It’s a firmly held belief for me that Haw River Ballroom is the finest venue in the state, and each show I attend at the gorgeous venue drives that point further and further home. Between the fine gas station dining of the Saxapahaw General Store (it’s not at all what it sounds like, incredible food with a diverse menu!) and the breath taking aesthetics of the ballroom, there’s nothing to dislike about this place. The crowd got surprisingly wild for a Monday night, but when you’ve got an incredible act like Dr. Dog on the bill the date is really irrelevant…it’s gonna be a party either way. Throwing in old favorites and plenty of gems from their latest album Be The Void, Dr. Dog had a little bit of something for everyone on Monday night.
Cotton Jones was the opening act, and while the band put on a great performance they suffered from a heart breaking condition that has been sweeping the nation for decades, OBS, or Opening Band Syndrome. When you’ve got an act like Dr. Dog headlining it takes a lot to maintain the attention of a packed crowd, an opening act has to be bursting with energy to become a memorable part of the evening when you’re opening for a powerhouse. While Cotton Jones’ folk pop tunes from Maryland blend rustic goodness with vivid lyricism, they lacked the presence needed to be anything other than an opening act. In any other setting their charm may have shone through brighter, with a one man brass section playing tuba and trombone, the band certainly had the potential to be an incredible opener. However, once Dr. Dog took the stage Cotton Jones’ laid back folk songs took a backseat to the raucous live act.
Allow me to preface this by saying I’ve already had a failed attempt at seeing Dr. Dog this year when I was stuck in a traffic jam on I-40 on my way to see the band at Music on the Mountaintop back in August, so my excitement for this show was through the roof. Haw River was the PERFECT venue for this band, with fantastic acoustics and a wide open room the ballroom perfectly housed the heart warming sounds of Dr. Dog. From open to close, Dr. Dog lead the crowd in a joyous singalong with a fantastic career spanning set. While the bulk of the set came from Be The Void, with tracks like “How Long Must I Wait”, “Lonesome”, and “That Old Black Hole” standing out amongst the crowd, the band scattered in personal favorites from Fate and Shame, Shame like ”The Breeze”, “Shadow People”, and set closer, “Jackie Wants A Black Eye”.
The band’s harmonies lived up to all of the high expectations I’d set for them, lead vocalists Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken put on dazzling performances filled with passion and energy. While there wasn’t much stage banter, the band did plenty of interacting with the crowd, like Leaman grabbing a camera bag from the front of the stage and using their cell phone to make a phone call mid-song. The band’s lyrical depth can easily define their music in the studio, but their live performance breathes vivacity into otherwise low-key songs. Dr. Dog is a band like no other, they perfectly blend elements of indie rock with psychedelic folk to make for an array of beautiful textures that are perfectly suited for their devastatingly brilliant lyrics.
Despite being a college student, I’m pretty much an old man. I watch my Jeopardy every night and I’m usually nodding off during The Daily Show, but every now and then I’m compelled to drag my lazy ass out of the house on the weekdays. Thursday was one of those fated days, with a handful of incredible acts playing in downtown Raleigh including a stellar lineup for GZA’s Liquid Swords tour, I chose the local route with DiggUp Tapes standouts The Lollipops and Jenny Besetzt. While the initial showing was a bit lackluster, as the night went on the crowd got gradually larger and more raucous. While Jenny Besetzt had a handful of swaying head-nodders, by the end of the night The Lollipops were leading Kings in a full on PBR-fueled dance party.
The night began with one of the most heavily lauded local bands of the year, Jenny Besetzt. The band just made their way back to North Carolina for their tour after playing a bit further up north and what a homecoming it was. The band recently added Justin Flythe (formerly of Lonnie Walker) as their new keyboard player, and while their regular drummer wasn’t playing on Thursday the band still proved to be incredibly tight and harmonious. Blasting through favorites from their debut full length, Only, these songs shine in a new light during live performances. The band packs a bit heavier of a punch with live performances, guitar lines feel less ethereal and more jaunting, but the vocals still perfectly counteract that added grit with raw intensity while maintaining it’s dreamlike aspects. Jenny Besetzt continues to impress me with each show I see, they’ve made the leap that many can’t by transitioning their shoegaze-y sound into a driving and powerful live act that not only grasps your attention but leaves you speechless, thirsting for more.
After Jenny Besetzt was Companion, a stellar Brooklyn band that played with Jenny Besetzt in New York and made their way down the coast for their first official tour. The band is relatively new but displayed a fantastic sense of self with entrancing three part vocal harmonies that counteracted their driving rhythms perfectly. Fueled by a tasteful mixture of electronic beats and physical drums, the addition of an electronic percussion sound added an entirely new layer to this already dense and lush arrangement. I must say I was thoroughly surprised by this band, and I think they were equally surprised by the Thursday night outing, as the band’s lead vocalist Pepi Ginsberg brought out a camera of her own to take a big family picture of the crowd. This was the perfect band to transition from the depth and wonder of Jenny Besetzt to the simplistic yet equally invigorating bedroom pop sounds of The Lollipops.
As the band was taking the stage, brainchild Iggy Cosky was frantically writing out a setlist, an image that perfectly encapsulates the essence of The Lollipops. Everything flows together wonderfully yet still feels spastic and urgent. Painfully infectious pop melodies perfectly counteract the gritty lo-fi bedroom recordings and transition into one hell of a live show, Cosky leads the band with a commanding presence, Iggy seems genuinely excited to be on stage and that excitement permeated throughout the once spread out crowd of Kings. The crowd condensed into one tightly packed dance party that was bursting with energy, bouncing along to favorites like “I Love You” and “Wolves”. During the show Iggy announced a soon to be released album, making for their “third release in 8 months”. To put it simple these guys go hard in the paint. This lineup was excellent from top to bottom, and ending with the brilliant pop sounds of The Lollipops was the best way to go out. An incredible way to spend a Thursday night!
This was my first time seeing El Ten Eleven. The LA-based post rock (even though they hate being categorized) duo recently released its fifth full-length album Transitions, a fast-paced hypnotically layered ten-track.
Kristian Dunn plays a Wal fretless bass and a guitar/bass doubleneck, using multiple loop and effects pedals to create full sounds. Tim Fogarty has his drum kit fed into some of the pedals, giving Kristian the ability to control loops on that as well. By the way — this is all done live. No samples, no pre-recorded loops. They made it a point to make sure the audience knew this. Without dropping names, they were able to subtly bash artist who essentially just hit the play button on their Mac.
As a matter of fact, when a mic went out on stage they decided to do an improv song. Kristian asked the audience for a key to play in, and major or minor. This led into an album-worthy rendition he dubbed “Raleigh in F minor.” This equated to the best stage banter I’ve heard, and compensated for when he tried to say something generic like “so how about that local sports team?” to the audience. Usually this wouldn’t have stricken a nerve, but he got booed for that comment. Apparently only NC State fans were at the show. (Our football team unfortunately lost to UNC for the first time in six years, and it was also their first in-state win of the season.) I forgive you, Kristian.
I couldn’t stop smiling or dancing the entire show. Seeing how the songs came together was incredible and added a lot to the experience of listening to them, live or at home. The projection panels behind them intensified the beats. Plus, being surrounded by zombies, mimes and a Bob Ross was great.
A little after 1:00AM, Kristian announced that they would be playing their final song — they’re “real” final song. He called other artists out for “faking” the encore, the say goodbye but let’s still leave our instruments on stage and walk back out after we let the audience tell us how much they love us for approximately 75 seconds. From the opener “Thanks Bill” (my favorite) to the last note of the last song, the band was on point and engaging. I’m looking forward to catching them again sometime.
Friday night proved to be another fantastic time at The Cat’s Cradle, as the freak-folk rock act of Father John Misty took the crowd by storm with their swagger and prowess. Father John Misty is the moniker taken on by J. Tillman, former drummer of Fleet Foxes for his latest musical project. Bored with the pedantic, sad-sack songwriting of many of his peers, Tillman took a road trip with no destination and a bag full of mushrooms, eventually leading him to Los Angeles in an unexpected turn of events. Tillman hulled up and found himself writing with a new voice, one that’s filled with equal parts of self deprecation and self aggrandizement. With a bit of snark and honesty, Tillman has created a unique and captivating sound that serves as the perfect outlet for his oftentimes poetic lyricism.
Fear Fun is the debut full-length from Father John Misty and it’s been filling my ears for quite some time now, but hearing the songs live breathes a new life into them. Father John Misty is a refreshing take on the current folk music trend, the songs feel grounded with familiar themes, but explore content that contemporary folk artists wouldn’t dare. If your average songwriter spends his albums licking his wounds, Tillman takes an approach of patching them up and raring past the bad times for a drug-filled haze of enlightenment and wonder. Father John Misty feels like classic country clasping on to its rustic roots while adapting to the commercial and occasionally vapid world we’re surrounded with. Tillman had a presence that I doubt anyone could have expected, he crooned and swayed across the stage for an enchanting and lively set that felt more like a rock n roll show than a display of one man’s lyrical prowess. It’s always awesome going to a show where you can thoroughly enjoy all of the acts that you see, and The Cat’s Cradle usually provides just that.
I arrived just in time for the end of Jeffertitti’s Nile, placing myself dangerously close to the speakers. Just my style. The psychedelic sounds of Jeffertitti’s Nile swirled garage punk with folk for a brief yet welcome encounter. I wish I’d gotten to see more than three songs from the band, their songs weren’t breaking the mold or anything, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t a blast to kick off the evening with. As the bands loaded in and out I pondered upon the state of my hearing and found myself a bit taken aback by the off-kilt crowd at the Cradle. Filled with chatter like, “Yeah, I don’t really go to shows anymore. Nobody good plays around here!” and endless Obama/Romney chatter, I couldn’t have screamed louder when L.A’s La Sera took the stage.
La Sera is a bright, upbeat pop act led by Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls. Their songs were the spark of energy needed to get the crowd moving and as the set went on the crowd packed tighter and tighter. La Sera’s music isn’t groundbreaking, but the trails that they blaze for themselves are certainly worth walking down. Their lyrics are intelligent, yet approachable, never too dense to lose yourself in but with enough attention to detail to leave the listener satisfied and waiting for more. Songs like “Please Be My Third Eye” display this perfectly, Goodman prefaced the track with a simple, “This song is about telepathy”, then jumped into another short blast of pop goodness. With soaring vocals and a driving rhythm section, La Sera was a welcome addition to this diverse lineup and the perfect lead-in for Father John Misty.
As Tillman and company took the stage I turned around to see a surprisingly dense crowd that was arguably more excited than me for this show, something thats always wonderful to experience. The energy was palpable, and as “Fun Times In Babylon” kicked off the set it was clear that the crowd was in for a treat. Tillman played perfectly off of the crowd, his stage banter opening the door for adoring shouts from the audience. An obligatory “I love you” was shouted before the band even began and Tillman responded quickly, “Let me prove my worth first!”, setting the tone with his quick wit and obvious excitement. Tracks like “Only Son of the Ladiesman” and “Nancy From Now On” were songs that took a brand new form on stage, Tillman opens up his soul as he glides across the stage often taking the mic stand with him wherever he pleased. Through his smooth vocals and commanding stage presence, Tillman had the crowd in the palm of his hands. Blasting through staples of the album, the show felt like it was over before it started simply because of how fun it is to watch this band perform. As Tillman sang, “Look out Hollywood here I come” the crowd shouted with joy, and this line can perfectly sum up the new vibe of Tillman’s music. Gone are the days of the sad, sappy songwriter and here’s a new headstrong, vivacious young man that is ready to take on the world in its fucked up glory. As the show was coming to a close with the powerhouse “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”, my ears rang loudly and my soar throat was begging me to stop shouting along. The crowd sang along proudly to the helpless reprise, “Someone’s gotta help me dig!” and I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed at how perfect the show was.
I weaved in and out of the crowd as the song was ending, evidently missing the tail end of the show and a bottle being thrown on stage. Tillman apparently shrugged it off as excitement, an endearing snapshot of the character displayed by this act. My old mannish tendencies were rearing their heads on the ride home, the yawns set in, my ears were ringing, and my back was aching…but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t worth it. I know I for one will be making a point of seeing Father John Misty whenever they stop through the area, mostly because it would have been hard to walk away from that show without a smile on. Another night at the Cradle filled with incredible tunes!
Lost in the Trees had their album release show at Cat’s Cradle this past Friday, April 20. Brice Randall Brickford and The Toddlers were the two opening bands. The Toddlers are another side project band of Missy Thangs (The Love Language, Soft Company). Alongside Missy Thangs were Noah Dehmer, Ellis Anderson, and Nathan Toben. They started off with a galloping song and before the set was over I could swear that they were close to resurrecting Jim Morrison on stage. Dehmer’s voice sounded remarkably like the Lizard King himself and everyone seemed really into it.
When Lost in the Trees came out Christmas lights turned on around the stage and everyone knew it was about to be an extraordinary set. They started the set with “Walk Around the Lake,” which pleased everyone to hear a familiar tune right off the bat. Next up they began playing songs off their new album starting with what is probably the most popular song on the album, “Red.” The set list continued to build; all the songs and stage presence were very strong and evocative. Emma Nadeau, dressed in red with glitter on her face, seemed to effortlessly produce the most hauntingly beautiful vocals while she wasn’t playing her French horn. Ari Picker and Jenavieve Varga never hold back in their performances and that was definitely the case at this show. Ari’s fidelity to his songs resounds through his vocals that travel for miles, with a voice so emotionally pure you can tell what he’s singing isn’t forged. Jenavieve is a powerhouse violinist and it’s her performance that lets you know how meaningful the music is.
The apex of the show was their song “Garden,” which was played midway through their set right before they reeled in the rest of their songs. “Garden” is the most involved song off the new album and served as the perfect beginning to the end of their show. They then relaxed and played an old favorite, “Song for the Painter.” Before they began to play “Golden Eyelids,” Ari requested that everyone slow dance to the song to make it special. Specifically asking to recreate scenes from “Back to the Future 1 or 2, but not Back to the Future 3,” he said, laughing. For the encore they performed “All Alone in an Empty House.” It was a spectacular show as always; I can’t imagine anyone could have walked away disappointed.
By Beth Moore.
The Magnetic Fields played Cat’s Cradle two nights this past week to mark the penultimate stop on their U.S. tour. The Magnetic Fields are a band I have always loved, but never got a chance to see—FINALLY! Cat’s Cradle was at capacity Thursday, April 12 (i.e. the show sold out), and fans were shoulder to shoulder from the stage to the bar. The band, consisting of Stephin Merritt, Claudia Gonson, Sam Davol, John Woo, and Shirley Simms, played music from 69 Love Songs, I, Realism, and their most recent Love at the Bottom of the Sea. Between songs, Stephin, Claudia and Shirley entertained the crowd with stories and comedic banter. The band jokingly mentioned several times that there was a serial killer in the audience, suggesting he/she may behind you or it may…even be you. Claudia mentioned a dream that she had involving a kitchen knife.
The concert was spot-on brilliant! Their current tour is promoting their new album released on Merge Records, Love at the Bottom of the Sea. For more info on the tour and band visit their blog, “Tour at the Bottom of the Sea.” It has been documenting the quirks and happenings of the U.S. tour.
by Caitlin on Apr.08, 2012, under Pick of the Week
While performing an incomplete version of what would become “Eyeoneye,” Andrew Bird remarked to the TED audience, “Songwriters can sort of get away with murder. You can throw out crazy theories and not have to back it up with data or graphs or research.” Although Bird only occasionally touches in the theories of the absurd, he would not need an alibi to get away with his sixth studio album Break it Yourself.
In the TED speech and in music as well Bird has become a master of addressing his audience. Much of the power within Break it Yourself is based on how he speaks to the listener, and the message that he delivers is made all the more significant because he knows how to take the listener wherever he would like.
What makes Break it Yourself so powerful is the strength in making music that feels personal. This is not simply an interaction between the musician and some far off idea or some other individual; throughout the album, you feel as if you are the agent around which his songs revolve. Through making an album that feels to its very core personal, Bird can make the most relatable of human emotions more significant and engaging for the listener.
The agent of the nostalgia that Bird will reflect on in songs like “Danse Caribe” exemplifies how he can turn the metaphorical camera on the audience away from him. When singing, “You were a shameless child…” he clearly focuses on the listener as the agent, not himself. In doing this early in the album there is always this feeling of intimacy in the songs. Although he does not intend to tell the story of the listener, it is hard to come away from the song without having recalled your own childhood.
This is accompanied by the fact that Bird has become an expert at the craft of conveying emotion through instrumentals. Controlling tones, pace, and precise layers of construction, Bird is able to guide the song exactly where he always intended. This on top of his prowess as a personal yet fictional storyteller makes the message of the songs take on more meaning.
It is the realm of relationships where this craft of making songs feel personal and sincere shines the brightest. In “Eyeoneye” Bird says that when we try to get back to the realm of fixation on oneself we become the agents of our own destruction. And although this does seem a bit hokey in many respects, Bird makes it feel natural. He takes the listener through this journey that describes “you” as someone who has become intensely fixated on attempting to fix “yourself” that it took “you” way too long to eventually recognize that “you” need help. It is the most personal of relationships: the relationship we have with ourselves.
Bird moves this focus onto the relationships people have with one another, onto the “you and I” aspect. This makes you feel as if you are the agent in the song with Bird and reemphasizes the personal nature of the entire album.
In “Lazy Projector” Bird shows how this feeling can be grounded in the reality of relationships, particularly their sometimes-ugly aftermath. The theme of the song revolving around how we become the editors of our own stories, especially in hindsight of what happened. As a coping mechanism we skew the sense of what actually happened with our own story, and in frustration Bird sings, “I can’t see the sense in us breaking up at all.”
“Sifters” provides one of the most powerful moments in the entire album when Bird takes this personal interaction between two individuals and speculates, “What if?” Bird sings, “What if we hadn’t been born at the same time? Would you tell me all the stories from when you were young and in your prime?” This scratches the surface of what becomes a beautiful and touching moment in the record and certainly not one to be forgotten.
The album finishes with that feeling left over. This is simply not an album that will be forgotten. Its personal and relatable nature, masterful instruments, paces, and imagery makes Break it Yourself one of the best albums of the year.
Two years after their last release, Water For Mars, Florida hip-hop group CYNE is back with another album for hip-hop heads all over. Wasteland, Vol. 1 is definitely not your typical hip-hop album. Running close to an hour long, the album is probably better classified as a beat tape, and an amazing one at that. And while Cise Star does indulge us with some great verses and storytelling, the focus is primarily on the productions of Speck and Enoch as they provide a soundtrack for the tale of Laserteeth Killmore (Akin is oddly absent from this tape, reasons for such only amounting to speculation).
The first two minutes of each track feature Cise weaving the legend of Laserteeth Killmore, beginning with a haunting introduction of the protagonist in “Enter Killmore.” He is described as a “rebel for the right price/will fight for any cause” and the product of scientific experiments and modifications, called upon to do the dirtiest of jobs. However, as much as these tracks offer a story for the listener, “An Introspection” shows that the tale Cise spits may be an analogy for the MC himself with the final verse of the song stating “Baptized in hurt/resurrected in flame/Cise Star is the soul/Laserteeth is the pain.”
Even in the second track, “Teeth,” the analogy appears with Cise spitting “Last on the list is the name Cise Star/Looked in the mirror/Saw the target then I paused/Took a deep breath/And I opened up my jaws/Teeth,” which not only refers to the fact that Killmore and Cise are one and the same but the fact that Killmore’s method of killing his targets is through his mouth, similar to how Cise’s biggest weapon is his mouth when he rhymes. Cise proves himself to still be one of the best rappers in hip-hop, weaving a tale with strong lyricism that holds a bit more than the story that is told.
The main focus of this album, however, lies in the production that continues after Cise finishes his strong displays of lyricism. Handled by in-house CYNE producers Speck and Enoch, the production on the tape paints for the listeners a dystopian society. Speck and Enoch split up the production work, with Speck operating the boards for the first part of the tape and Enoch taking over for the final three tracks to close out the album.
However, even with this shift, there is no disconnect as the beats move on. The tape runs like a soundtrack, each track seamlessly flowing from one to the next. And with most of the tracks running close to 10 minutes long, each track is always changing and evolving. Utilizing the formula they have been mastering since CYNE emerged, the two craft soundscapes through the traditional boom-bap patterns and afro-esque rhythms that many of their listeners are familiar with, combining the beats with creative sampling and loops, keeping the tape fresh and never leaving the listener bored or waiting for the next section.
Ultimately, CYNE’s latest release may not be the most profiled hip-hop album of 2011. I myself was not aware of its release until the day it was released. However, it definitely deserves to be considered one of the top albums put out this year and is definitely worth a listen. Cise Star delivers lyrically while Speck and Enoch masterfully produce a beat tape that is full of music and will leave your head nodding for days.
Bonus points for the packaging of the tape as well: not only is it a digital download, but the only other format Wasteland, Vol. 1 is available in is cassette tape. So go find your old Sony Walkman, pop in the cassette and get taken away by CYNE. “There’s Earth, there’s Space, and then there’s CYNE.”
This has been a great week for Raleigh: a show Monday, Dec. 5, and then a show Saturday, Dec. 10. AND they worked out perfectly with exams! Following the Inquisition show on Monday, Herpderp Booking presented Old Painless, No Tomorrow and Mutilation Rites on Saturday.
Old Painless threw a little different vibe into the mix Saturday and played some convergent tunes. I didn’t have a chance to take any pictures as my camera was acting up. I’m glad I was out of the room when a drumstick went flying.
Next up was No Tomorrow. I have seen these guys a few times now, and they were so on point for this show. It was awesome. Crusty, destructive and heavy: these dudes from Wilmington ruled.
Again, last but not least was Mutilation Rites. Heavy hitting black metal from the bowels of New York City, these dudes were truly Satan’s sirens. It was a set everyone in and around the house enjoyed.
I hope this is a trend that continues. Two killer black metal groups in one week, excellent!
P.S. Merry Whateveryoucelebrate, spread the love and come out to a show!! Here are some compiled by Vile Discourse!
Black metal in Raleigh. Sorry if you missed out cause it RULED.
Old Painless started the show off with destructive grindcore. They played a short set but it was pure brutality.
Next up was a Raleigh classic, Double Negative. If you haven’t heard these hardcore hitters you should step up your game. Last year they ripped it apart with Corrosion of Conformity; this year it was Inquisition. Awesome each and every time.
Finally, Inquisition. Pure evil with corpse paint and all. This two piece played for probably close to 45 minutes or more and they typically play bigger venues like Maryland Death Fest and Chaos in Tejas. It was super cool to hear their strange vocals and destructive drumming and guitar from so close.
If you missed this sorry sucker, it was awesome.
There are about 465 words I’ll use to describe the energy at the Kooley High CD Release party this past Saturday night at The Pour House. Not only did Lazurus, Actual Proof, King Mez, and Kooley High deliver, they all captured the crowd’s attention throughout the entire show. Each set was quick, to the point and fun — something I often miss at an indie rock show.
I arrived at The Pour House around ten to find a healthy throng of people smoking their last cigarettes before the show started. King Mez was standing outside and hyped up the show by telling us how pumped he was for it tonight. Just seeing his energy got me excited to see what would happen inside. Lazurus took to the stage right on time. This guy is a super hyped-up MC that had me laughing and throwing my hands back and forth with the crowd. He started his set with some a cappella rhymes and then brought out the beats for about thirty minutes. He wrapped up his set with a gift for the fans– T-shirts and albums. Luckily, I managed to snag an album.
Actual Proof set up shop next. These two young guys from Raleigh’s own Enloe High School killed it on stage. Not only did they look fresh, but they sounded smart, fast, and just plain good.
In between sets I had to fight my way back to the bar to refill my drink. That’s a good thing when it comes to local music shows. All kinds of people were coming together for this show and everyone was pushing for a place near the stage.
I made my way up to the second story to capture the energy of King Mez. The picture below captures the best point of the night in my opinion. Everyone watched as the rapper performed solo. I loved his introductions to his producers and shout outs to his friends. His personality shone through his entire set.
Lastly, Kooley High performed against the festive decor surrounding the stage. Female emcee Rhapsody put the Christmas lights to shame in her performance with fellow group members Charlie Smarts and Tab One. The group was celebrating the release of their new album “Kooley High Presents… David Thompson” which is available digitally here. Kooley High has a lot to celebrate, including the success of their show. They got at least one new fan who walked away from the venue still humming their beats in my head.
This past Thursday, Dec. 1, 96X hosted Winter Meltdown at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. The lineup consisted of Days Difference, Young the Giant, Taking Back Sunday, Sleeper Agent, Foster the People, Grouplove, Cage the Elephant, Cake, The Naked and Famous, and Bush. The Center itself was very similar to the RBC Center. The bands were separated between two stages; the main one was on the coliseum floor and the other was in one of the larger rooms of to the side.
Opening up on the smaller stage was Days Difference, a local band from Virginia Beach. Their upbeat and energetic sounds set the tone for the rest of the evening. This concert was our first encounter with the band, but both the band and the crowd seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Following their performance, the crowds moved back to the main room for Young the Giant. They made their entrance on the main stage with “My Apartment,” kicking off their five-song setlist. They followed this up with the lead vocalist and drummer starting “I Got” in an acapella fashion. Sameer Gadhia looked like he was having a good time as he jumped back and forth between his dual microphones and smashed the crash cymbal with his tambourine. They also added a new song into their set which was received well. They ended their set with everyone screaming along (including us) to “My Body.”
Taking Back Sunday was on the main stage with their original lineup and was better than ever. You could tell that they were enjoying themselves with the original five back up on stage. In the spirit of the evening, they opened up with their rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” before exploding into the song “El Paso.” They played some songs off their new self-titled effort and returned to some classics like “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)” and “A Decade Under the Influence.” When talking to people in between sets, many were most excited about Taking Back Sunday and they did not seem to be let down at all.
After them, it was time to head back to the smaller room for Sleeper Agent (who referred to it as the ‘cool room’). The first couple songs had a bit of a feedback issue, but once that was fixed, they sounded great. After playing “Get It Daddy,” Tony Smith remarked on how awesome it was that people knew their songs well enough to sing along.
Moving back to the main stage, Foster the People was ready to go on. As the lights rose, they began a drum circle which led into “Call It What You Want.” It turns out the weird laughs in “Don’t Stop” are done by Mark Foster himself. The band could not stop dancing throughout their set and I don’t think there was a single person in the room who did not at least tap their foot. They finished up with their signature “Pumped Up Kicks.” Even though they lengthened the song by adding choruses for the crowd to sing along, their set seemed to end way too soon.
After Foster’s set, it was time to head back to the smaller stage for Grouplove. They strutted onto stage to some hip-hop before playing “Love Will Save Your Soul.” We had never heard of Grouplove before, but we got a hold of their album when we found out we would be going to the show and have not put it down yet. Christian Zucconi was sporting an awesome sweater, as the picture shows. They finished up with “Tongue Tied,” and the crowd sang with them until the very end.
When they finished their set we moved back to main stage for a brief statement about Wounded Warrior, a program that helps injured veterans. A few minutes later, the lights dimmed and we could barely make out Cage the Elephant making their way on stage. The lights came on as they started to play “In One Ear.” If you’ve seen Cage the Elephant before you’ll know that Matt Shultz likes to mess around with the timing of his lyrics. This was quite true during “Around My Head,” when he paused for a solid 30 seconds after the first chorus (before “Do youuuuuuuu”). They finished up with “Sabertooth Tiger,” during which Matt stood on the crowd and then convulsed on the stage. They were by far the most energetic band there. Although the venue was huge, they made it seem small as Matt made the six-foot leap into the crowd several times.
After a few minutes of set up, Cake came out on stage and immediately started playing “The Distance,” as the crowd roared with approval. They played a few old songs before switching over to new material. As John McCrea stated, the new music was a bit angrier than stuff they did before, and jokingly told easily offended people to leave. They finished up with “Sick of You.”
The Naked and Famous began in the smaller room. Since it was later in the night, this room reached maximum capacity quickly, and people were out in the hall trying to get a listen. They put on a great energetic show, and the crowd got into it as well. Everyone sang along to their songs like “Punching in a Dream” and “All of This.” Their show ended all too soon as it was time to move out to the main room for Bush.
It took a while to pile out of the room from the Naked and Famous and we made it in about halfway through the first song of their set. At this point the entire stage had opened up and the lights and fog machines were running on high. Everyone seemed excited to see them as it was their first string of shows in nine years. They played some classics that everyone sang along to as well as some new material from their latest output The Sea of Memories.
Eventually the show came to an end. It was then that we realized how hungry and tired of standing we were. We had been listening to great music non-stop for seven hours. It’s amazing to think that none of the 10 bands put on a bad show and most of them have been in heavy rotation in our CD players. It was definitely worth the six-hour round-trip drive and terrible 1 a.m. McDonald’s food.
-DJ Dewey Decibel and DJ DiGiorno
Hip-hop fans have been waiting. Ever since the split of North Carolina hip-hop group Little Brother, many have eagerly anticipated the moment when Phonte would step back in the limelight, grab the mic and start to rhyme again. But the past few years have witnessed Phonte forging his path as a successful R&B crooner with Grammy-nominated act The Foreign Exchange, with all thoughts of rapping in the back of his mind, appearing once in a blue moon. So when it was mentioned that Phonte was set to finally release his debut solo album, anticipation hit the roof. And when it was revealed that Phonte and 9th Wonder, the producer of Little Brother fame, had reunited earlier this year, Little Brother fans rejoiced. Everything seemed ready for the debut of Phonte Coleman. The question was who would take front and center: “rapping Tay, four-and-half-mic honoree/Or singing Tay, first-time Grammy nominee”?
While each side of Phonte appears on the album, it’s the rapper that takes center stage here, tackling themes that don’t stray far from the material he has been putting out over his career. The themes of the common man are heard, stories of ourselves at our worst and best. “The Good Fight” is a song about money woes, uncertainty of keeping the job and all the frustrations of a 9-5 that the majority of Americans face, especially in the midst of an economic downturn. “Ball and Chain” weighs the pros and cons of marriage, specifically the suffocation that occurs when love dies out in the house. And of course the album has its fair share of lyrical wizardry, such as the back and forth wordplay of Phonte and Pharoahe Monch on “We Go Off” and the opening track “Dance in the Reign.”
Lyrically, Phonte is better than ever. His album combines the rawness and honesty of his Little Brother persona with the maturation he achieved with his recent work as singer of The Foreign Exchange. Having written for himself and other artists since starting his adventures with The Foreign Exchange, Phonte has clearly polished his skills as a lyricist and now, on this debut album, he brings that experience and writes verses like a “pro with the prose/what a concept.” Even with his weaker punchlines, Phonte’s wit and charisma pulls him through, making the lines seem as if he’s delivering them with a wink and a sly smirk.
The production, for the most part, is solid. Nothing stands out, however, and it serves more as backdrop for the lyrical wordsmith to pick up his mic and paint images with words. 9th Wonder provides the same repetitive drum patterns and looped samples that he has become well-known for (whether that is for better or worse). Swiff D introduces the album on “Dance in the Reign” with a church organ and takes it to the church with a synth and Phonte preaching to the congregation. S-1 and Caleb bring a modern production to the quiet-storm sound with hard-hitting drums and an atmospheric sound that allows Phonte and Carlitta Durand to get musically romantic on “Gonna Be A Beautiful Night.”
Overall, Charity Starts At Home features mature, honest, and raw songs from N.C.’s top-notch spitter and crooner Phonte Coleman. It may not feature a breakout song, hold mind-blowing production, but it holds plenty of love and humility that hip-hop seems to have lost in recent years. The last line of the song “Who Loves You More” sums up the album perfectly: “I got a room and a microphone and a family I ain’t seen in months. And I played this record a million times just hoping you would play it once.” Phonte is one of us. He works hard at his job and goes through the struggles in life and love, just like any of us, hoping that someone will take notice at least once. “Let that boy saute!”
by John on Nov.20, 2011, under Pick of the Week
Real Estate has fallen into somewhat of a song-writing algorithm. I’m assuming their music making process works something like this:
- Lead Singer, Martin Courtney puts together a few chords and some lyrics.
- Matt Monandile (who has also achieved some praise for his exploratory guitar project, Ducktails) adds a catchy and psychedelic guitar hook.
- Alex Bleeker follows the ideas with some bass, and a simple, rolling rhythm is added to finish it off.
I had the opportunity to see Phantogram at Cat’s Cradle last year, which ended up being a great show. I was really excited when I found out they were coming back around to the Triangle, but their performance this past Tuesday, Nov. 15, was not quite what I expected. I’ll get into this in more detail in a bit, but first I want to discuss EXITMUSIC’s opening performance.
EXITMUSIC was treated to a large crowd of fans, all pumped for the show that was about to ensue. Their set started out strong: the percussion was spot on and the lead singer had a very distinct, yet interesting voice; I instantly drew connections to the Zola Jesus performance I saw a couple of weeks before. Their style capitalized on the point at which a buzzy, guitar-driven band pushes into more intimate territory. Unfortunately, that became redundant after a while. It was as if every song was meant to build momentum, but the set never hit a climax (although, it would fit their name of “EXITMUSIC”: every song written like the last song of an album). The crowd was pretty stoical as well, presumably due to the fact they were just there to see Phantogram. Their recordings do not succumb to this issue, however, so I would recommend listening to this band.
The set change involved putting a ton of lights around the stage, which got me excited for what was to come. The projections during Phantogram’s last performance were spot on, so I was excited to see how all of these lights were going to be implemented into the show. After the stage had been filled with fog and all of the band’s equipment set up, the crowd was pumped for Phantogram to begin.
After getting over the initial shock of the amazing light setup that was taking place, I realized I wasn’t into the performance. Phantogram started by playing a lot of tracks from their new EP, Nightlife, and an irking rework of an older song from their debut, Eyelid Moves. The striking break-beat drums of that release had been replaced by a more rolling rhythm line, and the guitar had been pushed down in the mix to make room for heavily sequenced synthesizers. The dark and intimate emotion of their older work was being replaced by a sense of artificial happiness that did not go over well, in my opinion. The crowd, which was densely packed and composed of a lot of new faces, didn’t seem to mind, and the band trudged on.
This mood pervaded a good bit of the rest of the set. Things started to change as the aggressive drumming on “Futuristic Casket” began (break-beat intact). The performance of that song was a complete change-up for the set. It felt aggressive and dark, and I was very impressed with how the lights interacted with the music. They ended their main set appropriately with “When I’m Small,” which was also a very solid rendition that rang true with everything their fans love about the original.
As the band left the stage briefly, mountains of applause erupted. Phantogram came back for a two-song encore, which began with the uncharacteristically slow “Nightlife.” This song was probably the highlight of my night; instead of pushing in those aggressive synths like they had for much of the performance, they kept the song rather stripped-down, which was a great stylistic choice both as a performance progression and as a closer.
All in all, Cat’s Cradle put on a decent show, though there were some mixing kinks. In general, the vocals were fairly quiet, and the percussion during EXITMUSIC’s set was mic’d too high. I would most definitely go back to the venue and am still digging the changes they implemented earlier this year.
-John and Kenneth