Posts Tagged With: Sadlack’s

Sadlack’s: Traces remain, hiding in plain sight

LoseringIt’s coming up on four years since Sadlack’s, the legendary Raleigh watering hole where Ryan Adams formed the first version of Whiskeytown way back in 1994, was shut down and bulldozed to make way for a hotel. It’s part of a relentless march of “progress” in which more and more of Raleigh’s funky Whiskeytown-era landmarks covered in “Losering” have fallen to the wrecking ball.

I know, time marches on and there’s little point in lamenting those old corner stores we’ve lost. Still, I miss ’em. And if you know where to look, you’ll find a cool tribute to Sadlack’s a mile and a half from where it once stood — at downtown Raleigh’s Berkeley Cafe, an establishment co-owned by a couple of Sadlack’s regulars (and also the first place I ever interviewed Ryan way back when).

Although the Berkeley’s upstairs back patio is smaller than the old Sadlack’s outdoor space, it definitely has a similar vibe in which you feel like the spirit lives on, especially when they have live music. And as a marker signifying where it all went down, these two street signs in the rafters serve as a reminder.

Sadlack’s stood at the corner of Enterprise and Hillsborough streets, after all

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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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“Yesterday’s News” at the Berkeley Cafe

SACoverShowAs noted in the “Losering” preface, my story with Ryan Adams began at downtown Raleigh’s Berkeley Cafe, where I sat down to interview him after a show more than 20 years ago and things went kind of disastrously awry — a fitting metaphor for the whole story. The Berkeley has changed a good bit over the past two decades, shrinking down to just the Cafe space after the music hall was converted to a pipe/tobacco shop two years ago. But it remains a live-music venue; and with ownership by veterans of the late, lamented Sadlack’s, it’s still a repository of cool, funky vibes of old.

All of which is to say it’s fitting that the Berkeley will be the site of a very intriguing show this weekend, aimed at those with fond memories of Raleigh’s Whiskeytown era. As part of Guitartown’s “Cover Album of the Month” series, Jeff Mullins and Ryan Kennemur will perform Whiskeytown’s 1997 magnum opus Strangers Almanac on Saturday night under the name Yesterday’s News. And as you can see from the poster, it’s even free (although donations are encouraged).

Ordinarily, I would not miss this for the world. Unfortunately, however, it falls on the same weekend as the  Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas. So I’m afraid that being there in spirit will have to do, but you should go.

UPDATE (10/20/2015): And here is how it went.

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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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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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Sadlack’s: Going going gone…

Sadlack’s Heroes, where Ryan Adams first got Whiskeytown together back in 1994 (see chapter four of “Losering”), has been shut down for more than four months now. Ever since the Backsliders closed it out on new years eve, the building has stood empty, silent and boarded up while awaiting demolition to make way for a 135-room hotel project that will occupy Hillsborough Street’s Bell Tower Block.

As of this week, alas, we can’t even say that the building is standing anymore. Wrecking crews began taking down Sadlack’s and the adjacent structures in recent days, starting with the Hillsborough/Enterprise corner that Sadlack’s occupied. Below left is a picture from the Sadlack’s Facebook page, taken in August 2012; and below right is the same scene on Saturday, May 3. Between traffic on the street and the construction fence, I couldn’t capture quite the same angle. But you can use the Sadlack’s sign to orient the view for comparative purposes; clicking on either picture will enlarge it. You can also see a much better picture of the scene here (taken from the other direction).

As of Saturday afternoon, it didn’t appear that they’re working over the weekend. But I’d guess the entire lot will be cleared off and all the debris cleared away by the end of next week. And then the last vestiges of one of Ryan’s signature Whiskeytown-era Raleigh landmarks will be well and truly gone.

 

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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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Counting down: Sadlack’s

PosterGoneThe days grow ever shorter at Sadlack’s, the working-class Raleigh watering hole where Whiskeytown first formed in the fall of 1994 (see Chapter 4 of “Losering” for particulars). It’s scheduled to close by the new year to make way for a hotel/retail project on the Bell Tower block of the Hillsborough Street strip, but demolition of a sort is already in progress. At right is the space on the interior west wall that once held a framed 1994-vintage Whiskeytown flyer, which I hoped would find its way onto the wall somewhere at the new Berkeley Cafe that Sadlack’s owner Rose Schwetz will reopen in 2014. But it’s already disappeared and I’ve heard varying reports as to whether it was stolen or salvaged. For now, at least, the graffiti here on the right is the only trace of it left. Also gone is the autographed Ryan Adams photo that had been on the same wall. Maybe they’ll both turn up at the Berkeley eventually.

(ADDENDUM: In a major piece of good news, Rose reports that she has saved and stashed the Ryan artifacts for safekeeping and they’ll be on the wall when the Berkeley reopens — yay! Also, here is a preview of the last night.)

Nevertheless, the ghost of Ryan Adams is still very much present. Below is some graffiti on Sadlack’s south-facing wall, a worst-bartender list that some regulars put together. And look who comes in at an emphatic, exclamation-point-marked No. 2 (with his Whiskeytown bandmate Phil Wandscher rating an off-to-the-side honorable mention); I’m only surprised our man DRA didn’t rate the top spot.

If you live in the greater Raleigh vicinity, there’s still time to drop in on Sadlack’s a time or two before the end, especially during the closing run of shows. The final stretch looks like this:

Debonzo Brothers (Dec. 26) — One of the many very fine acts who played our Ryan Adams tribute show back in May.

Terry Anderson’s Olympic Ass-Kicking Team (Dec. 27) — The iconic Woods/Fabulous Knobs/Yayhoos member usually plays a Christmas-night show somewhere in Raleigh to mark his birthday. But this year, Anderson passed on that to play Sadlack’s one last time.

Kenny Roby and Friends (Dec. 28) — with a 6 String Drag reunion in the works for next month, this one has ample potential to be a really, really cool night.

Cousins (Dec. 29) — Local supergroup’s lineup includes Greg Rice, current keyboardist in the Backsliders (and just an aside, the 29th is my birthday).

Backsliders (Dec. 31) — And speaking of those Backsliders, they get the closing “Last Waltz” slot on New Year’s Eve, a show that should be positively epic. I fully expect the place to be in smoking ruins by the end.

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Berkeley Cafe + Sadlack’s = my happy place

Photo courtesy of John Morris, goodnightraleigh.com

Photo courtesy of John Morris, goodnightraleigh.com

For the past year or so, two key Raleigh venues from Ryan Adams’ Whiskeytown-era “Losering” story have had figurative swords hanging over them. That’s the Berkeley Cafe and Sadlack’s Heroes, both of which were seemingly doomedThree months ago, the odds of continued survival didn’t look good for either place. Then when the Berkeley announced it was about to “close for remodeling,” it was hard not to assume the worst.

In a delightfully improbable turn of events, however, I am happy to report that the Berkeley and Sadlack’s are joining forces in a union that makes all the sense in the world. In the near term, the Berkeley will still close for remodeling at the end of this week, and Sadlack’s is still scheduled to shut down at the end of this year. But come January, the Berkeley will reopen under new management: Sadlack’s owner Rose Schwetz has bought the Berkeley and is going to spend the next three months overseeing a large-scale remodel that will (I hope) combine the best aspects of these two famous blue-collar dives.

When the new Berkeley opens its doors, yes, the Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown artifacts on the walls of Sadlack’s will be there. But that’s assuming that Rose can hang onto them in the meantime.

“Everybody’s been telling me, ‘I want this, I want that, put my name on it,'” she says with a laugh. “Stuff like that is not really very important to me, but it is to some people. Still, we’ll try to hang onto the important things. We’ll start packing stuff up over there around Thanksgiving.”

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Farewell to the Berkeley Cafe music hall; and (no) news on Sadlack’s

This weekend saw the closing of the Berkeley Cafe music hall, one of Whiskeytown’s key venues from the mid-1990s period that “Losering” covers. And while I’m sad to see it go, at least the joint went out in style. Chapel Hill roots-rock icons Southern Culture on the Skids, who already qualified as venerable during Whiskeytown’s heyday and are still going strong almost two decades later, blew the roof off with a last-waltz performance that went long into the wee hours of Sunday morning. I was there to do a report for the paper, which is here.

Meanwhile, things are still up in the air with another “Losering”-era landmark in Raleigh, Sadlack’s. The previously announced June 1 deadline for finding a new location came and went without any news, and it’s still open on Hillsborough Street across from the NC State Belltower. All sorts of tantalizing rumors have been floating around town about possible spots for a relocated Sadlack’s, but owner Rose Schwetz was still mum when I did one of my regular check-ins on Friday afternoon.

“Well, it’s getting a little closer,” she said. “We’re working on a location, lease and upfit. But still…nothing I can tell you about.”

That statement seems in line with the sign below, which has been on the wall at Sadlack’s for a couple of weeks now. If anything changes, you’ll be the first to know.

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