Magnolia Roots Music Lounge brings bluegrass, country fans to Wake Forest

Sugar Magnolia Café’s Howard Sadel opened Magnolia Roots to showcase local acts.

Sugar Magnolia Café’s Howard Sadel opened Magnolia Roots to showcase local acts.

Since opening its Magnolia Roots Music Lounge in 2018, the downstairs basement of Sugar Magnolia Café in Wake Forest has been a prized destination for people looking to listen to bluegrass and folk music without annoying chatter and rambunctious patrons one can sometimes encounter while at your typical music venue.

Selling out shows such as Jim Avett, Jill Andrews, Into the Fog and Fireside Collective, this small-capacity venue relies on its intimate setting. Take for instance the front row of the music lounge. One is literally 18 inches away from the band, who resides on a stage 6-inches off the ground. Your VIP seating is a church pew that owner Howard Sadel said he had to cut down and make sure everything lined up so the pew was level.

There’s no backstage, per se, as band members have to disembark on a 6-inch drop off the stage and exit stage right to a small area roped off by a white sheet. But this is great. It allows the musicians to interact with their fans in a very intimate setting. Try to catch artists like Billy Joel or Elton John where you’re sitting front row and you’re probably spending over $500 per seat. Here at Magnolia Roots Music Lounge, most shows have a suggested donation of $10.

We took the opportunity to head over to Wake Forest and spend a few moments with Sadel in the vacant lounge. With all the seats lined up waiting for an upcoming show, we glanced at all the fliers on the walls as we discussed how this all came about.

Fliers on the basement’s walls are reminiscent to the days of the past.

Fliers on the basement’s walls are reminiscent to the days of the past.

Related Link: Sugar Magnolia Café makes a 20-year dream come true.

Q: Tells us more about Magnolia Roots. This is a collaboration between you and who?

A: We teamed up with Mike Allen. He originally started a group that was trying to get original live artists into different store fronts around Wake Forest. Mike introduced himself, and I was like, ‘Look, we’re both trying to do the same thing.’ We started upstairs in the dining room. We found that successful and ran out of space pretty quick. Mike has a great handle on the local music scene, since he’s put on other concerts and benefits.

Q: Most of your shows are on the weekend, correct? Magnolia Roots doesn’t do a lot of weekday shows.

A: Yes. We do Fridays and Saturdays and a lot of Thursday nights that have become ticketed shows. An artist might be doing a bigger show on the weekend, but we can get them on a Thursday. We also do Sundays that have become our singer/songwriter series once a month. Brian Stephenson from Into the Fog hosts and that’s been really great. We have three different artists that come in, and each do a 45-minute set of their originals.

Q: Looking at Magnolia Roots live schedule online, it appears most of the music/artists perform bluegrass, country and folk music.

A: My original idea was to do what Hilly [Kristal] at [New York’s] CBGB’s originally set out to do – country, bluegrass and blues. I thought maybe we’ll call ours BGBC’s and just switch it around or something like that. I’m a big fan of that sort of roots music. Here in Raleigh the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) has really changed things. There’s so many different types of music, from bluegrass to new grass, to high-energy, like Into the Fog.

Magnolia Roots offers patrons a very intimate evening of original, live music from local artists.

Magnolia Roots offers patrons a very intimate evening of original, live music from local artists.

Q: Magnolia Roots is different that other venues such as Cat’s Cradle and the Lincoln Theater where doors open at 7 p.m. and the first act doesn’t even get on stage until shortly after 8 p.m.

A: All our shows start at the same time – from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. We find that its very beneficial because our demographic are a little older music fans. They’re not looking to go to a show that starts at 11 p.m. at night. They’re not looking to fight for a place to park in downtown Raleigh, so they appreciate a nice early start and an intimate setting.

Q: You mentioned that for the most part the shows here are a suggested donation. Does that mean you get a lot of walk-ins the night of the shows?

A: Yes. We get a lot of walk-ins. They hear the music because there’s a lot more going on on White Street now. You have a couple new restaurants and bars, and that’s actually helped us. A lot of the shows are donation only, so we ask for $10 for the band and put out the red bucket – it works out. The people that come here are appreciative of original, live music.

Q: Tell us more about this partnership with 95.7. This is an internet radio station devoted to playing Americana, folk, rock and bluegrass.

A: It’s a terrific station. I started hearing them and thought that they align perfectly with what we’re doing. They support local bands and showcase them on air. This isn’t some pirate radio. It’s Capitol Broadcasting. We buy spots and have a trade deal with them. We want to help them just as much as they can help us. I want to do whatever I can do, so we push them out on our newsletter and on our website.

Check out Magnolia Roots list of scheduled events here.