Four-year-olds can be so inspirational. Against most odds, Chapel Hill performance space and art salon Nightlight turns four this weekend, and they're celebrating by inviting lots of the incestuous creative types that are its lifeblood. After ownership changes and the challenges any live music venue encounters, it's easy to imagine what the Triangle would be missing without Nightlight. Current co-captains Alexis Mastromichalis and Charlie St. Clair continue the work of booking off-map artists while providing a welcome place for community and collaboration, like the ongoing improvisational workshop series Recess.
Isaac Trogdon, co-founder of the club with Lauren Ford, says that the locale itself is a great part of the club's success. "At the time I sensed an appetite in the area for an alternative to the alternative: old-guard indie music," he says from the road, on his way to town for the show from his home in Berlin, Germany (his electro-acoustic group with John McCusker, Southern Man, will be performing Saturday). "The difference is the location: The Skylight [Exchange] had always been a place for free-thinking, time-wasting, hippie action-ism. In that regard, it does not surprise me that [Nightlight] has lasted so long. Had I started it somewhere else, I don't think it would have lasted or even should have lasted. As the other half of the Skylight, it could probably continue forever."
What Trogdon calls "action-ism" sums up Nightlight's ethos well: The folks who revel most in the place's existence stake a claim in its survival. They man the door. They play in the bands. They relish in a communal sense of responsibility.
In short, they've managed their own little corner of the map with chutzpah and trust, says Trogdon. "The great unknowns [at work here] are timing and spirit, or—pardon the expression—zeitgeist. Does anyone care about your idea? Do you care about your idea?"
Thankfully, Nightlight still cares.
Nightlight's four-year anniversary party with Southern Man, Boyzone, DJ Family Vacation, DJ Nasty Boots and Pykrete Percussion Unit starts at 10 p.m. Saturday, March 3.