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Published June 19, 2014

Raleigh’s Hidden Music: Guitartown Keeps The Scene Alive

From the classic days in the Village Subway, to the modern indie scene at Kings and the lively street sounds at Hopscotch, our city proves its deep, guttural passion for music and community. Now-a-days, friends send Facebook invites to local shows, and you can connect with fellow audience members across shouting crowds by live-tweeting.

But before social media brought scene-lovers together, the Guitartown listserv was building its own virtual community, where local music fans could meet and chat. Ultimately, though, Guitartown jumped off the web and created real, life-changing connections. Friendships. Marriages. Even funerals. All set to the beat of indie, alt-country music. Alison Williams started it all. Before Guitartown, explains Jonathan Lee, one of the current organizers, “we’d all be at a show together, but we were still alone. We didn’t know each other.”

When Alison created the Guitartown email group, music-lovers started finding each other. “We’d all talk about our favorite bands and which shows we were going to,” Jonathan reminisces. “But the discussions got deeper. We’d start talking about sports or arguing about which style of North Carolina BBQ was the best. We’d go hang out at the same shows.” Not only did the Guitartown group provide a focal point for the music scene, it also began hosting live music. Back porch shows held at members homes became a popular pastime. And you could only discover these hidden treasures by being in the Guitartown loop.

When the list peaked between 2005 and 2008, thousands of messages were buzzing, people chatting with each other, connecting with band members, planning live music hangouts.

Guitartown helped build the Triangle music community, particularly indie and alt-country. These are the faces you see at every show, who can tell you about all the secret hole-in-the-wall performances, who shake hands with all the band members and can school you in the history of Raleigh’s scene. Their passion and coordination develops what we experience in local music today.

Many members have built lifelong friendships. Jonathan recalls turning to the group in the midst of the 9/11 attacks. Before the second building had fallen, Guitartown members were racing to their work computers, experiencing the events together, providing comfort and release.

Guitartown 15th Anniversary Concerts - 2Guitartown 15th Anniversary Concerts - 3Guitartown 15th Anniversary Concerts -1

More than a simple gathering of music-lovers, Guitartown is a community. Music forges strong bonds.

Much of the Guitartown listserv has shifted to Facebook and Twitter. Jonathan, however, says he wants to make Guitartown more than just an online presence. They’ve held a Hopscotch pre-party at Sadlacks since 2011, which has been notoriously popular. The first year, he laughed, was more like Copscotch, as broken sound ordinances brought police officers. They respectfully moved the bands inside, and then they kept on jamming.

RELATED:
The Raleigh Underground: An Epic Era Sealed Beneath Cameron Village.

Molly Flynn, Alex Howard, and Jonathan Lee are working with Stephen Judge of Schoolkids Records, as well as the Pour House, to host a weekend of local music this Friday and Saturday, June 20th and 21st. You can see great groups like The Magnolia Collective, The Trousers, Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass Kickin’ Team, The Backsliders, and tons of hidden gems. Learn more about this event, the celebration of Guitartown’s 15th anniversary here at their event page.

As social media grows and evolves, Guitartown keeps it simple: What brought us all together was live music, so we’re just going to bring the music.

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  • heather

    Heather

  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. My resume. All my articles.

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