Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Show Review: Drumstrong Rhythm & Arts Festival

Drumstrong's 24-Hour Drum Circle Kick-Off

It takes a lot for a music festival to come together, especially one of a multi-day magnitude. The lineup has to be just right, the pacing has to match the tone of the weekend, the promotion has to do its job, the festival grounds should be welcoming and easy on the get the picture. It may seem to be as easy as throwing a stage and a handful of bands together, but it's far from that. Drumstrong knows that, they've held their day-long event for years on end now, but the 2014 installation marks the first expanded year of the event. From Friday to Sunday the Misty Meadows Farm was home to dozens of incredible acts from both locally and nationally acclaimed artists, fans gradually poured in throughout the weekend and by the end of the event it had evolved into a drum-fueled bonanza of brilliant music for an excellent cause. But the best laid plans don't always make for the best events, while Drumstrong boasted a mighty impressive lineup it seems like the festival is still getting its jitters out.

Junior Astronomers
It's hard to put a finger on what felt so out of place throughout the weekend, maybe it was the $900,000 homes across the street from the pseudo-hippy festival, maybe it was the stringent searches upon entry or perhaps it was the hard festival set limits that left acts like Marley Carroll cramming their tunes into a half-hour slot. Either way, something felt a bit off about the three-day event that persisted throughout the weekend. Upon arrival on Friday evening the farmlands seemed bare, with thirty or so people standing around haphazardly swaying to the music. However, once Junior Astronomers took the stage things gradually came to life. The boisterous post-punk crew played an even mix of newer tracks from their debut full-length Dead Nostalgia and a few from their previous EPs. Festivalgoers were somehow hooping along to the jaunty rhythms while others bounced along and shouted along to Terence Richard's throaty melodies. The night mostly followed fairly cohesive order as the more melodic but sonically similar Charlotte crew of HRVRD took the stage. Miami Dice served as a bridge between the rhythmic, melody-driven punk and the dance-based acts of the evening. Miami Dice came with stage dancers in tow, but at this point of the night it felt like the crowd had kind of clocked out. A handful of folks would rush to the barriers to grab the free PBR hats thrown out throughout the weekend, but most would swiftly retreat back to their lawn chairs or the beer garden near the stage after that. When I saw roughly twenty people slowly crowding in for the evening's headliner Marley Carroll, I questioned the vibe we'd have throughout the rest of the weekend. The sound guy got cranky and the set started around 20 minutes later than anticipated, resulting in a truncated set from the incredibly impressive Asheville-based producer. Regardless of time constraints or disappointing turnouts, Carroll was hamming it up as he remixed his dazzling productions.

Marley Carroll
Friday was an odd kick-off to say the least, and as I arrived to the farm late Saturday morning I wasn't feeling much more optimistic. A small crowd gathered near the stage for Bombadil while others were dispersed throughout the farmlands at picnic tables and community painted walls. However, as the day went on the crowd grew in numbers to the point where things finally started to get a bit more of a communal vibe. Triangle favorites like The Love Language and Lost in the Trees played sets filled with fan favorites for those that baked in the sun for their stunning sets. Halfway through the afternoon The Mantras took the stage and seemingly turned on the excitement for those in attendance. Jam-bands are frankly not my thing, but the Weddington crowd seemed enamored by the band. As a matter of fact more folks seemed to be at the festival just to see the evenings main draw Railroad Earth than any other act of the weekend. The afternoon took a rootsy turn as Futurebirds took the stage and the dusty vibes continued throughout local favorites American Aquarium and Chatham County Line. I knew Saturday would be the easy highlight of the weekend, and obviously the other attendees did as well. By the time Kopecky Family Band and The Felice Brothers took the stage, the crowd was packing in tight and gradually building in excitement. Things took a downward turn for those that don't dig the jam-vibes after the Felice Brothers though. Railroad Earth brought their contemporary twist on bluegrass with blend of expansive tunes that border between traditionalism and jam-based. Yo Moma's Big Fat Booty Band is where I drew the line though. While I love checking out new music, especially acts steeped in the funk, I'd had enough noodling for the evening and trekked back to the hotel for the evening.

The Felice Brothers
Sunday as a whole proved to be a nice low-key closing for this unique festival. Few acts on the lineup were of huge interest to me, so the crew trekked to IKEA to kill some time throughout the late morning hours. It was arguably the best and worst decision I made all weekend. However, acts like Elonzo, The New Familiars, Overmountain Men and Dom Flemons made the day all worthwhile. Sunday's bill was a bit indicative of the entire festival, there's some truly impressive acts peppered in with some that I could really do without seeing. Overall though the music throughout the weekend was pretty great, but to quote the great Kanye West..."the vibe is wrong." A three-day camping festival that's held in a city with the 3rd highest median income of North Carolina just feels odd. I literally had an event staff member tell me that "I looked out of place" as I came in amidst the sea of Range Rover driving teenagers and croakie-wearing attendees. Folks were double-taking at the VIP wristbands the press had, a few aggressively stopped and grabbed at us to make sure we were actually VIPs, and all in all the short set times made the flow of the festival feel a bit too disjointed.

But don't get me wrong, Drumstrong serves an excellent purpose and they brought a lot of excellent music to some folks that probably weren't familiar with them at all. It's an incredibly affordable festival that benefits cancer organizations, but it wasn't as warm and welcoming as the other festivals I've attended. There were no random festi-friends made, people weren't as outgoing and carefree as events like Shakori and the rules were rather extensive on the grounds. Regardless, the festival holds bukus of potential and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Artist Feature: Dom Flemons

Dom Flemons performs at Drumstrong Rhythm &
Arts Festival outside of Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday,
May 18.
In the past decade few North Carolina acts have risen to the level of fame that Carolina Chocolate Drops have. Formed in 2005, the trio popularized old traditional songs and brought forth a new era of the rootsy folk aesthetic for the North Carolina music scene. In 2010 the group won a Grammy for their stellar album Genuine Negro Jig, but shortly after their newfound fame one of their founding members, Justin Robinson left the group to pursue solo endeavors. In the years since the group's Grammy award-winning album, the lineup has shifted in various directions, but their sound has mostly remained fairly static. Perhaps thats why multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons has taken the Robinson route and left the group to release his own solo work as well. The split was announced late last year, and while founding member Rhiannon Giddens still remains in the group, a vast amount of attention is now pointed towards Flemons and his forthcoming solo debut Prospect Hill.

"Even though I founded the Carolina Chocolate Drops," Flemon says "there are parts of my musical personality that people have not seen because when you play in a group the group is always the main goal. It’s a team." Now that Flemons has struck out on his own though, fans can expect a marked departure from his work with the Chocolate Drops. Granted there will still be a heavy focus on traditionalism, but Prospect Hill finds Flemons trekking into new territory. "There's a little more jazz on this album," Flemons remarks. He goes on to add that he's even included a few of his own songs, something that fans never got the chance to see with his work in the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

"I always saw that the bigger cause for the group was to promote black string bands and show that piece of American history. In my own mind I never really wanted to write songs as much as let the history speak for itself because I personally find that to be a stronger artistic statement than anything I could just make up on my own." But now Flemons says he seeks to "find a balance" between interpretations on classic tunes and his own original material.

But when so much of your popularity comes from your roots driven debuts, that balance may be hard to find. However, Flemons seems to do so effortlessly. Throughout his nearly ten years in the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons and his cohorts were re-contextualizing these lost gems of American music while incorporating their own contemporary spin on the tunes. Flemons speaks fondly of his musical upbringing, although he was born and raised in Arizona he seems deeply connected to the music of the south. Flemons mentions coming across older musicians who had been playing blues "for two and sometimes three times [his] age." These run-ins coupled with countless fiddling conventions and a deep appreciation for the narratives found within traditional music pushed Flemons towards this timeless genre.

"Although I love traditional music I am not stuck in a time warp," Flemons says. "People get it confused. A lot of times they think that when you interpret old music that you have to be old to do it. But that’s just not true. I am 31 years old and I have a style that I like and I go with it." And thanks to Flemons "going with it," an entirely new generation of listeners have become privy to the rich culture that's buried within these old-timey songs. However, don't get too entrenched in the past, as the new tunes from Prospect Hill promise to be filled with just as much jangly goodness as his beloved interpretations. Flemons will release Prospect Hill on July 29, and now that he's re-located back to North Carolina fans can expect to see a whole lot more of this well renown multi-instrumentalist. So local folks better prep themselves for some spoon slappin', jug blowin', banjo pickin' bliss, because Flemons' music is as infectious as ever.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Show Preview: Angel Olsen w/ Promised Land Sound

Angel Olsen performs at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, N.C.
on Friday, May 16.
Angel Olsen simply can't be described as a folk singer-songwriter and she proved this with the release of her newest album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness. Previous to this album she released an album and an EP of mostly home recordings, though incredibly haunting and beautiful, did not actually put her on the radar with her cohorts. With Burn Your Fire For No Witness being released on Jagjaguwar Records, Olsen's voice has expanded to a far wider audience and has resulted in high praise from music critics of NPR and the like.

Olsen's new bigger sound doesn't limit her and she stays true to herself in her lyricism. Her lyrics read like poetry and are almost too real in terms of relateability. Burn Your Fire... may have songs that are more upbeat with a backing band like "Forgiven/Forgotten," but in between those songs lie moments of pure serenity and sadness. These two qualities dominated her previous songs and in a way made them more personal to the listener, however, with Burn Your Fire a sense of hope lurks in between the melancholy melodies. Triangle fans have shown a particular fixation with the vexing songs that Olsen produces, so expect a packed Cradle filled with adoring fans washed in emotions and amazement at Olsen's powerful presence.

Olsen will be preceded by Promised Land Sound, a young Nashville band of dudes who like to play country-tinged garage rock. The young group of roots-rockers have earned high acclaim from Jack White's Third Man Records, being billed as one of their "favorite local bands." Their debut full-length was released on Paradise of Bachelors and was followed by a 7" on Third Man. This vigorous young group has just begun its conquest through the music industry, but all it takes is a few listens to see that they're filled with limitless potential.

Friday night boasts a solid paring of bands and sounds, making this show a weekend highlight. Fans can soak in the rustic rock of Promised Land Sound before getting emotionally wrecked by the heartbreaking warbles of Angel Olsen. Tickets are available at and are $12 in advance and $14 at the door.

Interview: James Felice of The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers will perform at Drumstrong
Rhythm & Arts Festival outside of Charlotte, N.C.
on Saturday, May 17.
In advance of the Drumstrong Rhythm and Arts Festival, taking place in Weddington, N.C. this weekend, we've spoken with a handful of artists that we're particularly excited about playing the upcoming festival. Drumstrong highlights a wide array of local and nationally touring artists, ranging from traditional leaning folk and bluegrass to post-punk and electronic, so naturally there's a lot to love about their lineup. Yesterday we highlighted Marley Carroll, an Asheville-based producer that headlines Friday night's festivities. Today we're sharing contributor Kyle Bement's conversation with James Felice of The Felice Brothers, one of the festival's marquee headliners. Be on the lookout for one last artist highlight with Dom Flemons within the next few days!

When did it become apparent that it was going to be music that you guys did?
I guess it was one of the only options left on the table for me, personally. I'd spent a lot
of my life playing it and not doing much else, like going to school or developing any other skills, a trade. I think by the time I was like 20, I knew that I couldn't really do anything else with my life and I had to play music.

That's cool, by that time, how long had you been- I mean, you must've been jamming....
They were older than me, and they were my cool older brothers, so I definitely absorbed a lot of that. I definitely looked up to them and I thought that was cool.
I was a teenager, so I started playin. They started playing music and I thought that was really cool. I was a kid, a teenager, and so I started playing.

What would say if you had to sum up the theory behind the Felice Brothers, what would you say in a word or a phrase?
A word or a phrase? I would say... That's a tough one, because I feel like when you try to condense your whole life down to a single word or phrase. We've never been very good at that, we've never been very concise or able to explain ourselves and that may be part of who we are and what we are. I think it's just "Family band plays good music." We're a good band. Not the best at selling ourselves, obviously, as you can probably tell.

I mean, that's how I explain it, they're these brothers and they're a good band.
Yeah! There you go. That should be enough, right? Nothing more sexy and compelling than that. I don't know, probably? But, we're hard-working, self made, and self taught and this is what we do for a living, our livelihoods.

I know you have a new album coming out, is it an evolution thing or more of a conscious decision that, "Hey, this is going to be different."?
This record is definitely more of like a synthesis between Yonder and Celebration. It's definitely more raw and natural sounding. More like a live band feel, I think.

If you had to describe Favorite Waitress succinctly, how would you do it?
Exciting. Vibrant. And just more natural, more relaxed and a more down and relaxed record, definitely more better. How's that going to look in fucking print? "More better?" It's more AND better. It's a more confident record for us. I feel like this our first real studio record, we recorded most of the tracks live and we got more out of it than we have in anything else we've done.

The first album was in a chicken coop and the next in a high school, is this record any different?
This album was recorded in an actual studio, for the first time in our lives playing in a real studio, in Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis' place, actually. It was a really nice opportunity to do that and not have to record in chicken coop or a high school, or any of those places that we've built, it gave us the opportunity to be able to focus on just recording an album and not anything else. It was a nice change of pace.

I've seen that you went on tour with Conor... was it Conor Oberst or Bright Eyes?
It was both, actually. First we went on tour with Bright Eyes, but we've toured with the Mystic Valley Band and also just with Conor Oberst as his backing band.

How did the Conor Oberst thing come about, did he seek you out?
Yeah, basically. We started working with some of the same people and we just got lucky. He had heard some of our music, and...he's really good about that. He's a really generous performer, and he takes smaller bands with him on the road. We just became friends, and we respect each other's music and sensibilities. He's honestly one of the best people I've met in my short career. He's a generous, kind human being.

I saw that Ian painted the cover of his latest album, Upside Down Mountain.
Yeah, yeah, he painted the cover of our record, Favorite Waitress and also Conor's record.

So you're going to be at Drumstrong outside of Charlotte? I know it's a cancer benefit, is there anything that particularly drew you to that event?
I mean, the way these come along is that they ask us if we want to play. For all intents and purposes, I guess we were hired to play. They seem like really great people and we've been in contact with them a bit. We're really excited to play the festival, can't wait to be down in Charlotte, it's beautiful down there. We're really pysched about it. They seem like they know what they're doing and it's going to be for a great cause. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Oh, I was just looking at your tour schedule and you're playing Charlotte, Charleston, and then hopping the pond to the UK. Is it a different crowd you play to over there despite what you do being so... American?
Yeah, the crowds are great in the UK. English people, historically, tend to have really great taste in music. They've always liked us over there. Our first really big shows were in London, and it continues to be that way to this day, where we probably do better over there than we do here in the states. They have good taste, not necessarily in food, but definitely in music.

You pack some hot dogs and stuff to bring with you?
No, you just need to know where to eat. You need to get Indian food in the UK. Ethnic food is always great in London. Bear that in mind when you're over there.

Speaking of great music, what have you been listening to lately?
I have been listening to this songwriter named Marissa Nadler. Have you heard of her?

I have not.
She is really, really amazing, I hadn't heard of her until she played a local show near where I live in the middle of  nowhere and I missed it because I'm dumb. People told me it was great, so I started listening to her. She's really great, she's got an album out July. It's beautiful, she sings beautifully, her songs are awesome and sort of strange sounding, a lot of them, but really very good. Very, very good.

On the subject of songwriting, how would you say a typical Felice Brothers song comes about? Do you lock yourselves in a basement and say, "Alright, let's figure this out"?
Yeah. A lot of the time. Y'know, it depends. We have all different ways of doing it. My brother Ian probably writes the bulk of the songs, no, he definitely does. Sometimes he comes to the table with a song that's done and we just do what we can not to fuck it up. A lot of the time, too, he'll come up with an idea or come up with a riff, a couple of lines, and we'll just hunker down and just spend DAYS locked in a room trying to figure it out.

Do you see the songwriting thing as... the way Nick Cave does, I heard an interview with him where he said, "I'm writing an album" and for the next few weeks, 8-4 mon-fri, he's writing an album or is it more natural than that?
I think it is like that, especially when you're busy. You're not writing a lot of songs on the road, so... it really is like you have to make time, carve out a piece of time to make an album and song writing is definitely a part of that. So, we'll set aside a month, or how ever long, to write an album because we have to make an album. And things come up, sometimes songs you write don't even get recorded for a year, or ever, or old songs come back up which happens sometimes and stuff like that, or sometimes you write a few songs in the studio, that also happens. We work so many different ways.

Cool, so it sounds like it's more organic with a schedule than it is rigidly scheduled.
Yeah. We're not the most scheduled people. It's good to have a deadline and good it's to know what you're doing because we don't like to just not do anything. It's good to be working. This is all we do. If we're not on the road or recording a record, we're working on a record.

How do you feel about festivals in general? I read an interview awhile back with Ian where it was obvious he was not a festival fan.
No one in the band is like a festival goer. I guess, you could say. We wouldn't go to Bonnaroo, or to most festivals if we weren't playing. I've never been to a festival in my life except to play it. That's just because we're pretty... not isolated... but we're not partiers. We don't go out often. It's not really our thing. And festivals can be poorly run, or they can have over busy schedules that can be sort of trying. You're rarely able to put your best foot forward in a festival setting because you don't get a really great sound check, the situation is not ideal. If you're headlining a festival, it's different, but for us, usually it's you get there, you run on stage, you plug in, you hope everything works, and you start playing. You're playing for a half hour or forty five minutes and that's it. It's not necessarily the most ideal, usually, but there's also an element there that's really fun because you have to play for people that wouldn't normally see you and also just like people who are in a totally different headspace. Maybe that has to do with drugs, but maybe that has to do with attitudes, as well.

Would you say you have a festival set list vs. a club set list?
FOR SURE. Usually, we do. We trim down the festival so it's basically more whatever acceptable tracks, or maybe more high energy tracks. I guess we're making a bigger splash in a shorter amount of time to try to get people into the band. Some of our tracks can be a little strange and I know there are hardcore fans that love them, but we there's also sometimes where we don't care and we just do whatever.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Artist Feature: Marley Carroll

Marley Carroll will be performing at Drumstrong
Rhythm & Arts Festival outside of Charlotte, N.C. on
Friday, May 16
In recent years, North Carolina has begun to develop quite the burgeoning electronic music scene. While "indie" leaning acts have long been living in the spotlight thanks to the dedicated communities in cities like Chapel Hill and Raleigh, more and more electronic acts have been popping up in the area. North Carolina's draw for artists continues to grow exponentially as the years go by and we see more and more acts coming into the area for our rich musical culture, adding depth and diversity to the talent that's been growing within the state.

Sylvan Esso was formed after Amelia Meath made the cross-country trek to Durham and now have carved out an electro-pop niche all their own. On the other hand folks like Porter Robinson, a Chapel Hill native, have propelled to stardom in the EDM scene, totally bypassing a local focus in favor of international stardom. Then you have acts like Marley Carroll, one that sits comfortably in between the two. Carroll is an Asheville transplant, trekking across country from Los Angeles to make the bustling mountain town his new home. Since he settled into western North Carolina though, the IDM leaning producer has been churning out heady beats that swell and sway, compelling listeners with tight grooves and lingering for days thanks to some infectious melodies.

Late last year Carroll put out his most recent full-length Sings, a record that's received lofty amounts of praise from outlets like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Stereogum and XLR8R. Sings lands somewhere comfortably between beat-driven IDM and downtempo electronic pop, but Carroll's live sets transcend both genres, transforming into brilliantly orchestrated dance tunes that are fleshed out before your eyes. "I'm always trying to find a balance between spontaneity and familiarity," Carroll says, "I can be as comfortable as possible onstage while still leaving some room to take chances and improvise." This mindset allows for some truly invigorating performances from this immensely talented artist, Carroll bounces between a turntable, MIDI controllers, a Moog synthesizer all while singing on his own tracks. Despite how much he's got going on on-stage, the shows are incredibly fluid, feeling like a well fleshed out set that's just as likely to turn directions at the drop of a dime.

"If I had it my way, I would bring a whole 18-piece orchestra on stage with me," Carroll states, but when you've got the chops that this guy does you frankly don't need it. Carroll has been making music for the past 15 years in various different forms. Carroll started out playing drums in rock bands and DJing in hip-hop clubs, something that explains the turntable proficiency. In university he took to classical percussion and shortly thereafter began to produce his own music. 2007 saw the release of his debut Melanaster and since then his style has continued to develop, seamlessly implementing all of his past musical outings and funneling it through the IDM lens to create a unique style that appeals to a wide array of listeners. Perhaps this is why journalists have taken to calling him a "producer's producer," a moniker that Carroll wears proudly.

"I think it's a way to distinguish me from the wave of big-room EDM DJs, and align me more closely with left-field bedroom producers like Caribou and Four Tet." These "bedroom producers" always tend to have densely packed music, their tunes are so intricately crafted that fellow producers or DJs can unravel them bit by bit, trying to find exactly what's going on within the track. Perhaps that's why there's an eclectic mix of folks at Carroll's shows that are vigorously dancing their asses off while others brood in the corners, bobbing their heads as they attempt to pick at Carroll's brain and single out every aspect of these tightly knit productions.

Whether you label Caroll as a "producer's producer" or a "DJs DJ," the important factor is that you don't attempt to pigeonhole him. His work is as versatile as it comes, he's as capable of churning out downtempo tracks that fall into a sweet groove as he is flipping a low-key Polish Ambassador track like "Oh Love" and turning it into an upbeat two-step banger that gets crowds bouncing along to the shuffling beats. Fans of electronic music and indie pop alike can find something within Carroll's tunes to fall in love with, at that's what makes him such a gem for this state's music scene.

Marley Caroll will be performing this weekend at Drumstrong in Charlotte, closing out Friday evening with a late-night set. Carroll will also be performing at this year's Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Show Preview: Drumstrong Rhythm & Arts Festival

Drumstrong Rhythm & Arts Festival takes place
in Charlotte, NC on May 16-18.
Now that I'm out in the Triangle, I very rarely make my way past this wonderful trifecta of musical cities. But every now and then there's an event that's just too exceptional to pass up, and next weekend Charlotte will be hosting a jam-packed festival that regional residents would be foolish to pass up. Drumstrong is a non-profit organization that has held a day-long drum-based event for the past few years, but 2014 marks the first full multi-day music festival for the organization and they truly knocked it out of the park for their first foray into the festival world.

Throughout the weekend of May 16, artists from across the state will be joined by a handful of highly revered national acts like Railroad Earth, Kopecky Family Band and The Felice Brothers for a weekend filled with eclectic tunes ranging from folk and electronic to post-punk and bluegrass. Drumstrong serves as an intersection of all things excellent about the North Carolina music scene, some of the state's most beloved artists from all genres will be convening on the small town of Weddington (just four miles south of Charlotte) to fill the Misty Meadows Farm with joyous vibes and incredible tunes.

Not only does Drumstrong bring together acts like Lost in the Trees, The Love Language, Chatham County Line and American Aquarium, but they do it all at an astoundingly low price and for an incredible cause. Tickets for the event run $50 in advance and $80 at the door, with all proceeds going towards funding for cancer organizations. This year's event combines the central themes and foundations of previous installments (like a 24-hour drum circle to get you in the festie mood) while bringing a unique twist to make things ridiculously exciting.

Unlike many modern festivals, Drumstrong doesn't feature overlapping schedules. Instead of hopping back and forth between stages and missing out on some of the weekend's finest moments, fans can post up in front of the stage and soak in the sounds of the dozen or so artists that will be performing each day. Each day follows a thematic structure, with Friday being billed as the North Carolina Music Celebration. Friday's acts include some of the most impressive up and coming acts in the state from a wide variety of genres. Many Charlotte based acts like Junior Astronomers, HRVRD and Pullman Strike will take the stage throughout the day while the evening comes to a close with the dancy rhapsodic electronic tunes of Dirty Drummer and Asheville's Marley Carroll. Friday serves as an excellent start to what's sure to be a phenomenal weekend filled with immensely talented artists.

Saturday's lineup is billed as the Main Event, and looking at the schedule gives you a solid guess as to why. Some of the festival's biggest names take the stage throughout the day, making for music marathon that festival goers can thankfully stay put for. Charlotte's Sinners & Saints will kick off the day with some catchy, simplistic folk and the rest of the day is filled with huge acts including Lost in the Trees, The Love Language, Futurebirds, Bombadil, American Aquarium, The Felice Brothers and even the jam-based sounds of Yo Momma's Big Fat Booty Band towards the end of the evening. For those looking to just peep into the festival for one day, Saturday is most definitely your day to do so. A Saturday pass costs $30 in advance and $45 at the door, an incredible deal for the massive acts you can see throughout the day.

Sunday is billed as the Family Folk 'n Fun Day, boasting a shorter lineup so that attendees can head out of the campgrounds shortly after sun-down, which is frankly one of my favorite parts of the festival. Each day is jam-packed but the music doesn't run into ungodly hours of the night, leaving you exhausted in the long-haul. The day kicks off at 11:00 and ends at 9:00 pm and throughout the day there's plenty of excitement for attendees both young and old. Games, bounce castles, arts and crafts and much more will be present for the kiddies to enjoy themselves while acts like Dom Flemmons (of Carolina Chocolate Drops), Overmountain Men, Elonzo and New Familiars will fill up the day's activities for the adults.

Overall the weekend looks to provide one of the most unique festival experiences in quite some time. While campers aren't allowed to bring their own coolers or food, the difference in pricing for attendance more than makes up for it. Drum circles will surely run late into the night, but those that don't wish to release their inner hippy for the weekend can get lodging at the myriad of hotels, motels and campgrounds in the area. You can head over to to purchase tickets, check out the full schedule or get more information on the festival. Be on the lookout for our interviews with The Felice Brothers and Marley Carroll early next week in advance of the festival!

Check out the festival's most recent Pony Danza Session with Sinners & Saints, a video series that provides a glimpse of the Misty Meadows Farm and introduces fans to some of the stellar talent on display next weekend:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Show Preview: Sylvan Esso w/ The Human Eyes

Sylvan Esso will perform at Cat's Cradle on Friday
May 2 w/ The Human Eyes
For the past year, fans of the North Carolina music scene have likely had one band at the forefront of their minds, an unlikely pairing with origins in folk that have blown away all expectations with their dashing electronic arrangements. Sylvan Esso is still in many rights a young band, they've barely been together for over a year but you'd never know that judging by the rich definition of their sound. Vocalist Amelia Meath's enchanting vocals slide and sway in and out of the throbbing bass and skittering synths set forth by Nick Sanborn, creating a mystifying mix of sounds that feel made for each other. When the duo played Memorial Auditorium at Hopscotch last year, the bass felt encompassing enough to rattle the dangling chandelier while Meath's smooth vocals effortlessly cut through Sanborn's high-energy mixes. Since that Hopscotch date they've toured with the likes of Volcano Choir, Man Man and Tycho, and following the release of their self-titled debut on May 13 they'll hit the road with Tune-Yards for a full US tour. Receiving acclaim from Pitchfork, Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, Noisey and countless other outlets, it's clear that Sylvan Esso breezed right past the stage of being an underrated local and were thrust straight into the national limelight. But it's a much deserved co-sign from these esteemed publications, as their sound is unlike any other, it's an effortless mix of electronic pop standards tinged with Meath's twee-folk backgrounds and washed in Sanborn's hip-hop influenced blend of club bangin' beats and heady productions.

This Friday the duo will celebrate their album release at a sold-out Cat's Cradle, a night that's sure to be one of the year's highlights in terms of local outings. With fellow promising upstarts in The Human Eyes opening the evening, fans can expect a smooth transition from the low-key 80s inspired sad-pop into the riveting displays set forth by Sylvan Esso. The Human Eyes may have seemed an interesting pairing for those that first saw the lineup, but all it takes is a trip back to their 2012 release Guiding Eyes for the Blind to realize how excellent of a combination this is. Having a high-energy act that gets the crowd moving would have been a treat, but getting a dynamic lineup such as this one is just as, if not more, enjoyable. Songwriter Thomas Costello writes melancholy songs that tackle your standard sad-song topics, but conveys them with a light of beaming nostalgia. Tracks like "It's Not The Same Without You" display some downright downtrodden imagery, but they're delivered with the swagger of an upbeat Talking Heads tune. The juxtaposition of their lyrical focus and instrumentation makes for a set that'll surely be filled with some introspective bobbing and swaying all 'round, but hey that never hurt anybody. And quite frankly it's an excellent transition into the chest rattling, sometimes heartbreaking, tunes of Sylvan Esso.

Sylvan Esso's debut full-length is a concise collection of eclectic electronic tracks that range from the house-inspired "HSKT" to the dynamic sounds of "Dreamy Bruises" and "Could I Be." Tracks glide along with jittery synth lines before a crunching bass cuts through the mix, ducking in and out with kicks and hi-hats as Meath's vocals take center stage. Whether Meath is shouting out cat calls on opener "Hey Mami" or lamenting over our constant state of flux while calling out to the hanky panky on "Coffee," the band is sure to leave listeners as emotionally moved as they are physically. Thunderous bass and gorgeous croons make for a brilliant combination, one that will leave the hundreds in attendance at Cat's on Friday night shouting and swinging along long after the tunes have ended.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ladies Who Lunch: New Reveille

The ladies of New Reveille are equal parts talented, and humble.  Speaking of each other’s talents, and of the commitment of the band, as well as the unconventional beginnings of New Reveille.  New Reveille grew from music written by Daniel Cook, the band’s founder, and banjo player.  Cook reached out through Craigslist for band members to bring the sound to life, and stumbled upon Amy Kamm.  Kamm, with no previous training, not only started working with Cook, but inspired him to write music centered on her voice.  While the ladies are quick to say that the band may have ”done things backwards," with live shows being their last step- this natural progression is nothing to be criticized.  For them, it is a force to be reckoned with.

Sitting down to lunch at Raleigh’s own Lilly’s Pizza last Sunday afternoon, Amy Kamm, Kaitlin Grady, and Autumn Brand discussed their new album Cannonball, and their Addy award winning video "Babylon."  While both the album and video are impressive, the context for each makes them stunning.  When Kamm reached out to Cook originally, she heard back within the hour, and they planned to meet.  Cook had already booked studio time, with the intentions of recording the material he had written.  Kamm and Cook began working together immediately, and Brand was hired to play violin in the studio.  Brand was impressed, and a few months later, was thrilled to join officially.  New Reveille was a "mysterious project," as Brand puts it, with no released music and no immediate performances.  Grady had joined in on the cello in much the same way, she was hired for studio time, and continued contributing.

Initially concerned they may be too similar, Brand and Grady hit it off, and blended into the "mysterious project," they were all becoming so invested in.  Both Brand, and Grady, wondered if they were "just session musicians, and not getting paid anymore."  Not only is this a testament to the heart of the band, but an interesting look into the uncertainty that this path held two years ago.  Kamm, who seems charmingly surprised to be the lead singer in an very much up-and-coming band, started singing in the shower, then at church, and when she saw Cook's Craigslist post she took a leap.  Kamm said that it seemed "too good to be true, but you never know."  New Reveille, is a charged take on country and folk.  With powerful harmonies on "Conway Shore," and the haunting, emotional tone of "Smoke and Mirrors," the vocal, and instrumental talent is undeniable.  It is surprising to think that songs with such depth, and passion, were recorded before a formal band had united. 

The recording project turned into New Reveille, and soon they were filming a music video.  Cook, who works for Myriad Media, had the concept for "Babylon."  The band, and Myriad,  brought it to life at Lake Gaston.  Filmed over the course of only one day, the ambiguous music video centers on a narrative of escape.  The production quality and raw energy are unmatched.  It is truly a grand entrance into the local, and national, music scene.  What may be even more noteworthy, is that New Reveille had not yet performed a live show.  While the members had run through the woods, surrounded themselves with torches, and Kamm even took a 2 a.m. swim for the production- they were still very much a "band in the making."  The two Addy awards and the national nomination the video received further proves the talent, and creativity, the members collectively possess.

Earlier this year, after releasing "Babylon," and their first album Cannonball, New Reveille played their first live show at Deep South.  Their sold-out debut proved that the well mapped out "quality over quantity" mindset is working overtime for them.  New Reveille, is in a very real way, creating a buzz.  A genuine buzz.  For the first few months of the band's "life," they had no photos on their public profiles, and no released music.  There were only rumblings of what could only be called a "project," at the time.  It seems that the music came before the band, and the band had time to grow, and plan before jumping into the scene.  To see a band so cohesive, and members so genuinely appreciative of the individual, warrants a respect.  The momentum behind New Reveille is palpable, and with their distinct sound it is hard to believe that their recent performance at Raleigh's Brewgaloo festival was only their fourth live show.  Grady notes that their method "seems to have been effective," and it would be hard to argue otherwise.   With a new album, and video ideas in the works, Grady adds that they are "marketing themselves in a unique way."  New Reveille is consciously not over-saturating the market.  With possible festivals in the future, New Reveille will be playing NC Hops on May 24th, and Oak City 7 on June 12th.  Don’t miss what happens when the music comes before the band.