Thursday, October 30, 2014

Show Preview: The “Bow Down” Tour feat. Denzel Curry & Deniro Farrar

Denzel Curry & Deniro Farrar
Many people may say hip-hop is dead, and that is true if you have been listening to anything on the radio. There's no depth in pop-rap, it's just a bunch of kids that want to drink Cristal or hang with Jay-Z. Who doesn't want to do that? However, there are many up-and-coming rappers that have been making a name for themselves with meaningful lyrics over some fire beats. Two rappers that have been essential in the resurrection of the rap-game are Denzel Curry and Deniro Farrar.

My first experience with Charlotte-local Deniro Farrar was at Kennedy Theatre at Hopscotch this year. His set was right before Lunice, so the atmosphere was already quite 'turnt'. We were warmed up with one of tonight's openers, Body Games, who had a special guest, join them on their visualizer, Jonah Hill. Another of tonight's openers, Well$, joined Body Games on stage for one song as well, something I'm sure we'll see some of tonight. The only set I was not excited about though was Deniro Farrar, however, my assumptions were shattered when he hit the stage. Although the crowd wasn't enormous, it felt like the room was packed wall to wall as he threw down several bangers. Deniro has also collaborated with several well-known producers including Ryan Hemsworth and Flosstradamus. He's released 5 studio albums over the course of the past four years, and even released an EP earlier this year, Rebirth. If you have been sleeping on Deniro, you need to wake up and check him out!

The other rapper on the 'Bow Down' Tour is Denzel Curry. The 19-year-old Floridian released his debut album, Nostalgic 64, over a year ago. He got his start by posting his first mixtape on SpaceGhostPurrp's Facebook page, and since then, his fanbase has grown exponentially. He collaborated with Deniro for the first time this year with their track "Bow Down". Soon after they announced the 'Bow Down' Tour which is making a stop at the Cat's Cradle Backroom tonight. The two rappers have a stacked opening line-up with several local acts including, JK The Reaper, Duru Tha King, Well$, Body Games [cancelled], and Big Whiskey.

The show starts at 8:00 and doors open at 7:00. Tickets are $15 in advance and at the door. Check out the video for Deniro Farrar and Denzel Curry's "Bow Down" below and purchase tickets here:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Show Preview: Temples w/ Spires at Cat's Cradle

2014 boasts a strange musical landscape to say the least. The internet is currently exploding over a cat-centric remix of a snarling hip-hop album, and those that aren't may be slyly soaking in the new Taylor Swift album or something of that ilk. Basically the spectrum of possibilities for a "buzz-band" are endless, and thanks to folks like Tame Impala it's kind of become cool to harken back to the simplistic psych-rock of old. Not to say that acts like Temples are blasé by any means, but there's something about the band that feels far less niched than their contemporaries. There's no strange oddities or tweaked out, pitch changed oscillating vocals, just straight forward pop-tinged psych-rock. And frankly that's what has become so enjoyable about this band.

Temples released their debut full-length, Sun Structures,  back in February and since then have been gradually building acclaim as one of the "best new bands out of Britain," according to folks like Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher. Temples take what feels like an old sonic trope, the swirling guitars, simplistic melodies and soaring synths of yore, but puts a contemporary twist on them. While their musical pallet may not rival the likes of the aforementioned Tame Impala or the personality found within acts like Foxygen, Temples still do a damn fine job of capturing the nostalgia of Revolver-era Beatles and spitting out new subject matter for a generation of fans that may not be as privy to the music from decades past.

Sure one could say that Temples isn't the most original act around, there's not a ton of defining factors within their music that makes them characteristically them, but just because their tracks may be devoid of an outstanding personality doesn't make them bland or uninteresting. Frankly artists like Temples are essential, their songs are aesthetically pleasing and certainly lend themselves to a live setting, where lyrical content may not reign supreme but the melodies that carry those lyrics make all the difference. Which is truly where Temples shines, they can write a memorable hook and make it mesh brilliantly with their wistful instrumentation.

Spires will serve as an awesome dip into the psychedelic pool as well, following in a similar musical trajectory, Spires draw upon the psychedelic rock of the 60s to churn out a fresh sound that's all their own. This Brooklyn based band will provide an interesting dichotomy to see how region effects influence, they're making remarkably similar music to Temples but are doing so from an entirely different area, thus drawing upon a wide array of influences that Temples may not have delved into.

The show starts at 8:30 pm with doors opening at 7:30. Tickets are $16 in advance and $18 at the door. Check out the video for Temples' "Shelter Song" below and purchase tickets here:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Collection share live performance of "The Middle One"

The Collection will perform in Charlotte at
The Visulite Theatre on Saturday Oct. 25
I'll never forget the feeling of elation that overcame me when I heard the opening notes of The Collection's self-titled EP. A faint banjo rolls slowly through your ears, repeating its refrain as David Wimbish's delicate, warbly vocals sneak their way in to the minimalistic track. As subtle harmonies slowly build the song erupts into a brilliantly orchestrated display of shameless emotionality and spirituality. The Collection may draw much of their lyrical content from religious subject matter, but it's not an exclusive act, as the emotions and imagery evoked from this powerful music can touch the spiritual and secular alike.

This past year the band has begun to blossom in ways that even the most dedicated fan could have never guessed. Upon the release of Ars Moriendi this past July, the band began to receive a lot more national attention. Their record premiered on AV Club which lead to a whole slew of new outlets and listeners finding out about this once overlooked act. Since then they've been branching out of their quaint little pocket of North Carolina and hitting the road to spread their joyful, triumphant songs and today marks the first day of their latest outing.

To kick off this month-long string of dates, The Collection is sharing a wonderfully intimate performance that was recorded in Chicago this past August. The band prefaced their time in the city by claiming that they "were not expecting things to go great" since it was their first show in Chicago, but a few songs into their set they see fans shouting along to every word, something that frankly is hard not to do once you grow acquainted with this act. And naturally, as the road is want to do, these devoted onlookers became friends and cohorts of The Collection, letting the band crash in their studio and filming a gorgeous, sparse performance of "The Middle One," a track from Ars Moriendi. Check out the band's performance below and be sure to catch them on tour if they're stopping through your city:

The Collection Tour Dates:
23 - Elkins Park Train Station in Philadelphia, PA
24 - Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, NY
25 - Visulite Theatre in Charlotte, NC
30 - Off Broadway in St. Louis, MO

3 - The State Room in Salt Lake City, UT
5 - Old Saint Francis in Bend, OR
6 - Tractor Tavern in Seattle, WA
9 - Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR
11 - Rickshaw stop in San Francisco, CA
12 - Harlows in Sacramento, CA
13 - Radiant Church in Visalia, CA
14 - Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA
16 - Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Show Review: The War on Drugs w/ Peter Matthew Bauer

The War on Drugs performed at Haw River Ballroom on
Friday, October 17
The night started out slow. Familiar for Haw River Ballroom. Long walk from the car to the door, grab a beer past the entrance, decent crowd, not too many yet we’re too far from all the major cities. Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why. Peter Matthew Bauer started the occasion. I expected a lot of Bauer—something gentle and soothing as compared to his prior sounds with The Walkmen. I had heard he’d been studying astrology, offering readings on his website for 150 a pop, the older rock star finding peace and I was excited to see how his live set would reverberate his experience.

Bauer had a 50’s vibe, surf rock mixed with indie pop and just the slightest dash of psych rock. For me it all clicked with his track “I was born in an Ashram.” Bauer has never been a vocalist; in this track I started to see whats been on his mind all those bass-thumping years. As he chanted with band in tow “let’s leave it behind, the future is ours, let’s leave it behind, all that we say, let’s leave it behind, nothing’s illusion.” I heard the triumphant dirge of a rock star bent on striking his own chord, forming a band whose frontman would sing the songs he had been holding inside. Bauer didn’t disappoint. By the time his set was winding up, the room was full of people eager to defy Kozelek and get to a The War on Drugs show. Bauer had set the room up right. Beers flowed, old friends embraced, the haw river’s characteristic “thrills” signed pointed to a stage that promised we’d see something between psych rock and indie pop hit the stage in 1!5, maybe 20 minutes.

What to say about seeing The War on Drugs. As a wise man once said, “If you can do a half- assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.” The War on Drugs offered up tunes, but it wasn’t my favorite show (or second favorite show) that I’d seen that week. There was no consensus among the crowd. Seemingly half-hearted woo’s sounded periodically, signifying that one song had ended and another would no doubt soon begin. Some of the people around me would leave, allowing others to shuffle forward. I myself left before the encore, by the time they played "Red Eye," third or fourth song, a characteristic hit, I felt like I had gotten a sense of the whole show I would see from then on.

I may be drunk on our local music scene, starving for each show to radiate an intensity of wonder, musicians amazed at the supportive scene they play to here in Central NC. For this reviewer, The War on Drugs lacked this intensity. Not to say they were bad, they certainly weren’t. The instruments played were played well, the band’s sound was cohesive. It was that I had come expectant of a psych rock show—a genre quite open for interpretation and my personal favorite. I had heard The War on Drugs associated with the sounds of bands like Woods, Spiritualized, The Beta Band, etc. By the time they hit "Red Eye," I was losing interest in the live show which offered very rehearsed performances of studio tracks. The drum beats were kept simple, the instrumental breaks and guitar solos were played exactly similar to studio recordings. If that’s your type of thing, I would highly recommend a The War on Drugs show. If it’s not, the show may still be worth checking out, you’ll hear familiar songs and be able to put faces and movements to a sound, but it won’t be the best show you see that week.

-Joe Wright

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Show Review: Shakori Hills Fall 2014

Paperhand Puppet Intervention Harvest Parade
Every festival one attends has the capacity of becoming a learning experience. Many learn their limits, like how much music you can fit into one day or how many tacos you can eat in one sitting. Many learn how willing they are to stand in the middle of a rain storm to see a band they've never heard of, but for some reason strangely connect with at this point in time. But most importantly a lot of folks learn how to let go of the little things, kick off your shoes and run around in the mud, and soak in the joys of humanity. Shakori Hills is a festival that celebrates all things good in life, music, friends, family, arts and crafts, food, beer, diversity. Really the list goes on. From all around the country folks travel to this 74-acre farm that becomes a temporary mecca for people from all walks of life. Walk around the woods in the middle of the day and you're liable to find a man with peppered grey hair and a braided beard discussing music, life and everything in between with a group of drunken twenty-somethings covered in dirt. Take another turn in the same woods and you can find a couple making french toast for any festivalgoer that's willing to sing them a song. It's a place where everyone feels at home, everyone feels like family and most importantly, everyone can get down.

Whether you spent your days on a back and forth dash between tents, posted up in a lawn chair in the middle of a field, or huddled up in your campsite recovering from the night before, you've got memories and experiences you'll likely cherish for the rest of your life. Getting the chance to see members of Lost in the Trees, Loamlands, Sylvan Esso and Butterflies on stage all at once leading a massive singalong to Lionel Ritchie's "All Night Long," is something that will always stick with me. I got to watch a fur-coat clad Jonny Tunnel lead a trap-fueled dance party inside of the same tent that I saw Frank Fairfield performing hundred year old songs with a fiddle and banjo in tow. Shakori Hills provides an opportunity for people to get out of their comfort zone and listen to something they may not have heard before or befriend a stranger because you obviously enjoy the same music. It's a place where you can gladly fit fifteen people underneath an E-Z UP because it may or may not be hailing, but that doesn't matter because you'll likely be seeing music in another half hour anyways.

This isn't particularly a very conventional festival review, but Shakori isn't really a conventional festival either. Sure there's plenty of absolutely incredible acts that performed throughout the festival's four stages throughout the weekend. Lobo Marino put on a riveting performance at Carsons Grove that blended enchanting instrumentation with passionate, soul-shaking vocals. Lowland Hum somehow made a stomp box feel like a cannonball as they punctuated their heartfelt tunes with brisk, sharp knocks on the wood beneath their feet. Laura Reed put on an R&B clinic, from the moment she began her soundcheck to the end of her star-studded set that featured members of Chit Nasty Band, Saints Apollo, The Beast and more, she had the crowd dancing and shouting along to every song in a joyous fashion. Dark Water Rising, as always, kicked the early afternoon on Saturday into high gear. The band started out with their anthemic song "Love Me" one that always draws folks in thanks to Charly Lowry's soaring vocals and unforgettable melodies. By the time you sprint out of the woods to see what's going on you can see people bouncing around in a field with drinks, hoops and smiles aplenty. Fans drew in close and the show continued to connect with more and more people as the crowd gradually grew. Of course after Dark Water Rising came another one of the festival's highlights, the puppet parade. Lead by an ensemble of local musicians with horns and drums and batons, a seemingly endless line of children, teens and adults alike don absurd masks and carry towering puppets throughout the festival grounds in one of the zaniest yet enjoyable parades I've ever seen. That led into another gorgeous main stage performance from Swear & Shake with absolutely perfect weather conditions.

So obviously there was a lot to love musically about Shakori, but that's only what brings everyone onto the campgrounds. But don't get me wrong the lineup is continually stellar, it features some of the most impressive musicians I see throughout each year of shows. But it's not the lineup that keeps people coming back to this festival tucked away in Chatham County, it's the people. It's the sights and sounds and smells. It's the memories you've made and the ones in progress. It's the experience of shedding yourself of your real world problems, putting life on pause, and simply getting back to your roots. And it's the duck tots. Always the duck tots.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Show Preview: Shakori Hills Fall 2014

Once again we've stumbled upon that serendipitous time that rolls around twice a year. A time where we're sitting comfortably between two seasons with a crisp breeze to ease us into our transitions, where the leaves haven't quite turned or blossomed, but the promise lingers. There's a sense of eagneress and excitement in the air for what's to come, but most importantly theres a weekend long adventure to a place where your worries are left at the mud-covered lot that you've parked your car. Somehow every Spring and Fall Shakori Hills creeps up on me, almost as if I've lost all concept of time and didn't realize that this thing happens once every six months.  Shakori Hills is a congregation of like-minded individuals on a scenic farmland with one sole purpose, to enjoy the beauty of those around us. Whether that beauty be the constant rhythms of a washboard that echoes throughout the woods or the joy of children's laughter as they flippantly chase around bubbles larger than their heads, it's hard not to get wrapped up in the culture of Shakori Hills. Whether you spend your weeks inside of a cubicle or out on the road living out your wanderlust dreams, you're just as likely to call the lands of Shakori Hills home. And that's because of the people, the family, the community that exists inside of these 74-acres.

When you become a part of a such a tightly knit festival community, you can become a bit enchanted by it, perhaps lose sight of how wonderful an event it truly is. It becomes second nature, twice a year you post up in the woods and soak in the sights and sounds of a seemingly foreign land that may be a little more than half an hour away from your snug apartment building. Rarely do you actually consider how truly special it is that there's such an eclectic, but welcoming group of people. When you've got acts like Frank Fairfield sharing the bill with a tribal-house DJ and know full well that you'll likely see some of the same people at both shows, you've come across something unique and indescribable. That's what gets folks so excite for this semi-annual festival, theres as much diversity as their is continuity. You could exclusively see bluegrass if that's something you're into, you could learn hand drum from internationally acclaimed musicians inside of a circus-esque tent. There's a myriad of opportunities abound at Shakori, and within this post we'll outline some of our most excited acts of the weekend.

Thursday at Shakori is always a nice way to ease into the marathon of the weekend. Music doesn't start until 5:00 pm, so there's plenty of time to set up a campsite, get yourself acquainted with the lay of the land and still have time to hang out and meet your neighbors before the tunes even kick off. Acts like Milkweed and Steph Steward and the Boyfriends will warrant early trips down to the stages, but things really start to get essential once The Duhks take the Meadow Stage at 8:30. The Duhks are near the head of a new-grass movement that blends bluegrass sentiments with exciting elements of various other genres to make for a high-energy excursion through unfamiliar musical territory. From here it's a bit of a toss-up, as both AJ Ghent and Adrienne Mack-Davis will be performing again on Friday, but Lobo Marino will have their sole performance of the weekend. While Ghent and Mack-Davis will surely have entertaining sets, it'll likely be a better to move to check them out later on Friday night, especially since Lobo Marino will be bringing some entrancing experimental folk music to the Cabaret Tent at 10:00. If Donna is your thing, you'll likely bounce out of Lobo Marino early, but I'd recommend staying throughout the set and checking out AstroHawk, the first of the weekends electronic artists. Boasting a promising blend of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, I'm knowingly staying in the dark on this musician, as I find that acts like this at Shakori are best experienced live rather than sitting at home on your couch.

Ah, the day that always kicks off way earlier than you feel it should. Usually there's a stellar band kicking things off bright and early on the Meadow Stage and this fall it's no different as Asheville's Woody Pines brings swing-style Americana that assures a riotous time for all brave enough to stumble forth from their campsite into the early morning haze of Shakori. However, after Woody Pines it's best to kind of bounce around and see what best fits your festival needs. Maybe it's hanging out at your campsite and immersing yourself in the community, perhaps it's a drum or hooping workshop in the dance tent. Either way you're likely to fill your time with smiles and good vibes while you wait for the gorgeous sounds of Lowland Hum to fill the air at 4:30 pm. Bringing a stompbox for percussion and two stunning voices that work in perfect unison, Lowland Hum is a local duo that's been receiving some heavy acclaim from outlets like NPR thanks to their beautiful folk music. After Lowland Hum there's a brief lull followed by the equally impressive Loamlands, another folk-centric duo that's done a bit of expanding since their last project of Midtown Dickens. Those bluegrassy days are over now though, as Kym Register and Will Hackney boast a combination of acoustics and electrics to craft sometimes haunting, sometimes uplifting roots-driven songs. After Loamlands though is when things get a bit hectic again. A wide array of sounds are on display across the farm from acts like The Flying Clouds of South Carolina to the boogie-driven blues of North Mississippi All-Stars, so it's best to hop to and fro and see what best fits your needs for the evening. It's probably a good idea to duck out of North Mississippi early to see Adrienne Mack-Davis if you didn't catch her electric take on live hip-hop, but Liquid Sound could be equally exciting for some folks. A rest at the campsite for AJ Ghent seems likely, as Camp Honeybadger is conveniently close to the Meadow Stage, but after that it's full force marathon mode for the Southern rock of Jack The Radio, the soulful grooves of Laura Reed, the indescribable latin-funk of Suenaló and lastly the highly anticipated beat-driven dance party brought forth by Spirit Posse, the new project of Jonny Tunnell (of The Never/The Big Picture).

If somehow you can muster up enough energy to roll out of your tent for Yoga at 9:00 am, it can be a really riveting experience. I stumbled through it this past Spring and felt as awake and invigorated as I was hungover and sore. But so it goes. You may just want to hang around camp until the early afternoon rolls around and that unforgettable voice of Charly Lowry belts out through the woods as Dark Water Rising takes the stage. Combining soulful roots with traditional instrumentation and rich harmonies, Dark Water Rising is the perfect Shakori band to take the stage early afternoon on a Saturday, especially considering they're right before the famous puppet parade. Immerse yourself in this zany puppet experience, there's children in ridiculous masks, massive puppets that whisk by the trees and a band at the front of the pack leading the rowdy troop through the festival grounds. Don't stray too far from Meadow Stage though, because Swear & Shake will prove to be one of the weekend's highlights with their poppy take on folk-rock. Washed in harmonies and driven by some stunning vocal performances, Swear & Shake will strike the core of you as a festivalgoer and leave you compelled to check out the whole set, a true feat at Shakori if you ask me. From here it's worth checking out Lowland Hum if you haven't already, then trekking over to Shannon Whitworth, one of the state's most underrated songwriters. Whitworth's sultry vocals display a wide range and showcase an impressive songwriting ability that will likely result in another standout performance of the festival.

After that would likely be the perfect time to hit up one of the incredible food vendors if you haven't already, there's a wide variety of things to check out, whether it be Korean tacos, Indian food, those heavenly duckfat tater tots or some good ol' greasy pizza, you'll find something worth shoving down your gullet. From here you can catch your obligatory Donna The Buffalo set or perhaps get into the swing dance workshop taking place around the same time. Either way, you'd be a fool to miss out on Auxiliary House, a brilliant combination of some of the areas most talented musicians. It's a Trekky supergroup of sorts that knows how to take some standard songs and turn them into an unforgettable live experience thanks to their incredible showmanship and charisma. Nahko & Medicine For The People will be an excellent way to transition from this inclusive Trekky dance party, as they'll surely have a communal vibe of their own going on at their Meadow Stage performance. From here it's another toss-up based on your genre preference. It'll be crucial to check out some of this late-night performance, when I saw him perform in the gorgeous Haw River Ballroom years back it left me awestruck at his talents, it'll likely be a similar display to this partied-out but attentive crew of festival goers. It'll be pretty important to catch some of The Soul Rebels as well though, a promising combination of 8 widely talented musicians that form a New Orleans brass band fused with hip-hop and soul. Lastly, the attendees will choose between a fork in the road of experiences, take the whiskey-soaked gypsy-inspired folk songs of Ellis Dyson & The Shambles or dance until your brain spills out of your ears DJ Bill Kelly, Telekinetic Walrus and DJ Richard McVay. Either way everyone wins!

The day of reckoning, where everyone zombie walks to the porto-potties slowly realizing that their 4-day vacation is swiftly coming to an end. Folks are gradually packing up and heading out, new friends are exchanging contact numbers and helping out with the load-out and folks are napping the grass to attempt and transition back into the 9-to-5 grind. Lynda & Patty will be a nice rustic beginning to this low-key day of performances, especially since Frank Fairfield will follow immediately after. Things are fairly back and forth throughout the day until Wassa Pan Afrika Dance Ensemble takes the Meadow Stage at 4:00 pm. A Sunday afternoon world music set at Shakori is the stuff of legends, there's a particular energy throughout the crowd that just can't be denied, it's absolutely something you must check out before you depart for the day. After that there's a few more chances to check out some of the sprawling performers like Elastic Bond, The Duhks and Telekinetic Walrus, but most will post up throughout the night at the iconic Donna & Friends All Star Revue. I for one will be heading out early to check out Flying Lotus at the Cat's Cradle, topping off a positively beautiful weekend, but I'd highly recommend staying as long as your body will allow you to at this beautiful, whimsical land known at Shakori Hills.