Since the beginning of the year, The Brewery had been on a nearly permanent vacation. Boston's cheesiest popsters, Cardinal Direction, played the venue in mid-January, and Rob Watson teamed up with The Nickel Slots for a date there on January 16. But besides a packed Strike Anywhere show presented by the Cat's Cradle two weeks ago, The Brewery, which opened in 1983, has been a quiet haunting ground for a while. A Cradle-sponsored show by Canada's Broken Social Scene on the 24th has been moved to King's.
By contrast, two Raleigh venues--one old and one new--have begun 2004 with a flurry of booking activity. The Disco Rodeo has returned to the kingdom of rock n' roll for one of its more active periods since changing its name and format from
The Ritz early last year, as more than three major bills have made it to that stage in the past month. Modern-rock bores Puddle of Mudd started the month with a set there on Feb. 4, and Pat Green brought his refreshingly smart "mainstream country" to Raleigh two weeks later. Only the day before, O.A.R. (that's a handy little acronym for "...of a revolution," by the way) mustered a strong crowd of collegiate underclassmen and Broughton upperclassmen. Keep in mind that all of these shows occur on weeknights because weekends at Disco Rodeo are reserved for Latino dance parties, and remember that most of them sell surprisingly well despite their less-than-desirous billing.
Also keep in mind, though, that this recent run of shows will continue to be the exception to the rule, as the only other show scheduled for Disco Rodeo now is a mid-May date with Granddaddy, Saves The Day and Sunny Day Real Estate survivors, The Fire Theft.
Ziggy's owner Jay Stephens, who booked and promoted both the Pat Green and O.A.R. gigs, will not be sending any more shows to Raleigh before August. Stephens said he wasn't happy with the weeknights-only arrangement.
"A place like the House of Blues goes out and shops to fill their Friday and Saturday nights, but we have to sit back and wait for a band to come through on a weekday just to think about using that space."
Stephens--who has turned the Ziggy's name into a must-play stop for many national touring acts--said he may be interested in a partnership for a new Raleigh venue.
Art lovers in the Triangle should already be familiar with the intimate Bickett Gallery in Five Points--the new kid on the block of the Raleigh music scene and the opposite of the cold, generic and swallowing sheet-metal structure at Disco Rodeo. Gallery owner Molly Miller has long had rather ambitious plans to turn her space into a multi-media art gallery of sorts. In fact, many will remember that Bickett was the venue behind the 23 Hours spectacle, the month-long celebration of Raleigh's independent arts and music that had to scrap some of its plans over noise violations.
"Raleigh has a lot of unbelievable musicians, and I think Bickett Gallery is a place that can be and should be a place to come and hear great live music," Miller says. "With a space this different, I really want it to get to the point where people want to come and play here and they consider it a privilege to play somewhere so unique."
Several months ago, Miller decided she was spreading herself a bit thin as she attempted to balance booking music at the gallery each weekend while continuing to probe the area for new artists. Fortunately, Ryan Pound --solo pop man and frontman of the short-lived The Ready Set , as well as a 23 Hours participant and artistic subject--came to the rescue.
"This is a great size room for bands to play that can adjust their sound, and playing here just gives bands a lot of really direct feedback, almost a communal feel," Pound said last Friday night, minutes before Nikki Shapiro opened his farewell set at Bickett before heading to Manhattan. "And it's been great for me because I've never been on this end of things, but I understand what bands want to know about where they're playing."
Pound has the venue booked through the end of March, and he has already started filling the line-up for April. The progressively acoustic Radio Silence plays next Saturday, followed by the re-emerging Maple Stave on March 12.
Strange will incorporate some new techniques they developed on a WKNC radio broadcast for playing their stripped-down set a week later, and Goner frontman Scott Phillips will tickle the ivory solo sometime in April. Pound and Miller agree that their primary focus with shows at Bickett will be Triangle bands, but both say that they would like to bring in avant-garde national acts to pair with their favorite locals whenever possible.
Ticonderoga--three pals new to Raleigh by way Iowa City--played last Saturday night with The Gaze. The show--set against a provocative exhibit entitled "What is Sex?"--was gorgeous. Look for more on Ticonderoga in the next installment.
Ryan Pound will open for former homeboy Cole Guerra this Thursday at Kings, and Bickett will host a fashion show featuring Jazz Anew and the work of designer Lauren Smith on March 11.
Thoughts of Alejandro
Cellist Matt Fish, former collaborator and tourmate of Alejandro Escovedo, expressed his gratitude for the inordinately successful benefit held for the ailing Escovedo in Raleigh Nov. 23 at The Retail Bar. Fish said he hadn't been able to attend any of the events because of his schedule, but that he found such community support encouraging. As for how Al is getting along, he could only answer with a frown.
"It's very strange. Whenever you talk to him, he's always trying to act like he's just fine and trying to be some big tough guy," Fish said, on tour with twelve-string fiend Matt Nathanson at The Disco Rodeo. "But, from what I hear, some of his best friends don't even know how he is doing physically."