Around Town: Nerd Nite comes to town

NERD ALERT: Von Magni is launching the Asheville chapter of international Nerd Nite on Thursday, Aug. 10 at The River Arts District Brewing Co. Photo by Magni

Nerd Nite, a monthly event that already occurs in over 100 other cities worldwide, will launch locally on Thursday, Aug. 10, at 7:30 p.m., at The River Arts District Brewing Co.

Curated by entertainer and self-proclaimed “lifelong nerd” Von Magni, the inaugural event will feature regional locals A. Rider Barnum, who will explain how your favorite superpowers could kill you; Anna Diemer, an opera singer and vocal coach who will demonstrate making silly voices using the science of your vocal cords; and Sara Rivera, a firefly expert who will discuss fireflies’ scandalous mating habits.

Nerd Nite began in 2003 when Chris Balakrishnan, now a professor at East Carolina University, told the same story about the indigobirds of Africa so frequently at The Midway Bar in Boston that the bartenders challenged him to gather a large group so they wouldn’t have to hear him repeat it so often. Thus, the event began and shortly thereafter caught on in New York City and other metropolitan areas — and the rest is “nerdstory.”

Magni was a regular attendee at Nerd Nite Los Angeles and, upon moving to Asheville, quickly volunteered to begin a local chapter.

When asked what qualifies someone as a nerd, they replied, “A nerd is anyone for whom the answer to, ‘Hey, do you want to hear something cool about (insert any subject)?’ is a resounding ‘OF COURSE!’ Nerds are interested in the world (and) the universe around them. Nerds like museums … watch documentaries. … Nerds wonder aloud while driving, ‘I wonder what the origin of that street name is,’ and then tell their passengers to look it up. Fundamentally, nerds just like learning.”

Free popcorn will be served, and there will also be a food truck on-site.

The River Arts District Brewing Co. is at 13 Mystery St. For more information, visit

Laugh out loud

Thirty-three comedians from around the world will attempt to tickle folks’ funny bones at the 15th annual Asheville Comedy Festival from Wednesday, Aug. 9-Saturday, Aug. 12.

“Famous Showcases,” or main stage shows, will be hosted at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m. and will feature eight to 10 performers each evening, along with music by the local Josh Blake Trio. Late-night shows, held at various downtown breweries at 9:30 each night, have a secret lineup. An addition to this year’s festival is a nightly after-party held at Black Bear BBQ, where attendees can mix and mingle with the comedians.

Charlie Gerencer, an Austin, Texas-based event producer and comedy business veteran, co-founded the festival in 2007. His resume includes producing Netflix‘s “Norm Macdonald Has a Show” and “The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale.”

“The festival … has evolved with the city over the last 15 years,” says Gerencer. “The [first] festival was the spark that ignited the comedy scene as we know it today. We’ve made a major impact on the arts culture of Asheville, as well as helped shape it as a city that is now a routed destination for major headlining acts. We’re eclectic, progressive and hometown — all wrapped up in one.”

The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts is at 18 Biltmore Ave. For more information, visit

A lit podcast

A new podcast by local literary nonprofit Punch Bucket Lit debuted last month. “PBL Podcast: Writers in Conversation” features writers and poets chatting with each other about their work and related life topics.

Rachel Hanson, Punch Bucket Lit executive producer and founder, said the podcast began as a way to reach not only the local and regional literary community but also beyond. Writers are chosen from those who read in the organization’s monthly reading series, which takes place at West Asheville’s Revolve.

“Not everyone in the community can always attend the in-person readings, so the podcast is a way to further support the writers’ work,” says Hanson. “We have so many amazing writers here in Asheville, and we are proud to feature them.”

Episodes are hosted by Hanson and have featured poets such as Brandon Amico and writer and poet Emily Paige Wilson. Hanson says future episodes will include authors outside Asheville. Hosts will also rotate between guests and current staff.

Editor’s note: Xpress Managing Editor Thomas Calder is a member of Punch Bucket Lit. For more information, visit

Hot music at Cold Mountain

Legendary soul singer Bettye LaVette will headline this year’s Cold Mountain Music Festival on Saturday, Aug. 12, at Lake Logan in Canton.

The festival, the largest annual fundraiser for the nonprofit ministries of Lake Logan — the Retreat Center, Camp Henry and the Outdoor School — begins at 10 a.m., with music starting at noon. Other performers include Asheville singer-songwriter Tyler Ramsey, soul and blues musician Eddie 9V, folk rock group Grizzly Goat, local bluegrass band Unspoken Tradition and storyteller and musician Scott T. Smith.

Festival co-chair Zebbi Sampler says organizers are excited to offer a lineup of artists with diverse backgrounds. “I thoroughly enjoy LaVette’s music, and it’s going to be a step up for us as far as being inclusive and fitting for all of our social platforms.”

Local vendors will sell handmade crafts, seven food and beverage trucks will be on-site, and nonprofits will set up information booths. Other activities include paddleboarding, boating and swimming. There’s also the option to camp in one of the recreational vehicle or tent sites.

Lake Logan is at 25 Wormy Chestnut Lane, Canton. For more information, visit

Kids JAM

Fiddler and guitarist Roger Howell and banjoist George Gibson will perform at “Masters of Old-Time Music” on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 6 p.m at Oklawaha Brewing Co. The event is a fundraiser for the Junior Appalachian Musicians Kids of Henderson County, who will also perform. Children ages 8-17 learn regional mountain music and dance through an after-school program operated by the French Broad Valley Music Association.

Gibson, born in Knott County, Ky., and a current resident of Henderson County, is an authority on the history of the banjo in the upland South. “I believe that continuing to play banjo was my way of holding on to a past that I glimpsed only briefly,” he says in a press release. “That past is part of a world and time in Knott County that has vanished forever. As far as I know, I am the last person left playing the old Burgeys Creek banjo music. I am the last possum up the tree.”

Howell, who hails from and still lives on Banjo Branch in Madison County, learned Travis-style picking when his father bought him an electric guitar. An award-winning fiddle player, he learned the instrument from regional fiddlers Tommy Hunter and Woodrow Boone. In 2015, Howell was awarded the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award by the N.C. Folklore Society for his work in preserving and celebrating regional music traditions. He helps to repair JAM students’ instruments in his luthier shop.

Oklawaha Brewing Co. is at 147 First Ave. E., Hendersonville. For more information, visit

ArtsAVL town hall

ArtsAVL’s first 2023 Town Hall will focus on the current state and possible future of Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. The free panel discussion will be held at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville, Monday, Aug. 21, 3-4:30 p.m. Registration is required.

Confirmed panelists include Esther Manheimer, mayor of Asheville; Chris Corl, director of community and regional entertainment facilities for the city of Asheville; Daniel Crupi, executive director of the Asheville Symphony; and Vic Isley, president and CEO of Explore Asheville and the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, with more pending. A question-and-answer session will follow the discussion.

The city has had to reduce the auditorium’s operating capacity due to increasing maintenance issues, which has led to large losses of revenue.

Attendees are invited to register for a tour of the facility at 2:15 and 4:45 p.m.

Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville is at 87 Haywood St. For more information and to register, visit


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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