Rosemary Street has the unfortunate distinction of being second banana to what is perhaps the most well-known thoroughfare in North Carolina. Franklin Street has long been the province of college kids, out-of-town sports fanatics and an assortment of colorful and effusive night owls. But lurking just a few yards over, Rosemary contains some shiny jewels, not at all hidden, but not out in the open for mass consumption either.
Gotham nightclub was one such gem, an urban-style danceteria that emanated pulsating beats and gave off an air of decadence and frivolity, all the while offering a dance club where you didn't have to worry about being caught in the middle of a scuffle between an athlete type and his girlfriend. Like all good things, Gotham's time has come to an end. But in its place, a new light is glowing, slowly building to a climax that will explode this Saturday night in a frenzy of rapid-fire beats and sweat-soaked, booty-shakin' bodies. It's called ... Avalon.
Along with its revamped interior, the new club plans to offer a variety of live music acts as well as DJs, and they're now open every night except Mondays. While Avalon owner/operator Dan Markscheid did run the club during its Gotham days, he says they've got a new group of owners on board and a new booking approach that defies easy categorization.
"Gotham had a nice long run for nine years, but it's time to head in a new direction," he says enthusiastically. "[Gotham] did some things that were unique for this town ... but I wanted to create something a little more mainstream." One look at the club's upcoming schedule, which includes everything from hip hop to live bluegrass, and you can see that this isn't going to be your typical dance club.
At the grand opening this Saturday, MTV superstar DJ Skribble will spin, along with an appearance by Sankofa's DJ Pez and local hip-hop act Bruther Munk. On Sunday, the day after Skribble, Avalon will host a bluegrass festival featuring nine acts, including Larry Keel, Snake Oil Medicine Show and others. "That's just something that would have never happened here before," Markscheid says.
Markscheid, a New Jersey native, cut his teeth working security and managing nightclubs in New York City. "I worked in NYC for Café Iguana, Bar Back and the Ski Bar and made my way into management," he says. "I got married and wanted to raise a family but still wanted to stay in the bar business, so I moved to Chapel Hill and started over."
In addition to offering live bands, Markscheid wants to open the doors wider for the local hip-hop community. "Tuesday nights we're doing a show based on MTV's Lyricist Lounge called Battle Club," he says. "Our idea is that if you've got the guts, we've got the stage and the mics and you can step up and test your rhymes. The guys from Bruther Munk have been running the show and we're trying to get Fabolus from Lyricist Lounge down to host for an evening as well." With other rap acts like Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock and Biz Markie on the club's calendar, you can bet the heads will be lining up at the door.
Along with the high-profile bookings, the club has upgraded its sound and light systems, says Markscheid. "We put in a house PA system for the live music, which we hadn't had before," he says. "We also partially enclosed the upstairs to make for a more secluded, relaxed environment and tried to revamp the things that just wear down after a number of years of wear and tear." In other words, expect a more comfortable layout, with room to stretch out and chill once you've exhausted yourself on the dance floor.
And speaking of dance floor exhaustion, opening night could require an on-call paramedic outside--with DJ Skribble manning the wheels of steel, you can bet that no genre of beat-flavored music is safe. Skribble got his break as a barely legal kid spinning for the white-boy rap act Young Black Teenagers (anybody remember "Tap The Bottle?") and soon found himself backing acts like Primus, Anthrax, The Notorious B.I.G., Craig Mack and the Chemical Brothers. But it was MTV that made Skribble a household name--uh, make that a household name for the under-25 demographic. Skribs has a running deal going that has pretty much made him MTV's house DJ, a gig that gives him full rein to whip scantily clad kids into a frenzy at MTV's Spring Break, the Beach House and anywhere that youngsters bump and grind. Well-schooled in trance, ambient and house as well as his native language of hip-hop, Skribble mixes styles like a bartender blends booze. If you plan on getting in, get there early.
As for the future of the nightspot, Markscheid is understandably optimistic. "The initial response that we've gotten has been very strong. We seem to be touching on something that people are interested in and we hope to make a major splash." With places like Avalon and NV creating new outlets for beat enthusiasts, it appears that Rosemary may end up giving her fair-haired sibling Franklin a run for his money.