The Black Lodge was empty and Tim Poovey stood by the doorway smoking a cigarette, talking with the bar’s only customer who sat outside. The evening settled behind the brick tobacco chimneys across the street. The dull sound of cars and sirens echoed among the buildings, and Poovey stood calm and quiet, as if on a payday afternoon. He had only a half-hour left on his shift, his last working in Winston-Salem. Behind the bar inside lay his guitar, and as the next bartender came in, he grabbed the black case and walked off with the simple announcement: “I’m officially unemployed.”
Test Pattern on Trade Street, a few blocks away in downtown, was crowded well before the show started. Friends and fans gathered to celebrate Poovey’s last performance before his move back to Brooklyn to record his second album. And although Test Pattern has been a friend to Poovey, often hosting his concerts, it’s also a fitting choice for his last show for another reason.
When the bar was Elliott’s Review, Poovey performed with his old band Autopassion for their last show on the very same stage. But time and life have brought Poovey back full-circle, guiding him to depart from his hometown once more.
“I moved back earlier this year because I loved this girl,” Poovey said. “My band had just broken up in New York, I wasn’t really working, and I just knew I had to come and be with her.”
Though their relationship proved tumultuous, ultimately coming to an end, it was this love that sparked Poovey to write his upcoming solo record You Are My Sunshine, which he hopes to release early next year.
“I wanted to write a great record about love,” Poovey said. “I had it all worked out in my head and it was going to be just happy and beautiful, but things just work out differently sometimes.”
Raised in Winston-Salem, Tim Poovey began his life in music shortly after his parents bought him his first guitar when he was 13.
“I practiced constantly, played along to records,” he said. “The first band I was in, we were called Screwballs. We played our first show at Pablo’s, which is closed now. But then I got into metal and that became my life. I was seeing the things those guys were playing, the technical skill, and I had to try it. Playing in metal bands [is] what really taught me how to play guitar. Everything’s so fast and precise. If you can play metal, you can play just about everything.”
Poovey traveled and moved around North Carolina during high school and just after. In the early 2000s, Poovey played lead guitar in the post-rock band Autopassion, and eventually moved to New York with his bandmates. After only five months of playing there, the band broke up, giving Poovey the freedom to begin writing his own material.
“Songwriting shouldn’t sound like you’re trying to tell someone something; it shouldn’t be forced. It has to come effortlessly,” Poovey said. “I think what I’ve found after playing for so long isn’t simply writing catchy or sellable songs or any of that. I’m most interested in timelessness now. Writing songs that are still meaningful years from now. The words are the most important part of music to me.”
With a promise of playing a few songs off his new album, Poovey was among the crowd as it roared for Drag Sounds, who opened the July 29 show. With garage-rock tone and simplicity, Drag Sounds’ captivating performance brought to mind a blend of the Strokes and Velvet Underground. But as if the band themselves were more interested in hearing Tim Poovey, they kept their set short, clearing the stage quickly for the headliner.
To learn more about Tim Poovey’s music, visit timpoovey.bandcamp.com
And with a few bottles of Beck’s by his worn-out Vans, Poovey took the stage in his calm, thoughtful manner.
The din of voices and chatter ceased as he began. All eyes watched with reverence as he performed his art. With his gentle, cigarette-smoothed voice, there is a hypnotic element to Poovey’s writing, poetry in his lyrics that enraptured the audience in the fullness of the moment.
They surrounded the stage, bodies forced to stand along the ramp and on the platform behind the stage just to see it go down.
The songs that will be on his upcoming record show a maturity in Poovey’s musical talents. Similar to that of Neil Young, the structure of his songs blend warm tones with melodies that become stuck in your head for days afterward.
As Poovey toured around the country, faced death’s grip as he battled with alcoholism and experienced love and friendship, there has always been music.
“Playing music has been the through-line in my life,” Poovey said. “I’ve always been chasing it and always will. Every few months I come to a new point. It’s like a snake shedding its skin. I’ll never be satisfied as a songwriter. I never want to be. I want to keep searching for where music will take me next.”