by Brian Clarey and Eric Ginsburg
The Forge makerspace reopened last week at the foot of the newly activated Lewis Street in downtown Greensboro, tucked down the train tracks from Gibb’s Hundred Brewing, HQ Greensboro and the Railyard restaurant and parking complex. Tales of inventiveness and industry will be written in this space in the years to come, but anyone who recalls this town 10 years ago will always remember the spot as the Flying Anvil music club, which flourished, floundered and finally gasped its last during a nine-month stretch in the halcyon year of 2006.
This was before the Mellow Mushroom, before the Railyard, before the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, before CityView and just as Elon Law School opened its doors. The Downtown Greenway was simply a drawing on a board somewhere. It was before Facebook became the virtual town square. And it was before everything went to hell in October 2008, from which we are still recovering.
But that spring was a time of optimism in downtown Greensboro. Natty Greene’s had exploded on the corner of Elm and McGee streets. Elsewhere was new, and so was the ballpark on the north side. Roy Carroll had yet to convert the derelict Wachovia Building into CenterPointe luxury condominiums, and there was some talk of a public park being built across the street.
The “Positive Greensboro Attitude” Mayor Keith Holliday was talking about that year took root in the minds of a crew of successful young entrepreneurs and a seasoned downtown developer, who thought it was time to bring a big rock club to this part of the city.
And thus the Flying Anvil was born,officially launching on May 11 with a three-night grand opening featuring the likes of Tiger Bear Wolf, the Avett Brothers and Walrus after a soft opening a few weeks earlier with the Urban Sophisticates. It came to an end on Dec. 30 with Langhorne Slim and Mad Tea Party. The months in between saw dozens of shows by the big names of the day — Leon Russell, Cat Power, the Mountain Goats, the Legendary Shack Shakers, Of Montreal, Dexter Romweber, Cities, Bombadil and the Hackensaw Boys. Eastern Music Festival events, B-boy battles, an installment of Joe G’s Cover Band Extravaganza, the big stage of GreensboroFest and a rock-paper-scissors tournament all went down within the cavernous space.
It was like a long fireworks show that lasted until winter set in, leaving nothing but streamers of smoke descending from the sky.
Pete Schroth, majority partner in the Flying Anvil, owner the Green Bean (2002-2007): The Green Bean, I think that was my experience. We had live music pretty much every single weekend and we had jazz jams every Monday night. When I opened the Green Bean, it wasn’t so much that I loved coffee, it was more the art and the music I was interested in and I knew the coffee shop would lend itself to that.
After doing that for years you definitely see there are a lot of bands that we were missing that I wanted to see and share with other people. There’s always that complaint about why do we have to drive to Chapel Hill, so we decided to try and do it here.
It seemed like an evolutionary step coming from the Green Bean. We did so many live shows there that we kind of wanted to have another space to do shows on a bigger scale. It totally seemed to make sense at the time.
Brian Crean, investor and proprietor of the Flying Anvil: Pete Schroth and I were good friends from graduate school at UNCG. He opened the Green Bean and I was a regular there, I was close friends with the family, helped babysit the kids and helped his wife Anne at Red Canary. Pete was talking about doing the music venue… and at the time I was just thinking it was great to be involved. I scrounged up some money and actually took out a small business loan. Pete owned 51 percent, I owned about 15, and there were a handful of other investors that owned about 5 percent
I’ve always been a big music fan. I lived in Atlanta and Athens, Ga. before moving to Greensboro, so I went to live shows all the time. I worked in Little Five Points in Atlanta and I worked at Variety Playhouse, which is a music venue. I worked there for a couple years, worked at CD stores and that kind of thing, and was always very interested in music. I thought, “Yeah this would be great.”
To me it was about creating interesting, vibrant businesses that appeal to people my own age instead of always going other places to do that. I’d seen shows at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem and Cat’s Cradle [in Carrboro], and like I said I’d lived in Athens right before moving to Greensboro. Having always lived in a place that always had a great music venue and not seeing one in Greensboro, I thought, “Well, let’s do one here.”
Erik Beerbower, investor in the Flying Anvil, proprietor of Lyndon Street ArtWorks (2003-2011): Greensboro was at that time trying to find its artistic identity. They had just started promoting First Friday, Elsewhere had come in. It was a good time to try something like that.
I thought it would be a logical extension to Lyndon Street. I saw us having art shows in there, a large venue to start combining art and music. Unfortunately, it failed.
Andrew Dudek, investor in the Flying Anvil, proprietor of Gate City Noise (2001-2006): Pete Schroth came to me and said, “Hey, I want you to invest in this project. It’s gonna be fantastic. It’s gonna be big.”
I had been doing live shows [at Gate City Noise] and I could broaden the acts by having a bigger stage. I could get the bigger bands I wanted to get. Pete knew this.
If I was to move Gate City Noise to the Flying Anvil and kind of marry the two, then we would both benefit from that. I saw the decline of the record store and saw that live shows would be the catalyst to sell records.
For me it was a win-win. I could bring in some bigger acts and try to move some records, and Pete being an entrepreneur also to me was a catalyst. We thought it was gonna be massively successful.
Milton Kern, downtown developer, property owner: I found out that Pete was looking for a place to open up a music venue and went and bought this building for Pete Schroth and upfitted it for him to his instructions and specifications within reason. Something about six months into it he said he had to quit. They did great for quite a while.