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Raleigh Rhythms 

To be Purchased
Kings finally got a break last weekend from the string of fabulous CD release parties that have been dominating their Friday and Saturday nights of late. Utah! took the stage by storm on Sept. 12, calling a handful of guests onstage (including their producer, Greg Elkins) to help them with most of the material from their head-turning sophomore effort, Plays Well With Others. The Weather kept things going on the 19th with its own release spectacular for the self-titled ditty of classic rock-itude (which hit stores yesterday by way of Pidgeon English Records).

And the albums keep coming.

In fact, Utah! joins a talent-heavy triple bill on Oct 3. Proof and Goner--two bands playing heavily on the writing of bassist Greg Eyman, but in completely disparate rock contexts--will use the set as a release party for their latest offerings. Proof's debut is due Oct. 7 on Pidgeon English, followed by Goner's sans-guitar head trip How Good We Had It from Bifocal Media on Oct. 14. Both were produced by Elkins at his Desolation Row studio.

Caitlin Cary (who will be co-hosting a gigantic benefit for Alejandro Escovedo at The Retail Bar in November--stay tuned) lends vocal and violin work to the Goner set, as she does with Thad Cockrell's gorgeous new disc, Warmth & Beauty. Cockrell plays a CD release party on Oct. 10 at The Pour House. Purchase the album (out on Yep Roc) at a local Schoolkids, Record Exchange or Borders, and get a free ticket to the shindig.

And don't forget the big party for The Cherry Valence's Nick Whitley at Kings on Oct. 15. The Nicky Album--a bass-heavy, danceable excursion that falls somewhere between Jamiroquai and a stack of vintage liquid soul B-sides--is in stores now.

Rosebuds are for Lovers
Suppose a happening band in the area asked you to open a set for them and you said yes, but--in reality--you didn't have a band that could possibly make the date you really wanted. What to do?

Simple. Lie and take the gig. Tell the other act you'll be there with bells on, and quickly gather your roommates--preferably your girlfriend who took piano lessons as a child--and teach them how to play the songs you have harbored for months from your principle band--you know, the guys that the other band wanted to open in the first place.

Thank the rock gods high above that, in 2001, Ivan Howard did just that with his future wife, Kelly Crisp. That day, Ivan--who, according to his wife, could write five songs each day if he had the time--taught Kelly a handful of the songs he had kept to himself, preparing her to take the stage with him and a drum machine as The Rosebuds. As soon as they walked off the stage, they were offered another gigÉ and another and another. For the past two years, these recent Raleigh transplants (Crisp is from Fayetteville, and Howard is from Fuquay-Varina) have been making enormous indie pop waves alongside drummer Billy Alphin, singing to Merge Records in March and, one month later, bringing in veteran producer Brian Paulson (Wilco, Beck, Superchunk) to helm the effort at Rick Miller's Kudzu Ranch in Mebane.

"We were really intimidated at first because he's worked with so many people and done so much great stuff," Crisp laughed by phone last week from her Raleigh home, Howard joining in sporadically from the background. "But it ended up being that we could say or do about anything, and he could go along with it."

The results--36 minutes of bounce-at-the-knees-and-dance jittery pop known as Make Out--are indeed convincing. Howard tugs at the heartstrings, writing circumstantial gems about falling in love, falling out of love and the smiles, tears and late-night phone calls in between, while Crisp adds resplendent Merseybeat-meets-power pop harmonies paralleled by her own dead-on keyboard loops and Alphin's drumming. Beautiful, simple pop with the strong scent of melodic magic.

The Rosebuds play with their heroes in Superchunk on Oct. 16 at The Cat's Cradle, less than a week after their CD release party at Kings on Oct. 10. Ben Davis, The Loners, Anderson Airplane and Bellafea will also be on hand. Make Out hits stores everywhere Oct. 7 on Merge.

Look Mom, Sparkles!
As he puts it, Mike Nicholson was working for the man--and he was tired of it. A self-described "fan of the rock," he dreamt of leaving his day job to make his way to week-long guitar pop music festivals in music hotbeds like New York and Los Angeles. As a travel consultant, though, he couldn't leave his job, but he--a lifelong band member, session musician, engineer and producer--could quit it. And that's exactly what he did.

Inspired by the rock orgy of Sleazefest and the like-minded rock/pop fests across the land, Nicholson founded The Shindig (though he changed the name to Sparklefest after legal quarrels with local Top 40 outfit, G105), a multi-band, multi-stage affair at Kings Barcade. With a DIY enthusiasm, he booked his favorite bands for the event by himself. And when the day finally rolled around, he alone manned the soundboard, ran the lights and catered the bands.

"I just do these things. There are so many things in my life I can't control, so I make sure I control this," Nicholson laughs.

This year, Sparklefest--now in its fourth year--includes the finest crop of bands yet (handpicked by Nicholson, no doubt). International Orange--the pop triumvirate of Django Haskins, Robert Sledge and Snuzz--plays Oct. 9 along with Glory Fountain's Lynn Blakey and Parklife. Athenaeum and In-Line Six (featuring members of Superdrag and The V-Roys) headline Oct. 10, followed by The Connells, The Fiendish Minstrels and Terry Anderson & The Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team (currently recording) on Oct. 11.

A three-night ticket is $30. Admission includes a fine 24-track compilation featuring work from the bands slated for the festival. Rock on. EndBlock

Please e-mail Grayson with your Raleigh news: dgcurrin@unity.ncsu.edu. He loves people, really.

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