Apart from this week being my birthday (C’est La Bri turns 21 on Saturday y’all!), it’s also another great week for spring shows in the Triangle.
Check back next Wednesday for another weekly update on some of the Triangle’s biggest shows!
-Cest La Bri
As always, the Triangle provides us with some great concerts this week. You can check out the full round-up over at the Rock Report. The standout show for this week features local singer/songwriter Brett Harris as well as two up and coming indie pop-rock bands out of DC. Brett Harris has become something of a local master of pop. He began his career by releasing a batch of EPs and touring heavily. His debut album Man of Few Words was released in 2010 and made its rounds through various music blogs. After some time off since its release, he is back at it again.
But the main highlight of this show are the bands making their way down from DC. Young Rapids released their debut album Day Light Savings last year. The album received quite a bit of praise from all around including some love from NPR’s All Songs Considered as their infectious breed of perfectly crafted indie pop-rock took hold. Their music is a very smartly composed and driven of indie rock that is sure to get you going. With them they bring an even newer band out of DC, Paperhaus. Paperhaus is a band in much of the same vain with a bit more of a psychedelic influence. Their new song “Helicopters” off their upcoming EP, Lo Hi Lo, was recently featured on NPR. While love for music from DC is to expected from NPR, this DC duo of bands have received a stamp of approval from the rest of the country as well as their two-month nationwide tour approaches its end. So be sure to stop by the Motorco this Tuesday for a great time. Who can say no to a free show?
When you think of a house show, you typically think a grungy basement with beer cans strewn everywhere. This show was quite different. This concert was put on by Common Chord Concerts, a self-proclaimed “network of music-lovers in Charlotte and surrounding communities that share an interest in original acoustic, Americana and folk/rock music.” Common Chord has only been in existence for a couple months, but has put on some incredible shows so far with a strong line-up of shows in the coming months.
After walking into the Common Chords founder’s wonderful home, I knew this show would be anything but ordinary even by Bombadil’s standards. The atmosphere was very light-hearted as show-goers brought snacks to share and mingled with the band members and other fans. The turn-out for the show was quite impressive for this being Common Chords’ third event. As 8 o’clock approached, everyone made their way into the living room area where the band had set up their equipment. Some moved to the kitchen and others to the balcony to get a better view as everyone geared up for the concert that was about to take place in the living room.
Everyone cheered as the band members made the transition from socializing to taking the makeshift stage space in their usual eccentric clothes. James announced that it had been a while since they had played a house show and they were really looking forward to the intimate opportunity. This show was to be my first time seeing them as a three-piece since their guitarist Bryan was off finishing his graduate studies and unable to join. They are each incredibly talented songwriters and musicians, so I was interested to see how their show would hold up with the absence of a band member. I was not disappointed. The performances were incredible and the atmosphere made for some great story-telling about the origins of the songs. The narratives made for one of the most intimate shows I had been to as Daniel shared his hardships of trying to continue writing songs while he was suffering from nerve damage several years back. The stories covered everything from sweet tea to cross country unicycle rides as the entire audience listened and laughed along.
There seemed to be no real set list as they continuously called out songs to each other as well as asking the audience for requests. They played a good mix of songs that spanned their entire career. From “Jellybean Wine” and “Johnny” to new songs such as “Have Me” and “Boring Country Song” from their upcoming album Metrics of Affection due out July 23rd. Everyone in attendance was singing along and enjoying the incredible performance. To make the night even more personal, they relocated to the kitchen to perform an a cappella version of “Get to Getting On.” At one point, Daniel made Stuart perform his new solo piano song “What Does It Mean” as he joined the crowd in the rows of folding chairs and couches. Although they seemed to have played every song in their repertoire, the show ended all too quickly with an extraordinary performance of “Honeymoon.” They barely finished bowing before someone in the kitchen started chanting encore. As a form of payback, Stuart then joined the ranks of chairs as he made Daniel give a stirring rendition of “Marriage” as everyone sang along. After the applause faded, they took their places at their instruments one last time for the song “We Were Meant to Be.” After thanking the audience and the hosts, the house once again transitioned from venue to house party as everyone milled around and socialized after the mutual experience. Although it was not quite your typical concert, the unique atmosphere made for one amazing night with the always impressive Bombadil.
Hopscotch Music Festival just recently announced their upcoming Hopscotch Road Shows shown above. Several other music festivals such as Bonnaroo have begun to do this. This is Hopscotch’s first attempt to bring some of their past festival favorites on the road to some new areas to try and spread their influence. Hopscotch is now going into its fourth year of existence, and it continues to grow. Hopscotch 2013 takes place September 5th-7th all across downtown Raleigh. While the line-up has not been announced yet, they just recently revealed that the co-founder of The Velvet Underground, John Cale, will be performing at this year’s festival. The rest of the line-up will be announced in late April. With the additional effort being to put into road shows and the success of past years, this year’s festival promises to be the best yet.
Each of the road shows host an incredibly strong line-up. All of these bands have performed either at past festivals or at day parties. Most of these acts hail from North Carolina and are no stranger to putting on incredible live shows. With each show only being $5, there is no way that you have any better to do on these nights. So be sure to check out the road show nearest you and stay tuned for the full line-up announcement for Hopscotch 2013 in late April!
While there are many great shows this week that can all be seen here at the Rock Report, there is one show that rises above all the rest. As you probably know, we here at WKNC worship the North Carolina bred synth-pop fanatics Future Islands. But what you might not know is that Future Islands was not the first endeavor of Samuel Herring, William Cashion, and Gerrit Welmers. Before Future Islands, the three of them were in a band with Adam Beeby called Art Lord & the Self-Potraits. They played their first show 10 years ago on Valentine’s Day. The band toured vigorously around North Carolina as well as a tour with Dan Deacon up and down the East Coast. After 2 years of existence, they laid the Art Lord to rest and started Future Islands.
This Valentine’s Day, Art Lord & the Self-Potraits are getting back together for a 10 year anniversary of their first show to release a double LP retrospective off Friend’s Records entitled The Definitive Collection. This release is their first vinyl release to date and compiles songs from their four albums. The show is at Kings Barcade this Thursday at 9pm. Brian Corum opens with a special solo Lonnie Walker set followed by GOOGOOLOO. Art-Lord and the Self-Potraits will then close out the night which is sure to be one of the best shows of this year. So grab your loved one and come on out to the show.
Check out a synopsis from Samuel Herring of how Art Lord & the Self-Potraits came to be below:
“AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 1980’S, THE SPECTRUM OF MUSIC AND ART WERE BEING BLOWN WIDE OPEN. THE WORLD WAS CHANGING AND THE PEOPLE WANTED A STAR, AN ICON, TO CHALLENGE THEIR MODE OF THINKING. SOMEONE THEY COULD FOLLOW, WHETHER TO WATCH THEM ASCEND OR PLUMMET INTO THE HISTORY OF TEXTBOOK LORE.
AT THE AGE OF 18, LOCKE ERNST-FROST, WOULD BE SUCH A MAN. PROPELLED INTO BEING—LOCKE—THE SELF-PROCLAIMED, GERMAN LORD OF ART (FROM GERMANY, OHIO), THE NEW YORK ART SCENE BY STORM. GIVING HIS ONE OF A KIND VIEWPOINTS ON THE BANALITY OF LIFE, HE TORE APART THE AMERICAN POP CULTURE IDOLATRY, AND CHASTISED THE WORLD AUDIENCE’S FOOLISHNESS FOR FALLING FOR SUCH SIMPLE TRICKS.
HOWEVER, THIS PROVED TO BE TOO GREAT OF A CHALLENGE FOR THE YOUNG MAN. WHILE THE WORLD HERALDED HIM AS THE SAVIOR OF ART, HE REALIZED THAT HE WAS BECOMING THE THING THAT HE DESPISED. THE SPOTLIGHT WAS TOO GREAT, THE LEVEL OF OBSERVATION TOO HIGH. HE WANTED TO ESCAPE THE LIFE HE HAD CREATED. AND SO, AT THE RIPE OLD AGE OF 19 HE BANISHED HIMSELF FROM THE SPOTLIGHT, TO A BUNKER IN ZURICH, NEVER TO BE HEARD FROM AGAIN.
FLASH FORWARD, FEBRUARY 2003, LOCKE ERNST-FROST EMERGES FROM THE BANKS OF THE TAR RIVER, IN THE SMALL, COLLEGE TOWN OF GREENVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA. IT HAS BEEN TWO DECADES SINCE THE ART LORD HAS SPOKEN, AND NO ONE KNOWS HIS NAME. THE MYTH. ERNST-FROST HAS BEEN IN SECLUSION FOR THE LAST TWENTY YEARS TRYING TO CRACK THE AESTHETIC CODE. HE HAS SPENT EVERYDAY, SINCE HIS RETIREMENT, DREAMING, SCULPTING AND PAINTING THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING IN THE WORLD. HIMSELF. AFTER BEING SET AWAY FOR SO LONG, HE BELIEVED IT WAS TIME TO FINALLY STEP OUT OF THE DARKNESS, AND SING TO THE WORLD HIS TALES OF WOE.
AFTER AUDITIONING MUSICIANS FOR HIS PROJECT, HE REALIZED IT WAS FRUITLESS. NO ONE WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO PLAY FOR HIM. DETERMINED, HE GAVE LIFE TO THE ONLY BEINGS WHO WERE WORTHY TO STAND ON THE STAGE BESIDE HIM, FOUR TEARS DROPPED ON CANVAS, AND HIS SELF-PORTRAITS WERE BORN. TOGETHER, THEY SET OUT, LOCKE, #1, #2, #3, AND #4. FINALLY, THE ART LORD AND HIS SELF-PORTRAITS, COULD TELL THEIR STORY TO THE WORLD…HOW HARD IT IS, TO BE, SO GREAT.”
This was my first opportunity to see Jeff Mangum and I jumped at the chance to see him by purchasing my ticket months before the show. Although this will not be his final tour, he does not plan to return to the same cities he has already played during this solo acoustic tour. This might explain his decision to play the quaint little Brooklyn Arts Center in downtown Wilmington.
The show was opened up by folk rock duo, Tall Firs. After their set, Jeff Mangum took the stage and the crowd was elated. His performance was very stripped-down with just his voice and guitar. Although he kept apologizing for having to ask his sound guy to continuously tweak the levels after every song (he admitted to skipping the sound check earlier that day) nobody really seemed to mind. I think his almost neurotic behavior about the quality of the sound made everyone appreciate him a little bit more. Jeff revisited songs from all of Neutral Milk Hotel’s albums including “On Avery Island,” “Everything Is,” and the most famous “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” His raw voice echoed off the refurbished cathedral ceilings while he carried out the last word to the lyrics “Can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all,” sending chills down my spine.
Jeff would switch between a number of different acoustic guitars surrounding him on stage (I counted five) and you were able to hear a new perspective to the songs. With this raw performance, you could listen with a newfound appreciation for the lyrics. Jeff thanked the crowd several times throughout the evening for coming out to see him by explaining that he was still just used to just playing for his friends in a living room. Even though he has been playing these same songs for the past sixteen years, sometimes at huge venues, I get the feeling that this was the atmosphere he prefers. I can’t wait to experience another heart-felt performance from Jeff Mangum.
Double Barrel Benefit 10 is quickly approaching. If you haven’t had time to check out the bands yet, I have made a Spotify playlist that includes a couple of my favorite songs from each band (except for The Lollipops and Some Army who are not on Spotify). So please check them out so you can sing along with us at Double Barrel this weekend. As always, tune in to 88.1 WKNC to hear these artists as well as other great artists all day.
Check out the playlist here!
Here are the songs in the playlist in addition to some songs you should check out by the artists who are not on Spotify.
Wolves by The Lollipops
I Love You by The Lollipops
Teenage Lions by Jenny Besetzt
Always by Jenny Besetzt
Rise by Lilac Shadows
Bloodworth by Lilac Shadows
I’ll Survive by JKutchma and the Five Fifths
There’s a Light on by JKutchma and the the Five Fifths
Open Wide by Oulipo
Build It Up by Oulipo
Servant Tires by Some Army
We’ve Been Lucky by Some Army
Crying Only Counts the First Time by Wesley Wolfe
Crying/Laughing by Wesley Wolfe
Friday Night by Spider Bags
Simona La Ramona
As always, the Triangle hosts some amazing shows coming up this week including our annual Double Barrel Benefit. To see the full list of shows for this area check out the Rock Report. Here’s some of the best of the best.
The Music Tapes is the experimental brain child of Julian Koster of Neutral Milk Hotel and Elephant 6 and more recently Robbie Cucchiaro. The music features many non-traditional instruments including banjos and singing saws just to name a few. Their latest effort off Merge entitled “Mary’s Voice,” was recorded in a carnival tent which seems to infiltrate the music. The shows will be performed in a larger version of this tent. This show promises to be one of the more unique shows that you will ever see.
If you know anything about garage rock, chances are you have heard the name Ty Segall. He has been a very busy man this past year. He released a solo album, as well as an album with the Ty Segall Band, and a third album with White Fence. Their seems to be no end to this young mastermind’s creative genius. In addition to these endeavors, he also managed to produce Ex-Cult’s brilliant debut who also makes the bill for this night. With the always amazing local favorites Gross Ghost opening, this show promises to be one of the hardest rocking and most energetic shows so far this year.
If you have yet to see Jeff Mangum, this is your chance. You never know which tour will be his last. Although some accuse him of still riding on the coattails of his now 15 year old fame when “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” took the world by storm, seeing him live will change your mind. The pure, raw emotion he brings to the stage with just a guitar and his voice seems to breathe new life into these well aged songs. Make the drive, it will be well worth it.
Friday, February 1st- Double Barrel Benefit X Night 1: JKutcha and the Five Fifths, Lilac Shadows, Jenny Besetzt, The Lollipops at The Pour House , 10pm
Saturday, February 2nd- Double Barrel Benefit X Night 2: Spider Bags, Wesley Wolfe, Some Army, Oulipo at The Pour House , 10pm
Double Barrel Benefit speaks for itself. Over the past 10 years, Double Barrel has brought to Raleigh the best local music acts from across North Carolina. If the name doesn’t do enough for you just go ahead and check out more information on the line-up here. You don’t want to miss the 10th installment of Double Barrel Benefit.
This year’s Double Barrel features our second annual Day Party and Market. After its huge success last year at Tir na nOg, we decided to expand it next door to The Pour House as well. So come on out to check out some great local artisans and vendors selling their wares while enjoying some amazing local music.
Shuffle Magazine announced the line-up for Phuzz Phest 2013 today. Phuzz Phest is an annual, weekend-long music festival that takes place in Winston-Salem, NC. In its two years of existence, Phuzz Phest has featured some of the most talented local musicians as well as several of the best, but most underrated, indie acts from across the nation. This year the festival takes place April 4th through the 6th across downtown Winston-Salem. The line-up this year is the best we have seen in this still young festival. If only the bands that started with the letter “L” showed up, I’d still be there.
The festival this year features 32 bands amazing local and national artists. Although the day parties and after parties are still to be announced, past years have proven that these are just as incredible as the night shows of the festival. One of the most notable national acts this year are Baltimore’s Lower Dens who latest effort “Nootropics” left these psychedelic pop-rockers towards the top of many “Best of 2012″ lists. Other notable national acts include self-proclaimed baroque acid-rockers Invisible Hand, shoegaze noise-pop group Eternal Summers, and psychedelic punk group IYEZ. This festival also features some great local acts who have been receiving a lot of national attention such as garage-rock gods Spider Bags, orchestral-folk kings Lost in the Trees, and the ever-explosive, indie-rock favorites The Love Language. Other North Carolina champions featured are new Merge signees Mount Moriah and folk-favorites Hiss Golden Messenger. Triangle natives The Lollipops, Some Army, Airstrip, Lilac Shadows, Robes, and The Toddlers also make the list. With this very well-rounded line-up, this year’s Phuzz Phest promises to be the best yet. See the full line-up below.
Phuzz Phest 2013 Line-Up
Alligator Indian (Asheville)
Blood Waves (Winston-Salem)
Burglar Fucker (Winston-Salem)
Dark Prophet Tongueless Monk (Winston-Salem)
Drag Sounds (Greensboro)
Elim Bolt (Charleston)
Eternal Summers (Roanoke, Va.)
Hiss Golden Messenger (Durham)
Invisible Hand (Charlottesville, Va.)
Joint D≠ (Charlotte)
Kill Devil Hills (Brooklyn)
Late Bloomer (Charlotte)
Lilac Shadows (Carrboro)
The Lollipops (Raleigh)
Lost In The Trees (Chapel Hill)
The Love Language (Raleigh)
Lower Dens (Baltimore)
Mount Moriah (Durham)
Some Army (Carrboro)
Spider Bags (Chapel Hill)
Torch Runner (Greensboro)
White Laces (Richmond, Va.)
Wilde Blood (Winston-Salem)
William Tyler (Nashville)
This week is going to be a great one for shows in the Triangle, but it could involve some tough decisions on certain nights. Check out some of the best shows listed below and many more listed in the Rock Report.
These bands are two of the best acts in the area both live and on the record. Gross Ghost released their Grip Tapes’ debut “Brer Rabbit” in March of last year and showing that in their several years of existence they have already crafted a sound of their own. This diverse album features hints of lo-fi garage rock, 90′s era indie rock, as well as some influences 60′s pop-rock. Last year they were seen playing all over the Triangle, but most notably at WKNC’s 9th Double Barrel Benefit and the 3rd annual Hopscotch Music Festival where their music lit-up the audience. They are followed up by Spider Bags. Spider Bags are beginning to become a household name in the North Carolina. They are known for their incredibly energetic live shows that will leave your ears ringing for days. Their latest effort has been receiving a lot of national attention including an 8.1 review on Pitchfork as well as sitting number 1 atop PopMatters’ Top Overlooked Albums of 2012. This is a show that you don’t want to miss.
Katherine Whalen of Squirrel Nut Zippers fame is back at it again. Her solo work is often labeled under the title of “folk music,” but her new sound encompasses so much more. Her new album titled “Madly Love” has something there for everyone. Birds and Arrows are an incredible act that were seen at last year’s Double Barrel Benefit. The trio’s folky sound led by a cello appeals to every audience with their well-perfected live show. The trio has well stood the test of time in an area that has seen many folk acts come and go. It is amazing to see three people translate such intricate music perfectly to the stage. This is a show is a folk-lovers’ paradise and a great introduction to anyone else.
If you have yet to go to a show at Duke Coffeehouse, there is no better time. The atmosphere there always makes for the most energetic and intimate shows. Greensboro natives Jenny Besetzt open up the night. Jenny Besetzt are a brand new band who have exploded onto the local music scene. They turned many heads when they performed at last year’s Hopscotch Music Festival as well many different shows all around the Triangle. Their debut LP “Only” dropped this past October. Their sound is a fusion of dream-pop and shoegaze with a punch which they describe as “dream-punk.” The night ends with indie-pop quartet Bleeding Rainbow out of Philly. This band has only released a handful of 7 inches, but with their debut album due out at the end of this month their are bound to break big. With several different tracks being reviewed by Pitchfork and the like, they have created quite a buzz for themselves. This is bound to be an amazing show that you do not want to miss.
This night starts up with the great Greensboro husband-wife duo Eros and the Eshaton. Their sound falls somewhere between shoegaze and dream-pop. This new act has been turning heads opening for many different acts over the past year. They are followed up by The Lollipops. This lo-fi indie pop bedroom project of Iggy Cosky has expanded into a full band project and exploded onto the scene in the past year with their numerous recordings. Their live shows have proven themselves time and time again to be just as fun as their songs. The night ends with the always entertaining Annuals. Annuals’ name speak for themselves. This 6-piece indie pop group out of Raleigh have been a household name in the Triangle since the release of their critically acclaimed debut in 2006. They have been known for their energetic live shows. If you have not seen them yet, there is no better chance then with this great supporting cast.
New Year’s Eve is always a very important night. It signifies the end of one year and the beginning of the next. It’s a huge responsibility to make sure that you end 2012 on a good note and bring in 2013 in the best way possible. So how do you do this sans Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve? Well WKNC is here to help you make the best decision. This New Year’s Eve seems to have something for everyone in the Triangle. From salsa to jazz, hip hop to indie rock; this New Year’s Eve seems to cover all the bases. With so many great options, it’s hard to go wrong.
The biggest event of this year is without a doubt New Year’s Jazzin’ Eve with Art of Cool at the Cotton Room. The headliner of this event is the incredible hip-hop duo The Foreign Exchange. The Foreign Exchange features Raleigh-native rapper Phonte (formerly of Little Brother) and famed Dutch producer Nicolay. This show also features some amazing jazz by the Al Strong Quintet, Marcus Anderson, and Yolanda Rabun along with special guest DJ Apple Juice Kid. There will also be a special performance by Toon and The Real Laww who were most recently seen bringing down the house at Tir Na nOg for Local Band Local Beer several weeks back. This event is complete with a chicken-and-waffles breakfast buffet.
If this event doesn’t seem quite your speed, Kings Barcade and Neptune’s Parlour in Raleigh are hosting New Year’s Eve Double Decker Debauchery. This event features DJ sets by Jon Yu, Sean McKee and Michael Perros. It also includes your customary champagne toast and countdown to midnight, followed by an anything but normal full band set from The Lollipops. The Lollipops rocked like it was their last moments on earth at Local Band Local Beer’s End of the World Party at Tir Na nOg and you can expect much of the same here. If you haven’t seen these guys yet, I can think of no better way to ring in the New Year.
Some other notable events around the Triangle include the Salsa Party at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro featuring Orquesta GarDel & DJ Keith Ward; the Dance Party at The Pinhook in Durham with DJs Shahzad, Treee City, Trademark, and Queen Plz; and the North Carolina Symphony in Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh conducted by Jeff Tyzik with special guest drummer Dave Mancini.
With so many great opportunities all around the Triangle, there is no bad way to spend New Year’s Eve. Whether you are rocking with The Lollipops at Kings or watching the acorn drop in City Plaza, you can be assured that you will have a great New Year’s Eve. Check out the full list of events in the Triangle below to find the best event for you.
Kings Barcade & Neptune’s Parlour – The Lollipops & DJs Jon Yu, Sean McKee and Michael Perros
Meymandi Concert Hall – North Carolina Symphony conducted by Jeff Tyzik with Dave Mancini on drums
Tir Na Nog – U-Phonik & Wake & District Pipes & Drums
The Pour House Music Hall – Barefoot Manner & The Morning After
Berkley Cafe – GruvGlu LOOPED w/ MCLC, Matic, Special Blend, Severe & Outburst, AudioRush & Xander, Beastmode, Noisydrums, Andrew Cappaletti, Tyler Buck Vs. Bassik, Zom-B, Trizzak, Jordan Clark, SeanEboy & Shuhandz & Roudee
First Night (downtown) – Delta Rae, Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, Saints Apollo, and many more
Deep South the Bar – Hanks for the Memories w/ Hank Sinatra & Debonzo Brothers
Lincoln Theatre – Revolution Raleigh w/ DJ WOBBLE Factory / Vertical & DJ FM
Southland Ballroom – Cry Wolf & Unlimited Gravy
The Cotton Room – The Foreign Exchange, Al Strong Quintet, Marcus Anderson, Yolanda Rabun, DJ Apple Juice Kid, & Toon and The Real Laww
The Pinhook – Dance Party featuring DJs Shahzad, Treee City, Trademark, & Queen Plz with appearances by Toon and the Real Laww
Motorco Music Hall – The Wusses & The Pusses
Broad Street Cafe – Hog, B Side Project, Spiralfire, & JKutchma
Casbah – Peter Lamb and the Wolves & Kate McGarry
Cat’s Cradle – Salsa Party with Orquesta GarDel & DJ Keith Ward
This week’s Local Band Local Beer was an awesome yet insanely odd one. First off, any time I get the chance to see live hip-hop I’m naturally going to jump all over it, it’s just an incredible experience through and through…especially when you’ve got a live band joining in as well. Toon & The Real Laww were joined by The Band (not that that The Band), comprised of members of LiLa’s rhythm section and a keyboard player that was twerking like his life depended on it, the combination of a live band with the booming bass brought by DJ Shahzad was what made Thursday night at Tir Na Nog truly special. While the crowd was filled with an abnormally large amount of bougie folks dressed to impress, that didn’t stop the crowd from raging like nobody was watching.
Toon & The Real Laww have been building up quite the reputation for themselves, drawing a lot of attention from a heavily acclaimed Hopscotch set and various other local performances, the group is swiftly being mentioned with names like Kooley High, King Mez, and The Beat in terms of top local rap artists. Toon’s clever lyricism and wordplay bounce perfectly off of the precision and finesse of The Real Laww’s flow. Both have bukus of charisma, engaging in practically every audience member in arms reach, and often times a few more. From free styling with the aid of a few words written by crowd members to the massive amounts of crowd participation, Toon & The Real Laww were an engaging and exciting act, a fantastic to spend a study-filled Thursday. While the dance party continued on after the set, the dense crowd gave me no room to cook in so I unfortunately had to bounce.
It’s been over three years since O’Brother played in Raleigh and two since I’ve seen the mind-blowing post-punk-rockers put on their dazzling live show. In those past few years the band has been busy playing sold out shows with the likes of Manchester Orchestra and Thrice all over the continent, but alas the Georgia based group is finally making their way out on a headlining tour for the first time in what feels like ages. Since my last encounter with the O’Bros the band had put out a highly acclaimed debut full-length and signed to Triple Crown Records, a wonderful feat for a band I once sat cross legged for along with fifteen or so others in my hometown of New Bern. These years of busting their asses on the road and in the studio have clearly payed off though, the band practically up-ended their old style of melodic post rock to a far heavier end of the spectrum, turning what used to be subtle nuances towards a heavy influence has now morphed into a barrage of fast paced, in-your-face post-punk with the occasional yet breathtaking melodic break. I was anxiously awaiting this show, and having last seen the band as they were beginning to play out with their Beneath Your Garden Window material , I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect from this set. Plus opening act Harvard (or their newer, vowel-less name HRVRD) has been a band on my radar for quite some time and was just coming off of the sold out opening spot for fun. at The Ritz this past Thursday, making this the perfect chance to check out a band that I may be becoming very familiar with soon.
The night started off with the Raleigh locals of Octopus Jones, a band whose work I’d skirted around before checking out the end of their set here at Kings. While the band brings a fun and upbeat blend of psychedelic surf rock with punk rock undertones, the melodies and lyricism seemed a bit lacking and couldn’t really hook in this listener. Vocalist and guitar player Danny Martin was doing a great job of hamming it up on stage though, adding to the quirky and upbeat vibes given off by the bands self-described “spank-wave boogie”. I only got to catch the last four songs from Octopus Jones before it was onto HRVRD and one step closer to seeing the o’bros!
Before I delve into HRVRD I must admit that I’ve got a thing against bands without vowels in their name, and while I’ve embraced a select few thus far (SBTRKT and TNGHT being glaring standouts), I’m always a bit apprehensive to check a band out…especially if they used to have a name that didn’t read like a sixth graders notebook cover. Personal grudges aside, whatever changed about this band when they became HRVRD worked wonders for them, the Charlotte outfit used to give off a larger pop influence than the experimental and haunting tunes that were on display at Kings. Thought vocalist Jesse Clasen was coughing throughout damn near every song and informed the crowd of his sickness, his vocals were still soaring through the invigorated crowd at Kings. When I saw Clasen pull out a trumpet after already wowing me with the band’s overwhelming live presence I became enamored in this act. After I saw their use of vocal loops I was sold. HRVRD combined elements of punk, pop, and experimental music to create a compelling product that’s accessible by fans of Manchester Orchestra or Circa Survive alike. And make no mistake, I’ve long grown out of the high pitched vocals and chuggy yet melodic guitar thing…the Circa Survive ship never came to port for this fella, but HRVRD have taken that sort of approach and turned it into an intriguing blend of styles that mesh together perfectly.
Sickness aside HRVRD could have easily stolen the show if it weren’t for me being such a fanboy of O’Brother. As soon as the band took the stage I drew myself uncomfortably close despite their live shows being notoriously loud and known to induce “bangovers” by many attended. Well consider me a bangover statistic, because when the band opened with an old favorite, “Ascension” I was thrust right back into my high school days of losing myself in the same ambient yet ear rattlingly heavy anthem. The band smoothly transitioned into “Lay Down”, the track that marked the beginning of a heavier phase of O’Brother, filled with throaty shouts and heavily distorted guitars but juxtaposed with softer, melodic bridges.
The rest of the show can only be described as painfully awesome, the band was so loud that it was hard to discern much of Tanner Merritt’s vocals, even when he was screaming into the microphone. This volume issue can be a bit of a draw back with a band like this, while their live presence lies heavily in the physicality of their music (you can pretty much feel the bass in your chest, it’s fantastic!) the band’s lyricism is arguably just as strong. With a separate floor tom to add depth to the band’s already powerful rhythms along with their DIY lighting setup consisting of string lights run over all of their equipment, the on-stage ambience is an equally compelling aspect of the band’s performance. To summarize it, it’s all great. While the mixing at these shows could be a bit better to bring out Tanner’s vocals, it’s hard to nitpick at a show that leaves the listeners so speechless. While I miss the melodic side of O’Brother, this band has tread into new territory with their latest releases and their intensity and talent conveys just as strongly through shouts in spurts as it did through their tamer releases. O’Brother is an absolute powerhouse of an act both on stage and in-studio, but nothing compares to seeing these gentlemen perform live, and Sunday proved just that.
Throughout the past decade Sufjan Stevens has cemented himself as one of the most talented and unique artists of our generation, with a diverse array of talents ranging from classically inspired folk pop to the aural adventures of the past few years with Age of Adz and BQE, it’s a toss up as to what direction any new music from Stevens is going to take. When he announced his most recent release, Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10, I wasn’t too sure of what to expect…especially with the lead-off single of “Christmas Unicorn”. The track was as bizarre as it was insightful and infectious (especially the seamless transition into Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”), which can pretty accurately describe the three plus hours of Christmas inspired material on Silver & Gold. Shortly after the album announcement came news of the “Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Season Affective Disorder Yuletide Pageant On Ice” tour, a string of shows which would feature good ol’ “Sufjy Pants” spreading Christmas cheer by way of his modern takes on Christmas classics as well as his incredible new holiday inspired originals.
While some of the Christmas inspired material is brief and zany, like “Happy Family Christmas” a jaunting yet melodic track wishing that “Just this once for Christmas I want us all to be like one great big happy family”, and while the holiday is exactly a month away, Sunday at Haw River Ballroom felt like a gigantic family Christmas gathering. With hundreds of concertgoers decked out in festive sweaters and unicorn horns, Sunday provided one of the most unique and magical show experiences one could ever wish for. While opener Sheila Sapputo (better known as singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas) donned a Santa suit for a quirky Portlandia-esque bit of dry comedy, the highlight of the show could be nothing other than the marvelous display put on by Sufjan and company.
The show was broken up into bits of Sufjan originals and highly enjoyable breaks for Christmas classics from the Wheel!Of!Christmas!, a Price Is Right style spin-wheel designed to randomize the carols we’ve all grown to know and love. Upon entrance we were all given a songbook, endearingly referred to by Sufjan as our “book of hymnals”, and these carols provided for some of the most memorable concert moments in recent memory. While Sufjan originals like “Sister Winter” and the aforementioned “Christmas Unicorn” stood out amongst the set, the true highlights came from the innovative takes on old classics. An electronically driven version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” was a show-stopping performance, featuring vocoded Sufjan vocals and spastic electronic melodies that excellently juxtapose the calm and soothing stylings of the original. After the Wheel of Christmas selected “Joy to the World” early on in the set, Sufjan brilliantly transitioned into a refrain from “Impossible Soul”, a track from Age of Adz, inducing shouts of approval from the crowd.
Sufjan himself described the show as, “running the gamut of Christmas from the profane to the insane”, and with inflatable unicorns being thrown out at the same show as inflatable Santa’s I’d say it’s a pretty accurate description. The end of Sufjan’s set was haltered by the second fire alarm of the evening, but the band took it all in stride and led the crowd in an a cappella rendition of “Silent Night” divided between males and females in the first two verses followed by a harmonious ending as monitors blasted back to life and the set came to a beautiful end. A roaring ovation from one of the most dense crowds I’ve seen at Haw River resulted in a three song encore of Sufjan originals from Illinois and Michigan. Starting off his encore with a beautiful take on “Concerning The UFO Sightings Near Highland, Illinois”, the crowds anticipation was rapidly rising and greeted with “For The Widows of Paradise” which started as a solo banjo track and blossomed into a full band performance. Closing with fan-favorite, “Chicago”, Sufjan thanked the crowd for being so wonderful and patient, but all thanks is graciously pointed towards Sufjan, the band, and the fine folks of Haw River Ballroom for housing such a beautiful show. It’s very rare to build a sense of community within a single show, but the “Surfjohn Stephenopolous Sing-A-Long” certainly achieved just that.
Two side projects shone bright on Thursday at Tir Na Nog, as Phil Cook and James Phillips shed their usual full-time bands for a more stripped down and intimate performance for the weekly Local Band Local Beer. James Phillips (of Bombadil) made his first solo outing with the help of Elyse Thebner (Some Army, JKutchma & The Five Fifths) to fully flesh out his minimalistic electronic act inspired by his stay in Oregon earlier this year.
A far cry from his work in the quirky folk act of Bombadil, Phillips’ set up consisted of a laptop from which to blast beats and an array of synths to produce the dense soundscape that sets the somber yet hopeful tone of his solo work. Joined by fellow local musicians like Stuart and Daniel of Bombadil and Christy Smith of The Tender Fruit, Sumner James transitioned surprisingly well for a debut live act. Closing with the album’s lead-off single of, “Home”, James was borderline shouting his heart out on “Losing his mind” in the state of Oregon. These tunes can be just as therapeutic to the listener as it evidently was for Phillips, much like the deep emotion and soul poured into the mostly instrumental tunes of Phil Cook.