Just by its very nature, film is the medium we use to capture a time gone by and invoke the good feelings we held in our youth, aka nostalgia. While pictures have a way of capturing moments, film allows us as a community to come together and talk, remember, and find insight into the good old days.
The small town of Elkin, North Carolina was once booming with its textile industry and tobacco farms. But as with all small towns, time passed them by. The big box stores found cheaper sources of textiles overseas and tobacco…well you know. But Elkin somehow became a hub for local, small-town music. In Michael Lippert’s documentary Reeves: A Home For Music, he captures a community coming together to find a home to music in the town of Elkin.
The story centers on an old movie theater in the middle of Elkin known as The Reeves. Built in the 1940s, it was one of those large classic theaters of the past that showed one film at a time and whose exteriors boasted a large marquee and a massive sign proudly illuminating “Reeves” in the center of town.
“…it was one of those large classic theaters of the past that showed one film at a time and whose exteriors boasted a large marquee and a massive sign…”
Passionate about finding a proper venue for the community’s vibrant Appalachian folk music scene, Debbie Carson and Dr. Chris Groner take on the monumental task of restoring the Reeves to its former glory and create a facility perfect for music in every way. With the help of co-owner and jack-of-all-trades, Erik Dahlager, they would give everything they had to make this dream a reality.
Director Lippert tackles a few strands of this story. First, he explores the music scene in Elkin itself. The small town hit hard by the recession would not force local musicians into hiding. It was not uncommon for multiple gatherings of musicians to take place in various homes on a weekend night and even in several rooms of the same house. Carson and Groner felt a calling to find a truly professional spot for these musicians to gather.
Opening a music hall is not easy, and it’s not cheap either. Then add to that the cost and trouble of restoring a historic building, raising (or begging) for money for the Reeves would not be fun by any stretch of the imagination. But the community wanted to see this happen from local residents to local musicians, including Sam Tayloe (lead singer of Time Sawyer). His contribution came in the form of a musical event he spearheaded in 2011 known as the Reevestock Music Festival. The first year was to raise money and bring awareness to the project. It was easy to find musicians to perform and an audience to attend. So successful, the festival still goes on today.
“Every shot is a piece of art and masterfully composed. Then there’s the music…”
The rest of the documentary goes into the difficulty of actually renovating an old building—so it doesn’t kill everyone, working with city permits, and getting the best sound and acoustics to create the best experience for performers and fans. As with an old building, you never really know the problems you face, until you actually face them.
Stories of communities banding together toward a common goal are not new. Inspiring tales such as Reeves: A Home For Music is just the David-vs-Goliath motivational boost that our worn-down spirit needs to get us through to the next valley in life. But if you’re not into inspiration, then see the film for its beautiful cinematography. Every shot is a piece of art and masterfully composed. Then there’s the music. There are only a few musical genres that are decidedly American, and the hopeful, defiance of folk music is on full display. Time to get those toes tapping.
Reeves: A Home For Music (2019) Directed by Michael Lippert.
8 out of 10 stars