Monday, 24 August 2020 20:25

Richmond County bars, bands ready to rock again

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Dark Horse performs at Hudson Brothers Deli in March. The band will play a free show at the Berry Patch on Thursday. Dark Horse performs at Hudson Brothers Deli in March. The band will play a free show at the Berry Patch on Thursday. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM ― A five-month streak with no live music performances in Richmond County will come to an end this week.

The Berry Patch announced Sunday that the country band Dark Horse will be performing a free show Thursday from 6-8:30 p.m.

Co-owner Amy Berry told the RO Monday that she and husband Lee decided to host the concert to “bring some joy and happiness into the area.”

Patrons are encouraged to bring chairs and maintain social distancing.

While the band has had a few gigs in Moore County, this will be Dark Horse’s first show in Richmond County since the weekend before Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order closing bars and restaurants ― on St. Patrick’s Day, traditionally one of the biggest business days for bars.

That weekend, Dark Horse performed at Hudson Brothers Deli and Chris Herring and Roger Campbell played at Casey’s Cove on Friday; and Dixie Ambush took the stage at the State Line Community Center in Wallace, South Carolina before Fair Warning made the trip from the Triad to rock out at Double Vision.

Since then, it’s been silent.

The county’s two main venues, Hudson Brothers and Double Vision, have been closed since mid-March.

Several musicians, including Dark Horse ― featuring Richmond County natives Frankie Moree and vocals and guitar, Dean Caulder on drums and Scott Infinger on bass, along with Lillington’s Johnny Howington on pedal steel ― and Hamlet guitarist/singer/songwriter Jonathan Robinson took to “quaranstreaming” ― online shows where viewers could send tips through apps ― before restaurants and some private clubs were allowed to re-open.

“It has honestly been a day-by-day situation,” said Moree. “It changes literally every day with what they (venues) can do, what they feel comfortable doing according to the guidelines. They have (to) really work their way around the system in many ways trying to make it happen, but nobody wants to be doing anything illegal or get their license taken from them.”

Moree said his band, which sometimes downsizes to a duo with just himself and Infinger, has had to rely on private parties and breweries for shows.

“Sometimes we have to wait till the day of the gig to confirm,” he added. “And it’s tough for a full band. Not as much when you just have to line up yourself or a duo. But (with a) full band, (it’s) a job to line up everyone with ever-changing schedules.”

As an example, Howington, who is also a teacher, won’t be able to join the rest of the band on Thursday, so Dwayne Whalen will be filling in.

Restaurants were eventually allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity, as were private clubs that sell food.

Many thought that signaled a light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic tunnel.

However, in early August, Cooper extended Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan and banned the sale of alcohol after 11 p.m. Chapel Hill had previously set its own cut-off time.

The Hide-A-Way Tavern was one of the clubs that opened its doors back in June following guidance from the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Owner Chris Sachs wasn’t thrilled with time constraint.

“It’s killing us,” he said Aug. 14, the first time hosting karaoke so early in the night.

Though it’s not as bad as being closed, Sachs said it still hurts.

He also took issue with the seemingly arbitrary temporal regulation.

“I don’t know how it is you can only get COVID after 11 p.m.,” Sachs said, adding that those three hours make a significant difference in bar terms. “Most people don’t leave home until 11 o’clock, which I think that’s kinda the reason they did it … I think it’s more political than anything else.”

While the Hide-A-Way doesn’t often feature live music, Double Vision does ― and is still closed.

“For me it's been rather annoying  with the waiting game,” owner Richard Robinson said about being closed for nearly half a year. “Thankfully, the employees have other jobs to keep them going.”

Robinson said he could reopen, but the list of guidelines and regulations make it near impossible.

In addition to the time and capacity limits, Robinson said bar staff are supposed to keep patrons from touching shared spaces, such as bar counters and pool tables, and patrons are supposed to remain seated at tables and maintain social distancing.

“Very few people go to bars to drink sprite and talk about their day,” he said. “When is the last time you went to a bar or pub to not socialize? Basically you're supposed to act as a restaurant.”

He went on to say that the pandemic has been tough on all small business owners, but not so much for corporate retail giants, noting that Walmart recently reported a $7 billion spike in revenue in the second quarter. Lowe’s also saw a 30% increase, CNBC reported.

“You never hear of ‘outbreaks’ at these large chain corporations who employ tens of thousands of people and have thousands of people in their stores on a daily basis,” Robinson said. “People say that they have good distancing guidelines. However, everything you grab in any store has probably already been touched by a consumer who changed their mind on the purchase.

Robinson is hopeful that mass gathering and other restrictions will soon be lifted and things get back to normal.

“When it is, we will have one heck of show for the public,” Robinson said. “I have always said that Double Vision is for the public to have fun not for monetary gains.”

That being said, a business still has to make money.

Robinson told the RO in June that the $5 cover charge with 50% capacity wouldn’t be enough to cover the bands that perform on Saturday nights.

The hiatus for bands hasn’t been all bad.

Local groups like Safety Committee and Bad Habit continue to practice, working on new material for the crowds they anticipate performing for.

Bad Habit performs Feb. 7 at Hudson Brothers. From left: Casey Williams, guitar; Chris Sellers, vocals; Stephen Wyand, drums; Wayne Humphries, bass.

“It has given me a lot of time to work on original music,” said Bad Habit guitarist Casey Williams.

The band, which hasn’t performed since February, mixes in a few original songs with classic and hard rock covers.

“It has, however, been a real disappointment not being able to play just as we as a band were starting to take off,” Williams added. Hopefully we can harness the energy everyone will have at bars once they finally open and everyone will be able to really enjoy themselves.”

Singer Chris Sellers said the virus has shut down “all the bands and their venues to one degree or another.”

“Whether you're a major act or just some local dudes jamming, the climate of today's society has affected everyone's day-to-day,” Sellers said.

One local band, Aftermath, has a show lined up for Oct. 10, from 8-10:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Caddy’s Grill and Chill in Rockingham, according to frontman Franklin Branch.

While the bands wait for local venues to reopen, some are finding shows outside of Richmond County.

The Ponder Project played The SeaWitch Cafe and Tiki Bar in Carolina Beach this past weekend. It’s also where they last performed prior to the shutdown.

“The whole ride down I was so nervous,” said guitarist John Baker. “It felt like the first show all over again. My palms were sweaty!”

Ponder’s drummer and founding member Shot Allen plans to retire at the end of the year and pass the sticks to Anakin White, who has been switching off sets behind the kit with Allen for about a year. White played the most recent show.

“I’m hoping that I can play my last show at Hudson Brothers, but with the pandemic going on who knows!” Allen said.

Bad Habit has an upcoming concert in Darlington, South Carolina, kicking off Hunter and Kricket’s Race Party on Friday, Sept. 4.

The event, formerly known as Bryan’s Race Party, is in its 20th year and has raised money for various charities in the past two decades, including the Petty family’s Victory Junction camp, the Shriners Hospitals and local wounded warriors. This year’s proceeds will go to the Florence, South Carolina Chapter of Rolling Thunder, according to Ashley Parker (Kricket).

Being the 20th anniversary, Parker said they had planned to make the event bigger this year, but the pandemic put the brakes on that.

“We still have the bands and music lined up, but all the other plans have been put on hold until next year,” Parker said.

Sellers said organizers were expecting a huge crowd ― “But with the virus epidemic and NASCAR sanctions, who really knows? 

“I do know, regardless, we're gonna have a good time,” Sellers continued. “I think most party goers are tired of being cooped up and are ready to blow off some steam … Plus, this being a charity event makes it all the more appealing.”

As for the band’s guitarist, who mimics AC/DC guitarist Angus Young on stage (or through a crowd), he’s ready to play.

“I am extremely excited about Darlington,” said Williams. “It will definitely be the largest crowd we have played for and it will be a great opportunity to spread our name to the locals. I really just can't wait.

“In the words of Robert Plant: ‘It's been a long time since I rock and rolled.’”



Last modified on Tuesday, 25 August 2020 07:02