The Pinhook celebrates five years

Oct. 31, 2013 @ 02:30 PM

One wall of the Pinhook bar on Main Street is a gallery of posters from musicians and bands who have performed at the downtown venue – Schooner, Shonen Knife, Superchunk, New Town Drunks, and more. Kym Register, owner of the Pinhook, points to an “Obama ’08” poster on a nearby wall, and calls it “our first flier.”

That poster commemorates Election Night 2008, and the opening night of the Pinhook. The coincidence was accidental, Register said. She and her two co-founders (who have since left) wanted to open earlier in fall 2008, but delays led to the Election Night opening.
One of those delays involved the bar’s liquor license, which the Pinhook did not get until Election Day, too later under law to order spirits for opening night. What happened that night, said saxophonist Steve Cowles of the Bulltown Strutters, set the tone for the place. “They gave all their beer away, and that just set the tone for the open-hearted people that they are,” Cowles said.
The Pinhook will celebrate five years of presenting music, trivia night contests, “really open mic night” with special events Saturday and Tuesday. For Saturday’s celebration, Register said she convinced the defunct metal band Tooth, the first official artists to play the bar, to regroup. Other artists who will perform during the celebration are The Bronzed Chorus, The Bastages and Big Freedia. The bar also has a new panda logo (on one wall, a new painting by Scott Nurkin shows a panda opening two cans of Pabst beer, with rainbows). 
The bar’s website tells visitors they are “welcome to bring in food AND your dog.” It also prides itself on being a safe space for the LGBTQ community, as well as “punks,” “lawyers” and “everyone else.”
“The thing that is most healthy is the most diverse,” Register said, and the founders wanted the Pinhook “to have that neighborhood feel” and for visitors to “feel at home and taken care of.”
During its history so far, Pinhook has had some eclectic musical events. In 2011, guitarist Tift Merritt and classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein led a listening session before the premiere of their song collaboration “Night.” Durham street band the Bulltown Strutters gave a pre-parade warm-up concert there during the 2011 Durham Mardi Gras celebration. Last summer, the N.C. Music Love Army, made up of North Carolina musicians, held an open rehearsal for a recording of protest songs (to be released later this year).
Caitlin Cary, one of the organizers of the Love Army, had played a Christmas concert at the venue in 2012. She “got a real nice vibe from the place” and approached Register about having the rehearsal at Pinhook. “It’s just a really good-feeling place to me,” Cary said. “Kym and her crew were very sweet and accommodating to us. It was awesome.”
Cowles approached Pinhook about the pre-parade performance because he “thought that was the ideal place to start things off.” The venue has a good reputation with musicians, Cowles said. “They’ve done things over the years that have garnered them a lot of love. One of the things that’s unique about Pinhook is they have a reputation for treating musicians fairly.”
Register has seen downtown Durham grow as a place for music. The block where Pinhook is located was “so desolate” in 2008, she recalled. Street improvements downtown had been completed, and the Durham Performing Arts Center was preparing to open, but the momentum for a lot of renovations of buildings was about to happen. Pinhook’s opening preceded that of Casbah, Motorco, Beyu Caffe and several other clubs that have made Durham more of a place to go hear music.
Register is a musician – she plays in the duo Loamlands and was a member of Midtown Dickens. “We’ve gotten to be more of a venue,” Register said of the Pinhook, citing bookings of national acts, as well as events in the $3 to $5 range, a mix she wants to continue.
Pinhook prides itself on reflecting Durham’s creativity, and Register said she will continue to rely on the community to help. “A lot of people in this town have amazingly well-thought out projects, and we are the venue for them.”


WHAT: Fifth anniversary of The Pinhook
WHEN: Saturday, 10 p.m., with musical guests Tooth, The Bronzed Chorus, The Bastages; and Tuesday, 9 p.m., with musical guest Big Freedia
WHERE: The Pinhook, 117 W. Main St., Durham
ADMISSION: $9 for Saturday show, $12 for Tuesday show