Good for what ales you
A rising tide lifts all ships.
It’s not only a motto for life, but also for the ever-evolving cultural ambiance in downtown Sylva. From mainstays City Lights Café, Heinzelmannchen Brewery, Lulu’s On Main and Guadalupe Café, to newcomers like Innovation Brewing, Mad Batter Food & Film and The Winged Lion, the nightlife options of this small mountain town has made it a hot spot for the curious and intrigued “after 5” crowd.
And coming into the fold with its “Grand Opening” Feb. 5-7 is Tonic, a craft beer market specializing in hard-to-find ales, food delivery service, jovial conversation and a hearty helping of Southern Appalachian string music.
“This community has been so supportive. It's such a great feeling to move into a town where the surrounding businesses don't view us as competition, but as a new addition to the team,” said Angelica Caporuscio, co-owner of Tonic. “That’s a rare thing and only one of the many reasons why Sylva is so special — there's a lot of camaraderie and joint opportunity here.”
Situated between Mad Batter and Signature Brew Coffee Company on Main Street, Tonic is the culmination of a long-time dream held by Caporuscio and Keith Laguna. The young Atlanta couple fell in love with Sylva when Laguna would play nearby No Name Sports Pub with his band Owner of the Sun. So, they packed their things and decided to launch their idea of a craft beer market in a place that has seemingly welcomed them with open arms.
“We want to bring people together like never before and help solidify Sylva's emerging identity. I was drawn to Sylva by the potential for growth and light taste of what a responsible, well-organized nightlife scene could do to help the town,” Laguna said. “As a musician, I've been to many places and had a lot of great experiences, but there is just something special about Sylva. I’m very proud to call this my home.”
To properly celebrate the opening, Tonic will play host to an array of local and region music acts, which includes Hannah Aldridge (singer-songwriter), Owner of the Sun (Americana/folk), Bird In Hand (folk/indie), Arnold Hill (Americana/bluegrass), Indigo De Souza (singer-songwriter), Through The Hills (Americana/bluegrass), Horror Business (a bluegrass tribute to the Misfits), and more.
Daughter of Alabama Music Hall of Famer Walt Aldridge, a prolific songwriter, Hannah cultivates the lyrical and melodic mysteries of her native Muscle Shoals. At 27, she’s well-beyond her years in terms of discipline and knowing just what it takes to nurture and birth a timeless song.
“The process varies so much for me from song to song. Some of them spill out of me and some of them take weeks and weeks to write,” Hannah said. “For melodies, I think the key is creating something that gets stuck in your mind — it has to be memorable. A general key to writing a well thought out song is to write a line and rewrite the line using more interesting words several time before you say ‘that's the best I can do.’”
And in a modern world, with rushed priorities and instant gratification, the role of singer-songwriter has magnified, where the idea of making a deep connection through words and sounds still is the greatest form of communication within society.
“I have no reason to write songs and live out of a suitcase, except that I have things I need to say. I find that when I write a song about something, it really helps me sort through my emotions, and I’m relieved to find out that I am in fact not the only person that thinks about very heavy things,” Hannah said. “I think our place as songwriters is to stick to the basics — write a great song, write great, meaningful, and well thought out lyrics. Put those lyrics to a memorable and beautiful melody. Then sing that thing like you mean it. Don’t bother writing songs if you rush the process of writing so that you can slap it up on YouTube and see how many hits you can get. Our job is to write great songs — we can't skip over that part.”
Bird In Hand
A husband and wife duo of Bryan and Megan Thurman, the Sylva-based Bird In Hand came together in the way most great music does — by happenstance. Traveling cross-country for their honeymoon in 2011 in a 1978 VW bus, they started playing on the side of the road whenever the old vehicle would breakdown. Now a four-piece Americana group, their emphasis is on the interactions and communication ricocheting between the musicians onstage, and in the studio.
“Songwriting is definitely a huge outlet and a great way to get out those conscious and sub-conscious thoughts,” Bryan said. “And a lot of our message has to do with a mixture of simplicity of life and the spirit of adventure. Right now, it's all about enjoying the music and sharing it with whoever we can, or whoever will listen.”
And as the band sets its roots in the ancient mountains of Western North Carolina, its philosophy and intent draws from the deep waters of creativity and inspiration that permeate this rich landscape.
“The title of our record, ‘Due North,’ is a reference of the 600 miles we hiked on the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to southern Virginia,” Megan said. “It's impossible to have lived here for so long and not be inspired by the spirit of the region. That independence and thirst for life, the deep connection to the land and family has always been apart of the history here, and ultimately I'd like to think it is part of our music, too.”
Owner of the Sun
Barreling out of the cosmopolitan chaos of Atlanta, the sextet combines the heartbreak and broken whiskey bottles of Nashville, the front porch embrace of Appalachian foot stompin’ pickers and the razor-sharp snark of 21st century indie pranksters.
“You really can’t put your finger on exactly one genre that captures our band,” said guitarist/vocalist Mekenzie Jackson. “We encompass several genres anywhere from country to punk to soul to pop. There are three main songwriters, and because of that, we all bring something very different to the table every time a new song is introduced.”
And though on the outside, the group may seem more downtown that backwoods, founding member Brad Boulet, a Sylva native and resident, is just part of the southern sincerity that spills out off of the stage, where the line between performer and audience, between the bluegrass past and present is blurred.
“I think we all believe there’s a place for folk instruments and sounds in songs they’re not supposed to go with. You could walk into a show at one point and call us a bluegrass band, then walk back in 10 minutes later and swear you’re listening to a country band, then come back 10 minutes later and get unmistakably rocked,” he said. “When I tell people in Atlanta I grew up in Western North Carolina, it’s very common for them to bring up the music of the region. I like how Appalachian music is evolving. No longer is it mandatory to stand stoically and play a banjo the way it’s ‘supposed’ to be played in order to represent and pay homage to mountain music.”
The musical style of Arnold Hill is as varied as the members themselves. Howling from the hills of Jackson County, the trio distills its roots in southern rock, funk and metal into a rollicking stew of “metal-grass” or “indie-funk,” or however else one might try to describe this moving target of sound.
“We believe live music should be fun for everyone involved. As musicians, we strive to never be confined to one genre or style. By staying eclectic, we can only become better musicians and performers,” said bassist/mandolinist Sam McCarson. “For our audiences, we strive to provide good times, good tunes, and a slight bit of rowdiness. We want to create fans by playing shows that are consistently entertaining.”
Through The Hills
The newest musical entity in Western North Carolina, the Haywood County quartet brings together singer-songwriter Kevin Fuller with banjoist Joey Fortner (formerly of Soldier’s Heart). Add in teenage fiddle prodigy Alma Russ and Raymond Mathews on the stand-up bass and you have yourself a solid foundation of mountain melodies and indie-folk grit to build upon. Founded by Fuller, the Upstate New Yorker has traveled the highways and bi-ways of America, from Maine to California, putting his transformative experiences to paper and chords.
“I’ve always been influenced by bluegrass and Appalachian music,” Fuller said. “I’d always heard the twang in my songs. I heard banjo, fiddle and upright bass. I had absolutely no intention of ever moving to Western North Carolina. So, when I ended up here, and met the greatest musicians in the world, who played those instruments and asked to play music with me, I was kind of blown away. I feel like there’s a reason why I am here, and I feel like this is it.”
Want to go?
The “Grand Opening” for Tonic will be Feb. 5-7 in Sylva. Alongside craft beer specials starting at noon, the market will also play host to numerous free musical acts and celebrations throughout the weekend, which is as follows:
Thursday, Feb. 5
• 8 p.m. — Bird In Hand
• 9:30 p.m. — Hannah Aldridge
• 10 p.m. —Sam & Heath of Buchanan Boys (DJ set)
• Midnight — Rock-A-Billy Blow Out
Friday, Feb. 6
• 8 p.m. — Indigo De Souza
• 9 p.m. — The Vanguardians
• 10 p.m. — Horror Business
• 11 p.m. — The Underground Vinyl After Party
Saturday, Feb. 7
• 2 p.m. — Through The Hills
• 3 p.m. — Vinyl Record Melt Down
• 5 p.m. — Arnold Hill
• 8 p.m. — Owner of the Sun
• 10 p.m. — Vinyl Records Roundhouse
• Midnight — Grand Finale After Party with Scarlett