Categories
Band/Artist Profile Concert Review

Quarters of Change at Cat’s Cradle — 01/22/23

Quarters of Change is an alternative-rock indie band from New York City. As a quartet from the lower east side, they are helping to bring forward a new wave of NYC alt-rock. The band, formed in 2017, is composed of Ben Acker, Attila Anrather, Jasper Harris and Ben Roter. 

What started as a group of high school guys playing music together has turned into a touring band with an exponentially growing fan base. The band’s debut album, Into the Rift, was released July 2022. The 11-track compilation exemplifies their versatile alternative sound. Four months later, they released the deluxe version with three additional tracks, one of them being a personal favorite, “Blue Copper.” 

With songs like “Jaded,” “Ms. Dramatic,” “Sex” and “Die in Your Arms,” they showcase this versatility in sound. They switch between electrifying guitar riffs, catchy refrains, groovy drum beats, upbeat tempos, and slow melodies. 

The band has had some newfound success in the past years with contributions from legendary producers Tom Lord-Alge and Mikey Freedom Hart. They have also had some songs, “Kiwi” and “T Love,” featured on indie and alternative rock Spotify playlists which have helped to expand their listeners. 

Quarters of Change North American tour poster
Quarters of Change North American tour poster

The first time I saw QOC was when they opened for Laundry Day in April 2022 at Irving Plaza in New York City. The show was almost sold out and the crowd was lively. I had no idea who they were at the time and was just there for the ride. I was impressed by their stage presence and vocals, but what made me an instant fan was the mesmerizing guitar riff in the crowd favorite, Kiwi. 

Now, Quarters of Change is currently on a North American headlining tour. Luckily, I was able to secure tickets for the Cat’s Cradle date before the sell-out. 

I had bought three tickets to go with friends earlier on in Jan., while coincidentally in Manhattan on a trip. 

On the day of the show at Cat’s Cradle’s back room, my friends and I settled in for the concert right next to the stage. Being familiar with Cat’s Cradle already, I was excited about the intimacy of the performance. 

The opening support, Savoia, an alternative indie rock band also from New York got the crowd going with their eccentric performance from the lead singer and their danceable songs. I enjoyed Savoia’s set and found myself doing some head-banging, although I felt some tracks were repetitive in structure. 

Yet they still successfully got the crowd warmed up for the main show. The crowd was mainly college-aged individuals and a semi-alternative scene.

QOC came out on stage to open with “Chloe”, a catchy song with a broken-hearted tone. Many of the songs the band performed were from their new album, Into the Rift.

While “Ms. Dramatic” and “Dead” seemed to be the two crowd favorites of the night, the audience was singing along and dancing to every song. It would be fair to say that the majority of the crowd was established supporters of the group already. 

The group also played iconic hits “T Love,” “Rift,” “Blue Copper,” “Sofia,” “Kiwi” and “Depression”.  

The lead vocalist, Roter, brought high energy and amazing vocals into the performance, while Acker and Harris played clean guitar and had great flow and Anrather carried with his beats. 

Despite being cut short on time by the venue, the group managed to play two more songs for the fans which was notable. The crowd definitely appreciated the gesture.

The band members were very kind and took the time to talk to fans as well as Leksie Fetrow and myself, the WKNC reps, after the show. We sat outside and chatted for a good 30 minutes with members of both Savoia and QOC. All of them were super sweet and carried a great presence off the stage as well. 

Overall, my friends and I had a lovely time. We sang, danced and thoroughly enjoyed the concert. I would definitely love to see Quarters of Change and Savoia again sometime soon.

Thanks for reading, 

Maddie H.

Categories
Blog Concert Review

2022’s Top 10 Concerts

TOOL live at the O2 Arena in London, England. Photo by Ezra Kinsch

It’s the end of the year, and it’s been a very stacked year for me in terms of concerts. At the time of writing this, I’ve seen about 130 different bands across 50 shows in 2021. This admittedly made it very difficult to find time to review these shows for the WKNC blog, but I figured the next best thing to do would be an end-of-year recap showcasing what I feel were the best concerts I attended this year.

10. Oberlin with Komodo and Frass at Iguanatropolis, Raleigh. April 30

Picking a spot to start this list was tough, given the sheer amount of contenders, but taking the first spot is what was my last show of the Spring ‘22 semester taking place at Iguanatropolis, a local house venue that regularly hosts shows showcasing mostly local bands.

The first band of the night was Frass, a noise rock band that provided a great start to the show, with bassist and singer Eyn demonstrating incredible prowess on his instrument. Additionally, the drumming for this band is tight, and the band itself has a great psychedelic groove that pairs surprisingly well with the harsh vocal style. After Frass, Komodo took the stage, and this set was definitely one of the highlights of the year for me.

Very few bands sound like Komodo, having a sound that somehow combines the style TOOL, Queens of the Stone Age, and the theme song from King of the Hill in the greatest way possible. The last act of the night was the math rock trio Oberlin, who were actually the first band I saw this year. This is yet another band with a very unique sound, balancing clean and harsh vocals very well together with the shifting and diverse instrumentation.

Overall, this was a wonderful showcasing of local bands at a house venue that I have continued to go to and look forward to seeing it aid the local scene.

9.  Sepultura with Crowbar and Art of Shock at The Blind Tiger, Greensboro. March 23

Brazilian thrashers Sepultura are a top 10, maybe top 5 band for me, and when I found out they were coming to the Blind Tiger in Greensboro I was not going to miss it.

Opening for them on their North American tour this year was the sludge metal titan Crowbar, the bay area thrash outfit Sacred Reich, and the Los Angeles based thrash group Art of Shock. Sadly due to traffic I missed the vast majority of Art of Shock’s set, and I found out upon my arrival that Sacred Reich had to cancel due to a medical emergency with their frontman Phil Rind.

However, any woes I had were washed away once I got hit with a wall of sound from frontman Crowbar Kirk Windsteins incredible guitar tone. The setlist spanned their 32 year history, playing some hits along with some lesser played songs. After Crowbar’s set, I got up close to the stage to get ready for Sepultura.

The lights dimmed and cut to blue light as the choir track to “Isolation,” the opening song off of Quadra played, and as soon as the first riff of the song was launched into from guitarist Andreas Kisser, I knew I was in for a great night.

The rest of the set for the night was fast and hard hitting, fitting 17 songs into what felt like no time at all, and doing an excellent job balancing material before and after their change in singers.

Overall, the whole show that I managed to catch between Sepultura and Crowbar was incredible, and I would highly recommend catching these bands live at any chance you get.

8. Tetanus with Kudzu and C.I.Ape at the Spoke Easy, Charlotte. May 13 

The number 8 spot for this year is where I’m going to start talking about the Charlotte punk scene. This was my first show back in Charlotte after returning from college, and getting to have some fun at the spoke easy with local bands and good friends was a great way to start.

The headliners of the night were Tetanus, a now-gone noise punk group that always drew a wild crowd, along with Kudzu and an early show from up-and-comers C.I.Ape. C.I.Ape’s set got the crowd moving early on in the show, and continued to keep the energy high throughout their performance. Kudzu was next, and it was a fairly straight forward punk set, though the band has yet to play any shows since to my knowledge.

Closing out the night was Tetanus in what would be one of their final performances, and despite that it was still an excellent performance with an insanely active crowd. The overall energy amongst all the bands and the crowd at this show is what cements it amongst the best of the year for me.

7: Public Acid, Dark Thoughts, and Personality Cult at The Fruit, Durham. October 27

Public Acid was the first punk band I got to see in the triangle area back in 2021, and I wasn’t going to miss them playing at The Fruit in Durham, which has become maybe my favorite venue in this state.

Opening the night was Personality Cult, a North Carolina punk band that I would recommend to any fans of bands like Liquids or Lumpy and the Dumpers. In general, this was a great band to start the show, and I’m excited to hear more from them. Up next was Dark Thoughts from Philadelphia, who are quite possibly the closest any band has ever come to sound like The Ramones and somehow they pull it off without it feeling like a rip-off. Their set was excellent, and it was fun feeling like I was brought back into the 1970’s.

Last up was the Richmond and Raleigh based Public Acid, who rocked out a great set to a receptive and moving crowd. The fun of the first two acts combined with the raw hardcore punk brought by Public Acid, is what puts this show as the seventh best show of the year.

6: Anthrax, Black Label Society, Hatebreed, and a bonus Plan B show at The Fillmore & The Milestone Club, Charlotte NC. August 13

The announcement of this tour co-headlined by thrash metal icon Anthrax and Black Label Society was one that got me to buy tickets instantly, especially given the smaller size of the venue compared to where I would expect these bands to be playing. Supported by Hatebreed on this leg, this show did not let up from start to finish.

The crowd was relentless for Hatebreed, one of the few metalcore bands I really enjoy, moving like an ocean of people as singer Jamey Jasta held the audience in the palm of his hand the whole time. Black Label Society followed, playing a set spotlighting their newest that was probably the best I’ve seen from them.

Worth noting from this performance was the chops on bassist John DeServio, who’s playing was only rivaled by his monstrous bass tone that cut through the mix. Anthrax put on a high-energy set as they do, playing songs throughout their whole discography, including “Only,” a personal favorite song of mine from the band. After seeing this amazing triple threat of a lineup, my friend and I booked it to Charlotte’s historic Milestone Club where the local punk group Plan B was about to begin a set.

Making it in the knick of time, we got to close out our night supporting a powerhouse band that draws local punks from across the city.

5. High on Fire, Municipal Waste, Gel, and Early Moods at the State Theatre, Greenville, NC. December 9

One of the last shows of the year and the most recent on this list was a co-headlining show between High On Fire and Municipal Waste with support from hardcore up-and-comers Gel out of New Jersey and Los Angeles’s Early Moods.

Every act on here was great, but what makes this the fifth best show of the year for me was Gel. Over the last few weeks this has become probably my current favorite punk band, and I got to find out after their set that the previously mentioned Plan B will be opening for them in Charlotte on February 3. This band is insane, with a powerful stage presence and songs that maintain a groove while retaining their hardcore punk tone.

Municipal Waste was fun as always, having the rowdiest crowd of the night and giving it their all despite singer Tony Foresta battling laryngitis. Early Moods were a wonderful surprise, having a sound similar to Black Sabbath blended with some of the harmonizations of Iron Maiden, fronted by an excellent vocalist.

High On Fire closed out the show with an excellent set that made me nearly deaf for a few days after, but the guitar tone that Matt Pike has found has no other way to be played as loud as possible. 

4. Puscifer and Night Club at Ovens Auditorium, Charlotte. November 1

This would be the second time I’ve seen Puscifer, having previously seen them over the summer at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

This time felt different however, especially as I was seeing the experimental art rock group fronted by TOOL’s Maynard James Keenan with my family. This leg of the tour had electronic duo Night Club opening, who were a pleasant surprise to me as the style of music was not something I usually get engaged in.

Puscifer’s set began with a video sketch of Maynard James Keenan in character as Dick Merkin, informing audiences of the no phones policy and threatening violators with being turned into ground meat. The set was long but did not overstay its welcome, and went through almost all of their most recent output Existential Reckoning. The whole band, in particular vocalist Carina Round and touring drummer Gunnar Olsen, were incredible and performed the songs beautifully.

While anyone intending to see Puscifer should not expect it to be anything like anything they’ve ever seen, I highly recommend seeing them live as it is really a beautiful experience.

3. Delco Motherfuckers, Invertebrates, Scarecrow, and Headkicker at The Fruit, Durham. September 3

This show was my first experience at The Fruit in Durham, which has since become my favorite venue in the triangle. The lineup of this punk show was stacked, having Raleigh’s Headkicker and Scarecrow, along with Invertebrates from Richmond and Delco Motherfuckers from Philadelphia. The highlight act of this show for me though was definitely Scarecrow, who I had previously been trying to see for nearly a year.

This group is a masterclass in D-beat hardcore punk, and is also led by some of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. That being said, every other band on this bill was excellent, incredibly fun to see and led to this being the third best show of the year for me.

2: ZZ Top with Kenny Wayne Shepherd at White Oak Amphitheatre, Greensboro. August 5

The penultimate spot of this list goes to ZZ Top, who even without the recently passed Dusty Hill sounded enthusiastic and as in-sync as ever. Kenny Wayne Shepherd opened the show (with Stevie Ray Vaughn drummer Chris Layton I should add), with a lovely set composed of half original material and half covers of artists ranging from Fleetwood Mac to Bob Dylan. But the show truly started when the Texas rock trio  took the stage, performing a lengthy setlist spanning their 50 year history that was an all around great time.

I was particularly impressed by drummer Frank Beard, who maintained excellent grooves throughout the show and doesn’t show off more than needed. Billy Gibbons may also be the smoothest guitarist I’ve ever seen, playing effortlessly. I’m not sure exactly what it was about this show that made it so amazing, but I’d highly recommend seeing ZZ Top given the chance. 

1: Tool and Brass Against at the O2 Arena, London. May 9

The top slot of this list was the easiest to place, as the entire experience of flying overseas to London with my father to go see one of our favorite bands live was something incredible. The best way I can describe what it’s like to see TOOL live is that it is akin to an otherworldly or religious experience.

New York’s Brass Against opened the show, performing brass band renditions of popular songs from Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, and even from the headlining band’s own catalog. I cannot state enough how incredible of a singer frontwoman Sophia Urista is, who knocked out of the park a cover of “Cochise.” TOOL themselves performed a spectacle of a show, composed mostly of songs from 2019’s Fear Inoculum, and showed the way that their discography is meant to be heard. Additionally, I was pleased to have had a vastly different setlist from when I last saw them in 2019 at Raleigh’s PNC Arena, getting treated to some of my favorite songs such as “Pushit,” “The Grudge,” and to my surprise, “Ticks & Leeches,” which had only been performed one other time in the last decade. To both fans and non-fans of this band, I highly recommend taking the opportunity to see this band should it ever arise.

Categories
Concert Review

MJ Lenderman Concert Review

Local Asheville, North Carolina legends, MJ Lenderman and the Wind opened for Katie Crutchfield and Jesse Williamson’s new project, Plains, on their month-long tour in support of their new album. 

On Monday November 7, Plains and MJ Lenderman stopped in Saxapahaw, North Carolina at the Haw River Ballroom on their tour. This was the perfect night for me because the Haw River Ballroom is one of my favorite venues in the area, and MJ Lenderman and Waxahatchee are two of my favorite artists. I wrote about my love for MJ Lenderman’s latest album “Boat Songs” in a blog post over the summer, and I continue to gush over the album everyday. 

MJ Lenderman is the solo project of singer songwriter Jake Lenderman, he is also known for his lead guitar work in the band Wednesday. The band played as a six-piece, made up of frontman Jake Lenderman, drummer Colin Miller, who has a solo project I really love, Xandy Chelmis on pedal steel and tambourine, who also plays pedal steel in Wednesday, Jon Samuels on guitar, who also plays in 2nd grade and Friendship, a bass player I did not catch the name of when he was introduced on stage, and guest guitarist Brad Cook, who is an acclaimed producer and musician based in Durham, NC. He’s worked on records like “Valentine” from Snail Mail, “Any Shape You Take” by Indigo De Souza, Plains’ “I Walked With You A Ways,” and so many others. 

The “Hometown” Heroes played a 45 minute set and opened with the electric tune “You Have Bought Yourself A Boat.” The crashing symbols and bombastic bassline made for a great opening tune. From there the band played “TLC Cagematch” and then “Hangover Game.” It was really interesting to hear the band slow it down so quickly and bring it back up by wedging one of their saddest songs in between their most driving tunes. 

Karly Hartzman, the lead singer and guitarist of Wednesday came on stage for “Toontown” to sing backing vocals. Her voice shined through against such a somber tune adding to the atmosphere of the performance. A lot of people in the audience were fans of MJ Lenderman, and I think a lot of his family was at the show, which added to the atmosphere and excitement for the band as well. 

The band’s energy on stage was electric. They set up in a u shape so they could all look at each other and communicate about the stops, changes, and jams throughout the set. Everyone on stage looked like they were having a great time and it felt as if they were allowing the audience to look in on one of their practices. Their sound filled the intimidatingly large size of the Haw River Ballroom. It was a lot of fun to watch Xandy get really into the songs and not be able to stop moving while playing the pedal steel or tambourine. The performance also felt really personal, Lenderman is a really honest song writer and his vulnerability translates well on stage through his vocal delivery.  

Later in the set the band played older songs like “Knockin’” and “Someone Get the Grill Out of the Rain” which the crowd loved. They closed out with their tune “Tastes Just Like it Costs” which had kind of been a track I had overlooked on his new record, since the record is filled with so many amazing tracks that I gravitated towards more. However, hearing this song live has now made it one of my favorites. The band played with so much passion, it radiated off the stage. Set to cast in overblown fuzzy guitars, the track has a sense of warmth that comforts in the face of disappointment. I was enthralled by the way Lenderman sang out “Mmmm honey, it tastes just like it cost” with so much emotion. By the end of the song the whole crowd and band were singing that line along with him. 

Plains followed up MJ Lenderman, and of course they sounded wonderful. Crutchfield and Williamson had the most perfect harmonies, their voices blended so well together. The group played some of their new songs like “Problem With It” and “Abilene” and they also played songs from their solo projects together, like “Can’t Do Much” from Waxahatchee’s catalog and “Hunter” from Jesse Williamson’s catalog. 

MJ Lenderman will be back in the area on February 2, 2023 at the Cat’s cradle back room with Florry.

Categories
Concert Review

Chai and Hippo Campus at the Ritz

By: Leksie Fetrow

Hippos on campus? The probability is low, but never zero. Though it may not have been directly here on NC State’s campus, Hippo Campus and CHAI performed nearby at The Ritz, a venue I have become increasingly familiar with during my time here in Raleigh, on Friday, Oct. 21.

I was fortunate enough to receive a photo pass to this show, and ended up with photos (both digital and film) that I am very excited to share from both artists’ sets, and want to give a huge thanks to the awesome staff at The Ritz for this.

Hippo Campus is an indie rock band from St. Paul, Minnesota, comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Jake Luppen, bassist Zach Sutton, lead guitarist Nathan Stocker, drummer Whistler Allen, and trumpeter DeCarlo Jackson.

CHAI, composed of members Yuuki, Yuna, and twin sisters Mana and Kana, opened the show up with nothing short of an incredible performance, coming on stage in crochet cat balaclavas for their song “No More Cake”. The members of the group alternated between choreography, live mixing, and playing various instruments throughout the show, bringing an astounding amount of energy to the venue.

The Japanese electro-pop group’s stage presence was so entrancing I very nearly forgot I was there for photographs for a moment. Their set was primarily made up of songs off of their latest album, “WINK”, including “ACTION”, which is one of my favorite songs by the group! I thoroughly enjoyed the entirety of their set, and believe if you get a chance you should check them out. CHAI has a very unique style of music, and I felt that their opening of the show set up a nice contrast for Hippo Campus to follow up to.

I will admit prior to continuing about headliners Hippo Campus that I have not personally listened to their new album, so I was unsure of what to expect from their portion of the show. Another photographer there had also told me that in previous years, their sets were near impossible to shoot due to the low lighting, so I was also admittedly a little worried at first from a photography standpoint.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised by their high contrast lighting and the well executed set design. Considering that I also have not listened to them since high school, I found their newer songs much more mature in the afterglow of their prior soft boy-centric indie era. Despite this, they gave a wonderfully pleasant performance and a part of my 15 year-old self was certainly satisfied with seeing them live. 

Their live vocals were impressive, sounding virtually the same as their recordings (Jake Luppen has indeed been eating CDs for breakfast!!), and the incorporation of brass instruments was a touch that I always love to see in live shows. As this show was rescheduled from a previous date as a part of their tour promoting their newest album, “LP3”, their setlist was primarily made up of these new releases, such as “2 Young 2 Die” and “Semipro.”

Though I spent a vast majority of the show running around The Ritz like a chicken with my head cut off to find angles and swap out rolls of film, I had an absolutely awesome time at this show, and it was definitely fun to take a step back and observe the flow of the crowd and the band from an exterior perspective as a photographer.

Photo taken by Leksie Fetrow.

And once again, I just want to give a major shout out to the wonderful staff of The Ritz for providing this opportunity to shoot some sick pics for WKNC (we love y’all, sorry for nearly missing my cue to leave the front of barricade I got a little too invested in the flix).

Categories
Blog Concert Review

Origami Angel, Pool Kids & Insignificant Other Concert Review

Tuesday, Nov.15 these Origami Angel, Pool Kids and Insignificant Other performed at The Blind Tiger in Greensboro, NC.

To briefly summarize: these three performances had drastically different personalities that evoked drastically different audience responses. It had some very high and very low moments.

I’ll be taking a dive into my experience at this show, focusing on the first impressions of each band, their overall stage presence and the quality of their music.

If you are interested in learning more about each band and their discography, WKNC also posted a concert preview blog. You can find the concert preview on our blog.

Insignificant Other

Insignificant Other performance, taken by author

Insignificant Other was a sufficient start to this concert but had some awkward moments that took away from their performance.

Unfortunately, this band felt a little disconnected live. Although this does not directly impact the sound of their music, each of the band member had very different energy during their performance.

To give some context, their van broke down a few days prior to this performance, which threatened their continuation of the tour and required many costly repairs and setbacks. The band was obviously in a poor mood.

However, this issue was brought up in their performance multiple times. One of the members going as far as saying, “please show us some love at the merch table, I don’t want to beg, but we are broke.”

It is extremely unfortunate that they had such a big issue mid-tour, but they allowed this issue to impact their performance greatly. It would have been more beneficial for them to bring it up once, then put on a killer performance despite the circumstances.

Personally, it’s not your comments that will move me to buy your merch– it’s the music.

The van was brought up so many times that I hardly remember what their performance was like– their complaints were at the forefront of my mind.

I want to acknowledge how difficult it must be to be an opener. The audience is not warmed up yet and the energy is low.

However, the best opening performances I have seen have been the bands that are unapologetically high energy and excited to share their music (bands like Similar Kind and Nordista Freeze).

Insignificant Other took a different route, begging for the audience to dance and overall coming off as insecure. I was hoping to see more confidence from them.

I hope in the rest of their tour they are able to cast aside their worries and put on a great show. They certainly have the skill and the discography to do so.

Pool Kids

Pool Kid’s Performance, taken by author

Pool Kids were my favorite performance of the night. They did a phenomenal job, and their performance brought a newfound admiration to their music.

I could clearly see how much this band loved working together. They glowed on the stage and had a contagious confidence to them. There were so many moments when the members would share the biggest smile with each other.

The friendship and talent on the stage was a joy to watch.

Beyond their great chemistry, they make some outstanding music. I was unfamiliar with some of their newest songs, but despite not listening to them prior, they won me over on first listen.

They provided some great moments for moshing and dancing, but also had some great moments of stillness. Overall, just a tremendously talented and well-rounded performance.

Origami Angel

Origami Angel performance, taken by author

I had some pretty high expectations from headliner, Origami Angel; and their performance was nothing short of outstanding. This emo-rock performance has so much skill packed within the two members.

This tour has been their first headlining tour, yet they had such a mature and refined sound. Their performance alluded to a band that had been on many, many headlining tours.

The Audience

Why where they not my favorite performance of the night? The audience.

Unfortunately, their fan base in this concert dampened my experience greatly. It could be due to the fact that they are a relatively new band, emerging in 2017 or it could be their angsty lyrics or pop culture references– their audience was extremely immature.

I have mentioned this in previous blog posts, but the audience is always the worst part of any performance. This audience was by far the worst I have ever experienced.

The moshing and crowd surfing was completely unhinged. Multiple people near me had gotten injured and unwilling individuals would get sucked into the chaos.

Certain individuals abused the chaos. There were two people in particular that jumped on stage and crowd surfed 8-10 times each. These individuals greatly took away from the performance by jumping on stage so frequently.

All to say, there were some poor audience members, and their behavior directly impacted the performers.

It was clear lead singer and guitarist, Ryland Heagy, got increasingly upset throughout the performance due to the shear amount of heckling and chaos on the stage. Not just in the crowd– on the stage.

It was really unfortunate to have such outstanding musicians get upstaged by such inconsiderate audience members.

I cannot stress it enough– Ryland Heagy and drummer Pat Doherty are outstanding live. I am looking forward to the opportunity to see Origami Angel again, hopefully with a more considerate audience.

Categories
Concert Review

Second Annual Psychic Hotline Block Party brought local & national artists together at Cat’s Cradle 

On Saturday, October 15, I saw Lambchop, an alternative country band on Merge Records, at the Psychic Hotline Block Party at the Cat’s Cradle and it was one of my favorite live performances I have seen in the last year. The lineup was stacked with local legends like Truth Club, Indigo De Souza who played a DJ set, Loamlands, and many national artists like Hand Habits, Bartees Strange, AROOJ AFTAB, and more.

This was the second Psychic Hotline Block Party, named after and organized by the record label created and operated by Durham’s very own Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn of Sylvan Esso. It was an all-day event at the Cat’s cradle with performances inside the main room, backroom, and outside on the lawn and there was a pop-up shop inside the Arts Center. 

Lambchop closed out the Block Party in the backroom of the Cat’s Cradle. The last time I saw Lambchop, and the first time, was at Merge 30, a festival at the Cat’s Cradle celebrating the legendary North Carolina record label, Merge Record’s 30th Birthday. There the band performed as what seemed like a 20-piece to me, but there may have been seven or eight people on stage (this was in 2019 so my memory of it isn’t super clear). 

The band has a very unique sound that is unlike any other. They are able to combine opposite music styles of chamber pop, alt-country, Americana, and slowcore to create surreal sounds that filled the room. Lambchop is made up of rotating members, centered around frontman Kurt Wagner.

Their performance at Psychic Hotline was special as Wagner and Andrew Broder performed as a duo. Lambchop has never had a “core” lineup in the band, it consists of a large and ever-evolving collective of musicians including Matthew McCaughn, William Tyler, and James McNew. 

Wagner stood center stage surrounded by darkness, with Broder on the piano to his left. The duo performed many songs from their latest album, “The Bible,” which was released on September 30, 2022, on Merge Records. Before this performance, I had not listened to the album yet, but the minute the performance started I was immediately entranced by Wagner. 

The duo opened their set with “His Song is Sung,” the opening track on the new record.​​ The song was heartbreaking as Wagner sang about a visit he had with his father before he passed. I can still hear his voice echoing “no one’s edgier than I” at the end of the song.

Each song flowed effortlessly into one another, Wagner barely taking a break to catch his breath or speak to the audience. The whole audience did not take their eyes off Wagner, the room was silent, there were only a few phones out here and there taking videos, and nobody left their place in front of the stage. 

Towards the middle of the set, with my eyes locked on Wagner, shakily signing the lyrics to “Daisy,” I felt tears running down my face. Maybe it was because I only got two hours of sleep the night before, or maybe it was because I had never seen somebody be so vulnerable on stage as I saw Wagner being, but it was probably a mixture of both.  

One of the most spectacular aspects of the set was the way Wagner made his voice fill up every empty void in the venue. Not one line he sang fell flat, each word was filled with such intense emotion as it moved through the room.

Usually, when I see shows I feel like all of the energy is on the stage being shared between the members, but here I felt like the piano was swirling around me and Wagner was reaching his hand out to me and signing the words directly to me. The music felt like it moved throughout the room like a gust of wind or a distant memory passing through your mind. 

The set also consisted of new songs “A Major Minor Drag” and “That’s Music” and older tunes like “The New Cobweb Summer” from the album “Is a Woman” and “Give It,” a song that isn’t on any of their albums but has a famed indie classic, live video from their performance of it at Merge Records 20th anniversary festival. They closed their set with a fun cover of a song titled “Listening (to Lambchop by myself again)” by Sun June. 

I hope Psychic Hotline continues to put on annual Block Parties celebrating local musicians, artists on their label, and artists they look up to.

I feel very fortunate that North Carolina has such a rich music scene that artists, like Sylvan Esso, can get involved in and start a record label and host shows showcasing unique musicians and artists. 

Categories
Concert Review

The Garden at Union Transfer Concert Review

Who remembers the 2016 killer clowns craze that happened? This is not that. This is something even better. On October 8, with the help from our friends at Pirate Radio (shoutout to Doug) I was lucky enough to get to see The Garden in Philadelphia at Union Transfer. 

The Garden is a band composed of twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears of Orange County, California, and their music has been broadly categorized under the “punk” title, but they would personally describe it as “Vada Vada.” I would describe their music as punk-inspired, experimental, and noisy.

Daytime Music Director Maddy Moore with a friend, Janey Harlow (she/her) on the SEPTA on their way to The Garden concert at Union Transfer.

They are known for their staple jester makeup (hence the reason we look like that), and it is common for fans to show up to their shows in their Jester inspired makeup- white face, and either red or black features like diamonds around their eyes or exaggerated smiles. I think it is such a cool way as a fan and listener to connect with the artist even more. Me and the friends I went with all decided to do our variations of the jester makeup and ultimately we ended up looking terrifying on the SEPTA, Philadelphia’s transit system. 

Friend of Maddy Moore, Andrew Tracy (they/them) in face paint for The Garden.

Once we got to Union Transfer we somehow squeezed our way to the front to see the openers Kumo 99 and Flipper, respectively. These two openers were vastly different but very enjoyable. Kumo 99’s music leans closer to dance/house/electronic music, while Flipper is more similar to the Garden with heavy rock influences but more 80’s rock inspired. 

The lead singer of Flipper, Ted Falconi, although on the older side, is probably the most energetic performer I have seen live. Flipper served as a good “primer” for what was to come with The Garden. I normally know the openers to shows I go to, but I had no prior knowledge of Flipper. I’m glad I went into it “blind” almost because there was no amount of exposure that could’ve prepared me for their performance. 

Their performance energized the entire audience. Ted knows his audience and knows how to engage and energize them, and that’s exactly what he did; everybody in the crowd, whether they knew the music or not, was jamming along, and to me that seems like a really successful thing to accomplish. 

The openers were amazing, and we were pumped to see the Shears twins come out. They opened with “Haunted House on Zillow” which, for a lack of better words, is a silly song to start a concert with. 

For those who haven’t heard the song before, there is a creepy laugh that plays in the background and that, in conjunction with the excitement, the moshing started immediately.

 For the most part, they performed songs off of their new album “Horsesh-t on Route 66” but they also did some songs from their earlier projects like “Kiss My Superbowl Ring”, “Mirror Might Steal Your Charm”, and “haha.” It was a good selection of songs from their discography and just a bunch of songs to go absolutely bonkers to. Some of my favorites they performed were “EGG,” “AMPM Truck,” “Call this # now,” and one of their most notable songs, “Thy Mission.” 

Overall, I had an amazing time and I would like to thank Doug from Pirate Radio for helping me get a ticket to this show! This was easily one of my most memorable and enjoyable concert experiences. Union Transfer was an amazing venue and they made sure to hand out bottles of water to anyone who needed it, which was much appreciated after an intense hour of moshing. Unfortunately, I was having too much fun and I sweated all of my Jester makeup off, so there are no after pictures, but that goes to show how awesome the concert was.

By: Maddy Moore

Categories
Concert Review Festival Coverage

Hopscotch ’22 and Cosmic Jazz

Only a few other performances at Hopscotch ‘22 blew me away like the Perfume Genius set, and they were Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and Makaya McCraven’s cosmic, explosive jazz performances. 

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

The Friday night of Seun Kuti & Egypt 80’s set had the perfect taste and feeling of a crispy cool Fall beginning, looking back, it was probably due to the rain coming the next day. Their show was an hour before Perfume Genius went on, so I had plenty of time to enjoy my fill of Seun Kuti. 

As I sat with a cheap, soggy, broccoli pizza in my lap at Moore Square, Kuti & Egypt 80 started their show. The first trumpet blast could have knocked me backwards. It shot out of Kuti’s lips, bewitching the crowd into movement. Soon everyone and the stage were swaying in the night breeze as Seun Kuti played “Theory of Goat and Yam”.

I feel as if I lost the next 30 minutes of my life through a magical time warp this band created with their music. Stars were twinkling to drum beats, and even the moon was smiling down on all of us as we experienced some of the most special music I’ve heard in my life. It eventually inspired me to write a short poem before I got up to join the swaying masses in front of the stage:

The band on stage

waved to the moon.

As it smiles downward,

reflecting warmth of the sun

they made

                     DREAMS-LOVE-and-GROOVES.

poem by the author.

Then, as their set continued Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 kept layering magnificent tracks and solos on top of each other. They played “African Soldier” and “You Can Run”, which were lovely to experience, especially with Kuti’s vibrant blank and red attire. He jumped and we jumped. He swayed and we swayed. Kuti and the band moved the crowd effortlessly, which created a sense of endless joy.

After Seun Kuti & Egypt 80’s performance I was certain I would never see anything comparable to that experience again, but I was very wrong. 

Makaya McCraven

On Saturday, it rained all day. I went through two shirts, shorts and shoes, but the weather didn’t go nearly far enough to stop me from attending most events that day. Makaya McCraven’s set was set up the same way Seun Kuti’s was, it was an hour before headliner, Kim Gordon. 

With a rain soaked field I did not plop in the grass for this performance. I stood and grooved along with a surprisingly large crowd for the weather. From the stage to the sound booth it was lined with jazz and “cultural synthesizer” (as Makaya McCraven calls his music) fans. 

Instead of an opening trumpet blast, I was rocked into a rhythmic wonderland by drum beats. McCraven is a “drummer, producer & beat scientist” as stated by his website, so it only makes sense that he opens with undulating beat patterns and crisp drums. 

I went into McCraven’s performance without knowing a thing and it still had a profound effect on me. With a medley of instruments and McCraven’s drums on fire constantly it was hard for me to split mid set and watch Kim Gordon’s set.

By some miracle or the beautiful beat gods smiling down on me, I caught the last two songs of McCraven’s set after Kim Gordon had finished. They had played for about an hour and a half straight all while having a large crowd and Kim Gordon’s show going concurrently. 

The energy the entire band put into this performance was heartwarming. They shot forth fumbling chaotic noise and made another impression of live music I won’t forget. 

Off on Your Voyage

Both Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and Makaya McCraven’s shows made Hopscotch extremely memorable for me. I want to experience live music like theirs everytime I see a show now, but I know it won’t happen.

Being able to freely give love through that sound must mean these two groups have reached a cosmic understanding with the universe I can only hope to achieve.

Categories
Band/Artist Profile Concert Review

Black Country, New Road at Hopscotch

I was sent by WKNC to cover the Hopscotch music festival. One of the main reasons I was excited to go was to see Black Country, New Road. But before we talk about the concert lets get into some background.

Black Country, New Road is a band from England and has gained a lot of popularity in the past couple of years. They dropped their debut album “For the First Time” in 2021 with critical acclaim and showed people they should be a band to look out for. Then in February of this year they dropped their second album “Ants From Up There” which created a large buzz due to the large amount of critical acclaim the album had.

But just as they had reached the highest point they had been at and it seemed they were at the top of the experimental rock world the band announced that their lead singer Isaac Wood was leaving the group due to mental health reasons. The band however decided to continue without their lead singer and instead have other members substitute for vocals.

Now this leads us to now, the band has decided to go on tour and for the tour they have decided to create all new music without their lead singer as the vocalist. So none of the songs are on the albums and no one has heard them yet. This is the main reason I wanted to go was to hear this new music. And let me tell you it was incredible.

It’s hard to describe the songs especially since I can’t hear them again and that you have probably never heard them but I’ll try my best. The songs feel the same as their first two albums and they still have that distinct sound. They’re still using the large array of instruments like saxophone, violin, piano, accordion, flute and more. They also had three different people on main vocals for different songs which was their saxophonist Lewis Evans, bassist Tyler Hyde, and keyboardist May Kershaw.

Some specific moments I enjoyed was the third song in the set had this super catchy saxophone riff that I could listen to all day. The song right after had the group using harmonies and all singing some parts at once which sounded incredible. One of the songs sounded like a whimsical stroll through a field which one of my friends described as Keebler elf music. This was very accurate due to the lead singer saying when the next chapters were coming in which gave it a fairy tale feel. They also had a song where the keyboardist was singing main vocals, playing keyboard and playing accordion all at the same time which makes absolutely no sense but it worked.

Hearing the music live made me so excited for their next project and I cant wait to see where the band heads next. I feel they are just getting started and I hope they continue their streak of great music.

Categories
Concert Review

Dehd Concert Review

Dehd is a Chicago based band that features three members, a bassist who sings the majority of the songs, a guitarist who duets the bassist in certain times, and a percussionist who uses a floor tom drum, snare drum, and a MIDI controller.

There was a bit of delay between the end of Nation of Language’s set and their’s, most likely due to the amount of rain that was being poured upon everyone. After which the members came out for their sound check which was lengthy but was worth it. It was clear that when they started playing that every bit of adjustment was necessary.

The timbre of the vocalist as well as the sound that the guitarist was able to achieve gave the feeling of the 2018 and 2019 indie scene. The band was able to move to the music without struggling at all to play the music. The guitarist had a way of hopping around and moving that went well with the upbeat that most of the songs had.

It was great to see a band that is able to move to the music so fluently that the songs they are playing can be seen as an expression from all of them. 

The bassist took time between a few songs to say what was on her mind in an effort to get the crowd laughing and distracted from the fact that we were all soaked in rain. In terms of who engaged with the crowd it was pretty much all done by the bassist.

I think even though the morale of the crowd wasn’t very high given the weather conditions she did a great job relating to everyone and the rest of the band helped with keeping the show enjoyable and entertaining.

– Dilan Mattison