Art Menius retires, Brad Porter takes over The ArtsCenter's music booking | Music

Art Menius retires, Brad Porter takes over The ArtsCenter's music booking

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Brad Porter: busy man.

Last week, Carrboro's The ArtsCenter announced that operations director Brad Porter would move into a music booking role, taking over for lifelong roots-and-folk devotee Art Menius. Considering Porter's involvement with local bands—he drums for Some Army and Wild Fur and sometimes sits in with Wichita Falls and other projects—it seemed his lead may result in a louder, more rocking ArtsCenter.

Yes and no, Porter says.

"If I differ in any way from Art's booking style, in one word, I'd like to say 'electricity,'" he explains with a laugh, though he clarifies that he doesn't mean The ArtsCenter will become a rock club. Rather, variety is his aim, and there will still be folk, roots and bluegrass aplenty. "We have a niche at The ArtsCenter that's been developed over the years, so our traditional programming will continue to be there."

We caught up with Porter to find out more about what his new position means.

INDY Week: Is there a transition period, or is it 100% you at this point?

Brad Porter: No transition. I'm 100% in. I do have support from two of my co-workers. Shirlette Ammons is spearheading a relationship with The Art of Cool to co-present some shows leading up to their festival and beyond. Jenks Miller will be curating a series of performances that are accompanied by an educational experience.

When did you find out that Art Menius was retiring and that you would move into his role?

Art started talking about retiring in the midst of his sabbatical, which is when I knew that position was opening up. It's more or less just booking and curating the music series. I've been handling all the back end with Art booking since Tess [Ocaña] left, so I'm more or less taking over that booking side. I came forward with some ideas I had because I've been here for four years, and I've seen what works and what doesn't work.

Are there going to be any visible or notable changes?

For sure. With Art and his experience, he's given a lifetime to bluegrass and old-time music, and that's really his focus in his shows and booking style. I think my shows will be more eclectic because I come from all over the place. The crowds, we've been pulling from the same audience, the roots audience. If we do three shows in a week, audience attendance can start to lag. You're pulling from the same group of people.

My idea is to diversify eventually, pulling different ages, different races, different creeds of people through the door. Diversifying also means the educational side of things. We're an educational institution, so I'd like to tie concerts into that. We have done that in the past, but I'd like to expand upon that. We're not just a concert venue, which a lot of people in the public think we are.

When you look at a traditional venue like Local 506 or Cat's Cradle, "all ages" means "it's geared toward adults, but you can bring your kids." With ArtsCenter, it's legitimately oriented toward all ages. What does that free you to do that a traditional venue can't?

That's a little tougher to answer, because we have a department that's dedicated to children's performances. We've definitely had somebody come and do an adult show and then do a kid's show on top of that. If something has an ability to transcend and go to both audiences, we definitely incorporate that.
I want to give local musicians a chance to get on that stage and feel ownership of the stage, bring their friends and family in. I put on a show with this group the Ayr Mountaineers—they're kids, man! But they brought in 100 people, friends and family. Everyone was stoked, their first big experience up on stage. I want to see more shows like that.


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