Rockin’ The ‘Cradle’ In Carrboro
If you’re not paying attention as you drive down Carrboro’s East Main Street, you might not even notice it. But there, at one end of a small, nondescript shopping center just minutes from the campus of the University of North Carolina, is a piece of rock n’ roll history that continues to thrive in the ever-changing world of popular music. This is the Cat’s Cradle, a legendary NC music club that even got a mention in the classic 1992 Sonic Youth song "Chapel Hill":
“Throw me a cord/and plug it in
Get the Cradle rockin’”
Of course, if you’re an up-and-coming music act touring the Southeast US, you know exactly where the Cat’s Cradle is located. About to enter its fifth decade of providing live music to North Carolina’s Triangle, the Cradle is a must-play venue for anyone wanting to make a dent in the music industry. “Success breeds success, and I guess our longevity has beaten a well-worn path to our door,” says co-owner Frank Heath. “I rarely have to call a booking agent to get a band to play here. They usually call me.”
Indeed, a glance through the names of acts that have graced the various stages of the Cat’s Cradle (it’s been in five different physical locations over the years) reads like a who’s who of the independent music scene: John Mayer, Patti Griffin, Ryan Adams, Nirvana and Pearl Jam once played the Cradle within a month of each other in the early 90s. Local Triangle acts that eventually made it big such as Whiskeytown and Ben Folds Five performed here often. Heath has vivid memories of a very short concert by alt-rock heavyweights The Replacements. “They played one or two songs and then fell off the stage,” he laughs. And an old Cat’s Cradle calendar available online touts “another great pop band from Athens, GA” playing there on January 2, 1982. That band’s name was R.E.M.
Yet for all the rock royalty that has appeared here, the Cat’s Cradle has a decidedly casual, unassuming feel to it. There’s a stage, a large floor, a small bar, and some chairs and tables strategically placed to the side. There are a couple of video games stashed in a corner and a smoking alley in the back (the club itself is non-smoking). It quickly becomes obvious that at the Cat’s Cradle, it’s the music that gets all the attention.
“I’m a former musician, and most of my employees are either former musicians or currently involved in local bands”, says Heath. “This community, this whole region, is extremely enthusiastic about independent music. Whether it’s rock, ska, bluegrass, hip-hop, or something else, if it’s good, it will find an audience here.”
So, if you’re in the Triangle and in the mood for live music, pay attention when you’re driving through Carrboro, and pull in to the place at the end of the nondescript little shopping center on East Main Street. No matter what day it is, there’s a good chance that the Cradle will be rockin’.
The Cat’s Cradle is located at 300 East Main Street in Carrboro, NC, just west of the UNC Campus. For more information or a schedule of upcoming acts, call 919-967-9053 or visit www.catscradle.com.
added: June 23, 2009
updated: June 29, 2009