Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ears to the Ground: "Soak Our Days" by Free Clinic

Free Clinic
When I started the Ears to the Ground feature earlier this year, I figured it would serve as a good way to introduce new bands to the readers who are simply looking to expand their local music horizons.  So why not start sharing individual tracks from these upcoming groups in the state that may not have full lengths or complete releases to review or promote?  Ears to the Ground will do just that!

What better way to introduce this new series than with Free Clinic?!  Free Clinic popped up on my radar late last year, Ben Rose's blissful beach pop is sharp and sleek, coated with a distant tinge of nostalgia for careless summer days.  Free Clinic has recently taken on Villa Verde's Josh Sullivan and Wesley Hewett to fill out a rhythm section and the new trio will be playing with Virgins Family Band and Justin Lacy & The Swimming Machine at Satellite Bar in Wilmington on May 18.  With a June 29 date with Gross Ghost at The Soapbox, Free Clinic looks to be building up some momentum for yet another release this year.  Although Better When I'm High was just released in March, Free Clinic has already released a new track from an upcoming release.

"Soak Our Days" is filled with Beach Boys-esque harmonies that create a vast soundscape for this tight reverb washed pop tune to work its magic.  Rose's lyrics lead to reminisced daydreams of spending summer days in the sun, perfectly coalescing with the surf-rock vibes emanating from the instrumentation.  Free Clinic is an incredibly exciting group that's filled with potential, not to mention they're joining a Wilmington scene that seems to continue its rapid growth.  I'm stoked to see this eastern North Carolina scene blossom into something incredible, because it's well on its way.

Mountain Oasis brings Nine Inch Nails, Bassnectar and Neutral Milk Hotel to Asheville

Trent Reznor will pull double-duty at Mountain Oasis
with Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels
Photo by: Rob Sheridan
When news first broke about Mountain Oasis nobody really knew what to expect about the festival.  There was debate going on over whether or not Moogfest would get pushed to a different date (it did, April 25-27) and what kind of overlap these festival's lineups would have.  Mountain Oasis is entering a bustling North Carolina festival scene, after Hopscotch released a dazzling lineup last week it was going to be difficult to steal the thunder of the Triangle's premier festival.  But if Mountain Oasis' goal was to get people talking, they've certainly done it.

The festival seemed to be geared towards electronic music, but the lineup announcement that came this morning featured one of the most diverse and eclectic collection of groups that I've seen in recent memory.  Headlined by a re-united Nine Inch Nails, Mountain Oasis boasts EDM mega-stars like Bassnectar and Pretty Lights while simultaneously featuring indie-icons like Neutral Milk Hotel, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Animal Collective.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Show Review: Shakori Hills Spring 2013

Paperhand Puppet Parade on Saturday at
Shakori Hills
Once again, eager festival goers made the trek to the gorgeous grounds of Shakori Hills for one of the most intimate and unique festivals on the circuit today.  Through tornado warnings and rapidly changing weather conditions, fans rallied for the music.  From April 18 - 21 a diverse array of incredibly talented musicians graced the multiple stages of Shakori Hills for one of my favorite festivals in recent memory.  There's something about the unity that comes from weathering a massive storm inside of the woods that makes for an incredible festival experience.  To hell with the muddy pants, to hell with the soaked clothes, last weekend was about the beautiful experience of connecting with individuals through the power of music.

That's one of the most fantastic things about this bi-annual festival, they've shed all of the pretensions that come with the festival circuit, nobody is vying to be the hippest, nobody is trying to shed light on the most obscure bands of the weekend.  These people are out here to share the timeless experience of witnessing live music from all over the world.  Acts came from lands as far away as Zimbabwe and Brazil and as local as Pittsboro and Chapel Hill to create a wonderful festival filled with good vibes and good times.

Keller Williams and The Travelin' McCourys
You couldn't ask for more perfect weather to kick off this long weekend of festivities.  I arrived just before the opening ceremony and got to catch a bit of the opening act of the festival Cyril Lance, but the first group that I was truly excited for was Hindugrass, an invigorating and fresh blend of bluegrass and Indian-fusion featuring string players from Lost in the Trees backing up the insanely talented John Heitzenrater as he took listeners on a musical adventure through various cultures.  Hindugrass was a fantastic start to the festival and served as a wonderful way to get prepared for the weekend's events.  Shortly after Hindugrass ended I made the quick transition to the main stage to check out Keller Williams & The Travelin' McCourys.  A sizable crowd gathered to see this blistering bluegrass crew that features of one of the jam-band scene's most adored guitar players.  It was fantastic to get the chance to see Keller work his acoustic magic live, but I stayed for a few brief songs before taking in the sounds from the comfort of my camp site.  Being able to relax in the woods and still have all of the music be perfectly audible is just another one of the fantastic perks of Shakori.  Shortly after Keller and The McCoury's ended I headed back to Carson's Grove to see Onward, Soldiers as their raw Americana tunes provided a sharp burst of energy to the evening.  Rambling through favorites like "Watery Grave" and "Monsters" Onward, Soldiers captivated the crowd with their energetic set of gritty and powerful tunes.  After Onward, Soldiers tore down the house at Carson's Grove I passed on the festival's staple set of Donna The Buffalo and headed back to the campsite where I ended up making the biggest mistake of the weekend and falling asleep before I got the chance to see Diali Cissokho.  I was kicking myself all weekend for missing this Dance Tent set, but thankfully I got to make it up with their second set later on in the weekend.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Big Boi, Local Natives, John Cale and nearly 172 others to play Hopscotch 2013

Big Boi will be headlining Hopscotch 2013
Performing Friday, September 6th at City Plaza
Since its inception Hopscotch has been a festival filled with diversity.  From Panda Bear to Public Enemy, Flaming Lips to Guided By Voices, and The Roots to Built To Spill, we've seen a wide variety of acts grace the now 15 stages that make up the Hopscotch Music Festival.  Each year we've see bigger names, deeper lineups and a consistent focus on local music and 2013 proves to amplify each of these aspects.  This morning the Hopscotch lineup was released to an eager audience that have let out a collective cry of joy over what many are calling the best lineup yet.

While many festivals boast the same acts, Hopscotch is built around unique experiences.  Concert goers can experience sets at Hopscotch that simply aren't possible anywhere else on the festival circuit.  Whether it be The Breeders' Last Splash set or The Rosebuds cover of Sade's Love Deluxe, Hopscotch contains one of a kind sets from some of the finest active, and even inactive acts.  Whether it be a seldom seen set from the stoner-metal pioneers of Sleep or the eclectic lineup of Gross Ghost followed by Future Islands followed by Big Boi at City Plaza, Hopscotch provides a bit of something for everyone.

Tickets for Hopscotch are on-sale now with a 3-Day Pass at $125 and a VIP pass at $180.  Single-day passes will be available in June, but quite frankly passing up on such an incredible weekend at such a phenomenal price would be a huge mistake.  I'm already absurdly excited for September, between Earl Sweatshirt, Action Bronson, Local Natives and countless other acts I know this is going to be yet another unforgettable weekend.  The full lineup can be found below:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Shakori Spotlight: The Beast

The Beast will be performing at Meadow Stage
on Friday night at 12:30 and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
If one were to give out awards for outstanding performances at Shakori Hills, we might as well go ahead and hand over the weekend's MVP award to The Beast.  It's hard not to be impressed by the jazz driven hip-hop crew, their unrestrained live act is filled with sharp lyricism and tight rhythms.  The Beast makes music for the mind and the body as their lively instrumentation compels concertgoers to let the music flow through them.  MC Pierce Freelon's words seem to morph into an instrument of their own, careening through adventurous vocal patterns that are lined with exuberant imagery.   And this is The Beast on a regular night!  The two sets that the group will be playing at this Spring's Shakori will be far from, "regular".

On Friday night the group will be returning to the Meadow Stage for a performance of massive proportions.  The Beast will be joined by a special Big Band, adding in horns, strings and percussion to the already eclectic mixture of sounds.  A Big Band performance sounds like the ideal experience for an act as expansive as this one.  The Beast's dynamics are already a huge part of their music, and with a wider spectrum of sounds to cover, all of the group's nuances will be more defined.  The group will take the stage at 12:30 on Friday night and will most likely play until the wee hours of the morning for a crowd of anxious listeners.  Whether you're at the foot of the stage or at fireside in the woods, these accomplished jazz musicians will eloquently weave together the introspective intelligence of their lyricism with the primal appeal of their bombastic rhythms to make festival goers dance their night away.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hear Here: April 12-17

Show of the Week: Wavves @ Kings Barcade
Sunday April 14
Friday April 12
Lonnie Walker w/ Oulipo @ Harris Field on NCSU Campus in Raleigh, NC
When you combine WKNC, Lonnie Walker, Oulipo and free food there is literally no way to lose.  While the event will most likely have to be moved to the Wolves Den at Talley Student Center due to the impending doom of a thunderstorm, that will make no difference in how wonderful this show will be.  I've been waiting for what feels like ages to see Lonnie Walker once again, and from what I've heard their return at Kings was something truly special.  Combine the long awaited return of Lonnie Walker with the exciting live act of Oulipo and you've got a recipe for a fantastic experience.  Oh, did I mention it's free?

Mount Moriah w/ Mac McCaughan & Airstrip @ Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC
$10 in advance/$12 at the door
On the heels of a fantastic sophomore full-length, Mount Moriah will be playing a massive show at Cat's Cradle on Friday.  Joined by Mac McCaughan of Superchunk and the booming indie rock of Aitstrip, it's going to be a night filled with exciting music from diverse acts.  Miracle Temple was an album that displayed dynamic growth for Mount Moriah, getting to see these new tracks live will be a fantastic live experience.  Mount Moriah's shows are so special because Heather McEntire's vocals just ooze with passion.  Her voice is commanding, so much that it's hard not to focus all of your attention on the visceral live show that you're experiencing.  There's some shows where you'll find disenfranchised concert goers glued to cell phones and chatting amongst themselves, but Mount Moriah compels you to put down those phones and connect with their powerful songs.  That's what makes their shows show special, their ability to connect with the crowd through sheer talent.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Bottom String Compilation Vol. 1

After a long wait the day is finally here!  I'm incredibly appreciative of all of the wonderful artists who were gracious enough to contribute their music for this compilation.  It's been a long time coming, and while some tracks that I adored didn't make the cut for complicated reasons I'm still very proud to present these eleven songs from some of my favorite North Carolina artists.

As a preface to this, there was a gorgeous Baobab track that was slotted for this compilation that wasn't available for streaming on Soundcloud due to copyright issues with Hand Eye Records.  Sadly the business side gets tied up in these things sometimes, but alas you can soak up the entrancing sounds of "Ganymede" below:

For the rest of the tracks though you can look towards our Soundcloud page.  Since January I've been contacting local acts from across North Carolina and requesting them to contribute tracks, be they old or new for this compilation.  The reception was overwhelming to say the least.  On top of my favorite musicians contributing tracks, the incredibly talented Dan Barbour lended a hand in the project as well by producing the beautiful artwork (which is actually hanging in my room now.)

I must thank everyone involved once again for their contributions.  It's been a treat putting this release together and I can't wait to bring you more!  Below you can find the entire tracklist with a brief summary of the artists.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shakori Spotlight: Noot D'Noot

Noot D'Noot plays at Carson's Grove on
Friday April 19 at 11:00 p.m.
One of Shakori's greatest draws is the quality of their late night shows.  Notorious for high-energy sets from a vast array of genres, there's no telling what to expect when the lineup is released.  But whenever you see a familiar face at the festival you can't help but feel elated.  That's what happened when I saw that Noot D'Noot would be performing this Spring.  Noot D'Noot is a band that I first saw opening for Of Montreal at The Cat's Cradle back in high school.  I knew my vision of the band was probably flawed, even though I still looked back on that set fondly.  High school Grant just didn't have the best musical tastes.

However, The show I experienced in the dance tent at Shakori 2011 from Noot D'Noot was unlike anything I could have imagined.  Noot D'Noot seized my attention from their first note, their soulfully funky sounds proved to be one of the high points of the weekend.  The eight-piece crew commands the stage with soaring horns and enough excitement to compel even the lamest of squares to dance their hearts out.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Shakori Spotlight: Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba

Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba will be performing
on Thursday April 18 and Sunday April 21 at Shakori Hills
There's two weeks left until Spring Shakori begins and if you're anything at all like me then you've been counting down the days since you left the gorgeous farmlands last fall.  This year's lineup boasts a powerful, diverse lineup filled with mesmerizing acts from all over the globe.  While it's always great to check out your favorite locals performing, one of the joys of the festival is the new sounds that you can immerse yourself in.  Never in a million years would I have imagined myself blissfully dancing to the sounds of Arrested Development at the first Shakori I attended.

I shared a similar experience the first time I saw Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba.  The tantalizing sounds of Cissokho's kora lured me into a trance, I was lost in the foreign yet focused sounds that were coming from this vivacious group.  I look around the stage and spotted Jonathan Henderson of Midtown Dickens rocking the upright bass and was perplexed to realize that this was a North Carolina act.  Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba combine the best parts of Shakori, a fantastic local act that has the capacity of taking you to a far-away land like that of Cissokho's home of Senegal.  Diali brings his traditional West African influence into this group, expanding the Carolina music horizons by bridging these cultural gaps between Western and non-Western music.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Bottom String Compilation Vol. 1 to be released April 9th

The Bottom String Compilation Vol. 1
will be released on April 9, 2013
Artwork by Dan Barbour
No, this isn't some poorly organized April Fools joke.  Next Tuesday I will finally release the long-awaited, heavily labored over compilation that features some of my absolute favorite up and coming artists in the state.  It's been a mighty long, but incredibly invigorating process of getting all of these tracks together but I'm so excited to share all of this with you guys.  While it may be coming a bit later than expected, it's given me an actual grasp on how long it can take to get these things together!

When I started The Bottom String I did it because I wanted to be able to share the local music that I love with people I care about.  Nearly three years have passed since then and this has blossomed into something far greater than I could have imagined and it brings me great amounts of pride to know that so many people care about this incredibly talented crew of musicians that call North Carolina home.  While this may be the first compilation we release, it certainly won't be the last!  It's been an absolute joy to create conversation between musicians and fans within the area and I hope to continue this process for many years to come.