A year and a half ago, my band played its second show ever at Joe & Jo's pub in downtown Durham. Shaky-kneed and overdressed, we started the night out timid, but gained momentum throughout the set. The crowd was 15 people big and spewing with encouragement and energy. We started playing there regularly, driven by the pub's warmth and sense of community.
At first, I attributed the energy to one of Durham's mood swings, but over the next few months I gained more faith as we played more and more shows in the back of the pub. We identified with the place. Its brick foundation, laced with Christmas-tree lights, stood humbly but surely against the winds of endless construction. The pub was something stable in an incomplete Durham, and the energy that moved through it made it feel like something important was welling up and coming our way.
The streets were creaking with revived movement, oiled by the people who were ready to emerge. They were showing up at Joe & Jo's, sleepy-eyed and in need of new ideas, music and garlic fries. Whatever JoAnne was doing was working.
In the year since, Joe & Jo's has become the hub of the revived music scene in Durham. Fifteen people have turned into 60, and dozens of local bands have found nourishment in its contagious energy and support. We consider Joe & Jo's a nest from which to fly, and a place to come home to. It is my hope that as it shifts to a new owner, Joe & Jo's remains intact and continues to exude the sounds of creativity and hope for Durham. May the Christmas lights stay drooped over the awning, the local band stickers stay plastered on the mirror, and may Keb Mo' continue to gaze approvingly on us all.
For more about Joe & Jo's, see "Durham's Joe & Jo's closes".