Friday, December 21, 2012

UNC's Beat Making Lab release new track + featured on State of Things

2012 was an incredibly exciting year in the triangle, but one of the things that I was the most enthralled with was without a doubt the Beat Making Lab run by Pierce Freelon of The Beast and Stephen Levitin, better known as Apple Juice Kid.  The Beat Making Lab is based out of a Chapel Hill classroom but swiftly expanded its reach worldwide, traveling most recently to the Democratic Republic of Congo and currently working on a trip to Panama.  While the first semester of this class resulted in a stellar mixtape called "Tarheel Tracks", a mix that consisted of students sampling local acts like The Love Language, I Was Totally Destroying It, and even Anthony Hamilton, the resulting tunes from the DRC project have already begun to seep out and prove to be even more enthralling than their last output.

Stephen and Pierce were on WUNC's The State of Things on Thursday and previewed a few tracks from the DRC's lab, one of which they released as a free download, "Cho Cho Cho".  Stephen and Pierce also spoke on the possibility of a Triangle community lab as well as a future open source software for beat making.

All eyes should be on this Beat Making Lab, they're doing fantastic things for the music community not only within our great state but across the globe.  They're bringing 21st century music production to folks that would otherwise have little to no access to these resources, it's a task that isn't easily tackled but these two are working wonders.  "Cho Cho Cho" forays into EDM territory while incorporating hip-hop sentiments infused with world music stylings of syncopated rhythms and anthemic melodies.  Check out "Cho Cho Cho" below and listen to their full State of Things interview here

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Bottom String's Top 10 North Carolina Albums of 2012

As December begins to roll on through just as swiftly as the rest of the year did, it's been a hard process to narrow down my favorite releases from the state this year.  2012 was yet another fantastic year for North Carolina artists, many of our favorite local darlings have begun to achieve more national success than one could have ever imagined.  Acts like Midtown Dickens have begun getting the national attention they deserve from outlets like NPR, Mount Moriah signed to Merge Records and announced their sophomore LP (to be released in February 2013), and countless fantastic new acts have found their footing and began making waves in our already overflowing music scene.

With Hopscotch growing larger than ever before, bringing in highly esteemed acts like The Roots and Jesus and Mary Chain, the tobacco state has been getting heavy praise for it's tightly packed, deep-rooted community of musicians.  While touring artists were bringing in fans from across the country it was local acts like T0W3RS, Jenny Besetzt, and Hiss Golden Messenger that left Hopscotch'ers floored...and rightfully so!  2012 was filled with an insane amount of wonderful North Carolina tunes, so without further ado I give you my ten favorite releases of the year:

10.  Pastoral - JKutchma & The Five Fifths
The full-time frontman of Red Collar has turned a solo side-project into an absolute gem of a live act.  Much like other local side projects, Kutchma enlisted in the help of fellow local musicians to take time out from their regular bands to participate in one of the finest, most unique releases of the year.  While it's easy to write Kutchma off as a Springsteen-lite, Kutchma brings and intensity and passion to his music that is unparalleled.  Seeing Kutchma command a crowd at Tir Na Nog this past Hopscotch is what solidified his excellence for me, flailing around stage with a sense of purpose whilst combining punk rock furiosity with Americana's honesty and sentimentality, Kutchma's songs range from shouts to whispers.  Tracks like "Teenage DMZ" have a jangly yet gritty bounce to it that makes it easy to take in Kutchma's raw imagery while still dancing around like a fool.  However, the other side of the coin is found within tracks like "I'll Survive", a somber track that details the struggles of coping with the hard times but coming out alive and kicking.  Pastoral is a fantastic release from a versatile group of local artists, one can only hope for more of the Fife Fifths to be popping up in 2013.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

AC Entertainment announces Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit

For the past three years AC Entertainment, the company responsible for the U.S. superfest Bonnaroo, has been bringing an eclectic mix of indie rock darlings and electronic savants to the great city of Asheville under the Moogfest banner.  Starting the same year as Raleigh's Hopscotch, the two festivals have acted as staples of the Carolina music scene by providing vastly different but insanely enjoyable festival experiences.  However, it appears that 2013 will be opening new doors for the fantastic mountain city of Asheville, as AC Entertainment recently announced that they've left the Moogfest banner and will instead be hosting a brand new festival, Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit.

Ashley Capps, AC Entertainment CEO, said that Moogfest has not been re-liscensed to AC Entertainment and that "...we really have no choice but to re-name it.  We enjoyed booking, marketing and producing our event for our fans and want to continue with them on this creative journey."  While Moogfest will surely continue on within it's regular Halloween weekend slot, the addition of Mountain Oasis opens up an exciting realm of possibilities for live music in Asheville.  The beautiful town has a thriving culture of its own, walking down the street one can find busking accordion players and friendly smiles.  This large and thriving city has maintained the sense of community found within a small mountain town, but most importantly it's open to welcoming the booming electronic scene.  This past year Beech Mountain was home to the seemingly disastrous Gnarnia Festival, but Mountain Oasis will provide a legitimate outlet for those anxious Carolinians looking to get their dance on.  AC Entertainment has brought electronic pioneers like Flying Lotus, Massive Attack, Thievery Corporation, and Brian Eno to Asheville within the past few years and will surely continue on with this exciting new festival.

News on both Mountain Oasis and Moogfest will be coming in 2013, and whether Mountain Oasis contains the diversity found within Moogfest's lineup has yet to be seen.  But either way, this can only mean great things for the bustling festival scene in North Carolina.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gross Ghost announce Odessa debut + tour with Spider Bags

Gross Ghost @ Hopscotch 2012
It's no secret that Gross Ghost is one of my favorite local bands, ever since they put out their Lip City EP I've been addicted to their refreshing take on surf rock sentiments fused with a punk rock drive, topped of nicely with the infectiously poppy melodies of songwriter Mike Dillon.  Gross Ghost released their debut full length, Brer Rabbit, this February on Grip Tapes and it seems that the band hit the ground running and never stopped in 2012.  They've hit up quite a few east coast tours and some high profile dates with local favorites The Love Language, and damn near tore down Berkeley Cafe with a capacity show at Hopscotch.  The sight of wall-to-wall fans vigorously rocking out to Gross Ghost was something that stayed with me throughout Hopscotch, it was an indefinite highlight of the weekend.

Most recently the band announced an upcoming tour with Spiderbags, a band hailed by Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus as one of the best bands in the world.  The tour kicks off on January 15 at The Pinhook in Durham and makes stops in Virginia, Philly, New York, and Baltimore.  While this was exciting news in itself, it was recently announced that Gross Ghost would also be joining Spider Bags as a member of the Odessa Records family.  Gross Ghost is set to release their sophomore full length next spring with the Chapel Hill record label, home to fantastic local acts like Wesley Wolfe, Kingsbury Manx and Americans in France.  Color me excited, Odessa has been a local favorite for me since I discovered Wesley Wolfe back at Troika Music Festival's last year and I've been a fan ever since.  With one of the consistently strongest outputs of the state, one can expect great things from this blossoming relationship.  Check out our You Should Know feature on Gross Ghost below:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Robes release video for "Dead Sounds"

If there's one new local band that hasn't gotten anywhere near the amount of attention that they deserve it's probably Robes.  Throughout the year they've been the opening act for some stellar bands such Youth Lagoon and YACHTS, yet something still hasn't clicked within the Triangle to catch on to this awesome group.  Robes are based out of Chapel Hill and are a member of the Potluck family along with the likes of Schooner and Organos, but they're bringing something far different than the rest of the Potluck roster.  Robes build upon tight electronic drum beats that coincide perfectly with the upbeat yet melancholy tone of their music.  An even blend of breezy and beefy synths entangle themselves within driving bass and catchy guitar hooks, all of which sit comfortably under an infectious, poppy melody.

Robes released a promising 7" this summer entitled "Dead Sounds", and the band recently teamed up with Hueism Pictures (the same crew responsible for videos from Mount Moriah, Kooley High, and the wonderful Kool A.D) to release a video for the title track of "Dead Sounds".  Robes will be performing at the Local 506 for a free "Merch Holiday Dance Party" on December 26.  Consider it a late Christmas present to yourself and go check this band out, you won't be disappointed!  Check out the new video below:

Robes - Dead Sound from Hueism Pictures on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Album Review: "Tobacco Town" by Caleb Caudle

Tobacco Town was released on October 22, 2012
Caudle will be performing in Raleigh at The Pour House
on Saturday, November 24 w/ Wylie Hunter,
Onward, Soldiers and Old Quarter
Tobacco Town marks the first solo album from The Bayonets' lead singer Caleb Caudle, and the release is a step in a far different direction than that of the rambling rock n' roll tunes of his full time band.  Trading in electric guitars for acoustics, banjos and fiddles, Caudle steps into a folkier direction that allows his sincere lyrics to take the forefront while soothing instrumentation allows the listener to glide through an album thats remarkably easy to listen through.  Think of it as Petty trading in the Heartbreakers' rockin' status for a more low-key and personal "Wildflowers", while the album isn't nearly as monumental as the aforementioned, it makes the same transitional steps that allow the songwriter to focus more on personalized lyrics and speak on topics that may be strayed away from in a bar friendly band like The Bayonets.

Tobacco Town starts out strong with a hopeful yet somber tune, "Blue or Gray" but picks up steam with one of the album's highlights, "Hesitate".  While Caudle's lyricism is definitely a strong suit, his talent lies mostly in his ability to craft addicting melodies out of these meaningful tunes.  "Hesitate" is one of the poppier tracks on the album, standing tall with a catchy chorus to counteract its jangly verses.    But for every track like "Hesitate" comes ones like "Midnight Beauty" or "Little Reminders", while they have some memorable lyrics that can strike up vivid images like, "Little reminders of you in the pockets of my jeans/Your hair on the pillow, the vinyl still out of the sleeves", they can tend to drag on with melodies that feel a bit too static.  However, while these tracks may not pop as much as others, each one has stellar composition that pays off greatly with stellar vocal harmonies and violin parts from guests like Caitlin Cary and Haley Dreis.  While the opening tracks feel hit or miss, Tobacco Town finds its stride towards the second half of the album with a cohesive and seamlessly flowing string of songs that give us a peek into Caudle's psyche.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Album Review: "Overgrown" by Justin Lacy and The Swimming Machine

Justin Lacy and The Swimming Machine released
Overgrown on October 30, 2012
Overgrown is the debut album from Justin Lacy and The Swimming Machine, and the band has leapt into the proverbial deep end with this dense and boisterous release.  With a massive presence and cacophonous yet focused sound, The Swimming Machine has burst upon the scene with a stellar debut that ranges from carnival-esque madness to gypsy folk punk at the drop of a dime.  Their self proclaimed orchestral gutter folk is a truly unique sound that is unparalleled by their peers, while they pack a heavy Americana tinged punch that feels reminiscent of fellow Wilmington band Onward, Soldiers , Justin Lacy and The Swimming Machine have built their own niche and filled it with fantastic and triumphant anthems.

Overgrown takes the listener on an aural journey that boats nightmarishly dark overtones juxtaposed with bright brass lines and dance invoking swing.  Album opener "In Cold Blood" introduces Lacy's jaunting melodies accompanied by a powerful orchestral presence that sets the tone for the rest of the album.  The Swimming Machine can simultaneously invigorate the listener with their energy that seems to pour from the speakers and captivate them with their seamlessly woven layers of fuzzed out guitar, upright bass, brass, and woodwind.  Tracks like "Cellophane" are perfect representations of this feat, this song is bursting with life and bouncing melodies that perfectly counteract the abrasive grit of Lacy's vocals.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Album Review: "Wyatt" by T0W3RS

T0W3RS plays at Kings Barcade on Saturday
November 3 for DiggUp Tapes Monthly Show Series
with Alpha Cop and Zack Mexico
T0W3RS have been swiftly building momentum throughout the past year, through dazzling sets around the state and a massive full-length that was released back in April, If All We Have Is Time the band has been building a heavily devoted fan base.  Until now the band's output was primarily from the groups brainchild, Derek Torres, but with their latest EP the group has approached writing with a bit more collaborative of an effort.  Wyatt was initially released at Hopscotch through a scavenger hunt for the 5 cassingles that were hidden throughout downtown Raleigh, but last week the band celebrated the official release of their latest EP.  Wyatt is a perfect representation of the gradual growth and exploration that the band is doing, they're still drawing heavily upon their influences but are equally stepping out of their comfort zone to define a niche of their own.

Wyatt begins with "Mobius Strip", a track that kicks off with a fuzzed out guitar and Torres clever wordplay giving us just enough personal insight to be able to feel like we're truly looking into the songwriters life while remaining instantly relatable.  "So I know what I say/That doesn't mean that I like what I say", Torres keeps his vocals relaxed but with enough of a bounce to perfectly counteract the continuous chugging of the distorted guitar for the verses.  "Mobius Strip" boasts an anthemic chorus, one of many that can be found throughout this EP which will surely make for some fantastic live moments.  It's clear that Jacki Huntington's influence made a difference in this EP, high pitched whirs and harmonies give the album far more depth than If All We Have Is Time, the band is beginning to stray from the path with wonderful results.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Album Review: "Only" by Jenny Besetzt

Jenny Besetzt is playing w/ The Lollipops
Thursday, October 24 @ Kings Barcade in Raleigh
Within the past few years Greensboro has blossomed into a fantastic asset in the North Carolina music scene, acts like Braveyoung and Bronzed Chorus have helped kickstart the independent music scene in a town that's been ruled by oversized coliseum shows for years.  As the days go by it seems like Greensboro becomes a more and more lucrative stop, with local record store CFBG acting as a venue for names like Titus Andronicus, Ceremony, Dinosaur Feathers, and oodles of locals, the city is truly beginning to develop a sound that fits within the spectrum of North Carolina's scene.

Jenny Besetzt is the band that can spearhead this resurgence in the Triad, the band just released their debut full length Only, but the album feels like a comprehensive and fully realized vision rather than an exploratory debut.  Driven by tight drums and sweeping synths, the fuzzed out shoegaze of Jenny Besetzt is an addicting sound that serves as the perfect contrast to this ever changing fall weather we get in North Carolina.  You're likely to go from a slow brooding synth line into a guns blazing guitar riff backed by punk-esque drum beats in seconds flat, making this the perfect album to pop on your headphones to and  go about your chilly yet suddenly sweaty day...or maybe that's just me.

The bristling rhythms found within this album are one of the main reasons to check it out, these songs have the ability to turn around on a dime, making for an album that's incredibly joyous to listen to time and time again.  John Wollober's vocals are nestled snugly within the instrumentation, serving more as a vessel to evoke powerful emotions through warm melodies rather than words on paper.  However, those who value lyricism being displayed in the forefront will still get everything they wish for, as Wollober's lines instantly snap you back to the days of a blissfully ignorant youth whose world is slowly becoming more realized.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sharon Van Etten Ticket Giveaway

Sharon Van Etten plays The Cat's Cradle on
Friday, October 26 w/ Damien Jurado
If you've been following The Bottom String for a while then it's no surprise to you how enamored I am with Sharon Van Etten.  Her stellar songwriting and heart clenching vocals are unparalleled, she perfectly combines musical simplicity with depth and wonder in her lyricism.  If you've been a fan of Van Etten's recorded material then I'd say you quite simply HAVE to see her perform these songs live, the sincerity pours out through these catchy tunes, eliciting a softly spoken singalong throughout the crowd that brings a sense of community to these shows.

Sharon Van Etten will be playing at The Cat's Cradle this Friday, October 26 with another incredible up and coming song writer, Damien Jurado.  Jurado has been honing his craft for fifteen years now,  his tenth studio album Maraqopa was released in February of this year and he's one of few artists who continues to get better with each release.  Much like Sharon Van Etten, Jurado's strength lies within his lyricism and his ability to instantly take you to his darkest or brightest place.  Likened to artists like Nick Drake or Elliott Smith, Jurado's beautiful lyrics nestle themselves snugly within the confines of an equally gorgeous arrangement.

Did I grab your attention yet?  Good, because now I can inform you of the pair of tickets I'll be giving away for the show!  Send an e-mail with the subject line: Sharon Van Etten to and you'll be entered into the contest.  No e-mails will be accepted after Midnight on Wednesday, October 24.

Check out videos from Sharon Van Etten and Damien Jurado below:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shakori Hills Fall 2012 Review

Mason's Apron
As I arrived on Thursday with my car loaded up with camping gear I was filled with an overwhelming sense of joy.  One of the first things said to me as I stepped onto the grounds was a simple phrase, "Welcome home" that stuck with me for the rest of the festival.  As I left on Sunday I realized how excited I was to come back, despite my shivering damp exterior I was genuinely ecstatic at the thought of Spring Shakori.  That's what separates Shakori Hills from other festivals, the sense of family and community that can be felt at Shakori is simply unparalleled.  One can walk out of the festival with bundles of new friends that you'd have never crossed paths with had you not shared the same love of music.

And that's really the demographic this festival caters to, music lovers.  Fans of every genre can walk away pleased with a lineup that includes a Grammy winning bluegrass band, a Grammy nominated jazz-funk group, and a legendary reggae band.  Shakori Hills had mostly beautiful weather with the exception of a late night/early morning storm on Saturday that left Sunday with dreary, cold weather.  The music persevered and the sun shone on as Sunday saw some of the strongest, liveliest acts of the weekend including Malian songstress Fatoumata Diawara and the legendary Wailers.

Regardless of weather, the festival brought another strong and diverse lineup that was filled with some big local and international names putting on unforgettable live performances.  I'll be giving you a rundown of everything I saw this weekend from Thursday onward, so let's get to it!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Shakori Essentials: River Whyless

I've made no attempts at hiding my adoration for this band, they're quickly becoming one of my favorite local acts and I haven't even gotten to see their live show yet!  Music on the Mountaintop had me sold on two acts, River Whyless and Dr. Dog.  While I didn't get to see either band due to terrible traffic on I-40, I did get to film one of my favorite Bottom String Session's with Ryan and get a few copies of A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door, one of which was the ever-looping soundtrack to my three hour ride back home.  River Whyless are making some of the most compelling music in the state right now, while some can draw comparisons to Lost in the Trees due to their classical folk orientation, River Whyless has a more contemporary take on the sound.  It's clear that influence from ethereal post rock bands has bled into the band's songwriting, and their unique 'baroque folk' sound is something to swoon over.

While you may know the band by their old moniker, Do It To Julia, they've since changed up their approach with a new name and a new sound.  River Whyless have released one of the strongest albums of the year, A Stone, A Leaf... doesn't have a weak track on it.  The album flows together brilliantly with captivating imagery and complex soundscapes.  After talking with Ryan O'Keefe at MOTM he informed me that most of his songwriting takes place outside, a fact that becomes astoundingly clear when listening to the album.  River Whyless sings of heartache and despair, of doubting faith, of fleeting hope but a promise for tomorrow.  The lyricism is incredible, which makes the beautiful harmonies that much sweeter.  Halli Anderson's voice is commanding yet subtle, it can tug on your heartstrings and speak to you with sincerity and presence.  O'Keefe's voice retains many of the same qualities, but features a trademark quiver that gives his vocals an unfiltered vulnerability, making their sound all the more personal.

River Whyless is a band that fits in perfectly with the vibes at Shakori.  When I saw their name on the roster I knew they'd have precedence, their music has a connection with people and the Meadow Stage is the perfect place to display it.  It's earthy music that shines simultaneously with its simplicity and its extravagance.  One minute you'll hear Halli playing a rustic fiddle line, the next you'll be immersed in her classical prowess.  The sounds of River Whyless are real, natural and devastatingly beautiful.

While the band is playing a stacked time slot with Hoots & Hellmouth and Jonathan Scales Fourchestra playing around the same time, I know River Whyless will not fail to amaze the festival goers.  The middle of a gorgeous farmland sounds like the perfect setting for a show from River Whyless, and this unique experience will be one of the weekends highlights for sure.

Check out our aforementioned Bottom String Session with Ryan O'Keefe from Music on the Mountaintop.  River Whyless will be playing on Friday, October 5 at 5:00 p.m. on the Meadow Stage:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Shakori Essentials: Suénalo

Shakori Hills is exactly seven days away now, with anticipation rising I've come to realize how devastatingly excited I am for the two sets of latin-afro jazz party that is Suénalo.  Shakori Hills allows you to find bands that you're entirely ignorant about in genres you're mostly unfamiliar with, but somehow connect with these acts on personal levels.  Suénalo is a band hailing from Miami, FL that seemingly only comes this way for Shakori, giving you all the more reason to see this glorious show while you can.  The band has two sets that are unparalleled on Friday and Saturday evening on the Meadow Stage and Dance Tent respectively, I for one know that I'll be attending both shows.

Last Spring I was anxiously waiting for Equanimous Minds in the Dance Tent and battling between staying around to hang out with my friends or trudging through potential rainfall to see Bombadil when I heard the lively, riotous sounds of Suénalo.  Any apprehension I had about missing the local favorites were tossed out the window, within minutes I was awkwardly arm flailing along with the droves of equally excited crowd members.  The experience was absolutely invigorating, from their deep Afropop/Cuban influence blended with upbeat hip-hop stylings to the bombastic energy the band permeates whilst on stage, it's easy to find yourself overcome by the jaunting yet melodic rhythms.  Equanimous Minds was the highlight of the festival for many I went with (an electronic act standing out at a Grassroots festival?  Preposterous!), but I for one couldn't help but feel like Suénalo stole the show, hell possibly the festival.

Suénalo's MC, Amin De Jesus is a charismatic leader for the band, conducting the crowd as if they were his little marrionettes.  He says jump and the crowd leaps.  He shouts, "Suénalo!" they shout "Suénalo!" twice as hard with ear-to-ear grins.  Their music is somewhat of an anomaly at the festival, while there's always diverse talent drawing influence from every corner of the world, none seem to do it with such flare and finesse as Suénalo.  Recently celebrating their 10 year anniversary, the experience they have together is clear.  Saying this band is tight is an understatement, they've allowed their talents to flow together freely and developed a precise call and response style that makes for a fantastic soundtrack for your all night dance party.  Get ready to dance your ass off, because Suénalo's infectious good vibes will be taking the main stage on Friday, October 5 on the Meadow Stage at 11:00. I'd imagine such a prominent Friday night set will lead to a fantastic crowd for the band's set on Saturday, October 6 in the Dance Tent at 11:00.  Do yourself a favor and become a part of this, hell maybe even attend the Latin Dance Workshop that'll be going on in the Dance Tent right before Suénalo on Saturday night.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Shakori Essentials: Jonathan Scales Fourchestra

Shakori Hills serves as one of the finest outlets for finding new music that North Carolina has to offer.  The sheer diversity in the lineup allows festival goers to expand their musical palette, taking in sounds of Latin jazz, Cajun zydeco, or socially conscious hip-hop on a day to day basis.  I know I for one never expected to see a band like Diali Cissokho & Kairaba, but once I happened upon their performance I was entranced by it.  Shakori is a melting pot of musical genres that somehow fit perfectly together, despite their vast differences.  Let's look at Friday evening for example, the 5-7 block is stacked with fantastic bands from highly different genres.  I'll be split between three shows in this two hour span, River Whyless, Hoots and Hellmouth, and Jonathan Scales Fourchestra.  One of the great parts about Shakori is how close all of the stages are to each other, Meadow to Carson's to the Cabaret tent equates to a leisurely stroll as you ease your way from baroque folk rock to dancy roots rock to a steel pan lead jazz-fusion trio.  Jonathan Scales Fourchestra will be the first band from this trio that we preview for Shakori, and you'd be hard pressed to find someone at Shakori that's packing as much power as this group from Asheville.

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra mixes the sounds of contemporary experimental jazz with a classically trained composer become steel pan virtuoso.  While Scales' steel pan subtleties are on prominent display, the band's true depth lies within how talented every single member of this band is.  Percussionist Phill Bronson seamlessly switches from time signature to time signature, displaying a rhythmic prowess that's easy to lose yourself in.  However, you can just as easily become enamored in how smoothly Cody Wright churns out technically proficient bass riffs with such ease and emotion.  The way the Fourchestra can command a crowd is mystifying, and a high energy set in the Cabaret Tent would make for a fantastic addition to your Friday evening schedule.

The band will be performing on Friday October 5 at 5:30 pm at the Cabaret Tent.

Check out video from the band's performance in New Bern's incredible venue, Broad St. Social Club:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Shakori Essentials: Lost in the Trees

It's no surprise to any fan of the Triangle music scene that Lost in the Trees, rose to stardom.  The band's unique style of combining rustic and deeply personal folk music with that of grandiose chamber music was a recipe for success, it's a sound that eases you in with relatable lyrics and clinches your attention with perfectly orchestrated instrumentation to coincide with the rise and fall of Ari Picker's heartfelt stories.  It's been three long years since Lost in the Trees played Shakori Hills, and their Saturday afternoon set on the Meadow Stage will be the perfect homecoming for these local standouts.  It's already set to be the highlight of my weekend, it's been over a year since I last saw Lost in the Trees as a bright eyed fanboy, plopped cross-legged on the floor of Fletcher Opera Hall...far too long if you ask me.

Lost in the Trees have been touring non-stop lately, recently finishing up a run of shows with The Head and The Heart and Fleet Foxes side-project Poor Moon before that.  The band is getting ready to hit the road once again and Shakori will be the first stop on yet another lengthy nationwide tour, this time with fellow North Carolina act Midtown Dickens.  While they're playing again in the Triangle in December at Reynolds Industry Theatre with a full chamber orchestra, their set at Shakori Hills will be a truly unique and magical experience.  The folks that attend Shakori are embedded within this music scene and the passion that any one person can feel for this band pales in comparison to the feeling of singing along with a field full of like minded individuals.  I'll be missing the latter half of Unknown Tongues (playing at 3:30 in the Dance Tent) to check out the full set from one of my favorite North Carolina artists playing one of my favorite North Carolina festivals.  The best possible way to spend a Saturday.

Check out the band's performance of "Time Taunts Me", the title track from their first EP which recently just got its second pressing on Trekky Records with a stunning white vinyl.  Time to buy copy number two?

Lost in the Trees plays on Saturday October 6 @ 4:00 on the Meadow Stage

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Preview: Shakori Hills Fall 2012

Shakori Hills is nearly two weeks away, and as we reach the home stretch I'm beginning to get antsy.  Shakori Hills comes twice a year and recently the weather has been damn near perfect each time.  Granted you can always expect the possibility of those ever so fantastic Carolina rain falls, the mud doesn't stop the good times emanating from Shakori Hills.  Naturally we're all hoping for a dry Shakori, but rain or shine I'll cherish every second on that farm.  Shakori Hills has recently become a bit of a hometown reunion for me, with flocks of New Bernians joining in on the bi-annual fun.  As Ari Picker so eloquently put it, "surround yourself with good people", it's a phrase that should be the beck and call for Shakori Hills, especially with Lost in the Trees joining the countless talented artists on the bill this fall.  Set up your tent and stay for four days of great people and great music at Shakori Hills.

From October 4-7 (once again conveniently falling on NC State's Fall Break!) acts like The Wailers, Steep Canyon Rangers, Suénalo and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue will be leading a field of festival goers in uninhibited dance, song, and laughter.  A family friendly event, Shakori Hills offers workshops for adults and children alike, but there are some particularly striking Front Porch Workshops this year.  On Friday, Jonathan Scales (the steel-pan visionary from Asheville) will be putting on a Steel Pan Percussion Workshop, one that should be absolutely tantalizing.  I talked with Jonathan for a bit after his show at Broad St. Social Club in New Bern and he showed some of us the basics of playing steel pan, it's a seemingly complex system that Scales can make look effortless.  Two mores enticing workshops comes on Saturday with Unknown Tongues leading a cajun workshop, and Driftwood following shortly after with an Oldtime Music Workshop.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hopscotch 2012: Ryan Gustafson - Mountains of the Moon

The Trekky Day Dream is always one of the Hopscotch highlights, and this year proved no different.  With a solo set from Cassis Orange to kick off the day, Ryan Gustafson was set to follow.  I hadn't heard any recorded material from Gustafson going into this show, but after checking out his Indy Weekly Simple Music Video Series performance (found here) I knew I had to see this set.  Gustafson didn't disappoint, he displayed an incredible prowess in his songwriting with the perfect amount of restraint and release in his voice.  Below you can hear his cover of Michael Holland's "Mountains of the Moon":

Album Review: Some Army - EP

Some Army's EP release show is on September 22
@ Local 506 w/ T0W3RS and Gray Young
Some Army are a band that have been thrust into the limelight of the Carolina music scene.  While Russell Baggett's former band The Honored Guests made waves in the Triangle, none were quite as massive as what's about to hit the shore with this fantastic EP to be released on September 22 at Local 506 with T0W3RS and Gray Young.

Some Army released a breathtakingly beautiful 7" this year that immediately became one of my most played releases, "Servant Tires" glides along just as delicately on the opener of this EP as it did on the 7".  It's the perfect attention grabbing opener for this near 30 minute sonic adventure.  As I write this I've got my headphones on in my bedroom and find it hard to focus on anything that isn't Some Army, their music encapsulates you.  Stretching across genres, Some Army builds an ethereal soundscape backed by driving rhythms and soaring melodies to produce a unique and mesmerizing sound.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Caleb Caudle to release solo record, "Tobacco Town"

Caleb Caudle, frontman of The Bayonets, has recently announced the release of an upcoming solo album that's got me quite excited.  Caleb Caudle has been a favorite North Carolina songwriter of mine for years now, he first struck a chord with a particularly moving performance of "Stay On" back at Broad Street Music in New Bern, but watching his songwriting flourish and blossom in the past few years has been delightful.  Caudle has an October 12 release date on his debut solo album, Tobacco Town, from which two songs have already been released.

Caleb's solo endeavors have a markedly different feel than The Bayonets, there's a far heavier focus folk rather than Americana, and quite frankly it's a style that Caudle's melodies may be better suited for.  Caudle has a wonderful way of making you feel like a part of his songs, it's a very open and unapologetic approach to songwriting that feels much more natural with a softly sung female harmony than an out and out rock song like some Bayonets tracks are.  But make no mistakes, there's still plenty of dynamic within these solo tracks, from the rise of "Blue or Gray" to the foot-stomping fiddle line that brings in "Midnight Beauty", Caudle has a certain sincerity in his voice that resonates throughout the listener.  Caleb Caudle will be celebrating his album release on October 12 with Lucero at Ziggy's in Winston Salem, NC.  Check out two tracks from his solo album below:

You can check out The Bayonet's Bottom String Session on our YouTube Channel

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hopscotch 2012: Matthew E. White - Brazos

As one of the most beautiful sets of Hopscotch was coming to a close, I had sense enough to pull out the camera to catch some of Matthew E. White's "One Incantation Under God" show at Fletcher Opera Hall, and boy did I pick the right time.  Matthew announced that this would be the last song and proceeded to ease into the 11 minute epic of "Brazos", the closer from his debut album Big Inner.  "Brazos" is the perfect snapshot of this set, it contains the sweet and subtle sounds that make White such a standout amongst today's scene.  He's mastered dynamics in a way that few today are able to, as his grandiose orchestration soars as proudly as his commanding vocal presence.  Matthew E. White radiated throughout the set, a fact that had a profound effect on the show, as a few songs in the crowd came to life at White's mention that the crowd could dance if they wished.  Watching the gradual sea of people shimmying their way down the isle to this groovy soul song was one of the highlights of my weekend.  Check out the full video of "Brazos" below:

The Big Picture debut new single, "The One Song We Can Sing"

The Big Picture is a fairly new project from former members of The Never, Lost in the Trees, and Annuals, and they're a band that's comprised of countless influences that have been blended into one eclectic combination of electronic, rock, and hip-hop that creates a cacophonous yet delightful product.  Featuring DJ Gonzo on percussion, the band juxtaposes his electronic influence with the heavy pop base of Jonny and Joah Tunnell.  Throw in dual vocal duties from Jonny and Sarah Fuller and you've got a recipe for excellence, as the two's voices pair together wonderfully to serve as the perfect foreground for Gonzo's dense soundscape.

The band released two heavily lauded EPs as a part of the Psychic Psalms series earlier this year (January and March respectively) which showcased their unconventional yet highly addictive sound.  Since their initial releases, the band has recently debuted a brand new single, "The One Song We Can Sing" on WKNC's Local Lunch on Fridays (hosted by yours truly).  The band recently finished filming a video for the single as well which can be found below:

[You can also find the band's Bottom String Session here]

Monday, September 10, 2012

Show Review: Hopscotch 2012

Matthew E. White @ Fletcher Opera Hall
After three long days, thirty two bands, and minuscule amounts of sleep, Hopscotch has yet again drawn to a close.  While the festival persevered through its first big encounter with weather issues (a cancelled set form Escort and a postponed set from The Roots), it was damn near impossible to dampen the spirits of the Hopscotch attendees who continued to bounce from venue to venue with childlike excitement.  This year's festival boasted far more diversity and depth than previous installments, evidenced by  Friday night's Pour House lineup ending with Corrosion of Conformity and Dan Deacon, or going from the jangly indie pop of T0W3RS to the pantsless punk rock wonders of NOBUNNY on Saturday at the Contemporary Art Museum.

Hopscotch has outdone itself once again, and while I lay in bed trying to recollect all of the joys of Hopscotch, I can't help but feel a striking sense of pride for the city I now call home.  Hopscotch is the perfect display of North Carolina's tightly knit scene and Raleigh's opening community, it's hard not to walk down a block at Hopscotch without seeing a familiar face from the crowd or a band member who's set you're still enamored by.  Quite frankly, Hopscotch is a surreal weekend for me, an absolute music marathon that's filled with the finest local acts peppered throughout a lineup packed with talent.

A full festival review and photos are below:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hopscotch 2012 Itinerary

Hopscotch is merely a day away and the anticipation is palpable throughout the Triangle.  It's hard to go many places without hearing or seeing something about the upcoming festivities, and quite frankly I can't express how proud it makes me to call Raleigh my home.  While the shows have yet to begin I've already immersed myself within the joys of Hopscotch festivities.  I'll be broadcasting my weekly Local Lunch shift of WKNC on Friday from Wristband City, so between arranging interviews and sessions for the blog and the radio station, Hopscotch has taken up quite a bit of my days, and I'd not have it any other way.

Between the plethora of Day Parties and the diverse festival lineup, it'd be pretty damn hard to not be able to find something you enjoy throughout any of the next 3 days.  It may be a bit daunting to decide on a schedule, especially if you've already waited this late, but we'll help you navigate through the sea of bands to find exactly what you're looking for.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Show Review: Music on the Mountaintop 2012

Photos by : Emily Ritter
Music on the Mountaintop was a wonderful and unique festival experience that didn't quite live up to the expectations I'd had, but at none of the festival's fault.  Leaving for Music on the Mountaintop after my radio shift meant that I'd already be missing River Whyless on Friday, but all was well as long as I'd gotten to see Dr. Dog.  Well a 13 mile back-up on I-40 prevented that from happening, but I did stop off in Boone for Friday night to catch a Possum Jenkins set at Boone Saloon that served as the perfect precursor for the day to come, filled with beautiful weather, excellent music and a fantastic scenery to boot.  I arrived around 1:00 on Saturday afternoon following an incredible breakfast at Melanie's in Boone ready to film a River Whyless session.  However, we put the session off for later in the day in lieu of the upcoming Naked Gods set.

Naked Gods stuck out stylistically on Saturday's bill, they were by far the most boisterous band of the day with a set filled with attention grabbing hooks, pounding rhythms and a frenetic display of raw energy from the band members.  The band debuted a new song, "written in the style of Guided By Voices" for an upcoming compilation, and another new Naked Gods song as well.  While the band stuck out on the bill, they stuck out on the stage as well.  They captivated the crowd of bluegrass loving festival goers and put on one of the day's best sets.

Walking around the festival grounds and searching for a place to shoot our River Whyless session gave me the chance to really immerse myself in the scenery, and I've got to say that Music on the Mountaintop has one of the most fantastic set-ups I've seen at a festival.  A shuttle bus that runs straight to a grocery store, campgrounds conveniently placed near beautiful streams, hot showers, and most importantly a gorgeous horizon of endless mountains, what's not to love about it?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hopscotch Highlight on: T0W3RS

T0W3RS at Hopscotch 2011
T0W3RS is a band that exploded onto the scene with the help of last year's Hopscotch.  Coming in with strong momentum from a badass Lonnie Walker cover, the band proved that they were about to be a fixture in the Triangle's music scene.  Since last year's day party at Hopscotch the band has released an EP and a full-length entitled, If All We Have Is Time.  With the release of their full length the band has received an overwhelming response that seems to share the general consensus that T0W3RS are one of the brightest acts in the state.  The band has recently announced a new release that they're putting out at Hopscotch called Wyatt EP.

With a new EP in tow expect the band to put on another fantastic Hopscotch set.  Last year's Dayparty show was one of the most memorable sets of the entire festival for me, the excitement was permeating throughout the room and it was clear that T0W3RS weren't going anywhere soon.  The band has already improved in leaps and bounds from their debut EP to their first full length, I'd expect much more of the same with their new EP.  The experimental fuzz pop tunes that T0W3RS have been putting out display a breadth of influences that have all molded into a unique and enamoring sound that I simply can't turn away from.  There's no doubt that I'll be heading down to check out T0W3RS after I see Little Hollow on Saturday night.  T0W3RS will be performing at the Contemporary Art Museum at 9:30.  T0W3RS are kicking off a high energy bill that'll be going hard the whole night, headlined by the swiftly rising Detroit rapper Danny Brown (who I'm anxiously awaiting to see for the 2nd time this year) and Flosstradamus.  Check out "The Cardinal/The Finch" from If All We Have Is Time below.

Bottom String Session #20: River Whyless

Photo courtesy of: Emily Ritter
Music on the Mountaintop was one of the finest festival experiences I've had in recent memory.  With a full day of gorgeous weather and wonderful bands, Foscoe, North Carolina won my heart over in 10 hours.  Grandfather Mountain Campground serves as the perfect festival site, and it's safe to say that this Bottom String Session proves just that.

I caught up with Ryan O'Keefe from River Whyless on Saturday, August 25 and got the pleasure of filming an incredible session by a stream nestled within Grandfather Mountain Campgrounds.  Ryan performed "Unfound Door" from River Whyless' debut full length, A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door, which was released earlier this year.  The band was just added to the Shakori Hills Fall lineup, adding to an already extensive list of fantastic local acts on the bill.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hopscotch Highlight on: Dash

Dash is from Wilmington, NC and will be performing
at the WKNC/WUAG College Radio Showcase
on Thursday, September 6 at White Collar Crime
While they may not be playing an official Hopscotch show, Dash will be one of the weekend's highlights for me at the WKNC/WUAG College Radio Showcase, taking place at White Collar Crime on Thursday September 6 from 12:00-5:00.  Really White Collar crime is my only day party planned for Thursday, with Trioscapes (jazz-fusion side project from Dan Briggs of Between the Buried and Me, featuring members of Brand New Life, Casual Curious and Eyris), The Big Picture, and Casual Curious as well as Dash, there is no better place to spend the first day of Hopscotch.  Dash is a band that's been swiftly building momentum around the Triangle, with two highly touted shows at Kings I'm already aching to see the band at White Collar Crime.

The band has only released one single thusfar with "Into The Sounds", but that single is an absolutely incredible snapshot for the potential and talent that lies within this band.  Displaying a sound similar to that of Passion Pit or Phantogram, Dash weaves together an electronic soundscape that displays depth and instant accessibility.  The band has a heavy focus on their live performances, their most recent show at Kings on August 24th was only the band's 3rd show, but it featured a string section accompaniment that seemed to go off brilliantly.  This is a band that will surely continue to blossom and evolve in ways that I can't yet imagine, but for now let's revel in the strong footing this band has set for themselves in their earliest stages.  Below you can find a video from the band's first show at Kings Barcade earlier this year.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hopscotch Highlight on: Zack Mexico

Zack Mexico from Kill Devil Hills, NC
Friday night is going to be a bit of here, there, and everywhere for me.  While the night will start with a heavily anticipated set from Built to Spill, I'll be wandering around for Jesus & Mary Chain most likely.  Catching the earlier half of Nests set is going to be a must for me, but the first club show I've got to be at on Friday is definitely Zack Mexico.  Based out of Kill Devil Hills, it's always joyous to see a young band from eastern North Carolina make worthwhile music, as the scene out there is a strange land filled with beach music and christian rock, but alas Zack Mexico joins the ranks of the few that break that mold.  At times they can sound like a psychedelic surf rock act, yet at others they can sound like an ambient punk band, they're a versatile and talented quintet in their early 20's with limitless potential.

Zack Mexico just released their first EP on Raleigh label DiggUp Tapes back in April titled, Abberation of Celestial Kokomo.  These spaced out surf jams are filled with deep, yet enchanting vocals that glide smoothly over these dense tracks.  They're a diverse band with songs that are a break from the norm of the Carolina music scene, yet they still seem to fit snugly in with the Triangle's booming scene.  With the blessing of DiggUp Tapes I'm sure this is just the first of many more fantastic releases we'll be hearing from Zack Mexico.

Zack Mexico will be playing at the Contemporary Art Museum on Friday, September 7 at 9:30 PM

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hopscotch Highlight on: Little Hollow

Little Hollow from Chapel Hill, NC
As our second installment of Hopscotch Highlights, we're focusing on a Saturday night act that's facing a dreaded 9:00 slot.  It's always a split decision of staying at City Plaza or booking it out of there early to catch an awesome club show, but usually the latter has proven to be the best bet for me.

While The Roots will no doubt be putting on a stellar live performance, my eyes have been set on act that I've been trying to see for at least over a year.  Little Hollow, also known as Logan Pate, has been producing an enchanting blend of electronic music and R&B/Soul for the past few years and Hopscotch serves as the perfect opportunity to showcase this local gem that's yet to see much recognition.

You can find some of Little Hollow's earlier work on the Logan Pate band camp, The Difference Between Moths and Butterflies does a fantastic job of encompassing the "sleepy soul" sound that Pate uses to describe Little Hollow as well.  Grip Tapes has helped bring yet another incredible act of the North Carolina scene to the limelight, and after Hopscotch I wouldn't be surprised if we started hearing a lot more from Little Hollow.  While the 9:00 time slot also holds The Roots, The Toddlers, and Grohg, Little Hollow's unique and soulful stylings are sure to command your attention, leaving you mesmerized with his smooth melodies and raw emotion.

Little Hollow will be performing at White Collar Crime on Saturday, September 8 at 9:00 PM

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hopscotch Highlight on: Jenny Besetzt

Jenny Besetzt from Greensboro, NC
Two weeks from today will mark the beginning of my third year at Hopscotch.  My third year of checking out from the real world and into an absolute marathon of music for three days straight.  It's hard to walk through downtown Raleigh without hearing the sounds of Hopscotch, and it's wonderful to see the place bustling for three days straight with the sole purpose of seeing as many awesome live acts as possible.

With 175 bands playing Hopscotch it may be a bit hard to determine who you want to see, but we can certainly do our best to help!  From now until Hopscotch we'll be posting previews for some of the shows we're most looking forward to throughout the weekend, and we'll be kicking it off with one of the local acts I'm most excited to see, Jenny Besetzt from Greensboro.

Jenny Besetzt is preparing for the release of their first full length this fall, and it's quickly becoming one of my most anticipated releases of the year.  They've got a knack for dreamy pop hooks, coated in reverb and tinged with nostalgia.  Their sound is a blend of shoe gaze and pop, but even that is a broad description of a band that's quite simply hard to pigeon-hole.  You can determine the genre you'll place them in by checking out their track, "Teenage Lions, featured on a recent DiggUp Tapes compilation.

Jenny Besetzt will be performing at White Collar Crime at 9:00 PM on Thursday, September 6
and Friday, September 7 at the Blurt Magazine and Schoolkids Records Hopscotch Day Party at Deep South at 12:00 PM.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Preview: Music on the Mountaintop

We're a mere two days away from Music on the Mountaintop and I for once can barely contain my excitement.  This three-day festival held at Grandfather Mountain Campgrounds kicks off on Friday right around noon and will be bringing an incredibly talented and diverse group of artists for the festival's fifth installment.  With what's looking like a beautiful weekend ahead of us, we'll go ahead and give you our list of bands we're most excited to see on the mountaintop this weekend.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Album Review: "Shake My Head" by Spider Bags

Shake My Head by Spider Bags was released on
Odessa Records on August 7, 2012
Spider Bags have gradually been building momentum for the past few years with 7" after 7", but with their latest release the band has truly become a staple for North Carolina's music scene.  On their first full length out on Odessa Records, Shake My Head, Spider Bags have crafted a fantastic concoction of garage rock with their southern roots heavily shining through.  While the album clocks in at just over half an hour, these ten tracks still pack some hellacious punches with teeth rattling hooks and raucous melodies.  Dan McGee blasts through powerhouse rock anthems with ease and honesty, but the real joy of the album isn't within any one facet of the composition, but instead it's how it all comes together so beautifully.

Recorded in Memphis, TN with some of the area's finest garage rockers popping in and out of the sessions to lend hands where they were needed, whether that be gang vocals or guitar riffs, the guest presence can certainly be felt on the record.  Shake My Head is an open-ended and expansive garage rock album that perfectly tows the line between a tight rock n' roll record and a casual punk project, leaving the result as one raucous but focused album.

The album kicks off with "Keys to the City" a track that clocks in just under two minutes but serves an excellent purpose of grasping the listeners attention with its boisterous punk rhythms, jumping strong out of the gates with authority and direction for the album.  "Been living in the same town my whole life/Cheating on my girlfriend with my ex-wife", McGee paints a vivid image with his simple lyrics on Shake My Head, while some of the themes may not be relateable to all of the listeners, he can capture the essence of these feelings and situations wonderfully.  "Keys to the City" is a powerful opener that seamlessly transitions into the smooth bass line that opens up "Simona La Ramona", a song that glides through at a much slower pace than "Keys to the City", but still retains all of Spider Bags' authenticity.  While there's a much slower tempo one still can't help but rhythmically bob their head to the southern-tinged vocals "Oh Simona La Ramona/I'm like a dog without an owner".  McGee pulls off quirky and cheesy vocals with ease, mostly because while these lines may not be the most creative lyrically, they serve as the perfect foreground to emotions and themes conveyed throughout Shake My Head.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Album Review: "Primitive Ways" by Oulipo

Oulipo released Primitive Ways on Aug. 4, 2012
and it's available for purchase on their Bandcamp
It's an absolute joy to watch a band find their footing, listening to them evolve throughout their releases until they craft together the perfect blend of outside influence and personal inspiration, much like one can find with Oulipo on Primitive Ways.  Primitive Ways is the band's latest 6-song EP, and it's filled with avant-garde experimental pop gems from beginning to end.

Taking obvious inspiration from contemporary acts like Animal Collective and The Dirty Projectors, Oulipo has crafted brilliant pop songs that expand to the reaches of the genre's horizon, creating a dense and lush soundscape for the listener to lose themselves in.  There are moments in Primitive Ways in which you can hear these influences bleeding through with a polyrhythmic breakdown or a brilliantly placed trumpet line that rips through the reverb and delayed guitars, that's when you start to realize that Oulipo is an act that's snowballing into a sound of their very own.

Tracks like "Hanging Hook" display this perfectly.  The band samples a fellow local electronic act with Motor Skills' "Little Tiff" and crafts it into a song of their own.  While the original featured Mike Dillon  letting out a smooth R&B esque croon over this catchy riff, Oulipo pulls out a much quicker paced banger with some added guitar and drum lines with some sweet falsettos to top it off.  The EP opens with "Build It Up", a track that greets us with the lines "Build me up, build me up with your hands".  Oulipo does just that, as it opens with thickly reverberated vocals and an off-kilt drum beat until the track lives up to it's namesake. The song builds into something of a different breed with a dense and dark electronic blend that feels a bit like "King Of Limbs" until the new melodic idea butts its head into the mix and the band draws back from the instrumentation in lieu of their new refrain, "Are you proud, are you proud of your primitive ways?"  "Build It Up" is the perfect example of the subtlety that Oulipo is capable of, their songs can undergo multiple transformations within their brief 3-5 minute lengths.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shakori Hills makes initial lineup announcement for fall festival

The Wailers are just one of the headliners of Shakori Hills
Fall Festival, taking place October 4-7
The bi-annual paradise of Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival has already dropped around a dozen or so names for their upcoming fall festival, and it's one that marks the return of some festival favorites and the addition of a few welcomed new faces.  Shakori Hills is held in April and October in Pittsboro, NC on a beautiful farmland, allowing for adults and children alike to forget about their worries of day-to-day life and simply immerse themselves in the sounds of bluegrass, folk, funk, soul, and pretty much everything in between.

From October 4-7, Shakori Hills will be rolling along with acts like The Wailers, Steep Canyon Rangers, and Lost in the Trees, just a snippet of what's sure to be another phenomenal lineup from this standout festival in North Carolina.  You can purchase a weekend pass at their Early Bird price of $85 until this Sunday when they make the leap to $95, but Early Bird or not this festival is worth every penny you drop on it.

This year's initial lineup has some fantastic new faces joining the Grassroots family such as the legendary Wailers and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, a high-energy Grammy nominated funky jazz group that's sure to get the crowds at Shakori dancing through the night.  While the new names stand out, it's some of these old favorites returning that has me most excited.  Since I've started attending Shakori I still haven't gotten to see the Carolina darlings of Lost in the Trees grace the stage, but that changes this year.  It's the perfect environment to take in all of the beauty of Ari Picker's orchestrations, in the middle of a farmland surrounded by people who care just as deeply about music as yourself.  Shakori staples like Donna The Buffalo, Preston Frank, and The Ayr Mountaineers have been announced as well as the infectious Latin funk group that nearly stole my Saturday night last Spring, Suenalo.  This perfect mixture of local gems and internationally touring talents will continue to grow as we get nearer to the festival, much like my anticipation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Moogfest 2012 announces their heavily anticipated line-up

Moogfest takes place in Asheville, NC on October 26/27
with tickets going on sale Friday, August 10
After a knock-out second year in 2011, Moogfest had set the bar pretty high for themselves in 2012.  While the festival has undergone some structural changes, such as dropping the third day in lieu of a Justice pre-show on Thursday, it's clear that their festival has also undergone some musical changes as well.  While previous years have boasted stellar headliners such as The Flaming Lips, MGMT, and Passion Pit, 2012's lineup is topped off with Primus 3D, Orbital, Miike Snow, and Santigold.  Just because the festival has taken a different direction though doesn't mean that it's lacking in any department.   On October 26 and 27 names like Explosions in the Sky, GZA, Four Tet, and Divine Fits will be gracing the stages of The Orange Peel, U.S Cellular Center, and Asheville Music Hall for another unique festival experience from Moogfest's third installment.

Primus 3D will be headlining Friday night's festivities, providing a one of a kind experience including 3D glasses for festival goers to truly immerse themselves within the show.  Trippy novelties aside, Primus is a pretty underwhelming headliner for the majority of Moog's clientele, especially after having such relevant names in the past.  While Primus will still put on one hell of a show, one can't help but feel like the festival is taking a big leap in an odd direction.  While the addition of artists like  Squarepusher, Shpongle, and Four Tet stay firm with the festival's high electronic standards, and acts like GZA, Killer Mike, and Santigold keeping the hip hop's bar set just as high, it's easy to wish that the festival pulled in a headliner with more of a draw than acts like Primus and Miike Snow.  Headlining issues aside, the lineup is still stacked with some incredible acts that will be putting on breath taking performances.  Seeing Explosions in the Sky nestled in the beautiful mountains of Asheville on the same night as Black Moth Super Rainbow and Bear In Heaven is certainly not something you can get from any other festival.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Album Review - A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door by River Whyless

A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door was released
on March 1, 2012
A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door is a debut album unlike many, while River Whyless has been active for years now as Do It To Julia, the band made the move to Asheville and dropped not only their moniker, but their style of songwriting.  Since their name change and move the band has flourished in every way, whether it be their lush orchestration or their developed and picturesque lyricism, River Whyless has completely revamped their approach to music.

A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door received a physical release on March 1, 2012 and the band has been touring non-stop since, hitting up SXSW, Daytrotter, and our great northern brethren in Canada.  It seems as if River Whyless has finally found their niche within this beautiful baroque folk they're producing, and it feels like they've got a lot more developing left to do.

The album opener "Leaf", sets the tone brilliantly for the rest of the album.  It affirms the band's traditional roots with a wonderful violin part meshing perfectly with the slow croon of Ryan O'Keefe as he pours his heart out with lines like, "At the top of the morning/At the bottom of night/You were sleeping closer to him/And I wept in the stairwell/That's where our love I said to farewell/I had just let you go/To the god that I'd never know".  Halli Anderson's vocals serve as the perfect harmony within lines such as these, the two have a feeling of sincerity within their voice that play perfectly off of one another.  As the album unfolds both songwriters have their own defining moments, but the band shines brightest when the two vocalists are playing off of one another.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Music on the Mountaintop brings Railroad Earth, Dr. Dog and some stellar locals to Grandfather Mtn.

Music on the Mountaintop brings Dr. Dog,
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Railroad Earth, and
more to Banner Elk, NC on August 24-26
Music on the Mountaintop is celebrating its 5th anniversary in a big way, bringing in the highly esteemed Railroad Earth as a partner in curating and hosting a Superjam on the last day of the festival.   Headlined by Railroad Earth and the fantastic indie folk rockers Dr. Dog, Music on the Mountaintop is a quaint but expanding event held near the college town of Boone, NC.  The three-day festival held at the foot of Grandfather Mountain from August 24 through August 26 is currently selling tickets at an early bird price of $85, allowing you to enjoy three days of music and two nights of camping in one of the most gorgeous festival locales in the state.

Held at Grandfather Mountain Campground, the festival offers satellite parking at a lot under 5 miles away and requires festival goers to take the golf cart shuttle or the free Boone/App State shuttle.  With a low price and some stellar local acts filling out the line-up, MOTM looks like it's going to be an absolute blast.

Radiating nothing but good vibes, Music on the Mountaintop is held in Banner Elk, NC roughly 10 miles from Boone and already features a diverse lineup of talented North Carolina musicians along with some highly revered international acts as well.  Beginning in 2008, the festival has grown from humble beginnings and has continually supported local non-profits such as Appalachian Voices throughout their history.  With last year's attendance at 5,500 the festival has since expanded to three days, and with artists like The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Sam Bush, MOTM continues to fill their expanding lineup with an eclectic blend of musical styles that makes for their best lineup yet.  Local standout artists like River Whyless and Naked Gods of Boone return to the festival along with the beloved Holy Ghost Tent Revival make for an excellent snapshot of North Carolina's music scene.  Be sure to check out the rest of the lineup thus far after the jump!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

TRKfest 2012 announces a unique powerhouse of a lineup

Trekky Records is quite simply one of the most compelling labels within the North Carolina music scene, between their phenomenal roster and consistently wonderful events held throughout the year, the label has cemented themselves as a staple of our state's scene.  This year's annual TRKfest is shaping up to be one of the finest in the festival's history, or at least the most memorable.  With a suggested $10 donation, there's no reason to miss this surely beautiful day filled with arts, crafts, tie-dying and most importantly, music.

Held at Piedmont Biofuels in Pittsboro, NC, TRKfest is an absolute gem of a festival that brings together some of the finest members of not only the Trekky roster, but the Carolina scene as a whole.  This year's lineup boasts two one of a kind sets that are sure to live up to every bit of hype that they garner throughout the upcoming weeks before the festival, held on July 21.  Headlined by Lost Skulls, an Ari Picker led Misfits tribute band comprised of fellow local "Disciples of Danzig", the festival also boasts a supergroup cover set with The Piedmont Family Reunion, a collaboration of Midtown Dickens and Megafaun playing one-anothers songs along with other covers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Tallest Man On Earth plays The Finest Venue In The Triangle

While the Haw River Ballroom doesn't have a packed out schedule with bands playing night in and night out, they've got the upper hand on most venues around the area for one reason, consistency.  Now this isn't to say that other venues aren't consistently bringing in great artists, but if you're heading out to a show at Haw River you're guaranteed to have a damn good time.

The atmosphere within the old mill is one that can't be recreated even if you tried.  The acoustics within Haw River make for the perfect stage for a variety of acts, as evidenced by the fantastic and versatile names that have already graced the stage of the venue.  Last week saw Archers of Loaf, the indie rock icons of North Carolina, and earlier this year the stage held acts like Megafaun, The Mountain Goats, and Cass McCombs.  Well lightning strikes once again for Haw River, as it was recently announced that the rustic sounds of The Tallest Man on Earth will be filling the room in Saxapahaw on Wednesday, July 25.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Shakori Hills Spring 2012 Review

Holy Ghost Tent Revival @ Carson's Grove
Photo Courtesy of Agatha Donkar
Shakori Hills couldn't have come at a more perfect time for this busy college student.  Popping up right before exams kick in, who wouldn't want to spend four days in the woods surrounded by incredible people and incredible music?  While Spring Shakori lacked some of the pull of a big name headliner and suffered from a day full of cold untimely rain, Shakori Hills once again pulled off a weekend full of excellent music with the most welcoming environment a festival could truly have.  The festival boasted and eclectic lineup filled with dance-y gems from bands like Rubblebucket and Equanimous Minds, hip-hop excellence from The Beast and Blitz The Ambassador, and some of the best local music you can find in the Triangle.

I took a bit of a hands on approach to this Shakori Hills and joined my roommate and girlfriend in volunteering for the festival...well kind of.  I went out the weekend before the festival in an attempt to talk with some of the organizers on the origins of Shakori, but as I should have known everyone was in Showzilla mode and it just resulted in a day of lending a hand.  I wouldn't have had it any other way.  There's something about the community at Shakori Hills that just keeps festival goers coming back for more, and you can find that at it's roots with these volunteers.  Hammering stakes into the ground, assembling tents and wooden floors, hanging decorations from trees, there was a little bit of everything going on during these volunteer hours and it was an absolutely invigorating experience to be a part of.  All the way down to the chimes of the lunch bell ringing out through the grounds to call all of the volunteers in for a freshly cooked meal, this experience was just full of welcoming individuals.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Around The Triangle: Delta Spirit, Plants & Animals, Frontier Ruckus, Avett Brothers, and more

Plants & Animals @ Local 506 on April 7, 2012
It's been a busy busy month Around The Triangle so we've got some catching up to do with our captures from the latest shows.  Last weekend saw a small crowd treated to an energetic and exciting set from Plants and Animals, while last week also held a highly heralded set from Delta Spirit at The Cat's Cradle. Aggie was also out at Frontier Ruckus at Local 506 a few weeks back, a band we were scheduled to shoot a Bottom String Session with but alas sicknesses arose and we had to cancel the session.  Frontier Ruckus is certainly a band that's still high on my list of Bottom String Session's though so fear not, you'll get your delicious acoustic goodness soon enough!  Rounding up our ATT this week includes shots from Grant Hart, Vacationer, and a couple of videos from The Avett Brothers' set at King's.

Show Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks w/ Bad Veins

Bad Veins @ Motorco
In February of 2010 I was graced with the privilege of seeing We Were Promised Jetpacks and Bad Veins pull the one-two punch in Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte.  I remember being floored by Bad Veins and even more surprised by how absolutely perfect Jetpacks' set was.  I went into the show blind to Bad Veins but a big WWPJ fan, so hearing that the combo was going to be coming to Motorco on April 7 naturally got me all schoolgirl giddy.  We Were Promised Jetpacks has since put out a relatively disappointing new album and Bad Veins are getting closer and closer to the release of their sophomore full length, judging by this show it looks like Bad Veins may be swiftly rising above Jetpacks in terms of longevity and energy.

Bad Veins produce unique indie-rock that has an absolutely mesmerizing live show.  From the minute you see the band setting up for sound check you're tantalized by the presence of the telephone hanging near the microphone, wondering just quite what singer Benjamin Davis will do with it.  Between playing guitar, keyboard, and singing, Davis also operates a reel-to-reel tape that adds wonders to the aesthetic of the band's performance.  It's incredible seeing two men produce music with such density on a live stage, especially considering they're still giving it their all and pouring with energy.

Bad Veins' phone set-up
From Davis' distorted shouts into the telephone to Sebastien Schultz' incessant drumming, Bad Veins filled Motorco with a sense of awe.  Though the band was constantly experiencing sound problems (Davis was asking for his monitor to be turned up in between nearly every single song, an experience I'd imagine could get grating for a band) they rolled right on through it with favorites from their debut full-length with "Gold and Warm", "Cross Eyed" and "Afraid", while mixing in new songs from their upcoming full length The Mess We've Made.  I captured video of the band's first single from The Mess We've Made, "Dancing On TV", which can be found after the jump.