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.
“There’s no success like failure.” —some guy from Minnesota
As we approached the front door of Motorco, we saw that a singer/ guitarist was flailing away on stage. He had long, dark hair and for a few frantic moments, we thought Grant Hart had already begun his set. We hadn’t really seen recent photographs of the Hüsker Dü drummer, so the singer on stage—who turned out to be Erik Sugg of The Static Minds—was a passable doppelgänger for Hart two decades ago.
After The Static Minds’ tight, exuberant set of 1970s-style twin-guitar rock, I was standing alone in the still-lightly populated bar. I noticed an older and somewhat frail-looking man standing near me. He seemed to have a slight hitch in his gait. He had long stringy hair and a thinly trimmed mustache that made him look just a bit like a dissipated John Waters. This man was awfully thin but he seemed to be in a good mood.
“That’s not Grant Hart,” I told myself. But of course it was. How we’ve all gotten older.
I came late to Hüsker Dü, tuning in right as they released their 1987 swan song, Warehouse: Songs and Stories. Like people in the 1960s who saw the choice between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as a deeply personal statement, American indie music fans in the 1980s faced an aesthetic dilemma when surveying the generation of angry white guys from Minneapolis who’d organized themselves into Hüsker Dü and the Replacements—two-thirds of that decade’s holy trinity.
Because I chose the Replacements, my tribal loyalties kept me from digging into the Hüskers catalog until the end of their career. And there, too, was a Paul-or-John dilemma: Do you like guitarist Bob Mould’s searing, self-lacerating sonic barrage? Or do you prefer the melodies and wordplay of the band’s sunnier drummer, Grant Hart?
I chose Hart. Mould had some wonderful songs—I especially liked his efforts on New Day Rising, like “I Apologize,” “Celebrated Summer” and “Perfect Example.” But I had little interest in his personal demons, and his sullen mien and melodic parsimony grew wearisome. I didn’t follow his solo career.
Hart, on the other hand, seemed as if he actually liked music. Even his contributions to the Hüsker’s destroy-the-furniture-and-burn-the-fucker-down canon had distinct hooks: “What’s Going On,” for example, or “Turn On the News.”
Both of those songs are highlights from Zen Arcade, the most famous Hüsker Dü album, but for me, the emotional apex of that album comes with another Hart composition, “Standing By the Sea”:
The waves kept on repeating
Each one crashing to the shore
And my footsteps nowhere leading
As they disappeared once more.
Your senses are bombarded
By the roaring that you hear
In a shell, you can hear the ocean
When you put it up to your ear.
Twenty-three years ago to the month, Hüsker Dü broke up. Hart’s heroin use was one problem, but Hart and Mould’s increasingly bitter songwriting rivalry—which had fueled five brilliant albums in four years—finally became unsustainable.
I'm not going to devote too many words to Saturday's Sun Ra spectacular in Durham, only because the whole event defied language. It was one of the moments that made me feel proud to live in Durham. About 50-60 Egyptian pharaohs, space aliens, interplanetary travelers and their kin paraded from Durham Central Park through downtown to the Durham Arts Council, where all sorts of otherworldly sights and sounds threatened to levitate the building. The music, which included bowed saw, theremin, pedal steel guitar, saxophones, oboes and other instruments, was a first-class skronkathon, aided by a psychedelic light show behind the band. (Who knew George Washington could look so eerie projected larger than life on a white wall?)
The parade/ poetry chant/ music and light show was a prelude to the Durham Art Guild's exhibit devoted to Sun Ra and Afro-Futurism, which will open Aug. 21.
From the colorful monster that adorns its cover to the scattered soundscapes that cover both sides, Waumiss' 2008 self-titled LP offered plenty of enjoyment via its homespun whimsy. The duo's psychedelic, loop-based weird-pop came shaking and clattering and shimmying out of my speakers for months after release and—from time to time—still does.
Now, the duo of Carrboros' Clarque and Caroline Blomquist has taken its playful aesthetic and sprinted: Two newly unveiled videos—both scored by versions of the LP's "R-Dog bumps, Tummy Fix"—syncs that song's unsettling clatter with flashing lights and pinball-machine colors, short toy-shop horror movies of love. Glowing greens and reds shine against a living clutter-drawer or plastic figures and kistchy trinkets. The "Skootch-Babings" version alternates a flashing-eyed tiger mask and a glowing plastic skull in the oreground, while the "Evil Baby" version heads conceptual with a plastic miniature baby that transforms into a plastic miniature goat. And, uhh, back?
I can't imagine a better-suited set of images for Waumiss, itself a perfectly orchestrated collision of quirk and color and vibrant noise. For the "Skootch-Babings" version, hit the jump.
While Chatham County Line bassist Greg Readling and principal songwriter/ vocalist/ guitarist Dave Wilson have long used Stillhouse as their electric outlet, banjoist Chandler Holt and fiddle/ mandolin player John Teer have finally found their own channel for tunes that don't fit CCL's ever-evolving acoustic catalog thanks to The Jackets. With Wilson out of the picture, the songwriting talent of Holt—who contributed "Coming Home" to CCL' s Speed of the Whippoorwill and "Whipping Boy" on IV—is given room to shine on harmony-rich AM pop numbers like "Holding On," one of the first Jackets collaborations. The video below is from The Jacket's December 9 debut at Raleigh's Berkeley Cafe.
On the heels of its Cat's Cradle debut Friday night for Signal Fest, The Foreign Exchange has issued the second video for Leave It All Behind, the excellent sophomore album released last year by emcee Phonte Coleman and producer Nicolay Rook. The first three minutes of the video, set to "Take off the Blues," are simple enough: Phonte Coleman sits around a table in a posh bar, joking with friends like Darien Brockington (who sings here, too) and Yahzarah (nope, we don't know why Muhsinah isn't featured). He spots a pretty woman across the bar, buys her a drink and dances with her. His happy-man soft-shoe gets a tad happier, and, half a minute later, he's swept her off her feet.
But here the song fades a minute sooner than it does on Leave It All Behind, putting the synth-and-drums outro on the cutting room floor and segueing into "Valediction," LIAB's break-up track. The video jumps to Phonte sitting at his kitchen table in the dark when his lover of one year ago arrives. He lets her off while holding her hand as two minutes of flashbacks—moments both romantic and bitter, reflecting mutually lost interest in the relationship—splice the chat. Interesting idea, and well executed by director Matt Koza. Check it after the jump.