The Milestone is properly named. Spanning over 40 years of rock history, it’s been called everything from the CBGB’s of The South to a shithole. Both are true. The place opened in 1969 at the hands of Bill Flowers. “I designed it off a place I spent some time (at) in San Francisco where if you clapped right you might hear yourself on vinyl next month,” he recalls. Over the years, The Milestone has built an impressive roster of who’s-who acts. Many times, those bands played The Milestone years before becoming household names. R.E.M., Nirvana, Sunny Day Real Estate, Fugazi, Black Flag, Mission of Burma, Hole, Dinosaur Jr., Camper Van Beethoven, and Violent Femmes have all played The Milestone.
A converted home and shop, it’s no wonder The Milestone feels more like a big living room, a graffitied, beat-to-hell living room, than a music venue. It’s rumored Kurt Cobain once signed his name on the walls, one of many who have scribbled a note to future generations. It’s almost a right of Charlotte music scene passage to add your name to the list. The main room holds scarcely 100, and the adjacent bar holds a fraction of that. If you are drinking anything other than PBR, you’re in the wrong place.
The Milestone is located near the heart of Charlotte. Since its inception, the neighborhood has been — how to say this nicely? — rundown. During its heyday in the ’80s and ’90s, it didn’t quite matter. Fans came for the bands; however, now that Charlotte has dramatically changed since banking has taken over the Uptown area, there seems to be a white collar push to gentrify hot spots in Charlotte. The North Davidson Street area (called NoDa), for instance, has been safe for yuppie consumption for several years now. It also boasts two of the best small musical venues in Charlotte: The Evening Muse and The Neighborhood Theatre. It’s no secret that all this good PR for NoDa has hurt The Milestone. Most likely in an effort to create it’s own niche, The Milestone has almost exclusively been booking metal, hardcore, and punk shows, most of the acts regional and local.
The woes for The Milestone started in the late ’90s and early ’00s when Charlotte booking became lean. Bands were starting to hop over Charlotte entirely for trendy locales such as Chapel Hill and Asheville where indie and underground sold. Twenty-somethings, Neal Harper and Philip Shive took over ownership several years ago, and while things may not be what they used to, they’ve held The Milestone together. They’ve capitalized on the intimacy The Milestone has to offer, and bands that are looking to make a name for themselves appreciate playing the venue because of the ease of interaction with the audience. Bands regularly abandon the stage to play a bit out into the floor for a track or two. All house music played before and after concerts is played from a record player. It’s little touches like this that give the place an authentic and original atmosphere. The XX and Dirty Projectors won’t be playing The Milestone, but for a small venue with a lot of character, you can’t go wrong picking up a show on a whim any night of the week.
Below is a must-watch video. The audio is from a show Nirvana played at The Milestone in 1990. Cobain alters some of the lyrics to “Love Buzz”. Unfortunately, there isn’t a video feed, just some publicity photos. Regardless, it’s a nice little piece of history.
3400 Tuckaseegee Road
Charlotte, NC 28208
For booking email Philip and Neal.
To view a complete schedule of upcoming events, click here.