On The Avenue

On The Avenue

Live music returns to Roots HQ


It has, without a doubt, been the strangest year ever for Bernice and Bryan Hembree. Playing together as Smokey & The Mirror, they should have been on the road for a good share of the spring and summer, then back home in time to produce the 11th annual Fayetteville Roots Festival.

Neither of those things happened.

“As a band, our strings have been mostly quiet the last few months,” Bernice Hembree says. “Some strumming at home, some attempts at working on new songs. After a couple of months of feeling creatively zapped, and a bit depressed about the state of the world, we’ve had to re-energize ourselves.”

The Roots Fest did have Thursday Night: A Roots Stream-a-Thon on Aug. 27, the date that should have been opening night for the 2020 event, and favorite bands like Birds of Chicago, John Fullbright, Nick Offerman & Megan Mullally, The Steel Wheels, Raina Rose and The Honey Dewdrops performed via video.

Husband-and-wife duo Bernice and Bryan Hembree will co-host an evening of streaming music Aug. 27 in support of the Roots Festival.
(Courtesy Photo)

“We were excited to play music with Bayard as a part of the Stream-a-Thon,” Hembree says. “For us, the old 3 Penny Acre songs are comfort food for the soul. That decision came a few weeks ago when we were daydreaming about what we could present.

“Smokey & The Mirror did a few online concerts early on — just like our fellow musicians, we were trying to figure out what, how and when to play music online,” she explains. “Admittedly, it is hard to play to a computer screen. We discovered that playing more than an hour is challenging and an energy drain. That energy exchange from the audience is real and precious — it is something every artist we know talks about after a show. Now, after such a long time without that energy exchange, I will value it even more.

“We brainstormed other artistic outlets: videos, new song challenges, weekly updates. But all new ideas take time and money. And that is an investment that’s hard to make during such lean times.”

So, in a leap of faith, the Hembrees have decided to bring live music back to the Roots HQ on the southeast corner of the Fayetteville square.

“The newly deemed Outdoor Recreation Area is a fantastic addition to the downtown area and has given allowance for us to move concerts outdoors,” Bernice Hembree says. “We have measured the space next to our building on East Avenue, and have mapped out how many seats and tables we can accommodate. A stage will be at the bottom side of the street, with seats filling up towards the square. I can’t wait to hear music out there under the stars with a drink in hand! Our first show at ‘Roots HQ on the Avenue’ will be Kaia Kater on Sept. 12.

“All seats will be spaced out according to how many are in a group,” Hembree explains the safety precautions they have in mind. “Masks will be required to enter the space for the restroom and when engaging with other ticketholders and staff, like when making a drink order or having a conversation with someone outside of your usual ‘germ pod.’ We are cautiously optimistic that everyone will do their part to make sure everyone stays healthy.”

Food will also be available, she adds.

“At this point, we don’t plan on food trucks but will have a meal option that is prepared for each event.”

Hembree believes “everyone is ready for live music. The musicians are ready; the audience is ready.

Born in Montreal, Kaia Kater, whose old-time banjo-picking skills, deft arrangements and songwriting abilities have landed her in the spotlight in North America and the United Kingdom, will be the first performer for Roots HQ On The Avenue on Sept. 12.
(Courtesy Photo)

“I believe a new appreciation for live music is in store for all of use. The vibration of sound, the vibration from music, the vibration we receive when we join voices together with other humans. That is something we have all missed, whether we recognize it or not. Absence makes the heart grow fonder!”


Roots HQ On The Avenue:

Kaia Kater

WHEN — 7-9 p.m. Sept. 12

WHERE — Outside the Roots HQ at 1 E. Mountain St. in Fayetteville

COST — $20-$89

INFO — https://therootsstore.square.site/concerts

Categories: Cover Story