Rock and roll bar and venue opens in West Asheville

By Max Miller – Staff Writer – [email protected]

Photo by Beckett Bathanti - Opinion Editor Owner Amanda Hency talks with customers in the Mothlight at Mr. Fred’s.
Photo by Beckett Bathanti – Opinion Editor
Owner Amanda Hency talks with customers in the Mothlight at Mr. Fred’s.

The Mothlight at Mr. Fred’s, a bar and music venue, opened in West Asheville on Oct. 9, debuting with shows from alt-country artist Richard Buckner and singer-songwriter Angel Olsen on Oct. 11 and 12, respectively.
The shows drew large crowds to the 250-capacity venue, with Buckner bringing in around 200 people and Olsen selling out. The results were impressive for a bar just finding its footing in the tight-knit West Asheville community, and according to co-owner Amanda Hency, the opening went down without a hitch.
“There were good vibes and a good crowd. It sounded better than we expected it to,” Amanda said. “The bar went smoothly. Everyone was completely understanding of the line, because with a private club there’s the membership factor, so that slowed things down a little bit.”
Amanda founded the bar with her husband Jon Hency. The couple moved to West Asheville from Chicago three years ago with plans to open a venue.
“We met at a music venue in Chicago, the Empty Bottle, which is one of our favorite music venues in the world. Jon worked there and I worked at a different music venue around the corner, but I always was hanging out at the Empty Bottle,” Amanda said. “We eventually hung out and decided that what we wanted to do was our own music venue, but not in Chicago.”
The Mothlight draws on Amanda and Jon’s experience as bartenders, and serves as a distinctly no-frills venue in a city where microbreweries serve as the norm.
“We’re not a craft drink place, we’re a rock ‘n’ roll club,” Amanda said. “We are a music venue, and that’s what we take the most pride in, but we’re also here for everybody in West Asheville that wants to just have another neighborhood bar.”
The importance the owners place on their musical reputation can be seen in the impressive roster of touring acts set to play at the Mothlight over the next couple months. From frenetic rockers like Screaming Females to psychedelic wanderers like Cave, the calendar has been deftly filled by Jon, who handles the majority of the booking, bringing in touring acts he would like to see.
“There’s definitely a niche to be filled. I’m friends with Angel Olsen, and that did really well. The Grey Eagle couldn’t do Buckner that night, so it was cool to have another option for him. And then there’s other stuff that’s rough around the edges that might not fit at The Grey Eagle – more abstract, more psychedelic – that we totally want to support,” Jon said. “And then there’s other stuff that might be more artsy, minimalist or jazzy, maybe like Kayo Dot or some other acts.”
This niche was left especially gaping and prominent when news came this weekend that the Apothecary, an independent downtown venue opened by UNC Asheville students, had lost its lease and would be forced to close its doors on Nov. 1.
Frank Meadows, a senior music technology and jazz and contemporary music student, co-founded Apothecary last August. During its existence, it provided local experimental musicians and artists with a place to reach the community.
The venue’s founders had been searching for a new location, including a location in the River Arts District that briefly appeared to be a sure bet. With the notion of moving in mind, they signed a month-to-month lease this year. Meadows knew the landlord was considering renting the space out to prospective business owners, and had even been showing the space to other clients.
“That made me a little nervous, but he told me, ‘You’ll be the first to know if anyone starts getting serious about it,’ which did not end up being the case,” Meadows said. “I tried to take a few proactive steps about it once I got inklings that they were considering our space as a viable potential new tenant property, but then I think the landlord just dropped the ball on keeping me engaged in the dialogue about it.”
Meadows said he discovered that the Apothecary had lost its lease to a coffee shop, which signed a 10-year lease on the space, by accident while discussing electrical costs with the landlord. While the sudden news came as a shock to the owners, Meadows said they have already begun discussing the future with other members of the local music scene, including the owners of the Mothlight.
“I had a really nice conversation with Jon Hency where we were talking about opening up a more consistent dialogue about having our connections and resources and funneling it toward him,” Meadows said. “When we opened, there wasn’t the Odditorium, there wasn’t Static Age Records doing shows and there wasn’t the Mothlight. All that, since Apothecary opened, has started becoming really viable.”
The Mothlight is located at 701 Haywood St. and is open from 5 p.m to 2 a.m. seven days a week.