Walking toward the Pour House Saturday night, I ran into a wide-smiling Jac Cain. This made me a little nervous, so I asked The Pour House soundman, "What do you think about tonight?" He responded with a deep, menacing laugh and not much more.
The Backsliders had not even partially reunited in a number of years until a benefit show at Slim's in late September. So, why now?
"Chip called, said he was doing a set at Slim's for a benefit and did I want to join him as a duo. I said, 'Sure, sounds like fun.' I found out JD and Danny were going to be there with another band and called Chip and said, 'Why don't we all get up there?'" Steve Howell recalls. "We didn't rehearse at all, just picked 7 or 8 songs and went for it."
The crowd that soon packed into The Pour House was of a mixed age range. Numerous conversations mentioned the regret of not seeing them years ago. At the same time, others were telling tales of epic performances at The Brewery and elsewhere.
What The Backsliders delivered was a fairly tight run through of songs that gather the best elements of two-step, honky-tonk and booming rock 'n' roll, a mix this area has been sorely missing since their end. Howell was a monster on lead guitar. As the band worked through all of their well-known songs, it was a pleasure to look around the room and see faces with the expression of pure joy. Cain was ear-to-ear for 90 minutes, throwing up horns and handing out high fives to all takers.
As the show began to wind down, I couldn't help but think, "Is this it?" Thankfully, The Backsliders will be back for another show in March at the Cat's Cradle.
Below we present two songs from either side of The Backsliders spectrum.
Mount Moriah, Bowerbirds
Dec. 8, 2012
Saturday brought one of the more anticipated local performances in recent memory to the Cat's Cradle. Mount Moriah — stirring up recent buzz around their signing to Merge Records and the announcement of their next release, Miracle Temple — debuted a handful of rich and powerful new songs. And headlining were the Bowerbirds, fresh off of a nine-month tour and returning to the Cradle for the first time since their CD release for The Clearing in March.
While Mount Moriah played several selections off their new disc, you'll have to see them live to hear those before the Feb. 26 release. One highlight was watching the often unheralded duo of Casey Toll and James Wallace locking in the tight drum and bass sound most noticeable during this driving version of "Social Wedding Rings."
Later in the set and between debuting new songs, the group mixed in a stirring cover of Richard and Linda Thompson's "I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight."
The Bowerbirds played a tight hour-long set that featured a few new arrangements and dug deep into their catalog to craft a varied setlist as well as a two-song encore for the hometown crowd. As the group begins to rest from a long year of touring, they've launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their next record, Phil's side project and the final phase of construction on their home recording space. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
"In the Yard" is off their latest release, The Clearing.
The Lincoln Theatre hosted quite the three-band bill on Friday with The Love Language, Gross Ghost and The Toddlers. One act after another unveiled refreshing material, making this one of my favorite shows of the year.
The Toddlers offered a number of new songs, presumably from their upcoming Kickstarter-funded release. As they began to play the sparse "Starlight" in near total darkness, the crowd slowly began to quiet down behind the eerily perfect vocals of Nathan Toben. Gross Ghost barreled their way through 10 songs in just about 30 minutes; frontman Mike Dillon seems to be becoming more and more comfortable in front of larger crowds. The Love Language then closed the evening by bringing out a 10-piece band that included a string section and saxophone player. They ran through several new songs in the larger format, making the upcoming release of their third album seem that much more intriguing.
The three-band bill packed the Lincoln Theatre, and a sizable percentage of under-21 patrons injected additional energy into a bill already overflowing with it. Someone should send this trio on a nationwide tour.
"I really wish I hadn't written this song because I kind of have a giant boner for Durham," said Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards as she transitioned into "Empty Threat," the first song of her most recent release Voyageur, Friday night at the Haw River Ballroom. The song revolves around the idea of her moving to America but not wanting to do so.
Despite it being her first performance at the venue, Edwards continuously heaped praise on the room and venue co-owner Heather LaGarde. Edwards played a nearly two-hour set, featuring selections from each of her albums. Jim Bryson and Gord Tough provided accompaniment.
Earlier in the evening, Mandolin Orange moved quickly through their opening set, offering several new songs including "The Turtle Dove and the Crow."
The evening ended with an off-the-microphone performance by both trios singing Neil Young's "From Hank to Hendrix."
In one of the more solid Local Band, Local Beer showcases in recent memory, Some Army and Caleb Caudle joined Old Quarter for their debut EP release show. Some Army started off the night with a few technical difficulties but finished strong and also debuted a few new songs. Despite taking the stage after midnight, Old Quarter flew through their 45 minute set, playing each tune on the EP, as well as a few choice covers. Give the Old Quarter EP a listen: It is one of the better alt-country efforts in the area this year.
I wish I'd seen The Magnolia Collective more times over the past few years, either playing late on a weekday at The Station or some other low-lit room in the Triangle. Saturday night at Local 506, they opened for Michigan's Frontier Ruckus. While the two bands have very different variations on Americana, the bill worked. Magnolia mixed several styles, from, alt-country and blues to psychedelic rock and just plain old rock ’n’ roll. As notoriously indifferent as Chapel Hill crowds can be, they bobbed their heads to the strums as though this was the band they came to see. And maybe next time it will be.
Saturday night offered an evening of beautiful music at the Haw River Ballroom. As the chilly fall wind began to blow through Chatham County, Cup 22 was firing out hot cups of coffee to the mellow crowd. The show began with the two-piece Prypyat, featuring Duncan Webster (Hammer No More the Fingers) and Leah Gibson (Lost in the Trees, Bowerbirds). While Webster's finger picking is a delight to hear, it was Gibson's often overlooked cello work that seemed to fill the ballroom in the best of ways.
Hiss Golden Messenger followed with a self-proclaimed set of the "Jesus tunes"; no surprise, it was a solid solo performance. Later in the set he was joined by Christy Smith of The Tender Fruit and The Bowerbirds themselves on "Brother, Do You Know the Road?"
The Bowerbirds then took the stage to close out the evening. They ran through several songs off their acclaimed latest release The Clearing and debuted a new tune called "Island Dweller." Before closing the show, The Bowerbirds expressed their love for Saxapahaw and this time of year in North Carolina. Indeed, all elements added to another perfect evening in Saxapahaw.
Prypyat playing a lovely instrumental, followed by "Twin Peaks"
Hiss Golden Messenger with Christy Smith (The Tender Fruit) & The Bowerbirds - "Brother, Do You Know The Road?"
Bowerbirds - "Stitch The Hem"
On Saturday, Jeff Crawford brought an all-star group of friends out to the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw Crawford ran through a set of original songs followed by a set of hymns primarily from the excellent 2012 release Hymns from the Gathering Church.
Later on Saturday, Spider Bags provided a blistering hour-long set at The Pinhook in Durham. They kicked off their CD release show for Shake My Head by bringing up frequent collaborator Reese McHenry. The band was intense yet loose, much to the joy of their hometown crowd.
Encore renditions of The Band's classic tune "The Weight" are pretty common at live gigs; it seems most any band with a reverence for American music and worth their salt eventually gets around to covering it onstage.
Last night's version at Cat's Cradle, though, carried a bit more weight than usual—delivered, as it was, on the day that Band drummer Levon Helm died. Two bands who clearly held Levon's life and memory dear—headliner the Drive-By Truckers and our own local opening act Megafaun—joined forces at the end of the night to offer up an extended tribute, with the audience singing along loud and clear for much of the song.
Words fail, ultimately, so just watch, and listen.
It’s been 10 years since Valient Thorr, the bearded, denim-vested troupe of hard rock avengers, landed in the Triangle from Venus with their twin-axe attack and mythical backstory. And as the rowdy rock band celebrates its decennial, we celebrate the traits that have kept the band’s hordes of die-hard Thorriors fervent and growing since 2001. Through some 10 members and five albums—from 2003’s self-released debut, Stranded On Earth, to last year’s, Stranger—Valient Thorr has been a model of consistency. Witness these five model Thorr songs, culled from dozens of equally worthy candidates.
Valient Thorr plays Kings Saturday, April 30, with Static Minds and The Dynamite Brothers.