Featured photo: Josh King is the new co-owner of the Flat Iron in downtown Greensboro. (photo by Beckett Clarey)
Josh King and partner Abbey Spoon took over the Flat Iron, that storied music venue in downtown Greensboro, just about one year ago. Leveraging their connections from years on the road, the two brought in a slew of national acts in their first year, fleshing out the schedule with local acts and special projects. They’ll celebrate with the second annual Flat Fest, running every night from Sept. 12-17. TCB caught up with King, Spoon and business partner Doug Beamer to mark the occasion.
How has your experience with House of Fools influenced ownership of The Flat Iron? Has it affected the kind of gigs that you’d like to book?
Josh King: We were just talking about that. I definitely see the musician side of things. And being a venue owner, yeah, it definitely does. I want to do what’s best for the artist. And of course we want to do what’s best for here. Yeah, definitely not a one sided thing.
A question about the House of Fools. How did you grow your audience?
JK: We didn’t play around here that much. We’re always on the road. And so we had a pretty big following from our previous bands; we were all in different bands before that. And I mean, I guess we’re kind of a supergroup within the scene, you know what I mean? And we signed to a label, most of the time we were playing, we were out of town. And so whenever we did play at home it was more like a homecoming. So, not only did the fans come out, but our friends and family came out too. So there’s always a big crowd.
What’s your favorite act that you’ve hosted since you took over?
JK: Since we’ve been here, I’d say Tommy Prine.
Tell me about Flat Fest.
JK: For Flat Fest we were trying to really show how diverse the acts we were getting here all through the year. So like, for tonight, we have kind of a folk night. Tomorrow night is a hip-hop night. Thursday’s more singer/songwriter, indie. And then Friday, we have a punk show, Saturday’s a rock show and Sunday is like a soul/funk band.
We’re, you know, trying our best to bring in all categories instead of sticking to one genre. And so that’s kind of why we started Flat Fest last year. And it was really September 16 — so there’s some previous bookings before us, that was when we actually took over booking. We honored a lot of bands that were already booked last year when we bought in June. And then honored the bands that were out on the road routed through here. We didn’t want to cancel them. Leave them hanging. So yeah.
What’s something that you haven’t been able to do yet here that you’d like to or you plan on doing later?
Abbey Spoon: We had originally talked about, for Flat Fest, shutting down the street and having kind of like more of an outdoor show and making it a free festival that happens during the day, that could be a little more family friendly. But just for expenses, you know, that does cost some money out of pocket. And this year, we really weren’t in a place where we felt like that was an option.
But down the line, I think we would like to do some more free events, some more outdoor events because we’re sort of limited by our capacity in here. Versus if we were to shut down the street, you could have you know, have street vendors, have beer carts and things like that and potentially serve 300, 400 people instead of being limited to the capacity of the space inside. And you can get bigger bands that wouldn’t normally fit on our tiny stage.
JK: That’s definitely one. Another idea we’ve had is that during the day we could use this as rehearsal space for bands. They could come rent the space and record here.
Is there anything about the Flat Iron you’d like people to know?
JK: I would say we get a lot of lip service as far as people saying that we’re doing a really great job, and how nice it is to have things in the community, or have this type of music come to the community, but it’s kind of hard to get people out. And a lot of our friends and things have gotten kids, we don’t go out on the weeknights. But I think we do book a lot of really cool, unique shows. And we’re very limited, because we could book a really amazing show and 10 people would show up. And I don’t know if that’s for lack of marketing? Or if it’s for lack of, I don’t know.
AS: I think the main thing, the best thing that you can do to support our business because we have struggled quite a bit, is just engage with us on social media, share the things that we do, even if you can’t come to a show. And yeah, to show up and not just come to a show because you recognize the name — like trust that if you come here, you’re gonna have a good experience and you’re gonna be able to see something cool that you wouldn’t normally be able to see anywhere else.
Doug Beamer: I think the music community has been diluted with the cover band scene. You can throw a rock and hit a lot of music in downtown Greensboro, but it’s not original music.
AS: And it’s free.
DB: And this is 99 percent original music. So you got to have that community, like she said, that doesn’t recognize, I mean, you need to look at all the names that are up there…. The next four days, they’re gonna have 20 different rock bands in here. And you might not know him, but if you can get an idea of what kind of music or look them up online and see if that’s the kind of music you’d like to really watch.
Once people come in here they go, ‘Wow, I just can’t believe that talent,’ you know, that you have in some of these original bands. Some of them are local some are not, some are from Charlotte, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, things like that. But you just don’t get the commitment from the music community to come see original stuff.
JK: We definitely want to be the place where people go, I want to hear some music tonight. I want to hear something that’s not covered music, whatever. The place where [people say], ‘Well let’s go over the Flat Iron and see what’s going on.’
DB: Like a Cat’s Cradle.
JK: Yeah, pay a ticket at the door or just walk up to the door and stand at the door and listen to the band for a second. It’s going to be good if you like that genre. We’re not booking bad music, you know what I mean? We want to be that spot.
DB: And it’s not a cover charge, it’s a ticket so we don’t want to be the bar and we have trouble with it. My buddy’s going, ‘Let’s go to your bar,’ and I’m going, ‘Yeah, we have a bar but it’s for the music.’
You know we’re not open most of the time except on Sundays for football or something, but it’s mainly to see that music, we want people in here that are music lovers. Those are the ones, I think, that have been coming. They’re music lovers.
How many emails do you get a day from bands wanting to play here?
JK: We’re pretty swamped. But you know…some of the bands we don’t get back to is not because we don’t like them but, because, well — they can be the best band in the world but if we don’t think they’re gonna draw then it’s pointless for us. And it’s pointless for them, it’s pointless for us. You know?
At the end of the day we could be spending money just to have that really good band play for nobody, but most of the bigger bands we’ve reached out to we’re having some help from Greenfields Production. He’s booking a lot of stuff here. I guess we all have kind of the same taste in music. So some of the shows that I’m most excited about, he’s helped with.
DB: We got a member of Band of Horses coming still, right? So there’s some bigger names that are starting to find us I guess
JK: This month should be a good one. I’m excited.
Want to go?
The Flat Iron
- 221 Summit Ave. GSO
- Flat Fest: Sept. 12-17 @ the Flat
- Tickets available at flatirongso.com or at the door
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