In many ways, Terry Riley’s 1964 composition In C set the bar for musical minimalism. The single-page score collects 53 short melodic motifs, to be played in sequence, though not necessarily simultaneously, by any number of musicians with any variety of instruments. It is, in essence, a series of contradictions subject to the chemistry of whichever ensemble is performing it. “Minimalism began with this apotheosis. You couldn’t come up with something at once simpler and more sparkling than In C, or more relentlessly chugging yet so infinitely slow,” New York Magazine critic Justin Davidson wrote in 2009. “The piece should have led into an aesthetic cul-de-sac; instead it launched a movement.”
Davidson wrote to preview a Carnegie Hall performance of the piece by an ensemble led by Kronos Quartet violinist David Harrington. The piece has also been performed by acts as disparate as the eclectic New York classical music troupe Bang On A Can and Japanese psych-rockers Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. The electronic music imprint Ghostly International released a recorded performance of In C in 2009, settling next to Com Truise and Matthew Dear in the label’s catalog.
Part of In C’s enduring appeal is, undoubtedly, its necessary spontaneity. Its open-ended instructions demand new treatments. “One of the joys of In C,” Riley wrote in his score, “is the interaction of the players in polyrhythmic combinations that spontaneously arise between patterns. Some quite fantastic shapes will arise and disintegrate as the group moves through the piece when it is properly played.”
Indeed, the piece can adapt a wide range of character. A performance last year at Central European University in Budapest adopts the symphonic grandeur of a John Williams score caught in a whirlwind. Bang On A Can’s sparser interpretation mutates the piece into a chain of nervous tension. There’s no telling how the landmark work of early minimalism will appear Thursday night when Will Robin & The Hep-Cats—an ensemble of 10—15 area musicians led by Robin, David Menestres and Shawn Galvin—tackle the piece at Nightlight in Chapel Hill. Menestres’ improvisational combo Polyorchard perform first.
Doors open at 9 p.m. with a $5 admission.
The Fiddle, a production of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Southern Folklife Collection, happens Friday and Saturday on campus. Friday evening at Memorial Hall begins with three performers, each with intriguing backgrounds. Emily Schaad holds a masters degree in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State; she also studied with late Piedmont legend Joe Thompson and has taken first prize in numerous fiddle and stringband competitions. Matt Glaser was the chairman of the String Department at the famed Berklee College of Music for 28 years. His styles range from jazz to bluegrass—the Boston Herald once called him "possibly America's most versatile fiddler." He also served on the board of advisers for Ken Burns' documentary, Jazz. Today, he works as the Artistic Director of the American Roots Music Program at Berklee.
The final individual performer is Byron Berline, a fiddler with a stunning list of career credits. He joined Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in 1967 and continued as a sought-after session player in Nashville. He sat in on both of Gram Parsons' solo releases and The Band's "Acadian Driftwood," "Country Honk" by The Rolling Stones, and Stephen Stills' Manassas. It seems that Berline's heart has always stayed with bluegrass music, though: Besides sitting in with North Carolina legends Merle and Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs, he has released a string of records with Sugar Hill during the last 30 years. Today he's settled in Guthrie, Okla., where he runs Byron's Double Stop Fiddle Shop. Two-time Grammy winners Nashville Bluegrass Band end the evening.
Saturday at the Wilson Library, The Fiddle offers a four-part symposium, with speakers covering a range of topics related to the roots of the instrument. The talks include "A Survery of American Traditions," "Examining The Irish Connection In The Southern American Fiddle Repertoire," and "Recording Regional Fiddle Music In The Late Twentieth Century." It all ends with a panel discussion led by Matt Glaser, with fiddlers Emily Schaad and Byron Berline.
The wonderful program by the Southern Folklife Collection is free and open to the public. Tickets are required to the Friday performance but can be picked up at the Memorial Hall box office. For more information, please call 919-843-3333 or visit the venue's website. For more information on performers, set times, and the symposium location, please visit the Southern Folklife at UNC.
Fans of Frank Fairfield, rejoice! Frank has added a last-minute show this Saturday evening at Cup 22 at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw. So if you can't make his performance tonight at The Pinhook in Durham with Deep Chatham, you'll have another chance.
If you are not familiar with Frank Fairfield, he is a phenomenal old-time player. He utilizes fiddle, banjo and guitar in a rough-and-tumble style that harkens back to a more authentic presentation of how these old-timey songs were performed many years ago.
See Frank tonight at The Pinhook in Durham with Deep Chatham. Tickets are $8 and the show starts at 9 p.m. And Frank's show just added will be at Cup 22 at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw. This show will start at 8 p.m., and donations are encouraged.
Below is a clip of Frank Fairfield playing "When the Roses Bloom Again" from earlier this year in Saxapahaw.
Friday sees five predominately female acts take the stage at Chapel Hill Underground to benefit the Compass Center for Women and Families. This organization was formed from a merger of the Family Violence Prevention Center of Orange County and The Women's Center with the goal of preventing domestic violence and helping its victims.
No services were dropped in the merger, reads a statement from Women's Center Development Director Marya McNeish. Rather, clients now have access to both organizations' resources and no longer have to tell their stories twice. The bands and DJ on this bill play to raise both funds and awareness as part of Compass Center's Domestic Violence Awareness Month events.
"I always felt that the community at large was not aware of the center's offerings or their mission to be an anchor for local women in need," says event organizer Angela Nguyen, who can speak for the new organization's strengths as a former client of the Women's Center herself. She says old friend, Chapel Hill Underground co-owner, and longtime Chapel Hill music mainstay Eddie Sanchez, was happy to hold the benefit at his bar and help organize.
"One of the concepts of the Underground, upon opening, was to be a community-based establishment more than just another bar," says Nguyen. "While its location is smack in the middle of the undergraduates' heavy traffic, [the owners] wanted the Underground to be anything but another undergrad bar."
This focus on local talent brings gleefully minimalist trio Boykiller, reckless Raleigh punks Lazy Janes, and solo Durham electro dance-punk act Lam! Lam!—Pink Flag's Betsy Shane—to this bill. The Purchase, a potentially intriguing new outfit featuring members of Caltrop, Bellafea and Fin Fang Foom, also plays. And DJ Fifi-Hifi will spin between sets. Proceeds go to help an organization that relies on state funding ("if there is any," says Nguyen) remain solvent and gain visibility.
"The community needs to know what they do, what they stand for and that Chapel Hill has such services available to women and families in need," says Nguyen. "Their work deserves a reward such as this, a benefit in their honor to help keep their program thriving."
The music starts at 8:30, with a $10 cover at the door.
The temptation is to throw your hands in the air and cry that Rick Rubin has done it again. But while the famed producer has indeed helmed another solid-to-strong return by an out-of-fashion act with ZZ Top’s La Futura, it’s not quite that simple. Beyond quibbles over just how outré a four-decade-old blues band from Texas will ever be, there’s some question about what Rubin added—or didn’t add, actually. It may just be that, after producing all their albums, Billy Gibbons needed a nudge from someone he trusted.
However the credit should be apportioned, the Houston trio sounds refreshed; after all, their ’80s drum machine look was wearing like faux wood basement paneling, unchanged a quarter-century later. There was no choice but to tear that shit out and return to the ’70s boogie of “Just Got Paid” and “La Grange.”
ZZ Top’s gritty, dusty and bedraggled prairie blues sounds as good as ever here. You do wonder how much Rubin talked to them about songs, though. The record feels a tad formless. Part of that might be sequencing, as the album doesn’t generate the kind of momentum it could or should; individually, the songs tend to flatten out and wander off anticlimactically. Most of them could end about 30 seconds earlier. All these symptoms create a problem over the course of an entire LP. Rubin should’ve taken a stronger hand.
Instead of lamenting how it might’ve been better, we can rhapsodize how nice it is to hear Billy, Dusty and Frank do what they do so well with more sympathetic production. Rubin wrings a lot from Gibbons withered growl. The 62-year old guitarist also steps up with some pretty well-written songs, from the locked groove of “Consumption” o the harrowing ode to addiction “It’s Too Easy Mañana,” with its dark expressionistic guitar break.
Rubin’s biggest contribution is at least an interesting one: Opener “I Gotsta Get Paid” is one of the producer’s famed genre cross-pollinations, as it covers the track “25 Lighters” by Houston’s DJ DMD. Gibbons does his best, but he can’t pull off the gangsta swag. He sounds like Andy Rooney ranting about his dresser-top BIC collection. The song’s accompanied by electronic tomfoolery that succeeds more in attracting attention than serving the song. Without all the dressing oe Gibbons’ whack “rap”, it would be quite a jam thanks to an absolutely sweltering lead over nice Delta drone.
In truth, this mix of tracks feels, for better and worse, like a retrospective. You have the “Tube Snake Boogie” of “Chartreuse” and “Flyin’ High,” whose clean, high and tight production is an obvious nod to Eliminator-era arena rock. There’s even a lovelorn blues waltz, “Over You,” where Gibbons’ vocal limp adds character to his aching desire to “get up and get over you.”
In turn, it’s a very good album with a few glaring flaws. Rubin definitely captured top-shelf performances, and on La Futura, Gibbons has written some of his best songs in years. Failure, at least, avoided.
ZZ Top plays Durham Performing Arts Center tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $50—$120.
It's not wise to talk back to cops, and I'd been speeding, and we both knew it. Dude just couldn't resist, though. Having noticed the crimson ghost sticker leering from my back windshield, the highway patrolman whose name I purposely forgot gave me a sidelong glance when he asked, "Why do you like The Misfits?" I didn't like his tone.
"Why don't you?" I shot back.
So much for getting off with a warning.
But seriously, why wouldn't you like The Misfits? Glenn Danzig (born Glenn Anzalone) and bassist Jerry Only (born Jerry Caiafa) formed The Misfits in Lodi, N.J., in 1977, and the band quickly became one of the more enduring and iconoclastic bands to emerge from the American punk underground. With a succession of drummers and guitarists, The Misfits — mainly Danzig — conjured a sound that conjoined the pop melodicism of '60s teen idols with the buzzing punk of The Ramones or The Dead Boys, even an occasional shade of Suicide's droning minimalism. Matched with their obsession with B-movie schlock and striking visual presentation (greaser hairstyles remodeled into menacing "Devillocks" and plenty of skull-related decor), The Misfits were one of a kind. Three decades on, Danzig's deep croon is still one of punk rock's greatest voices, able to meet hardcore's gruff urgency with infectious, addictive melodies. Songs about murder, aliens, zombies and all other sorts of horror-flick ghouls stick in the ear like razor blades in candy apples.
Covering The Misfits is a rite of passage for most punk bands. Even the indie-rock icons in Superchunk have dipped into the band's potent well for choice live covers and a Record Store Day 7-inch. But for the elegant chamber-pop outfit Lost In The Trees, it's a surprise move, to say the least. After busting out a rendition of the ghastly sing-along "Skulls" in 2010, LITT frontman Ari Picker has now assembled a local supergroup dubbed Lost Skulls to fly the 'Fits flag at TRKfest on Saturday.
(Bonus: Lost Skulls landed a late headlining slot, so I won't have to drive too fast to see it!)
I caught up with Picker to find out what inspired him to pay tribute to The Misfits of all bands, and how Lost Skulls — which also features members of The Love Language, Some Army, The Toddlers and Gross Ghost — might bring the cult legends' most hellish hits to life.
Before his opening performance for M. Ward tomorrow at Duke University’s Page Auditorium, Sonic Youth guitarist and sometimes-singer Lee Ranaldo has a treat for the rest of Durham: He will perform solo material tonight at 6 p.m. at Bull City Records. The event is free.
Between the Times and the Tides—arguably Ranaldo’s first proper solo album, released earlier this year by Matador—still pushes pop-rock from the mainstream while keeping it extremely catchy. On Times, he employs eerie vibes to fetch sounds of The Yardbirds, Cream, Captain Beefheart and beyond, ball them up and present them to you now live. Assortments of muffed acoustics and snare-to-tom palpitations rumble the pop into experimental plains. Although enticing openings of tracks hint at Sonic Youth, by the time you reach the chorus, the essence of Ranaldo’s own work is apparent, showing little recognition of the bigger band. Check some songs out here, or read a dissenting opinion from Indy Music Editor Grayson Currin at Pitchfork.
Roscoe Holcomb and John Cohen—two names so entwined into the history of folk music that it's tough to overstate their importance. Hailing from Daisy, Ken., Holcomb was a coal miner who also sang with the accompaniment of banjo, harmonica and guitar, unleashing a piercing falsetto that is seen as a definitive example of the "the high lonesome sound" of Appalachia. John Cohen is a producer and filmmaker who has become famous for discovering many hidden gems of traditional American music, including Holcomb, who he introduced to the world in his 1963 documentary The High Lonesome Sound.
Tonight in Durham, attendees will have a chance to get closer to both legends. Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies will host a screening of Cohen's Roscoe Holcomb from Daisy, Kentucky. The film incorporates extra footage that Cohen had of Holcomb, who died in 1981. For those with even the most passing interest in folk music's foundations, this should prove an informative and entertaining treat.
The 7 p.m. screening will also feature pre- and post-screening refreshments. More info at cdsporch.org
It might not seem like it now, but The Pinhook was quite the risky endeavor when it opened its doors just in time for the 2009 Troika Music Festival. At the time, Durham's only other semi-consistent rock clubs were the student-booked Duke Coffeehouse, a multipurpose space on the university's campus, and Broad Street Café, a venue still trying to figure out its musical mix. The market for a Bull City indie rock venue was unclear. They could have been opening to more interest than their 150-capacity room could serve.
Three years later, The Pinhook is only an afternoon away from an anniversary blowout that will include national indie stars Javelin and Crystal Antlers. It will be a sweet occasion, made sweeter by the recent completion of their Kickstarter fundraiser to make key upgrades to the space, most importantly a new sound system. More than 270 backers (Note: Contributors include Independent employees, including Music Editor Grayson Currin) helped the venue best its $15,000 goal on the popular fund-raising website. Co-owner Kym Register calls the response humbling, a reminder of how important their little community arts space has become.
Carrie Martin was a mother of two, a tattoo artist and a lover of local heavy music. She worked at Raleigh’s No Shame Tattoo and “didn't have insurance,” says DIVEbar Raleigh booking agent Robby Rodwell. “So there's a lot of bills that need to be taken care of.” And, though she died in March, Raleigh’s heavy music scene shows that it has not forgotten one of its own.
Tonight’s memorial show at that bar may serve the essential function of allowing the late Martin’s friends a chance to honor and keep her memory. But there’s also a practical side. Both Caltrop and MAKE are donating their guarantees for the evening; the bar itself is giving 15% of the evening sales. The hat will be passed, too, all to benefit Martin’s two daughters.
Rodwell was a friend. He remembers seeing shows with Martin and her fiancé, David Askew. And he remembers how thrilled she was to see local metal. “Carrie, David and I had just gone to see the Ragnarok Fest,” Rodwell recalls, referring to an August weekend of heavy music at Carrboro’s recently closed Reservoir Bar. Caltrop and MAKE were among the dozen bands that played. “I remember her saying on the ride home that show was one she would never forget.” So when Askew saw the two acts were booked May 13, which would have been Martin’s 26th birthday, he approached them with the memorial show idea. They agreed without hesitation, says Rodwell.
The past six months haven’t been easy on the local heavy music community. The Reservoir, arguably driven out by climbing rents, can be replaced. But the losses of Martin, as well as Reservoir co-owner Wes Lowder in a November car crash, have left a lot of people reeling.
The show starts at 10pm. Anyone unable to attend who still wishes to help Martin’s children can make a donation at any branch BB&T to Nola & Bella Martin, care of Margaret Morgan Holland.