Duke Performances' annual summer series, Music in the Gardens, kicked off Wednesday evening as JKutchma & The Five Fifths played a record-release party for Sundown, USA, which Kutchma released in two different versions (with the band and solo). Kutchma and company performed to a full crowd on the lawn of the gardens as, fittingly, the sun went down on a cool late-spring evening. They were joined by members of D-Town Brass and Prypyat as they ran through most of the new album and a few numbers of Kutchma's excellent previous release, Pastoral. Kutchma played a few numbers solo in the middle of the set. For more on the dual release of Sundown, USA, see Peter Blackstock's feature in the June 5 INDY Week.
Below are two clips from Wednesday evening's show.
Alternating between piano and acoustic guitar, James McCartney played solo Thursday night at the Casbah in Durham. McCartney is currently touring the Southeast, playing small clubs behind his debut LP, Me. The release showcases a collection of breezy pop numbers that at times touch on the abstract. The Durham crowd welcomed McCartney but seemed a bit unsure of what they were witnessing. The treat was an hour-long performance by a musician not likely to visit this area very often; still, he's a talented singer-songwriter and rangy instrumentalist who happens to look a bit familiar.
As the evening came to a close, much like any other performer playing an area for the first time, McCartney stood in the back of the club, thanking people for coming to see him. He signed every autograph.
Below is a number from last night's performance—"Life's a Pill," from Me.
Last weekend at Slim's, more than 15 bands played to show their support and raise funds for Paint Fumes lead singer Elijah Von Cramon at "LIJApalooza." As detailed in last week's Indy Week, Von Cramon recently spent considerable time in the hospital after being hit by a car. Those on stage and in the crowd responded, coming out to support Von Cramon, who was in attendance and front and center throughout much of the weekend.
If you weren't able to make the event but would still like to support, you can by purchasing Waste of Time: A Tribute to Paint Fumes from Bandcamp.
Last Year's Men
Friday night at the Casbah in Durham, the underground heroes of the Dex Romweber Duo took the stage. Running through a blistering set, the Duo showed no signs of rust, despite having not performed in some time. Romweber dipped into his extensive catalog of solo records, duo releases and Flat Duo Jets material.
Summoning a spectrum of rock ’n’ roll, surf rock and crooning county, they covered all the bases. Despite Duke playing in the NCAA tournament during set time, there was a sizable crowd for the Duo. They played only an hour, leaving the crowd waiting for the next round as they filed out of the Casbah just after midnight.
Below are two clips from the evening: The Flat Duo Jets' "Go Go Harlem Baby" and the Dex Romweber Duo number, "Is It Too Late?"
"Go Go Harlem Baby"
"Is It Too Late?"
Last Thursday, the Casbah in Durham continued its songwriters in the round series. The first installment featured Heather McEntire, Hiss Golden Messenger, Amy Ray and Phil Cook. The second installment featured an equally stellar lineup of Christy Smith, Justin Robinson, Shawn Luby and Katharine Whalen.
Kudos to the Casbah for setting up this series which really takes these performers out of their comfort zone while trading stories and debuting new material. I hope it continues.
Christy Smith (Tender Fruit): "Get Out of the Car"
Justin Robinson: "Space is the Deepest Silence You'll Never Hear"
Shawn Luby (Humble Tripe): "Old Time Friend"
Katharine Whalen: "All of Us"
Turning to Jac Cain as The Morning After stepped off stage Friday night at The Pour House, I asked him for his impressions of the group: "You know," said the longtime sound engineer, "on paper it shouldn't work. But the thing is, it does."
On paper, The Morning After has all the traditional elements of a bluegrass band, plus a soul singer and drummer. What The Morning After has created is a good-time, pop-and-soul band backed with the sort of solid instrumentation that allows lead singer Rachel Koontz to let loose vocally.
Below, check two clips from Friday's performance.
"Where We'll Begin"
Stepping through the front door of The Pinhook, Jacco Gardner and company resembled a military battalion marching in lock step. Professional and organized, the group was there to get a job done. As they stepped on the stage Thursday evening, I had been interested to see how their lush soundscape of an album Cabinet of Curiosities would translate in the sometimes unforgiving confines of the Pinhook. What unfolded was a refreshingly delightful psychedelic performance lead by Gardner and accented by a solid crew.
Below are a couple of videos from the evening, including Gardner and openers, Schooner.
Jacco Gardner's "Help Me Out"
Jacco Gardner's "Chameleon"
Saturday night in the small town of Warrenton, N.C., Mandolin Orange returned to the Southeast after several weeks touring in the North. Among those stops, they taught a workshop at the famed Berkelee College of Music (which rejected member Andrew Marlin as an applicant years ago) and the Folk Alliance Conference in Toronto.
Warrenton is the childhood home of Marlin, and many of his family and friends turned out for the performance at Cast Stone Systems, an industrial warehouse outfitted with a stage made from recycled materials. A large crowd with many requests filled the room, and Marlin played with a little more gusto than usual.
Below, Mandolin Orange plays "Cornered," an unreleased number only played by request when Marlin returns to his hometown. This is an interesting song and gives insight into Marlin's early songwriting content before his move to Chapel Hill. Also below is an old-time instrumental number called "The Cherokee Trail".
Last Thursday at the Casbah, Texas singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves returned to the Triangle, accompanied by Scrappy Jud Newcomb. Cleaves has not been in the area in nearly four years, so he brought along a batch of new songs from an upcoming album titled Still Fighting The War. The title track, which you can hear below, surrounds military personnel returning home and dealing with reentry into the civilian world and the consequences of combat. The second song, "Go for the Gold," is a gospel number performed unplugged for the encore. Cleaves seemed pleased both with the sizable crowd and the sound at the venue, so we hope to see him back soon.
"Still Fighting The War"
"Go For the Gold"
The Berkeley Cafe is one of the definitive venues in which to see local legends Southern Culture on the Skids. It could be the intimacy of the place or how the group's sound translates in the awkward room's layout—I'm not certain. What is certain, though, is that the Berk breathes new life into the group's material. When they play the Berkeley Cafe, they bring a little something extra. And at the end of the night, with ears ringing and a variety of drunken people exiting, the lights come up to reveal empty beer bottles everywhere and remnants of fried chicken on the floor, just as it should be.
The Woolly Bushmen from Orlando, an excellent trio of young guys playing early and raw rock n roll, opened.
And here is Southern Culture on the Skids playing a song they haven't done live in recent memory—"Where is the Moon," from Mojo Box.