It is a grey, cool late summer day just before the seasons change. It has been overcast all day but nothing more than a brief and barely noticeable mist has come down. I called out of work this morning and have spent the better part of the day working on my resume and cover letter, editing and casually bouncing between social media and job searches. Between the frustrating political posts and editing jobs I’m not qualified for came the disappointing news that the Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte, NC would be closing its doors after 21 years of live music where everyone from Green Day to Ben Folds to Fugazi have played.
I don’t live in Charlotte, so this news cuts less deeply for me than many people I know, but I was born there and have lived in it’s shadow for much of my life and so I have at least a few fond memories tied to the place. Some of my earliest show going experiences were at the Tremont and it is sad to see an independent, all-ages venue close its doors. Even worse, given the current shape of Charlotte’s South End we can be sure to expect that the yet to be revealed development plans will turn out to be more condos. The Tremont has consistently been host to underground music in way that not many other establishments in NC can claim. For many years it was THE venue in our state, even if it wasn’t technically ever the best venue.
My first show at Tremont–one of my first few shows as a fledgling subculture kid–was In Flames, Trivium, Devil Driver and Zao. My introduction to the heavy music world and Punk came by way of Christian Rock labels like Tooth & Nail and their imprint Solid State, so it was almost exclusively for the opener that my cousin Drew and I attended.We arrived just as the show was starting, the opening riffs of “The Rising End” were punching through the walls as we shuffled through the line, eager to get inside before we missed much more. As I recall, the set list was heavier on the new material and their performance was underwhelming, we were dismayed that Russ was no longer playing with the band but I still occasionally pull my shrunken, too small to begin with Zao shirt out from time to time. Zao’s worst is better than a lot of bands’ best. Drew convinced me to stick around through Trivium and we were both pleasantly surprised by Devil Driver. We called my aunt to pick us up and headed home before In Flames even touched the stage.
Later that year we caught Stretch Arm Strong on their Free At Last tour on the side stage, known as The Casbah. This was one of the oddest experiences I had at Tremont. Most of the openers were complete unknowns to us. The Distance caught us off guard, they may not have done much for me on record but they were fun live. Burns Out Bright bored us to tears, and perhaps as a joke Drew asked a guy emoting on the bleacher seats if he wanted to start a push mosh. We ended up making friends with a band of white t-shirt wearing “real hardcore kids” who moshed with us during the shockingly heavy Chasing Victory, but our anti-hxc-dancing ways got too hot during Secret Lives of the Freemasons when I caught a flying punch from a polo-clad jerk during a minor spat with another dancer. One of our new white shirt friends felt that my honor had been besmirched enough by the experience and decided to return the sucker punch on my behalf resulting in himself and my assailant getting kicked out. All I could do then was shake my head. I only new a handful of Stretch Arm Strong songs but the pure energy of the room and their performance has stuck with me.
We would visit Tremont yet again in 2006 for Killswitch Engage, All that Remains, Bury Your Dead and 2 Cents. Funny enough, Justin attended that show with a handful of his college friends and neither one of us new that the other had been there until the next day. Justin and I did however, attend Tremont together to see ISIS, Intronaut and Torche, a tour which should have included Jesu but it looks like visa issues prevented them from appearing on every date.
Finally, the last show I can recall seeing was The Gaslight Anthem with Murder By Death and The Loved Ones. This was in the fall of 2009, between The ’59 Sound and American Slang as the band was fast on the rise. My girlfriend(now she’s my wife) and I made the drive in her old Ford Taurus down from the mountains to see a band that was quickly becoming one of our shared favorites. I will always remember this particular show, the long drive, the months of excitement building up to seeing a band that had already come to mean so much to us. I remember seeing someone in a This Bike is a Pipe Bomb shirt, gritting our teeth through the Loved Ones and all of Dave Hause’s name-dropping, laughing at nerds shouting to Murder By Death to ask the front man about his guitar during the middle of their set and the person behind us repeatedly squealing “play Trusty Choooords!” at The Gaslight Anthem between every song. Everything about that show is what keeps me driving to other cities to watch bands play for 30 or 40 minutes. The long drives and how that means you get to listen to so much music on the way there and back, eating greasy fried food and talking for hours.
Every show is a new experience but it is so familiar. Every song, every drive, every calorie, every lost hour of sleep is worth it. Places like the Tremont made these memories a possibility and provided a space for so many others to build their own. To have a place like that in your home town? That’s priceless. That’s something I couldn’t truly claim, but appreciated from the outside. That’s a talk for another time though.
Seen any good shows at the Tremont? Have your own stories to tell? Leave them in the comments, we would love to hear them.