At the end of February, The Ritz—the Triangle's biggest functional rock club—passed the one-year mark as the region's newest Live Nation venue. Despite an enormous investment from the big owner, work remains; in fact, the club will close for two months this summer for more upgrades. (Let's hope crews focus on the abysmal parking lot and the not-quite-there sound system.)
But in most respects, after some initial security and organizational issues, The Ritz's first year qualifies as a spectator success. With Live Nation's megalithic purchasing power, the venue presented shows that would have either skipped the area previously (especially major rap tours, which have become the house specialty) or would have been cramped in rooms that were much too small. To date, Live Nation seems interested in maintaining The Ritz's reputation as a Latino music destination, too, though that booking has slowed in recent months.
One of the most surprising aspects of The Ritz's time under Live Nation has been its interest in local music. Bluegrass favorites Chatham County Line played a benefit there, and a set of pop-rock bands helped launch a series of shows called "Locals Only." Today, that idea does some heavy lifting with an excellent clutch of hard rock and metal bands. There's the astral outlandishness of headliners Valient Thorr, the proto-doom of Demon Eye, and the psychedelic punishment of Bitter Resolve. In the first two slots, Wailin Storms and Grohg mix and match a love of theatrics with, respectively, punk and black metal. Live Nation has a history of buying and absorbing local culture; it's a welcome sight for The Ritz to pay to give it a big stage and us a good time on a Sunday afternoon.