Tate Street’s Musical History

Sam Haw
Staff Writer

Among the industrial rhythm of College Hill’s various construction projects, pleasant melodies can be heard almost every night of the week on Tate Street. While the rumbling of distorted guitars from New York Pizza might be the loudest sound on Tate, the regular jazz and folk programming at Tate Street Coffeehouse competes in popularity from just across the street. Take a quick walk around College Hill and you can hear the sounds of band rehearsals and records drifting out of homes and into the air.

But, that’s just the current audible offering. A large percentage of the properties on Tate have stood for nearly a century, many of which have provided spaces for generations of musicians.

The first spot most locals mention is Friday’s, a bar formerly located on the property of Tate Street Tattoo Co. and Leon’s Style Salon. Despite Friday’s limited capacity and five-year lifespan, the venue hosted notable hardcore and punk acts like Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, and Black Flag. Violent Femmes made a stop at Friday’s prior to their mainstream success with “Blister In The Sun.” In 1983, the venue presented its final and most notable act, R.E.M, who had played the venue several times before achieving cult status.

In the 1960s, this location was home to another venue called the Red Door Cafe. While the Red Door didn’t see the same rowdy rock shows as Friday’s, it was a starting point for the career of country star Emmylou Harris, who was studying theatre across the street at UNCG.

Until it’s closing in 1999, The Hong Kong House stood on the site of Boba House and Sisters Jewelry & Gifts, serving up some of the street’s most popular asian cuisine. Run by Amelia and Robert Leung, the restaurant employed many members of the local music scene, including Aliza Gottlieb, who convinced the Leungs to turn the basement into a small venue.

This basement, first called Aliza’s Café and later Nightshade Café, accommodated some of the street’s weirder acts, such as oddball guitar and rake player Eugene Chadbourne, as well as the F-Art Ensemble. However, a pre-fame Indigo Girls made a stop at the intimate basement. The basement still exists, but its entrance is inaccessible to the public, locked behind the gate in between Sisters and one of the new theatre department buildings.

The North Carolina College For Women Auditorium, formerly known as Aycock Auditorium, has seen the biggest acts in Tate Street history, ranging from the influential new wave act DEVO all the way to world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

In Ian Pasquini’s documentary, “Tate Street That Great Street,” Jerry Harrelson, a former UNCG administrator, recalls some of the acts that came through the auditorium.

“In Aycock Auditorium I first heard little Stevie Wonder,” Jerry said. “I heard Ray Charles. Later on the B-52s were there, before they were anybody. CCR was there, Chicago… it was a who’s who that played in Aycock Auditorium.”

In 1984, WUAG 103.1, UNCG’s student radio station, moved in next door to the Taylor Theatre. Since then, the station has been a musical fixture of Tate Street, delivering college rock and other alternative music to the local airwaves. In 2007, the station had to move down Tate to its current location on the top floor of the Brown Building.

Despite the move, the station saw its heyday from 2003 to 2011 under the leadership of the station’s only full-time general manager, Jack Bonney.

While the coolest bookings from this period―Beach House, Dam-Funk and The Microphones―played in non-Tate venues, the ongoing live-music radio program, Radio Greensboro, has recorded in both of the WUAG’s Tate locations.

A quick look through Bonney’s 2011 blog posting titled “Past Radio Greensboro Performances” shows names like Future Islands, Langhorne Slim, Kid Koala and The Carolina Chocolate Drops scattered among the station’s visitors.

In the early 2000s, Gate City Noise sat right across the street in Slice’s current location. Although it wasn’t Tate’s first record store―The Record Exchange and Platterpus Records supplied the street with vinyl in the 1980s―Gate City Noise stands out because of its in-store performances. My Morning Jacket, The Mountain Goats and Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon all played the small shop. The shop closed its doors in 2006, which, combined with WUAG’s move, marked a shift towards Tate Street’s current state.

Although few of these institutions still remain, music is alive and well on Tate. Aside from the occasional house show, Tate Street’s present concert offerings typically occur at New York Pizza, Tate Street Coffeehouse and The North Carolina College For Women Auditorium.

To learn more about Tate Street music, you should check out Ian Pasquini’s YouTube video, “Tate Street That Great Street.”. Further information, albeit less centralized, can be found in UNCG Library Database.

In order to avoid any perceived conflict of interest, the author would like to disclose his role as the current General Manager of WUAG 103.1. This piece contains no mention of any concert or work that has occurred since the beginning of his involvement with the radio station.

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Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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