By: Alexandria Rappe and Erin Pesut
Music comforts us all. It transports us, gives us goosebumps and reminds us we are not alone. You may have known that CAMEO Art House Theatre, the local independent movie theatre downtown, plays films, but did you know they also have live music performances? Now you can experience live music in a venue that lets the music speak for itself.
While showing films is at the heart of CAMEO, Chris and Nasim Kuenzel, the founders, share another passion, too: music.
In April, The Parsons, Jon and Caroline Parsons, played at CAMEO. Jon Parsons plays the harmonica, guitar, mandolin, banjo and bass, while Caroline plays the keyboard, harmonica, guitar and ukulele. Last fall, dressed in costumes representing the American rural south, they played at the White House for a special Halloween event. Coincidentally, it was The Parsons who helped get this live music series off the ground.
CAMEO partners with Janet Kenworthy of The Rooster’s Wife, a performing arts non-profit based in Aberdeen. Caroline had wanted to introduce Nasim and Janet because they were doing similar things in different places.
Two years ago, Caroline told Nasim, “What [Janet’s] doing with music is what you guys are doing with movies.” Caroline arranged for a lunch for all three of them to meet, and Nasim said that it took “all of five minutes” for a live music concert series to be decided.
“Janet wanted the opportunity for her artists to have a performance and we wanted to bring live music to downtown Fayetteville. Once it started,” Nasim said, “it has just been one awesome experience after another.”
The small stage in their auditorium downstairs, which seats 126, allows for an intimate performance. The beer and wine and refreshments they sell in the lobby of the theatre can all be brought inside. Whether it’s rock & roll, bluegrass, Irish, southern rock or a single guitar virtuoso, artists and musicians come from all over.
Last December, John Doyle, a Dublin-based artist who tours out of Asheville, played. Chris and Nasim also remember The Kennedys, a married couple based out of the West Village in New York, who played in February earlier this year.
“I am still thinking about that show,” Nasim said.
“There was a band from Raleigh, Peter Lamb and the Wolves, and they were amazing,” Chris shared. “They’re more like jazz, so the variety of music we get is really awesome.”
Jay Nash, who will be playing on May 5th, has a hard time describing his music. On his website he says, “It’s like trying to describe a color. ‘Bluesy folk’ or ‘urban jazzy indie.’ No adjectives really get you there. I may as well say something like ‘where red meets orange,’ or ‘a cross between Paul Simon and Christopher Walken.’”
“There has been such a thrust in bluegrass and country, we think [Jay Nash] is a little more alternative. Afterwards,” Chris shared of Jay Nash’s tour, “he’s going to L.A. He plays in Europe. Last tour, he was playing in Barcelona. This guy is world-wide.”
After artists play at CAMEO on the first Thursday, they do a sister-performance at “The Spot” in Aberdeen. After that, the world is their oyster.
“We love playing [at CAMEO],” Caroline adds. “There are not many places in Fayetteville that can double as a concert hall.”
There was a real need for live music downtown Fayetteville. People could sense it.
“Something was missing and for many years I wished Fayetteville had that type of performance, where it’s intimate and you can talk back and forth,” Caroline said.
That intimacy was what Kenworthy was looking for, too. After her trips to New Orleans where she was helping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Kenworthy returned to the Sandhills region and experienced a music withdrawal. She got to thinking, “I’m somewhere where if something is not happening, I either do it or be quiet.” With the help of her mother, the two of them renovated an old building in downtown Aberdeen which became known as Poplar Knight Spot or The Spot.
Kenworthy grew up in Kentucky with a big record collection. Over the years, the cities where she has lived have only “broadened her appetite” for music. She noted that as technology rises, so does isolation. She believes the one-on-one experience can make a difference.
“When you’re involved in the experience with other people and share it with others, it’s deeper and rewarding,” she said.
Chance, fate, stars aligning, either way, it was sure meant to be because the whole project has made a remarkable impact.
“There are so many quality musicians because of Janet, and getting singer-songwriters in Fayetteville is such a great thing,” Caroline said.
After her performance at CAMEO in April, Caroline remembered a lady who told her after the show that it had made her laugh, cry and think about things. It didn’t surprise Caroline.
“Music makes people have a good time, but it has a way of causing us to look inside.”
Thankfully, in Fayetteville, there won’t be a day when the music dies.
Future performances: Jay Nash on May 5th; Dale Ann Bradley on June 2nd. Tickets can be purchased at CAMEO Art House Theatre or The Rooster’s Wife’s website online. Tickets are $12 or $15 the day of the performance.
To learn more about the First Thursday Live Music Events at CAMEO Art House Theatre, check their website http://www.cameoarthouse.com. For more information on The Rooster’s Wife and their upcoming shows visit http://theroosterswife.org. CAMEO Art House is located at 225 Hay Street.