I myself was a latecomer, fresh on the scene thanks to a Craigslist ad posted once upon a morning in the spring of 2013, says the Narrator. Sarah had taken a job at a university in town, and we needed a place to rent. By then, Shady had lost some of its fame. Much had changed. The garage behind the Easter house had already been torn down years before our arrival. All that remained was its stone foundation. And Mitch himself had moved away to nearby Kernersville. In all likelihood, then, the story of Drive-In Studio might have gone undetected, might have remained part of Shady’s secret history, hidden away, occulted by the passage of time, had it not been for Frank, our landlord: a goateed documentarian with a film degree from UNC School of the Arts, fixture of sorts in the local music scene, and amateur collector of fossils. Frank and some fellow students at UNCSA had been part of an artists’ collective that had squatted an old, deactivated meat-packing plant in the late 1990s, on what was then the edge of downtown. Through legal and financial machinations that, I admit, were never entirely clear to me, Frank and his fellow squatters had achieved the impossible. Despite the odds, they’d gained control of the building; they’d transformed it into some other kind of thing. There it stood, suddenly, teeth and claws gleaming: an art space and show venue called The Werehouse.
Thanks to Frank, I found my way down there mere days after my arrival to town. What a space! It was like a T.A.Z. torn in time, a liberated territory poking through the city’s capitalist-realist façade.
To make it viable economically, artists living above had opened a coffee shop below. I remember the latter as a funky, spacious, cavernous place — a fun place to plot. And their annual Halloween parties were instant things of legend. Members of local bands would partner up with one another each year and play in one-off cover bands, performing in costume as famous indie bands of the past (Pretenders, Modern Lovers, Cramps, and the like). And the remarkable thing was, heads came out in droves: hundreds of us in costume, dancing, drinking, smoking our way toward dawn.
How I wish it was still there! Which is to say: How I wish we were there, you and I. If my Time Machine works, we’ll go there — ‘tis a promise. But not today. Today’s is the story not of the Werehouse, but of the home on Shady Boulevard.