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Friday, November 28, 2014

Home for the holidays: Mandolin Orange reflects on a year crossing the country

Posted By on Fri, Nov 28, 2014 at 9:07 AM

Mandolin Orange began in Carrboro in 2009, but it's only been since last summer that the duo has significantly taken off on a national level. They signed to Hillsborough's Yep Roc records, who released This Side of Jordan, the band's best effort to date that captures their skillful hooks and harmonies. After months on the road touring in support of the album, the band plays a pair of hometown shows in the main room of the Cat's Cradle. Friday night's seated duo show has been sold out for a few weeks now, but you can still catch the full band...

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Video: S.P.I.T.T.L.E. Fest lives on at The Pour House

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 5:11 PM

In mid-November, S.P.I.T.T.L.E. Fest returned to the Pour House with a three-night gathering of alt-country bands and the fans who love them. The festival, which stands for Southern Plunge Into Trailer Trash Leisure and Entertainment, was a bit bigger this year. In addition to out-of-town acts like Jim Lauderdale, the festitvies also included smoked BBQ plates served upstairs by Tiny Townsend. Friday night saw newcomers Dragmatic and Magnolia Collective, along with crowd favorites The Vibekillers and John Howie Jr. & The Rosewood Bluff. The festival continues to be a a must-see for roots music fans in North Carolina and serves...

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Live: Hitting the end of the road with The New Pornographers

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 5:08 PM

The New Pornographers Cat's Cradle, Carrboro Sunday, Nov. 23 Lately I’ve been addicted to Canadian power pop. Brill Bruisers, the acclaimed September release by The New Pornographers, and Sloan’s Commonwealth have been in near constant rotation, and in the past week, both of these acts played the Cradle. Last week in the Back Room, I feasted on Sloan’s Canadian bacon; but last night in the big room, it was more like watching the New Pornographers make sausage. Having watched a few clips of New Pornographers live performances, I knew that the sheen of perfection that imbues their songs is not quite...

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Live: Getting intimate with The Tender Fruit and Darkness

Posted By and on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 4:17 PM

The Tender Fruit, Des Ark, Gross Ghost Cat's Cradle Back Room, Carrboro Saturday, Nov. 22 It’s a late entry into the game, but The Tender Fruit’s The Darkness Comes, released on Saturday, is a serious contender for one of 2014’s best albums. Backed with a full band, Christy Smith—the mastermind behind The Tender Fruit’s devastating words and captivating melodies—commanded the stage at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room last week. Her ensemble included her partner Aharon Segal on drums, Collier Reeves on guitar and Nick Vandenburg on bass. James Phillips, the drummer for Bombadil and the producer of Darkness, played keys....

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Video: T0W3RS takes on the Cradle Back Room

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 2:17 PM

T0W3RS Cat's Cradle Back Room Friday, Nov. 21, 2014 By the end of Friday night, two openers—Carrboro's Josh Moore and Dad&Dad—had joined their main man Derek Torres on the Cat's Cradle Back Room's stage to form a T0W3RS super group. With a full band around him, the ball of energy that is Torres was confined to a small patch of the stage. Still, he did what he does best: entertain. Engaging the crowd with Bowie- and Jagger-like enthusiasm, he was erratic at times, but that only better reflected the melodies Torres crafted for his latest LP, TL;DR. The set lasted just...

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Live: Diego El Cigala makes a successful Durham debut

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 2:13 PM

Diego El Cigala The Carolina Theatre, Durham Thursday, Nov. 20 Diego Jiménez Salazar made history last Thursday night with his first ever appearance in North Carolina, something the star acknowledged in his brief comments from stage at the Carolina Theatre. Better known by his flamenco name Diego “El Cigala” (a shrimp-sized crustacean, similar to a crawfish) that he earned as a young man for his slender build, the now-magisterial 45-year-old kept a steady flow to his café-style performance, pouring out song after song in a waterfall of melanchólia and alegría. One could see flashes of the Madrid-born singer in his...

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Stopping short: The Measure of Things is lots of moving parts but little insight

Posted By on Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Sam Green & yMusic: The Measure of All Things Duke Reynolds Industries Theatre, Durham Saturday, Nov. 15 Documentarian Sam Green delivered a worthwhile moral at the end of a hybrid film-lecture presentation at Reynolds Industries Theater Saturday night: “No story ever really ends.” Unfortunately this came at the end of his six-minute opening act, a delayed coda to his 1997 film The Rainbow Man/John 3:16, not his hour-long feature presentation and collaboration with new music sextet yMusic, The Measure of All Things. After making his name in 2004 with the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Weather Underground, Green has stepped off...

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Live: The world premiere of William Tyler's stunning, stirring multimedia Civil War show

Posted By on Sun, Nov 23, 2014 at 6:03 PM

William Tyler’s Corduroy Roads 305 South, Durham Friday, Nov. 21, 2014 If you hoped to keep warm Friday night, during the second show of William Tyler’s four-evening world premiere of his new multimedia work Corduroy Roads, you either needed to pack a heavy coat or not mind nestling near a space heater. Both could be considered alien asks for those who frequent productions of Duke Performances, the well-appointed organization that commissioned the piece; its audiences are familiar with the relatively regal rooms of Baldwin or Page Auditorium or the occasional Durham rock club, not spaces with bare brick walls and...

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Friday, November 21, 2014

NC Symphony's Death and the Maiden: An essential if uncertain step into modernity

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 6:07 PM

The North Carolina Symphony String Quartet and Blursome Performing Schubert’s Death and the MaidenThursday, Nov. 20, 2014 Kings, Raleigh The near-capacity audience at Kings in Raleigh didn’t behave like a typical Thursday evening rock-club crowd, at least not at first. During the opening movement of Franz Schubert’s revered string quartet, Death and the Maiden, the room stood stock-still and in quiet concentration, watching and listening as the North Carolina Symphony String Quartet wound through the classic with rehearsed precision. Only a few minutes earlier, the audience had even listened attentively to an introduction from Karen Strittmatter Galvin, the North Carolina...

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Live: At 52, Garth Brooks works to be a new boss

Posted By on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 at 6:28 PM

Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Karyn Rochelle Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 No one worried that Garth Brooks had been stingy last night in the Greensboro Coliseum, during the first performance of a five-night stand that comes as part of the singer’s after-50 career renaissance. In fact, he’d been generous. In about two hours, Brooks had played 20 songs, almost all of them hits that crisscrossed between his first seven albums, each of them landmarks of country music’s commercial rise. Though he released his first new album in more than a decade only last week, he forced the crowd...

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Carolina Chocolate Drops' Rhiannon Giddens announces solo album

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 2:45 PM

"The whole idea is to remind people that there's just more to the story of American music. That's what we've done from the beginning with the [Carolina Chocolate] Drops," Rhiannon Giddens told INDY Week this spring, talking then about a performance with the North Carolina Symphony. These days, she’s the leader and lone original member of the Durham-based Drops, perhaps the best known black string band in existence. Past members—Dom Flemons, Justin Robinson, Leyla McCalla—have subsequently released records that further the collective’s excavation of forgotten American sounds. The breadth of their work demonstrates the links that connect blues and bluegrass,...

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Video: Reverend Horton Heat warms up The Pour House

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Reverend Horton Heat The Pour House, Raleigh Friday, Nov. 7, 2014 Enthusiasm mounted as motorbilly legend the Reverend Horton Heat took the stage at the Pour House in Raleigh. The sold-out crowd packed the room as the three-piece band tore into Heat's release from earlier this year, REV. They started with the manic instrumental "Victory Lap" and slid into the catchy "Smell of Gasoline." The good Reverend flashed his trademark smile while emanating the smoothest of guitar tones from his weapon of choice, a 1950s-style Gretsch. The set didn't last long, and time went by quickly as the group left...

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Hiss Golden Messenger talks Garth Brooks and stops by Letterman

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 9:48 AM

This May, I saw Mike Taylor from Hiss Golden Messenger play a solo set at South Carolina’s first-ever Blackstock Music Festival. His spiritual folk ruminations were an odd fit for the mostly jam-band lineup. To make things worse, Taylor was lined up against a full-band set from Will Hoge, another singer that specializes in rustic and intelligent rock. Throughout Taylor’s performance, the crowd fluctuated between about five and 15 people. It was disheartening. In the six months since Taylor’s Blackstock set, Hiss Golden Messenger’s star has risen considerably. Lateness of Dancers, the band’s debut for Durham-based indie mainstay Merge Records,...

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Live: Sloan makes the Back Room feel major

Posted By on Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 5:44 PM

I’d heard the odd record geek sing the praises of Sloan, but it was only two years ago, at the Yep Roc 15th anniversary show at the Cat's Cradle, that I fell for this Toronto-based quartet—hard. In the middle of a lineup of bands similarly indebted to 1960s Anglo pop, Sloan wowed the big room in an impassioned set with no skimping on the power part of the power pop equation. I’ve been poring over their immense catalog ever since—trying to figure out what took me so long. Yet there’s a good reason why even passionate rock people are ignorant...

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Live: NC Opera presents a stripped-down excerpt of Tristan and Isolde

Posted By on Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Is there a contest for most ambitious arts organization in the Triangle? Because I’d like to nominate the North Carolina Opera. Last Sunday, at Meymandi Concert Hall, the organization performed the Prelude and Act Two of Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, an opera with extremely difficult music and two of the most demanding singing roles in the repertoire. It was beautifully executed. The vocal athleticism and committed acting of the two leads—soprano Heidi Melton and tenor Jay Hunter Morris—were captivating, more than making up for the lack of costumes, sets and movement.  Melton demonstrated amazing power and endurance. When she first...

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Video: Alice Gerrard takes center stage with friends old and new

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 8:02 AM

Alice Gerrard & Friends The ArtsCenter, Carrboro Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 "This is new territory for me," remarked folk legend Alice Gerrard October 30 at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. Gerrard was referring to her backing band for most of the show, which consisted of Megafaun's Phil and Brad Cook, Hiss Golden Messenger's Mike Taylor and itinerant and excellent drummer Matt McCaughan. But not everything was foreign for Gerrard, as she opened the show in familiar territory by starting in trio format with two familiar friends, Gail Gillespie and Kay Justice. The group huddled around a single condenser mic to play...

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Live: Watch Grohg welcome Darkness to Raleigh

Posted By and on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 7:46 AM

Grohg, SOON, Revolving Beast The Pour House, Raleigh Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014 When the Raleigh metal band Grohg took the stage Saturday night, the atmosphere in the Pour House was appropriately celebratory. Frontman Will Goodyear had spent the preceding hours grinning and hugging friends who’d come to welcome the band’s new EP, Darkness and the Freedom it Breathes. While the vinyl hadn’t arrived in time for the show, it didn’t dampen the mood. Instead, the half-full room condensed at the front of the stage, hoisting pint glasses and metal horn hand gestures to greet the band. Grohg played a succinct...

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Live: Chris Robinson Brotherhood brings liberated rock to Raleigh

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 7:42 AM

Chris Robinson Brotherhood The Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh Saturday, Nov. 1 & Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014 Clouds of smoke emanating from strategically placed incense trays covered the stage as the Chris Robinson Brotherhood stepped forward to open their two-night stand at the Lincoln Theatre. Both nights, the group led with R&B classics, setting a baseline. Night one launched with the good-time number "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" by legendary R&B songwriter Hank Ballad, with "Try Rock n' Roll" by Frank Motley opening night two. Each performance presented a relatively limited song selection, especially considering Robinson's considerable background with the Black...

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Live: Sorry, Jason Isbell, but Sturgill Simpson is too good

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson DPAC, Durham Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 Last night, Sturgill Simpson and the pneumatic trio that surrounded him barely had time to catch their breath or take in the plush surroundings of the Durham Performing Arts Center. Opening for Southern songwriting favorite and erstwhile Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell, they squeezed the better part of a dozen songs into their 45-minute set—sometimes transitioning directly from one into the next, always taking care not to let the gaps between songs become chinks in the night’s momentum. Simpson introduced his band as though we’d already met, for instance, and he...

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Tonight: Heavy metal handiwork at Holy Mountain Printing

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 3:18 PM

The Raleigh-based company Holy Mountain Printing has earned a sturdy reputation in the world of heavy music. Their client list includes cult-hero metal acts like Pallbearer and Twilight, Leviathan and Young And In The Way. And tonight, they’ll be showcasing some of the artistry that goes into their print business. Holy Mountain will host an art show at the company’s Yonkers Road base of operations, featuring the work of artists Will Goodyear (see our story on Goodyear this week) and Garrett Gregory Scales, plus Stockton Graham coffee and an acoustic performance by Buzzov-en’s Kirk Fisher. The show opens at 6...

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Corrosion of Conformity's Reed Mullin talks Pepper Keenan, his new album with Dave Grohl and more

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 3:00 PM

The veteran heavy-music shapeshifters in Corrosion of Conformity have spent the past three decades living up to the notion that change is the only constant. And as they look forward to 2015, another shift is imminent: Former frontman Pepper Keenan is set to rejoin the outfit for a   ew album and some heavy touring, while drummer Reed Mullin will release the debut album from Teenage Time Killers, the old-school hardcore supergroup he organized with contributions from characters including Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Pat Smear (The Germs), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana).  But before any...

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Murphey School Radio Show combines music and literary talent for a good cause

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Tomorrow night sees the return of the Murphey School Radio Show, a live variety show in the style of popular radio programs in the 1930s (or the more contemporary A Prairie Home Companion) staged at the Murphey School at the Shared Visions Retreat Center. Donna Campbell, the show's producer, says the idea originally was for a single one-off performance. “We thought it was just going to be one show with the Shared Visions foundation, we were going to raise money for four mental health agencies in Orange County and Durham County, and we thought that was it,” Campbell says. The...

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Chris Smither stays on the levee 50 years later

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 10:17 AM

For someone who's spent the last 50 years making music, Chris Smither seems remarkably nostalgia-free. "I'm actually playing better than I ever have," he asserts, "and I've got better crowds — these are the good old days." Nevertheless, the tour that brings the troubadour to Forty Acres in Durham on Sunday, November 9, finds him supporting a 50th anniversary retrospective record, Still on the Levee, and by extension, its unofficial companion piece, Link of Chain. The latter is a tribute album featuring Dave Alvin, Bonnie Raitt, Josh Ritter, Jorma Kaukonen and others covering Smither's tunes. "The funny thing is that...

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Live: Ian Hunter lives up to lifelong expectations at Motorco

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 at 8:04 AM

Ian Hunter, Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby Motorco, Durham Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 When I attended my first Ian Hunter concert in October 1979, the former frontman of Mott the Hoople was riding high. He’d recently released You’re Never Alone With a Schizophrenic, a canny amalgamation of three-chord boogie, New Wave crunch and knee-buckling emotional balladry that had given him his biggest solo success since leaving Mott the Hoople five years earlier. My memory of Hunter presiding over the Capitol Theatre that night in Passaic, N.J., with his signature black shades, corona of curls and silver sunburst Les Paul has...

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Live: Sylvan Esso ups the ante

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 at 7:56 AM

Sylvan Esso Haw River Ballroom Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 I walked into the Haw River Ballroom on Halloween night to find a guy in a bunny suit rapping while a Kid Rock lookalike stood with his arms folded at the back of the stage. This, to put it mildly, was unexpected. I was there to see Durham electro-pop breakouts Sylvan Esso, who were just back from a seemingly endless tour that took them as far as Europe and as high as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The capacity crowd was there for the same purpose, judging from its tepid reaction...

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