Hope for the Charlotte Music Scene?

Last night, I went to see Josh Ritter play at the Visulite, and I left with a slightly ringing ears, a t-shirt, a CD, and hope for the Charlotte music scene.

First of all, if you're a fan of quality music, specifically of the folk-n-roll genre and you don't know Ritter, you're missing out. He is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, talented songwriters in the country. And if the wide smile he wore throughout the night is any indication, the man loves his job. He rocked, he rolled, and he completely quieted the 400-strong crowd with an arresting acoustic cover of Bruce Springsteen's "The River."

But it's that number--400--that gives me hope. 

Josh Ritter is not a guy you hear on commercial radio. I don't think his songs have been on Grey's Anatomy or The OC or whatever. But more than 400 people showed up on a Thursday night to hear him play. Granted, I'm sure the opener, a fine talent named Ingred Michaelson, drew some fans. That was her song in the Old Navy ads, and her song has been on Grey's Anatomy. But many in the crowd could sing Ritter's songs verse-for-verse.

I've been at the Visulite to see great bands play in front of criminally small crowds. It's the rap Charlotte has–we won't support anything less than mainstream acts, and we're not even so good at doing that. At the show, I asked promoter Gregg McCraw, whose Maxx Music promotes shows like Ritter and this weekend's Matthew Ryan/Jon Dee Graham show at The Evening Muse, how 400 people found their way to this show. "I wish I knew," he told me. "It's unpredictable. But I like it!"

Let's hope the trend continues. As an aside, McCraw has some exciting stuff planned for the near future. He's not ready to make any announcements yet, but let's just say that fans of a little local group known as The Avett Brothers will be pleased.