Around Town: Side House Records opens for Asheville musicians

SOUND BUSINESS DECISION: Co-founders, from left, Josh Phillips, Derrick Johnson and Lee Allen celebrate the latest phase of their company, Side House Records, which recently opened to the public. Photo courtesy of Side House Records

When three Asheville musicians joined forces to open Side House Records in 2021, they were looking to create an environment where they could write, rehearse and record on their own terms.

“It’s a musician’s dream to have your own studio space,” says Lee Allen, who founded Side House with Josh Phillips and Derrick Johnson. Side House is in the RAMP Studios building near Asheville’s River Arts District.

After working on some of their own projects inside the space, the three quietly opened Side House to other musicians they knew. But now they want to “extend [the invitation] beyond our own musical family to other patrons,” Allen says.

Allen and Johnson are members of longtime Asheville funk favorite Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. Phillips is a former member of the band who now plays with a group that shares his name, Josh Phillips. All three musicians are also part of the Beastie Boys tribute band Check Your Head.

“As longtime members of this music community, our mission is to make good recording on top-notch equipment affordable for everyone,” Phillips says of the studio’s latest phase. With that in mind, Side House offers a sliding scale that allows musicians to use the recording space and equipment at a rate that best meets their budget.

Among those who have rehearsed and recorded at Side House are keyboardist John Medeski, funk group Toubab Krewe, electro-rock duo Bombay Gasoline and vocalist Blake Ellege.

“You can just walk in and plug in and play,” Allen says. “We have the drums, the bass, keys and guitar amps ready.”

Long-term plans call for starting a Side House record label, Allen says, but for now, musicians retain all ownership and distribution of their recordings.

More recently, the studio acquired the mixing board The Grey Eagle had previously used for shows over the last 20 years. Moving forward, the large console will be the centerpiece of the studio, Allen says.

“What we plan to accomplish with the room is to be a space where musicians in town can feel inspired and feel like they’re not bound to the clock when they’re coming to record a record,” Allen says.

For more information, go to

Close encounters

The large granite outcropping that gives the village of Flat Rock its name provides a picturesque background for residents and visitors, but does it do more than that?

That’s a question Henderson County author David Sullivan pondered after reading Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, a 2012 book by theoretical physicist Lisa Randall.

“I learned that places with dense rock formations, like Flat Rock, could in theory be where one might find portals to another dimension,” Sullivan explains. “When you add real-life places like Bat Cave and the Blue Ridge Mountains, you have a perfect setting for a sci-fi crime thriller supported by theoretical science.”

The result is Encounters at Flat Rock, a self-published three-part novel series that follows a female FBI agent investigating murder and child abduction committed in Western North Carolina by beings from another dimension. The series is now available in a boxed set.

Sullivan’s first novel Audacious: The Plan to Prevent the American Civil War, was also set mostly around Flat Rock and Hendersonville.

“I started writing short stories with a friend of mine in the fourth grade, creating new societies where action adventures took place,” he says. “Once I retired, I was free to continue this passion with books.”

To order Encounters at Flat Rock, contact Sullivan at The boxed set is $19.95, and payment via check is not requested until the purchaser has the books in hand.  

Preserve and protect

Two historic structures on Biltmore Avenue will be protected thanks to the efforts of the buildings’ owner and the Preservation Society of Asheville.

In December, the owner donated a preservation easement for 134 Biltmore Ave., built in 1905, and 140 Biltmore Ave., built between 1913 and 1917. Under North Carolina law, the easement restricts development of or changes to the facade of the buildings. The Preservation Society is tasked with enforcing the legal agreement.

The two-story rubble granite apartment building at 134 Biltmore Ave. was designed by Richard Sharp Smith, the English-born architect who oversaw the design of the Biltmore Estate and had a major influence on Asheville architecture. The two-story apartment building at 140 Biltmore Ave. may also have been designed by Smith, but the Preservation Society has not been able to confirm that, says Jessie Landl, executive director.

Both structures are on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It is a common misconception that buildings on the National Register of Historic Places are protected from demolition, but that is not the case,” Lendl explains. “A preservation easement is an important tool for protecting historic buildings like these.”

For more information about 134 Biltmore Ave., go to For more on 140 Biltmore Ave., visit

Pop goes the art

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center will present Rauschenberg: A Gift in Your Pocket from Friday, Jan. 27, to Saturday, May 13.

The exhibit will feature works of Robert Rauschenberg, a painter and graphic artist whose early works anticipated the pop art movement, drawn from the collection of Bradley Jeffries, Rauschenberg’s longtime employee.

Throughout their friendship and work together, Rauschenberg gifted Bradley with many of his original artworks.

BMCM+AC, 120 College St., is open Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, visit

Piano man

The Asheville Symphony will present award-winning pianist Evren Ozel in recital at Central United Methodist Church on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m.

The program will explore polyphony, the musical concept of multiple independent melodic lines occurring at the same time. It will include works by Rachmaninoff‘, Chopin, Beethoven and Bach, among others.

Ozel has won numerous honors and awards, including scholarships from the U.S Chopin Foundation and Young Arts Foundation, first prize at the 2016 Boston Symphony Concerto Competition, second prize at the 2016 Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition, among others.

Central United Methodist Church is at 27 Church St. General admission tickets are $45 for adults and $15 for people younger than 25. To purchase tickets, go to

Drawing conclusions

UNC Asheville’s Drawing Discourse juried international exhibition of contemporary drawing will run through Friday, Feb. 10, in the S. Tucker Cooke Gallery in Owen Hall.

The competitive show features selected works from 65 artists from six nations.

Owen Hall is at 100 Theatre Lane on the UNCA campus. The gallery is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays. For more information and to see a list of featured artists and their works, go to

A taste of honey

Half Light Honey, an Asheville-based home decor brand, is celebrating its 10th year in business with the opening of a brick-and-mortar store in the Asheville Cotton Mill Studios.

The new space will offer monthly workshops in a variety of media and pottery painting experiences. The showroom also will feature ceramics, 2D art and home decor items by artist Samantha Carter and her team.

A grand opening will be Saturday, Jan. 28 and Sunday, Jan. 29, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. All pottery painting, workshops and items in the gallery will be 25% off. Regular hours will be Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Asheville Cotton Mill Studios is at 122 Riverside Drive. For more information, go to

Raising awareness

Asheville Mall is hosting an exhibit of original artwork raising awareness of human trafficking and its prevention through Tuesday, Jan. 31. January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

The display is presented by Asheville Breakfast Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Asheville and volunteers from The Hundred Movement, My Daddy Taught Me That and other groups.

The artwork can be found in the area between Dillard’s and Belk inside the mall, 3 S. Tunnel Rd.

Mall hours are Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sundays, noon-6 p.m. For more information, visit


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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