The Grey Eagle, one of Asheville’s beloved venues, is starting off the new year with a series of changes that owner Russell Keith hopes will keep the music hall welcoming to a range of patrons and performers.
The first big change is that, after 19 years, the Grey Eagle is no longer hosting contra dancing on Monday nights. Keith says he’s been negotiating with the group for several months, but in the end, it was best to part ways.
“They were a big part of the Grey Eagle’s history, and I’m sad that it’s over. But for us to survive, Monday is a day of the week where we need to maximize its potential,” he says. (The contra dancers have found a new home at a West Asheville church.)
Another significant change is the hiring of general manager John Zara, a music photographer who also produces a line of vegan soaps with his wife at Bella & Oliver Soap Co. Keith says Zara’s experience in photography, as well as graphic design and social media management, will help take some of the pressure off. “Just having that person to lean on will make us an even better team,” Keith says.
Mondays at the Grey Eagle will be devoted to a traditional open mic night, Keith says. Comedy will follow on Monday nights. Michelle Scheve, who has been hosting Slice of Life Comedy open mic at Pulp, the basement bar/venue at The Orange Peel, will host the comedy open mic. The cost is $2 for service industry workers, $5 for everyone else.
The Grey Eagle has also teamed up with comedy producers Funny Business, who will be presenting a national comedian once a month. The comedy shows had been held at The Millroom venue, which recently announced it was closing. “I’m really looking forward to working with them,” Keith says.
Yet another change to Grey Eagle programming is a plan to have a DJ spin music in the bar area of the venue some nights. Keith says he’s been talking to well-known DJ Witney Shroyer, who recently ended a long run of hosting late-night dance parties at The Admiral restaurant. “To me, a favorite part of a show is the after-party,” he says. The dance parties will be free and open to the public and will be scheduled to follow select shows.
Patrons may also notice a few structural changes. Keith says he plans to install a curtain to separate the bar/kitchen from the music hall. Some new LED lighting will be added to the music room, while new speakers will be added to the bar. (The Grey Eagle recently installed two video screens in its bar so that patrons there could see the act on stage in the adjoining room.)
“We’re just trying to evolve and keep the Grey Eagle what it is. It’s still the dirty little roadhouse in the RAD that everyone loves. We’re a unique venue just like all the others, and we have our place on the Asheville music scene just like the rest.