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Raleigh Rhythms 

Notes on the Raleigh music scene

Pico Style
They may be fresh out of high school and hot on the trail to college (Charleston, Wilmington and Chapel Hill, respectively), but Pico vs. Island Trees--the catchy creation of guitarists Chris Karlsson, Jeremy Bullock and drummer/lead singer Bryan Carter--has been causing quite a stir in Raleigh as of late ... and for good reason.

Blending breakneck arrangements that skip into sweet, three-part harmony a la the like-minded Dispatch and Guster, with a scholastic devotion to jazz and a love for crisp pop and Dre-style hip hop, Pico has become a veritable club favorite in town, bringing 300 people to the Lincoln Theatre last January and drawing a majority of the crowd at a show headlined by Will Hoge last month. But they're not satisfied.

"Our live show has always sucked for us because we've never been able to play live what we're capable of playing," Bullock says with a smirk. "We want to be fun and professional when we perform, but we're not there yet."

"We get up and play and high school girls cheer for us, and that's great, really," Carter echoes, lounging in the studio as the band enters their fifth month of recording for their debut effort. "But that's not the level we want to be at."

The group hopes their freshman release will help propel them to that ever-evasive next level. The disc--currently in the works at former DAG frontman Bobby Patterson's home studio in Raleigh--has been an interesting quest for the band, as Patterson has generously offered his time and experience in the band's seemingly incessant battles for just the right guitar tone or backbeat. To date, Ben Folds Five bassist Robert Sledge has sat in for "Six Up" ("The coolest thing that has ever happened to me," beams Carter), as well as local session extraordinaire Rob Farris and Backsliders' drummer Jeff Dennis.

The group, as openly ambitious as they are dedicated, sees their separation this fall as more of an opportunity than a problem. They hope to make the Charleston, S.C., scene --famous for its support of melodic roots rock acts over the last decade--and grow out of it eventually, picking up the right gigs on the weekend and making the correct contacts along the way.

"I want to be comfortably rich ... and to tour!" exclaims Carter, as Bullock and Karlsson nod, laugh and--ultimately--agree.

Catch Pico vs. Island Trees (and their improved live show, according to Bullock) at the Lincoln Theatre on July 3. Nova Cancy and Mama Tribe are set to open.

Patty Hurst Storms Europe
Patty Hurst Shifter --one of the most innovative and crafty alt-country acts this side of anywhere--may have wound up together on a whim, but, since its spur of the moment inception, the Shifter has been creating a big-time boogie of its own. With the straight-ace drumming of Skillet Gilmore (how about those Whiskeytown rumors, huh?) and one of the smartest damn guitar approaches you'll ever read about in No Depression (courtesy of Marc Smith, who's no relation to Shifter vocalist, Chris Smith), these local boys just inked a deal with Germany's Blue Rose Records for European distribution of their 2002 freshman effort, the simply stated, passionately played Beestinger Lullabies. Blue Rose is the premier European country/rock label, with a roster that runs the gamut from singer/songwriter standouts like Alejandro Escovedo and Delbert McClinton to guitar boogie stalwarts like The Bottle Rockets and Slobberbone (who played with the Shifter Sunday night at the Lincoln Theatre). According to Shifter bassist Johnny Williams, a U.S. distribution contract for the record is currently being finalized.

Red Hot Pastorius
The Mars Volta may not have been able to make their scheduled opening slot for the Red Hot Chili Peppers show at Alltel Pavilion on June 5, but that didn't stop a near-capacity crowd from turning out for an opening set from Snoop Dogg and his Snoopadelics. Two months off of an attempt on his life and only two days after fellow rapper and Airplane! co-star Method Man called him " one of the worst rap actors in the game right now," Snoop stormed onto the stage in a KISS T-shirt and launched onto a funked-up version of "Sad But True" in tribute to Metallica (they released a new album that day) before touching on singles from nearly all of his albums.

The Chili Peppers didn't disappoint, either. Though the vocal pairing of John Frusciante and Anthony Kiedis often missed the mark, the band played with a revived energy and passion largely absent from their Alltel set two years ago. Drawing primarily from their last two masterful records but refusing to let old touchstones like "Under the Bridge" and "Give it Away" die, the Peppers exploded with a dynamic, well-planned mix of mellow, brooding grooves and amped-up funk.

While Flea, one of the most undeniably brilliant bassists in rock 'n' roll today, pranced and skipped from one side of the stage to the other, members of another royal bass family watched from the front row. John Pastorius, the son of legendary fusion pioneer Jaco Pastorius, sang along throughout most of the set with his mother, who now lives in the Triangle. John and his mother were on hand to speak with Flea and to give him a sneak preview of the horde of unreleased Pastorius material from Portrait of Jaco--The Early Years. The two-disc collection (accompanied by 74 pages of comprehensive liner notes) will be released in late June or early July through cdbaby.com. See jacopastorius.com for more details. EndBlock

Contact Grayson Currin with all your Raleigh music news at dgcurrin@unity.ncsu.edu.

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