Making It

Why we run so many stories on music

We run a lot of stories about music in this magazine. That’s not just because I like music, which I do. It’s because we think a strong local music scene is essential to being a great city.

There are a few reasons for that. But we can start by thinking backward. Think of the most interesting midmarket cities in the country. I’m not counting New York, Chicago, L.A.—they are so large that they are on a different plane. Go a notch or two below, and what places come to mind? For me, it’s Austin, Denver, Portland, Seattle, among a few others. Each of those cities has a vibrant, diverse music scene. Bands from those cities regularly become known nationwide. And once they hit, those bands usually still choose to stay home. Through music, those cities contribute to the 
national cultural fabric—that’s what great cities do. And music makes those cities more interesting places to live and visit.

Live music is one the few self-supporting cultural forms left. Local bands don’t get grants from the Arts & Science Council, they don’t get government funding, and no one throws black-tie galas to support them. If they are good (and savvy and sober, as you’ll read in this issue), they make it. If they’re not, they don’t. And if a good band can’t make it in your town, well, maybe that says more about the town than the band.

What does it say about Charlotte that, over the past fifteen years, only one local band has “made” it?

This issue contains a story on a new band called the Loudermilks. But really, it’s a story about an old band called Lou Ford (the name comes from the sheriff in Jim Thompson’s novel The Killer Inside Me. Casey Affleck played the character in the recent movie version). Fronted by brothers Alan and Chad Edwards, Lou Ford was the best Charlotte band of the 1990s. Alan and Chad wrote great songs about loss and hardship. They played an excellent brand of guitar. They sang great harmonies. The band even looked the part, complete with a manic, pompadoured bass player. They put out two great records and one really good one.

But they never made it. (Of course, “making it” is a relative term when it comes to playing music—define it as you wish.) They never even sniffed the success of, say, the Avett Brothers. I am not blaming Charlotte for Lou Ford not making it, and neither do they, as you can read in Courtney Devores’s story “Meet the New Band” (page 50). But what does it say about Charlotte that, over the past fifteen years, only one local band has “made” it? (Neosoul singer Anthony Hamilton has also found success.) I’ll just let that question hang like feedback after a guitar solo.

Quick note: our cover package on sandwiches features the forty-one best in the city. Food editor Sarah Crosland tried them all, and then some. I asked her about this. “I just really like sandwiches,” she told me. She, photographer Chris Edwards, and art director Carrie Campbell outdid themselves with “Take a Bite” (page 59).

Categories: Editor’s Note