About a month or so ago I was swamped with sympathy.
The sentiment was appreciated, as misplaced as it might have been.
News broke that the Bethania Mill and annex housing Muddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall had been sold, spelling the impending end of the Open Mics we’ve been staging there since our launch in June 2014. And indeed the five-plus years we’ve spent in Bethania making music the way it’s meant to be made among fast friends has been one of the favorite chapters of my life.
But it got so I couldn’t show my old bearded face anywhere in this town that someone didn’t say “Oh sorry to hear about Muddy Creek. What a shame. I know how much it means to you. How you holding up?’’
Truth is, strange as it might seem, I was holding up right well. The news hadn’t really rocked me the way most folks seemed to think it would, for at least two reasons.
The first is that everything in life runs its course. Everything begins and everything ends. I felt the same way when the first bar where I began to play music, The Rubber Soul on Burke Street, closed its doors around 2005. And I felt that way when our run of 4 ½ years of Open Mic at the late, great Garage finally wound down to a close in early 2014.
I’ve been told five years is an eternity for an Open Mic scene, and I can testify that’s true. There have been signs that we’d done what we set out to do in Bethania and, in fact, had done it over and over again. We’re still filling up the sign-up sheet and we’re still having great fun, but I’ve played more than 200 three-song sets at the Cafe and all the regulars who have made the scene what it is have pretty much heard all I had to say or sing.
The other reason I didn’t despair over the news was that I suspected Shana Whitehead, the owner of Muddy Creek Cafe, and Bill Heath, the musical mover and shaker of the operation, would have something else in mind to move the kind of energy around this town it takes to get folks up off their behinds and out the door.. Bill had been giving me hints that another idea or 20 were bouncing around their fertile imaginations.
And sure enough, just last week the glad news broke that the Muddy Creek is moving its scene to another Moravian site in Forsyth County, venerable Old Salem. Come late November a new Muddy Creek scene will be up and running in the space formerly occupied by Flour Box Tea Room and Cafe, beneath T. Bagge Merchant at 626 South Main.
Bill, knowing a good thing when he builds one, has been adamant from the start that he wants a Thursday night Open Mic to anchor their weekly schedule, and I’m proud to say he wants this old boy to do in Salem what we’ve been doing these past five years in Bethania.
So I’ll be ram-rodding the Open Mics at Old Salem, and I could hardly be more excited.
It’ll be a new scene, a new chapter, a new canvas on which to paint. There will be new ears to play to, and hopefully catch.
My great hope is that we can coerce all the regulars who have kept Bethania roaring down to Old Salem to continue doing what they’ve been doing so well. And I also suspect that we’ll get the influx of a new and more diverse crowd, it being a downtown venue more accustomed to a younger and slightly more, shall we say, energetic clientele.
Salem College is down there, and The School of the Arts is a spud’s throw away. I love old folks. I should, being one myself. But it’s the young folks who can turn a scene into a happening, and it’s the young folks who, with the right breaks and right ability, might even turn what we all love doing at a Thursday night Open Mic into a bonafide career.
So look out downtown, Country Dan’s Open Mic at Muddy Creek is headed your way.
And I’m bringing reinforcements.