BEYOND THE MUSIC: Taking the pulse of ILM’s music scene with Modern Legend’s Catherine Hawksworth

We constantly talk to musicians who tour through the port city, as well as those who have made ILM home. Yet, musicians and songwriters aren’t the only ones invested in a thriving live music community here (high fives to Hourglass Studio, 98.3 The Penguin, Reggie’s, WHQR, Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, Bourgie Nights, Bottega, The Whiskey, Palm Room, et al)—places that nourish music with live shows or airing it to the masses.

THE MALE MEN: Heavy rock never sounded so good as with local rock outfit The Male Men, who will play Modern Legend on June 14 for a free show. Courtesy photo
THE MALE MEN: Heavy rock never sounded so good as with local rock outfit The Male Men, who will play Modern Legend on June 14 for a free show. Courtesy photo

Front Street’s Modern Legend founder, Catherine Hawksworth, is looking to be a part of what she sees as a musical resurgence. When Hawksworth opened her record/clothing/housewares/beauty/lifestyle store nearly three years ago, her plan always included its fold into the music scene.

“[I started] with selling records, then changing locations, and eventually getting to where we are now [130 N. Front St. #102], which is having both in-store shows once a month and working with venues consistently to promote and sponsor events where we put bills together for bands.”

Modern Legend’s boutique shows are once a month. Hawksworth has brought in the likes of Wax Imperials and Team Player, as well as helped book a regional tour for Raleigh’s Arson Daily last year. Last week she coordinated a Glam Rock Party at Satellite with the Beehive Blondes, and brought Jared Sales and Coastal Collective back together to play Bourgie Nights on June 1, along with sax player Tristan Burns’ side project Afterlyfe.”The other girls working with me are Haley Smith, who does all of our photos at these events and Casey Jones who helps with the event coordinating,” she adds.

The next event Hawksworth is gearing up for is Emo Night with The Pour House on Tuesday, June 11.

“We basically are giving everyone in their mid-to-late 20s a chance to relive their early/mid 2000s emo era that we definitely all went through,” she says. “We are doing a pop-up shop, people are dressing up, and there will be a hell of a playlist going, as well as drink specials. . . . After that, we are doing an in-store show on June 14 with The Male Men, Team Player and Seeking Madras—which I imagine may just be our biggest in store show yet.”

encore sat down with Hawksworth to get her take on live music in ILM and which bands to keep an ear out for in 2019.

encore (e): Tell me about your drive to be a part of Wilmington’s live music scene, and your official/unofficial role in it right now…

Catherine Hawksworth (CH): My role, I suppose, is pretty complex. I own the shop itself and work in here often, but I work with Sean Thomas Gerard (Onward, Soldiers) at Bourgie Nights a lot to get shows going. He’s like my other half in the music world here; he runs sound and booking, and is probably my biggest supporter and believer in terms of what I’m trying to do. Booking and promoting music is starting to become more of my role than anything.

I also work with Satellite sometimes, recently started to work with Palate, occasionally with Reggie’s. I’m trying to collaborate with as many people as possible, but Bourgie is for sure my homebase.

e: What’s your ultimate vision for Modern Legend—particularly when it comes to live music and the record store aspect?

CH: It’s definitely on its path to being what I want—more of a brand/lifestyle than anything. I never liked the idea of a business having to be one thing, which makes sense with my patterns over the years. I would like to keep expanding on the music and make a booking/promoting agency under the same name someday, maybe even a venue in the very far future (a girl can dream, right?!), and definitely a second location somewhere outside of Wilmington.

e: You mention a “music resurgence” in Wilmington. Could you elaborate on where you think the music scene here has been, where it is now and where it could/should go?

CH: Right now seems to be a very inspiring time for Wilmington; it’s refreshing and exciting to be a part of it. There’s a lot of young blood, and those people are hungry and willing to work to get to where they want to be. I think there was a big decline when the Soapbox closed—an undeniable fact—and then Bourgie Nights opened and kind of saved the day in some ways. I know they’re a much smaller venue but they do cater to both bigger acts and local ones, which we need. I think they play a lead role in the resurgence. I definitely think what we are doing both in store and out of it plays a big role as well.

Then there’s the musicians themselves, without whom none of this would even be possible. There are some that are really, truly impressing me right now.

e: Who? What do you love about their sound and live performances?

CH: Firstly, I want to mention Team Player. They are a group of three guys in their 20s, playing the sounds of old Death-Cab-for-Cutie-meets-Nirvana, but with the melodic side of The Beatles. So they’re musically strong [and] lyrically deep, but the music itself is going to consistently make you dance, show up to shows, and have one of their catchy choruses stuck in your head. They’re one of the only bands in town checking off all of the boxes, in my opinion. They also just got asked to open for The Love Language’s anniversary tour, which is a pretty big deal!

Along with them, a girl who goes by stage name “Rosemary” is totally killing it. It’s just her and a drummer—and she’s on the electric guitar. It’s like super fun indie rock. She’s got one song that makes me think of the band Best Coast, which just makes me want to always exist in summertime Wilmington. She’s super new and is filling out rooms, which is awesome.

Another solid one right now is Wax Imperials—heavier, very Queens of the Stone Age. They have an EP out called “Bad Deals” that is so well done. They are bringing more life to the heavier rock scene . . .  and are on a bill with He Is Legend for their album release show—a great gig.

I have so many more I could talk about but want to at least name-drop: Seeking Madras bringing The Stone Roses sound to town; Tumbleweed killing the alternative folk/singer-songwriter thing; The Frondeurs being the only band to cater to the ‘60s-rock vibes … the list goes on!

e: What was the last show you went to in town?

CH: I go to like two shows a week; I won’t lie. It’s how I discover new bands and also it’s my therapy in a way. I think the last local one was Kevin Earl, Rosemary, and The Frondeurs at Gravity Records. They are also a really big part of making this music stuff happen. Matt Keen over at Gravity is a good friend of mine, and we’re looking to collaborate a lot more over the coming year!

e: How long have you lived in the Wilmington area? Tell us more about yourself and opening up Modern Legend.

CH: I grew up here for the most part. I was born in England but moved here very young. And then left from ages 17 to 23 and just moved all over the place. And I did it on my own so there was a lot to figure out. I was never someone who could stick to one thing or even one place, so college was challenging for me. I’ve always been somewhere between a totally neurotic type a planner and someone who will make an impulsive decision and change my entire life. One thing that remained the same, though, is that I was always (and still am) very into working hard. I’ve always loved feeling accomplished after a good day of work and I’ve always believed hard work can get you to where you want to be. So I started in retail when I was still in high school and worked my way up that ladder all through my late teens and early 20s. My last corporate retail gig was running an Urban Outfitters out in Seattle. When I was about to be 24, I decided to head back east and I wanted to do something of my own and really believed I could. I had a lot of reasons for coming back—family, cost of living, the ocean, that whole thing. And here we are!

e: What’s your connection to music—do you play or sing yourself in some capacity or are you just a big fan?

CH: Love this question. Because I don’t do anything musically! I sing in my car and in the shower and it’s awful. I tried piano once, that lasted a month. I really do think that the music industry specifically needs people that are just artists and people that are just business driven. I love people, I love working with people and I love surprising people. I grew up with parents in the music industry who are just like me and not at all musically inclined, but can name every important record from 1964 to 1971 and tell you precisely why it’s so monumental to the world of music. It’s always been a language in the Hawksworth household, ever since I was a baby. Every family has traditions or inside things and ours just was (and is) music. We are an extremely tight knit family so it’s almost like, in our blood. Not many people know this, but I started a record label at 18 when I was living somewhere in the southeast … Atlanta maybe? … and it totally failed. I mean, I had no clue what I was doing. I look back on it and it’s really charming and funny to me considering where I am in comparison now. I also remember in high school, my senior project was about Live Aid. And I decided for my physical project, that I wanted to do a live show and I wanted to book and promote it so that’s what I did! And ten years later, at 26, I sold out my first show that I booked and promoted here in Wilmington. So the whole full circle thing has been wild, and really moving to be honest. I also got involved when I lived out west with Live Nation, so that has carried on for me here. I essentially will just go on small runs of tours and help with meet & greet, production, and VIP work. I have like 18 jobs, it keeps things interesting!

e: What are your thoughts on the new Live Nation venue opening up downtown next year?
CH: I love that we are getting a real amphitheater, I think it’ll change the game in terms of great music we have coming through town because when these large acts get offered deals between us, Charleston, Myrtle Beach—we now have a chance to really get some solid bands through here. Greenfield Lake has also really stepped up their game this year. They have some insanely good people coming through and I’ve already been to a handful of shows myself there this year. The good thing about Greenfield is that they often have a local person open for the act, which is always what a town wants to see. I will say that I don’t think the amphitheater will do the same. These large acts will come with touring support, so I don’t think it’ll necessarily help our local music scene but will help our overall opportunities to see amazing live music.

Emo Night
Tuesday, June 11, 7 p.m.
The Pour House
103 Market St.

The Male Men, Team Player and Seeking Madras
Friday, June 14, 8 p.m.
Modern Legend • 130 N. Front St.
Free • BYOB

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