Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Shakori Hills Spring 2014 Itinerary: Saturday/Sunday

 It's important to remember that festivals are marathons, not sprints. It's something you see far too many people forgetting, and then when you reach day three people look like unkempt, dirt covered, hungover zombies. I mean I guess if there's a time and a place for everything then Shakori is a pretty solid place to be unkempt and dirt covered at least. Shakori is a festival unlike many others, as you walk onto the festival grounds all pretensions are shed and your city of origin seems to fade from importance. Shakori is a festival that revels in the now, fostering a tightly-knit community of eclectic individuals from all walks of live. When you come across a Shakori attendee in the "real world" you feel an immediate connection, they understand the same things you do and you've got an immediate talking point. It's a wonderful, transcendental feeling that I look forward to feeling when I see all of those familiar faces out in Pittsboro this coming weekend. Thursday and Friday boast pretty stacked lineups from top to bottom, but that marathon mentality comes into play when you start considering all of the awesome shows that will be going on throughout the rest of the weekend as well. Some of the festival's most revered acts won't be taking the stage until Saturday and Sunday, so gear on up for a long weekend of singing, dancing, rock-stacking and food-binging awesomeness.

Saturday will surely be a slow start for a lot of festival goers, as Friday night will host a pretty dance-heavy late-night lineup. For those that make it out of their campsites in the morning, yoga is always a nice way to ease into the day. However, many folks may be more likely to soak up some of the Sugar Shack's phenomenal breakfast and take it easy until the festivities really get going for the day. Greg Humphries Trio will serve as a nice way to start the day off on Saturday, Humphries is a bit of a local staple around the Triangle, playing within both Hobex and Dillon Fence, to widely loved acts from the days of yore. This low-key take on poppy roots rock will be an excellent way to get your Saturday going. At 12:30 folks can take in another dazzling set from The Last Bison, a band that will surely be the talk of the festival for those smart enough to catch their sets. I'll likely check out quite a bit of this before heading over to the Dance Tent for MC Yogi's Yoga Workshop. Workshops are an awesome aspect of Shakori that make it standout from other similar festivals, there's a wide variety of things you can learn from these events and this MC Yogi fronted Yoga Workshop will serve as a nice warm-up for his highly engaging set later in the evening. After the workshop folks will be in prime position to watch the Puppet Parade trek across the festivalgrounds, which is one of the most exciting events of the weekend. One of the acts from the festival leads a parade of adults and children alike, donning the zany masks and puppets of the Paperhand Puppet Intervention, as they happily careen through the farmlands, toting about cheerful smiles and more good vibes than you can possibly soak in at once. Even when it's raining festivalgoers come out in droves to check out the parade, it's simply something you can't miss!

After the parade it'll be nice to take a trip back to the campsite to get a mid-day break from the action. However, there's plenty of awesome tunes to hear as well, local singer-songwriter Kamara Thomas will be in the Cabaret Tent while Big Fat Gap will be sharing their traditional bluegrass sounds at Carson's Grove. Around 4:00 it'll be nice to check out yet another Driftwood set and perhaps heading to the Dance Tent for a bit of the Latin Dance Workshop. The best part of these dance workshops is that they're usually immediately followed by a highly energetic act that will allow you to show off your newly learned grooves, this time Cortadito will be bringing their traditional Cuban music to the tent for folks to dance their afternoon away to. After one form of traditional tunes you can head over to check out another traditional outfit, but of a vastly different variety. The legendary Del McCoury is back on the farm and if their set is anything like the one I saw at the IBMA last September then it's something you'll definitely want to check out. McCoury plays with mind-numbing precision, he plucks, strums and shouts with ease as the rest of his band performs awe-inspiring fills and provides beautiful harmonies. Even if bluegrass isn't your thing you'll want to check this out, McCoury is a living legend unlike any other and his talents are absolutely undeniable. Check this out and be swept away by how lively and energetic this 75-year old performer is.

After a bit of the Del McCoury Band it'll be off to the Dance Tent for MC Yogi, one of the most unique performers I've ever seen at Shakori. Yogi combines dance music with yoga mantras and soothing mindsets, whether he's rapping about the overwhelming powers of Hindu god Ganesha or driving listeners to a dance frenzy, he'll surely have the crowd in his hands throughout this performance. After Yogi I'll most likely grab some of the incredible food from the vendors (the Indian food is especially fantastic if you're bold enough to go there whilst camping), but there's plenty of great musicians performing as well like the harmony-driven Barefoot Movement. After some nommage, it's off to Meadow Stage to dance those calories off to Baloji & L’Orchestra de la Katuba. This Congolese hip-hop artist is one of the festival's marquee headliners and when you hear his incredibly rhythmic style of delivery and instrumentation you'll immediately understand why. Shakori's artists brush away language barriers, making acts like Baloji just as accessible as folks like Ben Sollee. Speaking of which, I'll be cutting out of Baloji to check out the virtuosic cello stylings of Sollee around 9:30. Sollee blew me away at a Hopscotch Day Party a few years ago with a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and I've been hooked since then. He's like a cello-playing Andrew Bird, mixing some incredible instrumentation with his brilliant lyricism and insanely soulful vocals. From there it'll be off to see JP Harris & The Tough Choices, a gritty take on the honky-tonk stylings of yesteryear. Harris is one of the most captivating and engaging performs to perform at Shakori and he always brings along an incredibly excitable crowd. After Harris the rest of the night is really a toss-up based on your musical preference. Donna will be playing late into the night at Meadow Stage with their instantly accessible zydeco jams, Big Something will get the jam-band kids bobbing, swaying and loosely dancing the night away at Carson's Grove and Chit Nasty will bring an overwhelming amount of funk and soul to the Cabaret Tent. Saturday's late-night festivities provide a bit of something for everyone, so there's no excuse not to dance your ass off!

Sundays at Shakori are nothing short of magical. The weekend is dying down, festival goers are usually pretty worn out from the non-stop good times, but the music wastes no time in picking up bright and early. Given the Easter sunday, the day will begin with morning communion and those that don't partake in the celebration will most likely be eating candy in the woods and celebrating a different sort of holiday. Barefoot Movement will be at Meadow Stage at 11:30, serving as an incredible start to a day full of slow-packing and slow-moving fans. Bring your lawn chair or blanket out to the Meadow Stage, kick off your shoes and lose yourself in the beauty of this simplistic, barefooted folk quartet. After that you may as well stay where you are and take in the last Driftwood set of the weekend, because hell...why not?! Driftwood are one of those bands that it's easy to see three times in a weekend, their set usually varies quite a bit and there's always a handful of instantly relatable covers that everyone can shout and sway along to. Donna The Buffalo will be performing with Preston Frank at the Dance Tent shortly after Driftwood, so if you find yourself recovered and ready to dance then definitely head on over there, but fear not they'll also be closing out the festival with a monumental superjam of sorts.

After Donna it'll be nice to bounce between the soothing sounds of Morning Brigade and the late afternoon pick me up from Diali Cissokho. The Sunday afternoon world music sets are always a highlight of the weekend for me, the performers are usually radiating positivity and compel even the most exhausted of attendees to get on their feet and clap, shout and sing along to the infectious tunes. JP Harris and Baloji will have their second sets of the festival as well, so it'll be nice to stagger between the two whilst slowly packing up the campsite and preparing to trek back into the real world. Before leaving though it will be crucial to check out the sounds of Rising Appalachia, a soulful interpretation on Appalachian music that blends gospel, folk and even hip-hop to create a unique brand of music all their own. The Mint Julep Jazz Band will be at the Dance Tent at around 7:30 to rope in those that are leaving for one last swing-driven dance party as well. And as always, Donna will be closing out the festival with their All-Star Revue, a set that usually runs deep into the night and features some of the most beloved artists to perform on the farm throughout the weekend. I usually never make it this long into the festival, but something in me is really aching to stay and check out this widely beloved set to close out my evening.

All in all this Spring's Shakori is one of the most impressive lineups I've seen in a few years. There's an even mixture of beloved locals and high-profile headliners to draw in fans of all varieties. Plus, the celebration of Shakori's recent land purchase is more than enough reason to trek out to the farm once more. Whether you're a first time attendee or a long-running Shakori-ite (is that a word yet? It's got to be), this Spring will serve as an excellent escape from the daily drudgery that is everyday life.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Shakori Hills Spring 2014 Itinerary: Thursday/Friday

The Unknown Tongues at Shakori Hills in 2012
It's that time of the year where all I can think about is napping in the middle of a field surrounded by fantastic people and even better music. Shakori Hills is a mere three days away and if you're anything like me you've already begun to work out exactly who you'll be seeing on a day-to-day basis, leaving a few wildcards up your sleeve of course to check out the next Shakori buzz-band that you'll surely miss on your first glance. The weather looks absolutely incredible for a laid-back weekend of grassroots goodness, and I for one can barely contain my excitement for the stellar lineup that will be out in Pittsboro this weekend.

The festival always kicks off with a celebratory opening ceremony, consisting of festival reps taking the main stage and giving a run-down of the general housekeeping items on the line for the weekend. Surely a focal point of this weekend's festival will be the recent purchasing of the Shakori grounds, a massive cause for communal celebration from folks that have long been viewing Shakori Hills as a cultural institution here in the Triangle-area. After the ceremony things will get off to a slow, but serene start with acts like Home Remedy and Driftwood filling up the early evening hours. Home Remedy is an acoustic trio that blends traditionalism with a modern sheen while Driftwood brings some ineffable harmonies and soothing melodies to the farm for their first of three sets. Driftwood has become a Shakori staple in recent years and they'll be playing three of the four days of the festival, it's always nice to catch a bit of Driftwood here and there throughout the weekend, it keeps everything fresh and allows you some pretty nice anchoring points for your schedule so that it isn't such a swift change in musical stylings. After Driftwood comes the first of many Donna The Buffalo sets of the weekend. Checking out at least one Donna set is almost obligatory, they're the folks that helped organize the grassroots festival circuit and pretty succinctly sum up what it means to be out at Shakori Hills. "The Herd," a name that Donna fans have lovingly adopted for themselves, will swear by the band, surely converting hundreds of newcomers to the jangly, dance-tunes of this zydeco-driven group. The sounds of washboards and accordions will fill the air plenty of times this weekend, but it's usually worth checking out at least a few times. Their late night sets are quite frankly where it's at, so I'll likely be soaking this set in from the comfort of Camp Honeybadger.

As Donna ends at 9:00 pm, the first day of music makes its transition into the nighttime, one of absolute highlights of the festival. While it's always incredible to soak in the gorgeous weather and laid-back tunes, the night-time is when the festifreaks come out and the dancing gets "turnt up" as the kids are want to say. Theres tons of excellent stuff to choose from on Thursday night, starting out with afrobeta at Carson's Grove. Afrobeta is a dance-duo from Miami with exuberant dancebeats and poppy song structures to make for a high-energy kick off to the night's festivities. This will be an excellent set, but it's probably best to check out something else instead of hitting up the whole set, as they'll be tearing it up late-night on Friday. There's two big conflicts for night one, and the first one strikes after afrobeta in choosing between the notorious Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the swiftly rising Dr. Bacon. Dirty Dozen Brass Band bring absurdly danceable jazz stylings to the masses, gaining fame from their work with acts like Modest Mouse, Widespread Panic and Elvis Costello. Coming straight from New Orleans, their style meshes funk, swing and bebop together for a positively incredible sound. Dr. Bacon on the other hand will be melting faces in the Cabaret Tent with their self-described "Appalachian soul-grass sounds." The band contest winners played to an ever-increasing crowd last fall and that popularity will surely bleed over into their late-night debut this Spring.

Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba
The next big decision comes in the form of two standout local acts of incredibly different sounds. Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba hold a special place in my heart, they're the first world music act I ever saw at Shakori and it left me totally enamored with the genre. After finding out that they're from Carrboro my mind was blown and my heart was set in checking them out at every possible chance. These guys bring incredibly passionate music to the stage that contains as much joy for your heart as it does for your dancin' shoes. However, this vivacious blend of west African rhythms will be going up against the heart-wrenching stylings of Des Ark at the Cabaret Tent. The last few times I saw Des Ark at Shakori it was absolute serenity, Aimée Argot has a voice that tugs at your heartstrings with lyrics that contain visceral emotionality, simultaneously gorgeous and downtrodden. Des Ark may not be your typical late-night set, but since this is their only performance of the weekend I'll most definitely be winding down my night with Argot's sweet sounds.

Things get off to a mighty early start at Shakori, or at least it feels like such when you've woken up from a night filled with late fireside chats and drum circle jams. But the early morning yoga is a nice way to ease yourself into the day. I've never gotten the chance to make it out there, but dammit do I want to this time! After your early morning routine is over, Ranford Almond will be taking the main stage at 10:30 am. Almond represents one of the most interesting parts of Shakori, the wildly diverse lineup. He's a thirteen year-old guitarist with smooth fingerpicking and a weathered voice beyond his years. The young guitarist has already honed his chops at MerleFest and various other high-profile performances and he'll surely become a Shakori staple. Seeing this young artists year in and year out provides an awesome experience of watching these acts grow as musicians. Don't miss out on these unique performances! After Almond comes one of the most promising young bands in North Carolina, Morning Brigade. They pull heavy influence from orchestral folk acts like Lost in the Trees and produce an entrancing blend of music that's full of passion, intensity and most importantly, talent. This is one of their two sets of the weekend and will serve as an excellent transition into the early afternoon events. Checking out Morning Brigade should surely be on your to-do list if you're out at the farmlands this early. Hopping over to Carson's Grove for the Fiddle/Banjo/Guitar/Mandolin competition always provides an awesome excuse to lay out a blanket and soak in the sun, so take that opportunity whenever you can get it! Things are pretty low-key throughout the afternoon, but there's another must see one-time set that takes place at 3:30 on Carson's Grove from the Virginia based folk group The Last Bison. The Last Bison are similar to Morning Brigade in their grandiose folk leanings, blending chamber-leaning instrumentation with beautiful lyricism to make for an incredible aesthetic experience on these dazzlingly gorgeous farmlands. The band brings anthemic choruses to the table, further driving home their intense dynamism and awe-inspiring compositions.

Phil Cook
After The Last Bison, festival goers are left with a wide array of local choices. Tonk takes the stage at Carson's Grove at 5:00, bringing their classic honky-tonk style to what'll surely be a wildly excited group of fans. Tonk are a band that's got a pretty dedicated following around the Triangle, so don't be surprised to see some folks that are totally enamored by this jangly act that brings classic country stylings to a modern fanbase. At 5:30 Clockwork Kids will bring their brand of atmospheric indie-rock to the Cabaret Tent, showing off their melody driven tunes from their recently released full-length Rememory. But my attention is drawn straight towards the local all-star jam of Phil Cook & The Guitarheels at 5:30 on the Meadow Stage. Cook is a member of the folk-giants Megafaun and his solo work combines a bit of the traditional folk stylings with contemporary compositions, bridging the gap between fans of classic and modern tunes. Phil Cook will be joined by Andrew Marlin (Mandolin Orange), Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver), his brother Brad Cook (Megafaun), Bobby Britt (Town Mountain), James Wallace (Mount Moriah), and Terry Lonergan (Hiss Golden Messenger) to make for a band filled with some of the region's most talented and renown musicians. This is one of my can't miss sets for the weekend and I'd recommend you put it on your shortlist as well.

After Cook it'd be wise to retreat to the campsites and prepare yourself for a long night of high-energy tunes. I'll likely stuff my face with some duck fat tots and lounge around Honeybadger for a few hours before checking out some of the Indigo Girls. I never got too into this group, but it'd be criminal to miss out on a Grammy-winning folk group when you get the chance. After that the evening will kick into full effect with the Bulltown Strutters, a massive 20-person band that will be filling the Dance Tent with positive vibes and infectious dance grooves. From there it's off to Spam All-Stars at the Main Stage, a 9-piece "Miami fusion" band that blends Latin stylings with funk, hip-hop and electronica for an amalgamation of styles that results in one possible reaction...mindless dancing. It'll be nice to take in a lot of this high-energy act and then bounce on over to Carson's Grove for Toon & The Real Laww, one of the Triangle's premiere hip-hop acts. The duo frequently performs alongside an incredible live band, and while I'm not sure as to whether they'll be doing so for Shakori, they still produce a highly energetic brand of hip-hop that's as lyrically driven as it is rhythmically. After Toon & The Real Laww bring their engaging hip-hop to Carson's Grove it'll be back to the Meadow Stage for Afrobeta's late-night performance, one that's sure to be a festival highlight. But don't get too wrapped up in their entrancing dance-grooves, as DJ Gonzo and Napoleon Wright II will be spinning classic hip-hop records and performing some highly danceable rap and R&B tunes back over at Carson's. There's a ton of music to check out on Friday night and the close proximity of the stages at Shakori lends itself to seeing a bit of everything, so step out of your comfort zone and soak in a ton of new music!

Check back in tomorrow for a round-up of Saturday and Sunday's festivities!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Shakori Spotlight: Dr. Bacon

Dr. Bacon is a Boone-based band that will perform
at Shakori Hills this Spring (April 17-20)
It's truly hard to believe that one of the most glorious events of the year is just over a week away. Shakori Hills is a festival that revels in immediacy, the second you step onto the festival grounds you're swept away by the beauty, the second you soak in the first act you wash away the woes of the real world, and the second you see that one band that sticks with you for the rest of the weekend you usually know it.

Those that are familiar with the festival have grown quite fond of these moments, every spring and fall there's one band that gathers a huge buzz throughout the 75-acre farm and it seems like the Fall's buzz came a bit late into the weekend. At every Shakori there's a band contest, usually kicking things off on Saturday, it's filled with amateur artists from across the region vying for a primetime slot on the Sunday schedule. Ranging from grizzled old men slaying on the fiddle to young children playing out for the first time, you're guaranteed to get a little bit of everything as you plop down on your blanket.

But for those that attended the contest last fall seemed to walk away with one band stuck firmly in their mind, Dr. Bacon. The farcical name gives little indication of the serious jams brought about by this Boone-based outfit. Dr. Bacon first found themselves in the band competition last Spring, placing second amidst an impressive array of musicians. But that finish fueled the spark for this self described Appalachian soul-grass crew to buckle down and "push [themselves] to the next level."

"Winning the competition in the fall was pretty surreal and didn't fully sink in until the show the next Sunday afternoon," the band claims, it even led to invitations to other festivals around the area. That "magical Shakori buzz" as they put it can lead to some pretty exciting opportunities. Much like getting thrust into a late night set on the opening night of this Spring's festival. When I heard rumblings of Dr. Bacon last year it was a fairly continuous string of applause, "they're nuts" they said,  "it's like a jammy Holy Ghost Tent Revival" said others, it was a non-stop flow of positive reviews that led me to delving deeper into this band once this Spring's lineup was released. Surely enough I was transfixed, Dr. Bacon sheds the expectations you'd have from a Boone-based band and serves up an amalgamation of funk, soul and bluegrass to make for a raucous live show.

"Traditional bluegrass is a constant influence on our approach," they sate "but we aren’t interested in imitating anything that has been done before in the genre." They describe their sound as "undeniably Appalachian, but not strictly bluegrass," somewhere in between "James Brown and The Punch Brothers." They're a band that seems to be steeped in Shakori tradition, they're largely inclusive while producing a sound that's all their own, opening up the realms for listeners from all walks of life to stumble upon their late-night Thursday set and have a guaranteed hell of a time. But surprisingly enough, the band's excitement doesn't just stem from their first big-time Shakori set, but instead from the undeniable sense of community.

"We definitely feel at home at Shakori, it is an indescribably good feeling to simply perform in front of people who are actively engaged and appreciate our music." And it's not just the crowds that Dr. Bacon is excited for, it's the people. The festivalgoers that roam around the campsites spreading positivity, high-fiving strangers and building the strong community all keep people hooked on this diverse festival. That's why Dr. Bacon is just as excited for their fireside jams as they are for their Thursday night Cabaret Tent set. the jams that happen out in the woods at the campsites are some of the best music of the festival.

"There aren't many other festivals where as a musician you can have your mind blown by an amazing on-stage artist, get inspired, run out into the woods, find an ad-hoc jam, and create something new and remarkable."

So whether you're kicking off your festival with their set at that Cabaret Tent, or if you stumble upon the soul-grass crew while meandering through the dimly lit woods, they're sure to get your feet movin' and your heart pumping with some wildly inventive tunes.

Dr. Bacon performs at the Cabaret Tent on Thursday night at 10:00 pm
Recommended Artists: Big Something, Bulltime Strutters, Big Fat Gap, Preston Frank, Clockwork Kids, Indigo Girls

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ears to the Ground: "Let Me Out" by Clockwork Kids

Rememory will be released on April 3
Within the past year or so it's become a bit overwhelming as to how many stellar local acts are putting out album after album, it becomes a bit hard to stand out amongst the crowded scene. However, when you're putting out your first full-length you've got to find something people can latch on to, and holy hell have Clockwork Kids done so. To celebrate the release of Rememory, their forthcoming full-length album set to be released on on April 3, the band will be performing the album in its entirety at Morehead Planetarium on UNC Chapel Hill's campus. Accompanied by a string and horn section, the group will be play beneath the stars for a synchronized light show like no other, serving as a top-notch opening for the ConvergeNC Southern Music Festival.

But looking past the release show antics, there's plenty to get excited about with Rememory. Clockwork Kids combine the dreamy aspects of shoegaze with the straightforward melodic tendencies of college rock, topping it all off with the deep, resonant vocals of Justin Ellis. "Let Me Out" gets off to a slow start, slowly rolling along with smoothly strummed guitar lines accentuated by sly overdubs. However, the song gradually builds into a brilliantly robust track, reaching its precipice as Ellis and his three guitar crew reach an emotive crescendo, bringing all of the rich layers together in one dazzling moment of clarity.

The interplay between the band members keeps this six-minute track as fresh and entertaining as a three-minute pop banger and quite frankly should get fans prepped for a night of immersive tunes at Morehead Planetarium. It's rare to see a band that packs in three guitars into one track and it doesn't just feel over the top, but Clockwork Kids' dynamic approach allows each part to shine on its own rather than muddling things up. Combine that with the guest spot from guitarist Chris Petto's father, Frank Petto further fleshing out the track with some slick organ work and you've got a pretty fantastic glance into what you can expect from the band's full-length debut.

Clockwork Kids' Rememory will be released on Thursday, April 3. Rememory was mastered by Thom Canova (The Love Language, Old Ceremony, Dex Romweber Duo) and will performed in full at Morehead Planetarium on Thursday, April 3. Admission is $10 and the show will serve as the opening event for the ConvergeNC Southern Music Festival.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Texoma hosts house show to raise funds for new album

Texoma will host a house show on Saturday, March 29
to raise funds for their new album.
Photo Credit: Kristen Hill
Since crowd sourcing projects took off a few years ago it seems like every band with a vague idea and thin pockets has taken to the web in hopes of funding their ambitious projects with fan-funneled dollars. Hell, even folks like Spike Lee, Zach Braff and Neil Young have found their way in on the action. Frankly it's become an incredibly valuable way for fledgling bands to continue to affordably make music in the industry's current landscape. But with so many artists using the project, it's also become a bit watered down, incentives have become more and more exuberant and sometimes downright ridiculous.

Texoma, the self-proclaimed "dust rock" band from Chapel Hill has adopted the crowd sourcing model and turned it on its head for their most recent project. The group released their first EP last fall, showing an immense amount of promise for their roots-rock oriented sound. Led by Zach Terry (formerly of Magnolia Collective and The Whiskey Smugglers), Texoma has been swiftly breaking ground in the local alt-country scene with opening slots for esteemed acts like Kenny Roby and frequent stops at Carrboro's The Station, they're even set for a Local Band Local Beer performance with Roby in April. Now the group is setting out to release their debut full-length record, and while the tracking and mixing will be done in-house they, like many other bands, can't afford to master and license it all without some serious funds.

Thus, Texoma has combined two exciting ways of connecting with their fans into one night filled with intimate performances and a slew of incentives for those that donate to their forthcoming record. Entitled as a "Jumpstarter" campaign, the band will perform at a home "near Chapel Hill" (email the band at texomamusic@gmail.com for more info) while accepting donations for their album. Pricing levels are set-up similar to that of Kickstarter, but as Terry puts it, "instead of waiting around, you get immediate satisfaction of seeing your money in action." The house show itself will be free with a solo cup running $5, pizza and drinks for $10, all of the above plus a signed copy of their EP for $20 and the list goes on. For $30 you can also get a copy of their new album, for $40 you can get the album and admission into their release show and at increasing prices you can nab plenty of other album related goodies.

The band also incorporated a few house show options for fans, including a home-cooked meal and acoustic set for $200 or a full-on house show for $400. There's plenty of different donating options with varying levels of rewards for those that get involved, and at the very least you get free admission into a house show filled with rambunctious drink-swinging roots rock...not a bad way to spend a Saturday evening. The band recently released a video highlighting some of the recording process which you can view below:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Show Preview: Blue Sky Black Death w/ Marley Carroll & RBTS Win

Blue Sky Black Death will be performing at The Pour House
in Raleigh, N.C. on Thursday, Mar. 27 with Marley Carroll
and RBTS Win.
As the years have passed I've found myself getting more and more transfixed on the electronic music scene, it's silly not to really. Electronic music is quite simply the future, it opens up the musical vastness to anybody that's able to afford a laptop and a DAW and allows them to fine tune their own sounds down to every intricacy. That's what makes shows like this one so damn interesting, it's a night filled with electronic acts that all have remarkably different sounds but still mesh very well together. Thursday night at The Pour House will be home to some of the most exciting acts in the western North Carolina music scene along with an equally impressive production duo based out of Washington. While Blue Sky Black Death will be headlining the evening with their mind-numbing hip-hop based instrumental tracks, an equal amount of focus will be on Marley Carroll and RBTS Win for me.

Blue Sky Black Death have been making waves in the instrumental hip-hop scene since 2006, blazing a trail for themselves as one of the most impressive production duos on the scene by working with highly acclaimed acts like Jedi Mind Tricks, Gang Starr, Cam'ron and Awol One to name a few. Regardless of the hip-hop acts that have cosigned the duo, the proof of their talents lies within their immense productions. Stuttering synths bob in and out of the mix as their blistering hi-hats and pounding bass drive the tracks along, leaving the listener with an undying urge to bob your head until your neck gets sore. Many instrumental hip-hop artists can fall into simplicity, relying on trap-style beats and heavy sub-bass to draw in listeners, but Blue Sky Black Death packs the groove and swing to keep listeners interested.

Marley Carroll will be representing an entirely different end of the electronic spectrum, bringing mid-tempo IDM together with electronica, Carroll boasts an impressive musical range. Whether you're focusing on the straight-forward melody and rhythm or the densely packed productions, you're liable to fall in love with this music from this Asheville based producer. Carroll's most recently full-length Sings, combines heady beats with rich vocals to create a lush arrangement that's as pleasing to the dancer as it is to the introspective head-bobber. Carroll's pop-leaning IDM tunes place the producer's music in a field of its own, one that's surely going to be an absolute treat to see live.

Opening up the evening will be another Asheville based electronica act, RBTS Win. I remember seeing their name a while back and being initially turned off, seeing it as another group that fell into the "no vowels" fad, but I'll be damned if I didn't learn not to judge a book by its cover. RBTS Win produce an absolutely infectious blend of electronic music that, much like Caroll, combines danceable grooves with head-spinning melodies. Whereas Carroll leans more towards mid-tempo bangers, RBTS Win is geared towards a chill-wave inspired blend of soul, hip-hop and electronica. This production duo brings dizzying soundscapes to the table that are washed over with smooth vocal stylings and lingering hooks that you'll be humming for days. Make no doubt that I'm stoked to see Blue Sky Black Death, but finally getting the chance to see Marley Carroll and RBTS Win on the same night, that's enough reason alone to drag my happy ass out to the Pour House to take in these incredible tunes.

The doors open at 8:00 pm and the show begins at 9:00. Tickets are $12 in advance and $14 at the door, you can purchase them online at thepourhousemusichall.com

Monday, March 24, 2014

Show Review: Ava Luna w/ Krill & Blanko Basnet

Ava Luna performs at The Pinhook
Last Wednesday night The Pinhook was home to a wonderfully eclectic mixture of bands. Some of the most enjoyable lineups are the ones that you don't quite think would mesh well together, but once you get to the show it all doesn't seem to matter anymore. There's a sense of spontaneity that keeps the night exciting, and that's exactly what happened in Durham on Wednesday night. Ava Luna and Krill were wrapping up their SXSW run and making their way back up north, which as a southerner that doesn't get to trek down to South-by is always a joyous time. The two acts teamed up with Blanko Basnet, a group that's become a go-to opener for buzz bands like these, and brought one hellaciously fun show to an intimate Pinhook crowd.

The evening kicked off with Blanko Basnet and a set that was filled with roving guitar licks and infectious choruses. Joe Hall's vocal melodies display a staggering sense of dynamic shifts, one minute you're hooked on the buoyant verses then the song upheaves its pre-set structure and shifts into swiftly changing chords, brisk drum beats and some subtle harmonies. Blanko Basnet played some of the standouts from their debut full length that was released last summer and threw in a new track as well, which makes me excited to know that Blanko won't just be a one-off side-project from this Hammer No More The Fingers guitarist.

Krill performs at The Pinhook
Blanko made for a smooth transition into the indie-punk leaning power-trio of Krill. Despite a set mired technical difficulties with their microphone, Krill rolled right along with it, even joking that "it wouldn't be a Krill set if something didn't mess up." But the band never lost their footing, blasting through short songs filled with heavily distorted guitar, throaty shouts and tight drum beats that drove these songs along with a headstrong sense of determination. While Blanko's brand of indie rock eased the crowd into the evening, Krill thrusted their sounds upon the crowd with the ferocity of a punk act but the smooth sensibilities of a pop-rock group. Krill's romping sense of intensity was anchored by vocalist Jonah Furman's swiftly spat vocals, tying together the entire aesthetic of this Boston-based indie punk crew.

While the openers of the evening proved to be an exciting combination of two different ends of the indie-rock spectrum, Ava Luna took the night up to the next level. Sure this self-described "nervous soul" act displays a bit of punk-rock influence in their spastic rhythmic tendencies, but most of Ava Luna's songs are firmly rooted in a far weirder territory than the previous acts. Ava Luna is defined by their eccentricity, whether vocalist Carlos Hernandez is belting out his frenetic shouts or Becca Kaufman and Felicia Douglas are smoothly crooning their way into the listener's hearts, you're guaranteed an entertaining performance. With equal parts R&B and peculiar art-rock, Ava Luna played through some of Electric Balloon's standout tracks like "Daydream," "PRPL," and "Sears Roebuck M&Ms" while tossing in some of the best tracks from their debut Ice Levels. Their set felt like an anomalous blend of the quirk and tenacity of Talking Heads and the vocal prowess of Dirty Projectors, making for a weird yet whimsical closing to this incredible night of music.