The names of now-closed music venues still burn bright on the marquee of Charlotte’s collective memory, and Ian Pasquini is ensuring that they never fade away.
In an exhibit opening June 15 at the Charlotte Museum of History called Unforgettable Music Venues of Charlotte, Pasquini has curated a collection of artifacts from the mainstays of Charlotte’s closed venues. The Double Door Inn, Tremont Music Hall and The Excelsior Club are among the highlighted spaces in a series of posters, T-shirts, tokens and various furniture brought in from around the city.
As a local musician, sound engineer at Skylark Social Club and part-time education associate for the Charlotte Museum of History, Pasquini is no stranger to the music venues or documenting their history. While in graduate school at UNC Charlotte, he produced a documentary about the music venues of the city, then completed his thesis on the local music scene in Greensboro that revolved around that city’s closed locales.
Originally, Unforgettable Music Venues began exclusively as an ode to The Double Door Inn, which opened in 1973 and closed in 2017.
“As soon as I started contacting people, the interest was immediate from everybody I talked to,” Pasquini explained. “And as projects so often do, it was very casually expanded where my boss was like, ‘You should do this, you should look at The Excelsior to see if you can get something on that. You should look at Tremont.’”
Now Pasquini has slated approximately 100-200 objects for the collection, gathering artifacts from a variety of sources. The exhibit will inspire a heavy bout of nostalgia for anyone who frequented the showcased music venues before their closings.
“The nostalgia is obvious. If someone walks into this place and they spent a lot of time at [the venues], they’ll see things and it’ll spark memories,” Pasquini stated of the impact he hopes the collection makes. “It’s like walking through a gallery of your own mind.”
As a musician who’s played in a variety of bands since the mid-2000s, Pasquini understands the pressure that venue owners and operators are under. He explained that although it may seem glamorous to run a music venue, there’s blood, sweat and tears that go into operating the business side of the venues and keeping the doors open.
“If you talk to the people that ran Tremont, or the folks over at Milestone, we’re always one bad night away from shutting the doors. There’s always that element of risk in all of it,” he said.
Furthermore, he hopes the community will better understand the hard work that people put into the music venues of Charlotte that are still standing. Pasquini will give nods to current spaces like Petra’s, Snug Harbor, Visulite Theatre, Neighborhood Theatre and more in the exhibit.
He knows that mid-sized venues, however popular, are always at risk of losing patrons and income, especially with corporate-backed venues like PNC Music Pavilion and Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre in town.
“The mid-sized local venue has seen a real decline. It’s difficult to have rock ‘n’ roll venues that are of a larger size, that can draw bigger acts because you have national corporations that are involved in booking acts, it’s just difficult to compete with that,” he explained.
But it’s not just about the venues themselves, he added. There’s so much more that goes into operating a venue, and most may overlook the staff while recalling the bands that played there instead.
The bartenders, sound engineers, booking staff and others deserve recognition, Pasquini said.
“This is something that I care about very deeply and it’s as much about the people that worked in these places as anything else,” he elaborated. “People always think about the performers and the artists and stuff that come through a place and they oftentimes don’t think about what goes into that.”
The exhibit is not just for those who used to frequent Tremont, Excelsior or The Double Door, Pasquini said. He wants newcomers to understand the fragility of the locales and jump in to be part of the still-thriving music community.
“Really, my drive is to inspire other people to come out to be a part of the community,” he said. “I want to get new people to be like, ‘Oh, this is how this works,’ or however they see it, but they are inspired to hopefully go get involved.”
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