Friday, August 8, 2014

Influential Charlotte club owner, Jeff Lowery, dies

Charlotte lost a leading member of its musical community this week when Jeff Lowery died.
Lowery, 55, who operated Jeff’s Bucket Shop on Montford Road, was essential to Charlotte’s musical growth during the late 1980s and early `90s. He co-owned and operated the Pterodactyl Club and 13-13, The Milestone Club for a time and Milestone Records on Central Avenue.
In recent years he published the Amps 11 local and regional music ’zine.
During their run at The Milestone between 1986 and 1989 he and business partner Tim Blong brought bands like Bad Brains, Southern Culture on the Skids, Flaming Lips, Alex Chilton, and Melissa Etheridge to town and Charlotteans still talk about the shows they booked at the Pterodactyl and 13-13. 
“Jeff really was a visionary and ahead of his time, particularly with the 13-13, which hosted a slew of top-notch alternative rock bands well before the genre exploded and those bands graduated to the arenas and amphitheaters,” says writer Kathleen Johnson, who covered the scene for The Observer in the 1990s.
Blong's records show Jane's Addiction and Iggy Pop, the Ramones, Alice in Chains, Danzig, Sonic Youth, the Replacements, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, and Widespread Panic - punk legends, alternative rock bands who were peaking early on, and others that would go on to headline arenas. 
“Jeff also booked local and regional bands as openers for big shows and gave them their own gigs, which also really helped nurture the city’s original music scene. Those two clubs had a big cultural impact on the town,” adds Johnson.
“He was an idea person and got a lot of things going in Charlotte when little else was happening here,” said photographer Daniel Coston.
Friend Kenny Campbell Sorrento said: “He was always surrounded by the best of the best in Charlotte. His DJs were the best. His bartenders were the best. His drink specials were groundbreaking and the girls around him were strangely attractive.
“He was also simplistic in his vision. He simply knew that the basics, if they were the best, would make his bar patrons happy, and they did. It never mattered to Jeff if you were straight, gay, young, old or anything in between or on the side. His smile went out to anyone and everyone. He could smile through any disaster while chaos surrounded him.”
Friend Dean Mandrapilias praises Lowery as a smooth operator when it came to business. “His attitude toward people and business remained the same. It was always smiles,” says Mandrapilias.
After the Pterodactyl closed he went on to co-found and run other bars and clubs including the short-lived spot Dammit Janet, Hungry Duck and Jeff’s Bucket Shop.
“In the days since his passing,” says DJ Matt Bolick, “I have found it amazing the number of people his worked touched here in Charlotte and surrounding cities.”

A vigil is planned for Wednesday at the site of the Pterodactyl, Freedom Drive and Morehead Street. That’s across from Pinky’s Westside Grill, beside The Burger Company. Afterward, there will be a service at Amos’ Southend, which will include DJs and live music.
On Facebook, type in “Jeff Lowery Memory Page.”

(Photo: Observer archives).