The Evening Muse is a small concert hall in the historic NoDa neighborhood. For 10 years, it has been one of the best places to hear singer/songwriter music in Charlotte. That was one of the motivations owner Joe Kuhlmann cited when asked, “Why The Evening Muse?” It’s about artistic development and the music, itself, not really about capitalism. Here, one can actually listen to the written words and songs these musicians create.
Many nights it has 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. shows. The early show is usually more singer/songwriter oriented, while the later one often is louder, harder rock. (It also offers open mic opportunities regularly.) On Saturday, Aug. 20, we got to hear two musical groups, all local favorites, for the early set. The first was Wes Robinson with Phillip Carias, Tom Kuhn and Rob Thorne.
Robinson sang about the slightly darker side of life with his soothing voice. The musicians had a great time together, giving each other a chance to shine. This original music was entertaining, yet the words made your thoughts drift. It had a distant Eric Clapton meets James Taylor flavor with the talented guitar work. A highlight of their set was Phillip Carias singing one of his original tunes that was emotive and rich with his raspy, Dylanesque voice.
They were followed by The Cloers. John and Cate Cloer are a husband-and-wife, up-and-coming duo that are a pleasure to listen to. Cate’s powerful voice complements John’s acoustical guitar accompaniment. Like a true singer/songwriter team, they are fun in between songs, sharing stories with the audience. One can feel the energy between them that adds to the power of their music, especially when they are harmonizing. The Cloers recently won a project grant to help fund their first CD, as well as being “Singer/Songwriter of the Year” by the Charlotte Music Awards.
Before the show, the NoDa neighborhood has people of different ages and backgrounds around every corner. By 10:30 p.m., there are people everywhere. Welcome to NoDa on the weekend. Unfortunately, this new business is a mixed blessing. When The Evening Muse opened in April 2001, the historic neighborhood of NoDa was best known for its arts. The area once known as an “arts district” now is better known as a “bar district.” The Evening Muse is a big supporter of local artists. Kuhlmann is sad to see so many galleries leave the area, but he still shows local art on his walls. He and the neighborhood groups NoDaRioty and the NoDa Business Association are working together on some art projects, like the All Arts Market.
Music has always been the focus of The Evening Muse, and here one can listen to some of the best in an intimate and warm environment. You can feel the music through the floor and are close enough to the musicians to hear them without a mic.
The Evening Muse is still the place to hear singer/songwriter music in a variety of styles. Kuhlmann likes the fact that it doesn’t have a favorite style of music it is known for, yet it has a reputation for quality. It’s a place for musicians to cut their teeth and get inspired themselves. For years, the music industry has been a very capitalistic business model. This model doesn’t give much opportunity for newcomers or even different musical sounds. The Evening Muse gives this opportunity.
What’s in the future for The Evening Muse? One exciting project coming soon is a web-based “pay per view” system through The Evening Muse. Musical acts can be streamed live into your computer, smart phone, etc. With so many people stealing music versus buying it, these live downloadable experiences make sense. One can hear the music of The Evening Muse even if they can’t be there.
3227 North Davidson St., Charlotte