Four hours after the Evening Muse announced its first shows in more than a year Friday, and about three hours after tickets to those shows sold out, owner Joe Kuhlmann told me, “I didn’t realize it would get that kind of attention.”
“Really?” I said.
“There’s places way more important than us,” he said.
The humble man and his humble venue are a bigger deal than they realize. The Evening Muse holds only 120 people in non-pandemic times, and at 25% capacity for its first show in mid-May, it’s only set to back at about 30 — tables of four, scattered and distanced, but together again.
And that means something.
It means live music is slowly filling the spaces that need it. More than that, it means that one of Charlotte’s character anchors, this little brick space at the corner of 36th and North Davidson Streets in the shadows of new development in NoDa, might just make it.
And for people like me who haven’t been well without music, it means we might make it, too.
It means that while we might not eat a chopped sandwich from Bill Spoon’s again, or have a date night at Carpe Diem again, or take our children to Mr. K’s again, we’ll be able to wake up one morning in the future with our ears still ringing and our hand still stamped.
The first shows are headlined by Jason Eady, a Texas-based musician with an acoustic guitar. I’d never heard of him before Friday, but I bought a table and can’t wait to meet him.
“It’s like in the movie when the boxer’s on the mat,” I told Kuhlmann, “and then he throws his hand up and says, ‘Don’t count me out yet.’”
“Everybody loves an underdog story,” Kuhlmann said.
The Muse was the underdog of underdogs against COVID-19 shutdowns. It survived 2020 — and its owner survived 2020 — with “PPP loans, kindness, and looking out for one another.”
And CARES Act money, which came via our often-maligned city council and city staff. They designated some of the aid to these stages. Kuhlmann said it’ll pay for nine months’ rent. He’s still holding out hope that the stimulus bill signed in late December will lead to a little more relief.
Most other venues remain closed, saying the restrictions on capacity make it not financially worth opening. The larger the venue, the bigger the act, the more the cost of putting on a show.
“I think we’re outdoors until September,” McCraw told the paper.
So everybody will be watching the Evening Muse, to see how it goes, and Kuhlmann will continue to be surprised by how many people care. But he knows what this place means.
“I think we’ve all put up with enough upheaval and chaos,” he said. “Everybody’s anxieties are up through the roof. Let’s have some peace and understanding and learn to breathe again.”
“Lots of things get torn down, lots of things get trendy,” he went on. “There is just a need for some things to return. That is structure. That is identity. That is the future.”