Cold as it was last night, walking into Duke Coffeehouse's transcendental dance vibe was wholly warming. The room filled up to a comfortable crowd, and as Mapfumo, "The Lion of Zimbabwe," led his band in songs both traditional and fused with the funky, dancing spread from person to person like fever.
The Blacks Unlimited, Mapfumo's current band, appeared onstage as an electric outfit, not unlike a funk band outfitted with twelve-string bass, guitars, keyboards and a Western drum kit. But a set of congas stood to one side, and buried behind the group's front line, a sole mbira player sat. The mbira is a handmade thumb piano encased in a semi-circular wooden shell, and Shona mbira music is a cornerstone of Zimbabwean music and Mapfumo's Chimurenga pop. It provides the beautiful undulating tones behind this band's rhythmic base, and last night, the band's sound was tight as they moved through those tones.
There’s a treacherous drive—alternating clay and gravel, and passing over a shallow creek—that turns off of a certain Chapel Hill road and leads into the trees. After several hundred yards, the red clay driveway opens, revealing a little house that’s more of a hermitage.
It’s the warmest it’s been in several weeks today, and I’m sitting in the sun with Adam Brinson and Joe Taylor—together, Blag’ard. They’ve recently finished their second album, Mach II. It’s a solid unit, a catchy if menacing rock record that squeals off the lot like a muscle car and handles like Luke Skywalker’s X-wing.
Being at Joe’s house is like looking through a window into his mind: There’s a kind of sacred disarray here that contrasts the piercing clarity of his thought process. It’s organized, sure, but it’s organized the same way a forest floor is organized. His black Gibson, the guitar from his Capsize 7 days, leans against a wall like a fallen branch. Fliers on the walls tell tales of shows and bands long gone. Looking out the windows of the little room where this loud, loud band practices, I again see the trees and a gentle slope that falls toward the creek. This could be anywhere. Joe’s pretty intense, and Adam’s one of those gleeful dudes who makes himself laugh on a regular basis.
They have agreed to take a verbal Rorschach test, of sorts.
Cage the Elephant, As Tall As Lions
Cat's Cradle, Carrboro
Tuesday, Feb. 23
The Dirty Little Heaters
Local 506, Chapel Hill
Saturday, Feb. 20
Plenty of bands commemorate their CD release with a special show—top-notch openers, an extra-long headlining set and a surprise guest or two. With its release party for Champions of Imperfection—five years in, the band’s first full-length—The Dirty Little Heaters did all that and a lot more.
After fellow Durhamites Pink Flag and Red Collar—whose new material sounded terrific, by the way—got things started, Magic Mike, the night’s emcee, gave a brief history lesson on the Heaters for the unacquainted. After some technical difficulties—“It’s always something with you,” singer/guitarist Reese McHenry’s bandmates chided—McHenry was joined by drummer Melissa Thomas and the duo (the original incarnation of The Dirty Little Heaters before splitting in late 2006) blasted through the raw punk of a couple of early Heaters tunes. Check “Cherry Van” below the jump.
In a packed Durham City Hall Committee Room early this morning, the Durham County Board of Adjustment voted unanimously in favor of issuing a special-use permit to The Broad Street Cafe.
For the past four years, Broad Street has operated as a nightclub in a district that is zoned so that such a special-use permit is necessary to host music after 10 p.m. Less than one year after the first noise complaint was filed by Clarendon Street neighbor Waldo Fenner, who was not present at this morning's hearing, Broad Street officially received the green light on amping up their regional music bookings in a space that musicians and business owners says is vital to Durham's art scene.
“Broad Street Cafe is important for more than just music,” says Melissa Thomas, founder of the Durham-based indie label 307 Knox Records. “It provides a great venue space for music, festivals and family events, as well as a place to eat for locals and visitors. This hearing just showed us today how much we all have built in Durham over the past five-plus years."
Paul Brock, one of four Broad Street owners, says he's relieved to finally get the permit. “I was very impressed with the board. They were gracious to us, and they asked very smart questions and got a feel for what we are doing,” explains Brock.
“The applicants came back to the board with evidence for the record addressing certain issues the board had questions about,” says Michael Stock, Durham City-County Planning Department's senior planner. The evidence presented to the board indicated Broad Street's continued commitment to ironing out the details surrounding concerns over noise and parking.
This special-use permit allows Broad Street to operate as a nightclub, but it doesn't allow for adult entertainment, something Stock says people often confuse. Broad Street's special-use permit, which outlines that distinction, will be finalized at the next Durham County Board of Adjustment meeting.
“Years down the road the ownership could change,” says Stock, “and the board's conditions for the allowing the permit will take into account those kinds of issues so that whoever operates a nightclub at that venue will follow the specific permit conditions.”
Good news for Schooner a few hours ahead of their release party behind the Duck Kee Sessions: Despite only mailing the minimum of 150 promo copies of the EP to radio stations nationwide, the disc has broken the CMJ Top 200. Landing at No. 99, just behind Merge's Shout Out Louds and 10 spots ahead of the new Xiu Xiu record, this is the EP's first week on the charts. The big show starts tonight at The Pinhook at 10 p.m. For more, see our review of Duck Kee Sessions this week.
Dean and Britta
Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010
Duke University, Durham
It could have ended up just another lesson in how the visual cannot be married to the musical easily, or vice versa. But there Dean and Britta were, with band members Lee Waters and Matt Sumrow, delicately balancing the two and winning. The project was offered to Wareham by the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and initially I thought, surely that offer was based on his experience with dreamy, atmospheric pop that might lend itself well to Warhol's voluptuously slowed down film shorts.
Wareham has experience putting music to film: Dean and Britta contributed to The Squid and the Whale's score, and Luna had songs in films before that. With a monstrous screen behind them, allowing the films to take appropriate visual dominance over any stage show, the band started into the set carefully, with Waters out on bass.
Then the tone was set: Wareham or Phillips gave a blip of background information, usually with a telling slice of life, for each of the 13 chosen film subjects. It made for an entirely different experience than an open viewing of these strong characters in Warhol's circle, turning their non-performance performances into something much more revealing. So, while the Luna song "Teenage Lightning" was used for Paul America, and a Nico song, "I'll Keep it with Mine," was used for hers, some of the most effective combinations were less obvious.
Way back in August 2008, just when Raleigh's The Rosebuds were about to released their fourth album, Life Like, Chicago mash-up duo The Hood Internet pitted "Get Up, Get Out," the hit from The Rosebuds' prior album, against "None Shall Pass," the title track from the fifth album by mechanical-mouthed rap slayer Aesop Rock. (That album also featured Durham dude John Darnielle, of The Mountain Goats.)
The Internet seems to have mostly missed that mash-up, though, and paid more attention to the subsequent Hood Internet take on The Rosebuds, which put the duo up against, uhh, T-Pain. But "None Shall Get Up Get Out" is, in the end, the winning take of the two, washing Aesop's strings of syllables—"To my people who keep an impressive wingspan/ Even when the cubicle shrink/ You gotta pull up the intruder by the root of the weed"–against Kelly Crisp's waves of synthesizers. And when Aesop crawls into his diorama of a chorus, Ivan Howard is right there with him, singing his song's title just as the rapper repeats his.
On Monday, the blog Earmilk posted the old mix with about a dozen others, and, surprisingly, "None Shall Get Up Get Out" has taken a new life: This morning, the song climbed to No. 4 on the Hype Machine's weekly charts, alongside a bunch of remixes and well ahead of "Odessa," the new tune from Merge labelmates Caribou. It's odd but appropriate, given that, you know, it's a pretty good look for both songs.
As for new material from either The Rosebuds or Aesop Rock, that's all up in the air: The Rosebuds are, indeed, working on new songs, and we've heard talk of a release later this year. Kelly Crisp mentioned it via Twitter earlier this week: "My horoscope= Feb 27 biggest day in 10 years for career. Ivan's= Feb 27 "crowning jewel" for his career. Make a record right now?!?!?" Meanwhile, Aesop Rock seems to be an ace without a label. Def Jux closed its shop doors earlier this month, and he's yet to announce future plans. Again, to your source for news, Twitter: "HUGE thanks to everyone inquiring about future Aesop Rock releases. The ifs, whens, whats, and wheres, are difficult to answer at this time."
Oakland-based DJ Ripley comes from the branch of digital investigators like Wayne Marshall doing as much research on beats, ethnomusicology, or copyright as they are with their mixing skills.
So, it's natural she would be here for the C.H.A.T. festival, hosted by UNC's Institute for the Arts and Humanities this week. As the organizers put it, "CHAT will draw together the diverse digital resources of the Triangle area in a series of performances, discussions, exhibitions and workshops to showcase Collaborations: Humanities, Arts & Technology."
Among the panels and discussions that started yesterday and run through Saturday, music comes up in bleeps of talk about fair use and other topics, and in blasts of plain old floor-smashing rhythmic bliss.
Local steadfast folks Yugen, One Duran, along with WXYC music director Montgomery Morris, fill out the roster for Fuse.
In fact, tune into XYC tonight at 9 p.m. for the winning entries in the Locally Produced Digital Music Showcase, a contest curated by WXYC, in partnership with the festival.
Pop over to some of the events during the festival, then drop in to Fuse for the bass in yer face.