My last panels of this year’s Midatlantic Music Conference were at 5 PM back at The Chop Shop in Charlotte’s NoDa district, and then the final night of showcases began immediately afterwards, with a showcase featuring artists from the student-run Split Rail Records label, which is a part of Appalachian State University in Boone. I particularly noticed a singer-songwriter from Charlotte on the label named Alexis Worthington, who was performing on the back indoor stage. Not long afterward, Raleigh-based indie artist Frank Hurd was performing his rootsy, tuneful style with his band on the front stage, and caught my attention.
The early Midatlantic Music Conference panels on Saturday that I was on were scheduled at a place called With These Hands Mix Academy, a unique and innovative DJ school which I located with some difficulty. It turned out to be in a larger complex of buildings called Area 15, a unique micro-business incubator that houses a bicycle recyclery for inner-city kids, office space for some environmental organizations, a free store (no kidding) where people can take what they need and pay what they can, and several youth organizations, many of which seem geared to giving inner city kids experience with entrepreneurship. The place literally buzzes with kids, and their joyful laughter and running feet could be heard upstairs the entire time of our two afternoon music panels. Hip-hop legend Parrish of the group EPMD was one of the panelists, and after the second panel, many of the neighborhood kids ran downstairs and out in front of the building to have their picture taken with him.
The first night of showcases for the Midatlantic Music Conference took place on three stages, with rock and folk acts on the two indoor stages at the Chop Shop, and the urban and hip-hop acts a block away at the Roux Bar behind Boudreaux’s at 36th and North Davidson. Both were well-attended, although Roux is a small venue, and it was hard to walk around in due to the crowd.
The annual Midatlantic Music Conference began with a panel about the state of the music industry in Charlotte, and proceeded to the first showcases of the evening, with rock bands at The Chop Shop and hip-hop at The Roux, all in the North Davidson arts district.
King Carter and Revenue are both Charlotte rap artists that have a significant following, but their appearance together as a duo at the Ultimate Hip-Hop Experience was somewhat unusual. Nevertheless, their performance together seemed as natural as if they had been performing together for years.
Atlanta rapper Baby D, AKA Dizzle, began his career with Big Oomp Records, and went through several labels before he founded his own, AMG Music Group, which stands for “About My Grind.” He released his most recent album, also entitled About My Grind in November of 2012, and appeared at the Ultimate Hip-Hop Experience in Charlotte with another AMG artist known as Young Snead. In addition to performing, both artists served as judges for the showcases.
The second group to appear on the Ultimate Hip-Hop showcase was introduced as Southside Homes, a group I could find nothing about online, although they were a decent rap group. The name seems to come from the rather grim housing development on the south side of Remount Road in Charlotte across the way from Brookhills Village. This area of Charlotte has actually produced a considerable amount of the city’s rap talent.
Charlotte’s Icee Money Entertainment and Jack City Committee were the first act to appear in the Ultimate Hip-Hop Experience showcases. A fairly typical gangster rap group, they are extremely popular in Charlotte, apparently affiliated with the Hidden Valley neighborhood that gained national attention when the Hidden Valley Kings gang was featured on the television series Gangland.
Almost any trendy neighborhood or arts district will have at least one coffee bar, and Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood is no exception. What is a little unusual is that NoDa’s is called the Smelly Cat Coffee House, apparently named for a song that was in the TV series Friends (i never watched the show, so I don’t recall the song). But the only smells you’ll actually smell in Smelly Cat Coffee are the pleasant smells of roasting coffee. There is a small food menu, and you can also buy bags of beans as well as coffee brewing equipment, especially French presses. The coffee is really quite good, and worth a visit. They also have a website at http://www.smellycatcoffee.com/ where you can order coffee, tea and brewing equipment to be shipped to your door.