Taking place each year in February, WKNC's Double Barrel Benefit serves as a sort of state-of-affairs showcase for local music. The best bills at this two-night event highlight headliners who are garnering a great deal of regional and national attention while also including up-and-comers poised to make noise in the coming year. This year's shows—Feb. 1 and 2 at Raleigh's Pour House Music Hall—fulfill this function as well as any Double Barrel has, a fitting achievement as the event enters its 10th year.
JKutchma & The Five Fifths top the bill on Friday. The folk-rock outfit is led by Jason Kutchma, the spur-stomping frontman of the righteous and redemptive punk band Red Collar. Pastoral, the group's LP debut, turned heads in 2012 with its rugged beauty and a collection of songs that found Kutchma dissecting broken dreams with a sharply bittersweet edge. The rest of the night's uneven but intriguing line-up highlight's the state's burgeoning crop of pop-rock upstarts. Lilac Shadows darken '60s era light-psych with ominous shoegaze, while Greensboro's Jenny Besetzt—a band, not one singer-songwriter—heaps colorful fuzz onto surging New Wave stunners. Raleigh's restless Lollipops complicate classically constructed pop with a charming array of lo-fi effects and electronic flourishes.
Durham's Spider Bags, a raucous revelation of a garage band, headline the second night. The tightly controlled chaos of the band's 2012 LP, Shake My Head, earned them unexpected but unquestionably deserved attention outside the state—including an 8.1 rating at Pitchfork.com delivered by the Indy's very own Grayson Currin. The rest of the bill is filled out with bands that could very well replicate Spider Bags' success. Wesley Wolfe's intricate and propulsive bedroom recordings are fleshed out in the live setting, transformed into electrifying pop-punk that doesn't suffer in comparison to icons like Superchunk. Elegant and refined, Some Army were showered with local praise for the bruised and beautiful indie rock ballads on their 2012 EP. With an LP due later this year, the outfit is poised for further success. Opener Oulipo reached a new level of sophistication on last year's Primitive Ways EP, landing somewhere between Vampire Weekend and Animal Collective with tuneful seductions bolstered by psychedelic indulgence.
After 10 years, Double Barrel remains a remarkably relevant survey of the area's music scene, an opportunity to celebrate sounds you might already love and an entry point for those unacquainted with the state's rich array of local talent. Here's hoping the next 10 years are just as fruitful.