Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tremont Music Hall's Lisa Barr, From Local Love

Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte, NC
"Over the years Charlotte has seen a real growth in the opportunity for music and entertainment lovers to venture out to numerous locations on any given night, and likely find great music playing somewhere. That is certainly a great thing and one that music and entertainment lovers in the city should be proud of. Tremont Music Hall is one of the mainstay venues and has been bringing the city of Charlotte music and entertainment acts that range from established performers to up-and-comers. More importantly, they’ve been a great support for local acts for 18 years.

As a fan of live music I can remember really only having a few choices for seeing many of the bands that I loved when they would come through the state of North Carolina. For many years Tremont landed many of those very acts. You can check out for yourself the amazing list of bands that have graced the stages there on their website.

Tremont Music Hall opened its doors in 1995 thanks to Penny Craver and throughout the years the venue has only transitioned through two other owners. It certainly has been interesting to make the parallels between the ups and downs of the music scene here in Charlotte with the ups and downs of Tremont. For me personally, some of my favorite shows happened in during 1996 to 2001 time period right there on the stages of Tremont Music Hall. As a fan of the venue and the acts that they were bringing to the city it was easy to notice a decline of acts that were were coming during the early to mid-2000s. Of course, there were many reasons for this and the second owner of Tremont, Dave Ogden, has spoken about many of the issues that were really contributing to a slow period at Tremont. But it’s Tremont’s current state under owner John Hayes that has been really interesting to watch.

If you have been paying attention to the wide range of acts that have recently performed on the stages at Tremont then you have likely been impressed. Under the ownership of John Hayes the current General Manager Lisa Barr, the place has done an amazing job of bringing Tremont back to one of the premiere music destinations here in Charlotte. Numerous showcases of local acts and bringing in some of the most diverse national acts 2012 alone contributed to a monster year for fans of music and Tremont Music Hall.

Lisa sat down to speak with Shutter16 about Tremont Music Hall and give us a real behind-the-scenes peek into the life of Tremont Music Hall.

Please, take a moment to introduce yourself and your role at Tremont Music Hall.

Lisa: I work as Talent Buyer and General Manager at Tremont Music Hall. I have held both positions for about 4 years now. Prior to that, I worked part-time at Tremont as door person and bartender. Before coming on full-time to Tremont, I worked as the store manager at The Record Exchange in Park Road Shopping Center.

As Talent Buyer for Tremont, I am fully in charge of keeping the calendar filled up with shows year ‘round. This is absolutely my favorite part of the job. I search out bands or evaluate the bands that come my way, and it’s the shows that I decide to book here that keep the whole machine running. As General Manager, I keep everything in line and keep the machine oiled. This consists of managing the staff, handling concert production, and executing our marketing strategies across various platforms. Basically, with the two roles combined, I put on a diverse selection of concerts for a living, and I sleep well knowing that these concerts make different people happy.

Who are some of your favorite musicians you are listening to right now?

Lisa: I’ve been listening to a lot of Anthrax in excitement for their upcoming April 13th show at Tremont. I usually work with music playing in the office, and some regulars on rotation on Spotify lately include: Tame Impala, Rolling Stones, Lee Fields & The Expressions, First Aid Kit, Mudhoney, Swans, HRVRD, Liars, Why?, LCD Soundsystem, Bauhaus, and Lana Del Rey.

Local bands that I’ve really been digging lately: (the aforementioned) HRVRD, Center of the Sun, Old Soles, Birds With Teeth, & Votnut.

As a part of a team under two different owners what factors can you point to for Tremont’s growth over the past few years?

Lisa: A lot of the growth seen over these past few years can be credited to the current owner of Tremont, John Hayes. He bought the venue in March of 2010 when we faced a lot of challenges. Initially John’s plan was to stabilize the business and understand where we fit in the local music scene. John and I sat down and evaluated where we thought we fit and, with the help of some local musicians and friends of Tremont, we picked a strategy and have since been revising it as we learn and doing the most we can with what we have available. Since then, he has given me the push I needed to carve out our own niche, encouraging me to take smart risks on shows that make sense at Tremont more than at other venues in town. He is big into heavy metal–we feel we have re-established ourselves as Charlotte’s best place to see memorable and intimate metal shows with bands from all over the world– but I do my best to keep a very diverse calendar booked!

Is there one type of philosophy or guiding factor that you can point to about the approach that you and John [Hayes] take toward the forms of entertainment that Tremont offers to Charlotte?

Lisa: Give people diverse selections of shows and keep everything as mixed as possible. One of our best shows in 2012 was when R&B/Soul music legend Lee Fields came and performed in the Casbah.
Our mantra is be nice! We want bands to want to come back, we want people who come to a show here to feel like we want them here, like they have friends at the Tremont. We are in the South and people should feel like family when they come to Tremont. Music should be a unifying force!

Tremont has a great reputation for giving local bands, from established to new, an opportunity to showcase their talents on stage and even open for national touring acts. What motivates you all to deliver such a regular opportunity to the local scene?

Lisa: We want locals to have the opportunity to be exposed to as many people as possible. To watch a local band (that is honored to open up for one of their favorites) win the crowd over is one of the best feelings I get working here. Nothing makes us happier than to have a local band progress to regional and national status. It makes us proud to think that we may have helped in some way to further their success.

I cut my rock ‘n’ roll teeth coming to this club as a teenager, as did so many of my friends. I still watch as 16-year-old kids turn Tremont into their discovery zone for music. It really is a “coming of age” club. Since we are all ages (for almost every show), we offer young kids the opportunity to see some of their heroes in one of the most intimate settings possible.

Tremont has opened up the doors to more than just music over the last few years, with events that range from wrestling to hip-hop workshops and hosting the Vinyl and cd show. What has been the benefit to hosting these varied entertainment experiences?

Lisa: While we are a music venue, first and foremost, we realize that we have a unique space that can be utilized in so many other ways. From a business perspective the benefit has been twofold. We have a building that was only open during shows and now we get to use that space to create revenue, but there is something else that is more important: We actually draw a whole new group of people to Tremont for these different type of events. Many times people need to be exposed to something before they feel comfortable coming out and if we can draw them to our venue with something other than a music event and win them over with our Southern charm and hospitality we think they will come back!

What do you believe sets Tremont apart from some of the other venues in Charlotte?

Lisa: Again, our diverse selection of shows. We book anything from Norwegian Black Metal and UK Punk Rock to R&B/Soul and Tween Pop. And everything in between.

Also, both of the rooms here (the Casbah and the Main Hall) offer SUCH an intimate view of the bands performing. In both rooms, you can always be within 50 feet of the stage. Bands tend to take advantage of our laid back atmosphere and often surprise fans by walking around the venue before and after the shows to meet fans and sign autographs.

What has been the most outrageous or over the top stage show Tremont has hosted throughout your tenure? Any ridiculous rider items that you can speak of?

Lisa: Seeing Children of Bodom’s show in the Main Hall in January 2012 was like watching a miniaturized arena show. The production of that show was incredible. Junior Astronomers’ annual birthday show (the past three Octobers) is always amazing because not a single person in the venue is still when they go on. It looks like pure pandemonium as they play, but it’s many people’s favorite show every year.

I can’t name names as far as riders go, and we tend to not get very many over-the-top requests. There was one a few years back that listed they wanted a “cute puppy to play with” before sound check. We happened to have a staff member with a puppy, so we obliged.

As a fan of music what has been your highlight to have been a part of bringing to Tremont?

Lisa: There’s too many to list. The ones that stick out in my mind, the ones that brought me true joy and made me proud to be a part of all this: Cursive, Minus The Bear, Down, The Adicts, Swans, Del the Funky Homosapien, Dick Dale, Graveyard, and Lee Fields & The Expressions.

What’s in store for the future of Tremont?

Lisa: More of the same as what we’ve been doing, but even better. John and I are always honing our skills at this whole thing. There will be a good handful of surprises in the coming year with huge acts performing here.

The niche that Tremont fills within the Charlotte music scene really speaks to their love of music, entertainment, and really standing out from the crowd. This diversity of shows and the audiences venturing out to Tremont Music Hall over the last few years also speaks to the fact that this venue is delivering a product that the Charlotte audience wants. It’s their audience and the love of delivering entertainment that is continuing to help Tremont Music Hall maintain its reputation as one of the top music venues in Charlotte."