Tremont Music Hall celebrates its 17th anniversary Friday with a seven band bill featuring many Charlotte music staples and bands whose members have ties to the club. The lineup features 2013 Wolves, the Chalkies, Babyshaker, the Blind Dates, the Aqualads, Antiseen, Husky, and Hope Nicholls (Snagglepuss) as DJ. The show marks the rare reunion of the Blind Dates, which was Tremont founder and former owner Penny Craver’s `80s girl group with Charlotte musicians Gina Stewart and Deanna Lynn Campbell.
The idea of the SouthEnd venue inching toward its 20th year makes me feel old. Although I long ago vacated my spot at the bar where I could view the Casbah stage while talking to the bartender and feel the breeze from the front door, of all Charlotte’s venues, it’s still the one that feels most like home. I formed enduring relationships there and witnessed some memorable shows back when seeing concerts was still new to me. My fondness for Tremont was in part due to the time period and the kind of live music I was looking for. When it opened it was one of very few games in town. Part of the reason I chose Charlotte for college was because I craved a live music scene where I could watch some of the underground bands I’d been discovering on MTV’s “120 Minutes.” By the time I got settled notorious Charlotte venues like The Pterodactyl, 4808, 1313, and the Park Elevator were long gone and The Milestone was on its way to disarray (from which it has since been rescued). Amos’ on Park Road soon closed and the Neighborhood Theatre and Visulite didn’t exist. The Double Door was more of an adult-crowd. I don’t even know if you could get in there at 18 and Jeremiah’s on Independence targeted the heavier metal crowd.
When Penny Craver opened Tremont in 1995, I had a place to go. In those early years I saw Son Volt, Ani Difranco, Frank Black and later Blur, Placebo, and L7 (in the Casbah). Tremont’s first anniversary show featured Rancid, Rocket from the Crypt, and the Suicide Machines - easily one of my top 10 concerts. Rob Zombie, Primus, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Weezer, Green Day, Maroon 5, and Matchbox 20 all played there. Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and the Jonas Brothers played the Casbah stage before graduating to arenas.
Tremont has certainly experienced ups and downs. It is now on its third owner, John Hayes, whose passion for metal is a perfect match for the club. His excitement is evident when live tweeting some of the venue’s bigger metal shows.
I’ve heard the complaints - it’s a dirty old warehouse (which never bothered me until the private women’s bathroom closed). I’ve also heard old timers complain that the venue moved toward heavier music and a younger clientele. Someone has to cater to those crowds though. Tremont still gets some real on-the-cusp acts. In recent years French electronic pop oufit M83, Swedish `70s stoner blues-rock throwback Graveyard, and glamtastic rockers Foxy Shazam have pulled crowds ranging from decent to sell-outs.
What the 17th Anniversary show highlights is Tremont’s long history of supporting local music. Yes, most other clubs in town do it too. Tremont has just done it longer. There’s a whole group of acts like Scapegoat, Harvard, Sugar Glyder, Campbell, and Junior Astronomers that I watched mature musically on Tremont’s stage. Adam Lazzara from Taking Back Sunday and guys from Emery, for instance, have mentioned in interviews the impact of seeing national acts there during their impressionable teens.
I’ve seen most of Friday’s acts on the Casbah stage before. Antiseen’s antiversary shows are legendary with frontman Jeff Clayton pulling out all the stops (and props) for those events. There’s a lot of history with the other acts as well. Hope Nicholl’s once hosted karaoke and live music nights called Bucket Parties, which were a staple of the late `90s/early ‘00s era. Many of the other acts have either been playing there since they started or since Tremont opened or are friends or former or current employees of the club. Tickets are $10. Showtime is 8 p.m.