Concert Review

Concert Review: White Reaper (9/25/2021)

White Reaper onstage at Cat's Cradle
White Reaper at Cat’s Cradle on 9/25/2021

Late into the show, lead singer Tony Esposito remarked that “it feels a lot like 2019 again”. This moment of introspection stood out because it was a rare break in almost continuous stream of wailing guitars. Often Esposito would step away from the mic for extended headbanging solos powered by the three guitars, and even during breaks between songs someone would always be hammering a note or keeping a drum rhythm going. There was very little that stood between the five members of White Reaper and delivering the experience the audience paid for, which was for them to play now and loud.

This concert was a long time in the making. White Reaper was originally coming to the Cradle in March of 2020, this was rescheduled for obvious reasons to April 28 of this year, when it was rescheduled once more to Sept. 25. The hype was palpable, and one person I talked to said they drove all the way from Richmond. 

One of White Reaper’s signature traits is Esposito’s howling, passionate vocals, and they certainly put on a show that night. The Cat’s Cradle acoustics meant it was definitely hard to make every word out but that added to the experience, songs became experiences, crashing walls of sound, and everyone knew the lyrics anyway.

Their stage presence was immaculate, often someone would stand on a platform to almost come at the audience from a new dimension and there was always purpose behind actions as simple as walking around during a song, often coming within a few inches of the front row when a song reached its crescendo. 

The setlist was a nice blend of old and new, with songs like “Sheila” and “Pills” off their debut alongside “Raw” and “Headwind” off their most recent album, 2019’s “You Deserve Love”. “The Stack” was a particular crowd favorite, virtually everyone was jumping and singing along to it. And they wisely kept “Judy French”, one of their biggest crowd-pleasers, until the encore, answering the audience’s cries to hear it played with the familiar opening notes that had everyone cheering.

White Reaper are from Louisville, but they injected some local flair by dedicating “Might be Right” to two of their North Carolinian friends who are engaged to be married and were also in the audience, and their cover of “Aneurysm” was an homage to Nirvana’s 1991 concert at the Cradle. They also asked if anyone in the crowd were students and said to “stay in school otherwise you’ll end up like us”, which was ironic in the face of the absolute blast they seemed to be having onstage.

Opening act Glove set the tone for things to come and while I hadn’t heard its music beforehand I had a great time with its set. It’s a synth heavy band with a strong 80s influence and a lot of fun grooves and piano riffs. Its versatility of lineup was interesting to watch; the drummer switched from a larger drum set to synths to a smaller drum set to being the lead singer and about halfway through they keyboard player started playing sitting down, at eye level with the front row. White Reaper was the star of the show but Glove definitely earned its applause.

And Esposito was right: it really felt like 2019 again. While I along with a few others stayed in the back to keep distance between each other, the mosh pit was alive and well and pretty much the whole front half of the crowd was involved. While this concert had been rescheduled multiple times, everything about the actual event felt like a return to some version of normal, and even from the back, it was a pretty great version.


Blog Concert Review Festival Coverage

Hopscotch Music Festival 2021 Series: My Experience

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I’m finally ready to share my 2021 Hopscotch experience. While I didn’t see all of the performances, I did get to see most of the major acts: Helado Negro, Animal Collective, Flying Lotus, Hippo Campus, and Caroline Polachek.

I was somewhat surprised by how much I enjoyed Helado Negro; I’d never heard his music before, but his performance was lively, kind, and felt like home. I cannot say the same about Animal Collective. They played almost exclusively new music and the crowd was clearly disappointed. That being said, the unique vocals and skilled instrumentals were undeniable. Flying Lotus, while a whole lot of fun, was nearly too loud to enjoy. With my Photo Pass, I was able to shoot most of the performances from in front of the barrier, but I wasn’t able to shoot Flying Lotus because of the volume of his music. From the barely audible crowd mumblings, I could sense that I wasn’t the only one struggling with the volume. Hippo Campus was easy and enjoyable, and for the big fans, I’m sure it was the best. They even took to the floor after their set to meet people and explore the festival which I appreciated. Finally, Caroline Polachek. I am certainly in the minority with this opinion, but I just do not like her music. The performance was contrived (though I did like her outfit) and most of the songs had no appeal for me. 

Aside from the music, I was surprised by the lack of food and drink vendors. There were certainly some present, but a small amount compared to what I expected. That being said, it was the first Hopscotch of the COVID era so some things were just smaller. 

I appreciated the opportunity to attend Hopscotch and I’m looking forward to seeing Hopscotch return even bigger and better next year.

Here’s to the loose pug that ran around outside the Moore Square venue,

Silya Bennai

Concert Review

Memories of Merlefest 2021

Merlefest 2021 took place September 16-19 and WKNC, at long last, had representatives taking part in the festival.

The headliners were amazing, but some of the most magical moments of Merlefest were in between the big events – meeting the people who have been attending this festival for over 30 years, seeing people who have never met play together like they learned to play music together, and seeing the community of people who all have one thing in common: they love music

John, featured in the middle of the top row of photos, attached a picture of Tony Rice onto his umbrella to keep his spirit alive. Tony was godfather to John’s daughter, Jessica, who was said to also be carrying Tony around the festival. John said that in Tony’s last years, he chauffeured him.

Old Time Pickers Tent

The Old Time Pickers Tent, featuring young and old pickers, played all day and into the night through the hot weather. The cast rotated, but the spirit of old time stayed in the tent all day. The origins of old time are explored in our interview with Rich Shulman, which you can watch here. John Turner, accompanied by his daughter and granddaughter, shared his flatfooting skills – that is NOT tapdancing you are seeing. Flatfoot dancing is a type of Appalachian clogging – you can watch John and his family demonstrate here. The Old Time Pickers, including Rich Shulman, Marcus Campbell, Gary Hermann, Linda Cabe, and Robbie Herman (pictured above) keep the spirit of old time alive through their picking.

That’s what this festival is about. It’s putting people together because of the music that would never cross paths, that would never meet, and the one thing in common is the music.

Rich Shulman, Old Time Picker
Watch the interview here

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers crossed Merlefest off of their musical bucketlist, and Merlefest loved them. A perfect set during the sunset session after the rain of Saturday had lifted, featuring a few songs off of their upcoming album, Nightroamer. You can hear more about that in our pre-festival interview!

The Dance Tent

The dance tent, although home to smaller acts, always managed to revive an exhausted Merlefest attendee. Acts such as Cordovas and Ganstagrass (pictured above) reinforced the idea that the festival is not strictly about traditional picking – it is about the love of music, and rock and hip hop are a part of that. Ganstagrass, a five piece group that infused hip hop and bluegrass, floored us with their talent and a blending of two genres so seamless that afterwards, we wondered how they had ever seemed so separate before. Stay tuned for the interview on our Youtube page!

Mavis Staples

And Mavis. Mavis Mavis Mavis. We spent our Sunday afternoon with Mavis Staples. Mavis brought maybe the most energy to the Watson Stage (the big one) out of the whole festival – when the crowd wasn’t giving back what she so willingly gave, she told us to loosen up “like a bowl of Jello” – so we did. Her amazing vocal performance, anticipated but still shocking – she’s 82 years old! – awed the crowd. Singing classics like The Weight, For What It’s Worth, Slippery People, and Respect Yourself (joined by Melissa Etheridge), Mavis continued to renew the songs and impart a new meaning and sensation than any other time you’ve listened to them. Midway through her performance of I’ll Take You There, she stopped and let us know that she was aware of that – “My family, the Staples Singers, has been taking y’all there for 74 years and I ain’t tired yet.” Then she asked us to take her there – the crowd obliged by singing the chorus, but the feeling lingered that there was more to be done.

This is by no means the most thorough account of Merlefest – Amythyst Kiah, Leann Rimes, Jim Lauderdale, the Sam Bush Band and so many more acts made the festival what it is. DJ Lizzo and Big Hoss would like to emphasize their gratitude to the Merlefest community for their acceptance and sharing of their culture.

Concert Review

Concert Review: Phoebe Bridgers – Raleigh, NC (09/21/21)

On Tuesday, September 21, I had the pleasure of attending the Raleigh show of Phoebe Bridgers’ Reunion Tour at Red Hat Amphitheater. I got my tickets back in July when it was going to be held at The Ritz, but because of the changes Bridgers made to make the tour more COVID-conscious with rising cases (which I covered in “Phoebe Bridgers’ ‘Reunion Tour’ Makes Some Changes”), it got moved to Red Hat. Due to this change, my two friends and I were in the pit. I’m not the biggest fan of pits, especially after avoiding crowds for so long, but with everyone masked and vaccinated, it made the experience a lot better.

Doors opened at 7:00pm, and MUNA came on a little before 8:00pm, and boy, were they great. The electro pop trio gelled together perfectly. Their chemistry, talent, and stage presence combined was truly something special. Not to mention, Katie Gavin, the lead singer, had a spectacular outfit. 

They performed several songs including “I Know A Place” and “Crying On The Bathroom Floor.” They also performed their brand new single “Silk Chiffon” that has a feature from Bridgers, who came on stage to perform it with them during their act.

MUNA was energetic, fun, and electric, and I was worried (albeit very momentarily) that Bridgers’ melancholic sound would not lend itself to the same energy.

That worry faded to dust once Bridgers and her band walked on-stage in a single file line to “I Gotta Feeling”  by The Black Eyed Peas. They then jumped into performing “Motion Sickness” and the screen behind them morphed into beautiful visuals. Don’t be fooled by her whispery-singing, Phoebe Bridgers is a solid vocalist, and she delivered during “Motion Sickness,” at one point holding a rather high note for what felt like ages (but was probably like thirty seconds, an impressive feat).

Her stage talk was frank and honest, and she made comments throughout the show about how humid it was, saying that the air in North Carolina was like clove-cigarette smoke (it rained on and off during her and MUNA’s sets, and torrentially downpoured after). Before performing “Kyoto,” a song about her rocky relationship with her father she remarked “This one’s for everyone who’s ever had to lie to CPS.” Similarly, before “Savior Complex,”’ she said, “This one’s about alcoholism.” 

Uniquely, Phoebe did something she said she had never done before; she let the crowd choose two songs for her. Firstly, she let us choose between “Scott Street” and “Georgia.” How did she determine it? How loud we cheered. The crowd was loud for “Georgia,” but everyone erupted for “Scott Street.” Toward the end of the show, she stated that she enjoyed letting us choose earlier and that we could choose again. This time, between “Georgia” and the boygenius song “Me & My Dog.” “Georgia” lost out again (I love the song, but I wanted to hear the other two just a tad more, so I was happy with both choices).

She closed out the night with a beautiful cover of  “That Funny Feeling” by Bo Burnham. Shortly after the release of “Inside,” Phoebe said on her Instagram stories “every bone in my body wants to plagiarize this.” Instead of doing that, she added it to her setlist, doing what she says in the first verse of “Chinese Satellite”: “I wish I wrote it, but I didn’t so I learn the words / Hum along ’til the feeling’s gone forever.” 

The visuals were stunning, her band was fantastic (especially the trumpeter, JJ Kirkpatrick), and overall, the night just felt safe. The show was very intimate and magical, and for me, an amazing return to seeing live music, after not seeing anyone live for over two years.

If you’re interested in the setlist of exactly what MUNA and Phoebe played whilst in Raleigh, Spotify user Noah East created a playlist that you can stream.

Be sure to also check out Lise Nox’s review of her experience at the Charlotte show.

Concert Review

Concert Review: Phoebe Bridgers – Charlotte, NC (09/19/21)

The first article I ever wrote for WKNC was a review of Phoebe Bridgers’ album “Punisher”. As of September 2021, I have two tattoos inspired by her songs. All my friends could tell you that I’m obsessed with Phoebe’s music. So let’s just say that seeing her in concert in Charlotte on Sept. 19, 2021 was kind of a dream come true.

Concert Review



This was the first of 2 events that was held at The Fruit in Durham that weekend. It was an art show/series of concerts that showcased the work of local creatives from Durham and the greater area. Durham native, Jasmyn Milan was the organizer and hosted the shows throughout the night. The performances were mainly hip-hop based but there were also DJs spinning both hip-hop & electronic tracks which vibed really well along side each other. The venue was split into two sections, the theatre stage, which mainly composed of hip-hop and the warehouse stage which hosted the electronic part of the dance floor.

There was collaboration between several different art mediums which is always good to see in a healthy local creative community. There were clothing, visual art, photography, and surprisingly cute self-defense vendors present to sell their goods & services. Jasmyn also had someone develop a video game demo for the event which played pretty well actually. In-between the sets there were also several fashion shows demonstrating local models and designers. It was inspiring to see people of so many different backgrounds all supporting each other and having a good time.


Day 2 of what almost seemed to be the main event of a weekend long festival at The Fruit, consisted of over 20 DJs from 6pm-230am the next morning. Double the people showed up on Saturday, many from BAD KITTY, some performing and some enjoying the entertainment. The night was full of energy as people split between two different sets again with the warehouse being the main stage. Throughout the night I heard some very clean and thrilling transitions off a few different DJ tables. These DJs were very professional and really brought the energy that the audience so badly craved after a year of lock downs. It was another great night where the community really showed out.

Below is a video recap that I filmed and created myself.

Concert Review

“Have You Heard?” Music Festival Recap

The “Have You Heard?” music festival took place on Aug 27, 2021 at the Durham Central Park. The event consisted of 14 different sets, all performed by artists local the the state of North Carolina with Marco Luka, Maasho, & Weston Estate.

It was another warm muggy night but that didn’t hold back the artists or their fans from rocking out. Many of the artists throughout the night announced that this was either the first time they have performed or that this was the biggest crowd that they had performed for. I can imagine that this was some of their fans first show since lockdowns have ended too because there was excitement in the air.

There were more than a few familiar faces from the “Summer in tha Carolinas” music festival. If you haven’t already, you can find my recap of that event here. The 3 headliners all performed there as well, but one of the most notable faces there was Big John. He is a DJ from Greenville, NC and one of the most lit hype men that I have encountered. His energy is infectious and this is evident how pumped up the crowd would get every time he took the stage.

Several local clothing vendors and even a popup thrift shop also accompanied the venue. I believe is a heathy sign of the direction our local arts economy and culture is heading. Collaboration is key to success within the local arts industry. Not only is it good from a marketing/networking standpoint, but it also deepens the connections within the community.

You can learn more about “Have You Heard?” and their festival on their Instagram.

Concert Review Festival Coverage

Caroline Polachek: Concert Review

Going into Hopscotch, I had a base level knowledge of who Caroline Polachek was and her musical career. However, after attending her show last night, it is safe to say that I am a full on fan.

The Music.
Caroline of course played her most popular songs “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” “Door,” and “Hit Me Where It Hurts” which went over well with the crowd. However, it was the three unreleased tracks she performed that absolutely stole the show. “Smoke” along with two others I can not remember the names of were haunting, dark, and sultry. They definitely have me on the edge of my seat waiting for her next album release.

The Performance.
Overall, her performance was visually stunning. Caroline was surrounded by dark purple light and smoke for most of the tracks which set the tone for what I can only describe as an almost spiritual experience. From the lighting, to the smoke, to the music, to her movements everything was perfectly in-sync. Caroline’s performance was one of the most intentional and well thought out shows I have ever attended.

Her Voice.
If sirens from ancient Greek mythology existed today, they would exist in the form of Caroline Polachek. The range of her voice was absolutely insane and the way she slid between notes was almost inhuman. Caroline has a true talent and I am looking forward to seeing where she takes it.

All in all, Caroline Polachek put on a wonderful show and if she is ever playing in your city, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out.

Concert Review

Ranking 10 of the Concerts I’ve Attended

As concerts slowly return, I’m reminded of sweaty men, beer-covered floors, and body-rattling bass. I’ve missed it. In honor of the post-COVID concert comeback, I’ve ranked (some of) the concerts I’ve attended. My rankings are based on varying combinations of enjoyment, artist delivery, venue, and atmosphere. In descending order, here they are:

10. 5 Seconds of Summer (Opener: Hey Violet)

When: September 2015
Where: Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek
With: My mom

Give me a break; I was 13. We sat in the row of chairs directly in front of the lawn, it stormed incredibly hard (which stopped the concert multiple times), and the music was terrible. That being said, I had a nice time with my mom and it was my first concert so it holds a special place in my heart.

9. Bay Faction (Opener: Superbody)

When: February 2020
Where: Cat’s Cradle Back Room
With: Friend

This concert simply wasn’t good. The opener took the stage alone, and while they tried to get the crowd riled up, it didn’t work. When Bay Faction came out, the crowd was still mostly dead. Some young people flocked to the front of the stage and the lead singer weirdly leered at them while simultaneously flirting all night long. Actually, it wasn’t all night, because the set lasted for about 20 minutes and the band refused to come out for an encore. I still listen to some Bay Faction songs, but this concert wasn’t worth it.

8. TV Girl (Opener: Yohana)

When: May 2019
Where: Local 506
With: Myself

Let’s just say they don’t sound the same in person. If they had, I would have enjoyed this concert. This was the only concert I’ve ever left early.

7. Girlpool (Openers: Hatchie, Cosmo Punk)

When: April 2019
Where: Motorco Music Hall
With: Myself

I’ve loved Girlpool since my sophomore year of high school, but I was somewhat disappointed with the concert. The band only played tracks from “Powerplant” (2017) and “What Chaos Is Imaginary” (2019), save for the last song they performed: “Chinatown.” Had they included more tracks from earlier records, I think the audience would have been happier. However, they were both still wonderful performers and kept the crowd involved.

6. Joy Again (Opener: Indigo De Souza)

When: June 2019
Where: Kings
With: Friend

Joy Again is one of those bands I always come back to. I’m a big fan of ARTHUR, so it’s sort of a given that I like them. As far as the opener goes, I was mostly unfamiliar with their music at the time but Indigo De Souza was smiley and lively. I went with a close friend and while we made the experience worthwhile, Joy Again seemed a bit lethargic when they came out. It was towards the end of their tour, however, so I imagine they were fairly tired. Despite the low-energy set, the music was great and they sound the same in person.

5. Tyler, the Creator (Openers: GoldLink, Blood Orange)

When: October 2019
Where: Greensboro Coliseum
With: Friend

GoldLink was an incredibly dynamic opener, and while I’m not as big of a fan of Blood Orange, they also delivered a solid performance. As far as the main show, Tyler is a true artist and it was clear throughout his entire set. His infamous crowd-teasing seemed especially aggressive that night, but I was able to look past that. I wish there’d been more moshing, but it was still an exciting night.


When: January 2018
Where: The Ritz
Who: Friends

The concert I attended was pre-Ameer exposure, so the full BROCKHAMPTON outfit took the stage with no opener for their SATURATION III tour. When I saw them, I was still fully in my BROCKHAMPTON phase, so it resonated a lot more than it would now. They played all my favorite songs, the crowd was fun, and they ended with “HEAT.” What more could a high school girl ask for?

3. The Front Bottoms (Opener: Basement)

When: November 2017
Where: The Fillmore
With: Friends

My folk punk guilty (but not really) pleasure. The Front Bottoms will always be special to me, as will this concert experience. The Fillmore was packed to the brim and it was pretty clear that everyone there had a lot of love for TFB. The members of the band were energetic throughout the night and delivered great performances. It was a sweaty, emotional, and fulfilling concert.

2. Alex G (Openers: ARTHUR, Tomberlin) 

When: October 2019
Where: The Grey Eagle
With: Friends

Seeing ARTHUR open was one of the best concert moments I’ve experienced. His set was gorgeous, fun, and special. I was already fully satisfied after ARTHUR, so Alex G’s nearly three hour set was just the (very long) cherry on top. The room was electric when he played “Bobby.”

1. The Garden (Opener: Cowgirl Clue)

When: April 2018 (4/20 to be exact)
Where: Local 506
With: Myself

It still surprises even myself that this is my favorite concert I’ve been to thus far. I went by myself, got into the venue fairly late, and felt anxious leading up to the main act. Somehow, however, I ended up right in front of the stage and had an amazing time. The Garden are the best and most vibrant performers I’ve ever encountered. They’re delivery was loud and gruff and the instrumentals were overwhelmingly impressive. While I don’t listen to much of The Garden anymore, I’d go to one of their shows again.

Here’s to concerts: The Good, The Bad, and Those To Come,

Silya Bennai

Concert Review

Zoom Rave 101

Ah yes…an internet rave…the seventh circle of pandemic “hell.”

Upon first glance, a Zoom call and a rave may sound like they are on opposite ends of the human interaction scale. However, after attending my first Zoom rave, I can assure you they are far more similar than not.

Last Friday and Saturday, I attended two back to back Zoom raves organized by Bien Agiter, a nightclub based in Vancouver, Canada. Embarrassingly, these events came to my attention because of my TikTok For You Page which has gotten scarily accurate in the past few months. What initially drew me in was that rave-goers could win prizes for being the most “on-theme” with their attire (I really like winning prizes).

The first night, the theme was “Pink and Silky” but the second night, which I was most excited for, was “Hackers” themed. Friday night I was pretty nervous before I logged on, as I had absolutely no clue what to expect. I ended up signing on 30 minutes after 11pm, the expected start time. Unexpectedly, I was one of the first people on the call because, in typical rave fashion, there were “technical difficulties.”

Looking at all of the individuals present at the rave, I immediately felt at home. The organizers, DJs and ravers were all so welcoming and it was obvious that this was a safe space for all kinds of people. My screen looked like a kaleidoscope of beautiful people, neon lights, and moving backgrounds. To put it simply, it was beautiful.

In terms of the music, DJs from all around the world tuned into the event to perform 30-minute sets. The sets were primarily electronic and no different from what you would see at a pre-pandemic rave. Since the event was online it allowed a lot more freedom in terms of who was able to perform and attend. It also gave rave goers the opportunity to go all out with their attire, as there was far less external social pressure to present a certain way.

While Bien Agiter did an absolutely fabulous job putting this event together, there is something to be said for in-person raves. Yes, the music was great and the energy was high. However, there is a sense of camaraderie that comes with being around a group of people that simply can not be replicated via a computer screen.

All in all, internet raves truly are a blast. They are a great way to enjoy live DJs sets from the comfort of your own home and see DJs from around the world perform. Even with the current state of technology, I don’t see them overtaking in person raves anytime soon. However, I am not saying never.