MusicMusic Features

Looking Back: Two Decades of Memories at The Evening Muse

Evening muse, avett brothers
Seth and Scott Avett join their father, Jim, during one of his performances at The Evening Muse in 2012. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

In our latest print issue, Pat Moran wrote about the history of The Evening Muse, which celebrates its 20th anniversary with a livestreamed event on Saturday, April 10. While some of the co-owners shared their favorite memories of The Muse in that story, we reached out to some other folks with close ties to the venue to ask what comes to mind when they think of working, performing or just being there to see the magic happen. 

Jeff Hahne – Journalist, Photographer
I loved watching Natalie Royal grow from a teenager trying to find her voice into an outstanding songwriter. It was fun seeing Seth and Scott Avett show up to one of their father’s gigs to sing a few songs with him. They had to sneak in and sneak out, which isn’t easy at a club that small. 

Natalie Royal – Singer, Songwriter
I can wholeheartedly say that The Evening Muse shaped me into not only the musician I am, but the person I am today. I grew up singing in school talent shows and church choirs, but when my family moved from our small town in South Carolina to Charlotte when I was 11, an entire world opened up before my eyes. 

I picked up my mom’s Guild, taught myself a few basic chords, and one of the first — if not the first — spot I hit up with this newfound musical venture was The Muse. That stage is where I truly realized, for the first time, that this is what I wanted to do with my life. It’s where I met Joe [Kuhlmann], who continuously encouraged me to keep writing, to keep learning and growing, and to lean into confidence — but to always remain humble. He still does all of these things, whether he realizes it or not. 

Evening Muse
Rachel Platten performed at the Evening Muse shortly before hitting No. 1 on the charts with ‘Fight Song.’ (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

Jonathan Spottiswoode – Singer, Songwriter (Spottiswoode and His Enemies)
It’s a long, long drive to Charlotte from New York or D.C. or pretty much anywhere and we’d arrive already pretty shattered and with the prospect of three sets! But the welcome we received as we walked through the door was second to none. It would revive us.

Joe, Don and Laurie [Koster] and their crew made us feel thoroughly appreciated, like it was going to be a special night. Nothing beats getting heckled by Don Koster in a homemade Enemies T-shirt out on the sidewalk as you’re carrying in your gear. The sound and the vibe was always great of course, but the show had already somehow begun before we’d even gotten out of the van.

Malcolm Holcombe – Singer, Songwriter
Sitting on the sidewalk in front of the Muse in those damn aluminum wobbly chairs, listening to Joe’s tales of  …NYC sessions and political like-minded-opinions. [It] musta slightly quelled his wanting to yell and throw me off stage for being a half-ass jokester and cussin’ a blue streak.

Peter Ciluzzi – Guitarist, Songwriter
The audience there was always very engaged, attentive and responsive. Don and Laurie were always very kind, accommodating and generous, and Joe is one of the best sound guys I have worked with in any venue. Every time I played there, he made thoughtful recommendations to improve my sound that I still use to this day.

The Civil Wars perform at The Muse in 2011. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

Jay Garrigan – Singer, Songwriter (The Eyebrows) 
It’s a place where I was encouraged to try new musical ideas in front of a live audience, even when I had a hard time explaining them (still do!). I’ve made life-long friendships with touring acts, patrons, and staff. Also, I still get calls to fill in on sound, door, and bar, which I always enjoy. I’ve fallen in love with the Koster family, and Joe Kuhlmann is one of my best friends.

My favorite memory has to be when Rodney Lanier — R.I.P. — paid me in spare change. I’m not sure if he was trying to get rid of change, or if he was screwing with me. I prefer to remember it as both. 

Pat Maholland – Musician (The New Familiars), Staff
This was a sacred place. I had a chance to gather briefly in this library of NoDa music and art. You can feel the history of the neighborhood in this building. You can feel it as your hand traces the brick wall. You can feel it as you look at a blank stage awaiting its next performer — hang on… it is coming! You can feel it, because it is all there waiting for you.

I am excited for the future, especially the future of the little club on the corner of 36th and North Davidson. I am excited that I know this same experience is out there awaiting anyone who steps through the vestibule of this sacred room.  From the employees that work there, the acts, the friends and strangers you will meet, the Evening Muse is a memory maker.

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