Some Army—the new songwriting outlet of The Honored Guests' Russell Baggett—debuted with a strong 2012. Starting with a three-song 7-inch early in the year, the outfit expanded it into a seven-song EP of striking, melancholic folk-rock. Lush, reverb-heavy textures deepen the bleary-eyed heartbreak that powers Baggett's richly understated lyrics. The results resound with refined clarity, revelations of a struggling musician confronting new phases of adulthood.
Next year, the band plans to complete work on its debut full-length. The video above features part of a song destined for that release. "To Keep the Lights On" layers ethereal distortion and far-off harmonica onto patiently strummed acoustic guitar as Baggett moans out a list of goals that center on the titular phrase. The song is accompanied by performance footage of the band captured by Adam Graetz, who promises to document Some Army’s entire recording process for future updates.
When word began circulating on Facebook last week about the impending demise of DIVEbar, reaction on the Glenwood South music club's page was swift and appropriately doomy.
Many voiced outrage and sadness, often sharing memories of the club and ending their comments with "\m/", web-speak for metal horns. Some were upset that the club is suddenly closing the same month as Volume 11, Raleigh's only other dedicated heavy-music venue.
But local metal fan and regular DIVEbar patron David Askew succinctly summed up what many feel about the venue's closing: "This can't happen. I feel absolutely lost."
Askew's comments reflect the feelings of many local metal fans and musicians.
"It's a tragic loss to the metal community," said John E. Wooten IV, bass player for rising local traditional metal band Widow. "Sure there were bigger and better stages to play on, but none of them had the vibe that made DIVEbar our favorite place to play."
"I think I can speak for every local metal band that after Reservoir and now DIVEbar closing we've lost our living rooms," says Scott Endres, guitarist for Chapel Hill band MAKE, which will play its last show at the club on Dec. 29. "This is definitely a giant blow to what little there is of a tight-knit heavy music scene."
DIVEbar has actually been open in its current location—at the mouth of Raleigh's clubby, upscale Glenwood South area—since 2003, but only in the past few years has it become a destination club for metal fans. Booking agent Robby Rodwell, who was hired in April 2008, brought some of the nation's most adventurous heavy music bands, including New York industrial doom band Batillus, up-and-coming Richmond classic doom act Windhand and Appalachian space-metal outfit Generation of Vipers. He also booked classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Raven and an acoustic set by St. Vitus/Obsessed frontman Wino.
Rodwell says he liked pairing local bands with good out-of-town bands that weren't able to get their foot in the door in any other Raleigh venues. He says that once those groups were able to build up their Raleigh crowd at DIVEbar, they could move on to the bigger venues.
"I think not having a place for the good out-of-town bands to start out in Raleigh is going to have a negative impact on the scene," he says. "It definitely helps to have a little creative inspiration from beyond your own backyard."
Chapel Hill booking agent and Black Skies bass player Michelle Temple booked a variety of regional heavy music bands in the club, including Earthling, Phantom Glue and Caltrop. She praised the club for offering free or low-cost shows while still paying the bands. With free shows, she says, people were more inclined to check out a band and go see them again in other spaces throughout the Triangle. For touring bands, having a guarantee plus free beer on tour is like "a little oasis."
"You know you're going to leave with a tank of gas and play in a room full of people who appreciate you and your music," she says.
Adding insult to injury, the club isn't closing due to a lack of business. Club owners Kristy and Jason Corpora purchased the existing DIVEbar three years ago with a lease in place that is due to expire at the end of the year.
"The unfortunate circumstance of not being able to get the lease re-signed. Plain and simple," says Kristy Corpora when asked why the club is closing. "We're doing well. We're doing very well, actually."
"The verbal agreement was to potentially extend it, but nothing could be worked out," says Jason Corpora. "The landlord wants it back. There's no option to renew it, and he's entitled to do that. He wants to open up and expand his own business."
The couple won't speculate on the landlord's plans for the building, which shares space with a convenience store. They do say that they are hoping to relocate the club and open under a new name. The club's last show in the current location will be New Year's Eve.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Tess Mangum Ocaña—the concerts director and facility rental coordinator at Carrboro's The ArtsCenter—announced that she had been laid off. She had held the position for 10 years.
"That Tess had maintained this position for more than a decade demonstrates how incredibly skilled she is, what an amazing job she's done," explained The ArtsCenter's Executive Director, Art Menius. "The underlying business model in which she had to work for these 10 years and 4 months is just seriously flawed and has to be completely reimagined. She was simply caught in a situation that wasn't sustainable."
Ocaña served her last day as an active employee on Monday, but she will remain on salary for a period of time. According to Menius, both of her positions have been permanently eliminated due to budget considerations.
"We are in the midst of a long-range planning process to ensure that The ArtsCenter remains strong for many decades to come. We're 38 years old now," Menius explains. "But we had to do something in the concerts area, because the ink was just too red."
The 2013 American Roots Series—already booked by Ocaña and slated to kick off January 4 with Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys—will go forward as scheduled. Other events include a songwriting master class and performance by Suzanne Vega on February 28, a performance by Judy Collins on March 3, and the Rebirth Brass Band on March 8. The upcoming season highlights Ocaña's ability to integrate music programming with The ArtsCenter's educational mission and to bring audiences into close quarters with both legendary acts and emerging local musicians.
"Back in the day, the [Carolina] Chocolate Drops and The Avett Brothers weren't famous [when they first played the ArtsCenter]," Ocaña says, reminiscing about her tenure. "Those were some great shows. But also Mavis Staples and Rickie Lee Jones, and even in August … to be able to get Lindsey Buckingham to play a 355-seat venue—that was pretty awesome."
Exactly what the future of music will be in The ArtsCenter's Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater remains uncertain.
"'How' is the right word," says Menius, who became executive director in April. "It has to fit within our budget, else we would head down the same path The ArtsCenter's gone down too many times before. It's a very sad time for The ArtsCenter, and the end of a great decade-long era here."
Ocaña, for whom the layoff came unexpectedly, is already in talks with other venues that could benefit from her programming experience and music industry contacts.
"I'm excited for what 2013 might bring. I'm just curious to see what kind of doors might open now. But I'll really miss the audiences," says Ocaña. "Live music makes people so incredibly happy, specifically there in that venue because it's so small and intimate. I'd hate to see that go away."
Just two months ago, the Indy reported that Mount Moriah—the smoldering folk-rock intersection of Bellafea's Heather McEntire and Horseback mastermind Jenks Miller—had signed to Durham-based indie power, Merge Records. A few weeks later, the label reissued the outfit's sterling 2011 debut on vinyl. And now, right on cue, comes news that Mount Moriah's sophomore effort and proper Merge debut will be released on Feb. 26. The record is called Miracle Temple. That's the barn-burning album art above.
In keeping with the band's momentum, Miracle Temple is a more up-tempo affair than its predecessor, filling some of the group's tension-inducing spaciousness without forsaking the music's emotional resonance. Cut at Nasheville's Beech House studio with Lambchop alum Mark Nevers, the album features contributions from the group's now firmly entrenched bassist, Casey Toll, and frequent drummer James Wallace, as well as Amy Ray and Daniel Hart. The later adds cutting violin that lends intriguing new depth to the arrangements.
Musically, Miracle Temple pushes Mount Moriah in a variety of directions. “Swannanoa” is powered by the kind of searing, strung-out riff that has come to define Miller’s metallic Horseback, adding menace to the bright harmonies of McEntire and Wallace. Opener “Younger Days” is more pop than anything the band has previously tried, bounding forth with a bouncing honky-tonk bass line and a wistful narrative that’s not far removed from the musings of Triangle ex-pat Tift Merritt. Best of all might be “Telling the Hour,” a Bellafea cover that has become a staple of the band’s live sets. Finally given a studio recording, the closing number bolsters Miller’s cathartic guitar lines with ominous strings and piano; it keys on one of McEntire’s most affecting vocal performances to date. The full track list is below:
1. Younger Days
2. Bright Light
3. Eureka Springs
4. I Built a Town
5. White Sands
6. Connecticut to Carolina
9. Miracle Temple Holiness
10. Union Street Bridge
11. Those Girls
12. Telling the Hour
It's been almost two years since Ryan Gustafson performed his own songs with a full band. At the time, he was rolling with the Drughorse Collective, a mostly defunct collection of Triangle artists with a knack for reinvigorating classic pop and rock styles, and supporting his Donkey LP, a colorful assemblage of old-school rock, soul and folk unified by Gustafson's emotionally devastating songwriting. It was a style that seemed certain to make Gustafson one of the area's newest stars.
But it didn't turn out that way. Gustafson drifted from writing songs and playing with a band, instead oping to support others and dabble with electronic composition. Lucky for local music fans, the hiatus wasn't permanent. When Gustafson shows up to play tonight at Raleigh's Tir na nOg, he'll not only be joined by a band; he'll also be offering a two-song cassingle (cover pictured above) with cuts from a brand-new full-length.
The album, called Desert and attributed to The Dead Tongues (the name of Gustafson's current backing band), will be self-released on Feb. 9. From the Blonde on Blonde-inspired splendor of opener "Call Out to Me" to the windswept heartbreak of the re-appropriated title track, it's a powerful collection that reaffirms his potent songwriting gifts and fits them to refined textures and arrangements. The single displays the album's extremes, pairing the cosmic country swagger of "No Intentions" with "Sleep Talking," a blissful psychedelic experiment that appears near the album's end. Check out the full track list below:
The Dead Tongues
1. Call Out to Me
2. No Intentions
3. The Harbor
4. The Desert
5. Exit Song
7. Hanging Fool
9. Sleep Talking
10. Silver Dove
Chapel Hill garage rockers Last Year's Men are going into the studio in December to record the follow-up to 2010's Sunny Down Snuff. With regular local shows, a delightfully bizarre Twitter feed, and unhinged, catchy songwriting, they have become a fun band to follow. And with the next LP taking a different, potentially more refined tack, this four-piece should remain one to watch.
"All the songs on this record could be played on acoustic guitars," says guitarist and songwriter Ben Carr. "We're essentially going to make a really mean pop record. The more punk and psychedelic songs will be saved for another future release." The band is working with Greg Cartwright of Reigning Sound and Carrboro engineer and musician Wesley Wolfe on the upcoming sophomore LP. They will stay at Cartwright's Asheville home for a mid-December recording session.
"It'll be nice to get out of town, not work, not worry about girlfriends, power bills, or responsibilities and only focus on making a good record," says Carr. He jokes about the similarities with the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street recording process, but he's serious and excited about the upcoming immersive experience. "We'll be sleeping in the same house, eating the same meals, and making the same record for four days."
Depending on how it's released, this album may be out by February or March, though Carr isn't rushing it. Having waited two years since the debut, he says, he's content to wait until the mixes are just right before releasing it.
In honor of Halloween, Delta Rae—Durham's Forever 21 version of a roots-rock band—has released a new music video for the song "Dance in the Graveyards," from its major-label debut, Carry the Fire. In said video, the band—clad in ghastly face paint and holding torches of fire—actually dances around a graveyard, as if to summon the great Baphomet himself. As best as we can tell, neither Gaahl nor the ghost of Euronymous were involved in the production.
Though Indy Week has historically had its problems with Delta Rae, we hereby embrace their embrace of the darkness. Forget the Fleetwood Mac covers; soon, let's hope they're covering fellow Durham songwriter John Darnielle or, you know, Rotting Christ.
The Durham rock club Casbah changed direction Tuesday by firing talent buyer Steve Gardner and hiring Elysse Thebner as his replacement. Thebner is a fixture in the local music community, playing with bands such as Some Army and JKutchma & The Five Fifths and promoting shows with Ampersand Booking. Gardner had been at the Casbah since it opened two years ago.
"We took a long look at our operational model and decided that we realized we needed to make some changes," explains co-owner Jana Bradley, adding that she and partner Fergus Bradley thought that the venue would be more successful by now. "We're really appreciative of everything that Steve has done. He's worked really hard to put on some great events, but we realized we needed to make some changes and we're looking forward to working with Elysse."
For Gardner, the news came suddenly and unexpectedly. He says that ownership gave him no indication that they no longer supported his direction. Gardner has been striving to carve a unique niche at the Casbah, exploring disparate programming with hip-hop and metal shows and spoken-word events such as the club's Duke-sponsored Professor Diablo series.
"I felt like I was doing a really good job," he said, emphasizing that he may have underestimated the challenges that booking shows in Durham presents. Bands that pack houses in Raleigh and Chapel Hill won't draw well while seemingly small shows end up bringing big crowds. "I think the other Durham clubs would agree that it's much tougher than you would ever imagine. From the outside, it's just like, 'Hey, get great bands and pack the place.' But with all the competition in this area it's really tough. And then it's also not just competition in getting shows. It's competition in getting people out to your club on that given night when they have eight million other things to do."
Thebner feels that the Casbah needs to better connect with the area's music community, an issue she plans to address with her bookings. She began bartending at the club earlier this year and says that she felt detached as a musician from what she thought was an excellent space to play. In talking with her fellow musicians, she has heard similar sentiments. She plans to schedule more local bands, adding them as openers for national acts and booking more area headliners.
"We have to turn inwards and look to the community surrounding Durham and Durham-Raleigh-Chapel Hill," she says. "There are so many great bands right now that they tend to play the same venues, and for whatever reason at the Casbah, we've shifted our focus to just the touring acts and the bands that theoretically would draw really well, but don't always draw really well. This is a great opportunity to make this another place to go."
UPDATE (OCT. 30, 2012)
When originally published, this blog post got a few key facts wrong. The article incorrectly stated that former talent buyer Steve Gardner had been fired from his position; he was laid off.
The article also quotes Gardner’s replacement, Elysse Thebner, saying that she plans to increase the number of local bookings. As Gardner points out, Thebner’s quote incorrectly represents the ratio of local and touring acts booked during his tenure at the Casbah. Attendance records produced by Gardner verify that at least 73 percent of his 2012 bookings came from the area. More than 230 area bands played the venue during that time.
“It seemed to be an article about how I was fired because I didn’t book enough local music,” Gardner said during a follow-up interview. “That’s just not true.”
Asked to clarify her assessment of the club’s previous booking, Thebner replied: “My evidence of that statement was purely anecdotal, from being an employee at the venue. I think [Gardner’s] statement is fair. … I’m going to take the work Steve has done in a little bit of a different direction.”
Back in March, we interviewed the hip-hop-influenced jazz pianist Robert Glasper. His group, Robert Glasper Experiment, was headed to Durham for a two-night residency at the Casbah in support of their new album, Black Radio.
During our chat, Glasper spoke of his fondness for local Grammy-winning producer, 9th Wonder: "Doesn't he live out there? I'm trying to reach him. I want him to do a remix. Put it in the paper," said Glasper.
We followed Glasper's instructions, and maybe that's what led to 9th Wonder contributing to Glasper's upcoming Black Radio Recovered: The Remix EP. The short offering features six unreleased and remixed tracks off of Black Radio, from producers like Pete Rock and ?uestlove and guest verses from rappers like Phonte and Black Milk.
Here, on "Afro Blue ft. Erykah Badu (9th Wonder's Blue Light Basement Remix ft. Phonte)," 9th Wonder mellows the original and dots the intervals between Badu's lacy vocals with flutes chirping from a field of midnight drums. Phonte closes his guest verse with well-played erotic imagery, complementing Badu's homage to intertwined "cocoa-hued" bodies: "Love comes in every color, but the fact is/ I never needed Fifty Shades of Grey/ Just turn the lights down low and give me every shade of blackness."
With several remix albums to his name, 9th Wonder is no stranger to fixing up tracks with his signature soul-percussion, even if the original wasn't broken to begin with. This time, having a distinguished jazz musician like Robert Glasper request his remix services makes it even better.
Robert Glasper's Black Radio Recovered: The Remix EP is out Oct. 9 on Blue Note Records.
It’s been several months, a national tour and more than a few local gigs since Double Negative settled into its current lineup after replacing original drummer Brian Walsby with Brain F≠’s Bobby Michaud and original singer Kevin Collins with Logic Problem’s Cameron Craig. (May’s Hits EP memorialized the short-lived formation with guitarist Scott Williams, bassist Justin Gray, Michaud and Collins.)
This Fall, that now-stable roster will make its vinyl debut on two 7-inch EPs — volumes 3 and 4 of the band’s Hardcore Confusion series. Double Negative recorded five new songs with producer Will Evans and sent them off to be mastered by Greg Elkins while the band hustles up to New York this weekend for The Power of The Riff Festival, where they’ll play alongside Sunn O))), Agnostic Front and Negative Approach, among others.
The plan, according to a post on Double Negative’s Facebook wall, is to have the new EPs minted in time for a long string of tour dates in September supporting the Keith Morris-fronted punk supergroup OFF!, the resurrected first-generation hardcore marauders Negative Approach and jittery punk mischief-makers The Spits. They’ll blow the roof off at Kings Sept. 30.
They’ve let loose one track already. “Boys For Sale” features the band’s signature thumb-screw tension, winding and unloading into abrupt bursts of blinding force. The powerful torrents Michaud powers from the drum kit keep the momentum as the band splinters off into a more spacious arrangement. “Boys For Sale” features the closest thing to a proper guitar solo — a blade-twisting death metal slither — that Double Negative has ever recorded. It’s worth noting how seamlessly new vocalist Craig has transitioned into the band; like Collins, he possesses a dry timbre and an agility with stretching syllables.