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It was a year of changes in booking, labels forming, bands breaking, bands starting and bands on the verge of something major. 2007 might look similar, but probably not.

Sounded stories 

Triangle scenes that shaped the year in music

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 The Capulets
  • The Capulets

It was a year of changes in booking, labels forming, bands breaking, bands starting and bands on the verge of something major. 2007 might look similar, but probably not.

* Roger Hannay, who was a composition professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, dies in January at age 75. Hannay was an early champion of using analog synthesizers and tape manipulation.

* What was once Martin Street Music Hall reopens under new ownership as Raleigh Music Hall in February.

* Warrior Sound, a recording studio in Chapel Hill, opens its doors in March. Al Jacob and Mitchell Marlow set up a well-designed sound room with digital production equipment and begin work with En Garde, Colossus and Idea of Beauty, among others.

* Yep Roc signs Chapel Hill quartet Cities in 2005 but rides a slight buzz into SXSW during 2006. Their self-titled debut follows, receiving largely tepid reviews. The Variations EP—a collection of six remixes from Fog, Ladytron, Isan and more—receives more of the same. Bassist Jeremy Paschall quits, as does guitarist Robbie Mackey (full disclosure: Mackey is a regular contributor to the music section of the Independent), who moves to Brooklyn. Cities is currently writing its second album.

* Kudzu Wish was a band's band, perseverant and hard-working, at least until they called it quits in October 2005. Luckily, the GSO four-piece regrouped in part early this year, forming the J. Robbins' salvo En Route as a parting gift.

* Until this spring, world-class talent buyer Mike Triplett brought the best independent bands to the Triangle. Whether it was at the long-defunct Go Studios or the still-young Wetlands Dancehall, Triplett filled the mid-level indie act holes left in the Cradle schedule. But then Wetlands decides to move in a new direction, and Triplett steps down and lends his hand to The Reservoir.

* Carrboro's The Strugglers tour Europe for several weeks in April. A live recording of a show in Vigo, Spain, is available at sinsalaudio.com/radio/index.php?id=33.

* Raleigh's The Capulets hang up their leather jackets for the last time this year, making way for Josh, Tom and Alex's brand new gig in May—Cocoon, a slightly quirkier incarnation of their old bag's sass-driven guitar rock.

* Chapel Hill garage rockers The Spinns spin for the last time in May, mostly from being stuck in a rut, according to guitarist Todd Colberg. They'd become a staple for their purism. Former members now maintain their cool in The Gondoliers and The Black Mona Lisas.

* "It's Carrboro," the song by Bill McCormick (alias Billy Sugarfix) and Brian Risk, becomes an overnight regional phenom after premiering just in time for summer. It includes cameos by favorite local denizens like former mayor, now Orange County Commissioner, Mike Nelson. The over-the-top rapfest includes lyrical zingers and is remixed several times, as it was created under a non-restrictive Creative Commons license. Check it at www.itscarrboro.com.

* John Wilkes Booze and Secretly Canadian co-founder and Family Vineyard owner Eric Weddle moves back to Indiana. Weddle performed several solo shows at Nightlight and worked in the Unstable Ensemble with locals Ian Davis and Jason Bivins, both who have released on Family Vineyard.

* Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell earn an Americana Music Honors & Awards nomination for Duo/Group of the year in June, alongside Drive-By Truckers and Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez. The Truckers win.

* Longtime Nightlight employee Alexis Mastromichalis takes over club ownership from Ryan Martin and Lauren Ford in July. She now books the club with Charlie St. Clair. In their first four months, the club books national and international touring acts including Volcano the Bear, Wooden Wand, DAT Politics and Beach House.

* Brian Walsby, longtime Raleigh musician and comic artist, releases his second book of comics, Manchild 2: The Second Coming, on Bifocal Media in July. This year, possibly known as The Year of Walsby's Dreams, Walsby joins The Melvins on tour for several weeks. And his Double Negative continues to be a Raleigh favorite.

* Schoolkids Records' Hillsborough Street location opens for in-store performances in July. In the first several months, Annuals, Drive-by Truckers (before opening for The Black Crowes at Alltel Pavilion), Pete Yorn and Spitalfield all perform at the store.

* Signal electronic music festival brings together an array of producers and DJs from diverse camps, from drum and bass to the experimental. The event includes several venues in Chapel Hill, drawing adventurous artists from outside the area like Berlin breakcore banger Jason Forrest and Deepsky from L.A. After the weekend, local dance music folk start connecting the dots between themselves and their neighbors, bridging a gap created by a genre that often exists solely from computer screens and fans frequenting only their friends' DJ sets. Signal wants to change that. Year two is set for April 2007, and the fest's organizers have continued to build steam with a sponsored series of events titled "Electronica Viva."

* After a string of violent incidents at the Avalon nightclub in Chapel Hill, including a highly publicized fatal shooting in July, town officials move to close the club's doors and examine its fate. The club remains closed, but many in the local dance music scene still recall a different time within those walls when music was the focus. Organizers of the Signal electronic music festival utilized the space as one of their venues last spring, rethinking it in the mold of a proper community-driven space. The space's future remains uncertain.

* It's unclear when the bottom falls out, but at some point this summer, Raleigh/Chapel Hill five-piece Annuals goes from oft-overlooked local treasure to national sensation. Chances are it has more than a bit to do with Pitchfork Media dropping the band in their "Infinite Mixtape" series. Soon after, the blogs jump on board, and the glossies start remembering where indie rock came from. Be He Me, Annuals' Ace Fu debut, is a wily record of whimsical weirdness and easily digestible quirk. It's not quite the cavalcade of wonder some folks have made it out to be, but it certainly does my Tar Heel heart proud.

* Ozzfest finally comes to Alltel Pavilion in August.

* David Karsten Daniels isn't shy about dipping his folksy peanut butter in his spacey chocolate, so nobody is surprised when the Bu Hanan boy hops on board with the brave Brits at Fat Cat in August.

* The Record Exchange on Hillsborough Street closes in August, but the second Raleigh location in Mission Valley stays open. The Mission Valley store eventually closes, only to reopen weeks later under the same name but with new management, courtesy of new owners at Virginia-based independent chain Plan 9 Records.

* Just a year into its Triangle existence and after the start of a promising experimental residency at Bickett Gallery, ex-Wisconsin quartet DeYarmond Edison splits. After recording the promising, online-only EP in August, the band breaks after a Kings farewell, frontman Justin Vernon heading back to Wisconsin after engineering The Rosebuds' forthcoming third LP. Three remaining members have reformed as Megafaun, an unlikely folk and avant improvisation hybrid.

* Unexpected but awesome: The Mountain Goats' Get Lonely debuts at No. 193 on Billboard's 200 with sales of more than 4,000 in August. That means that Danity Kane, Diddy's self-selected band of vixens that outstripped Outkast for the top spot, only sold 230,000 more records in its first week.

* Raleigh rock club Kings changes its smoking policy in October, enacting a smoking ban before midnight seven days a week. At least they didn't cut a hole in the ceiling.

* Charles Latham takes on Mark Foley with "The Internet Sexual Predator Talking Blues" in October. It is awesome.

* Patty Hurst Shifter tours Europe for three weeks on their excellent Too Crowded on the Losing End and play a triumphant homecoming at The Pour House.

* In its second year, Troika Music Festival (nee Durham Music Festival, which lasted for three years before losing city funding) contracts and succeeds during October. Instead of staging shows in Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, the festival becomes the exclusive property of the Bull City. More than 70 bands—mostly local, but also including national touring acts like Okkervill River and Man Man—take over a half dozen venues for four days, and the Triangle responds.

* Schooner travels by land (not sea) to Montreal for Pop Montreal in October.

* Marianne Taylor, the talent buyer for The Pour House who built a strong roots and country reputation for the downtown Raleigh club during the previous two years, makes Hideaway BBQ her venue of choice at the end of October.

* Raleigh's recently renovated Lincoln Theatre makes moves to turn their venue into a "members only" spot. According to Pat Dickenson, Lincoln owner, new N.C. liquor laws are the primary motivation. After all, customers should be able to have their Jager and drink it too.

* Chaz's Bull City Records celebrates its first birthday with two days of partying in Durham in November. In the Year of the Pig and Maple Stave—both local favorites of store owner Chaz Martinstein—get loud at Joe & Jo's, followed by The Wigg Report's inaugural WiggFest the next day.

* Scott Pearce wins the 2006 North Carolina Songwriters Co-Op Songwriting Contest at The Artscenter in November.

* Yancy's and Slim's reopen in Raleigh.

* Grant Llewellyn, conductor of the N.C. Symphony since 2004, signs a six-year contract extension in November, meaning he'll be at the helm of the 74-year-old symphony until 2012.

* Downtown Durham bar and grill Joe & Jo's—longtime venue for local and touring bands, a strong supporter of the Durham3 Culture Crawl and a previous site of the Troika Music Festival—is sold in November. No word yet if the new space will be open to bands.

The ballad of new love
click to enlarge Oakley Hall
  • Oakley Hall

The New York rock band Oakley Hall was nearing the end of another long-ass tour. They had reached the left coast and returned, via some stops in Canada, and were playing to a smallish crowd at Local 506, rousing those in attendance with swooning harmonies, a throttling guitar sound and a fiddle. But their eyes said that they were tired.

Still, Merge Records staffers made up nearly half the crowd that night, having already become friendly with the Oakleys when they toured with Merge artist M. Ward. Merge owners Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance both come out on a Wednesday, not a light gesture. When I invited the band to have supper at Mama Dip's, they politely declined, saying, "Believe it or not, we have dinner plans." I told them to have fun with the Merge folks, only half joking.

Post-show, things got serious: talk between the band and Mergees of radio promotion, looks of deep concentration furrowing the brow of long-locked Pat Sullivan as he listened (when he and I weren't discussing Gulf Coast oysters). Another inkling: CMJ was days away, so maybe Merge was buttonholing them before the label rush at the music conference.... The rest is elementary, really, as Merge officially announced its new love the first week of November.

—Chris Toenes

Tim Kimrey, 1942-2006
click to enlarge PHOTO BY NATHAN CLENDENIN
  • Photo by Nathan Clendenin

It's a special person who opens his home to three or four dozen people to hear live music, and Tim Kimrey was as special a person as I ever had the privilege to know. Tim, who passed away at his Chapel Hill home on Feb. 22 surrounded by family and friends, displayed an inspiring passion for whatever he decided to tackle and the kind of spirit that coaxed you to share that passion. In spring 2000, he decided to give the house concert thing a try, dubbing the series "Afternoon Nap." Five and a half years and close to 50 shows later, Tim's living room had been the scene of performances by artists from North Carolina (Tres Chicas, Kenny Roby and Malcolm Holcombe, to name just a few) and beyond (Jason Ringenberg, the Silos, Beaver Nelson and Kevin Gordon—again, just scratching the surface).

The shows felt more like gatherings of friends than something as formal as a concert, a credit to Tim's warmth, which exceeded even that of the centerpiece wood-burning stove. Almost without fail, the musicians who played at Tim's became close friends. Holcombe and the Chicas' Lynn Blakey and Caitlin Cary shared stirring musical tributes at Tim's memorial service at Davie Street Presbyterian Church (where he'd served as a ministerial intern in the '70s), and a memorial house concert a couple of weeks after Tim's passing provided another opportunity for folks to trade remembrances and tunes.

I hope that Tim's next stop will boast unlimited wall space to decorate with his artwork as well as an abundance of front rows. He was once quoted as saying, "If I could be reincarnated, I'd come back as a rock star." So you know what? Forget the front row, and make room on stage. Then again, as noted by Molly Flynn (one of so many people Tim befriended via the house concerts, his avuncular presence on the guitartown music list, and too many good works to list), to anybody who'd crossed paths with Tim, he already was a rock star.

—Rick Cornell

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