Free the Optimus plays Howard Street Exchange after party

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Kelsey Hamm

Free the Optimus, winner of the 2015 Carolina Music Awards Best Hip Hop Group, and the Pragmaddix performed at The Local on Sunday night to celebrate a successful Howard Street Exchange.

The Howard Street Exchange took place Sunday evening to celebrate local bands, business and arts, local craft vendor Alex Ontario said.

“I’m here at the after party because Free the Optimus is great for doing this show,” Ontario said. “They hail from Asheville and are very successful now, so it’s a great thing that they come here for our music scene.”

“Qwyck” Cardino, singer/song writer for the Pragmaddix, said he was happy to come out and support the local artistic community.

“We are here to show love for the Howard Street Exchange and what it represents,” Cardino said. “We were out at the event for a long time today despite the elements. It’s really great to see people out doing their thing, rain or shine.”

Cardino met his music partner, Artemis “Diesel,” in high school before taking on hip-hop full time and professionally.

“We both try not to take our music too seriously, but the recognition we’ve had is nice,” Cardion said.

The Local re-designed last October from its previous venue, Char, in order to focus on live music events, said bouncer Bo Bonham. Now, the venue has a more comfortable atmosphere.

“Usually a lot of the Thursday nights that we have are very crazy,” Bonham said, “over 700 people come through the door throughout the night. Generally Friday and Saturday we have a smaller atmosphere where no one has to fight to get to the bar.”

Ontario agrees that the new atmosphere is better.

“This town needed another music venue,” Ontario said. “The restaurant is starting to book some great bands now — Free the Optimus is proof of that.”

Free the Optimus and the Pragmaddix will perform at 9 p.m. on Aug. 29 at The Orange Peel in Asheville. The band will release their new album, “Solar Panels,” in September and a seven track EP in October.

Story: Kelsey Hamm, A&E Editor