Asheville music scene soaring at the Grey Eagle

Jernigan Neighbors

Contributor

jneighbo@unca.edu

Photo by Jernigan Neighbors
The Grey Eagle venue

The Grey Eagle, one of Asheville’s longest running music venues, hatched dozens of shows for the winter season, including the bands Sylmar and Serotina for Oct. 23. The mountain-based music hall, going on 22 years, actively works to keep the music scene alive in Asheville while supporting both large and local performers. 

Originating from the garage of a Chevrolet dealership in 1994, according to the music hall’s official site, the Grey Eagle hosted over 10,000 shows ranging from Band of Horses to Avett Brothers since officially opening the Asheville location back in 1999.

Found in the River Arts District, the music locale places a focus on showcasing wide ranging talent while providing a relaxed environment.

“The Grey Eagle is known across the land to be the spot to see emerging national acts in Asheville,” said Ethan Kimberly, drummer for the Cincinnati modern rock band known as Sylmar.  

The Sylmar sound consists of modern post-punk, jazz and Americana influence. The quintet includes two guitar players, Luke Glaser and Daniel Sutter, Dom Franco playing bass, Brian McCullough as lead singer and Kimberly playing drums.

Photo by Geddi Monroe
Serotina’s live performance from Static Age Records on August 7. [left to right] Baron Wright, Ivo Pestana, Eli Whitlow, Kass Blount and Charlie Seehorn.
“We’d like to think we have a little something for everyone,” Glaser said. “We try to blend a familiar and nostalgic sound with something surprising, modern and sometimes even absurd.”

Glaser and McCullough said they started playing together after their collaboration was recommended by a mutual friend and member of Stoop Kids. While Sutter already befriended McCullough in previous years, Kimberly and Franco joined the collective in 2016.

“Touring helps build perspective on the country we live in, beyond what the everyday algorithm shows us. It’s really nice to have music as a common connector,” McCullough said.

The Grey Eagle venue provides two platforms for performance. The indoor standing venue hosts larger crowds and well-known acts. The patio outdoor seating entertains both local artists and up and coming musicians. These settings provide a laid back atmosphere for both the entertainers as well as their audience. 

“A band from Cincinnati messaged us and said that they had a patio show at the Grey Eagle and wanted an Asheville local band to play with them,” said Eli Whitlow, drummer for the band Serotina. 

Serotina, a blossoming jazz-funk band made up of five UNC Asheville students, joined forces in early spring, creating their signature sound. 

“It started in our first recording class. I remember Eli was in there, and he was just looking for people to jam with,” said Charlie Seehorn, one of the band’s two guitar players. “We would just write a progression and play on it for two hours. They were like ‘Yeah, that was awesome,’ and then they would go home.”

Photo by Lance Adkins
Members of Sylmar rehearsing, [from left to right] Luke Glaser, Brian McCullough, Daniel Sutter, Dom Franco and Ethan Kimberly
Seehorn said they did not have any songs starting out. As the band put together progressions, the lead singer, Kass Blount, would place lyrics on top, thus creating Serotina. 

“Everyone here plays punk music or shoegaze or something, and we just aren’t that,” said Ivo Pestana, bassist for the local band. “Shoegaze and punk is dope, but like that’s just not what we do.”

Although the band has come together, they said they still face difficulties like scheduling rehearsals, writing music and gaining profit.  

“You made $30 after how many hours of rehearsing and writing. What’s that, like five cents per hour?” Pestana said. 

Despite low profits so far, the band members said they love the feeling of excitement they get from playing these types of shows at the Grey Eagle and elsewhere. 

Pestana said it’s fun to play for an audience, but he loves the act of playing in general. 

“It’s hard for the crowd to get hype if we are not hype too. It’s like both ways,” Pestana said. 

The band’s guitar player, Baron Wright, a student at UNCA immersed in the school’s music department, said his mind goes completely blank while performing. 

“It’s like a rollercoaster of emotions I’d say,” Seehorn said.