Billboard Magazine, 1999
NORTH AMERICAN FOLK VENUES HOME TO STARS, NEW ACTS
Jim Fleming and David Tamulevich, who run their own folk-driven talent and booking agency, work with more than 4,000 presenters (see story, page 13). To them the women's center that hosts Holly Near once a year or the New England church coffeehouse that is willing to take a chance on a few faces are just as prestigious and valued as any urban star-maker showcase club. Perhaps more so.
Folk is a different animal from mainstream pop. After all, this is a form that is perfectly happy to mull over a song for 200-300 years before deciding if it's a keeper. It's not a genre that lends itself to charts or lists.
That said, here is an alphabetical listing of solidly respected, savvy clubs; the kinds of stages from which careers can be cut, that work with proven names and new faces. The list was compiled with assistance from several industry sources.
The Birchmere. Bluegrass, acoustic country, folk, and songwriter haven for the Washington, D.C., area. Music seven nights a week, no open stage, but occasional writers-in-the-round series. (3901 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Va. 703-549-5919)
The Bluebird Cafe. Nashville's hippest songwriter, progressive country, and folk club, with a weekly writers' series and many showcasing opportunities. (4104 Hillsboro Road, Nashville. 615-383-1461)
The Bottom Line. Properly eclectic and adventurous for a 22-year-old Greenwich Village, New York, music haunt, but still basing its menu on the acoustic fare that has made it a must-do folk showcase for major-label wanna-bes. It offers a monthly "required listening" series for new nonmainstream acts and occasional "in their own words" songwriter circles. (15 W. 4th St., New York. 212-228-6300)
McGonigel's Mucky Duck. Irish pub known as Houston's premier songwriters club; mostly acoustic, music six nights a week. Monday open mikes, monthly in-the- round songwriters night. (2425 Norfolk St., Houston. 713-528-5999)
The Ark. A Michigan folk mecca since 1965, as respected as there is anywhere in the country. Music six nights a week, Wednesday-night open stages, occasional showcase nights, songwriter round-robins and traditional ceilidhs. (637½ S.. Main St., Ann Arbor, Mich. 313-828-8037)
Cactus Cafe. An institution since 1933 on Austin, Texas' famous Drag, and an influential songwriters club since 1980. Music six nights a week, Monday open mikes, frequent songwriter circles, showcase slots. (24th and Guadalupe streets, Austin. 512-475-6515)
Club Passim. In the heart of Boston's Harvard Square for more than 25 years -- and before that, final home of legendary '60's mecca Club 47 -- this is still New England's premier songwriters club. Under new, nonprofit management, it is expanding its vision to include more locals and wider range of music, offering a Tuesday in-the-round open stage and weekly multi-act live radio show. (47 Palmer St., Cambridge, Mass. 617-492-7679)
Eddie's Attic. Home of Decatur, Ga's hip songwriter scene. Acoustic music seven nights a week. Monday open mikes, biannual "Open Mike Shoot-Out" contest, Sunday songwriters night. (515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur. 404-377-4976)
The Tin Angel. Particularly committed to Philadelphia's contemporary scene; no open stage but regularly works with promising locals. (20 S. 2nd St., Philadelphia. 215-928-0978)
Freight and Salvage. Folk six nights a week at this Berkeley, Calif., club, which offers Tuesday open mikes and "Best Of The Hoots" monthly. Since 1968, a non- profit home for Bay Area folk. (1111 Addison St.., Berkeley. 510-928-0978)
Godfrey Daniels. A solid taste-maker since 1976, this Pennsylvania club is particularly devoted to good stagecraft and deeply respected within the folk biz. Weeknight hoots, folk, and blues jams, weekend headliners. (7 E. 4th St., Bethlehem, Pa. 610-867-2390)
McCabe's Guitar Shop. Great Santa Monica, Calif. music store with a 150-seat listening room in the back. Weekend shows, open mike third Sunday of the month. Don't be fooled by the store-front ambience: McCabe's is a first-rate, front-rank music. (3101 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica. 310-828-8037)
Old Vienna Kaffeehaus. Nestled in a small town outside of Worcester, Mass., this casual but elegantly professional club has become one of the most respected venues in the folk world, thanks largely to the intelligent, creative booking of Timothy Mason, who is also is re-energizing Club Passim. Headliners Friday through Sunday. Its Thursday open stage is the Carnegie Hall of New England hoots, famous for it;s huge, hip, nonperforming audience. (22 S. St., Westborough, Mass. 508-898-2231)
The Towne. Weekend headliners, eclectic and mostly acoustic. Biweekly Wednesday open mikes, regular showcase nights. Upstate New York club open since 1972, famous for its smart, solid booking and folk-savvy crowd. (62 Rte. 22, Pawling, N.Y. 914-855-1300)