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Crimson spark keeps this little town hopping
The Crimson Moon is located in a historic store building just off the square in Dahlonega. - photo by Tom Reed

On most nights of the week, music lovers can catch bluegrass, folk or even an occasional gospel show.

Performers have included renowned Australian guitarist Geoff Achison and regional acts like The New Familiars or Christobel and the Jons.

And no, this isn't Midtown Atlanta we're talking about here - this is downtown Dahlonega, an otherwise sleepy mountain town that embraces its artsy side and enjoys coming out to a music venue that brings in regional and even national acts.

This fall, The Crimson Moon - an intimate coffee house, restaurant and performance space - will celebrate its eighth anniversary, and while owner Dana LaChance admits she's dialing down the live music from every night of the week to four nights, it's still one of the few places in the North Georgia mountains to catch high-quality live music on a regular basis.

"When I first did the mission statement the weekend before Sept. 11 (2001), I wrote the mission statement and set a goal to be a nationally known, multi-genre acoustic venue," said LaChance, who had owned an outdoors store in the same space on the Dahlonega square, but didn't have experience in the restaurant industry. "I like lots of different music, and I think it's a creative spirit that makes it happen; it has to be very diverse."

That business plan turned into, first, an eclectic art gallery and coffee shop. Then, she started serving more food and eventually branched out into live music. Today, it's an eclectic space that is making a name for itself as a must-stop for bands as they hit the road between Atlanta and points north.

The live music focuses on bluegrass, roots and folk rock, LaChance said, but she's also booked gospel and old-time music, too.

It helps to have a little town that's supportive of the arts, she said, and has a thriving tourism industry to help fill the seats on any given night.

"Dahlonega helps a lot ... It's a destination point town, like Charleston (S.C.) would be from a tourism standpoint," she said. "It gives me 10 times the people around the weekends than it would normally."

But it also helps to treat your musicians, well, she added. Because the space is small - she calls it a "listening room" because it's understood that you go there to hear the music, not have a conversation - artists feel like the crowd genuinely wants to hear what they have to play.

"We treat the performers really, really well. And they would have such a good time," she said. "They would go tell other artists because they treat you well and people really listen. And it ends up being more about performing artists talking to other artists, or their agents would call me and say, ‘I've heard great things about your place.'"

A painting LaChance recently bought illustrates where the club and restaurant is right now, she said.

Titled "Life is but a Dream," it shows an American flag, a red-haired girl (like her daughter) with the wind blowing through it. And to LaChance, it's an illustration of your dreams taking you places.

"We just try to do a really good job to make the experience a really wonderful experience for the audience and the performer," she said. "Making sure they get paid and keeping everyone happy.

"Music makes my heart beat."