There's much to be thankful for around here, 'tis true. Having lived in drier and more stoic towns, we're grateful that there's always somewhere fun to go and something fun to do.
For example, the list of new places opening up and/or getting renovated keeps getting longer. Fred's Speakeasy recently reopened after a serious remodel, much to the happiness of regulars who'd been scattered during its close. Here's a report from one Fred's lover on the new place (still located below Fiore's on College Street). "It is not dive-y, at all. They've even changed their name from Fred's Speakeasy to Fred's Courtyard Grill and Pub. The renovations include a newly tiled floor, a new ceiling (you can no longer see the vents and wires and whatnot) with ceiling fans, a new flat screen TV and wall paneling. So, well, it feels like you are drinking in someone's finished, bar-themed basement. Or an airport lounge, I couldn't decide. Needless to say, it didn't have the same feeling as before, as it was almost, maybe … too sterile? Fortunately, though, it still features the same faces, and that's a great thing. The people made it anyway. But if I may suggest one addition, it would be to add an old jukebox. The ability to choose is way more fun than XM."
Along with Fred's, there's the new, cosmopolitan Sazerac (on Broadway, run by former Orange Peel managers Jack and Lesley Groetsch ), the friendly Craggie Brewing (the Battery Hill Bitter is terrific; the owners are great community supporters), the revamped Old Fairview Southern Kitchen (formerly Razcal's, and featuring live music and comedy nightly), Funny Business Comedy Club below the S&W Building, The Blackbird in Black Mountain, the upcoming Lexington Avenue Brewery (can't wait), and the Orange Peel's yet-to-be-named downstairs club (coming soon).
Another thing to be thankful for? That colorful characters like bandleader Russ Wilson put together evenings like Russ Wilson's Art Deco Revue, a swinging event featuring big band jazz, designed to recreate an evening in a 1920s nightclub. Just the thing to dance off some of those Thanksgiving calories. We couldn't tell you about it better than Wilson himself, who's packed a monster lineup into the gala evening:
"With a cast of thousands, in Technicolor and Panavision, all dancing, all singing. Here's the star roster for your approval: Music for the entire evening by Spats Mahoney and his Spitshine Boys (and Spats may actually show up); our society chanteuse, the lovely and talented Carol Duermit; our silly songstress, the lovely and talented Wendy Loomis; those lovely, leggy dancing girls The Tacky Annies; and the fabulous swing dance troupe the Swing Asheville Lindy Hoppers.
"Bringing a touch of exotica to the evening will be the Hawaiian group Kon Tiki. For something completely different, we bring you the fabulous, gorgeous, magnificent, tremendously talented Miss Cookie La Rue, and of course your dashing, debonair, immaculately dress Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Me.
"Vintage dress encouraged. If vintage is not your thing, formal dress or business attire is acceptable. If you are not dressed accordingly, lovely Virginia, our gorgeous door girl, will throw you out. Watch out, she's been lifting weights." The Art Deco Revue is 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28 at Eleven on Grove. $15.
We also love that people who don't even live in town still support live music here. Thank you, Bob Rest, for the brand spankin' new declineradio.com, a Web site dedicated to independent WNC bands past and present. Rest is best-known for co-producing the Decline of Western North Carolina compilations of the late '90s, which he revived in a series of shows over Bele Chere weekend (they were packed, and rawked).
Rest has preserved some important relics from the days when Lexington Avenue and the rest of downtown was still curious and a little sinister, with a different sort of nervy charm. He's still got loads of tapes, DATs, mini-VCR tapes and 7" records. So far, in a feat of technological savvy, he's transferred 109 songs to the Web site, with plans for many more — including current bands.
As a promoter (he and Milton Carter created the Decline empire) Rest helped build parts of that late '90s music scene, and damned if we're not gonna remember it. Along with the music itself, he boasts an archive of posters, flyers, zines and T-shirts. He's put some of that on the site, too. Come celebrate the further Decline of WNC at a Saturday, Nov. 28 show at Stella Blue. Rest's new punk-rock band Everything Falls Apart will play with Hoss (featuring former members of Tripod) and Glaze. For the low price of $5.
"As long as there is an internet, Decline will never die," Rest promises.