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Friday, August 29, 2014

Bear in Heaven, Young Magic, and the trickiness of good dark synth-pop

Posted by on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 9:41 AM

Bear in Heaven, Young Magic, Weeknight
Cat's Cradle Back Room, Carrboro
Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014

Bear in Heaven: synthetic blues
Dark synth-pop is a tricky aesthetic. When done right, it's an immersive, fascinating experience blurring electronic and traditional instruments, and it can provide the same mind-altering experience as good sci-fi. When done poorly, though ... well, there's also bad sci-fi.

Two bands on Saturday night's Cat's Cradle Back Room bill succeeded at this genre through different, though exciting, methods. And one—opener Weeknight—did not. It was an enlightening contrast. Thematically, Weeknight wasn't that different from Bear in Heaven or Young Magic—the songs were appropriately moody and bleak. The difference is, they weren't fun, and their set fell on the wrong side of the thin line between moody and mopey. Accordingly, Weeknight's low bass wub wub wub felt incongruous, not danceable.

Young Magic
  • Young Magic

Middle band Young Magic, though, knocked it out of the park with an energetic, passionate set. Instead of the '80s flavor many synth-pop bands champion, this trio drew from '90s trip-hop, with additional nods  to Bjork. At times they came across as a faster, wilder Portishead. Young Magic was dark, yeah, but possessed of the electricity and excitement of a talented band just getting started.

They'd be a hard act to follow and Headliners Bear in Heaven stumbled at first. There were missed cues and visible grimaces at least until the band hit "Time Between." Some of the strongest performances, though, were of songs four years old, from the band's best-received LP, Beast Rest Forth Mouth. While its new record Time is Over One Day Old is solid—and notably darker than Beast Rest—Bear in Heaven seemed more excited to play the older material.

Yet this may all be part of the band's general offhandedness: vocalist Jon Philpot has quite the dry sense of humor. "Did you like that song?" he asked after "Demon." "Do you want us to play it again, exactly like we just played it?" And just before dedicating "Lovesick Teenagers" to North Carolina, he told a Carrboro audience how torn he is between his love of Durham and of Raleigh: it was probably a joke, but it was told so drily, so flatly, that it was hard to tell.

Bear in Heaven's music, too, is defined by a similar offhand, disaffected demeanor: it's so good because it's so thoroughly cold and detached. Yet following on the heels of such an irrepressible, passionate band as Young Magic, this didn't always feel like enough.


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    Bear in Heaven is good but Young Magic hits an elusive target

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Live: Richard Buckner makes it rain in Duke Garden

Posted by on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 3:56 PM

Buckner, outdoors - PHOTO BY RICHARD A. SMITH
  • Photo by Richard A. Smith
  • Buckner, outdoors
Richard Buckner
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham
Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The last time I saw the enigmatic singer-songwriter Richard Buckner in Durham, it was a misty night. This time, it was misty again, which was even more noticeable in the outdoor setting of Duke Gardens than in the close confines of The Pinhook.

As opposed to that intimate, opiated-feeling acoustic set, this was a more voluble electric one. But in both cases, it was easy to imagine that Buckner brought the occluded weather with him, a physical manifestation of the moodiness and mystery that shrouds his songs.

On Wednesday, Buckner was performing solo in Duke Performances’ Music in the Garden series, which has almost exclusively featured Merge Records artists this summer as part of the Durham label’s 25th anniversary hullaballoo. Meteorology turned out to be a practical as well as metaphorical concern.

Shortly before the show, lightning struck a tall pine to the left of the main entrance in the native plants garden, searing a stripe down its trunk and catching it on fire. According to witnesses, the fire quickly spread to the brush and wooden fence below, resulting in a visit from the fire department.

“Welcome to North Carolina,” the non-native-plant Buckner joked at the start of his set. He reassured us that, while he often brushes with disaster, he never actually gets struck by lightning, so we were probably safe. “I hate passing through so quickly but I have to because I’m shifty.”

While Buckner is always a minimal banterer, he had more to say this night than he did in the entrancingly continuous Pinhook set—perhaps in deference to the plummy setting, which had an audience heavier on curious families than his diehard-filled club shows. A little girl in a pink dress danced in circles around her mother, who lounged on a blanket as opposed to sitting in one of the camp chairs provided, from the first notes of the set.

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    Menaced by lightning, Merge singer-songwriter Richard Buckner raced through 19 songs in 80 minutes at his Music in the Garden show.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Live: Audience or not, North Elementary and Some Army put on one hell of a show

Posted by on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 2:48 PM

North Elementary
  • Erik Anderson
  • They're in there somewhere: North Elementary
North Elementary, Some Army
Kings, Raleigh
Friday, May 16, 2014


There weren't many people at King's in Raleigh Friday night for North Elementary's Honcho Poncho LP release show: the 20 or 30 people in attendance largely hugged the walls or hovered at the bar, while the headliner played an unlit stage in front of a projector screen. In local music—hell, in music at all—this happens: Sometimes people don't come out. It's been the source of uncounted "Where the hell was everyone?" Facebook posts or blog entries, and it can be a test of a band's resolve. It's in how musicians handle these situations that bands can really shine.

At this show, the bands shone: North Elementary coupled their bright-and-sunny fuzz-rock, tightened over the course of five LPs, with video projections via Matt Hedt. Hedt felt like a sixth member at points, as his video work tended to match the songs perfectly—no surprise, as he's worked with the band a good bit over the past eight years. "Undressed and a Place to Go" earned mirrored footage of African wildlife, while for the jubilant "Way Out (Happy Here)," Hedt played a string of funny cat videos. The band's performance, too, hinged on goofy exuberance, though the infectious, down-tuned riff to "Eye Glass Goggles" brought welcome menace.

Aside from awkward Steve Winwood jokes, though, King's was distractingly silent between songs. To contrast, the set close was a welcome, cutting wall of feedback. Considering the band has the pedals and amps to coax these sounds from their guitars, it seems the only thing missing to this set was feedback or at least some kind of noise in those gaps. It was only then that the room felt empty. Otherwise, it was full of confident bliss-rock and excellently juxtaposed videos.

Opener Some Army has been largely absent from local music since March 2013, when the band successfully funded a still-unfinished record via a Kickstarter campaign: there have been sporadic appearances since then, but not many.

I loved Some Army's 2012 EP; it was one of the best things I heard that year, so I had high hopes and high expectations for any new album tracks. The first song mixed trip-hop characteristics with a chorus in Some Army's familiar rural space-rock mode, while one later in the set concluded in a surprising, driving Krautrock section. New gear—a sound module used to emulate mellotrons and something called a Drone Commander—added to Some Army's already rich textures.

EP tracks like "We've been Lucky" and "Servant Tires" came across fresh and poignant, as if the band was relieved and excited to finally be playing again. One new song, tentatively called "Infinite Mirror," revealed the sheer potential of this band. A respectable polyrhythmic drum line, reminiscent of Afro-pop, backed Some Army's familiar downtrodden feel. It was a new blend of styles that rarely intersect, all indicative of an excellent album coming out. .. sometime?


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    Some Army and North Elementary combined forces to make for a mighty—if not well-attended—evening of music at Kings.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Live review: John Howie Jr. & The Rosewood Bluff turn The Cave into a rainforest

Posted by and on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 12:20 PM

It was hot in The Cave Saturday night; with dozens of people packed into the front room to see both John Howie Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff and Magnolia Collective play, the room felt like a rainforest, albeit altered by the smell of beer and mixed drinks. In short, it was the perfect spot to see a country band on a Saturday night. There was even a little dancing.

Magnolia Collective's story-oriented Americana-rock inspired a good bit of appreciative bounce in the front of the room. After a quick changeover, Howie and his band kicked off their Everything Except Goodbye LP release set, appropriately starting with album opener "The Man I Used to be." The song—and much of the set—rode infectious country grooves. The band leaned into rock but always kept at least one worn leather boot in honky-tonk territory.


(Video by Dan Schram)

Last week, Howie spoke with the INDY about his own honky-tonk roots, leading back long before the formation of his celebrated previous act Two Dollar Pistols to his late dad's penchant for outlaw country. Much of his life, it seems, has been steeped in this tragic, lonesome music, and he's right at home crooning about heartbreak in a crowded, sweaty bar. Headlong rollick and upbeat western swing defined much of the set, with Howie's big-bodied Gibson jumbo laying a chunky, acoustic foundation for guitarist Tim Shearer's Telecaster runs. Pedal steel player Nathan Golub loomed intently over his instrument, while animated bassist Billie Feather peered playfully around both sides of her upright and cracked jokes. Southern Culture on the Skids drummer Dave Hartman lent a hybrid rockabilly/honky-tonk backbone in lieu of Rosewood Bluff drummer Matt Brown, who died in 2012.

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    The Rosewood Bluff got hot, sticky, sad and happy on Saturday night.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Winston-Salem's Phuzz Phest Grows in Year Four

Posted by on Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 12:10 PM

Phuzz Phest
Various Venues, Winston-Salem
April 4-6, 2014

When Philip Pledger arrived at Krankies Coffee in Winston-Salem on Friday night to lead his Estrangers through the second set of last weekend’s Phuzz Phest, he looked exhausted. He was decked in a rumpled T-shirt and comfortably worn jorts, but his stony face clashed with his casual clothing.

It had been a rough day for Pledger. Chapel Hill’s Secret Boyfriend, scheduled to play the following day, dropped out, citing allegations of sexual misconduct lobbed at Justin Williams, the frontman of Twelve Thousand Armies, another band on the lineup and the first signee to Pledger's new Phuzz Records. Area social media exploded with angered music fans clamoring for Williams to be dismissed from the festival and the label, which indeed happened after the fact. (Read more about Williams and the situation in our new story "Broken Record.")

But at the time, Pledger was staring down a situation that threatened his event—expanded to include simultaneous shows at three rock clubs across three days in its fourth year—and fledgling imprint. He could have played it angry. He could have fallen apart. But he did neither, eventually overcoming persistent mic problems to lead his backers through swelling hooks with an easygoing confidence. When the vocal mix finally solidified during the yearning chorus of “New Year’s Eve,” it felt like a triumph, the striding riffs and nostalgic piano chords refusing to yield as Pledger finally yelled.

Phuzz Phest, it turned out, wouldn’t shrink in the face of its first real crisis. There were rough patches across the next three days, but there were also splendid highs and a generally buzzing atmosphere. Even when the crowds waned a bit—as they did during the majority of Sunday evening—the people that were there listened appreciatively to scrappy locals and regional upstarts alike, excitedly awaiting performances from the weekend’s headliners.

For the most part, those bigger bands didn’t disappoint. No Age’s blitz of fuzz-scorched punk blew the lid off of Krankies on Saturday night. Hewing to the more pummeling end of their catalog, the duo banged and roared, delivering bolts of energy that were pretty much impossible to resist.



Mount Moriah were even better closing down the Garage the night before. Embracing the grimy dive around them, they switched into hard-driving, honky-tonk mode, sending their often stately country-rock rumbling down rowdy backroads. Singer Heather McEntire owned the moment, emboldening her honest lyrics with moments of wry humor; noticing Pledger’s wife in the audience, she recalled playing their wedding, noting dryly that it was a good sign that they were still together. Her fiery vocals goaded guitarist Jenks Miller to complicate his sometimes restrained contributions, soloing in a way that was forceful but never showy.

But the headliners weren’t the only ones delivering thrills. Punk outfits Ex-Cult and Brain F≠ each indulged in mighty workouts—the former creating tension between the band’s lean grooves and Chris Shaw’s burly bark, the latter ratcheting through a cyclonic melee. Winston’s own Dark Prophet Tongueless Monk pushed beyond the lulling drone it’s known for, adding drums to the immersive textures of leader Jacob Leonard and careening into noise-scorched garage rock and frothy pop. Raleigh’s Whatever Brains once again jump-roped the line between cacophony and catharsis.

Despite all these great sets, the festival started to drag in its final hours. After Whatever Brains finished, there was a 45-minute lag before revered rapper Kool Keith took the stage at Ziggy’s. The room wasn’t even half-full, with groggy attendees chatting aimlessly. By the time Keith did greet the small crowd, I was on my way out the door, headed back to the Garage to catch the first bit of Nashville’s Diarrhea Planet before embarking on a three-hour trek back to South Carolina and the start of my work week.

And the festival ended just like it started, overcoming its own impediments to deliver one more surprising moment. The band’s mass of guitars lent a thick squall to their roughed-up classic rock delivery, like Titus Andronicus without all the theatricality and nihilism. As the set revved up, the band paused, pulling a skinny kid named Justin from the front row. Explaining their intention to demonstrate what punk is all about, they instructed their volunteer to scream about whatever pissed him off the most, and when the music erupted, so did Justin—“Fuck you, dad!” he screamed again and again as those guitars surged anew.

A few years ago, people might have said that moments like this one just don’t happen in Winston. In its fourth year, Phuzz Phest made them feel not just possible, but expected.


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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Live review: Future Islands at the Haw River Ballroom

Posted by on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Future Islands at Hopscotch in 2013 - FILE PHOTO BY ADAM KISSICK
  • file photo by Adam Kissick
  • Future Islands at Hopscotch in 2013
At the end of last night's sold-out Future Islands show at Saxapahaw's Haw River Ballroom, vocalist Samuel Herring asked to have the house lights turned up—not a lot, just a little—to "strip the artifice for this last one." Then the band played "Little Dreamer," an old and tender song, written, as Herring pointed out, in Backdoor Skate Shop in Greenville, N.C., where the band formed. In his typically melodramatic way, Herring clutched his head and appeared to be either on the verge of tears or deep in desolate contemplation as he sang. There wasn't much to dance to in this last moment of a four-song encore, but there was a lot of heart.

Future Islands earned a spot on Monday night's The Late Show with David Letterman, and the host not only gushed about their performance, but also featured Herring's distinctive dancing in yesterday's opening monologue (it starts about three minutes in). Yet there wasn't as much dancing as usual in the Haw River Ballroom; for a Future Islands show, the crowd was notably subdued. This couldn't be blamed on the band, who offered plenty of passion and energy, plus tributes to North Carolina. The trio, plus touring drummer Mike Lowry, played lots of new music and a few older favorites. Chalk it up to the polite feel of the room: Haw River Ballroom is fairly upscale, after all. Or maybe it had to do with the crowd's unfamiliarity with the new tunes, as new LP and 4AD debut Singles doesn't come out for a few more weeks.

Future Islands opened with "Back in the Tall Grass," which Herring said was written about a creek behind Newport Elementary School in Eastern North Carolina. It led directly into lead Singles track "Seasons (Waiting on You)." Once the band moved into older cuts like "Balance," from 2011's On the Waterthe room finally erupted. "Tin Man," from 2010's In Evening Air, caused a perfect storm of audience energy and performance magic. As the song came to a close, the crowd positively boiled, while Herring lowered his voice to a metal-as-fuck baritone roar for the closing lines. This vocal approach also defined the defeated, angry "Fall From Grace," a Singles track that served as the first encore.

Future Islands may be changing. The new LP may not be as dance-friendly as earlier ones. Maybe once the fans get to know the new songs, there will be more audience engagement. Yet Singles' largely mid-tempo, introspective feel—as showcased throughout last night's concert—seems to emphasize Future Islands' respectable strengths as songwriters rather than body-rockers. And just because the audience wasn't dancing doesn't mean it wasn't a good evening.

When bassist William Cashion had an issue with his amp, Herring offered to sing the band's regular soundcheck, "Swept Inside," a cappella. As he did, the room went mostly quiet. Some people chatted away, seemingly oblivious to the spontaneous live-music gold appearing onstage, but they were quickly shushed by people excited to hear Herring's dense, emotional lyrics and nothing else. If the new Future Islands record is a showcase of their songwriting rather than their bounce, their fans seem ready to go there, even if it means less dancing.
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    Riding high on Letterman, the band showed off its forthcoming LP and its introspective side

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Live review: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Purling Hiss

Posted by on Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 2:09 PM

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - PHOTO BY LEAH NASH
  • photo by Leah Nash
  • Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro
Monday, March 3


At the end of the first song of Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks’ show at Cat’s Cradle on Monday night, a technician came onstage to aid the former Pavement frontman while the other Jicks began strumming an impromptu version of Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man.” It turned out that the wiring of Malkmus’ guitar was shocking him, traveling through his limbs and torso to leave his lips tingling with the current. But it was Philadelphia’s Purling Hiss that truly seemed electrified.

When Purling Hiss took the stage, the venue was a gawping hole occupied only by 50 or so people. Later, the crowd filled out for Malkmus, despite the icy weather. Based solely on raucousness, it would be easy to call Purling Hiss the night’s standout act, though that’s not entirely fair. Their set, culled mostly from 2013’s excellent Water on Mars, was furious and unrelenting. Like occasional label-mate Ty Segall, they spit well-placed yelps like epithets, with a furious pace that inspired equally furious foot-tapping. Malkmus’ modern mid-tempo style barely attempts this fury, let alone the meteorological impact of a Purling Hiss song like “Lolita.” 

Like whiskey and a chaser, Purling Hiss’ riffs singed, while Malkmus’ affable songs were the balm, easier to swallow. Enjoying them didn’t require a rebellious streak, a leather jacket or a fantasy about riding a Harley. They’re just good songs that evoke the ’90s in a particular way. They brought the cool dads out in force, in their thick-framed glasses and well-trimmed beards. But there were also a gaggle of twenty-somethings singing along to “Lariat.” 

Malkmus’ core fans came of age when I was still far too young to collect any Pavement singles, and aside from a few months in college spent ruminating over Quarantine the Past, Pavement’s greatest hits album, I was never a devotee. I went into this show fresh-faced and freezing, only hoping that I would be able to drive home and that the band would play “Senator” (you know, the song they can’t play on the radio). As genteel as Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks might be, they tap into the same elemental source that makes modern college kids go buy Pavement’s Slanted & Enchanted. They aren’t anthemic, punchy or riotous—they’re likeable and witty. Live, they simply light up at a lower voltage than Purling Hiss.
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    The ex-Pavement frontman's band was like a soothing chaser for the bracing blast of the openers

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Live Review: WKNC’s Double Barrel Benefit at Lincoln Theatre

Posted by and on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 10:28 PM

1386958860-wknc.jpg
Mount Moriah, Bombadil, Loamlands, Daniel Bachmann
Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh
Friday, Feb. 14


On Friday night, N.C. State University radio station WKNC’s bold bookings of popular bands for its 11th annual Double Barrel Benefit paid off for both the station and the artists. With over 600 people crammed into Lincoln Theatre, there was a diverse cross-section of listeners, including many who were years—if not decades—removed from their college years, but still appreciated WKNC’s broadcasts at 88.1 on the FM dial. Bombadil drummer James Phillips was one of them.

Midway through his band’s set, Phillips told the story of how he met the rest of the members after hearing “Jellybean Wine” (from Bombadil’s self-titled debut EP, recorded before Phillips joined) while listening to 88.1 at work. Switching off between keys, bass, ukulele, drums and a bit of harmonica, the usually playful trio—fourth member Bryan Rahija is off at the University of Michigan’s business school—stuck mostly to the starker, more piano-driven fare of their two most recent albums, such as the graceful “Have Me” from last year’s Metrics of Affection. This highlighted the band’s offbeat songwriting and terrific vocal harmonies. The latter were on display during an a cappella arrangement of “Get to Getting On” during which the crowd was surprisingly attentive.

That didn’t keep Bombadil from dipping into its back catalog for bursts of energy such as “Cavaliers (Har Hum)” and “A Buzz, A Buzz,” with Stuart Robinson leaping around his piano or jumping from the drum riser while plucking his uke. At times, it was clear that layers were missing. “A Question,” an obvious choice for Valentine’s Day, lacked electric guitar counterpoint to give punch to Robinson’s ukulele. Lineup limits perhaps explained the absence of any selections from the group’s best and most lush record, Tarpits and Canyonlands. They also performed a new song that implied that there wouldn’t be much departure from their familiar sound on the record they’re about to start recording.



Where Bombadil was restrained, Mount Moriah came out loose and aggressive, similarly defying expectations. Kicking off with a handful of the more up-tempo tunes from Miracle Temple and a new, unrecorded song, the quartet only tempered its pace for the slow-burning “Miracle Temple Holiness,” where each of Jenks Miller’s guitar notes seared thanks to a favorable mix. Mount Moriah single “Lament” turned into a sing-along, and WKNC’s support of the song likely played a part in the recognition that swept through the crowd with the first chord. Mount Moriah also offered a raw, primal stomper in their cover of Neil Young’s “Revolution Blues,” which will be released exclusively on Or Thousands of Prizes, a subscription series of 7-inch singles, currently sold out, that celebrates Merge Records’ 25th anniversary.



The last two songs of Mount Moriah’s set were even more revealing. Closing with what Heather McEntire called the band’s “only love song,” they transformed “Planes” into a four-on-the-floor disco jam that was almost unrecognizable outside of its modified chorus. After McEntire claimed that encore calls had caught the band off-guard, she scanned the room for someone who knew the words to “Social Wedding Rings” to help her fulfill the request. The college-aged guy who took on the task had far better dance moves than knowledge of Mount Moriah lyrics. McEntire failed to get through many lines without breaking into laughter at the attempted duet, with her bandmates enjoying the spectacle from across the stage. Although I’ve seen sharper performances from Mount Moriah, I’ve never seen them seeming to have so much fun. Considering the bleak Southern gothic tinge of its catalog, it was surely appreciated by a crowd that wasn’t eager to wallow in sadness on Valentine’s Day.

Watch more Dan Schram videos of performances by Loamlands and Daniel Bachman.
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    Mount Moriah and Bombadil seemed to swap personalities at the NCSU radio station’s benefit show

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Live: Death by the Pixies

Posted by on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 11:13 AM

Deal or no deal: The Pixies at DPAC - PHOTO BY RYAN SNYDER
  • Photo by Ryan Snyder
  • Deal or no deal: The Pixies at DPAC

Pixies, Cults
DPAC, Durham
Friday, Jan. 31

At 9:15 on Friday night, The Pixies took the stage at DPAC and proceeded to play what seemed like their entire back catalog. There was hardly a break between songs, with little room for banter as the band charged through a set crowded with Gen X-and-sometimes-Y sing-alongs such as "Here Comes Your Man," "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and "Where is My Mind?" While it took champion-level stamina on the band's part to play a nonstop, high-energy set for the better part of two hours, the evening took on a surreal, disorienting quality as the partially reunited Pixies (bassist Kim Deal bowed out last year) piled on hit after hit. It started to feel less like Death to The Pixies and more like death by The Pixies. 

There were plenty of songs they nailed—"Gouge Away," "Cactus," "La La Love You" and "Caribou"—and the notably taciturn bandleader Black Francis looked genuinely happy after both the set and the encore. He smiled and waved. But like the strange afterlife that bands in perpetual reunion seem to inhabit, it was an imperfect affair, with the absurdly crowded set punctuated with flashes of brilliance and human jukebox moments alike.

As Jeff Klingman wrote in this week's issue of the INDY, The Pixies' DPAC show fell within an expanding ecosystem of reunions by influential bands such as Outkast and Neutral Milk Hotel, who also stoked nostalgia in the Triangle this weekend. And while I share Klingman's trepidation, considering The Pixies' near-endless reunion purgatory (which started in 2004, really) and their rapid turnover of touring bassists following Deal's departure, I—like many other 30-somethings—wanted to believe. After all, this is a band that I loved uncritically in my teen years, as one tends to do with music discovered at that age.

But The Pixies were already well past their heyday when I first picked up Doolittle in 1999, and I'm willing to bet that plenty of other 32-year-olds at DPAC last Friday would tell a similar tale if pressed. While they've always felt like my music, they were already influential and highly regarded by the time they hooked me, their legacy predetermined at my late arrival. And 15 more years have passed from that moment, shifting the band further into the rock legends pantheon.

I think that's where much of my discomfort stemmed from: This stage show was pure arena rock. A two-story wall of orange strobes transformed "Isla de Encanta" into something ludicrous, unnecessarily macho and unintentionally hilarious. Throughout, the absence of any sort of banter caused growing unease. I couldn't tell whether the band had eschewed conversation so they could squeeze in as many songs as possible or—as Klingman implied—showed up just for the paycheck.

I have no idea which is true, but I know that the night, from the good moments to the unfortunate ones, was defined by dissonance—the musical kind on which The Pixies made their name and the cognitive kind that this sort of time-capsule concert can inspire. The Pixies were always a band of imperfect elements coming together to form a striking, infectious whole, so the net effect worked beautifully. There's something bizarre about going full-bore nostalgic, and maybe the disorientation and overstimulation came from the band giving the audience exactly what it wanted: all the hits.

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    The Pixies play all the hits and cash in all the chips in Durham.

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Live: Queens of the Stone Age heat up Raleigh

Posted by on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 5:28 PM

PHOTO BY JILLIAN CLARK
  • Photo by Jillian Clark

Queens of the Stone Age, Chelsea Wolfe
Thursday, Jan. 30
Memorial Auditorium, Raleigh 


The South is notorious for its habit of essentially shutting down (Hey, Atlanta.) after only a few inches of anything wintry. Following a couple days of being cooped indoors, some people in the Raleigh area found the release they needed at Thursday night’s sold-out Queens of the Stone Age concert in Memorial Auditorium.

It began with opener Chelsea Wolfe, whose dark, sometimes droning heaviness offered a fittingly slow start to the thaw. Her ghostly vocals wafted through a hazy atmosphere, with barrages of guitar and drums puncturing the would-be still. Her goth rock complemented the headliners, though the sometimes-glacial pace of her music probably didn't always endear her to the most stir-crazy attendees. "You can't sing. Now, show us your tits," yelled one bro twice between songs. You can't let some folks out of the house, even for a rock show...
PHOTO BY JILLIAN CLARK
  • Photo by Jillian Clark


Queens of the Stone Age burst open with the crunchy boogie of Songs for the Deaf opener “You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire,” chasing it with the chug and bounce of their biggest hit, “No One Knows.” The band hardly let up at all, with pulverizing riffs and lumbering grooves arriving one after another. Queens worked through a career-spanning set that included nearly all of its Grammy-nominated latest disc, ...Like Clockwork, and most of the singles from its back catalog.

The quintet—including former The Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore, the most recent addition to bandleader Josh Homme's revolving collective—fed off the pent-up energy of the crowd, whose call-and-response vocals on “Burn The Witch” were particularly loud. Though slinky tracks like “Make it Wit Chu” and “Smooth Sailing” got the audience dancing, full-bore rockers like “Little Sister” and “Sick, Sick, Sick” clearly drew the biggest reactions.
PHOTO BY JILLIAN CLARK
  • Photo by Jillian Clark

QOTSA may have saved the best for last, kicking off its encores with the piano-driven sing-along “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” before shifting into high gear with the drug-fueled chant “Feel Good Hit of the Summer." The start-and-stop dynamics of “A Song for the Dead" forced an eruption of fans out of the auditorium's rows and into the aisles. 

Thaw, complete.
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    Rock mainstays Queens of the Stone Age pillage their back catalog at the Duke Energy Center

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