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Stream and/or download a song from each of the bands performing today at Troika, plus read the day's Artist Spotlight for Birds of Avalon

Troika Music Festival: Friday, Nov. 6 


Why you should go + Thursday's schedule + Saturday's schedule


West End Wine Bar

7 P.M. TEA & TEMPESTS: The voice of Hilary Ragin, a young Durham songwriter who calls herself Tea & Tempests, mesmerizes: Lilting and comfortable, it moves with an assurance belying its age. On her home-recorded tunes, like the stunning "At the Equinox," it burns with a low, steady heat, familiar and trustworthy like the old-fashioned foot warmer at the end of a Southern grandmother's bed. Highly recommended. Download "The Ghost Dance." —GC

7:45 P.M. LIZA KATE: Richmond songwriter Liza Kate, one of the few out-of-towners at this year's Troika, recently released her small treasure Don't Let the Dogs via local imprint Holidays For Quince, which should qualify for some sort of extended-family inclusion. But this isn't nepotism: Kate delivers her plainspoken, gently melancholic folk songs with generous intimacy and earnest resolve, suggesting hot-cider comfort over late-autumn bitterness. Download "Don't Let the Dogs." —BR

click to enlarge Birds and Arrows - ILLUSTRATION BY NATHAN GOLUB

8:30 P.M. BIRDS AND ARROWS: Husband and wife Pete and Andrea Connolly concentrate intimate moments and passion into their tunes. As Birds and Arrows, the two ignite when Pete's dry harmonies gather round Andrea's smoldering vocals. The homespun guitar/ drum duo melts cynicism, and, live, cello and pedal-steel accompaniment provides the sound for swooning. Download "Company Keep." —AR

[This show is free and is part of the Troika Evenings series.]

Marvell Event Center

8:15 P.M. RYAN GUSTAFSON: Classics and things that sound like classics—that's how Ryan Gustafson describes his music. Like the Triangle's other rootsy manchild, Ryan Adams, Gustafson seems comfortable inhabiting whatever your idea of classic is, whether that means woozy, pedal-steel laments or outstanding fuzzed-out, shout-along jams. Download "Soul Train." —BB

9 P.M. WEMBLEY: Hillsborough quartet Wembley doesn't sound like its cavernous namesake of a stadium might suggest. It plies gentle, charming indie pop with boy/ girl harmonies that underscore delicate keyboard and guitar shimmer. Download "Shipwreck." —SG

9:45 P.M. THE PROCLIVITIES: Playful, romantic and so full of pop you'll leave their set with a dozen melodies clawing for space in your memory, Raleigh's The Proclivities charm, even when frontman Matt Douglas gets a little churlish with his lyrics. Original drummer Matt McCaughan has returned from a tour with Bon Iver and keeps the time tonight. Download "Handguns & Dancing Shoes." —GC

10:30 P.M. EMBARRASSING FRUITS: The ringing, hook-lined indie pop of this Chapel Hill trio moves with a shamble that tracks to '90s indie rockers like Pavement and Big Dipper. The sound is encapsulated by crunchy buzz and crashing cymbals, but it's soft and inviting at the center, like a Tootsie Pop. Download "Details." —CP

The Pinhook

8:45 P.M. SCIENTIFIC SUPERSTAR: Outlandish Durham trio Scientific Superstar plays out like a choose-your-own-adventure book: Suggesting Deerhoof in a tattered Mr. Bungle T-shirt and plastic pants, their sidewinding maneuvers in electronica, prog and J-Pop come matched only by the head-scratching quirks. Download "Battle of the Opposites." —GC

9:30 P.M. GRAPPLING HOOK: With its eccentric, hip-shaking rumble, Durham quartet Grappling Hook channels theatrical flair through a classic rock idiom. Its mix of blues boogie, prog, math rock and heavy metal come spiked with ADD. That is, the grand sound and fist-shaking roar turn abruptly down side streets and alleyways before reemerging, gleaming, on the main drag. Download "I Judge You Not, Juggernaut." —CP

click to enlarge Caltrop - PHOTO BY MARKUS SHAFFER
  • Photo by Markus Shaffer
  • Caltrop

10:15 P.M. CALTROP: With stretched riffs that feel full of the blues, soul and Sleep, Chapel Hill quartet Caltrop epitomizes Southern amplifier worship. They crank those themes until they crackle, pushing them through massive speaker cabinets preparing for marathons. But this band is more than 12 strings: Drummer John Crouch is among the best rock drummers working—understated but highly evolved, he bullies time, playing hard and teasing its basic units with a wink, a nod and a crush. Bassist Murat Dirlik lets glowing low notes saturate the extra space. Download "Sliceolator." —GC

11 P.M. BELLAFEA: The guitar snarls, baring teeth and gnawing against the churning rhythms, sounding more anxious to rend than mend. Heather McEntire's vocals rise from the distortion-drenched squall like an anxious plaintive cry, unsure it even wants any help. The storm ing post-punk angularity is sometimes balanced by moments of melodic sweetness, though that appears to be more a remnant of the band's past, given last year's relentless Cavalcade. In either case, McEntire and the athletic rhythm section around her offer an inventive blend of incipient violence and barely restrained fury. Download "Depart (I Never Knew You)." —CP

Trotter Building

9 P.M. THE HUGUENOTS: Rockers, as a rule, are never very clean-cut. Enter The Huguenots, a relatively ungrizzled Carrboro band with an armful of uncluttered, pop sing-alongs. Dig the ringing guitars, Brit harmonies and acerbic lyrics. Download "She'll Take You Down." —BB

click to enlarge Brett Harris
  • Brett Harris

9:45 P.M. BRETT HARRIS: How strong is the dreamy pop/ early '70s-honoring melodic rock of Durham's Brett Harris, as exemplified by the breeze and bounce of his Yesterday's News? When International Pop Overthrow founder David Bash brought his event to North Carolina in the winter of 2008 for the first time, he tapped Harris as an opening night performer. Download "Mansfield." —RC

10:30 P.M. HAMMER NO MORE THE FINGERS: Since Durham trio Hammer No More the Fingers first stumbled onto Triangle stages three years ago, they've been chased by comparisons to indie rock icons Pavement, Archers of Loaf and Superchunk. Only natural for this area, of course. But here's something: Not one of those bands had a guitar player as dynamic and calculated as Joe Hall, the subversive songwriting sense of frontman Duncan Webster or the ability to perform three-part harmonies this ambitious live. With every new statement (see "The Visitor," their zig-zag, magnetic contribution to this year's Hear Here compilation), Hammer steps closer to becoming an indie rock reference point of its own. Download "Nitro." —GC

11:30 P.M. GENTLEMAN JESSE & HIS MEN: When he wants to get all starry-eyed, Jesse Smith of Atlanta's punk-rocking Carbonas moonlights as the leader of this four-piece, turning out Brit-sounding power pop of the highest order. The case in point comes with "Highland Crawler," the opening cut on Gentleman Jesse's self-titled Douchemaster Records release (and I've been waiting for years to type "Douchemaster"). It starts off like Nick Lowe covering "Gloria" before veering into The Jam touring the Stiff Records catalog. And authenticating Smith's pop-geek credentials is the album's one nonoriginal, "I Get So Excited" from The Equals, featuring Eddy Grant years before he skipped down "Electric Avenue." Download "Black Hole." —RC

12:30 A.M. DEX ROMWEBER DUO: Now in the golden years of his career, Dex Romweber flourishes: He's added range to his distinct voice and has paired his greaser yowl with a deep, plaintive brooding. His music crackles from a formidable big band now, The New Romans, but tonight he'll play with his sister, Sara, in their duo. Something uncanny floats between the pair, a telepathic power conveyed through silent, knowing looks and gestures. Download "Picture of You." —CT

Duke Coffeehouse

9:30 P.M. THE RINGING CEDARS: The dreamy pop of coed duo The Ringing Cedars comes lifted straight from the '80s, matching ringing guitars and rubbery bass to ethereal vocals. —SG

10:15 THE PNEUROTICS: Second Skin, the sophomore album by the steadfast bar rock band The Pneurotics, sands the edges of their debut, Forty, in most of the right ways: Rich McLaughlin's guitar playing focuses less on brazen solos and more on intricate melodies (see the Saharan flicker and blues harmonics of "Sunshine"), and Mimi McLaughlin adds harmonies that cradle his scratched voice like, appropriately enough, a trusted lover. Download "Just." —GC

11 P.M. I WAS TOTALLY DESTROYING IT: These dudes (and co-frontwoman, thank you) totally nailed it. Horror Vacui, last month's sophomore LP from I Was Totally Destroying It, emphasizes the band's sticky power-pop center on anthems like "Done Waiting" and "A Reason To." More important, though, it reshapes the possibilities of their oeuvre by taking (and landing) chances: "Cup of Tea" is an understated, patient lament for bittersweet feelings, and "Green Means Go" flings indie rock churn to the skies with a hook that snaps like a slingshot. Download "Come Out Come Out." —GC

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

click to enlarge Birds of Avalon
  • Birds of Avalon

12 A.M. BIRDS OF AVALON: Birds of Avalon must be seen to be heard. The flashes of brilliance the band displayed on 2007's AOR trip Bazaar Bazaar, last year's EP Outer Upper Inner and this year's psychedelic playground Uncanny Valley allude to more than any recording could deliver. This is a compliment, not a criticism. Live, Birds of Avalon take wing, harvesting rock 'n' roll bliss from the fertile middle ground between their hooky '70s rock swagger and exploratory soundscapes.

"We've certainly never been accused of being a shoegazer kind of band," says guitarist Paul Siler. He cites Yes and Can as influences for their ability to deliver either immediate pop or epic sonic journeys. It keeps things interesting, with an always-changing set list. And when they hit the mark, Birds of Avalon put on a show that is brash, bold, adventurous and catchy as all get-out. Whether in a bar, a basement or a cavernous music hall, the songs swell, charged with the electric presence of their creators and aided by video projections on muslin-covered amplifiers.

"You're getting vibrations and you're hearing it, and you might be smelling it, and it's just even cooler if you can see this visual part, too," Siler says. But the band isn't merely hiding behind the pretty lights. "I really like playing live. I am not bashful about attacking the instrument ... I think that's the way we all play anyway. When I look around at everybody, I feel like there's kind of a surge coming from us."

It's little wonder why Birds of Avalon have earned slots touring with noted performers like Ted Leo and the Flaming Lips—like wants like. But the Birds' sonically seamless live presentation reveals more than just the character of their songs; in the flesh, every element of BoA's character merges and emerges. —Bryan Reed

Download "Earthbound."

Broad Street Cafe

click to enlarge Jews & Catholics
  • Jews & Catholics

9:45 P.M. JEWS AND CATHOLICS: A reliably solid blend of Joy Division's austerity and Sonic Youth's nonchalant recklessness, Winston-Salem duo Jews and Catholics leans on programmed beats and bowed bass for distinction. Download "Make Your Mark." —BR

10:30 P.M. WHATEVER BRAINS: While other bands from other cities keep the national press busy with their onstage meltdowns, sidemen exoduses and mediocre-to-obnoxious noisemaking masquerading as garage rock, Whatever Brains just keep writing better songs. Their demo tape, Soft Dick City, was a noise-addled half hour of unrefined snot-pop showered in static and sarcasm. Their first 7" for Bull City Records, Mt. Whatever, refined the cassette's hiss to a more accessible uppercut. And their latest, Saddle Up, plays like a ragtag army's celebratory homecoming, big-band stomp countered with basement party stagger. Among many things, the band is excitable, unpredictable and totally lovable. Download "Swhatever." —BR

11:15 P.M. THE DIRTY LITTLE HEATERS: As recently as last year, Durham's talk about Dirty Little Heaters centered on the split between Troika director and former drummer Melissa Thomas and Reese McHenry, the loud-piped frontwoman who grafted the band's old name to a new trio. The band's first Troika appearance as DLH Version 2.0 proves something: When McHenry and her accompanying miscreant men are at their grimy, flatulence-free blues-rock best, it's hard to think about little else, especially "the scene." Download "Mexico Way." —GC

click to enlarge Pipe - PHOTO BY BRIAN VETTER

12:15 A.M. PIPE: What would life be like if Pipe never existed? Take away the folks involved, and one would have to remove all the other bands in which they participated, leaving a huge gash in the side of the local music scene. Poster art around Chapel Hill would be ruined, too, without the work of frontman Ron Liberti on nearby utility poles. And there'd be no throwing beer cans, either, a family tradition of sorts established at their shows and maintained in bars all around town. It's a huge part of the egalitarian glee Pipe instills in people. Thankfully, we don't have to find out: Pipe keeps rolling. Download "Basement." —CT

Bull McCabe's

11:30 P.M. ALL YOUR SCIENCE: Volume 2, the functionally named second LP from Durham drum-and-guitar duo All Your Science, is an adventurous, inclusive trip through indie rock sidestreams. A brooding piano ballad bobs in the distance ("Burnt Up") while an accordion-augmented instrumental jerks in nervous waves. Post-rock with epic aims sits alongside faded pop miniatures. Live, expect a still atmosphere stabbed by moments of fermented aggression. Download "Memories." —GC

12:15 A.M. BELOVED BINGE: This endearing duo's shape-shifting arrangements pit winsome hookiness against jittery rhythms. Eleni Binge's warm croon skates over perky keyboards and Rob Beloved's labyrinthine guitar lines, and the tunes change character faster than a Rich Little stand-up routine. Download "Pumpkin in a Tie." —CP

[This show is free and part of the Late Night series.]

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