Dante had nothing on Chapel Hill's Hell. Or at least he didn't have as much fun in the circles of his own Inferno. Look around the bar buried in the bowels of a three-pub building at Rosemary Street, and the walls speak echoes both tawdry (like the hot-rod artist Coop's devil girl in the corner) and telling (like the face of Jesse Helms staring back in another). Hell turns 10 this month, and they're partying with some homegrown traditions, like their signature trivia and big beat dance parties, with the addition of—wait for it—live bands in the basement.
After a couple of successful gigs kicking off this month's festivities, they're powering through a celebratory series all month with what bartender and Fin Fang Foom bassist Eddie Sanchez (who just celebrated his 10th year with the band) describes as an easy transition with quick results. "It sounds awesome and, well, we already had a stage," he says after a shift last week. "We're gonna do it on and off from here on."
Sanchez says the place was always meant to be an escape, and it still is. Ten years in, long-timers start to feel like close-knit alumni, and—at Hell—that can mean anyone from a Vespa scooter club having its weekly meeting to punk leather dudes and aldermen convening. Now the escape and communion can involve some informal rock nights. They will be "house show style ... we'll pass the hat if we need to get a band some gas money," says Sanchez. Sounds right for a club that's always had its share of local rock stars on both sides of the bar, especially when Triangle live music venues are again in a state of flux.
"It's nice to have another place to go see live music," says Sanchez in his generally subdued, knowing tone. "We just wanna be ... getting friends to play who don't mind carrying their stuff down those stairs."
Hell's birthday party continues with Blix and Legion of the Fallen on Tuesday, April 24, a round of Supertrivia on Thursday, April 26, and a Carolina Soul dance party on Saturday, April 28. For more on the series, see www.myspace.com/chapel_hell.