Benjamin Colvin is a nerd for the wilds, roaming the woods of Alabama as a child, Montana later in life, and now the mountains of North Carolina—a North AlabaMontanan, if you will...
Jeff Whitworth with Cool Keith. Photo by Sandlin Gaither.
It's Autumn and the leaves aren't the only reason to check out our town!
Each fall, some of the best musical acts in the world come through Asheville - and many get to enjoy their stay at The Grey Eagle. The Eagle has long been a staple of West Asheville and the Asheville music scene, with a stage that puts the crowd right up close and personal with the acts, a Taqueria with KILLER grub, and one of the kindest, most passionate, warmest dudes in the business who runs the joint- Jeff Whitworth (aka "Beardy") puts his heart and soul into the venue and our fair city. His experience and his personality are a big reason he can bring the caliber of music to his club and anyone who knows Jeff can speak to his professinoalism, his dedication to friends, and his love of music. This year, Jeff was also brought onto the Asheville Downtown Association to run Downtown After 5, and the evolution of that event has taken a big step forward with his leadership this season and leading into 2015 (just look out!). It's never a bad time to dig back into memories of The Grey Eagle, and I also figured, let's hear from The Great Bearded One himself and get Jeff Whitworth's perspective!
The intimacy of the stage at the Eagle offers an atmosphere like nowhere else and creates unforgettable memories of the best, most personal shows you've ever seen with friends new and old. I have to name just a few of my favorite shows at the Eagle - lately, St. Paul and the Broken Bones tore the roof off and Hurray for the Riff Raff and Lake Street Dive shook us all over (tired dancing feet!). But I also think back to seated shows for Steep Canyon Rangers back in the day, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings (both pictured below alongside Jeff and his wife, Millie, in the center), The Old 97's, Justin Townes Earle, the lovely Iris Dement, the LOUDEST show I've ever seen in Asheville with the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Hackensaw Boys jumping off stage into the crowd for their rowdy encores, rowdy annual New Year's Eve shows, and more. On my birthday one year, my soon-to-be wife took me to see Vassar Clements at the Eagle for one of the best shows I've seen there. After the show, we talked with him and Vassar flirted with my date: "Where is this sweet lady going tonight"! This was right before the great Vassar passed away. THESE are the kind of memories you make at the Eagle and they stay with you forever.
Coming soon? Some UNREAL shows (that WILL sell out, so grab tickets in advance) that put you right up front and personal with Holy Ghost Tent Revival (Oct 11), Shakey Graves (Oct 18), DON'T miss Hurray for the Riff Raff (Oct 23), Halloween Bash with Budos Band (Oct 31), and November brings Chatham County Line, Justin Townes Earle, Acoustic Syndicate, The Travelin McCourys and more! Seriously, you have to fall in love with Autumn-Winter shows in Asheville! Check out the entire calendar at thegreyeagle.com.
1. The Eagle is dear to so many of us - what does it mean to you?
"The Grey Eagle is home. It's an environment where my wife and I feel comfortable raising our 2 and a half year old son. It's hopefully a place where everyone feels welcome and a part of, as we strive to be more than "just another club." I feel that The Grey Eagle acts as more of a community center, always providing all ages shows as well as focusing on cultural enrichment whenever possible. The fact that we serve beer and wine and have a world class taqueria on site are simply added bonuses. "
2. There have been incredible shows there and it's gotta be difficult, but what are your top 5 shows ever held at The Eagle?
"A question I'm often asked, and my answer always varies. I don't know that I can just pick 5 TOP shows, but some of my personal favorites are: John Hartford's 2 day run here just before he passed away, Dave Rawlings Machine with Gillian Welch and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Magnolia Electric Company, Big Daddy Kane with his 9 piece soul band, any one of the countless Vic Chesnutt shows that we hosted, the first time the Budos Band played here back in 2009, Sparklehorse, and Cody ChesnuTT. And who can forget the JD McPherson show from earlier this year? That one definitely creeps into my top 10. And I'd have to squeeze the Lumineers in there somewhere. That was a fun progression to see first hand. The first time they played here we sold about 30 tickets. The second time, around 75. And the rest was history by the time they got here for their 3rd visit."
3. You've taken the helm of booking and Event Director at Downtown After 5 this year... and it has obviously stepped up to a new level. What can we expect in 2015?
"I have a lot of fun with the Downtown After 5 thing. I see it as a way to not only provide my fellow Ashevillians with quality shows for free, but more importantly to hopefully add some spark to the summer tourism industry in Asheville. Even if folks aren't coming to Asheville specifically for a DA5, how cool is it for an unassuming visitor to stumble down Lexington Ave into a sea of 6,000+ people and a free show from St Paul and The Broken Bones or Hayes Carll? As a music lover, I know that's something that would leave a lasting impression. As for 2015, just look out. We are already looking at some big names and I cannot wait!"
4. Top 5 Places to go out for date night in AVL?
"As I mentioned earlier, my beautiful wife and I have a 2.5 year old son so date nights don't come as frequently as they once did. We recently had an unconventional "date night" with a day trip to Hot Springs for a soak in the tubs which was really great. As far as a more conventional date night, I'd have to say Stoney Knob (Weaverville), The Admiral, sushi at Wasabi, Bull and Beggar, or Rezaz."
5. Where do you see our city in the next few years?
"I think the daily groundbreakings that are currently taking place are a really good indicator of what's to come in the very near future. The urban sprawl is stretching to areas of West Asheville (and well beyond) that I didn't think we'd see for at least a few more years. And the 3 high rise hotels that are currently in the works prove that we're simply trying to keep up with the booming tourism industry. So as far as our "next 5 years," I think Asheville is doing exactly what needs to be done in order to keep up. It's simple supply and demand logic, and we happen to be a city very much in demand right now. It seems Asheville is getting national attention on an almost daily basis these days, whether it be Obama's house hunting, Zach Galifianakis & Owen Wilson filming a movie here (and being no strangers to the streets of Asheville while doing so), Lorne Michaels and his family frequenting several of our fantastic restaurants, Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing strolling around town, or Beck tipping his cap to Asheville at his recent show here. I'm just bummed that MJ and Ewing didn't stop in the Grey Eagle Taqueria for a bite to eat while they were cruising around town! "
St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Dowtown After Five