In Passing (the Baton)

A blog from Bruce C. Bryan, 

Founder and President of the Board of Directors

Eight years of producing live music at The Spot on Kirk has gone crazy fast in many ways.  Yet there are times where it feels like ages ago that a certain show happened, or a particular memory comes to mind.  During an event this spring, when I realized I was only going to be the Board President for a few more months, I decided to reflect on these past eight plus years and share some of my favorite shows.

If you haven’t been to The Spot on Kirk, seriously, what are you waiting for?  I frequently tell people it’s just a cool room with a nice brick wall – until the artists take the stage and the audience starts interacting with them.  Then the place is something else.

Some of the most transforming moments for me in Roanoke have happened since we reopened in 2016.

  • Morgan Wade opened a show in April of 2017.  The headliner that night was a great touring musician named Cory Branan.  Morgan was Morgan.  She went on to headline her own show at The Spot and the rest is as they say, history.  FloydFest, recording contract, back to FloydFest, touring both nationally and internationally, and selling out two nights at the Jefferson Center in a matter of moments.  I love that we were a part of her history and we collectively cheer her on!
  • Two weeks later – also in April of 2017 - Ben Sollee made his third appearance at the venue.  That show will always be a special one to me and we’ve loved having him back multiple times since then.  I think he’s played five times!  What that guy can do with a cello and his vocal cords is something you simply have to see to believe.  It’s his heart that distinguishes him though.  Trust me on that.
  • It was a random summer night when Dylan Dent released his “In The Clouds” project.  He’s played The Spot before, but this night on August 27, 2022 was special.  The crowd was into it and dancing, Dylan was charged and full of energy, and I watched a magical thing happen.  Two acquaintances of mine poked their head in the door and I motioned them to come and check it out.  Within a few songs, this boomer couple was in the front dancing with all the young guns who were enjoying the show.  It reminded me of the magic of music and the special way that room can pull people in and unite us in an experience.  The world can use all of that it can get!
  • John Fullbright is one of my favorites.  He’s an Oklahoma songwriter with a voice that pulls you in and tangles you up.  He made a rare East Coast appearance thanks to some dear friends who made the night possible.  The show was incredible from beginning to end.  They’ve been trying ever since to get him back.  If he makes another appearance on the stage – buy a ticket.
  • Phil Norman did an acoustic rendition of the Counting Crows “August and Everything After” album on August 6, 2016.  The show was Phil and his guitar on the stage, and he went beginning to end on one of my favorite albums of all time (his too).  After Phil finished the final note of A Murder of One, he pulled Will Farmer up on the stage, did a few songs and wrapped with A Long December.  What a night.  Having recently seen the Counting Crows on a big stage, I can unequivocally say, Phil’s show was more fun.
  • We did a CD release party for Grizzle on January 6, 2018.  That was such an amazing show – not only for the incredible mix of talent of these JMU students who formed the band and had deep Roanoke roots (right Beth and Tom?), but because my wife Laurel had family in town to celebrate her parent’s renewing their vows earlier that day.  Most of her crew joined us at The Spot that night to continue the party and man did they get a treat. It’s also neat to think that shortly after this show, the vocalist, Sasha, started a new group called Palmyra which has been a huge win for Roanoke!
  • Later that year, on July 18th we hosted our biggest act ever.  Freddie MacGregor graced our stage with his unrivaled reggae show.  The start time was unrivaled too – we were probably well over an hour later than planned.  That caused some stress no doubt – until Freddie played that first note.  It was the most diverse crowd I think I’ve ever seen anywhere in Roanoke…dancers and the sitters BOTH enjoyed the show!
  • Though he was opening for his longtime friend and touring musician, David LaMotte earlier this year on April 5th, Phil Norman created another memory for me.  I’ll never forget one moment.  Known as a songwriter and making probably his eighth appearance at The Spot on Kirk, it was a cover Phil performed that night that stood out.  For a lot of reasons Phil decided he wanted to end his show with Paul Simon’s American Tune – acoustic.  Complete silence – except for a few dripping tears. 
  • Gangstagrass rocked our joint way before they became a household name and started playing bigger places.  People were like, “what”?  What is this – a mash-up of hip hop which I love and bluegrass.  Great lyrics, fun night about 5 years ago in May of 2019 and one I will never forget.
  • Ari Hest has long been a personal favorite of mine.  I discovered him back in like 2008 or 2009 when I was listening to and I encouraged the old Kirk Avenue Music Hall folks to book him for a show.  Since then, I think he’s played our venue over a half a dozen times.  One night was the best ever.  Many couples have a “song”.  My wife Laurel and I got to celebrate at our Happily Ever After Party on June 22, 2019 and Ari played “I’ve Got You” as we danced our first dance as a married couple.  #BestNightEver

So, you see, music can connect us.  It is personal.  Many of these memories are intertwined with stories and relationships that matter to me.  They also matter to those we share them with and after having spoken with hundreds of performers at The Spot, I know for a fact these moments matter to them too.  Not to get too sappy, but that’s what that “little music venue that could” can do.  And do it, it does. Week after week and now month after month and year after year.

It's an exciting time for our venue as our leadership takes over and expands on what has been created at a small room with a cool brick wall and a stage – on Kirk Avenue in Downtown Roanoke.