By Caleb Calhoun
Straightaway Cafe’s 9th Annual Earth Day Celebration
So if you aren’t from Black Mountain, and you don’t spend a lot of time driving back roads, there’s a decent chance you’ve never heard of one of the coolest bars in the county. It’s called Straightaway Cafe and it lives just over the divide in Black Mountain, or, as the locals call it, “out nine.” (As in N.C. Highway 9.)
Sunday they’ll be hosting their 9th annual Earth Day Celebration. In addition to all of the amazing things they always have going on there, the event will be headlined by three of Asheville’s favorites, Circus Mutt, Hustle Souls, and The Get Right Band.
Says Hustle Souls keyboardist Billy Litz: Straightaway Cafe “is a place that could only exist in Western North Carolina. Cool, down to earth staff and a tight knit crew of patrons who show a lot of love for live music. Beautiful atmosphere and unpretentious homegrown vibe.”
Or, as Dan Falkenstein of Circus Mutt puts it: “It may as well be a city park, with the volleyball, horseshoes, disc golf. It has that super home-community feel. Everybody kind of helps police all the kids and there are dogs running around everywhere.”
Furthermore, this isn’t some random show. All three bands have an intense connection to the venue and the community, perhaps none more than the circus mutt.
“If you added up all the times we have played their over eight years?” Falkenstein repeats my question to me. “Surely we have played there at least 120 to 150 times. We consider Straightaway to be our house gig and before we started traveling so much we were playing there all the time.”
I’ve had the privilege of seeing Circus Mutt on that outdoor stage. I was shirtless, playing beach volleyball while sipping on one of over a dozen local beers they offer, when I heard them announce they had added a new member to the Mutts. I turned around to see my pet mermaid, Dr. Gonzo, laying against the bass drum as if it were his own bed.
More than anything else, I think that sums up the vibe of this spot and the people that work and frequent it. No one is in a hurry, no on is looking to get offended. It’s just a bunch of old-fashioned, beer-drinking, Dead-loving hippies.
With a full menu, and taco specials for Earth Day, well-priced local brews and tons of space to run and hoop and play and climb and giggle and love, your best bet on Sunday would be to bring out the whole family and check out some of that legendary “out nine” hospitality.
(This is an all day event with music running from 2-8 p.m.)
Toubab Krewe Two Nights at Ellington Underground
Friday and Saturday night marks the return of Toubab Krewe and their eclectic blend of “International Country Music.” One of Asheville’s most celebrated outfits, TK burst on to the scene with their self-titled release in 2006 and gained international attention as they toured relentlessly through 2011.
After the release of TK2 near the end of 2010, the band began to move in other directions musically, but stayed connected to the each other and the music they had created.
Over the course of the next 7 years ,songs would be written, recorded, sent to each other to listen to, forgotten, dusted off, changed, sent back, re-recorded, and changed again. Finally, early in 2018 they released their long-awaited and much anticipated third album, Stylo.
“Stylo is a closer snapshot of where we are at aesthetically than TK2 was,” guitarist Drew Heller tells me, and listening to the progression of the three albums that isn’t hard to believe. TK2, written and released while they were touring heavily lends itself to much more rock than either Toubab Krewe or Stylo.
Heller credits the recording process, “we just took so much time with this record,” he explains. It’s hard to follow up multiple hit records seven years later, but, in the vein of Mazzy Star and others, Toubab Krewe has managed to exceed all expectations and continue to excel even with so many years separating albums.