Join 97.9 The Hill for an exclusive interview series with the Merchants at Midway – a more detailed look at the eclectic variety of businesses located where Chapel Hill meets Carrboro. This week we’re featuring legendary music venue Local 506!
97.9 The Hill’s Andrew Stuckey was joined on-air by Rob Walsh, co-owner of Local 506 and familiar face to Chapel Hill and Carrboro’s music scene across decades of artists playing the stage that has hosted enough concerts to be called “historic.” Local 506 is a legendary venue, and an indispensable part of Midway!
Listen to the full conversation below, and read a transcript containing some of the highlights from the discussion!
Andrew Stuckey: We’re gonna continue the show now by visiting with a local legend, co-owner of Local 506 Rob Walsh joins us. Rob, thanks for being on the program.
Rob Walsh: Hey, thanks very much for having me.
AS: Really appreciate you coming in today. A lot of listeners probably recognize your voice, but let’s start by talking about who you are, why, and how you got involved with Local 506?
RW: Yeah, my name is Rob, my last name is Walsh. I had been working at Local 506 since ‘99 as a sound engineer, sound person, through several different owners of the place over the years. I guess I would just happen to be in the right place at the right time with my friend Stephen Mooneyhan. when the previous owners had several kids that were in college and getting ready to leave, to leave off to school, and they just had so much on their plate and they had kind of basically made us an offer that we couldn’t refuse. That was Tom and Kippy Perkins, back in 2018, maybe the end of 2017. Stephen has since split off from there, but I had, you know, my partner now is Fuji Devonami, so we’re just plugging ahead and trying to keep it going, you know.
AS: Yeah, and at this point, Local 506 is a legendary venue. It’s on Franklin Street in the Midway, where Chapel Hill meets Carrboro, since the early nineties. Can you talk a little bit about the history of the venue itself and its commitment to keeping small and independent acts going?
RW: Oh, sure. We just actually celebrated our 30th anniversary as Local 506 in December. So that’s ‘92, right? You know, I can’t, I can’t really speak to from ‘92 on until ‘99, but, you know it’s, it’s always been a stalwart for independent music and it’s independently owned. Everyone there is in involved in the music scene. When I started there … the White Stripes played there and it was pretty funny because it was just in front of like me, the door person and the bartender. It was an empty room, man. Then literally eight months or six months later, that record “Elephant” had kind of blown up. So, I always kind of joked that we see ’em on the way up and we see ’em on the way down, you know what I mean? But it’s great, man, you know, and the community here is so supportive. I will say that since I’ve lived here, there’s no shortage of talent and bands, and that’s not just in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but like Durham and Raleigh and Wilmington and Asheville. It just seems every year more and more bands are popping up and even through things like COVID and such, you know, you saw so many bands pop out of that because people were just kind of locked up, you know, writing songs and stuff. So yeah, it’s great. It’s, it’s a real, it’s a real great community and it fosters a lot of independent thinking and creativity.
AS: Let’s talk a little bit about what makes [Local 506] different from other options.
RW: I think it’s an intimate venue. You know, it’s a 250 capacity room that’s got a really nice sound system. It’s been catering more to a lot of the heavier things and more of the punk rock kind of stuff. But, you know, there’s like, you’ve got the Cat’s Cradle and the Cat’s Cradle Back Room, the Cat’s Cradle being kind of the, the bigger capacity room … It just feels like they just gives people options, you know what I mean? The town is very supportive of one another. I don’t know, I think it’s just a change of scenery, you know, it’s kind of Black Sabbath motif, which I’m very proud of. I think the longevity of the place and people that went to school here, people that grew up here that remember going there when they were younger, I mean, are stoked to know that it’s still there and it’s still in good hands.
Don’t know Midway yet? Be a lot cooler if you did. Learn more about Lapin Bleu, and all of the Merchants at Midway, on The Record Shop page. Meet us at Midway!