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Monday, May 14, 2012

Tonight: Lee Ranaldo at Bull City Records

Posted by on Mon, May 14, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Walking into Durham

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.

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    The Sonic Youth guitarist plays for free in Durham tonight.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

'Baudelaire in a Box' comes to the Triangle

Posted by on Tue, May 8, 2012 at 12:30 PM


In the spring of 2010, Chicago-based artist and theater wiz Dave Buchen executed the first edition of Baudelaire in a Box. He and his songwriter friend Chris Schoen adapted some of the notable wine poems of famously macabre 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire, setting them to music and illustrating them with scrolling images that played within a series of boxes. The performance was so successful that Buchen, a founding member of Chicago's Theater Ooblek, decided to expand the project. The plan now is to adapt the entirety of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal by 2017, the 150th anniversary of Baudelaire's death.

Producing a new show every few months, Buchen has made his way through New York, Chicago and Puerto Rico, incorporating new musicians along the way. On Memorial Day weekend, Baudelaire in a Box makes its way to the Triangle where a team of local musicians will put their own spin on Bauedelaire's cherished words. Dexter Romweber, JKutchma, Curtis Eller and New Town Drunks will provide original music for a new batch of Baudelaire's poetry in a show entitled "Bad Luck." The group of musicians will play along as Buchen spins his art at Carrboro's ArtsCenter (May 25), Durham's Pinhook (May 26) and Raleigh's Pour House (May 27).

For an early listen as to what these shows will entail, you can check out a rough cut of New Town Drunks' "Ill Starred," one of their Parisian-flavored contributions to the show, streaming below.

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    Local musicians and Dave Buchen collaborate on live Baudelaire in a Box

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Mountain Goats, Mac McCaughan and Greg Cartwright team up to fight Amendment 1 at Motorco

Posted by on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 at 1:08 PM


In less than a month, North Carolinians will vote on the so-called defense of marriage amendment, which would permanently prohibit same-sex marriage and all forms of non-marriage civil unions by codifying the ban (which already exists in state law) into the state constitution.

Before that happens, though, three of the state's finest songwriters will offer a loud stand against the proposed amendment. The Mountain Goats, Mac McCaughan (of Superchunk and Portastatic) and Greg Cartwright (of Reigning Sound, Compulsive Gamblers and The Oblivians) will take the stage at Motorco to raise money and awareness on behalf of the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families, an equal-rights organization working to rally voters against Amendment 1.

The Mountain Goats' frontman John Darnielle—no stranger to local benefit gigs—announced the show via Twitter this afternoon. Tickets for the April 19 event are $20, but a $100 VIP option guarantees a meet-and-greet before the show and a song-request inserted into any of the three acts' set list. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts an hour later. Comedian Tara DeFrancisco will open and act as MC. Tickets are available here.

It's likely tickets will move quickly for this gig; they would no matter the cause. The Mountain Goats (and Darnielle's novelistic folk songs) are known for their fervent following. McCaughan's legacy is well-defined as the co-owner of Merge Records and leader of Superchunk and Portastatic, but a recent spate of solo gigs have all been well received. And Cartwright is garage-rock royalty whose cult-favorite band The Oblivians are preparing a new album for release this fall. So for tickets, and against Amendment 1, the time to act is now.

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    For tickets to the April 19 gig, and against Amendment 1, the time to act is now.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tonight at Motorco: New York jazz quartet Endangered Blood

Posted by on Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 6:28 PM

Endangered Blood strikes an intimidating tone with its name, but it’s actually a reference to the short-lived Comedy Central series TV Funhouse. That irony is fitting for the band: Its members arrive bearing stacked résumés in the out-rock and contemporary jazz realm. The band’s most well-known member outside of jazz circles, bassist Trevor Dunn, has collaborated with John Zorn, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas and Melvins, but saxophonists Chris Speed and Oscar Noriega, and drummer Jim Black, aren’t exactly unknowns, either. All three play in various well-regarded combos, and Speed runs the excellent Skirl label.

But despite its members’ outré excursions beyond this quartet, Endangered Blood is about as focused and song-oriented as a contemporary jazz band can be without losing its edge.

“We’re a jazz band,” Speed told me last weekend. “We’re two saxophones and bass and drums, and there’s a certain thing that we’re going for with that instrumentation. It is what it is, and we’re not trying to be something we’re not, but to do something that’s unique to us.”

True to his words, there’s a stream of traditional jazz racing through Endangered Blood’s veins. But it doesn’t bog down the band, either. It might dip into the classics, as on the reverent revision of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy,” which appears on last year’s self-titled debut, but the foursome doesn’t play it straight. Their “Epistrophy” is a lurching thing, shaded with darker tones than Monk’s original; it pays homage, but as Speed suggests, it shows a band that approaches standards “as open and creatively as we would with our own music.”

In their originals, Endangered Blood make space for Black and Dunn’s heavy rhythms. Black drives grooves deep into funk territory; Dunn lends enough rock heft to keep things propulsive. The reedsmen match fluid, lyrical melody with sudden bursts of frenetic free jazz. It’s a rare band with muscle and agility.

The band captures that balance on record. And it’s likely they’ll have that on stage at Motorco tonight, too. The last-minute gig arrives after a year of touring behind the record, and it’s the second show on the band’s short Southeastern tour. They plan to record a follow-up album in May, before Dunn returns to the Melvins for a few months this summer.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10. Motorco will also be screening David Lynch’s 1986 thriller Blue Velvet in the main room.

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    A star-studded jazz band makes a last-minute stop in Durham tonight.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gray Young plays Kickstarter awareness show Friday at Slim's

Posted by on Tue, Mar 6, 2012 at 3:24 PM

Gray Young at Local 506, May 2011

Raleigh's Gray Young—whose first record was praised by this paper and second record was panned—is raising funds via Kickstarter to record its third LP. This Friday, with 11 days left to reach its $5,000 goal, the band will play Slim's in Raleigh to raise awareness for its fundraising push.

"It's a free show because it's all about thanking the people who have contributed and trying to raise awareness to the people who don't know about it," says guitarist and vocalist Chas McKeown. There will be a computer at the show for people who want to contribute to the Kickstarter. Mostly, he says, it'll be free rock and roll—donations optional. The yet-unnamed, yet-unwritten record will be self-released, much like debut album Firmament. Gray Young wouldn't go into detail on its relationship with 307 Knox Records, which released sophomore LP Staysail.

"So we basically figured $10,000 is what we are needing to get everything done," McKeown says of the entire recording and production process, plus PR. The Kickstarter campaign aims to fund half this amount. As of Tuesday afternoon, the band had raised $2,572.

"I was apprehensive about doing it, but I've come to see it as a way to bring people into the process with us and less of us asking people for money," McKeown says. "It's more of a way to simultaneously pre-order a record while investing in it."

The band posted a new video Sunday, featuring demo track "Dead Air" (below). In a symbolic hint, a tugboat pushes a container ship toward its destination.

Perhaps you could say the tugboat is giving the container ship a kickstart. Eh? Eh?

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Duke's Brickside Festival adds Gunn-Truscinski Duo, Royal Baths

Posted by on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 10:47 AM


The Brickside Festival, Duke University's spring music celebration, might not appeal to your average college kid, but it's shaping up to be a music nerd's wet dream. The initial lineup for the March 24 event included blissed-out garage star Kurt Vile in addition to Supreme Dicks, Tanlines and The Postelles. Today, the festival added three more names that should make a small number of people very excited—and will likely floor any uninitiated attendees.

The Gunn-Truscinski Duo, the stellar pairing of hypnotic blues guitarist Steve Gunn and gifted percussionist John Truscinski, will play alongside Royal Baths and Mark Kozelek, known for leading both Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters. The Gunn-Truscinski Duo, who laid down one of the best day party sets at last year's Hopscotch Music Festival, find spacey avenues within the structure of a traditional blues duo, somehow melding cymbal crashes and elliptical riffs to create a gorgeous wash of sound. Royal Baths just released their second LP, Better Luck Next Life, which adds a darkly distorted veneer to psych rock a la Velvet Underground, creating twisted garage gems that are as menacing as they are catchy. Kozelek's solo work is an oddball treat, sometimes dominated by gorgeous acoustic folk covers that come from left-field places: His 2001 LP What's Next to the Moon is all AC/DC covers.

The festival is presented by WXDU, Duke Coffeehouse, College Concert Series and Major Attractions. All the acts announced so far will play at the Coffeehouse, but more bands and venues are set to be unveiled. It's perfectly possible that the rest of the festival will hew to more traditional college crowd-pleasers. For now, though, let the nerds rejoice!

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    Duke's spring music celebration might not appeal to your average college kid, but it's shaping up to be a music nerd's wet dream.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tonight: Lost in the Trees play impromptu set at Local 506

Posted by on Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 3:14 PM

Lost in the Trees - PHOTO BY D.L. ANDERSON

This is going to be a big year for Lost in the Trees. They are about to release one of the Triangle's most anticipated 2012 LPs, the dramatic and emotionally fractured A Church That Fits Our Needs, on March 20. As with any group preparing to launch what could be the breakthrough of their career, the Chapel Hill folk orchestra is preparing an extensive tour. Tonight at Local 506, you can witness their impromptu tune-up.

This afternoon the band announced that they will open for Islands, giving hometown fans a chance to catch them before they hit the road in March. The tour will lead them through two dates in the U.K. before a whirlwind trek across the U.S. and two dates in Canada. The last show will be April 20 at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, the Triangle release party for the new record.

Chances to see Lost in the Trees in such an intimate setting are becoming more and more rare, so show up early. They've made a habit of filling the much-larger venues. Even on short notice, the 506 is likely to be packed.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Smile! The Beach Boys to play in Raleigh

Posted by on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 11:26 AM


Fifty years ago a group of young, angel-voiced California boys showed up late for the surf rock craze that had stormed the nation. Against the odds, those Beach Boys became one of the most successful groups of the '60s and one of the most influential pop bands of all time. As unlikely as their accomplishments were, the notion that they would be back together, playing in Raleigh in 2012 may have seemed even more impossible.

Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Mike Love, the surviving members of the original Beach Boys, are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a world tour, and on April 29 they will stop at the Raleigh Amphitheater. The sure-to-be-coveted-tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Feb. 25. It's the first time the original members of the band have reunited in more than two decades.

The obvious question: Are these surf anthem veterans ready to ride, or are they all washed up? This Sunday's Grammy Awards offered clues as the Boys and their large backing band took to the stage to offer up a rendition of "Good Vibrations," perhaps their most recognizable hit. In sound, it's hard to fault them. Their harmonies were immaculate as ever, and that high-pitched Electro-Theremin wail is still just as cool as it was in 1966. Still, the trio, especially Wilson, looked a bit tired, like playing just the one song took tremendous effort. They might just need time to get into touring shape, but doubts as to their energy are still hard to repress.

Adding to the excitement for Beach Boys devotees is news that the reunited line-up will also be releasing a new LP with Wilson, the famed producer of classics such as Pet Sounds and Today!, back behind the boards. Wilson's recent studio work doesn't exactly assure this will be a success. While his 2004 revision of lost Beach Boys album SMiLE and 2008's That Lucky Old Sun show he's capable of approaching his old glory, questionable calls like last year's In the Key of Disney breed trepidation. But will anyone in Raleigh be there to hear new songs?

The Raleigh date is the third on the tour following stops at New Orleans' Jazz & Heritage Festival and Atlanta's Chastain Park Amphitheatre. The tour will then take the band across the U.S., including stops at Tennessee's Bonnaroo Music Festival and Milwaukee's Summerfest before the Boys head off to Europe in August. More info at

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    Pop legends The Beach Boys announce stop at the Raleigh Amphitheater on April 29.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Avett Brothers, The Love Language to headline 21-band benefit for Oliver Gant

Posted by on Wed, Feb 8, 2012 at 9:54 AM


UPDATE (March 1, 2012): A fourth venue has been added to this show. Tift Merritt, Bombadil, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, The Small Ponds and Brice Randall Bickford will play The Lincoln Theatre on Friday, March 23. As with all venues, doors open at 7:30 p.m., and wristband pickup will be available at all four venues. Tickets go on sale today at noon via These tickets permit access to Kings, Tir Na Nog, The Pour House and The Lincoln Theatre—space, as always, permitting.


Little more than a year ago, Jed Gant, downtown editor for local news blog New Raleigh, gave a ride to a friend. It was a pretty typical weekday afternoon in downtown Raleigh, and his buddy needed a lift home. During the drive, Gant's then 1-year-old son Oliver sat in the back seat screaming, apparently in tremendous pain. His father attempted to adjust the harness on his car seat, but the child continued to cry. A few days later, Oliver was diagnosed with cancer.

The friend, as it happens, was Grayson Currin, music editor for the Independent and co-director of the paper's annual Hopscotch Music Festival. Currin was tapped by Chris Tamplin, who booked a benefit for Oliver at Raleigh's Tir na nOg last month, to help out with his event. With this as a spark, Currin started to envision something bigger. Racing the Cure—a one-night, three-venue mini-fest in downtown Raleigh benefiting an ailing 2-year-old and his deserving family— is the result.

“I barely think about the fact that my friends have kids,” Currin explains. “I don't really think about the fact that my friends have kids with cancer.”

As you can see in the schedule above, Racing the Cure, set for March 23, is among the biggest local music benefits in Triangle history. Nationally recognized folk superstars (and old friends of Gant) The Avett Brothers will take a break from playing amphitheaters and arenas to throw down in the 250-capacity rock club Kings. The fest will also inhabit The Pour House and Tir na nOg and includes 15 other bands, some of the biggest names in Triangle music. Rag-tag pop-rockers The Love Language, energetic pop outfit Annuals and stately rock band The Old Ceremony highlight a line-up rich with local heavyweights. The $25 tickets, good for admission to all three venues, go on sale at noon today, Feb. 8.

“For us, I think it means a lot that we've been able to … not stand on the shoulders of other people, but have other people help us out,” Jed Gant says of the assistance the community has offered his family, which has already included two benefits in Raleigh.

The past year has been rough for Oliver, his mother, Stacy, and Jed. Oliver was diagnosed last February with a sacrococcygeal teratoma, a type of germ-cell tumor. It was malignant, but luckily hadn't yet metastasized. His doctors gave him the standard treatment for his condition, which started with chemotherapy before a June surgery to remove the tumor. Two months after his surgery, doctors discovered the cancer was beginning to grow anew. Oliver was given a new formula of chemotherapy and had another major surgery in December.

If all goes according to plan, the festival may well serve as a celebration of Oliver's health. He recently completed what his doctors hope will be his last round of chemotherapy and is recouping now at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Cautiously optimistic, Jed says that the support of their friends, family and community has been invaluable in helping them through this crisis.

“We feel there are a lot of things that we would have struggled to do without help from other people,” Gant says. “We see other families at the hospital who don't have this support, and it's very sad. We feel very supported in a way that we're able to focus on Oliver. I think that's very crucial for pediatric cancer care, that the parents are able to focus their energies on their child and on the treatment and are able to be there as much as possible to monitor the needs of their child.”

Any proceeds from the festival that don't go to Oliver's family will go to CaringBridge, a free online service that allows families dealing with pediatric cancer to tell their story and communicate with other families in similar situations.

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    UPDATE: A fourth venue has been added, and more tickets are on sale now.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Double Barrel announces lineup

Posted by on Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 2:14 PM


In the last few years, N.C. State's student radio station WKNC 88.1 FM has become one of the most reliable champions of local music in the Triangle. Their steady stream of N.C. talent—during regular blocks of programming as well as their Local Lunch and Local Beat segments—is a vital resource to area artists. Their annual Double Barrel Benefit has become an extension of that mission, a two-night celebration that exposes local bands to audiences that might otherwise remain ignorant. The lineup for this year's event, which takes place Feb. 3 and 4 at Raleigh's Pour House, continues that tradition. (Here's the Facebook event.)

The first night is heavy on quality talent, if a little off-balance stylistically. Revitalized Durham "acousti-core" heroes The Future Kings of Nowhere headline. Shayne Miel, who is back at it after a long battle with lymphoma, leads his band through explosive acoustic-punk love ballads and newer, more mature rock songs with near endless vigor and charm. (Take that proclamation with a grain of salt: I sometimes work for the label that's releasing the band's new EP.) Dreamy folk trio Birds and Arrows and experimental outfit Organos are a well-suited pair in the middle of the bill. MAKE opens the night and is among the better metal bands in the Triangle, patiently unleashing ominous tones in the doom tradition, but they don't make much sense as a lead-in to the tuneful fare that will follow. Still, it will likely be worth a laugh watching college rock devotees cope with MAKE's volume.

Night two, on the other hand, is one of the best bills Double Barrel has ever put together. The Kingsbury Manx headline, and their immaculately crafted chamber pop is one of the Triangle's truly under-appreciated treasures. Live, their chemistry as an ensemble is wowing. Garage rock spark plug Gross Ghost, whose forthcoming debut LP Brer Rabbit is a burst of relentless momentum, rev things up the middle of the night alongside Boone's Naked Gods, who liven Wilco's weirdo folk with slanted and enchanted indie rock energy. The opener here may well steal the show: Raleigh's Heads on Sticks have quickly become one of the area's most thrilling live acts. David Mueller, bassist for psych-rock heavyweights Birds of Avalon, leads his outfit through darkly distorted dance-rock that's scary-good fun. On Saturday, the dance party may well trump the rock show.

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