Hank Smith jams
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World of Bluegrass 2018
The International Bluegrass Music Association conference, awards ceremony, Bluegrass Ramble and World of Bluegrass is in Raleigh, NC, Sept. 25-29, 2018. Find our stories here.
Hank Smith is probably the closest thing the Triangle has to Mr. Bluegrass.
Smith, a banjo player by trade, keeps busy with teaching, playing, organizing and more, much of it behind the scenes. If there’s a local public gathering involving bluegrass music, chances are Smith was a part of making it happen.
This week is the International Bluegrass Music Association’s conference, awards ceremony and World of Bluegrass concerts, a time when downtown Raleigh becomes a hub for bluegrass music.
But pretty much every week is bluegrass week for Smith, thanks in part to the weekly “Beer & Banjos” get-together that he hosts upstairs at Raleigh Times. And with pickers, players and fans from all over coming to the Triangle, we asked Smith for a few tips on where to go.
Along with the Beer & Banjos gig Tuesday night, Smith will play with his band Hank, Pattie & the Current from 4 to 4:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, on the Davie Street Stage during the free Wide Open Bluegrass street festival.
Favorite places to play
“I have the longest history at Lincoln Theatre, and it always sounds great there. My first-ever gig in Raleigh was with Barefoot Manner there in 2002. Nothing against Pour House or Kings, which are both great, but the Lincoln is where I’ve had the most stage time here.
“As far as unconventional venues, it would have to be Raleigh Times. It’s not normally set up for music, but we have a home for Beer & Banjos there, and the staff is wonderful. It’s a place where everybody knows your name. We’re doing ‘Beer & Banjos’ during bluegrass week, too, hopefully as the IBMA blowout jam depending on who’s in town.”
“Probably the Landmark or Slim’s, which is a really good after-gig kind of place to hang out and decompress. Sometimes when you’re not quite done with the excitement of an evening, Slim’s is good for that. And I kind of like that it’s bluegrass-free this week. (Co-owner) Van Alston’s legendary hatred for banjos makes it a great place to get away from it for a while.”
“One of the best cheap, good meals in town is David’s Dumpling and Noodle Bar, right next door to the (Player’s Retreat). It’s one of the great fresh, affordable places, and also pretty much under the radar. If you’re looking for a really nice place to eat, Death & Taxes is pretty much the best. Good date restaurant for a nice dinner out. All of Ashley Christensen’s restaurants are amazing, really.”
Best decompression get-away
“I used to live around the corner from Lake Johnson and still go out to walk the trail. But the really good quiet place where I can exercise and be off the grid is the pool at the Alexander YMCA on Hillsborough Street. I’m an avid swimmer and I try to get there a couple times a week. Underwater, there are no distractions and you can’t take your phone into the pool. So I try to get in the zone, cut some laps. Swimming is my form of meditation and exercise.”
“Most little things, I can get at Harry’s Guitar Shop. They’re very solid and I’ve known all those guys for years. Medium stuff, Hanson and Crawford in Durham is very dependable and always does a great job with banjos. And for major work — new frets, major setup — I ship it back to the Deering factory. The banjo I play was custom-built in 2005 and it’s my road-dog banjo, gets played a lot. Every five or six years, it needs an overhaul. The last one was four years ago, so it’s coming up.”
Coffee and baked goods
“One of my favorite places is Monuts in Durham. They have the high-quality confections as well as great coffee. Also, while we were in the studio with (former Carolina Chocolate Drops member) Justin Robinson, he would occasionally bring us doughnuts from there to fuel our sessions.”
“One thing I have indulged in the past is go-kart racing at Adventure Landing. My father raced cars professionally when I was a kid and we always had go-karts while I was growing up, so the idea of racing go-karts has been a natural occurrence. It’s a lot of fun. I have not done it in a while, but I suppose I am due.”