About a month ago, the crowd at Krankies Coffee in Winston-Salem was treated to a far different Lost in the Trees than anyone had seen previously. Playing the city's third annual Phuzz Phest, the Chapel Hill outfit—known for swelling strings, complex arrangements, and the uninhibited emotions of frontman Ari Picker—debuted a new line-up. There was no cello. No violin. No French horn. No orchestral instruments of any kind. Joah Tunnell—once Picker's bandmate in The Never, now the husband of keyboard player Emma Nadeau—added guitar, filling the gap left by departed members Drew Anagnost (cello) and Jenavieve Varga (violin). The five-piece reveled in distortion and rhythm, fuzzy guitars and synthesizers piling into art rock every bit as meticulous and as the Trees' string-fueled numbers.
Picker wrote these songs while touring behind last year's A Church that Fits Our Needs, finishing them last fall. After the heavy themes of his last batch, which celebrates the life and afterlife of his late mother, he meant to allow himself a break from writing, but the freedom spurred a creative outburst. With the new songs in hand, Lost in the Trees have played a small number of tour dates, road-testing the material before heading off to Asheville's Echo Mountain recording studio later this summer. This will mark the first time they have played an album out before recording it.
The INDY caught up with Picker earlier this week to gain some insight into the outfit's creative shift.
INDY WEEK: What spurred the transition to the new line-up?
ARI PICKER: My muse, I guess. [Laughs]
I quickly wrote the next record. We go in and start recording that in a few weeks. I just wanted, for the first time ever, to take advantage of the opportunity to tour the album and play it out live and try to see if some of that live energy could make it onto the record, just learn more about the music, instead of doing it all in the studio and then learning it live and then playing it for a year and realizing all of the things that could have been done better on the record.
I felt like the last record really did what it needed to for me, and we toured it for a year. I just happened to write the next one really quickly and wanted to do something really different, so here we are.
Jack Spicer wrote that a poet is a “counterpunching radio.” He also could have been talking about Madison County ballad singers. Just as poets are speakers through which the broadcast of language flows, so are ballad singers like Donna Ray Norton, who gives a free performance Saturday at the North Carolina Museum of History. They are transmitters of a musical tradition much bigger than any one voice or personality.
Norton herself puts this better: “My mom says that she’s passed the torch on to me. Whenever my time’s done, I’ll pass the torch on to my daughter or my son.”
Ballads aren’t just old songs; they’re historical documents unto themselves, and of the ilk that’s not set down in textbooks. When Norton fetches the soulful voice from deep in her chest to sing “Young Emily,” the first ballad she ever learned, she doesn’t just tell a tragic story; she becomes a surface upon which an otherwise lost slice of everyday life from early America is reanimated.
“I sing that song so much, sometimes I feel like I am Young Emily,” Norton offers. “I can feel her emotions in that song. I can really feel her hurt.”
In the ballad, Emily loves “a driver boy” named Edmund, who “drove in the main for some gold to gain/way down in the lowlands low.” But Edmund is murdered after a night drinking in Emily’s father’s “public house.” She accuses her father of the deed, and he tells her to keep her voice down. The boy’s gold, after all, is now open to be claimed.
These people, places and situations have been largely forgotten by popular culture. But in Madison County, the handing down of these ballads holds cultural homogeneity at bay.
“I sing it a lot, and people ask me to sing it a lot,” Norton recalls, “and it was really hard for me. I couldn’t get the tune of it the right way. I listened to Sheila [Kay Adams, Norton’s second cousin] over and over and over and could not get it to sound like she did it. And this lady named Mary Eagle, who’s a really good friend of my family, she recorded herself singing it for me, and sat with me and taught me how to move my voice. It worked for me.”
In ballad-singing circles, in which everyone can generally recall who taught them each song they know, pedigree is important. Norton’s family goes back eight generations in Madison County—those would be original settlers.
Although Donna didn’t start singing seriously until after high school, her household was always set on musical simmer. Donna’s mother, singer Lena Jean Ray, and second cousin, singer and storyteller Sheila Kay Adams, are still her most present musical influences, passing on the old-time music with subtly new variations.
Both Adams and Ray have enjoyed long recording and performing careers, and were recognized with the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Award in 1997 and 1999, respectively, a family tradition Donna seems destined for after receiving the Lunsford Youth Award in 2005. As Donna sings, she hears the voices of Adams and Ray in her head, so she just follows along.
Norton’s extended family tree reads like a musical heritage listing for the state. One of her grandfathers was legendary fiddler Byard (pronounced “Bard”) Ray, who started out like most traditional musicians did—sneaking off into the Sodom Laurel hills as a kid with his parents’ instruments until he could get a good noise out of them. He found his way into a pretty conventional musical career during the folk revival in the 1950s. Ray cut records with his cousin Obray Ramsey (a banjo legend in his own right) and the Laurel Mountain Boys, took mountain music on a European tour and even played for television commercials before settling in to teach at Warren Wilson and Berea colleges.
Donna was so young when Byard passed away that she doesn’t remember it, but she’s gotten to know him over the years. Byard died on Donna’s birthday, which she shares with her mother. She didn’t know him well enough to know the famous "nod" he gave. But her mother remembers it as a reassurance, a quiet approval of what he was hearing.
“A lot of times I feel like he’s with me,” she says.” You know, I dream about him a lot. He’s at my shows, just kind of standing off to the side. He’ll give me ‘the nod,’ the go-ahead. ‘It’s okay. You got this.’”
It’s the kind of haunting that ballad singers are used to.
Singing this style of a cappella requires an unornamented evenness, but Ray allows an airiness into her voice like that of more widely popular folk singers of the 1960s. It takes some of the burn out of the moonshine. While Norton sings “Young Emily” straight as a rail, she doesn’t treat every song with such matter-of-factness. She positively belts out “Single Girl,” a woman’s lament about easier and more fun times before the drudgery of marriage. The delivery adds an irreverence that’s equal parts sass and exasperation. In Norton’s voice, the song sounds like it could have been written last year as easily as last century.
“I learned ‘Single Girl’ from Mary Jane Queen,” Norton says. “She was a really well known singer from Jackson County. I’m a funny girl. I love comedy, and a lot of times, the funnier ballads are so me. ‘Single Girl’ just sounds like something my grandmother, or the ladies from Sodom, would say. If you could just hear the women talk over there, it’s just right on.”
These songs need no accompaniment because voices from generations past sing in the mind of the lone singer onstage. The music is a living history that flares into the present when performers like Donna Ray Norton open their mouths. That’s when those voices come out.
Donna Ray Norton performs at the Music of the Carolinas series at the North Carolina Museum of History Sunday, April 14 at 3 p.m. The show is free.
Ashlie White certainly isn't lacking for ambition. The 30-year-old graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill is also the instigator of Pet-Tich-Eye, a compelling (and confounding) project hoping to bring together local musicians, visual artists and community organizations. Close to many in the Triangle music scene—she's in a relationship with Hammer No More the Fingers' Joe Hall and is a close friend of The Rosebuds' Ivan Howard—White approached 10 of her sonically inclined cohorts, asking them to recruit two more musicians they don't normally work with to record a one-off song together. The resulting collaborations include members of Megafaun, Mount Moriah, Hiss Golden Messenger, Bowerbirds, The Rosebuds, The Love Language, Lost in the Trees and more.
After connecting, the musicians then entered the studio alongside a photographer of their choosing, who documented each trio's day-long session. Each group also picked an artist to create individual album art for each song, which will be paired with the photos in an art book that will accompany the Record Store Day (April 20) release of the vinyl LP. Each group of musicians also paired with a local community organization, which will directly benefit from the album's sales. Every LP will also include a ticket to a party at Durham's Motorco Music Hall the night of the release, which will include live performances from five of the impromptu triumvirates and an exhibition of art work associated with the project.
Late last month, White turned to Kickstarter to help pay for the initiative, but as many in the community quickly pointed out, there were some nagging issues with the campaign. The description states that all Kickstarter funds go directly to paying back the debt incurred in creating the album and art book, but it also claims that $1 from every album sale goes to the nonprofits. Also disconcerting was the massive $14,000 fundraising goal. Having already raised more than $3,000, Pet-Tich-Eye has until March 31 to reach its target, or—as with all Kickstarter campaigns—they get nothing.
INDY Week sat down with White to address the issues surrounding the project.
INDY WEEK: How did this idea get started?
ASHLIE WHITE: Do you remember when Converse did a series where they did these artist collaborations? They got Andre 3000 and James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem and the guy from Gorillaz to do a collab. It was a really funky, fun song, and I loved it. It just made me want to dance in my car. I thought that was a cool idea, but obviously, they did it to sell shoes. I said, "That’s such a neat idea, but they’re selling shoes. It plays in their stores, and it’s on their commercials. Our community’s so intertwined, it would be really cool to do something like that here."
I was in Wilmington at the time, and Ivan Howard is one of my best friends. He also lived in Wilmington at the time. He and Jon Yu were doing this collaborative thing. One night at my apartment, they pulled out their computers and a mic, and they just sort of started messing around with sounds. It was just this really cool thing, and I just happened to be present when they decided to do this. It’s awesome because it's pushing Ivan to be creative in a different capacity, and Jon Yu’s getting to do something that he really loves and see the response that Ivan has. It was all very organic and beautiful.
That feeling kind of carried out, and then I heard the Converse thing. It started as this little thing, and it sort of grew. When I moved to Durham, I had more access to the scene than when I lived in Wilmington. I just called Ivan one day, and I was like, "This is what I want to do. Do you think we could do something like this? Do you think our friends would be into this? Do you think they would reach out of our immediate circle enough for it to even be cool?" He said, [she imitates Howard’s deep drawl] "Hell yeah."
I sort of explored some of the tax options and the financial side of how to donate money, and I found out actually that if you tell somebody that a dollar is going to something from what they’re purchasing, then the person purchasing is actually donating the dollar. It doesn't have to come from us. Any store that has a little jar at the counter, they don’t have to report what goes into that jar as a donation. That’s the way that part of it works. It’s just that we’re choosing to put a dollar into that jar. That’s built into the whole concept. It started from the first record sale. People can interpret that however they want to. I don’t need to run through the street saying, "We’re giving a whole lot of money to people!" We’re not. A dollar is not a lot.
It was a ball of ideas, and it came out to what we have now.
There’s a part in the original Kickstarter description that states that the Kickstarter funds don’t go to the charities, but it also says that a dollar from each record sale goes to the organizations. Where are those sales happening?
So Kickstarter doesn't allow you to donate directly from their platform. Because the project cost more than $14,000, technically, the money we’re raising is going directly to pay off that cost. I’m just choosing to count our Kickstarter pre-sale as a sale. A rewards category is a rewards category. But when it all is said and done, and I’m filling the order for that, that counts as a record sale to me. So I’m going to take a dollar from a record sale and put it toward a non-profit. That’s the way it’s structured. It can’t work any other way, or those first however-many records I've sold don’t count. That didn't seem right to me.
When people start buying records on Record Store Day, a dollar from those records goes to a non-profit, so why not the records sold on Kickstarter? For me, it’s just from day one. If Kickstarter takes our campaign down because I’m saying this right now, it would suck. I don’t get caught up in the semantics of it or the theory of where this money goes. But I also didn't think that I needed to tell the world necessarily. It’s built-in to me. It’s at the core of what this project’s about. I don’t want people to donate to the Kickstarter just because it benefits a non-profit.
So the donations that don’t have an album sale attached to them, they go straight to the project?
And the donor gets to specify which charity, and if they don’t specify it gets broken up by 10 into all of them?
Yup. I don’t want people to invest in the Kickstarter because they think their dollar’s being donated. I’m not trying to raise money for nonprofits through the Kickstarter. I’m trying to pay for this thing to happen. I don’t feel like I’m breaking any rules. And I don’t feel like Kickstarter would either if I have the bills to show that this project cost this much money, and that’s what it’s going back to pay. If I have to donate that money myself from some other account, I’ll do it, but in theory, I think you have to keep it. Those first people who got their record, they didn't get it a dollar cheaper than anyone else will pay at the record store. It’s all going to be the same price, so I want that to still happen. And on release day I want to be able to say, we've sold this many records so far, and here’s the little bit of money we've made for you guys. But we hope this continues to be a viable partnership.
So the musicians are getting paid for their work here. How does that work? How did you decide to do that?
I paid all the musicians. I came to the studio each day on the day of recording with $100. They were paid for their day of time recording the project. Each individual musician was paid or offered to be paid $100. Some of them donated that money directly back to me or refused to take it. Some of them took the money and have since pledged on our Kickstarter campaign. My goal was to facilitate, so they didn't have to think, "Do I have to take off work, and how much money am I going to lose if I take off work today to come to the studio and record in a much longer way?" A lot of times when you go into the studio, you already have your day planned out, but because of the collaborative effort, I knew these were going to be long studio days. I knew they were going to take a lot of takes, and they were going to be challenging. I didn't want that to be an obstacle. Even though $100 isn't a lot of money, it helped alleviate any obstacles of the musicians being able to get into the studio and record the song.
That’s $3,000 paid to the artists on the day of the recordings along with whatever the recording sessions themselves cost, which you got at a discounted rate.
And because of the arrangement, I don’t feel comfortable quoting the rate.
And then about $2,200 for mixing and mastering the thing and a little more than $7,282 to press 500 vinyl copies. And all of this was upfront cost for you?
It’s on a credit card. It’s on three credit cards. One of those credit cards has no interest for 18 months, so we've got 18 months to sell this record. I really feel good about the project, so it’s really not that scary. The second credit card has no interest for 12 months, and I only got approved for $3,000 at that point because I think the credit card companies realized I was taking out a lot of credit. The personal credit card that I already had has the rest of the bulk on it, which I've just been paying off as quickly as I could, so I wouldn't incur interest. I've also balance transferred to the credit card with no interest. Technically, the project isn't currently incurring any interest just because I've played the system a little bit with interest rates and stuff. I just took my savings account and paid off what portion of it was incurring interest. The cost of it isn't growing any more than what it sort of is.
I feel like a lot of people go into a lot of debt for school. I've been working through school. I don’t have any school debt, and I feel really fortunate about that. And I do plan to write my thesis on this project.
The concept here is very much about different people in the community depending on each other and coming together in a way that’s mutually beneficial. But all the risk is really on you. Why did that feel appropriate for you? Why did you feel like that was the best way to go about it?
All of the people involved, the artists and photographers and musicians, they already have enough risk on them doing what they do. They already are in a very high-risk position. If I could remove that risk from them, then I knew we could create something very special. And I believed that it would be special. What would have disappointed me would have been if one of the musicians had said yes and then at the last minute backed out. Nobody said no. No one I asked said no, which is overwhelming. Every single person was like, "Yes, I’ll do this," and no one backed out.
It’s going to be fine. We’re going to be fine. It’s a cool idea, and we have 18 months to really make back everything and sell the record. We’ll break even if we sell all 500 records.
What happens if the Kickstarter doesn't work?
Then it becomes more important for me to work on the structure of it. Maybe we have to rethink this concept. It’s more important that the Kickstarter works in that it will prove that people want this. If we don’t make it, I just incur some debt, and we move forward.
If you're into bands that stay the same with each record they release, Raleigh's Whatever Brains are not for you. In 2011, after a string of compelling 7-inches, the punk pranksters offered their self-titled debut, a marvelous mess of twisted psych-rock detritus that shifted from aggressively mumbled verses to sarcastically epic choruses without missing a beat. The next year, they released another LP called Whatever Brains, not caring one iota that this move might confuse ill-informed consumers. The second album is sharper and more straightforward, getting most of its mileage from the dizzying interplay between guitarists Rich Ivey and William Evans.
In December, Whatever Brains sequestered themselves for three days in Raleigh's Kings Barcade, transforming the rock club—where Evans sometimes runs sound—into their own private studio. If the past is any indication, listeners can expect another stylistic shift that still fits with Ivey's supremely sardonic songs. We caught up with Evans, who produced the Brains' as-of-yet untitled new effort, to gain some early insight into the record.
INDY WEEK: You produced the first two records as well. How was this experience different? You recorded the first two records in your practice space, right?
WILLIAM EVANS: Yeah. We recorded all of the drums for the first record at a house that Matt [Watson, bass] and Rich and this guy John used to live at. They had a big back room with super-high ceilings that was real cool. For the second record, we did some of them in that same room and then some in the kitchen in a little house I used to live in with Evan [Williams, drums] and Cameron from Shards. Everything else was done in the practice space.
For this one, it was different because we got to do everything in one place. We did the drums set up on-stage and coming through the main speakers like I would mix them for a show. It was cool because I could leave the drums set up on-stage with all the mics set-up and then Josh (Lawson), our newer keyboard player, brought in—I think he had a total of 16 keyboards, including a modular synthesizer that he had built himself in his basement. So he had like two or three long tables of keyboards all set-up. He had all of those running into a 16-channel mixer and then running that out to his amp, so he could leave all of his keyboards set-up and ready to go. So if he wanted to do a different sound or get a different keyboard, it was ready to go.
The guitars we just sort of recorded in the back in a corner. There’s some carpet, so it wasn’t too live. Without people in Kings, it’s real echo-y. We used the men’s room for some pretty cool natural reverb on some bass clarinet that Hank [Shore], our original keyboard player, played and some guitar stuff that Rich was playing where he would play this one electric guitar, but he would be standing in the bathroom with a mic in there and I would mic the amp that was in another room. You couldn't really get an amp in the bathroom, but it was like the unplugged sound of an electric guitar bouncing around.
It was great because I could leave everything plugged-in, everything set-up. We just sort of had to show up and do it. Also, everyone was there at the same time, so we just would take turns while somebody did their part. They could work on their own on headphones, and then I could move onto somebody else with just a push of a button.
How did being able to record all at once together like that impact the sound as opposed to the piecemeal way you did things with the first two records? Did it give you more of a live sound?
I think it did wind up sounding more like a live record even though it’s all done in parts. I think mainly that’s because of the gear I got to use, the Kings board and some of the Kings mics. Cheetie [Kumar, Kings co-owner] let me use a really nice mic. All that stuff and also the room itself led to recordings where I didn't have to mess with as much to get them to sound good. It was just pretty high-fidelity and pretty much what I wanted just right out of the box. I think that lends it more of a live sound.
It definitely happened a lot faster, and that was sort of the idea going into it before we even figured out how we were going to do it. We just wanted to, as Rich said, have like a lock-in sort of situation with as many of us as could be there at all times. That helped me a lot. I slept maybe 12 hours over three days, but it was great because instead of two weeks of meeting up to do a bass overdub for an hour and then like Rich’s guitar or vocal overdubs for a couple hours here and a couple hours there, everyone could do as much as they wanted to or as much as they could at a time. Then somebody else would be ready to do something while the first person figured out their part or figured out a sound. It streamlined things a whole lot.
The last record was very much about the intricacy of you and Rich’s guitar parts. The synthesizers have obviously become a more dominant part of the live show. Is that coming through on the record?
Yeah, definitely. We sort of joke about the second record being the rock record. This record, the keyboard is definitely at the forefront. I think there are several songs without any guitar, maybe just a bass. I think on four or five songs I’m doing auxiliary percussion and not even playing guitar, and Rich is playing really minimal stuff or like a sampler or this noise generator that Josh built. It’s definitely a lot more percussion. Also, I think because of the room and recording in there, the drums come through a lot more, and the drums are a lot more intricate. They have a lot more detail to them. It’s definitely all about what Hank and Josh are doing on keyboards and what Evan’s doing on drums. I wouldn't say it’s a rock record.
What pushed you guys in that direction?
All of the records are usually just a chronological chunk of what Rich has written, obviously, not really in order on the track list. The first record had 17 songs; there are a couple we’d had left over from the 7-inches that we had done that we wanted to get on record that were kind of out of order, but for the most part all of those songs were written in a row. And then for the second record, they were definitely all written pretty much straight in a row, same thing for this one.
I think the major factor of how many keyboards there were was because we had two keyboard players. When Hank came back from Chicago, we already had Josh in the band, and instead of kicking him out or anything, we just added Hank back. Having two keyboards, we had to sort of make room for them in the arrangements, so it wasn't too crowded or messy.
You guys released a few demos on a CD-R near the end of last year and another in a video online. Are all those songs on the album? How would you characterize the sonic improvements to those songs?
I think they’re pretty much infinitely more hi-fi. When Rich did those demos, definitely fidelity was not at all in his mind. I think that’s fine because the sound of them is really kind of cool, and that was something I was nervous about going into the record, like why are we re-recording these when Rich already has a cool-sounding version of them. For one of them, “Eat Forever,” I think we used the vocal takes from the demo. Rich still had it broken up into tracks, so we literally took them from the demo and put them in the song. So it’s like the vocals and vocal effects that he had on them. And he had done a lot of Casio keyboard percussion that was going to be really hard to recreate, so we just used them and then added our own live percussion on top of it.
For a lot of the demos, we used them as a map of the songs for recording, to get like tempos. Evan does the drums on pretty much everything, so it was good or him to just play to that and then we just mixed the demo out because we had other things added in.
Whatever Brains play Durham's Casbah Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 9 p.m. in support of Cusses. Tickets are $7. Octopus Jones and PC Worship open.
In January, the second annual Cliff Jackson Memorial Show at Lincoln Theatre scored a one-off reunion by regional metal band Maxx Warrior as the headliner. On Saturday, just 11 months later, promoter Marty Burns’ tribute to a friend continues to grow, giving its top slot to the long-running Maryland hard-rockers Kix.
The band formed in 1977 as a trio called The Shooze, and spent the next few years trying various lineups and a new name (The Generators) before solidifying as Kix. The quintet that emerged built a fan base in local bars, and in 1981, released Kix’s self-titled debut on Atlantic Records. The band’s mix of pop smarts and hard-rock sneer, delivered in songs full of AC/DC innuendo, fit comfortably into the hair-band heyday. Their 1988 platinum-selling album, Blow My Fuse, proved to be the band’s commercial peak, hitting No. 48 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. They notched a hit with the power ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes.”
Despite some success, Kix never achieved the level of fame reached by peers Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard or, most notably, Poison. To their fans, it’s one of rock’s great injustices, an Anvil-like tale of under-appreciation. “It's been constantly rumored that PA hicks, Poison, nicked every stage move they ever shimmied from the mighty Kix,” wrote Sleazegrinder.com’s Adam T.
In a 2002 interview with MetalSludge.tv, frontman SteveWhiteman addressed the allegations of Poison’s plagiarism. “Yes, they did [steal Kix’s act],” he said. “Though I won't give them any credit for being a talented band at the time, I will say that they busted their balls to get where they got. Think about it: Poison, a Kix song; the color green for the logo, it's the Kix color.”
Whether they were victims of theft, or just bad luck, Kix soldiered on through 1995, when they took a hiatus that would last nine years. In September, Kix released the career-spanning double-disc Live In Baltimore. The band promises an album of new material next year with its current and near-original lineup.
Saturday’s Lincoln Theatre showcase—which also features the veteran cover bands Lexx Luthor and Metal Shop—sounds, undeniably, like a retro throwback. But for Kix, hindsight is better, anyway.
Check out a Stranger Spirits set, and you may find yourself faced with a hype ninja or a surfing Amazonian librarian or the Sherriff of Rockingham himself. “We call ourselves rock ’n’ roll pilgrims from another planet,” explains Aubrey Herbert, aka Destructika Poppins, a most evil take on a favorite English nanny. Adds Chris Wimberley, the regal Lord Wimberley of Bitchfield, “We have delusions about having our own set of action figures.”
Whatever their excuse, these seven pilgrims are dressed to kill and ready to unleash a new record of altiverse melodies on audiences. Masterpiece Rock Parlour is a collection of songs that drift from ’80s movie musical hooks to gospel swells to Springsteen-esque growls.
We caught up with Herbert and Wimberley to talk about the record and personal stories that influenced its creation.
Indy Week: How long have you been working on the record?
Chris Wimberley: Oh boy, Aubrey: Has it been about five years?
Aubrey Herbert: About five, yeah. It’s been a work in progress.
CW: Pretty much. We were going to call this The Great American Novel, but we decided that would be a little pretentious sounding, so instead we’re calling it Masterpiece Rock Parlour.
AH: It sounds awesome, too, and that’s also a reason.
Rewind me back five years. How did you get started?
CW: Oh wow, where were we five years ago?
AH: I was finishing up college at UNC. Chris was working with another guy as kind of a two-man-band. That’s how Stranger Spirits started out.
CW: I was working with Chris Anderson, our drummer. We met Aubrey and Taylor and started working with them. Actually, maybe the more significant thing is their love story. They fell in love and they got married. There were lots of marriages, deaths, and all kinds of things that have happened since we started working on this record.
AH: That dragged it out for five years.
CW: Yeah, that’s just a few of the reasons why, it just became this thing that we would return to and build little bit by little bit.
AH: We started out with two people, and now we have seven people in the band. It’s grown quite a lot since five years ago.
When working on it that long, how do you know that you’re finished?
CW: That was actually a problem at points. There were a lot of things that delayed this. As we came to different places in our creative lives together, we just had to ask ourselves that constantly.
AH: That’s a problem, too. You can concentrate on something so much that at some points you can almost go in the opposite direction of where you want to be. You’re doing more harm than good in spending more time on it. At some point, you just have to let it go.
CW: Just being creative together was one of the things we loved and one of the reasons why we are together as a band. The process at times was really rewarding, but obviously you can work on something way too long. Records are not meant to be made for five years. I know this from my clients, but in terms of myself, for myself this was one of those big, epic, “trying to write a great American novel” kind of things. I’m not saying that, “Oh, this is the greatest record ever.” We are really proud of this, but it was a really challenging record to make and the songs were really personal. Sometimes they were hard to sing because they got so personal, so it took a long time.
What were you going for in the beginning, then?
CW: Well, we had been doing this mad-scientist-robot-girl rock show, where we dressed up as mad scientists and robot girls. We called it Rock Laboratory. We knew that we wanted to do something similar with Masterpiece Rock Parlour, where we wanted to put together content and fun and characters and costumes and a sense of imagination along with the music, however it was going to be interpreted.
How did it evolve during the process? How would you describe the sound now?
CW: Big, fun, melodic rock. We’re trying to embrace the ‘80s revival, I guess, but we’ve been doing that for so long that it just sort of came back around. It took so long to make it that we were sure that certain things about the record would be fun from certain decades, so I guess we were a little postmodern about what we decided would fit.
AH: The original intent was to lean more toward that rock’n’roll sound with that ‘80s or ‘90s flare, but it ended up in many songs, some will have more of a western or more folky sound, some are bluesy. This album ended up being kind of a crucible of sounds.
CW: A lot of the actual songs are about rock’ n’ roll themes you would hear in songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s. We’re not trying to be a catchall here. We talk a lot about what it is to have a calling and what it is to lose things for that calling. That’s a big part of what the record deals with from different angles—from money and love and death and those kinds of things.
Is that the personal aspect for you?
CW: Well, part of what made Chris Anderson and I start writing some of these songs (and then we, of course, finished the rest of this with the full band) is that we were pretty fascinated with having worked with so many amazing, talented people just everyday at Nightsound who are trying to get stuff out of their hearts and heads because it’s their calling. It’s who they are. We identify with that, and some of this is our personal experience and our stories and some of this is inspired from other people’s stories and struggles to deal with their calling. Like Aubrey’s saying, there’s this crucible thing where we end up taking so long to put so much together from so many different stories and places.
My father was really ill for many years before he passed away. That had a lot to do with a lot of the writing for me, but the record wasn’t just about any one thing. Everyone deals with balancing their artistic life with their normal life, and for me, that was the big challenge I was going through the whole five years of making this record. To be the best that I can be, how do I have one foot in the real world and one foot in the art world? How do I walk that line to be able to serve myself and the ones I love and be able to make great art?
Stranger Spirits release Masterpiece Rock Parlour Saturday, Nov. 17, at Local 506.
MAKE's debut LP, Trephine, got folks' attention: The 2011 offering made many best-of lists, including the Indy's, and garnered a flurry of press. Last Wednesday at midnight, the band released the first post-Trephine EP, Axis, on its Bandcamp site. The titular opening track is a 17-minute drone-metal meditation, like an exploded Pelican riding a much slower, sweeter build than usual. Middle track "Chimera" weaves in hard-nosed metal textures and harsh roars from bassist Spencer Lee. Closer "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" inverts the opener's slow invocation, yet deposits the listener somewhere different entirely; with the damaged resonance of a spacious piano phrase, MAKE closes yet another record with a thrilling, engaging ellipsis.
We caught up with guitarist Scott Endres to discuss the genesis of the new EP.
Indy Week: When we talked about Trephine, there was a semi-narrative core. What's the philosophy behind Axis?
Scott Endres: I suppose if there is any underlying philosophy, it's that the EP is a great format for material which doesn't necessarily fit in with a perceived greater whole. The next LP is going to be focusing on tying together stories of characters transcending the notions of salvation and utopia and/or characters who reach varying states of peace through epiphanies (i.e. Sisyphus as Camus sees him, Damocles, etc). One of the themes which came up through this, though, is the cyclical nature of our species and the cultures we invent, nourish or disregard. Tying that with the philosophy of Sisyphus (again, as Camus sees him) and his task (and, getting more meta, his stone) you have an ever-revolving circle or cycle. All the way from the stone to our habits as a species. Axis is just one meditation on all of this, and yet we didn't envision this as part of the next LP or the greater narrative we're working on. It's meant more as an introduction to the narrative, not that anybody would get something so esoteric but us—and that's perfectly fine—unless we actually explain it. I took this even further with the cover art which is supposed to represent an actual axis as the thing spinning, revolving and repeating.
So in short there is no narrative story or structure to Axis. It is simply three songs which we felt were representative of three modes of being we enjoy as a band yet didn't seem to fit in with the other material we are preparing for the LP.
Do you feel that Trephine excised a lot of the mortal anxiety you wanted to explore in making that album?
The title track is a good bit longer than anything on Trephine. Does that kind of patience come naturally to you three as a band, or is something you had to work up to?
Oh hell no. We never naturally write songs that long. That said, much of our material comes from jamming together with no preconceived ideas. We specifically had an idea to release an EP which contained this long droning jam we had one day.
And then we spent a good deal of time actually structuring and arranging it. Though there is still a good bit of improvisation throughout it each time we perform it, even on the record. For instance, I broke a string while doing a full-band tracking near the end. It was the low C string (in dropped C) and I really needed it for the part. But knowing I could go back and add tracks, I just decided to improvise some other stuff and we ended up really liking it, so it stayed.
Is it hard to play a song that long at a live show? I know how you play and that you tend to get onstage and off pretty quickly, and also that your sets tend to be of a tasteful length. Do you get self-conscious playing a really long song live?
Not really. I think we've only done the entire thing live twice and both times it reeled in probably closer to 10 minutes. I don't think a band who relies on minimalism and repetition has any right to worry if our audience is getting bored! Kind of have to be OK with that possible reality from the get go.
How about Spencer's piano at the close? That makes me think of the way the first Caltrop album closes, and it has a similar effect. Can you tell me a bit about that part?
I like to save studio time for improvising, making noises with things and general fucking around. The entire last song is comprised of improvised material which I later arranged at home. It's all either shit each of us played together or separately in this state of mind. I think at that particular moment we had a contact mic on Matt's ride cymbal going through my pedal board and out my amp. Matt was fucking around with the cymbal while I was turning knobs and suddenly Spencer just started playing the piano in the room. I think Nick [Petersen, of Track and Field Recording] heard us having trouble getting it miked so he came in and moved the overhead near him. Score!
What's the timeframe on the next LP, and what plans do you have surrounding its release?
Oh, timeframe on next LP... no idea. We're shopping some demos around in hopes we get signed. That's about all we know right now. Still not even halfway written.
We spoke with Three Lobed's Cory Rayborn about the Impale Golden Horn reissue.
Indy Week: Could you tell me a bit about this release?
Cory Rayborn: Ha — the inspiration for this one may or may not be interesting. Jenks and I have discussed working on some projects together for the last few years. Around March 2011, we decided that we needed to do at least one Horseback record together, but that it would be a ways down the road as Half Blood was not yet finished/ released at that point. My wife and I were on a trip down to the Outer Banks about a month after he and I had agreed on the "new" record, and Impale had been playing for part of the trip. I started thinking while we were driving about how it was crazy that this one had been put out on CD twice and never on vinyl. When we next stopped the car, I shot Jenks a text and asked him if he had any plans/ desire to do a vinyl version of Impale — he quickly responded that he did.
I'm interested in the new packaging and artwork, notably. I'd like to hear about how all that came together.
Since Impale was finally getting on vinyl, it made sense for us to be able to retcon it a bit and get Denis involved. That was Jenks' first suggestion and Denis was very open to the idea. Jenks facilitated discussions and within little more than three to four days, Denis shot the very illustration we are using along this way. We were very pleased with the results — it fits so nicely into the overall look and feel of all of the other Horseback covers. The presentation of the artwork goes another level further still in the final silkscreened form — its simplicity as a pen and ink illustration plays together nicely with the creature, the moon and the chipboard stock.
Since you're co-releasing it, could you tell me why this is a significant or worthwhile record?
This is pretty simple — Jenks is a significant genre-spanning artist both in and out of our region. This was evident all the way from the start with Impale, which was a bold and clear artistic statement. The threads that weave through his entire oeuvre are just as clear and visible here as they are in the other Horseback releases, Mount Moriah, etc. For that very reason this record had to be available on vinyl.
With the Impale Golden Horn vinyl coming out, are you thinking of doing another Horseback record, or a reissue of earlier stuff like Approaching the Invisible Mountain?
Yeah — there will be a new Horseback LP on Three Lobed in 2013 (date not yet pinned down) consisting of entirely new material. Jenks has been hard at work on it and it will be spectacular. I don't have any other hard and fast details on it at the present since it is still a ways off, but the tidbits I do know about it at this point are very exciting. There aren't any other active Three Lobed/ Horseback plans at the moment, but that certainly does not preclude anything else from coming to light!
Can you tell me about some previous co-releases between the two labels and why they work so well together?
Impale marks the fourth project between Divide By Zero and Three Lobed. The other three are Rhyton's The Emerald Tablet (released earlier this month) and two releases for Hans Chew (a full length album and a 7" single). I've known Jon for close to 20 years and we have an excellent rapport and similar musical tastes. To the degree that I could help a close friend sincerely interested in releasing records get distribution, exposure and the like, I am certainly happy to do so.
Were there any hurdles with the release, considering this is a Relapse record now? Is that why there's no download coupon?
No real hurdles per se. Since Relapse has the album up for commercial download and the CD release we couldn't really offer download coupons. That's about it. Jenks spoke with the Relapse folks and they were totally fine with the release taking the form it is in.
This is the second and final—for this year at least—of a little series in which we asked music-savvy folks to give us five Hopscotch picks. We gave them a bit of latitude, though, so they could give us anything from five essential acts to five memories or five suggestions. If you didn't catch part one, which we ran yesterday, it's right here.
Hopscotch, by the way, starts in just a few hours. And now, lists:
Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees are one of the best career bands going. They're on their sixth incredible album in four years or something ridiculous like that. Somewhere between Strawberry Alarm psychedelia, krautrock repetition and classic Converse-on-a-PBR-sticky-floor body music, this is giddy ecstasy jammage with brighter, bolder melodies than an opium den full of zooted Carly Rae Jepsens.
This Melbourne guitarist can make a drone that will turn your spine to gravel. His latest record, Sagittarian Domain, is like ghostly feedback haunting and endless motorik that rides the autobahn to nowhere for 33 minutes straight. But who knows what he's going to be up to: He's released six CDs this year, and he can just as easily bonk off into creepy freak-jazz or clinical drizzle or free metal.
Lush, luxurious disco that's equal parts reverent, retromaniacal and future-funking. Dudes know their way around some Ohio Players records, but also know the rap records that sample them. Every second is like two parties at once.
Spirituals for drum nerds. He's basically Albert Ayler, Beefheart and Fennesz on a trap kit.
Ben Greenberg is making some of the best music in Brooklyn. He can wheedle like a metal god, but he uses it to build minimalist skyscrapers to heaven. Plus he produces records and might have made your favorite band not sound terrible.
First of all, if you're a music lover (and you must be or you wouldn't be reading this, right?), you would be best served spending the next three days in Raleigh at the Hopscotch Music Festival. In three years it's become one of the biggest and best music events in the southeast.
That said, there's a distinct Carolina flavor in my Hopscotch picks for 2012.
Shovels and Rope is a husband-and-wife duo based in Charleston, S.C., not an aisle designation at an old-fashioned hardware store. Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent each had solo careers before coming together as a band. Their new album is called O' Be Joyful. It's loaded with songs that feature tight harmonies, walloping drums and various guitars, banjos, fiddles and even some horns. Topics cover some of the dark corners of the South and some of the hazards of life on the road.
Field Report: There must be something in the water up there in Wisconsin because Chris Porterfield's project springs from the five-year period after his time in DeYarmond Edison. He was in that band before they left Eau Claire to move to the Triangle; he didn't make the move. His songs are mostly quiet and personal, but they sometimes build to an epic crescendo not unlike those of his pal Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). It's always beautiful, though, and occasionally heartbreaking—as in the song "Circle Drive," about pacing outside the hospital while his wife was seriously ill inside. He says she's fine now, and you will be, too, when you see him and his band.
Which brings me to Megafaun also friends with the above fellows but happily ensconced in North Carolina. It shows in their music: Three-part harmonies, gorgeous songs and hilarious stage banter make this an easy choice. I love these guys. Someone described them as spacey, alt-country, jazz-tinged, folk-rock... sort of.
Finally, I have to go with The Roots. If this group doesn't feature the greatest rhythm section in the world, I don't know who does. I saw them do Prince's 1999 album start to finish on December 31, 1999, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and was pretty much destroyed. And I'm a Prince fan, so that wasn't a given. They back Booker T. Jones on his latest CD (how cool is that?) and you can see them every night on some TV show that's on way past my bedtime. But see them on their own. You'll never come down.
Bull City Records
Five must-see bands is a little too hard for me to sit down and type today. Already my brain has been flipped into over-anxiety mode just thinking about all the bands I need to pack into the weekend. I honestly can't think of a festival that has better combined the fringe garage with the experimental/avant—usually two things that do not get lumped together—into one distracting weekend, and this has me racing. Hopscotch is a music nerd's best nightmare.
Jokingly a buddy said she'd like to know what my most anticipated merch tables might be. Who's going to have the stuff worth drooling over as far as this nerd is concerned? Laugh if you want, but this is a very real concern of mine. That being said, my top five (in no particular order) merch tables for the Hopscotch Music Fest...
Alan Bishop / Bill Orcutt / Chris Corsano Trio: King's Barcade, Friday, Noon.
The Cheater Slicks: Deep South, Friday, Midnight.
I will make a poor decision around midnight on Friday night and buy whatever the Cheater Slicks have laid out on their table that I do not yet own. Long ago, after a good pout, I came to the acceptance that I would most probably never find the opportunity to see one of my most favorite feedback-charged garage bands. The noisy and brilliantly buffoonish Cheater Slicks, from Columbus, Ohio, have been together since the late 1980s and at some point gave up on touring too far outside of their home area. I've really only lived in the South or Colorado for most of my show-going years, so I stopped checking for tour dates near me a good while ago. As soon as Hopscotch booker Grayson Currin sounded the call one night that they would be playing Hopscotch 2012, I'm pretty sure I let out an audible shriek. Grayson instantly achieved best-friend status that night. The Guinea Worms open, so their table gets lumped into this challenging mess. Cheater Slicks, I will be coming for your merch table and I want your vinyl.
The Spits: Slim's, Saturday, 11:30pm.
I'm not sure if the Spits will be carrying anything with them that I do not have, but I am extremely hopeful for some little remembrance piece of limited, tour-only merchandise. Actually, I do not yet have a Spits T-shirt, so I've got that going for me. This is the point of the weekend when most of us will be dog-tired, which will make merch tables an extremely uninhibited, dangerous hangout spot. Last year the Spits released the amazing, futuristic sci-fi-spiked, alcohol-addled Spits V on In the Red Records; it clogged many a year-end garage punk list. It was one of my favorite records, and they're consistently one of my favorite bands. It has been about eight or nine years since I last laid eyes on the Spits' merch table, so I'm ready.
Thee Oh Sees: CAM, Thursday, Midnight.
The Oh Sees seem to always tour with limited splits, 7"s and/or tapes. How do we know this? Because eBay swells with limited Oh Sees merch with every tour. Ugh. Sometimes we get lucky at the record store and anything left over post-tour gets released to our distributors who in turn flood our shelves. This is good. I do not condone the buying of merch for instant online flipping, but I highly condone the buying and hoarding of anything Oh Sees related into everyone's personal collection. Bridging the worlds of fuzz-powered garage-heads, psychedelic rockers, flailing spazz-rock college radio champions, genre-curious indie rockers and hyper record collectors, Thee Oh Sees command a devout, stretched audience of loyal fans. This is for good reason as they're reportedly one of the best live bands kicking around these days. In my nine-year love affair with the band, this will be my first chance to see them live. Is this embarrassing? Yes. So please do not get in the way as I get in line.
Chuck's: 426 S. McDowell St., All Weekend.
If I'm not spending money at a merch table or bar, you can probably count on me being hunched over a burger at Chuck's. I have not been there yet and have it on good faith (from just about everyone) that it's one of the best around the Triangle. Last year I stumbled into Beasley's Chicken + Honey at some point, also run by Ashley Christensen, and became an immediate convert. This year I'm coming for the burgers.
RUNNER-UPS: Odonis Odonis put out a ridiculously amazing CD on FatCat about a year ago which was not released domestically on vinyl for whatever reason. I'm planning to hit up their table for a hopeful wax-pressing of their reverb-drenched, surfy post-punk Hollandaze LP. Amen Dunes might have some form of limited, tour-only recordings and potentially some out-of-print vinyl releases, so I'll definitely be a fly around his merch table as well. His two Sacred Bones releases are great (Murder Dull Mind 12" and Through Donkey Jaw LP) and I happened to completely forget to keep a copy of his now out-of-print DIA LP on Locust Records, so... I'm hopeful. See ya there!
Program director, WXDU
My Nightly highlights:
On Thursday I’ll start my evening with Chris Forsyth & Koen Holtkamp. Their LP, Early Astral, was a favorite at WXDU this year among fans of krautrock-inspired heavy-psych. At the end of the night I’ll be bouncing around with the crowd at Thee Oh Sees. I saw them last winter in Winston-Salem at one of the most energetic shows I’ve seen in years.
My Friday has a tricky start. The Psychic Paramount will be playing at the same time as The Jesus and Mary Chain rather than opening for them like most stops on their tour. I’ll decide at the time which way to kick off my night. After catching as many metal bands as possible, I’ll end the night with a highly anticipated set from Ireland’s atmospheric black metal group Altar of Plagues.
Saturday holds a pair of sets I’m most excited about! I never thought I would get a chance to see Polish composer Michal Jacaszek perform. I’m always curious to see what musicians look like while creating such unique sounds. By the end of Saturday my ears will already be shot. I might as well finish them off with a pummeling from Sunn O))). I expect the drone-doom trio fronted by Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar to give my body a fully immersive sonic experience unlike anything else happening at Hopscotch this year.
Go to the day parties
You can use the day parties as a way to hang out with your friends; try to catch bands that you will miss in the evening; or finally see that local group you keep missing. I’ll catch hell at WXDU if I don’t mention our party co-presented with Three Lobed Recordings on Friday at Kings. It features performers from this year’s lineup along with some favorites from last year. Say hi if you stop by!
Five final pointers
See bands that you like! Don’t fret over rare performances or sets you’ve been told you ought to see. If your favorite local band is playing, go see them and have a memorable time. Be happy wherever you are. No matter what, you are going to miss some great performances this weekend. Let go of that mindset and immerse yourself in what is happening around you. Don’t worry about fashion. Comfortable shoes and clothes and a lightweight rain jacket will allow you to stay focused on what’s important: enjoying the music. Let yourself break free from the group. Be OK with seeing different bands from your friends. This is a huge party and we’ll be tumbling over one another all weekend. Make a new friend. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you in the crowd. You never know who they might be or what tips they might have.
Samantha Crain has been one of our favorites for a long time. We love her particular combination of roots-folk-soul music and that voice, that voice.
Wye Oak has an understated intensity, streamlined stab-you-in-the-heart lyrics, beautiful harmonies, and the mysterious enchanting-ness of singer Jenn Wasner (also playing a solo set as Flock of Dimes). One of our favorite bands this year.
Altos is made up of 12 people and we are suckers for big giant bands. There is something inexplicably moving about a large group of people singing and playing together when it's done well, and this group, from Wisconsin, really pulls it off with a streamlined, authentic sound.
How have we not heard Baobab before? They sound like a handmade present; one-of-a-kind, beautiful and intentional, in the form of smart cybernetic folk, and they are based right here in the Triangle.
Lambchop through all the years keep making great songs, and we're looking forward to closing out the whole Hopscotch 2012 with their unique existential brand of hopeful moodiness.
Owner, Local 506
Five acts I’m hoping to see for the first time....
Jesus and Mary Chain
Thee Oh Sees
...and five acts I’ve seen at 506 that I think are worth seeking out:
Shovels and Rope
I often argue that shows are compared to your expectations of the show, instead of some objective guidepost. If you are a fan of a band’s albums, then you likely have higher expectations of their live performance. So sometimes the best shows are the ones that catch you by surprise because you aren’t already familiar with the band and their music. Shovels and Rope and locals T0W3RS both blew away any minimal expectations I might have had of them before I saw them live. Similarly, both Wye Oak and local act The Toddlers developed into amazing live bands; neither were great the first time I saw them, setting the bar lower for future performances—only to have them continually raise that bar with each subsequent show. And then there is Trash Talk. I watched the Fugazi documentary “Instrument” this weekend and was thinking, why aren’t more bands this great live. Of course, the X factor in Fugazi is the reckless, unpredictable stage antics of co-frontman Guy Picciotto. Let’s just say, I think every member of Trash Talk saw this documentary and thought the same thing I did!
Of course, by writing this, I’ve invariably helped raise each act’s bar a bit...so maybe you should pretend you didn’t read this...and go see these bands with no expectations. If you can do that, then you won’t be disappointed.
We asked a handful of people who are knowledgeable about or involved in music, locally and beyond, to give us five picks for Hopscotch. We left it open to anything from five essential bands to general suggestions or standout memories.
Here's the first set. Check back Thursday for the second.
Outdoor day parties - Bring the kids along!
One of the best things about being a parent and also loving live music is seeing bands play
outside during the day so you can take along the kids. Oliver’s first show was The Rosebuds,
outside at Bug Fest. Maybe it drives some folks nuts and I was probably one of those folks
back in the day, but Hopscotch has lots of outdoor day parties which is a great way to chill and
expose your kids to awesome music, food and basketball. Then, drop off the kids and hit the
venues as the sun goes down.
Hop around or sit down?
Each year I struggle with this decision. Do I hop around and see a few songs by as many bands
as possible or stay in a few venues and see longer sets? Over the past two years, I’ve followed
my slightly frenetic nature and hopped around, unless a band’s set engrossed me. This year, I
plan on trying to sit in place a bit more. I’m going to try, but come Thursday night, I’ll probably
resort back to impulsive wandering. Good luck deciding; I don’t think you can go wrong either
Sweaty, energetic, outrageous performances
I love seeing outrageous musical stage (or floor) performances. I’m still trying my best to find a
band that will equal Cold Cave’s 2011 Hopscotch show. The following bands have the potential
for putting on a sweaty, energetic, outrageous club show and shouldn’t be missed (if you’re into
that kinda thing): Nobunny, Danny Brown, Holograms, Dan Deacon, Vattnet Viskar, Corrosion
of Conformity, Valient Thorr, Dope Body, Thee Oh Sees, Killer Mike, Trash Talk, Pop. 1280,
Pictureplane and probably every other punk-metal and electronic act on the bill.
Bands and performances you may never have a chance to see again
Hopscotch brings bands and performers to Raleigh that rarely perform together (Rhys
Chatham’s Guitar Trio, anyone?). Local bands will surely play
again in the Triangle, as will a handful of the other acts. If you want to see some bands or
performances that you may never have the opportunity to see again in the Tar Heel state or
in your life, go to these: Liars, Matthew E. White's One Incantation Under God (this year’s Guitar Trio), Arnold Dreyblatt with
Megafaun, Sunn O))), Colin Stetson, Julia Holter, Charlie Parr, Jacaszek, Mirel Wagner.
I heart bikes
The best decision you could make this weekend is bringing a bicycle along for your musical ride
around Downtown Raleigh. Hopping between venues takes much less time, and the large
concentration of bicycles in downtown makes Raleigh feel like a true 21st-century city on
Hopscotch weekend. Be sure to bring a light, helmet, lock and messenger bag for purchased
Durham friends and boutique label-runners Kyle Miller and Steve Jones compiled this list.
The Jesus And Mary Chain
We've been looking forward to this since the day it was announced. The JAMC are one of our absolute favorite bands, and we thought we'd never have the chance to see them. After we tried and failed to see them at SXSW, Hopscotch put a second chance right in our laps, and we're not going to miss them this time.
Have a beer on the back porch at Slim's
Slim's is our home base when we head to Raleigh, and the sunny back porch is a great place for day-drinking. We hope you'll come have a beer with us during Que Viva, the day party we're throwing at Slim's on Friday with six great rock 'n' roll bands, but if you can't make it Friday, get there sometime and sip on a cold can of Tecate.
Nobunny at CAM
Have y'all seen Nobunny? If you saw him play in Craig Powell's living room with Spider Bags, you might think you know what you're in for. You'd be wrong. He's playing in a museum—we have no idea what we're in for. Absolute must-see.
Drink champagne with your burger at Chuck's
Just trust us on this one. It's on the menu for a reason.
They might be the most electrifying band at Hopscotch. See them wherever they play and whenever they play. Take a long walk afterward; it's unfair to ask another band to follow them.
Diversions editor, The Daily Tar Heel
Flaming Lips, City Plaza, 2011
Bombadil, Fletcher Opera Theater, 2011
Bombadil was one of my most-anticipated bands last year, and seeing them come back “for real” was almost too much. Their set sounded fantastic, and the theater was such a good setting for their sound. It felt like everyone in that room was just as thrilled as I was to see such this bunch of talented, genuinely awesome guys bounce back against circumstances that would have beaten most other bands.
Kooley High, Deep South, 2010
This was the last set I saw on the last night of Hopscotch 2010. I almost fell asleep against a wall. I was extremely tired but so excited to have been around for the whole weekend, and was already eager to see what the next year’s festival would bring.
Panda Bear, City Plaza, 2010
Not quite a full memory. I had a family event to go to that afternoon/evening, so I missed the earlier stuff. I was running down Wilmington St. trying to get to Ryan Gustafson (I think) at The Pour House. I could hear Panda Bear’s set pouring into the street, and all I could think was, “This is so cool. My city is cool.” It was a really weird moment, but it’s really stuck with me for some reason.
The Rosebuds and friends Day Party, East Cabarrus Street, 2011
This was just fun. I got to see several artists I liked that I was never expecting to see together (including Hammer No More The Fingers, Ben Sollee and The Rosebuds). The weather was perfect, and I believe part of this day party included free haircuts, which I thought was odd but pretty creative as far as free stuff went. It was a lot more laid-back than much of the rest of my weekend, and the break was much appreciated.
Death to False Hope Records
Red Collar, Friday afternoon at Tir na nOg, The Old North State Day Party
Red Collar was one of the first Triangle bands I fell in love with when I moved here a few years ago. Their performance outside of Raleigh Times at the first Hopscotch was awe-inspiring. Best band. Best people.
Toon & the Real Laww, Friday night at The Pour House Music Hall
I just recently met Toon & the Real Laww for a Defeat Amendment 1 event at Duke. Their performance was fantastic and had an insane amount of energy that I was not used to seeing from hip-hop artists.
Museum Mouth, Saturday afternoon at Sadlack's, Let Feedback Ring Day Party
(Full disclosure: Corbie Hill organized this day party)
I play in a band called Almost People, and Karl (Museum Mouth's singer) and I decided we are sister city bands. I'm normally not a fan of lo-fi recording but these guys are doing it right.
Temperance League, Friday afternoon at Tir na nOg, The Old North State Day Party
Chris Tamplin introduced me to the Temperance League in 2010. I love Bruce Hazel's voice and energy. Temperance League are a refreshing change in a stale genre.
Tenement, Friday night at CAM Raleigh
Tenement is everything indie rock should be. You know... like rock. They make me miss 1997. If you like the superguidedpavementtospilldrag sound, this should be your favorite current band.
Check back tomorrow for part two, including picks from Spin's Chris Weingarten and WUNC's Eric Hodge.