Last night, Friday November 6, was the second night of three for Troika Music Festival in Durham, NC. As of this moment, I have watched and photographed 11 bands, and tonight I’ll photograph 6 or 7 more. It’s been an incredible journey for me thus far. First of all, I’ve never driven in downtown Durham, let alone in the dark and in the rain. So the musical rewards were that much more delicious after I circled miles of blocks countless times.
I’ve been blown away by the epic sounds of Old Bricks in the tiny space of The Pinhook. They radiated so much joyous energy for the creation of music, I have a feeling they forgot we were all standing there listening. I don’t typically like bands that are more noise-based and less lyrical, but they touched a part of my soul.
Later, I sat on the stage next to Django Haskins of The Old Ceremony as he played acoustic guitar standing on the top of a chair because the sound system gave out, and he wanted to make sure everyone could here and see. He entranced the entire audience with his raw voice, honest lyrics, and witty jokes, mostly making fun of himself. He has a list of over a hundred songs that he was sporadically picking from, and he shared with us the back story to The Old Ceremony most recent release, Wither on the Vines, and he sang a song that he wrote for a girl-rock band in New York.
I was introduced to a new band that had my calves sore I was bouncing around so much. Onward, Soldier has one of the most talented groups of local musicians I’ve probably seen. The lead singer, Sean, has a soft face with an innocent air, but he plays and sings with such intensity, you’d think he was 6’6. I expect the drum to fall through the stage he was rockin’ so hard, and the second guitar ripped with fingers of gold. There’s no better way to instill love in an audience than to show your own love in the making of music. They had so much energy, such happiness, I was completely taken by their performance.
But out of the eleven bands I have thus far seen, nothing can compare to the performance of Mandolin Orange. The male/female duo step onto the stage of Fullsteam Brewery with a fiddle, two guitars, and a mandolin. Their presence truly speaks to the power of music that has nothing to do with sound or technique. They made me believe them. I believed in the beauty of the fiddle and the simplistic elegance of an acoustic guitar. I believed that two vocal harmonies singing just the right words could transform a room into a sanctuary. Andrew has a calming presence with long curly hair, but his voice resonates with a deep, slightly twangy serenity. Emily is infallibly beautiful, but nothing in comparison to her radiance while holding a fiddle. This is the duo to watch, and I know I’ll be looking out for their next show.
I will be perfectly happy if I never listen to another band from outside of North Carolina. This state is overflowing with talent in every genre, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.