Folks who came out to May 27’s Robert Randolph and the Family Band performance at Throne Theater likely noticed some changes. Randolph played on a newly resurfaced stage; new risers were installed to improve line-of-sight from the balcony; and new sound systems and equipment were among the renovations new owner Dr. Damian Brezinski has implemented in recent weeks.
“We’re getting to new bathrooms,” Brezinski quips of the latest round of updates. “Our punch list has been long and lustrous, but we haven’t quite done that. We’ve also renovated the upstairs area, which will be dubbed ‘Clio,’ [and] it will be its own separate performance hall.”
Also, as of Tuesday, May 30, the building that has gone through numerous name changes in its two decades—from Jacob’s Run to Metropolis to Hammerjacks to Rox to Brickhouse to Ziggy’s by the Sea and then Throne—will become The Muse, short for The Blue-Eyed Muse.
After a very brief “retirement,” Dr. Brezinski opened Island Cardiology in Carolina Beach about year ago. The physician, and well-known musician and arts enthusiast, then pounced on an opportunity to buy Throne Theater, which became official on January 1, 2017.
“I was more than eager to take over and really give it a whole new look,” Brezinski says. “Mission accomplished. We’re very very proud of what we did.”
Brezinski—who also founded the charity Chords for a Cause in 2009—planned on renaming the space from day one. Mostly, he wanted a fresh start and a new look to go with all of the upgrades. Brezinski envisions The Muse becoming one of the South’s premiere performance venues.
“We’ve done a full-on six-figure renovation,” he tells. “With everything looking completely different and everything functioning completely different; a new top-of-the-line staff who are really committed to exceptional service. We’ve got new booking agencies and a phenomenal summer calendar that we’re going to roll out [on May 30].”
In addition to The Muse’s main-hall capacity of 850, Clio upstairs can comfortably seat 150 people for singer-songwriter performances, meet-and-greets, radio shows, and various other events. Brezinski’s goal is to have some sort of function every night of the year, from regional, national and international touring acts to local bands and musicians. This includes a weekly music and arts event, Fair and Friends, each Wednesday night.
Hosted by singer-songwriter David Fair and artist Elizabeth Anne Ashford, Fair and Friends launched a few weeks ago and features local performers and visual artists. Each Wednesday, from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m., six local musicians play, and six artists show and sell their works. There is live community painting for anyone who wants to join in as well.
“Instead of it being like an open mic, I just want to bring a professionalism I know from Nashville to the community here,” Fair says. “We want to help local musicians and artists.”
Fair met Brezinski about seven years ago while touring with his country/rock duo, The Mulch Brothers. Fair fell in love with the Port City with each stopover. “There was something special about [Wilmington],” he tells.
When Fair parted ways with The Mulch Brothers and Nashville, he moved to Wilmington and reconnected with Brezinski three years ago. Fair had another stint as a duo with Madonna Nash, called “Nash and Fair,” but has since returned to his roots as a solo artist.
“A few months ago I gave [Brezinski] a call because I wanted to open up for major artists again and rebrand myself as a solo artist,” he recalls. He and Ashford also had an idea to host a larger festival-like event to center on music and art. “Then Damian came to me with something similar to that vision.”
While Fair curates the roughly six musicians featured each week, Ashford handles the six visual artists and their work. Ashford is excited to work with other local artists, many of whom she has been in exhibitions with or has known for quite a while.
“I have a lot of respect for the artists in our local community,” she says, “and I feel honored and excited to show off their talent in a showcase at The Muse/Clio. . . . Fair and Friends is a very unique mash-up within itself. Having local art paired with local music in a venue that not many visual artists have shown their works before is what makes it all an interesting mix.”
Thus far Fair and Friends has welcomed Cara Schauble, Chayenne, Jeremy Mathews, the Cassiopeia Duo, and more to the Clio stage. Fair himself also has performed new songs from a solo album (his third to date) he hopes to release on his own label in the next six months or so.
“I’ll play once a month or something, but I want to give the local music community a chance to play,” he says. “I like hosting, I’m very comfortable doing that. I’ll definitely sneak in with another artist, and play harmonica or guitar or something. Last Wednesday I sat in with [Jake Newman] on harmonica and background vocals.”
Always free to the public, this Wednesday’s Fair and Friends is going to be a little bit larger, in honor of the venue’s official debut as The Muse. While a few past performers will return, Fair and Ashford are still working on a final lineup of musicians and artists. The best way to get involved with Fair and Friends is to attend shows or follow them on Facebook.
“I’m normally painting live alongside our audience collaborative, so come paint with me sometime,” Ashford invites. “You can also reach out to me through social media, if you’re interested as a local artist to showcase artworks.”
The Muse will have an official ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening with Mayor Saffo on June 21 at 4:30 p.m., followed by The Wailers onstage that night.