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Two familiar rooms have fresh faces 

Mark Connor is part of The Cave's new ownership group.

Photo by Ian Dunn

Mark Connor is part of The Cave's new ownership group.

For the four years Adam Lindstaedt has lived in the Triangle, he's been trying to open a venue. Leads on as many as six potential rooms fell through, leading up to one that, after months of work, he says got tantalizingly close.

"There was a club next door," Lindstaedt explains. "Their sound was bleeding into the room at 95 dB."

As that final deal collapsed, Pour House founder Eric Mullen learned that Lindstaedt was trying to buy a venue. Mullen wasn't looking to sell, but he was intrigued by the idea. Eight weeks after their first meeting, the 350-capacity room now belongs to Lindstaedt.

"I'm retiring," Mullen says with a straight face before shaking his head and laughing, "at 41!" Mullen also owns an off-site bartending company and has a general contractor's license, two businesses he will focus on while slowly phasing out of The Pour House.

A few hundred yards west of The Pour House, on the opposite side of the venue's downtown Raleigh block, sits Slim's. The room has a fraction of the capacity, but ambitious bookings by talent buyer Mark Connor have led to a Love Language residency in 2011 and remarkable fringe-metal such as Dragged into Sunlight and Abigail Williams. Like Lindstaedt, Connor wanted to own a venue—not just any venue: The Cave.

It was the first room the bassist played when he moved to Raleigh in 2008. And when the 44-year-old Chapel Hill bar went on the market on Feb. 27, he wanted to know more.

"I've admired The Cave for years," he says. "When I became aware that it was for sale almost a year ago, I hoped to be involved with the buyers." He partnered with Van Alston, who has owned Slim's since 1999, and Richard Darling. If all goes smoothly, the venue will change hands Oct. 1. The idea is for it and Slim's to work together as sister clubs.

Billy Sugarfix moved to Chapel Hill in 1988 and has been playing the venue ever since; his July 4th and Christmas shows are long-running Cave traditions. "Oddly, no matter how much things are moved around and rearranged, The Cave always seems the same to me," he says. "The main change I can think of is when they started serving liquor."

The Cave provides a necessary middle ground between midsize clubs with soundmen who take a cut of the door and coffee shops too mellow for some rock bands. Sugarfix describes it as a space where anything goes; he recalls bobbing for Budweiser at one Halloween show.

"I once had this crazy dream in which I was at The Cave and saw Captain Beefheart playing chess with a knight in shining armor. They each had a shot of whiskey," he says. "When I told people about the dream, the main reaction was to inform me that The Cave only sold beer." His prime concern with the sale is that The Cave remains a receptive home to the weirdos he loves—and who may not feel as at-home elsewhere.

Whereas Sugarfix wants to be keep The Cave weird, The Pour House may be getting even weirder. "Uncle John" Moyer is closing Shakedown Street, a jammy little room across Hillsborough from N.C. State's D.H. Hill Library. He's bringing his vibe and bands to The Pour House.

"[Moyer] was coming over here to talk about passing bands between the two venues," says Linstaedt. "He comes over here and throws a résumé on my desk and says 'Shakedown's closing. I'm here for a job interview.'" The shift will keep The Pour House open seven nights each week, with the first few days populated by Shakedown-style open mics and showcases, played through Moyer's PA to save on soundman costs.

Shakedown's long, strange trip may be over now, as is Lindstaedt's venue hunt. And Connor is happy to finally co-own a room he's long respected. What remains to be seen is if people like Sugarfix—the longtime regulars of these clubs—stick with whatever happens next.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Resident advisors."

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