The Triangles big outdoor venues pull in plenty of big musical acts this time of year, but not many bands can persuade me to part with $50 and battle traffic to Walnut Creek.
Id rather hang out in a dimly lit bar with a cold craft beer, tapping my toes to some musician Ive never heard of. Weve got more local acts than venues to support them, and a quick YouTube search can establish whos worth hearing.
With so much talent and competition, many Triangle musicians particularly solo singer-songwriters dont get the attention they deserve. Sometimes my wife and I will turn around and realize were literally the entire audience.
That happened recently at the Pour House Music Hall in Raleigh, a venue with room for hundreds. It was 5 p.m. on a Tuesday not exactly prime time for live music. But the low turnout didnt deter the two musicians on stage, whose energy never flagged despite our awkward two-person rounds of applause.
Durham songwriter Spencer Scholes chatted with us afterwards. Hes a former truck driver whos trying to make a living playing original tunes. Right now hes driving across the country in his Camry, crashing on friends couches and playing at any venue thatll have him.
A few months after we met, I caught up with him by phone from Austin, Texas, where hes having a blast and trying not to go broke.
Sharing his music, he says, is one of the best feelings, and when people are feeling it, its like being electrocuted with love. Its incredible.
But a national tour aint easy when you dont have a record label or a manager. He has pitched his music to dozens of venues in each city, and hes lucky if a couple will book him. Sometimes he rolls into town without a performance on his schedule.
A solo guy with a guitar isnt on the top of everyones list, he said. I pound the pavement literally.
Sometimes hell use social media to link up with local bands; other times he drops by open-mic nights to play for free. But some cities have a thriving acoustic scene, and Scholes can get gigs for six nights straight without any name recognition.
I have this illogical belief that it can reach a stage of sustainability where I can make a decent living, he said.
Scholes nearly turned around earlier in the tour when he was stuck in a Utah basement with the flu. One thought was hard to shake: I should have gotten a job three weeks ago.
Scholes in due back in North Carolina for an Aug. 1 show at Durhams Motorco, and hes mulling a part-time job to pay the rent. But the music wont stop. Hell soon release his first full-length CD with money raised on Kickstarter, and he hopes to tour again in the future.
I do believe in what Im trying to do that its valuable and worthwhile to share this music with people, he said.
Back home, Scholes hopes to see more places emerge for locals to share their talents outside of 11 p.m. bar shows. Music has been increasingly shuffled off into a vehicle for alcohol sales, he said, which makes it hard to reach non-night owls. He wants to see live music offered in more public places, from parks to gas stations.
I certainly wouldnt mind being serenaded at the pumps. But Ill show my support with a late-night pint, too whatever it takes to keep folks like Scholes pursuing their music.
Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter