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.