In his July 2017 article entitled, 4 REASONS WHY SMALL MUSIC VENUES ARE MORE ENJOYABLE, Brian Howarth says, What small venues lack in space, they gain in concert value. Think of a small venue as a compressed version of a large venue. It contains all of the same elements and compresses them into a more refined and less-cluttered space. The same energy, the same joy, the same everything. He goes on to list his four top reasons: You’re closer to the band, the sound, the energy, and lastly ( perhaps most importantly ), intimacy. With intimacy comes trust and with trust comes love.
That is the case with Olios, formerly Rodi, founded in 1996 in what was once the gymnasium of the old Gastonia High School, built in 1923. It would seem the restaurant is only following suit in the list of owners and name changes. The high school was later changed to the Frank L Ashley Senior High School in 1955, before being transformed to Ashley Junior High School until 1986. The school stood vacant from 1986 until 1988 before going through two different owners until renovated into luxury apartments. I know several friends who both live or have lived in those apartments, yet the energy of the past resides fully within the walls and halls of the building: lifetimes, laughter, wonder years, ringing bells, pep rallies, first loves, broken hearts, and healing.
History is a spirit that cannot be eradicated by reconstruction. Ashley Arms Apartments is proof that spirit is one of youthful regeneration and survival. But is that spirit strong enough to permeate the restaurant's continuation despite closing again in a few weeks? That's what everyone was asking last night after reading the announcement on social networking sites.
Once considered an "Eclectic and Delicious" hidden gem of Gastonia, Rodi was "A place not to be missed." Over the years, Rodi underwent managerial changes until 2016, when it became OLIO’S LLC, the dreamchild of Jenny C. Carrington - local business woman, according to the "ABOUT US" page from their website. Regardless of the changes ( managerial or name ), the building itself developed a nostalgic charm triggering memories for more than one generation. Over the years I frequented/photographed various dinners and events, and there was never a time I wasn't immediately grasped with a sense of belonging, or wanting to belong when venturing through the doors.
The playful spirit of camaraderie remains despite a fresh coat of arms or new decor. Last night's crowd was a mixture of both the old and new to pay homage to Olio's final live music performance by local musician David Childers and the Serpents. Who, ironically, aren't new to the name game themselves, once having been called David Childers and the Mount Holly Hell Cats , The Modern Don Juans, and The Overmountain Men ( among others ), according to groupie Amy Moore, who rarely missed a performance with her partner in crime, Dolores Pearson ( and, admittedly, for the most part, me ). Amy added, I have eaten, listened to live music, and danced in the same spot where I took gym in 7th grade when the building was Ashley Junior High School. I have been told that my maternal grandfather was in the 1st class to graduate from the, then new, Gastonia High School. I certainly hope that a new restaurant will open there that can continue the wonderful, cozy, eclectic vibe.
How have the changes affected the band? Positively. CD and album sales are at a high, and bookings are national. How will it affect the restaurant? That remains to be seen.
Does Olio's have the same energy to survive the changes and regenerate as its counter building and musical line-ups, who've not only endured but flourished under their new monikers? Everything Brian Howarth said was present in a small music venue was definitely present last night. We were closer to the band, the sound permeated to our core, the energy was palpable, and lastly ( maybe most importantly ), there was an intimacy that went beyond just the small venue. It reached from its past through the present toward endurance and survival of not the strongest, but the most loved and remembered.
Which is what it all comes down to. Unlike Brian, I’m not still just talking about music. I'm talking about history that has the potential to survive despite the changes it faces; a tried and true venue whose energy is channeled through memories. While those memories may not be the most pleasant for some, they're timeless for most. Those filled with lifetimes, laughter, wonder years, pep rallies, first loves, broken hearts, and finally ( definitely most important ), healing.