“I've admired The Cave for years, and when I became aware that it was for sale almost a year ago, I hoped to be involved with the buyers,” says Connor, who not only books music at Slim's, but also plays bass in multiple Raleigh bands. And Alston is an experienced entrepreneur. “With a track record of great success, Van will be able to lend his invaluable wisdom of 20-plus years of bar/ restaurant ownership and help steer the ship straight at times when guidance is necessary.”
Connor says he respects The Cave's long tradition on Franklin Street but would also like to work toward “cross-pollination” between Raleigh and Chapel Hill by coordinating shows between The Cave and Slim's. This would help touring bands build larger fan bases, he says, but also opens up opportunities for other events that would otherwise be one-offs: micro-fests, say.
“We're not planning on making changes at either place right away,” says Connor. “We didn't buy 44 years of history just to come in with a bulldozer and a 'let me tell you how we do it' attitude.” He says he and his partners may make changes to improve either Slim's or The Cave, but not right away. Rather, Connor describes a “sister club” approach that respects the strengths of both rooms while fostering a musical conduit between Raleigh and Franklin St.
“I couldn't be more excited," explains Connor, "and I invite every resident of Chapel Hill 21 years of age or older to come celebrate their town's oldest and one of its greatest bars."
Most musicians in Dan Melchior's shoes would have likely put recording not just on the back burner, but freeze-dried in the pantry, ready to be resuscitated if the opportunity ever arose. Two years ago, Letha Rodman Melchior, the wife of the Durham-based garage rock stalwart, was diagnosed with breast cancer and melanoma. The subsequent two years have been an emotional roller coaster of attempted treatments and benefit concerts, moments of hope and instances of pure sadness. Through it all, Melchior has only increased his output, absorbing the blow to his beloved partner and bassist and releasing four LPs, a Record Store Day EP and a litany of singles and cassettes. A busy mind thinks less about its troubles, a truth that Melchior seems to know all too well.
The latest news out of the Melchior camp isn't great. Letha now requires experimental treatments not covered by her insurance. "In 2014, when The Affordable Care Act goes into effect, not only will health care providers be required to stop denying people better health coverage because of pre-existing conditions," reads a recent press release from Melchior's current label home, Northern Spy Records, "but they’ll also be required to pay for the exact drug trials Letha is being subscribed." Luckily, the Melchiors have been embraced by their artistic community, who have pooled resources to raise money for medical care. Donations are being collected right here.
Far from shrinking from the news, Melchior tackles it head on with The Backward Path, an arresting, stripped-back LP that serves as tribute to his ailing wife and the struggle the couple has endured. The album, which drops on Sept. 11, returns to the psych-blasted acoustics of last year's Assemblage Blues, breaking up idiosyncratic odes with bracing noise compositions. A devastating listen, it captures the fight to remain positive in the face of crushing disappointment. On lead single "All the Clocks" (streaming below), Melchior sings, "All the clocks had lost their hands and given up, and I was just about to do the same when you said, 'Don't worry, I will follow you. Don't worry, I will stay with you.'"
All proceeds from the first pressing of The Backward Path will go towards Letha's care. Pre-orders,can be placed right here.
Ben Carr and Ian Rose, songwriting guitarist and drummer for the essential Chapel Hill garage punks Last Year's Men, are starting a new limited-run label, Sonogram Records. The business model follows the raison d'etre of many micro-labels: two friends releasing their friends' music to help them out, sure, but also for the fun of it. Yet Carr and Rose have mixed their love of music with a creative approach, and Sonogram may be a different creature—even in a region with multiple such boutique labels.
"Hopefully [we'll] work with bands that have already broken up to reissue some releases," Carr says. But first Sonogram is releasing a Gross Ghost cassette, solo work by Spider Bags' Dan McGee and material by remarkable Toronto garage-psych rockers The Pow Wows. The first of these releases should be out by early fall.
"We're doing this to try and work with the established rock 'n' roll scene and help it grow," says Carr. "If we can get an out-of-town band whose material we've released in front of a crowd of 50, then I think we've done a pretty damn good job."
"Remember when heavy metal was supposed to be fun? COLOSSUS does."
That's the first line from the bio passed around with promos of The Sepulcher of the Mirror-Warlocks, the new EP from appropriately named Raleigh-Chapel Hill metal band COLOSSUS. The self-release represents the outfit's first new music since 2009.
The band's claim rings true on The Sepulcher's six songs, which pair riffs that churn, tangle and soar with outlandish lyrics about Frank Herbert's sci-fi epic Dune, a transdimensional love affair and the pulp fantasy series Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The record succeeds via the same mix of hyper-reverent Iron Maiden worship and fun-loving abandon that was also the boon of COLOSSUS' first two releases, though The Sepulcher moves with a relentless energy those previous efforts can't match. COLOSSUS' music treats heroic struggle with the color-drenched bliss of a great Saturday morning cartoon. Sean Buchanan's powerful belts will make metal fans of the right ilk feel like eight-year-olds, sitting dangerously close to the TV, pumping their fists as Lion-O raises his sword and screams "ThunderCats, ho!"
The album is available for $6 at KungFuNation and can be streamed in full below. COLOSSUS' next local show is Aug. 31 at Slim's in downtown Raleigh.
Paul Price, a veteran of the Chapel Hill music scene during the '80s and '90s and a founding member of local indie rock mainstay Lud, passed away Sunday night at his home in Chapel Hill. He was 59.
Price began playing in beach music outfits as a teenager and made an impact on the Triangle scene starting in the early '80s. He played in bands such as The Swamis and The Emperors of Ice Cream and was a notable fixture at the Hardback Cafe, a now defunct meeting ground for musicians and other artists.
In the early '90s, Price began jamming with Bryon Settle and Kirk Ross, shifting from his more comfortable role as a bassist and guitarist to play drums. The collaboration would go on to birth Lud in 1993. The lush and mercurial indie rock outfit remains a vital player in the Chapel Hill scene.
"We had an old four-track tape machine, and it ran about 20 minutes a side," Ross says of Lud's genesis, referring to the three men as brothers. "We would just hit record and play until the tape ran out. That's how we got to really know each other. You do a lot of talking sitting up late at night."
Price was also an accomplished academic. He studied and taught at UNC-Chapel Hill, receiving one of the school's first bachelor's degrees in international studies. In 1994, he left Lud to work for UNC, where he became assistant director of the Center for International Studies. During his time at UNC he traveled to the African nation of Eritrea, where he joined a team of scholars assisting the budding democracy in getting on its feet.
"He pretty much had the best damn excuse to quit a band that I've ever heard," Ross laughed. "You know, 'I've got to go off and help a fledgling democracy in Africa.'"
Price rejoined Lud in 1996, switching to bass and contributing to the albums Sparkling Rope and Epiflot despite suffering a heart attack in 1997. In 2000, he left the Triangle for New York, where he worked for the Social Science Research Council. He became ill earlier this year and moved back to North Carolina to be close to his friends and family.
More than just a key cog in local bands, Price was a prolific solo artist with a diverse collection of accomplishments. He composed the soundtrack for Sweet Dreamer, a 1990 indie film directed by Robert Landau, and he wrote the song for a popular N.C. tourism commercial in the early '90s. Wes Lachot, a friend of Price who owns the Durham recording studio Overdub Lane, hopes to remaster and release some of Price's solo work in the near future.
"He was always the most intellectual guy in the room," Lachot says, recalling the way Price would help him out around the studio, laying down fills or helping in the production booth. "He was always the fiercest critic of everything. I hated bringing my own songs to him. He was very hard to please. If he did finally like a song, you knew it was a good song because he would reject 19 and choose one."
I have heard none of the music, but Transcendental Youth strikes me as a perfect Mountain Goats title. Indeed, there's a kind of transcendental youth at the core of every record that leader and songwriter John Darnielle creates. From the hissing cassette recordings of his early days to his current hi-fi compositions, Darnielle's meticulous narratives mine through the strife that ages us, rescuing the defiantly screaming kid trapped amid the frustration. His nasal bark has grown into an unlikely croon, and he regularly works with vocal choirs and string parts. But all of that has only sharpened his focus when it comes to distilling the youthful madness hidden within every seemingly mature adult.
"I had an idea for a song so I started working on it," Darnielle writes of Transcendental Youth's genesis in an essay posted to the Goats' website. "The narrator turned out to be a person who felt lost and alone and only partially able to keep it together. He was living alone in the Pacific Northwest, and he was fighting the urge to just stop fighting at all, and I recognized his voice because, one, I used to work with a lot of people who spent long seasons in that guy's shoes, and two, I have also been that guy. Who hasn't, if not north of Portland during the rainy season then elsewhere, lost and desperate and trying to swim to the surface?"
Darnielle received some some help with arrangements from Owen Pallett, who shaped the vocal parts for the Goats' "Transcendental Youth" shows with Anonymous 4 this spring, a collaboration that will be repeated as part of this fall's Duke Performances series. The renditions that appear on the record were forged through live performances, a practice that Darnielle has only infrequently used in the past, typically keeping songs to himself until they are released.
Darnielle will also play two special sets at the Independent's Hopscotch Music Festival — one an acoustic set of rarities and fan favorites, the other a set of heavy metal covers played on the piano. For a more entertaining take on today's Mountain Goats news, be sure to check out the band's new bio, written by Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman.
Included in the album art for Poor Moon — the wonderful 2011 LP from Durham's Hiss Golden Messenger — is a picture of main man M.C. Taylor guiding his toddling son Elijah through the woods. Barefoot with a straw hat covering his face, Taylor smiles as his first born explores a little further up the path, staring with wondrous intensity at his hand, which is holding what appears to be a pine cone.
The image lines up perfectly with lead-off track "Blue Country Mystic." The song's sly and seductive funk backs up a narrative from a father a little further down the road. "Now, they tell me you're as wild as I was," Taylor sings, his piercing croon resounding with disbelief. "Such a crazy dream for a child of mine, you who've grown so dark with the sun." Taylor can set his son on the right path, but it will be up to him to become the right kind of man.
Poor Moon was recently reissued on CD by Tompkins Square, and with the new wave of promotion comes a video for Taylor's poignant rumination on fatherhood. The clip follows the thematic lines of the picture, opening with images of Taylor and his son grooming and cleaning in a white-walled bathroom. The clip then proceeds through a montage of mounting maturity — a carnival giving way to graffiti on a train car and then people crowding onto an underground subway platform. The message remains simple and poignant: a parent's control can only go so far.
Saturday night will see Matt Cash, bassist for Raleigh post-rock stalwarts Goodbye, Titan, play one last show with the band. It's a friendly split, and he isn't going far: he will remain active in his increasingly dance-oriented shoewave trio The White Cascade. And in a more literal way, he isn't going anywhere - the two bands share a practice space. He won't even have to move his amp.
“Like a lot of my friends that are active musicians in this area, we have jobs, families and other extracurricular activities to which we devote our time,” says Cash, who has played with Goodbye, Titan for two years. “I came to the point where there was not enough of myself to go around.”
New bassist John Pyburn has been a fan of the band since he saw it play a 2009 show at Jack Sprat, an East Franklin bar and coffee shop. He became close friends with the members, particularly Cash. But even when guitarist Allen Palmer recently texted Pyburn, asking him to come hang out at practice (“and bring beer”—an important request, considering Pyburn works as a cellerman for Big Boss), the bassist didn't see the invitation coming.
“When they took a break, Cash turns to me and asks how I'd like to play in Goodbye, Titan,” he says. “My jaw hit the floor.” Pyburn quickly, excitedly said yes.
And Cash doesn't view his own departure from the band as a farewell, necessarily, so much as a “see you later.” He says playing music in the Triangle has an open-ended quality to it, referring to local musicians' proclivity to unlikely, fascinating recombinations.
"I would like to think that these guys know that even though I can't play with them right now, there could be the most crushing doom project literally right around the corner that they nor anyone else could possibly imagine," he says.
Yet Cash is taking one last time onstage with this instrumental quartet Saturday night at Slim's before Pyburn, who has already been practicing with the band, takes over completely. "[There will be] lots of tears and smiles and uncomfortably long bro-hugs," says Pyburn of the bittersweet, though exciting, transition. "It'll be a party for sure!"
Estocada opens the 10 p.m. show, which is $5 at the door.
I sincerely doubt the creators of YouTube originally intended it to be inundated by videos like the one at the top of this post. But the reality is that funny(?) keyboard cats, crotch shots and awkward singers rule this medium, and Bryce McCormick is a solid example of the kind of material that racks up hits. In his surprisingly well-equipped home studio, he makes beguilingly well-produced covers of popular songs that he smothers in cliche synths and a laughable white boy-soul croon. In short, it's hilarious. He's covered Josh Groban, Prince and The Jackson Five. He also has one amazingly awful take on Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In the Wind."
But it all started with a cover of Megafaun's beautiful ballad "The Longest Day". The band's bluegrass-inflected rumination on death and undying hope gets the soft soul treatment here, simplistic synths undercutting McCormick's polish. There's no telling if McCormick knows of the Megafaun boys' involvement with Gayngs, an outfit that does what he's attempting with more skill and sometimes equal hilarity. For now, just enjoy a good chuckle and bask in the fact that the Triangle folkies have hit the YouTube cover circuit.
I have seen the David
Seen the Mona Lisa too
And I have heard Doc Watson play Columbus Stockade Blues.
That's the company in which the esteemed songwriter Guy Clark placed the legendary North Carolina musician Doc Watson, who passed away at age 89 on Tuesday evening in a Winston-Salem hospital. Indeed: There was no higher art.
The eulogies for Watson will no doubt be plentiful and profound in the days to come. In this moment upon hearing the news tonight, my thoughts are of his daily appearances at Merlefest in the early-evening hours on the main stage, pickin' and singin' a tribute to his late son Merle, recast from the classic "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
Tonight, you can almost hear Doc and Merle singing together again—in the sky, lord, in the sky.