Concert Review Local Music

Aquatic Americana and Counting to Ocho

Friday night I had the privilege of seeing three great acts at the Pour House. The night started off with a solo show by BJ Barham of American Aquarium. He played some of his own material as well as stripped down versions of songs by the band. One gentleman in the balcony took the opportunity between songs to heckle, and BJ quickly turned the tables. Several minutes of hilarious banter ensued and by the end of it, BJ had clearly conquered the room. Besides hilarity, the music was great, even if some of the lyrics were a bit worn.

Luego took the stage after BJ and played tunes from both their Taped-Together Stories album as well as their forthcoming Ocho album. The performance lacked some of the energy I had seen in previous Luego shows, but the sound was amazing and the new songs had just as much confidence and southern swagger as the older songs.

During Luego, I also had the tremendous privilege of meeting Caitlin Cary. Caitlin was formerly a member of Whiskeytown with Ryan Adams and has now teamed up with The Proclivities front-man Matt Douglas to form Small Ponds. She still puts out great Americana, and she’s even sweeter in person than the thoughtfully romantic lyrics she belts out on-stage. Douglas still croons and swoons with the greatness of The Proclivities, but the new depth added by Caitlin and her violin made for an amazing ending to my Friday night.

Concert Review

Superchunk schools audience on the power of Rock and Roll

by Jacob and Spaceman Spiff

On Friday evening, the paragons of the independent age of music, Superchunk, played a night for the fans at the stage they helped build at the Cat’s Cradle.  The show was a warm-up for the summer music festival season and an east coast tour in the fall that will coincide with the release of their first full length album in nine years Majesty Shredding.   Fears that the show would highlight a laid back set from Superchunk stemming from the inclusion of Ryan Gustafson on the bill were quickly alleviated by Gustafson’s inclusion of friends from the Drughorse Collective to add a full band sound to his twangy pop.  Gustafson’s set was fantastic, the crowd was dancing and bobbing heads in approval as he performed his catchy songs with heartfelt conviction.

Superchunk took the stage at 10:00 p.m. brimming with intensity, vitality and volume.  Mac McCaughan owned the stage with moves that would put most Guitar Hero avatars to shame, Laura Balance is still a master of control with the bass, Jon Wurster’s drums told the packed house when to dance and when to jump, and—self-deprecating humor aside—Jim Wilbur’s guitar knew the potpourri of songs spanning the bands 20+ career better than anyone in the room.  What really set the show apart was that the majority of the set wasn’t forged to promote an album or conform to the bands comfort zones, but it was instead fueled and filled with requests taken by the band over email from the previous week.  It was a thrill to hear “Slack Motherfucker,” “Precision Auto,” and “Water Wings” in the same evening, and fans responded with great fervor.

As the night wore on, the magnetic energy in the room became tangible.  Superchunk was good enough to preview two songs from their new album Digging For Something and Everything at Once.  John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, who will be a guest on Majesty Shredding, came out to lend backup vocals to “Digging For Something” and was in the envious position of getting to dance around on stage with Superchunk.  An easy highlight of the evening, the fast and furious “Everything at Once” may be giving fans’ favorite songs a run for their money.  The only downside of the night was that it took the tech crew at the Cradle the first three songs of Superchunk’s set to blend the audio levels properly, but this may be a testament to the band’s rowdy enthusiasm. For an hour and a half they rocked hard, and we were all mesmerized.

Superchunk’s setlist:

1. Tower

2. For Tension

3. Skip Steps 1&3

4. Learned To Surf

5. Digging For Something (ft. John Darnielle)

6. Ribbon

7. Sidewalk

8. I Guess I Remembered It Wrong

9. Florida’s On Fire

10. Water Wings

11. European Medicine

12. Package Thief

13. Everything At Once

14. Precision Auto


15. On The Mouth

16. From The Curve

17. Slack Motherfucker

Encore 2:

18. Hyper Enough (ft. John Darnielle)

19. Throwing Things

Concert Review Local Music

Lost In The Trees plays to a captivated crowd

On Saturday night, little j and I ventured to the other side of the Triangle, Carrboro to catch local favorite Lost In The Trees in action at their CD Release Party at Cat’s Cradle. The band has recently signed with record label Anti- to rerecord their album All Alone In An Empty House. little j and I gave up the chance to see Inflowential for free in downtown Raleigh and hoped that our decision would not let us down. We didn’t have to worry about that because the show at the Cradle was a good time for both of us.

Local band The Strugglers started things off that night and we were both glad to have gotten to the show early enough to catch their performance. The Strugglers are local at heart, but are partly based in Washington D.C. for the time being, so catching them live in North Carolina is kind of tricky at the moment. The performance featured a nine-piece version of the band accompanied by a string quartet.

Old Bricks was next, giving a moving performance to the growing crowd at Cat’s Cradle. Live, the band sounds a lot different than what you hear on the recordings available. The sound is fiercer and contains even more emotion, if that is even possible. Old Bricks ended the set with a brutal beat on drums by different members of the band, and WOW was it a great end.

Lost In The Trees was the final band of the night and the obvious one everyone was waiting for. Combining old favorites with a couple of new, jazz-inspired songs accompanied by a guest tenor saxophonist, the band sounded pristine in the dark room at Cat’s Cradle. I think the only song I failed to hear was “Love On My Side”, but the good thing about a band being local is that you’re sure to catch them here again (Lost In The Trees is playing at TRKfest in Pittsboro on June 26.)

Over all, little j and I had a grand time going to Carrboro to catch some amazing local acts. Being caught in that freak thunderstorm after might be the only negative thing about Saturday night…

Concert Review

Josh Ritter at Carolina Theatre

I had the opportunity to acquire tickets to the Josh Ritter concert on Tuesday, May 11 at Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC through the amazing giveaways on WKNC.

We sat on the balcony level, which only somewhat took away from the concert’s intimacy, something I have grown fond of in some of the Triangle’s smaller venues. I knew the night would turn out well as I sat down and found the pre-show music to be Spoon’s Transference. The opening was an adorable 3 person folk group called  Dawn Landes and the Hounds, which I found out to be Josh Ritter’s wife’s band. Their pieces were upbeat and about memories, love and lollipops. They were all too excited to show off their new toy, those awesome bells you can play with your feet! I, along with the rest of the full house, really enjoyed their music and the energy they exuded.


Interesting fact about Josh Ritter – he went to Oberlin College (a school I applied to!), intending to major in neuroscience. Instead, he changed his major to American history through narrative folk music. He certainly practiced what he learned in that small Ohio liberal arts college at his show Tuesday night. Songs about war, radio, old men, and stories of the stars filled the air. Ritter and the Royal City Band kept the crowd pleased, whether it be with mournful ballads like “Folk Bloodbath”, to more upbeat and borderline rock numbers, to the Josh Ritter I know and love with “To The Dogs or Whoever” and “Good Man.” No matter the genre of choice, the crowd was extremely responsive to the 5 person band. My only complaint is with the band playing background music at parts– clearly providing musical sounds not produced by any member of the band at that time.

Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band kept a consistent pace of music, usually allowing themselves one slow song and two upbeat folk or twanging southern rock. There was a different feel as Josh Kaufman, of The Hounds, recited Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabel Lee to a background of contra bass and steel guitar as provided by The Royal City Band as a set up for the Josh Ritter song “Another New World”. In between songs Ritter kept up a jovial banter for the audience– discussing mustaches, Baby Spice, and his need to brush his hair.

As Ritter left the stage, the crowd of course demanded more. Ritter then played a three part encore consisting of a song dedicated to Matt Douglas of The Proclivities, a love song that included all members of The Hounds and The Royal City Band behind the musical couple, Josh Ritter and Dawn Landes, and of course, “Harrisburg”.

All in all, Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band put on a great show. The crowd loved them, and all of the members of both bands seemed to rightfully enjoy themselves too.

Concert Review

Beach House bring dreamy sound to Cradle

This past Saturday, WKNC DJ’s made the trek to Cat’s Cradle to experience the breathtaking and moving music of Beach House. After waiting in traffic for an hour, possibly parking illegally, and missing all but thirty seconds of Washed Out’s set, we made it in and were ready to be swept away by the mesmerizing music of Baltimore’s Beach House.

After much anticipation, vocalist/organist Victoria Legrand and mulit-intrumentalist Alex Scally took the stage and reeled the audience in with “Walk in the Park.” The duo smoothly transitioned from song to song, playing many songs off their recent release, “Teen Dream,” but also keeping the crowd pleased with favorites like “Gila” off of their 2008 album Devotion. The sold out crowd swayed to “Silver Soul” and “Lover of Mine”, but the excitement really heightened when the first notes of “Zebra” kicked in. During the song, lead singer Victoria Legrand, fittingly dressed in black and white, wafted her hands emulating a “black and white horse.”

Adding to the ethereal atmosphere of the dreamy set was the fog emanating from the stage, pastel colored pom poms dangling from the ceiling, and what can only be described as giant, rotating diamonds covered in multi-colored foil which hypnotized the audience and added to the cavernous vibe of the music. As the show wound down, Legrand jokingly asked the audience if they were depressed, and without response, dramatically commenced “Used to Be”. In between songs, the group referred to their first time playing Chapel Hill, at the Nightlight, jokingly commenting they preferred playing for six people. Beach House ended their hour-long set with an incredible “Take Care”, followed by an encore and closing the show with the epic “10 Mile Stereo”.The show was, without a doubt, one of the best any of those in attendance will likely see this year.

Concert Review

My Morning Jacket makes My Friday Night

Friday night I had the pleasure, nay the privilege, of seeing My Morning Jacket in concert at Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre.  I had never been to the amphitheater before and had heard mixed reviews about the acoustics and general atmosphere of the place, but upon arrival I found the woodsy setting to be quite appropriate for the show.  It was hot, and it didn’t get any cooler when the sun went down since the lawn was completely amass with people.  Fortunately, I had a spot saved for me by some people who had gotten there earlier and was able to grab a seat at the very front of the lawn seating, stage left.

The hush and then the screams when the band took the stage were reminiscent of so many major concerts I had been to, and unfortunately, so was the performance.  Everything seemed sort of quiet and lacking energy.  I kept waiting for the emotionally electrifying display of musicianship I had seen on a DVD of My Morning Jacket performances, but it didn’t arrive – at least not until about three or four songs from the end of their set.  Finally, things seemed to blow up but I was so tired and hot by that point that it was difficult to enjoy.  Don’t get me wrong.  I had a great time and the music was good.  Maybe next time I’ll try to catch the boys from Kentucky in a smaller venue.

Concert Review Local Music

4/29 LBLB Photos

Photographs taken by WKNC photographer Katie Hill

The Moaners

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Raised by Wolves

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Concert Review

The quest to see The Tallest Man On Earth

And so it began, on a gusty Monday afternoon…

Riff Raff was perusing concert listings for the last week of April and stumbled across an unexpected gem.  Without delay she messaged her beloved co-host, Hot Tamale, and shared the joyous news.  Immediately

Hot Tamale cried out, “Can this be?”

“Yes, Hot Tamale, it is so!” replied Riff Raff.

And so they departed without hesitation or fear, despite the fact that they were headed straight into the dreaded land known as Chapel Hill.  They were on the quest to find The Tallest Man On Earth.

Captivation.  That word singularly sums up the experience of watching The Tallest Man On Earth live.  In  a small auditorium that could house maybe 200 people, the talented musician gave the kind of performance that makes you feel as if you are experiencing something that will never happen again.  Despite the fact that you were surrounded by others, you couldn’t help but feel that he was solely singing to you; it was this connection that allowed Kristian Matsson to silence the whole room with little more than a whisper.

Playing almost his entire first album, Shallow Grave, Matsson wowed the crowd with the popular track, “I Won’t Be Found,” and jealous narrative, “The Gardener.”  You could feel those around you holding their breath, not daring to break the spell that his musical tales cast.  As he fitfully moved about the stage, the audience as a whole moved with him.

With his birdlike mannerisms and sudden bursts of passion, often accompanied by bellowing vocals or even stomping, The Tallest Man On Earth captured the attention of the audience.  It was understood that there was never any chance, or hope, of escape.  Continuing his 90-minute set, he performed favorites off of his newest release, The Wild Hunt, including “King of Spain,” “Burden Of Tomorrow,” and “Love Is All.”

In a recent interview, Kristian Masson shared that one of the current albums he was listening to was Gather, Form & Fly by the local band Megafaun.  He also praised the music of the Avett Brothers and the Bowerbirds – which is fortunate since Phil Moore and Beth Tacular were taking pictures of him from the third row.

In conclusion, if you ever get the chance to have an encounter with the legendary Tallest Man On Earth, prepare yourself for an encounter with something much bigger than the name.

Concert Review

Rabbits conquer the Cat’s Cradle

I don’t know about you, but I have a thing for bands with accents.  This is just one area where the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit does not disappoint – with their sincerely frank lyrics, earnest vocals and throbbing music, it’s hard to listen to these guys and feel indifferent.

This past Sunday night, Da Bear, May Day, and I arrived at the Cat’s Cradle in Carborro expecting an awesome show.  The opening bands included Bad Veins and Maps & Atlases – sadly, we got there just as Bad Veins ended their set with the song “The Lie,” but we were able to enjoy Maps & Atlases’ set in its entirety.  Opening with “Witch,” we were immediately impressed with the musicianship of the group, both in performance and composition.

By the time Maps & Atlases finished up their last number, the crowd was eagerly anticipating Frightened Rabbit.  Kicking off their set with the song “Skip the Youth” off of their newest release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, they quickly shifted into a crowd favorite, “The Modern Leper” from the 2008 album The Midnight Organ Fight.

Continuing through an amazing set list including “The Twist” and their current single, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” Frightened Rabbit barreled through, hit after hit.

With the show coming to an end, there was no doubt of an encore.  Scott Hutchison returned to the stage to sing an acoustic version of “Poke,” and then the rest of the band emerged to finish the night with “Living in Colour” and the notorious “Keep Yourself Warm.”

The authenticity and ferventness of Frightened Rabbit’s performance created the kind of communal experience that defines the purpose of a concert.  I definitely recommend seeing them if you come across such an opportunity in the future – otherwise, you may end up wishing you had a “backwards walk” of a different kind.

Concert Review Local Music

Local Beer Local Band Photos on April 23

Kid Future

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Light Pines

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.