Thursday, April 26, 2007

Alley Cat will make other venues step-up

Alley Cat will make Charlotte’s live-music scene better.

I know co-owner Andy Kastanas, and I've heard the guys say they’re not a live-music venue and they’re not trying to compete with Visulite Theatre and Amos’ Southend. But whatever.

The club has a main stage, a sound system (that need more bass), and room to dance; they also have a smaller stage outside. More importantly, they serve food, and they’re in the heart of uptown. Plus, Savis -- who co-owned the Steeple -- is Alley Cat’s manager. He did a heck of a job booking acts at the Steeple, and he loves live music.

All of that spells trouble for Visulite, Amos’ and the Neighborhood Theatre when it comes to competing for acts that draw crowds of about 700 people or less.

Here’s what I envision: In the first six months, Alley Cat will build its fan base and focus on enticing people with cover bands on Saturdays. On Fridays, they’ve said they will book bands that play original music. I’m guessing they’ll start with local acts, which means those local acts won’t be available as much to play in the other venues. Eventually, I can see Alley Cat going after the same touring regional and national acts that go to Visulite, Amos’ and Neighborhood.

So they will be bringing the same ol'-same ol' acts uptown that already stop by the other venues? Why is that good? That’s exactly what I thought when I first heard about the concept.

But that means Visulite, Amos’ and Neighborhood will have to bring different acts to survive and flourish. I’m hoping these club owners are going to be more willing to book acts they wouldn’t have considered before, from hip-hop to Latin to country to rock genres I don’t even know about. Maybe we can get the same mix of shows that go to the Cats Cradle in Carrboro or the Orange Peel in Asheville.

Two questions: 1) Do you think Alley Cat will improve live music here? 2) What are some of the acts that you would like to see come here? Post your replies below.

Everyone came to Alley Cat's pre-party

If every night at Alley Cat could be like Wednesday night was, uptown’s newest club would be my favorite spot in the city.

At the club’s VIP party, the crowd from Dish and the Penguin mixed with the young professionals and frat-types that usually hang uptown. Oh, and I can’t forget the artsy folks. On the patio, men and women with pink hair and/or piercings and/or tattoos (and I mean full sleeves, not teeny-weeny tats) mingled with people wearing golf shirts, khakis and hair gel. Of course, there was also the who's who of uptown nightlife: Tommy from Tyber Creek, Jody from Breakfast Club, Adam from Loft, Noah from N.C. Music Factory, Big Ryan and Danny from Grand Central.

It was so awesome.

The Penguin Restaurant, which will serve food until 1 a.m. in Alley Cat's restaurant, was largely responsible for such a varied crowd. So many Penguin supporters came out that it felt as if someone had picked up Thomas Avenue and put it uptown. It felt great, and I hope the mix continues.

When I first heard about the Penguin teaming with Alley Cat, I figured it would be a great move for the restaurant to reach a new audience. After last night, I realize there is an even greater opportunity to change the face of College Street.

Here's my question: Do you think Alley Cat will continue drawing a wide array of patrons, or will it simply become another Cans and Buckhead Saloon? Post your replies below.

Another bus trip to see "The Color Purple"

Remember my bus trip to see "The Color Purple" on Broadway a few weeks ago? Since then, several people have asked about other bus trips to the see the musical. Well, Aboard w/Us Travel, which sponsored the last trip, is ready to do another one -- to see Fantasia play Celie in the musical.

The trip is Aug. 3-6, and costs $350.

As you may recall, mine was an eventful trip that left some people angry. (I wasn't one of them. You can read my blog to see why.) The organizers say they've learned from their mistakes. This time, they are hiring a different bus company, and will ensure that the drivers aren't clueless and are willing to take advice. Also, they plan to have the registration on the buses this time and won't be doing any pre-paid meals, which should cut down on the lengthy registration period prior to departure. I still think they should start registration earlier to avoid delays.

For more information about the trip, e-mail or

I’ll be camping on the north rim of the Grand Canyon that weekend, so I won't be making that NYC trek again. But if you're going, let me know how the trip went, and how you liked Fantasia. And please read my previous "Color Purple" bus trip blog entries, in which I offer helpful tips on how to plan ahead and have fun.

If you're wondering how Fantasia is doing in the play, I recently received this e-mail from an enthusiastic reader in Greenville, S.C.:

"I agreed with your hesitation and your final thoughts. I just returned from New York and I went specifically to see 'The Color Purple' on Broadway with Fantasia. I had previously seen it with LaChanze, but this time with Fantasia it was UNBELIEVABLE!!! She did an incredible job. Her own pain and personal story gave her the ammunition she needed to become Celie. She transitioned beautifully into "Miss Celie" and of course her singing lifted everyone there. The supporting cast was even better this time and they all seemed to gel better with Fantasia. It was so awesome; I saw it Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon! Tell everyone you know to hurry and see it with Fantasia. You forget who she is and embrace the story so much more."