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Our favorite shows of 2006

Rock 'N' Roll Quarterly: Sounds Good
Out with the old... | Cover charge | Sounded stories | Track list | Over the hill | Asheville, Charlotte & Greensboro

click to enlarge Kolyma, featuring 2006 Indies Arts Awards winner Crowmeat Bob (left), plays Chaz's Bull City Records, a venue that offered Durham new digs in 2006. - PHOTO BY ROSS GRADY
  • Photo by Ross Grady
  • Kolyma, featuring 2006 Indies Arts Awards winner Crowmeat Bob (left), plays Chaz's Bull City Records, a venue that offered Durham new digs in 2006.

We write about shows in advance a lot in hopes of offering some sort of guide to what the Triangle has to offer each week. Sometimes, we're wrong, and shows we vouched for are total busts. Bands get in bad moods, have off-nights or just meet head-on with an ambivalent crowd. But, in 2006, plenty of nights made us fall in love all over again. Here's an extensive sampler.

Contributors: Grant Britt (GB), Rick Cornell (RC), Grayson Currin (GC), Brian Howe (BH), Robbie Mackey (RM), Chris Toenes (CT), Eric Tullis (ET)

01.25 Son Volt, Tift Merritt

Disco Rodeo Raleigh homeboy Brad Rice pulled double duty alongside Merritt and Jay Farrar's reworked Son Volt. Merritt did her nascent country-soul thing, and Farrar did that workingman, three-chord thing that's made him more infamous than famous. —GC

02.03-04 Double Barrel Benefit

Kings A benefit from local bands for a station that's made a commitment in the last five years to support those bands and their peers, WKNC 88.1's Double Barrel Benefit exploded this year, with performances from The Capulets, DeYarmond Edison and We Versus the Shark actually causing college students to come downtown. Next year should be even better. —GC

02.04 Carolina Chocolate Drops

WXDU During a visit to the Border Radio show, Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson played four spirited and inventive versions of traditional tunes (including a slide-banjo take on "Tom Dooley") while reminding people of the banjo's African origins and the rich black stringband tradition. —RC 

02.18 The Teenage Prayers

WXDU Simple recipe for a captivating radio experience, at least for the host: a soul/rock five-piece that loves The Basement Tapes and '60s soul (especially Solomon Burke and Allen Toussaint) in equal measure playing live in the studio plus one case of beer. —RC 

03.01 DeYarmond Edison

Bickett Gallery A 14-minute phase piece, a feedback-led "Afro Blue," a cappella spirituals, free improvisation: The most intense and promising concert of the year, even if it didn't ultimately deliver when the band called it quits in August. —GC

03.14 Circle

Local 506 Just like the glacial environs of their Finnish homeland, Circle arrived in a haze of fog but proceeded to grind three-chord riffs into fine powder, building a mantra of metallic form. Singer Mika Rättö, adorned with mirror shades and a stone face, like a Scandinavian version of Suicide's Alan Vega, slunk around the stage, a shaman guiding cold repetition into higher places. —CT

03.18 Mavis Staples

The ArtsCenter It was like having sex in church: Mavis Staples' funky, soulful moans penetrate a throbbing backbeat as she sweats her way through the Staple Singers' hymnbook. Age had slowed her down a bit, and she sat between songs to catch her breath. But when the sprit moved her, she became the queen of sweaty soul. —GB

03.21 Un Deux Trois, The Mountain Goats

Reservoir Thanks to a return flight from South by Southwest that got trapped on a Missouri runway in a snowstorm, I'd managed to sleep for three hours in two days. But I immediately went to see the premiere of Un Deux Trois—Chapel Hill angular heroes Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller playing pop—with The Mountain Goats. John Darnielle played until he broke a string (five songs). Then, I said goodnight. —GC

03.22 George Thorogood

Carolina Theatre Combining Hank Williams, Bo Diddley and Elmore James, Thorogood's high-energy show played on raunchy blue-collar rock. The slide guitarist cranked out ear-rattling riffs, and his sassy showmanship inspired standing-room only for the entire show. —GB

03.24 Emperor X

Duke Coffeehouse Chad Matheny's coke-bottle eyeglasses were a distraction. Then again, so were the squeaking toys and noise-makers he passed out to audience members when he needed a rhythm section. After all, Emperor X ain't one for holding back, singing about kids who can't go to community college and forbidden substitute-teacher romances 'til the vein in his neck bulges and those glasses fall cock-eyed to his face. —RM

03.31 Pykrete

The Workshop's Dance Party At the country lair of local electronic label FrequeNC records called The Workshop, poor luck made for a night blighted by rainstorms, new neighbors who didn't cozy to the loudness of late nights DJs, and traffic difficulty for incoming partygoers. But in a moment of unmitigated moxie, Chuck Johnson (in his minimal techno mode as Pykrete) decided to go on long after the party had petered out. The cops were gone and rain still drizzled on windows, but to the handful left, it was hedonistic bliss. —CT

04.03 Murs

Cat's Cradle Even though 9th Wonder produced the last two Murs albums, you'd think that he had a vendetta against the quip-lipped Murs. He didn't give the guy a breather between 20-something songs. Indeed, Murs' display of endurance might have been more enjoyable than the songs. —ET

04.05 Voxtrot & Grizzly Bear

Local 506 This was a well-balanced bill. Grizzly Bear played songs off of their then-forthcoming brilliant Yellow House with swooning delicacy, while Austin's best twee-rockers, Voxtrot, reinvented Belle & Sebastian as dance inferno. —BH

04.07 Ghostface Killah

Cat's Cradle Shows from the Wu member who's standing the strongest are predictable: After a late start, he'll share the stage with Theodore Unit, trade some lines, talk about hip-hop history, tell some stories and then invite all the women to the stage. He did it for the second time in less than a year at the Cradle, but then he sat in a merch booth and signed about 1,000 things. I guess he's grateful he never had to drive a cab. —GC

04.07 Scott Miller & Commonwealth

The Pour House I was having a little trouble getting into Citation, Scott Miller's third post-V-roys release. By the time Miller—guitar and wit both blazing—was done, that was no longer a problem. —RC 

04.08 Tim Kimrey Memorial House Concert

Tim's House Music, laughter and tears: Tim wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I remember Kenny Roby misting up during his song of loss, "Rather Not Know," and Tres Chicas tipping everybody over emotion's edge with their harmonies. There was Phil Lee, all mock disgruntlement, offering "I miss Tim already. He would have sprung for a fuckin' amp." And Beaver Nelson flew in from Texas to close it out. —RC 

04.14 Wolf Parade

Cat's Cradle The eight-bit party band Holy Fuck almost stole the show, but Wolf Parade's densely serrated melodies and explosive dynamics ultimately ratified their headlining slot. —BH

April (probably?) Annuals, Lonnie Walker

Some Backyard in Greenville First Lonnie Walker's bobble-head SIKEfolk got a crowd of ECU drunkards feeling restless. Then (back before they were even a twinkle in the hype machine's eye), Raleigh's visiting Annuals freaked their way through a full set. The 100 kids in attendance almost rioted. Hardly anyone was happy, but something about it felt punk as fuck. —RM

04.26 Islands

Cat's Cradle On stage, the motley Islands crew made no sense. An enormous, chestnut-colored man behind a "you play funk, don't you" bass? Two Asian violinists who might as well have been playing TI-82s? The scraggly, surviving Unicorns crew? Sure, it wasn't pretty, but there wasn't a frown in the house. —RM

04.29 Megaband

Flying Anvil Some bros beat Megaman (without dying once) on an enormous projector screen, while Cinemechanica played the soundtrack to the video game. Stoners everywhere, in unison: "Whooooooa." —RM

All summer: One Duran w/ DJ Twombly

Hell Dance Party At the bottom of Hell's stairs on Disco Inferno nights, the sweat flowed as freely as the booze for a summer. Sleazy motions become a-okay, and above-ground inhibitions dropped like beats. When Darren "one Duran" Hunnicutt jumped in the fray, he tweaked familiar hip-hop figures into arabesques, upping antes for those already awash in one another on the floor. —CT

05.12 Year Future

Wetlands Left coast screamers ripped through songs resembling gnarled hardcore in a hit-and-run with jazzed-up Swans: A coiled-cobra tightness and the singer's dead stare clinched it. —CT

05.22 Growing, Thrones

Nightlight Growing is two men and Thrones is one, but volume alone produced two distinct though both attentive crowds for one show—one inside and one outside. Amps roared, e-bows were used and a vocoder was rumored: Ecstatic sonics followed by fuzz and pummeling. —GC

06.02-03 No Future Festival

Nightlight Two days of noise from some of the most important names in the American scene: Carlos Giffoni was a calculated wizard; Jason Crumer's American Band sliced with sound; Prurient joined Macronympha, spilling beer on pedals; and ex-Wolf Eyes sparkplug Aaron Dilloway—jumping on a table full of 8-track tape, spraying beer into the crowd, screaming into inner-mouth mics—played the best set I saw all year, maybe ever. —GC

06.18 Warmer Milks

Local 506 Warmer Milks used horrible equipment, played completely off-tempo, and writhed around on the floor. When all was said and done, a grunting man with a microphone buried deep in his throat delivered two thunderously painful howls and signaled the end of the most perplexing, visceral and downright incredible set of the year. Rarely had mind-blowing come from so many angles. —RM

06.22 Roman Candle

Cat's Cradle It took a while (four years, more or less), but the Chapel Hill band that could finally released a proper version of its debut record. Its predecessor, Says Pop, was good, but the versions reworked by Chris Stamey shine like a waxed vintage Camaro, resplendent Southern moonlight shining off the hood. John Teer, Thad Cockrell and Caitlin Cary joined Roman Candle, and smiles took charge all around. —GC

06.25 Man Man

Local 506 The 506 went apeshit with the first note of these Philly marauders' mournfully smoldering mish-mash of demented klezmer, woozy waltzes, demonic sea shanties and pots-and-pans clangor. Lots of rock bands play at the wild-eyed prophet angle. Man Man owns it. —BH

07.03 Tres Chicas

The Pour House Shows like this one could put Fourth of July Eve on the holiday map. Tres Chicas, who emphasize the rock part of folk-rock when backed by a full band, were even more charming, brilliant and irreverent than usual, and journeywoman Sally Spring's invigorating opening set fit perfectly. —RC 

07.22 Delbert McClinton

N.C. Museum of Art McClinton became a human jukebox backed by the best road band in the business, his soulful croak turning heartbreak into an art form. Once again, a Delbert ticket became a good investment. —GB

07.24 Josh Ritter

Cat's Cradle Ritter and his unassuming but first-rate band pulled off the near-miraculous during a show that was as well paced as it was warm and fuzzy: They kept a sizable crowd rapt during 10 minutes of "Thin Blue Flame," my song of the year from my record of the year. —RC 

08.12 Boot Camp Clik

Cat's Cradle Sean Price stopped the whole show just to show the crowd his sneakers. They were nice, but not as nice as watching Buckshot do the 1993 Black Moon classic "I Got Cha Opin," or seeing Rock's behemoth "Heltah Skeltah" tattoo across his back. Has anyone figured out what "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshkah" means? —ET

08.16 Jeff Tweedy
click to enlarge Jeff Tweedy - PHOTO BY DEREK ANDERSON

N.C. Museum of Art On his recent solo DVD Sunken Treasure, Jeff Tweedy lectures a loquacious crowd about chatting during the set. In the background, one person yells "Asshole!" while another screams "Ego!" At the museum, the Wilco frontman gave the crowd almost everything it wanted: Old songs, new songs, Tupelo songs, an Elizabeth Cotten cover. Then, appropriately, he gave it what it deserved—a talk-too-much ribbing. —GC

09.01 Clang Quartet

Nightlight I went to see Boyzone, but watching Scotty Irving enact a psycho-spiritual passion play with his horrifically squealing "Armor of God" and a variety of junk percussion drove me so deeply inside myself that I couldn't talk to people anymore. I left. —BH

09.09 Boris, Pearls & Brass

Local 506 In May, I considered a 10-hour roadtrip to see Boris. But the Japanese doom purveyors took to American highways in a big way this year, largely predicated on the popularity of their Pink. Like that album and their collaboration with Sunn 0))), it wasn't what I wanted it to be, but it was loud, commanding and alternately entrancing and propulsive. Surprise of the night: Live, Drag City's Pearls & Brass deserves major attention (and, in the studio, a different producer). —GC

09.15 Real Cat & DJs Andy Con Erick

ArtsCenter As reggaetón caught fire in the States, two Durham artists brought it to Carrboro. Real Cat (originally from Panama) and DJs Andy Con Erick (from Honduras) performed like it was a talent showcase for a major record deal, bouncing and grinding with the occasional female partner while enticing the crowd with the sexy come-hither vibe of elastic beats. —CT

09.16 Little Brother

Lincoln Theatre Have you ever seen a dozen hip-hop un-initiates who organized a creativity conference get lost in an almost packed Lincoln Theatre only to emerge bobbing their heads and pumping their fists during the second hour of one of the marathon live sets that have become Little Brother's trademark? Jozeemo debuted with Hall of Justus, the crew premiered material from Soldiers of Fortune, and SparkCon saw a light. —GC

09.22 Beirut

Duke Coffeehouse Bandleader Zach Condon was sick (that is, physically ailing), but his eclectic Balkan-inspired pop music didn't suffer. The excitable, mostly college-age crowd looked more ready for twee pop than the full brass band they got. Unmoved, Condon simply cleared his throat and sang. —CT

09.27 Rakim

Duke CoffeehouseCat's Cradle When it comes to craftsmanship, Rakim might be hip hop's first revered icon. It's easy to imagine, then, that a Rakim performance can turn into a panoply of classic rap mantras. With Kid Capri serving as Rakim's official "tour DJ," few cared where Eric B. was. —ET

09.28-30 Sparklefest

The Pour House A wide-ranging and wildly entertaining night of music, and a testament to the Sparklefest mission statement of bringing all forms of melodic rock to the masses. Mitch Easter and Shalini paid tribute to the Records, Tim Lee and his band paid tribute to the rockin' power trio format, Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass-Kickin Team paid tribute to Rockpile, the Faces and NRBQ (occasionally all in the same song), and the Cogburns, up from Atlanta, paid tribute to the inner punk-lovin', Catholic-school-grad-gone-bad dynamo in all of us. —RC 

10.06 The Black Lips

Cat's Cradle Atlanta's answer to—uh, I dunno, The Barbarians???—burned through their opening slot for Be Your Own Pet, even if teetering slightly from little sleep at the end of a long tour. Their garage punk was perfectly slanted, raucously delivered (the drummer even added maniacal monster laughs to every song) with a malleable kernel of melody at its core. —CT

10.07 Ian McLagan Bump Band

Tir Na Nog Who needs Rod Stewart? As he proved in Raleigh once again, original Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan is froggier, funkier and a hell of a lot more fun than the former Faces frontman. —GB

10.11 Wolf Eyes & John Wiese

Local 506 Wiese's texturally mutating drones were as cerebral as Wolf Eyes's acid-bathed industrial accidents were visceral. The former was like contemplating various aspects of fire, and the latter was like sitting in the real thing. Still, both were as consciousness-obliterating as good noise should be. —BH

10.11-12 Built to Spill

Cat's Cradle The pride of Boise had to cancel its initial national run behind the remarkable You in Reverse, but they made up for it on the flipside: Doug Martsch played a set of Woody Guthrie covers at Schoolkids Records and then played the two most energetic Triangle shows they've played in years. —GC

10.15 The Fabulous Thunderbirds 

The ArtsCenter By mixing Jimmy Vaughn clone Nick Curran with harpist Kim Wilson's Texas-flavored/Chicago blues harp, the crowd got butt-rockin' T-birds music fresh as the day it was minted 35 years ago. —GB

10.27 Recess "Company Night"

Nightlight This installment of the improv rethink draws its name from British guitarist Derek Bailey, but this particular conflux could have only happened here. It drew strength from shuffling performers into small groups by names in a hat, followed by a large group (12 in all). —CT

11.09 Novamen, Manhunter, Ron Morelli

Nightlight The Novamen made crisp overhead slams of vocoder-laden Electro accompanied by funky disco boogie from Ron Morelli and Manhunter's live bumps. It was proof goddamn positive that the people behind the tables can perform. No stiff-shouldered head-bobbing from these guys. —CT

11.14 Califone

Local 506 Playing as a trio, the Chicago art-folk-rock-blues band subverted most of the material from Roots & Crowns (not only its best album yet, but one of the year's triumphs) by either turning it up or down, burning the quiet places and encrusting the loud ones. It was a showcase of possibility. —GC

11.17 John Zorn's Acoustic Masada

Duke's Page Auditorium The reverence was obvious when a guy in front gave a standing ovation before the quintet even started. Zorn kept the band's inarguably tight playing abilities breathing freely through gestures, as if directing the traffic of bumper cars. ­—CT

11.18 Joanna Newsom, Gail Brower

Duke's Page Auditorium Huggins Performance Center For those of us accustomed to watching slouchy dudes mumble over frazzled PAs, harpist and singer Joanna Newsom's classically inclined performance in Greensboro College's austere hall was a revelation. —BH

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