I sincerely doubt the creators of YouTube originally intended it to be inundated by videos like the one at the top of this post. But the reality is that funny(?) keyboard cats, crotch shots and awkward singers rule this medium, and Bryce McCormick is a solid example of the kind of material that racks up hits. In his surprisingly well-equipped home studio, he makes beguilingly well-produced covers of popular songs that he smothers in cliche synths and a laughable white boy-soul croon. In short, it's hilarious. He's covered Josh Groban, Prince and The Jackson Five. He also has one amazingly awful take on Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In the Wind."
But it all started with a cover of Megafaun's beautiful ballad "The Longest Day". The band's bluegrass-inflected rumination on death and undying hope gets the soft soul treatment here, simplistic synths undercutting McCormick's polish. There's no telling if McCormick knows of the Megafaun boys' involvement with Gayngs, an outfit that does what he's attempting with more skill and sometimes equal hilarity. For now, just enjoy a good chuckle and bask in the fact that the Triangle folkies have hit the YouTube cover circuit.
I have seen the David
Seen the Mona Lisa too
And I have heard Doc Watson play Columbus Stockade Blues.
That's the company in which the esteemed songwriter Guy Clark placed the legendary North Carolina musician Doc Watson, who passed away at age 89 on Tuesday evening in a Winston-Salem hospital. Indeed: There was no higher art.
The eulogies for Watson will no doubt be plentiful and profound in the days to come. In this moment upon hearing the news tonight, my thoughts are of his daily appearances at Merlefest in the early-evening hours on the main stage, pickin' and singin' a tribute to his late son Merle, recast from the classic "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
Tonight, you can almost hear Doc and Merle singing together again—in the sky, lord, in the sky.
Motorco Music Hall
May 19, 2012
At the end of his short performance just before Red Collar took the stage Saturday, beloved Raleigh entertainer Magic Mike Casey reminded his audience of one of the most persistent rules in his craft: Great tricks have three parts. And it’s the final act that makes the illusion, not the preamble.
At the moment he said this, he had just performed two clever but thoroughly un-amazing tricks, falling far short of the intricate head games he usually delivers. The latter involved grabbing an iPhone from a member of the audience. They produced a “random” number using the calculator function, which Casey predicted upside-down on a huge banner that two volunteers raised from the stage. He then quoted the magician’s rule of threes and ripped down the banner to reveal Red Collar, who had snuck onto the stage behind it. The crowd roared its approval, ignoring the first two underwhelming performances and reveling in the reveal.
Casey’s intentional underplay mirrored the evening at Durham’s Motorco Music Hall. During the release party for Welcome Home, the excellent new LP from Durham’s favorite bar-punk band, Red Collar was supported by three acts with sets that bounced back and forth between the venue’s Garage and Showroom stages. The first two acts—Signals Midwest and Restorations—were out-of-towners who played music very much in the same vein as Red Collar. Signals Midwest imported twang into the pop-ier side of punk in songs that were fast and charming, but ultimately forgettable. Restorations were worse still, draining the life force from Red Collar’s winning formula with rote riffs and cliched heartland anthemics delivered with grating grunts.
In the penultimate slot, Durham’s Maple Stave put up a valiant but ultimately ineffective effort. Reunited for a night with San Francisco-based guitarist Andy Hull, the typically precise and concussive post-rock band muddled through in a wash of distortion and bad timing. Fumbling songs that they once spun into a deft and deafening force, Maple Stave failed to find their usual finesse.
As the curtain dropped and Red Collar lit into the first riffs of Welcome Home opener “Orphanage,” what had been a passive crowd suddenly became a jubilant mob. As Casey proved, a rewarding payoff can save a performance, and Red Collar’s final act resounded with energy and excitement. The band had the audience in the palm of its hands, and while they fumbled a few times, the near-misses only served to enhance the vigor.
Consisting of a near-even split of old and new material, Red Collar's set was full of songs shot through with rough power. "Choices," a two-and-a-half minute tantrum about a girl's unwanted pregnancy, tumbled forward in a rush of emotionally charged riffs and throaty barks courtesy of frontman Jason Kutchma. He forgot most of the second verse during "Stay," one of the band's earliest anthems, but Red Collar charged forth with such rabble-rousing momentum that the miscue was met with cheers.
Kutchma was a marvel. The spurs on his trademark boots were falling apart, and his road-worn Telecaster seemed to be more duct tape than wood. But he embraced the chaos, throwing himself at his homemade, steel-pipe mic stand and dragging himself up as he screamed about crushed American dreams and the collateral damage their failure caused.
In the last song of their encore, Red Collar resurrected "Used Guitars," the emotionally devastating ballad that has become their local calling card. With his guitar grossly out of tune, Kutchma threw it to the side, leaving fellow ax man Mike Jackson to carry the load. Kutchma flailed as much as he sang, lifting his industrial-grade mic stand above the audience and letting them shout out the chorus that everyone seemed to have memorized. It was a magic moment, a mostly broken rendition that was redeemed through sweat-soaked determination.
I've been going to Red Collar shows for five years, and I've never seen them flirt more openly with disaster than they did on Saturday night. I've also rarely found them more memorable.
A reviewer’s nightmare, turns out, isn’t having to write about a show that sucked; it’s having to write about a show that was so phenomenal that the only thing left to say is, “Damn, that rocked.”
That’s the position yours truly finds herself in—struggling to put into words exactly how good Confessor was Friday night at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre. Indeed, I’m wondering if I should cancel my vacation and instead go see Confessor a second time at next weekend’s Maryland Death Fest in Baltimore. Lord knows when this band might play again.
Two locals, Jonin and Parasite Drag (which includes Confessor bass player Cary Rowells), opened. Parasite Drag was especially notable for its Torche-meets-U2 heavy melodicism. But this was Confessor’s night, and considering the number of local old-schoolers in the audience, it was really a kind of metal family reunion. It was also a reunion that the band’s far-flung fans could take part in, as the show was webcast on Ustream.
Since Confessor hasn’t played consistently in years, Friday’s show served as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the Maryland Death Fest appearance. The non-stop practicing they’ve put in since agreeing to perform at MDF showed. An absolute machine, they came propelled by Steve Shelton’s mathematically precise drumming and punctuated by Scott Jeffreys’ soaring wail. When I interviewed Confessor’s original drummer, Jimmy Shoaf, for a story that appeared in last week’s Independent Weekly, he declared that Jeffreys’ real vocal power comes out when the band plays live. He was right: Jeffreys can still hit those arching notes nearly 25 years after they were first recorded.
The band’s set was heavy on the older, more complex material, with the plodding “Eve of Salvation” serving as a standout. A handful of songs from their 2005 reunion album, Unraveled, appeared, as well as a cover of “Endtime” by the band’s heroes, doom metal pioneers Trouble. The crowd was ecstatic—singing, fist-pumping, head-banging and moshing. Disappointingly, there was no encore. Confessor finished with their signature song, “Suffer,” and just walked off.
It looks like a trip to Baltimore is in order if you still want more.
The purpose of the Independent Weekly's Simple Music Video Series is to capture local and touring musicians who we feel are producing something special. The hope is to capture something very simple in order to mirror the experience of viewing a performance as if you were in a small crowd watching a quiet set. We hope for content of the music to be the primary focus of the series, not multiple camera angles meant to keep the viewer guessing and entertained.
Most bands featured in the series will be a sample of the deep pool of talent in the Triangle, while others will represent some of our touring favorites. The series begins with a pre-show performance by Frank Fairfield at the Haw River Ballroom, recorded in January. Each week, we will post more videos, including our local cover series. Please keep an eye on Scan, our music blog. Enjoy. —Dan Schram
Also, Frank Fairfield returns to the banks of the Haw River tomorrow for a set at the Rivermill Series. He plays at 6 p.m.
To celebrate its 15th birthday this fall, local label Yep Roc Records is gathering the tribes in mid-October for a three-night blowout at Cat's Cradle with Nick Lowe, Robyn Hitchcock, Dave Alvin, Fountains of Wayne, Chuck Prophet, Jon Doe, the Minus 5 and many other artists who have released records on the label in the past decade and a half.
The shows, set for Oct. 11-13, also will feature Liam Finn, The Sadies, Sloan, Cheyenne Marie Mize, Jim White, Eleni Mandell and others to be announced. Top local acts in the lineup include Chatham County Line and a reunion of Mayflies USA. John Wesley Harding will serve as master of ceremonies.
In addition to standard show tickets, the label will sell a limited batch of 100 passes that will also be good for a kickoff party on Oct. 10 at Local 506 with Los Straitjackets and The Fleshtones plus longtime local favorites Southern Culture on the Skids and the Countdown Quartet; a private reception at the West End Wine Bar in Chapel Hill on Oct. 12; and a collaborative recording session on Oct.13 helmed by local producer Chris Stamey and longtime Yep Roc roster cog Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, The Baseball Project).
Glenn Dicker and Tor Hansen launched Yep Roc in 1997 as an in-house arm of Redeye Distribution, which they had opened the previous year. (It gradually grew into one of the nation's top distributors of independent releases.) The first Yep Roc product was Revival: Brunswick Stew & Pig Pickin', a 16-song compilation of mostly alt-country bands from that era's Triangle scene, including Whiskeytown, the Backsliders, Two Dollar Pistols, Six String Drag and Trailer Bride.
The label expanded into indie-rock and other realms over the ensuing decade. A key addition to the roster came in 2001 when Yep Roc issued The Convincer by British pub-rock legend Nick Lowe, who'd previously worked with Dicker on records with the Rounder affiliate Upstart. Lowe's presence helped attract other artists, including McCaughey, whose 2004 album Down With Wilco, a collaboration with Jeff Tweedy and his bandmates, further established Yep Roc's reputation in indie circles.
Early on, Redeye and Yep Roc were based in Graham before moving to Haw River, where the Redeye distribution operation will remain when Yep Roc relocates its label offices to Hillsborough later this year.
[Editor's note: Dwarr was set to play The Pinhook in Durham tonight, Wednesday, March 16. His entire tour has been canceled.]
ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, Durham bar The Pinhook will host the fourth and final gig of South Carolina outsider-metal outfit Dwarr’s first-ever tour. More than 25 years in the making, this show might never have happened without divine intervention.
Duane Warr, the band’s mastermind and sole consistent member, has maintained an on-and-off relationship with his musical alter ego for a quarter century. He self-produced two albums, 1984’s Starting Over and 1986’s Animals, and released them himself in small batches of about 1,100 and 2,200, respectively. Dwarr’s third album, 1993’s Crying Souls, was never released.
Two more albums, Holy One and Times of Terror, followed in 2000 and 2003. Drag City Records, the Chicago-based indie stalwart, reissued Animals in 2010 and Starting Over last year. With their urging, Warr had to decide whether or not to resurrect his music and take it on the road for the first time.
It wasn’t an easy decision: Touring brings significant expenses, including gas, merchandise, lodging and musicians’ pay, which relatively unknown bands booked in small rooms might or might not recoup. And Warr’s not the same man he was in the mid-’80s, when he’d jam Jimi Hendrix tunes at parties at the height of his wild-oats youth. Now, he’s a Lexington, S.C.-based real estate agent who, when asked his age, only says he’s “44 percent of what I want to live.” He’s also a born-again Christian.
“I fasted about this for 21 days at the beginning of the year, because I wasn’t sure about it,” Warr says. “I think it was around the seventh or eighth day, at a men’s meeting at church, another man was talking, and I heard the voice of God telling me to go.”
Even then, with the encouragement of the Almighty, Warr was reluctant at first. Finally, he decided to go for it. “I was like, ‘Whoa, the Lord told you to go, man. You need to make the best of this.’”
Denny Edwards dubbed it "the Super Bowl of Bluegrass Music." Well, it (the World of Bluegrass) is coming to Raleigh in the fall of 2013, 2014 and 2015 — after which, maybe it'll be permanent?
Edwards is CEO of the Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is busting its buttons at getting the International Bluegrass Music Association to bring its annual meeting, awards show and three-day festival of twangy 'grass to Raleigh in the fall for at least the next three years. (A press release with the dates is below.)
But I liked what William Lewis called it when I asked him if the World of Bluegrass would spill out of the Raleigh Convention Center and its immediate environs and into the smaller clubs and gathering spots downtown.
Lewis, who heads the local Pinecone music organization and is the newest member of the IBMA board, said Raleigh's forming a host committee for the events, and the point is for businesses to make the most of the fact that the festival is in town. "It'll be the Hopscotch of Bluegrass music," Lewis quipped.
So, here's how it'll work. The IBMA meeting goes on for four days and the festival is three, and there may or may not be some overlap. (The IBMA's contract is for 5-7 days each year.) The meeting will be in the convention center. The awards show and festival will be there, and also in City Plaza, the Raleigh Amphitheater and at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, a four-pack of venues that Raleigh officials have apparently taken to calling our "arts campus."
Edwards says the IBMA will bring 16,000 visitors to town, half of them from somewhere other than the Triangle, with a total economic pop for Raleigh of almost $10 million a year. His sales team's been working on this deal for five years, he said. The very best bluegrass musicians and bands in the world will be here.
Until now, IBMA events have been in Nashville, where the group's offices are (and where they'll continue to be, unless and until we can steal, er, attract them here too).
Lewis said all the downtown venues will be invited to jump in with their own complementary events, not necessarily bluegrass, while the IBMA is here. Our Hopscotch thing is that way, of course, with a lot of free (unticketed, anyway) stuff going on downtown—a lot of which we encourage/organize—even as the Indy is selling tickets to a three day event with 175 bands in 15 venues.
The IBMA put out a press release today. Here it is:
IBMA Announces Annual Conference Move to Raleigh for 2013-2015
Nashville, Tenn-The International Bluegrass Music Association announced its plans today to move its World of Bluegrass events to Raleigh, North Carolina for the next three years, 2013-2015. World of Bluegrass Week includes the four-day IBMA Business Conference, the International Bluegrass Music Awards Show, and the three-day Bluegrass Fan Fest. The annual industry summit/bluegrass family reunion draws over 16,000 fans, artists, and music industry professionals from around the world for the week-long event, with an estimated 8,000-10,000 coming from outside the region. World of Bluegrass provides opportunities for showcasing, professional development, and networking at the largest concentrated week of powerful, live bluegrass music on the planet.
The following World of Bluegrass dates have been announced, with the option for a five- or seven-day event each year:
September 23 - 29, 2013
September 29 - October 5, 2014
September 28 - October 4, 2015
World of Bluegrass 2013-2015 will be hosted at the Raleigh Convention Center, the Raleigh Amphitheater and Memorial Auditorium, with hotel blocks at the Raleigh Marriott City Center, the Sheraton Raleigh and six additional nearby hotels.
“If someone had designed a venue perfect for our events, the City of Raleigh could not have done a better job,” said IBMA Board of Directors chair Stan Zdonik. “Raleigh offers us a compact ‘campus’ that includes both indoor and outdoor stages, as well as a state-of-the-art convention center that incorporates a bright and open atmosphere. We're getting substantial savings and value from Raleigh, both for individual World of Bluegrass attendees and for our organization as a whole. We’re overwhelmed already by the strong support from the City of Raleigh, the Raleigh Convention Center and Venues, the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau, and PineCone (Piedmont Council of Traditional Music), along with an enthusiastic welcome from the local bluegrass music community. IBMA anticipates a successful event and a long-term partnership with Raleigh.”
Triangle indie rock legends Archers of Loaf and Pipe shared two local stages last weekend—Friday, May 11, in Saxapahaw, and Saturday, May 12, in Raleigh. Independent photographer Adam Kissick paid a visit to Kings in Raleigh to capture the bands in their return to action.
Before his opening performance for M. Ward tomorrow at Duke University’s Page Auditorium, Sonic Youth guitarist and sometimes-singer Lee Ranaldo has a treat for the rest of Durham: He will perform solo material tonight at 6 p.m. at Bull City Records. The event is free.
Between the Times and the Tides—arguably Ranaldo’s first proper solo album, released earlier this year by Matador—still pushes pop-rock from the mainstream while keeping it extremely catchy. On Times, he employs eerie vibes to fetch sounds of The Yardbirds, Cream, Captain Beefheart and beyond, ball them up and present them to you now live. Assortments of muffed acoustics and snare-to-tom palpitations rumble the pop into experimental plains. Although enticing openings of tracks hint at Sonic Youth, by the time you reach the chorus, the essence of Ranaldo’s own work is apparent, showing little recognition of the bigger band. Check some songs out here, or read a dissenting opinion from Indy Music Editor Grayson Currin at Pitchfork.