Carrboro residents who seek a great place to listen to local musicians can go to Johnny’s Gone Fishing at 901 West Main Street. The local coffee shop, known for holding small concerts three to five times a week, hosted the local band Bluegrass Battleship March 29 at 7:30 p.m.
The band was founded in 1974 by vocalist Jane Provan, her husband, Scott Provan, and banjo player Terry Baker at the Silver Bay YMCA in New York. It has since expanded to eight members, including bassist Marc Alperin, mandolin player Mel Freedman, guitarist Danny Gotham, vocalist Catherine Grodensky and fiddle player Eileen Regan.
“We belong to The Community Church (of Chapel Hill),” Jane Provan said. “At one point during a concert there were so many musicians on stage. Danny said that it was ‘like a battleship,’ and the name stuck with us.”
Bluegrass Battleship tours throughout Carrboro and Chapel Hill and has played at places like the Carrboro Music Festival and Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe. The band is working on their first album in their 32-year history that will be released around Christmas. Baker explained that an album was the next logical step for the band to take to forward their career.
“We wanted better recordings to obtain better gigs,” Baker said. “Danny said that it is a part of a band’s legacy to have a recording.”
Throughout their concert at Johnny’s Gone Fishing, Bluegrass Battleship played a variety of country and bluegrass hits ranging from traditional songs to well-known classics like “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. At one point, the coffee shop’s co-owner and manager, Susan Siplon, joined the band onstage to sing a bluegrass cover of the song “No Rain” by Blind Melon.
“I’ve loved ‘No Rain’ since it came out in the ‘90s,” Siplon said as she talked about singing with Bluegrass Battleship. “I heard a bluegrass version and I’ve always wanted to sing that version, and I’m very thankful that they gave me that opportunity.”
Siplon said Johnny’s Gone Fishing has featured several musicians from all over the world during the past three years, and most of the hired musicians have commented that the coffee shop is one of their favorite places to play. Johnny’s Gone Fishing has even been featured on the TV show “CMT Southbound” that highlights tourist attractions and lesser-known locations across the southern United States, but Siplon feels that the coffee shop needs more attention, especially from the town in which it is located.
“This place is sadly one of the most best-kept secrets in (Carrboro),” Siplon said. “It has a huge reputation outside Carrboro, but not in the town itself.”
Despite the late arrival of Alperin, who was occupied by a family matter, to the concert, the overall reception of Bluegrass Battleship was overwhelmingly positive. Many people sang along with the band, several took pictures and everyone enjoyed the great quality of the music provided.
Bluegrass Battleship is slated to perform another show at Johnny’s Gone Fishing on May 10. Upcoming musical events at the coffee shop include Americana performances by Bob Funck and Anne DeChant on April 8 and April 9, respectively, and an acoustic performance by local blues band No Worries on April 15.
For a printer-friendly version of this story, click here.