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Legend passes the baton

We here at Scene and Herd Central have some sad news to report, even as we're relatively glad it happened in a Labor Day deadline-shortened week with not much else going on: Penny Craver, longtime Charlotte music maven, is leaving Tremont Music Hall.

After spending some 10 years running the "big warehouse" (her words) on Tremont and Tryon -- possibly the longest consistently run pure rock club in Charlotte history -- Craver is selling the venue to a fellow named Dave Ogden, who has spent the last two years selling vinyl and putting on shows at Liquid Records in Cornelius. The switchover will happen on September 20, both parties say, with former Craver associate Kristen Thompson sticking around to aid Ogden's transition.

Ogden, a Chicago transplant, says the booking at the club -- to continue business under its current moniker -- should stay much the same, excepting perhaps a few more national acts a month and an additional night a week of shows. Sorry it's really not the same, but it is, kind of.

Even with Charlotte's industry status as a "secondary market," Tremont housed many great shows over the years, and provided for many their only chance to see acts like Henry Rollins, Les Savy Fav, Iggy Pop, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Clutch, Cursive, Dar Williams, Son Volt and Vic Chesnutt (to name but a few), acts that otherwise would have skipped over the town altogether in their haste to get to Carrboro and the Cat's Cradle. To boot, the club usually did a great job of booking all stripes of local bands, often at a time when there were few alternatives for local acts to get their music heard. In recent years, the club turned more frequently to another under-appreciated demographic: all-ages shows with young punk/metal/hardcore acts. As Craver herself said in a press conference on Monday, "We found our niche in the music community, which is something that sustains clubs through tough times."In recent years, the gentrification (er, renovation) of nearby neighborhoods like Wilmore have pulled Tremont closer and closer to the burgeoning SouthEnd district, leading some to fear that Tremont may someday be sold to a fancypants bigpockets business developer. Both Craver and Odgen say they're not worried about any such annexing, and that it's not worth worrying about anyway. "Whenever I heard a parent say something about the neighborhood Tremont was in, I always asked them: would you rather have us in yours? That usually quieted them down pretty quickly." Despite some lawmakers' preconceived notions of the club -- look! tattoos! black clothing! purple hair! where's my Bible?! -- Craver claims she's always been on excellent terms with the police department, who she said have always appreciated her for her honesty and candor.

Here's my "honesty and candor": Craver always did a swell job of fighting the good fight against local lawmakers, speaking up for the local music community against knuckleheaded schemes like the Dancehall Ordinance (is it just me, or do you think of Wang Chung every time you read those words?), zoning ordinances and teen curfews. She's booked acts that I would have otherwise been unable to see, acts that -- if in some small way -- had an effect on my life. I could just legally drink when Tremont opened, and the club became something of a second home. It was the closest thing around to the clubs I had read about in all the rock books, with cinder-block walls and graffiti and padding around the exposed beams to protect slam-dancers. It had stinky bathrooms with no stall doors, which I once thought was rock & roll (and then hated, and now have come to accept). It had rough-but-kind bouncers who wouldn't hesitate to throw a guy out on his heels if he was giving you shit. (Or you, if you were the shit-giver.)

Above all, it had Penny Craver, a rough-hewn woman with a sweet core and an unquenchable passion for good music of all kinds. If Ogden takes anything from Craver before he takes over, let it be that (minus the whole being a woman thing although, hell, I guess that's not up to me). And here's hoping Craver -- now concentrating most of her time on the restaurant of which she's part-owner, Dish -- keeps dishing it out like she always has, rock club or no. Cheers.

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