut, nobody seems to be in too much of a hurry to take it away. So it’s probably going to stay there a while.

The Velvet Cloak and its distinctive New Orleans-style wrought-iron dates back to the 1930s, and it stands just a few blocks west of the soon-to-be-demolished IHOP. It used to be a pretty swank place to stay in West Raleigh; Whiskeytown’s old tour manager Thomas O’Keefe says Ryan Adams used to board there when he was “between couches” in the late ’90s. But the Velvet Cloak fell on hard times after becoming a residence hotel about a decade ago. Recently, a developer bought the property with plans to demolish the inn and turn it into student housing — the same fate that befell the Brewery.

Looks like another venerable Raleigh landmark will bite the dust before too long.

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Another landmark from Ryan’s Raleigh disappears: IHOP

IHOPDuring the Whiskeytown era, the mid-to-late 1990s, downtown Raleigh was still pretty much a ghost town after dark. Before downtown became the place to be, the center of Raleigh nightlife was a couple of miles west, along Hillsborough street — a strip that included Sadlack’s, the Brewery, Comet Lounge and other watering holes. And for late-night munchies, there was the 24-hour International House of Pancakes at the corner of Hillsborough and Park, near St. Mary’s School.

As often as not, following a Whiskeytown or Backsliders show at the Brewery, some of us would wind up at IHOP for 3 a.m. victuals before heading home. I paid tribute to that in chapter eight of “Losering,” the one about Whiskeytown’s Strangers Almanac album, by having young Ryan stumble into IHOP in the midst of that chapter’s imagined dark-night-of-the-soul narrative.

But time marches on. Recent years have seen Hillsborough street undergo a radical makeover with traffic circles, while Sadlack’s and the Brewery have both fallen to the wrecking ball to make way for fancy hotels and student housing. And now a similar fate awaits IHOP, which is closing this week for a still-to-be-determined redevelopment project. The small lot IHOP occupies is worth more than $500,000 now, so this was inevitable.

With the Brewery no longer there to draw me in that direction late at night, I’ve not eaten at IHOP in years. Still, I’ll miss seeing that bright blue roof — which was one more marker of the small town Raleigh used to be.

ADDENDUM (5/2/2016): Not quite one month later, the blue is off the roof and it looks like it won’t be long before the whole thing is torn down.

 

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SECOND ADDENDUM (6/17/2016): But at least the Hillsborough Street IHOP will live on in memory in a Needle Print by Caitlin Cary. This has been purchased by the mayor’s office, too.

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Aloft over Sadlack’s

SadNov14It’s been close to nine months since the last time we checked in on the site of the late, lamented Sadlack’s, the old Hillsborough street watering hole where Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown formed more than two decades ago. Done in by Raleigh’s ongoing real-estate boom, Sadlack’s closed for the last time in the wee small hours of Jan. 1, 2014, following an epic New Year’s Eve show; fittingly, it fell to the Backsliders to do last-rites honors.

The lot was soon fenced in and the building boarded up, but it didn’t go under the wrecking ball until May 2014. And since then, a 135-room Aloft Hotel has been under construction on the site. In the upper right is what it looked like last November and below is what it looks like today, close enough to opening day that a “NOW HIRING” banner is already up.

Sadlack’s stood where the left edge of the new building is now, and yeah, I still miss it. Not to mention the Brewery, the Berkeley Cafe’s old music-hall space and a bunch of other joints around town. But time marches on…

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Mea culpa to John Rea (not Reigh)

CopyeditLately, I’ve had to spend some nose-to-grindstone time on one of my least-favorite chores, proof-reading pages for my next book. The final stage of fact-checking any project is a tedious process, and just about as much fun as a colonoscopy. But it’s a necessary evil, the last chance to catch and fix mistakes before unveiling a book for scrutiny. And while I was in the midst of red-penning the Ray Benson book, the universe threw a not-so-gentle reminder my way about the importance of paying close attention — regarding a mistake that appears in “Losering.” It was the message every writer dreads, received via Facebook email from one John Rea:

Sir, You got my name wrong in your book. I played with Ryan Adams very briefly before his Whiskeytown days. You had me listed as “Reigh.” Honestly, (this is just to satisfy my curiosity) where’d you get your info?

-J

GROAN…Aw, man…

John Rea, not Reigh? How the heck did I manage that? Picture me smacking my forehead, repeatedly. This particular glitch appears on page 20 in Chapter 3, which recounts Ryan’s Daisy Street period with Thomas Cushman, and it’s about one of Ryan’s earliest pre-Whiskeytown bands:

One night, Ryan walked up to Cushman in a bar with an announcement: “Tom! We’re in a band! You play bass, I play guitar and sing, John Reigh plays drums, we’re called Ass and we have a show next weekend!”

(Emphasis added.)

It’s the only time that John Rea/Reigh’s name appears in the book, but wrong is wrong. After apologizing profusely, I went looking through my notes to try and figure out what happened. And I found the source of this particular misspelling, a listing of Ryan Adams’ pre-early Whiskeytown bands from the fansite AnsweringBell.com:

ABellReigh

Okay, so that explains where the mistake came from — but not why I didn’t take the next step of finding another source before going into print. That part is on me, and I don’t feel good about it. If ever I have the opportunity to do an updated edition of “Losering” down the road, this is something I’ll fix. But for now, it’s out there and it pains me.

At least John Rea, who runs a transportation business in Fort Mill outside Charlotte these days, was a good sport about it. John was an active member of the local music community back during Ryan’s time in Raleigh, playing in multiple bands, and he was kind enough to share some memories of his time as Ryan’s bandmate:

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John Rea, drummer of Ryan Adams’ short-lived band Ass, circa the early 1990s.

We would practice in the house on Daisy Street, starting at midnight. No AC, it was the middle of summer. Pretty miserable. The one show we played was after our second practice, at a party my roommates were having. My “main” band couldn’t play, so I asked Ryan if he and Tom wanted to. We had learned four songs at our first practice, but a week later Ryan had thrown those out — would not play them, not up for debate. Anyway, we learned four new songs and those were what we took to this little back-yard party to play.

There were maybe six couples there and everyone was drunk. They had a keg, and Ryan got really drunk before we’d even played. I remember him and Tom losing time, which was frustrating. We were playing as a favor to me, and I’d even spent a little relationship capital to borrow a PA. And we simply did not play well — drunk, playing new songs we’d just learned. The show lasted about 15 minutes, and him blowing it is what I think did it for me. Other than people watching us practice, that was the only show Ass ever played. And the best part is, five years later no one at that party would have known they’d seen a Ryan Adams show.

I just don’t think we were really in a position to win with that band even though I liked the songs that were being written. Ryan was super-annoying and looking back, I don’t think he was trying to be. But he was just so energetic and excitable, he just couldn’t help himself. I remember a show at The Garage once, “A Little Drumming Boy Christmas Pageant” that the Wifflefist guys put on with different drummers. Ryan was in that as “Energy Boy.” He was driven, that’s for sure.

I come from a musical pedigree, also played guitar and bass. I played drums because I figured that was a way to be in more bands. But I didn’t want to be just the guy who bangs on drums, grabs a beer and hits on groupies. I wrote songs in my other bands and wanted to have some creative input in this one, too, and I figured out early on that Ryan was not too big on sharing. Then again, we were both young. It’s not like I ever sat down with him and said, “If I’m gonna be in this band, it means this and this and this.” He’d pick things up and run with them and I don’t think it was sinister, he was just this huge ball of energy.

A few years later, I knew he’d made it when I came back to Raleigh for something and saw Chris Jones, who knew Ryan really well. I asked him what Ryan was up to and he said, “He’s dating Winona Ryder.” Well, now. I told my cousin George (Huntley, of The Connells) that, and he was friends with the guys from Soul Asylum — including Dave (Pirner), who had also dated her at one point. Anyway, I told George that and he said, “Apparently, it’s not that hard.”

Had I known then what I know now, could I have put up with it? Probably not. Even though it was flattering when he’d come up to me and say things like, “Me and Greg Elkins were talking about your drumming style, how it’s kinda surfy and kinda like some British drummers from the ’70s, which is so cool because nobody plays like that anymore.” It’s hard not to like hearing that. But once you get past the sugar, there’s medicine at the bottom of the spoon.

It still seems weird that the one person that made it from Raleigh was him. But it was not the least bit surprising, because he tried so hard. He was always buttering up to people.

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Ryan’s Raleigh — disappearing fast…

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Sadlack’s, circa 2012.

Toward the end of “Losering,” I wrote that Ryan Adams probably wouldn’t even recognize his old hometown anymore, given how much of Raleigh has been torn down and rebuilt since Whiskeytown’s 1990s heyday. You don’t have to look any farther than the Hillsborough Street strip, Raleigh’s main drag along the northern edge of the NC State campus, to see how some of the city’s most notable Whiskeytown-era landmarks are disappearing, bulldozed to make way for fancy new real-estate projects going up.

Right across from the NC State Bell Tower is where the former Sadlack’s stood, at the corner of Hillsborough and Enterprise streets. Here it is on the right, the place where Whiskeytown first convened 20 years ago. But Sadlack’s has been gone since its last-waltz blowout this past New Year’s Eve and below is what that block looks like now, on its way to becoming a 135-room Aloft Hotel that will open sometime next summer.

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The new Aloft Hotel rises over the grave of Sadlack’s.

 


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Stanhope, under construction on the block where The Brewery used to be.

About seventh-tenths of a mile west of where Sadlack’s was, The Brewery nightclub used to stand at 3009 Hillsborough Street; site of countless late and great nights with Whiskeytown, Backsliders, 6 String Drag and other cool bands from all over. After the club was torn down in 2011 (along with the Comet Lounge next door), that block stood vacant for a couple of years, home to nothing more than weeds and parked cars. Now it’s being turned into the huge student-residential complex you see going up here on the right; called Stanhope, it’s also opening next summer.

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6 Daisy Street in Raleigh, home of Lazy Stars, American Rock Highway and other bands from Ryan Adams’ distant past.

Fortunately, not quite everything has vanished. Ryan’s old residence with Tom Cushman, the Daisy Street House, is still standing just off Hillsborough Street. Here it is on the left; I parked in front of it when I went by to take the picture of the old Brewery site.

Also, former Brewery co-owner (and “Come Pick Me Up” co-writer) Van Alston is still a nightlife impressario in Raleigh, picking up musicians’ bar tabs at his current downtown joint Slim’s. In recognition of his many contributions to the music community over the years, the local alt-weekly here recently bequeathed Alston with one of its annual Indies Arts Awards — for which congratulations are in order.

Alas, something else that hasn’t changed all these years later is that Ryan remains a magnet for hecklers, even when he’s playing bigger, plusher rooms than he ever played in Raleigh; and he still doesn’t hesitate to fire back. A friend of mine knows someone who caught Ryan’s show in Boston the other night and passed along the following account of the evening:

Ryan Adams is incredibly gifted, but sober or not, still a bit of a jerk on stage. Nothing like when I first saw him play at the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street, where he put his back to audience for much of the show, and/or stood in the stage wings, in darkness, out of the view of the paying attendees. He ripped into a couple of fans last night, one of whom was right next to me. “You should write a blog to speak your mind, and join this asshole in front of me, you fucking prick!” That was typical of comments throughout the night… My friend was somehow able to isolate Adams’ snarky persona from his performance and still enjoy the event, something I wasn’t quite able to do.

Oh, Ryan…

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Friends near and far, throwing rocks at the moon

SadlacksRIPFor those of us who were in Raleigh during our town’s glory days as epicenter of mid-’90s alternative-country, this holiday season has been just like the old times of the “Losering” era. It seems like we’ve all been saying hello again, as well as goodbye for good.

December brought the end of the building that housed one of Ryan Adams’ favorite Whiskeytown-era watering holes, the Comet Lounge, which was finally torn down two years after the demolition of the adjacent Brewery nightclub. And New Year’s Eve brought the end of Sadlack’s, the Hillsborough Street sandwich shop/bar where Whiskeytown formed two decades ago, which is closing to make way for a hotel. I went to Kenny Roby’s show there last Saturday night to report this story about the end; and while I was there, a Sadlack’s regular who may or may not have been drunk got in my face to rant, because I apparently chose the wrong person to interview. On the whole, I’d say it was a very Sadlack’s interaction, along with the following response from an angry reader (reproduced here in all its sub-literate glory):

Sadlack’s not well written at all, lame and denigrating you so called journalistic hack, you must be a smart ass never traveled punk yankee go home…news and disturber another rag with paid articles written to favor their advertisers

Golly, guess he told me.

Come New Year’s Eve, the Backsliders presided over the end out on the back patio with a last-rites set that included a couple of new songs good enough to qualify as encouraging. But just like always, it was “Throwing Rocks at the Moon” that put a lump in my throat. Title track of a 1997 album that really should have launched the Backsliders to stardom (or at least beyond dayjobs), “Moon” is a pretty-much-perfect evocation of bittersweet goodbyes. I found myself thinking about Ryan, of course, who left Sadlack’s and Raleigh behind long ago; and also my old friend Peter Blackstock, for whom I wrote that first No Depression Whiskeytown story all those years ago — and who just left the Triangle to move back to Austin and take the rock-writer job at the American-Statesman. I really wish he could’ve been there, so I sent a silent toast in his direction

6SDI’m also wishing Peter was gonna be here this weekend for Saturday’s reunion show by the third band from Raleigh’s alt-country kingpin troika, Kenny Roby’s 6 String Drag. Of course, the principles get a little twitchy about calling this a “reunion,” a word that carries the baggage of expectations. But no matter what they’re calling it, 6 String Drag’s four members have reconvened to record new music, which they’ll do later this month at Mitch Easter’s splendid Fidelitorium recording emporium over in Kernersville. I can’t wait to hear it. Meantime, here’s a preview of Saturday night’s show. Yes, of course, I’ll be there.

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“Losering: The Songs of Ryan Adams” — wish you were here

DMMCBack in Whiskeytown’s prime, I really wanted them to break through to widespread popularity, which seems a bit odd in retrospect. Sure, it would have been fun to watch from close range; but I can’t say why I was rooting for them beyond a vague belief that a large audience was going to provide some measure of validation. There was closure that only a large crowd singing along with “Sixteen Days” was going to provide.

Fittingly and belatedly, that happened last night, sort of. The fine folks at Deep South The Bar in Raleigh put together a tribute show inspired by my book, “Losering: The Songs of Ryan Adams,” and I got to emcee. And about halfway through the show, while members of the band Old Quarter were playing “Sixteen Days” — the song I thought was going to be Whiskeytown’s big breakout hit way back in 1997 — I was hollering along with everyone else in the soldout house and feeling chills about the experience.

Ghost has got me running
Away from you, away from you, awaaaaaay…

It was a truly wonderful night, very much a feeling of being among friends and fellow fans; as much a tribute to the milieu Ryan came out of as to Ryan himself. There were multiple highlights, some of which went like this:

Aaron Menconi, shortly before asking why he started that damn country band.

Aaron Menconi, shortly before asking why he started that damn country band.

The Equivocators — Featuring my dear friend Scott Huler, they kicked things off with three songs from Whiskeytown’s Faithless Street album; “Midway Park,” “Hard Luck Story” and the title track. When Scott got to the “started this damn country band” line, I coached my 18-year-old son Aaron to yell out, “Why’d you do that?”

David Teeter (from the band Martha Ann Motel) — He brought out a couple of more recent Ryan solo songs, “Shadowlands” and “Desire.” And to make the absent guest of honor seem more present, David also played the recording of the infamous Jim DeRogatis voicemail, a legendary moment in artist-critic relations. Guffaws all around.

Ryan Kennemur — Continuing in a humorous vein, Ryan gave a nod to Mr. Adams’ touchier side by belting out a bit of Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69.” Then he got down to business, and his versions of “Turn Around,” “Avenues” and especially “If He Can’t Have You” were outstanding.

John Booker and Rachel Hirsh (I Was Totally Destroying It) — Major props go to John, who did a fantastic job with booking the acts for this show. And he and his bandmate Rachel did great with four songs — “Everybody Knows,” “Call Me On Your Way Back Home,” “Don’t Be Sad” and “Firecracker.” There was an enthusiastic audience sing-along on the latter song, and John needled me a bit for not giving it and the rest of Ryan’s Gold album sufficient respect in the book. Touche! Danny Johnson, who plays in about a thousand other bands, sat in.

Bobby Bryson — I’d never heard Bobby before, and he might have played my favorite set of the night with stellar versions of “A Kiss Before I Go,” “Let It Ride” (also much audience singing along here) and “Carolina Rain.” He showed absolute command instrumentally as well as vocally, and I loved his stage presence. Afterward, he presented me with a business card carrying the slogan Songs that gently rip your heart out. I believe it.

DeepSouthCharles Marshall and Richard Bolton (Balsa Gliders) — They put a couple of Strangers Almanac-era Whiskeytown classics through some unusual paces, quieting down “Waiting to Derail” and rocking up “Avenues.” Very cool, inventive versions that they clearly put some thought into.

John Massengil, George Hage and Danny Johnson (Old Quarter) — The aforementioned “Sixteen Days” sing-along went over great. So did “Jacksonville Skyline” and a lovely reading of “Houses on the Hill.” Meg Johnson sat in on vocals (and also with Jack the Radio). Felt like being at the Brewery back in the day.

Jack the Radio — Speaking of sing-alongs, there was a raucous one on “Come Pick Me Up,” maybe the most exuberant of the night. “O My Sweet Carolina” and “Lucky Now” rounded it out.

Adam Lane and Jeff Mullins — Ryan Kennemur returned for an exceptionally sweet harmony vocal on “Desperate Ain’t Lonely” (which they rehearsed once, outside in the parking lot, and Ryan had to read the lyrics off his phone — perfect). They also offered up a couple of nice rarities, “Onslow County” and “Oh My Sweet Valentine,” which never fails to put a lump in my throat. Last night was no exception.

Ryan Mullaney and Ashley Gray — Two fine singers teamed up to harmonize on “Desire” and the Gold standard “When the Stars Go Blue” (take that, Tim McGraw).

Wylie Hunter (Wylie Hunter & the Cazadores) — Back to Whiskeytown days with “Dancing With the Women at the Bar,” and Heartbreaker‘s “Be My Winding Wheel.” Really glad to hear both.

ChipNYNYChip Robinson (Backsliders) — He sat at the piano and covered “New York, New York,” reading lyrics he’d scribbled out by hand. Fascinating, weird and pretty great, made even moreso because he was wearing a Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt. I snagged the hand-written lyrics for my archive.

Debonzo Brothers — Jeff and Keef with another long-lost favorite, “Hey There, Mrs. Lovely” (yay!), plus Heartbreaker‘s “In My Time of Need.”

Be The Moon — And in the closing slot, this trio from Burlington offered up the resurrected Whiskeytown song “Am I Unstable.” It was fantastic, featuring box drum and an arrangement that Peter Blackstock’s memory placed in the ballpark of the original (which Whiskeytown only played live once, nearly 13 years ago).

All told, the event raised $579 for the Future of Music Coalition. I could not be happier, and prouder of everyone involved. Thanks to all the musicians, and especially to Deep South impressario Dave Rose for making it happen.

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“Come Pick Me Up,” from across the globe to you

Here’s one from the Days Of Miracle And Wonder file — Bob Fenster and friends covering Ryan Adams’ signature Heartbreaker song “Come Pick Me Up,” and beaming in their contributions from literally all over. Two of the players here, lead vocalist Fenster and pianist Gary Maher, are in two different towns in New Jersey; the rhythm section of drummer Steven Young and bassist Kyle Richards is in Michigan (also in separate towns); guitarist/banjoist Scott Roberts is in Atlanta; Jeff Jensen on harmonica is in Washington, D.C.; and backup singer Annie Graham is in Ireland. Check it out.

This is from a Facebook group called Theme Music, where people record and post songs according to a theme declared by ringleader Matt Brown (whose old band Uncle Green I remember seeing at the Brewery way back in the early 1990s). This sort of trans-geographic collaboration goes on all the time; I just thought this one was particularly cool, and a very nice version of one of my favorites from the Ryan songbook.

While I’m at it, here is what Bob calls his magnum opus, a way-cool version of “Born To Run” with contributions from 38 people across the country.

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Ryan’s Raleigh

More than one reader has remarked on how Raleigh is almost like another character in “Losering,” which I’m always happy to hear. I’m proud of the book as a document not just of Ryan, but of the scene and era he emerged from. To that end, I thought I’d show you around a bit with a tour of some of the places in Ryan’s old hometown where various events in the story happened. So come with me on a whirlwind journey through the past, as we wander through Raleigh down Faithless Street toward…Whiskeytown.

BerkeleyCafeBerkeley Cafe (317. W. Martin St.) — This was where my story with Ryan literally began. As recounted in the preface, it’s the first place I ever sat down to interview him way back in 1995. The Berkeley has been around since the early ’80s, and it’s a lot longer on funky charms than creature comforts. But those charms are more than enough. I still see music at the Berkeley on a regular basis, including a show by Caitlin Cary’s Tres Chicas in early November and my 17-year-old son Aaron’s new punk band’s public debut earlier this month; and I have lunch there almost every week with my pal Scott Huler. It’s still one of my favorite Raleigh dives, conveniently located just down the street from the News & Observer’s office.

DaisyStreetDaisy Street house (6 Daisy St.) — This bungalow where Ryan lived with Tom Cushman in the early ’90s served as the setting for much of Chapter three’s events, including the numerous bands they formed and the near-conflagration that yielded up the song “Burning Bed.” Daisy is just one block long, and the house in question is the first one on the right after you turn onto the street from Hillsborough and pass Cup A Joe. It’s a stone’s throw from the Brewery and walking distance from Ryan’s then-place of employment, the Rathskeller at 2412 Hillsborough (which closed years ago and is now the site of a much-plusher eatery called Porter’s Tavern).

BreweryDemolitionThe Brewery (3009 Hillsborough St.) — When I think “mid-’90s Whiskeytown show,” the Brewery is the place that comes to mind because I saw more Whiskeytown shows there than anywhere else. I’ve got plenty of personal Brewery history myself. When I interviewed for the N&O’s rock-writer job in December 1990, the Brewery was the first club in Raleigh where I saw a show; Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, and it was lots of fun. Yes, the joint was a dive, but also the best-sounding room in town (thank you Jac Cain, soundman to the stars). The Brewery was kind of the CBGB of mid-’90s alternative country, which was handy because I lived just a block away back then. Brewery lore includes a fantastic live EP that the Backsliders recorded there; some scenes in the underrated 1996 movie “Bandwagon”; and Tres Chicas citing the women’s bathroom as the place they formed.

Alas, the Brewery’s been gone since August 2011, when it was torn down to make way for a retail/residential development that will probably never be built — going on a year and a half later, it’s still a dirt parking lot. Two of the N&O’s photographers did a really cool video of the building being demolished, set to a recording of Ryan and Caitlin singing “Heart Is Broken” onstage at the Brewery in October 1999 (a show described in Chapter 11).

Comet

Photo courtesy of John Morris, goodnightraleigh.com

Comet Lounge (3003 Hillsborough St.) — One of Ryan’s favorite watering holes back in the day, a dark-walled joint that was made for consumption more than socializing. The Comet is enshrined in the lyrics of the Strangers Almanac song “Yesterday’s News”: “See you at the Comet.” The Brewery stood right next door to the Comet and they were connected by an adjoining breezeway, which was a big hangout during marathon events like the annual roots-rock blowout  S.P.I.T.T.L.E. Fest. The two buildings’ proximity made possible hilarious incidents like Ryan wandering over to the Comet for a mid-set drink while Caitlin was singing “Matrimony” onstage at the Brewery (see Chapter five). And the Comet was also the site of a memorably alcohol-fueled interview I conducted with Ryan on the eve of Strangers’ release in 1997 (see Chapter seven). Back in the day, both the Comet and Brewery were partly owned by Van Alston, co-writer of two songs on Heartbreaker including “Come Pick Me Up.” But Van sold his interest in the Comet long ago, and in recent years it’s been a bar called Katmandu.

CircusBurgerCircus Family Restaurant (1600 Wake Forest Road) — As recounted in Chapters two and three, Ryan had a long series of restaurant jobs around Raleigh in the years before he was able to make a fulltime living as a musician. One of them was at this burger joint north of downtown, where he worked long enough to quit with the flamboyant declaration, “This place is like a three-ring circus and I’m tired of working for peanuts.”

Sadlacks

Photo courtesy of John Morris, goodnightraleigh.com

Sadlack’s (2116 Hillsborough St.) — Another of Ryan’s old workplaces and one of Raleigh’s most beloved institutions, with a colorful barfly vibe. Sadlack’s was also the birthplace of Whiskeytown, which came together in the fall of 1994 as an assemblage of Sadlack’s employees and regulars — see Chapter four. Sadlack’s is still open in the shadow of NC State’s belltower, with a vintage Whiskeytown flyer hanging in a frame on a wall across from the bar. But there’s no telling how much longer it will be around. The entire block (which is also the current site of Schoolkids, one of the last independent record stores in the area) has been condemned for a huge 250-room hotel, although it’s not clear when construction will begin; probably sometime in 2013. Sadlack’s owner Rose Schwetz was trying to relocate a few blocks up Hillsborough Street — in the vicinity of the old Rathskeller space, ironically enough — but negotiations fell through. “I’m planning on just staying here for as long as I can, until the bulldozers come and make me leave,” she told me in November 2012. I hope that won’t be for a long time.

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