Triangle musicians roll up their sleeves, plug in their instruments and get to work playing benefits after a holiday season tsunami kills thousands half-way around the world.
January 14--While you aren't looking, Raleigh goes and grabs itself a college rock station. Sure, wknc has been around, but--if you didn't need to get the lead in--its metal mix probably didn't do a lot for you. This year's Double Barrel Benefit at Kings brings together some of the area's best young acts, from the face-off math rock of Monsonia to the bittersweet pop psych of TV Knife. Hmm, helping the downtown crowd and the campus work together: Shouldn't someone have tried this before?
January 20--Despite an attendance hit caused by a Triangle snow, Band Together hosts Derek Trucks at the BTI Center in Raleigh and raises over $10,000 for the Durham-based Music Maker Relief Foundation.
January 27--Ben Folds makes a return trip to the Triangle to play a sold-out show at Duke's Page Auditorium. Unlike his first year or two here, he does not have to lug around his own piano. Also, a Dr. Dre cover.
January 28--Merge band The Arcade Fire makes the big leap from Chapel Hill to Carrboro's club of choice in only six months, returning to the Triangle for the first time since the release of their indie rock idiot savant saliva-jerker, Funeral, which disappeared from record store shelves when Pitchfork Media hit it with a fat 9.7 out of 10.0. Montreal's leading export played The Cave in June 2004, followed by a headlining appearance the next month at Local 506 for the Mergefest pre-party. They conclude this year's Cradle set by leading a funeral procession through the crowd and into the dressing room. Admit it: You'd be theatric, too, if David Byrne loved you.
Fabruary 3--The Sun Ra Arkestra visits the Cat's Cradle under the direction of Marshall Allen. In an interview in the Independent, Allen chanted, "The space age is here to stay/ No place you can run away."
February 4--Duke Coffeehouse reopens with a show by The Butchies and The Pinkslips.
February 13--On the heels of a Tonight Show appearance, Tift Merritt's Tambourine loses Best Country Album Grammy to Loretta Lynn. Like Rich Rubin and Johnny Cash, Lynn scores by pairing with Jack White, but the real news is Merritt even being nominated despite extremely modest sales--a testament to Tambourine's beauty and depth.
February 22--STRANGE releases its debut album on Raleigh's Pidgeon English Records. It was recorded in Greg Elkins' Desolation Row studios, a fittingly cavernous space from which the band coaxed unorthodox sounds (banging on metal works pipes) to add layers to their sound.
February 26--Des Ark and Bellafea--two local duos with similar set-ups (explosive male drummers splitting the bill with howling, guitar-gnashing female dynamos) and kindred dynamics (hard and fast, or not)--throw a joint CD release party at Local 506 for Des Ark's Loose Lips Sink Ships and Bellafea's debut EP Family Tree.
March 3--Martin Denny dies at 93. With Esquivel, Denny was a key figure in the creation of "exotica" or "space-age bachelor pad music," which describes the cocktail jazzy blend of orchestral elements and odd, percolating samples and rhythms.
March 8--Two months after the release of his Merge Records debut, the surprisingly neat Emoh, Dinosaur Jr./Sebadoh/Folk Implosion fellow Lou Barlow plays Local 506 in Chapel Hill and acknowledges month-old rumors that Dinosuar Jr. will indeed reunite for a festival in Japan and possibly for an American tour. (The original Dinosaur Jr. plays the Cat's Cradle on July 10.)
March 9--George Scott, who with Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter founded the Blind Boys of Alabama gospel grou p in 1939, dies in Durham at age 75. Scott stopped touring in 2004, but his baritone was still more than carrying its weight on the group's most recent recording Atom Bomb, which was set to hit the streets the week after Scott's passing.
Chapel Hill rock quartet Cities becomes the first new local rock band since The Comas to sign to Yep Roc Records. They settle in for a long development process, patiently recording their full-length with Brian Paulson and opening shows locally for buzz lightning rods Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! and labelmates The Kingsbury Manx. The album is due in 2006.
Raleigh's Martin Street Music Hall closes, less than one year after it opened. The three-level club included a great din-like bar, Lizzy's, on its basement level, and a restaurant was in the works at street level. In its short time, Martin Street was responsible for a number of great shows, including Nathan Asher's release party for The Last Election, a massive tsunami benefit and a night with Dr. Eugene Chadbourne. In March, the club's booker Lincoln Hancock quit under a cloud of controversy and began working with Kings to bring more national acts to Raleigh. Hancock still works at Kings. Alibi Bar opened in the former Lizzy's space in November, and another rock club is set to open in the MSMH space in January 2006.
April 8--UNC-Chapel Hill's Wilson Library hosts a symposium on Charlie Poole, the American musician credited with shaping folk music toward its later growth as bluegrass and country. Nightlight hosts an acoustic jam with musicians from the conference later that night.
April 9--Cracker and Junior Brown play in front of Capital Fitness off of Glenwood Avenue for Band Together's benefit for Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh-based organization that funnels money into providing food for victims of disaster or poverty. The event raises over $200,000 for tsunami victims.
April 15--John Fred Gourrier, better known as the leader of John Fred and the Playboy Band, dies in New Orleans. The band's 1968 international hit, "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)," is one of those songs that, even if you haven't thought of it in years, starts playing in your head in full glory within seconds of your seeing the title.
May 6--"No, I won't get you a beer tonight." Perhaps that should have been the motto for Local 506's first anniversary party (or owner Glenn Boothe's anniversary party at the club). The employees' bands--Leadfoot, Fashion Design, Kung Flude, Fake Swedish and even the coelacanth that is Blue Green Gods--all got their due on stage. A rock revelry for the working-class hero.
May 13-14--Not for the faint of heart, Nightlight's NO FUTURE FEST brought together nearly two dozen noise and improvisational savants from the country, grating, slaying and baking with feedback, drones and shrapnel until well past curfew.
June 8--Ryan Adams returns to Raleigh for his first show in the Triangle since 2001 (or 2000? TK), playing a two-and-a-half set at a posh, packed Meymandi Concert Hall (which didn't exist last time he played in town). Adams--backed by the four-piece Cardinals in fine form--never leaves the stage, and pulls heavily from his current release, Cold Roses, but opens with "A Kiss Before I Go," the lead track from his upcoming second album of 2005, Jacksonville Skyline. Caitlin Cary (who helped convince him not to cancel the Raleigh date) joined him for several fragmentary numbers before joining he and husband Skillet Gilmore for an inebriated, inebriating Whiskeytown reunion (plus Cardinals Catherine Popper and Jon Graboff, sans several dozen ex-Whiskeytowners) at Slim's Downtown.
June 14Eight months on the heels of its breakthrough commercial album, Good News For People Who Love Bad News, Modest Mouse comes to Raleigh and turns the Civic Center into a glorified high school gymnasium. And that's not just because half of the clientele wore braces, either. The room completely deconstructed the mix, causing the high-end to be piercing on the gym's sides and the low-end to be burying throughout the middle. Of course, if you're 16 and totally wasted, to hell with EQ.
June 17--Soul Asylum bassist Karl Mueller, the most regular Joe in a band full of 'em, dies in Minneapolis as a result of complications related to the treatment of the esophageal cancer he was battling. For better or worse, the most indelible image of Mueller is probably his Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass-spoofing appearance on the cover of the Clam Dip and Other Delights EP.
June 24--Michael Pyne stabs and kills Thomas Laskas at a Corrosion of Conformity concert at Masquerade in Tampa, Fla. The two-decade-old Raleigh rock band was on tour behind its new album In The Arms of God.
June 24--Durham's Ooh La Latte and Untidy Museum close following an unfortunate business situation. The Pin Projekt--a fundraiser for the Troika Music Festival in which local artists and museums modify bowling pins for auction--is the venue's last stand, and it foreshadows what is to come for co-proprietors James and Michelle Lee. "I own all the music equipment, so we're hoping to keep that up," Lee tells the Indy.
Michael Triplett--longtime booking agent at the dearly departed Go! Room 4--begins booking several nights each week at Wetlands Dance Hall. In the space formerly known as The Tree House, Wetlands falls in with Local 506 as a mid-size rock club open to local and national acts. Six months into it, the clubs seem capable of coexisting within blocks of each other.
July 1--Renaldo "Obie" Benson, original member of the Four Tops, dies of lung cancer at age 69 right in the middle of a year that also saw the passing of fellow soul singers Luther Vandross, "Big" Al Downing (who also played piano in Wanda Jackson's band for a number of years), Tyrone Davis and Little Milton (Campbell).
July 2--Chuck Garrison got all sweaty, Brian Walker sported a too-cool-for-school smirk vintage '93 and The Brothers Dixon meticulously resurrected guitar parts like a set of mad scientists. Yeah, Zen Frisbee returns. The crowd, well, let's just say it's a good thing everyone had their "Action Slacks" on. The band played The Cave the night before.
July 6-August 3--Kenny Roby tackles a residency at Sadlacks in Raleigh, playing several dozen songs every Wednesday night and--at some point in each set--picking one of his five albums (two solo, two Six String Drag and one upcoming with The Mercy Filter)--and playing it from beginning to end.
July 7-9--Kings and parties, parties and Kings: They make Sundays hard sometimes. Kings celebrates its sixth anniversary in style, throwing a three-night shindig that opens with the Gong Show and hits a climax on Night Two with The Cherry Valence's CD release party for TCV3, the band's first on Bifocal Media and with its new lineup (which includes Charles Story and Erik Sugg). It's a four-rock band bill, which includes the debut of Esquimaux and a rare appearance by Polvo offshoot Black Taj, who finally promise to release their debut in November. How to follow that: A Hall & Oates tribute and The Wusses commanding libidos with '80s soft rock and a bona fide retro-costume contest.
July 23--Arrogance reunites for a show at the Cat's Cradle and plays its entire final album, Suddenly.
July 28--Rolling Stone, still assuming they know something about music, names "Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Durham, N.C." (because who needs alphabetical order or the accepted order, really?) the second-most rocking college town in America, ahead of Austin, Nashville and Athens and behind only Seattle. The list is basically a promotion for contributing editor Jenny Eliscu's new book Schools That Rock: The Rolling Stone College Guide. Interestingly, the rollingstone.com page that names Nashville as the quintile city bears a picture of Tift Merritt. And that makes no sense.
August 1--Local 506 owner Glenn Boothe announces the club's "What's Local" podcasts, each a nine-minute summary with music from bands playing the club.
August 11--Chuck Eddy shows love for The Nein/Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan split in his "Eddytor's Dozen" column.
August 13--The Ghost of Rock--Ron Liberti, Clifton Lee Mann, Rock Forbes and Jeff Clarke--crams into the back corner of Reservoir (formerly Go! Room 4) and plays its last show after one 7-inch and one LP. It's hard to imagine more people crammed into such a small space (which helps to explain Sleazefest's relatively light night) or so much sweat (that is, until Liberti's next show with the reunited Pipe.)
August 21--Robert Moog dies at 71. The crown prince of synthesizer music and Asheville resident formed the circuitry connecting rock to electronics, then to dance and hip hop. Moog, a classic wild-haired scientist with furrowed brow, tinkered with experiments like his Minimoog and a mobile theremin, and turned things upside down.
August 23-27--The Durham Music Festival loses its city funding and the Troika Music Festival at 305 South steps into its place. Five days of rock from over 70 bands in all three Triangle vertices mark the festival, which climaxes with the release of Portastatic' Bright Ideas and the opening of 305 South by Ooh La Latte ex-pats James and Michelle Lee.
September 8-10--Almost two years old now, The Raleigh Hatchet throws its first rock 'n' roll festival in a big way: Three nights of music across the board, from the bar-burning Patty Hurst Shifter and the one-man attack of Scott H. Biram the first night to the shrapnel-slap weirdness of Fatal Flying Guillotines. The festival combines locals with nationals, many making the CMJ trek. Best surprise: Finland's Circle.
September 9--Memorial Hall opens with its new renovations at UNC-CH. Tony Bennett performs at the Prelude to an Opening, followed by Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman the following night.
September 13--Release day for The Rosebuds, Little Brother and Shannon O'Connor amid a slew of releases from Sigur Rós, Paul McCartney and Devendra Banhart.
September 17-20--The dB's still stand for decibels, and they bring them back for a two-night stand in Chicago and two nights back at Maxwell's in Hoboken. Look for a new record in 2006.
September--The apex of a bevy of Hurricane Katrina benefits from Triangle musicians comes with a 14-band benefit both inside and outside the Lincoln Theatre. Band Together and a team of local musicians and volunteers spearheaded by Caitlin Cary and Dave Bartholomew help to raise nearly $50,000. The bands include Tres Chicas, Arrogance, Patty Hurst Shifter, The Greatest Hits, Six String Drag and The Bleeding Hearts.
September 27--Release of Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall. A holy grail recording for bop aesthetes, this lost piece of the puzzle shows 'Trane with Monk's group in a clean, well-recorded set in 1957. They would only play together six months, but the directions each were headed is evident.
Pidgeon English Records' Brad Farran begins booking at Bickett Gallery in Raleigh, bringing both energy and taste to a difficult job in an area with plenty of clubs. He enlists several of the Triangle's best new bands--from the Saddle Creek-similar Tennis & the Mennonites to recent Wisconsin transplants DeYarmond Edison--as regulars, and begins recruiting national acts including Summer Hymns and Meredith Bragg & the Terminals into the by-day art gallery.
October 7--Little Brother returns to the Triangle for a sold-out show at the Cradle. The set, as always, is a monster, and--by night's end--most of the Justus League is onstage, reveling in the moment and the possibility. And Percy Miracles was definitely in the building.
October 11--The Cave becomes a private club. The landmark bar below Franklin Street, "Chapel Hill's oldest tavern," adds some liquor to the menu, revamps their back room and requires memberships. Don't think of it as losing a beer tradition but gaining a more lasting relationship!
October 12--It may be a surprise to some to know that Stillhouse--Jay Brown, Zeke Hutchins, Johnny Irion, Greg Readling and Dave Wilson--could have been celebrating its seventh anniversary with this CD release show. Even though Through the Winter is a debut, the band has been around since 1998; it had been plugged away, however, as the members were plugging away in other projects. Finally, they get their night.
October 13--The Mountain Goats, The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers and Bellafea share two bills in Chicago and one in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Prayers and Tears--a member of Chapel Hill's heavyweight and well-bearded Bu Hanan Records collective--tours with The Mountain Goats twice this year, playing several sold-out shows in New England and the Midwest and selling out of its debut full-length The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia in the process. "I think 75 percent of John taking us on tour is because he likes hanging out with us more than some bands he doesn't know," Prayers and Tears' Perry Wright tells the Indy in October. Darnielle retorts, "Perry overthinks things; I bring PATOADS out 'cause I think people will like them and I enjoy them myself!"
October 27-29--Norwegian folk musician Jonas Fjeld--known best in America for his '90s work with Rick Danko and Eric Andersen--travels to Raleigh to rehearse with Chatham County Line, who he plans on taking to his hometown of Drammen, Norway, for six concerts.
November 1--Nathan Asher is named a Grand Prize Winner in part one of the 2005 John Lennon Songwriting Contest.
November 4--The Mountain Goats finally make up for its Troika Music Festival cancellation, with John Darnielle playing a solo set at Duke Coffeehouse and unearthing some real rarities and explaining the context of several songs, often infamous for their enigmatic, carefully hidden inspirations. Aimee Argote of Des Ark, Reid Johnson of Schooner, Ivan Howard of The Rosebuds and Mac McCaughan of Portastatic open the show with batches of covers and reworked versions of their own stuff.
November--Rumor has it, Bu Hanan's The Physics of Meaning sets the mark for number of musicians playing as part of one band on the Local 506 stage at any one time.
November --Link Wray dies at 76. Credited with inventing the power chord, Dunn native Wray was a rock 'n' roll uber mensch: leather-jacketed hero to many from Neil Young to Pete Townsend, often seen on his motorcycle. His "Rumble" lives on.
November 23--Merge Records launches an art auction of posters signed by their bands to benefit The Food Bank of NC and Oxfam.
November 26--Black Taj--a conglomerate of half of Polvo, half of Idyll Swords and drummer Tom Atherton of the Jimi Hendrix Inexperience--finally releases its eponymous first album, a blistering psychedelic blues update on classic rock adulation. The album makes its national debut on November TK, but the band introduces it locally with a show at Kings following a mini-tour with ex-The Cherry Valence bag Birds of Avalon. The bands (whose Paul Siler and Steve Popson continue to co-own Kings) end the show onstage together, playing a nine-piece, ear-eroding "Whipping Post," segueing into Rush's "Working Man."
December 1-3--The Kings Great Cover Up returns in high fashion. The bill includes The Ramones, Cypress Hill, The Birthday Party, The B-52s, The Zombies and STRANGE nailing Jesus & The Mary Chain.
December 20--Ryan Adams releases 29. Our lovable once-local miscreant displays his iconoclastic spirit releasing his third album (and fourth side) this year, saying to hell with promotional worries about too much product on the street.
The Triangle's 10 best records and 32 best tracks of 2012; seven photos that see into the sound; the fame of The Avett Brothers and the similar musical history and present of our state; the carrying capacity of our local music venues