On stage Friday night at the Ramkat, newly-minted Vagabond Saint Joey Barnes found himself in a curious position: that of the relative unknown.

“Who is that?” diehard Winston-Salemite Carissa Joines asked me from our spot off stage right.

“Joey Barnes?” I said. “Used to play with Daughtry?”

She shrugged.

“There’s like a 30-foot mural of him in downtown Greensboro,” I offered.


Barnes, glammed out in leather, sequins and makeup, played his role in the Queen tribute by enticing the crowd — nearly silent when he mounted the frontman slot — to join him in the anthemic “Somebody to Love,” nailing the high notes and the runs until he won the crowd over entirely.

It was a big night for the Ramkat, the Triad’s newest big room in downtown Winston-Salem, easily 1,000 strong and existing in the kind of ethereal camaraderie that will convince thousands more, years from now, to say they were there.

Make no mistake: The Ramkat is good for Winston-Salem, a course correction in the Entertainment District that simply cannot exist without buy-in from the people of the city. And it won’t get that unless it makes sense — to their neighbors in that part of downtown, to the bands who want to come through and, most importantly, to the growing number of city residents willing to hit the town at night and take in some live music.

Before the doors even opened there was a line around the building, with an air of homecoming — personalities from other clubs, other lives converging in the moment. Jill and Big Mike from the old Ziggy’s. Jon from the Garage and Brew Ha Ha’s before that. And Jesus. Is that Crow?

The Vagabond Saints, ably led by Doug Davis, stepped up their usual cover-show game with moments of glam and groove, and it all made sense. Of course Richard Boyd would handle “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Vel Indica’s Patrick Ferguson naturally took to “Killer Queen.” No one but Clay Howard could handle the doubleshot of “One Vision” and “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

And who else could bring a moment of magic to this Winston-Salem crowd but Karon Click and Jeffrey Dean Foster, whose version of “Under Pressure” will be talked about for years to come?

It all wrapped up too soon, this perfect night in the Camel City where everything, finally, just seemed to click into place.

Even Joey Barnes made a new fan: On her way out the door, WXII News anchor Nicole Ducouer, at the Ramkat for an evening of drinking and dancing with her husband, tapped Joey’s shoulder.

“You were the best one,” she said.

“Thanks,” Barnes said. Then: “Who is that?”

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