Greg and Nathan from Hopscotch Music Fest LLC stopped by the station last week to chat with me about the state of the festival, its future, the triangle community, and music in general. You can listen to the extensive interview here.
Our conversation had me thinking on some of the highlights from my experiences at past years attending the festival. Many of the most fun times I’ve had at Hopscotch or in Raleigh, or at live concerts in general have been sparked by the somewhat spontaneous nature of Hopscotch’s design. By so excellently pairing such interesting and unknown artists together with local acts or more established groups the festival creates an atmosphere that breeds discovery.
But while there are great sets at single venues at the same time the range of diversity and general quality of the festival brings always brings up conflicts and scavenger hunt style show attendance hopping.
I remember at last year’s festival I went to CAM to see Horse Lords on a completely blind suggestion from a friend. Horse Lords have been described as “polyrhythmic krautrockers” that use intonation and repeating tropes in an entrancing psychedelic rock and roll kind of way. It doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that could be catchy or fun but IT WAS. The live performance had multitudes of energy and on top of that I got to have a conversation with Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner in the crowd.
Its that kind of liberating feeling that any show you could walk into could be your next favorite band that has kept me coming to Hopscotch year after year and I hope you consider making some spontaneous choices this year as well.
To start with the basics, Wild Fur is made up of duo Nick Jaegar (past member of Luego, The Tomahawks, Schooner, and Roman Candle) and Wylie Hunter (past member of the Cazadores) from Durham, North Carolina. However, on live shows Nick and Wylie are joined by drummer Brad Porter (Some Army, Wichita Falls) and bassist Casey Toll (Mount Moriah). Digging a little deeper into the sound that Wild Fur produces, the best way to describe it is being infectiously dreamy with numerous emotion stirring rhythms. The first time I saw Wild Fur live was actually at WKNC’s Local Band Local Beer on August 14th at Tir Na Nog Irish Pub in Downtown Raleigh. It was at this performance that I truly realized Wild Fur’s ability to make the audience hang on to every word in their songs. There is some sort of connectivity between Wild Fur and their audience that is incomparable to any other band-audience relationship. Perhaps it is their lyrics that hit home with lines like “Carolina its been getting stranger as I find myself stuck in place,” or it’s their echoing vocals that seem to blend together in perfect harmonies that leave the audience begging for more.
With lots of experience under their belts, Jaegar and Hunter know what they are doing and are setting out to show everyone their utmost capabilities as musicians and performers. The overflowing talent of Wild Fur will undoubtedly reach far beyond Durham, and it is going to be really nice to say that I saw Wild Fur take the stage first on Thursday night at Lincoln Theater for the 2014 Hopscotch Music Festival. That being said, Wild Fur goes on at 8:30 PM on Thursday night at the Lincoln Theater, being the first act to open for the final act of that evening—The War on Drugs.
Hopscotch music festival will take over downtown Raleigh and crowds of music lovers will descend upon the city streets. With a fast-paced 160 bands in just 3 days, any prepared festival goer needs transportation options to match. Navigating Raleigh’s relatively square grid-like downtown blocks is not always as straightforward as it seems, so here are some tips for choosing the transport methods to best suit your festival schedule. [Bonus feature: a handy map of festival venues to get you started!]
“I have no wheels!”
Pedestrians get a few subtle perks in Raleigh. With City Plaza as epicenter of the festival, most of Fayetteville Street will be blocked off and only available to pedestrians. Crosswalks in downtown Raleigh are timed with the car traffic, no button mashing required! Simply wait your turn, and appreciate the few crosswalks around town that give a head start to pedestrians while everyone else is stopped.
Public transit in downtown Raleigh can connect your bipedal travel. Raleigh features two free bus routes: NCSU’s Wolfprowl and CAT’s R-Line. You can use Transloc on your computer or smart phone to track the location of the bus at any time. The Wolfprowl and the R-line share a stop on Morgan Street. The stops along Wilmington Street are close to most festival venues, and the route is lined with parking decks for the multi-modal Hopscotch’ers (see “I have four wheels!” below). Both buses run until at least 2am on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights so you don’t have to miss any of the festival action.
“I have two wheels!”
Raleigh doesn’t have any truly protected bike lanes, but it has an assortment of bike-friendly sharrows painted on many roads around town. The Capital Area Greenway Trail System can connect you to the festival action, particularly the Rocky Branch or Little Rock Trails.
Especially when biking on roads in the flow of traffic with cars, wear a helmet and ensure you have a functioning white light for the front and a red light for the back of your bike. Follow all traffic laws and bike predictably for the safest ride. There are lots of bike racks within a few blocks of Fayetteville Street, even a few cleverly shaped, so bring a handsome bike lock.
“I have four wheels”
Raleigh features parking decks are well-located surrounding the main attractions and venues in town. The decks are generally free after 7pm and on weekends, but special event parking is a $7 fee. Check out the city’s ParkLink for the most up to date guides, maps, and parking information. The R-line route is lined with parking decks for the multi-modal Hopscotch’ers (see “I have no wheels!” above).
Regardless of your preferred mode of travel, happy Hopscotch’ing!
One of my favorite parts of Hopscotch are the surprises each year. In the past, I never expected someone like harsh noise legend Merzbow to play in a place like Raleigh, or to discover the then-relatively-unknown Oneohtrix Point Never way back in 2011, two years before he made it big as an artist/internet troll. The pleasant obscurity I didn’t see coming this year wound up being Sun Araw.
The solo project of former Magic Lantern member Cameron Stallones, Sun Araw sounds like jumping into a cyber pool of jello and floating in it. Stallones fuses elements of old-school, 60’s psychedelia and contextualizes it in the retro future.
Like a lot of people, my first exposure to Sun Araw was in the 2012 video game Hotline Miami. Developed by Jonatan Söderström (a developer most well known for creating Adult Swim games), it was a fast-paced journey through the mind of a man under mind-control drugs as he wages war on the mob in 1980’s Miami. Its eerie, lo-fi atmosphere was complimented by its psychedelic electronic soundtrack. The first thing you encounter when starting up is this start menu, set to Sun Araw’s Horse Steppin’. He sets the stage for a wicked fever dream experience.
On Saturday, September 6th, you can experience Sun Araw’s wicked fever dream yourself. He takes the stage at Slim’s for a dimly-lit, intimate performance that should unsettle you, but in a good way. I’m looking forward to having another Hopscotch memory as unique as having my bones rattled at Merzbow.
Transfigurations II Festival - Celebrating 10 Years of Harvest Records
Harvest Records, beloved Asheville-based independent record store and label, will celebrate it’s 10 year anniversary with the return of multi-day music festival, Transfigurations II, a sequel to 2009’s Transfigurations I. Through these festivals, owners Mark Capon and Matt Schnable hope to reflect Harvest and the community’s tastes, as well as encourage people to discover new music.
"In all honesty, if we look back on our earliest hopes, dreams and visions of what Harvest Records could become, it would mirror what actually ended up happening,” said Harvest Records’ Mark Capon and Matt Schnable in a press release statement. “Since our college days together, the idea was consistent: Open a record shop, yes, of course…but don’t let it stop there. Create a space dedicated to the discovery of music, the exchange of ideas, a place for broader discussions about community. Book shows for artists that normally wouldn’t come to town; host art on our walls from local artists who haven’t shown much before; start a record label and release recordings of sounds that may have not otherwise been produced physically. And it all happened."
Transfigurations II will take place August 28-30 in Harvest’s home of West Asheville. The festival will feature more than 25 bands at three different venues throughout Asheville and Marshall, NC. Lineup highlights include Ashley Olsen, The Clean, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Mount Eerie.
Tune into WKNC this week for your chance to win Saturday day passes to Transfigurations II.
From Thursday, August 28th through Saturday, August 30th, Harvest Records in Asheville N.C. will host a pretty-freakin’ phenomenal music festival called “Transfigurations II” to celebrate their tenth anniversary. What’s so “pretty-freakin’ phenomenal” about it? Let’s like our resident music…
Check out WXYC’s preview of the Transfigurations II Festival at the end of this month.
One of the great features of Hopscotch Music Fest is that it not only aims to expose the community to new music, but also a deeper range of culture. This year, to the delight of the growing design community in Raleigh, Hopscotch is introducing its own Design Festival. Kicking off a day before the music begins, the Design Festival promises an enlightening conversation about current design and its role in the future.
With its own lineup and separate wristband, the Design Fest will house a subculture of people separate from the typical nightgoers. However, the two festivals will not only have overlapping attendees, but also overlapping performers as a few of the Design Festival’s speakers are on the Hopscotch Music Festival schedule.. With worldwide renown designers, the festival is sure to be compelling and informative for designers and nondesigners alike.
The 2-day Design Festival will take place from Sept. 3rd - 4th. From 9:30am to 4pm on Wednesday, there will be speakers at the Raleigh Convention Center, CAM’s Main Gallery and Classroom, Flanders, Clearscapes, and Red Hat. Speakers include Brian Singer of Pinterest, Pierce Freelon + Apple Juice Kid co-founders of Beat Making Lab, and Doug Powell of IBM. During this period, there will be Interactive Projects and a Prototyping Festival. In addition, from 1pm - 4pm, the Raleigh Convention Center will be hosting a Hopscotch Lab featuring Elliot Montgomery’s Extrapolation Factory.
The Extrapolation Factory was a project developed by designers Chris Woebken and Elliott Montgomery to encourage people to get in the mindset of not predicting, but actively embodying design. The Extrapolation Factory features “futuring research;” it is an imagination-based studio that uses hands-on activities to further people’s understanding of how we control the future through our design. By the end of the lab, participants should have a deeper understanding on how “futuring” affects them and they’re powerful role in it.
From 4pm - 5pm there will be a Happy Hour at CAM immediately preceding Shohei Shigematsu’s seminar at the Raleigh Convention Center. Shohei Shigematsu became Director of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in 2006 and a Partner in 2008. Shigematsu has directed multiple architectural projects under OMA including the Milstein Hall (a College of Architecture extension) and the current construction of the Quebec National Beaux Arts museum and the Faena Arts Center in Miami Beach. Shigematsu has even collaborated with Kanye West on a seven-screen pavilion that was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012.
Following Shigematsu’s seminar is an In-House Design reflections panel at Red Hat. The first day’s events will end with a party at Lincoln Theatre from 8pm - 10pm.
On Thursday, speakers will be having seminars at participating venues the Raleigh Convention Center, the Stockroom, King’s Barcade, Raleigh City Museum, and Lincoln Theatre. Included in Thursday’s speakers are Annie Atkins the lead graphic designer for Wes Anderson’s film The Grand Budapest Hotel, Tristan Shone and Lee Noble. As a mechanical engineering and musician, Tristan Shone has built his career designing custom machines and speakers for his music project Author & Punisher. He has been producing his “doom-influenced” sounds for the past 10 years releasing 5 albums to date. Shone will be performing at Kings Barcade on Thursday at 11:30pm. Lee Noble runs No Kings in Los Angelos, a small-batch tape release record label. Noble plans to discuss the aesthetics in the combination of music, art, and design in relation to his label. Noble’s music is described as mysterious and elusive and he will also be playing Hopscotch Thursday at Fletcher Opera Theater at 9pm. Thursday’s events will end with a day party at the Convention Center.
Hopscotch is selling 2-Day Design Festival passes for $150 and for half price with the purchase of a VIP or 3-day music pass.
Shohei Shigematsu - Partner of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA)
Harper Reed - Founder and CEO of Modest, Chief Technology Officer for Obama 2012 campaign
Sarah Miller Caldicott - executive with Global 500 firms including Quaker Oats/Pepsi and the Helene Curtis subsidary of Unilever, co-author of Innovate Like Edison: The Five Step System for Breakthrough Business Success
Elle Luna - Designer, painter, and writer. Creator of Bulan Project
Kai-Uwe Bergmann - Partner at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
Alexander Isley - Founder of Alexander Inc., graduate of NCSU’s College of Design and The Cooper Union School of Art
Doug Powell - Design Principal and Design Education Program Director at IBM
Annie Atkins – Lead Graphic Designer on Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel
Brian Singer - Manager on the Communication Design team at Facebook, previously worked with Apple, Adidas, Stanford Lively Arts, and Chronicle Books
Maurice Woods – Founder and Executive Director of the Inneract Project
Casey Caplowe - Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of GOOD
Cliff Bleszinski – Former Design Director at Epic Games
Sha Hwang – Designer on Healthcare.gov team, worked with The New York Times, CNN, MTV, Flickr, and Adobe
Pamela Abalu – Global Head of Design and Construction for MetLife Inc.
Mitchell Silver – Commissioner of New York City’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation
Elliot Montgomery – Co-Founder of The Extrapolation Factory
Matt Tomasulo – Chief Instigator of Walk [Your City]
Jake Levitas – Innovation Fellow in the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation
Rob Cotter - Founder and CEO of Organic Transit
Katie Potochney - Creative Director at SYPartners
Jarin Tabata - Creative Director at SYPartners
Timothy Myers - Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of North Carolina Opera
Patrick Hobgood - Raleigh native who worked for the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and currently at family business Kenneth Hobgood Architects (KHA)
Tristan Shore - Musician and Engineer; playing Hopscotch Thursday at King’s Barcade under the name Author & Punisher
Apple Juice Kid & Pierce Freelon – Co-Founders of the Beat Making Lab
Lee Noble - runs No Kings record Label, performing at Hopscotch on Thursday at Fletcher Opera Theater
Heather Cook - Founder of Shind!gs
Kaitlyn Goalen - Co-Founder of Short Stack Editions
Meredith Pittman - NCSU’s College of Design Graduate working with Wild Yonder and Ellen Cassilly Architect
Garrett Grohman - Manager of A&R at Indiegogo
Merrette Moore - Founder and Managing Director of Lookout Capital
Creighton Blackwell - Vice President of Branch Networks and Community Engagement at Coastal Federal Credit Union
Folk Friday - Presented by Artists Like You - 8/15
This Friday is Folk Friday at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw. It’s an event presented by Artists Like You, who are all about finding an audience for talented North Carolina musicians. The event will take place in the Outdoor Amphitheater, so it’s sure to be a great way soak up the last of these summer nights.
My name is Jamie and I’m crazy about Miniature Tigers. I’ve seen them more times than I can remember (13, maybe?), which is pretty impressive considering they’re from Phoenix and now live in Brooklyn. I even tried to see them open for fun. during a vacation in metro Detroit, but the show was sold out. I ended up having a drink at the bar that shares a back wall with the venue and catching a muffled version of their set (which technically makes 13.5 shows).
After skipping over the Triangle on their tour with Bear Hands this spring, I am delighted for the opportunity to see them headline the Cat’s Cradle Back Room with The Griswolds and Finish Ticket on Wednesday, Aug. 12. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $14 at the door.
To prepare you for their Cat’s Cradle show, let me run down the Miniature Tigers discography. “Tell it to the Volcano” (2008) is bubblegum pop at its finest. To quote former WKNC general manager Kyle Robb, "each track is as catchy as the Bubonic Plague.” It gave the CD player in my car quite the workout. The band’s electronic influences are more prevalent in their sophomore album, “Fortress” (2010). They kept turning up the techo for “Mia Pharaoh” (2012), but the catchy hooks were still there with such songs as “Cleopatra” and “Sex on the Regular.” The band’s fourth album, ”Cruel Runnings” (2014), was released in June. It takes a few listens to get into it, but you’ll be humming “Swimming Pool Blues” before long.
Want to know what Miniature Tigers have been listening to lately? Check out the “On the Road” Spotify playlist they made with The Griswolds. See you soon.
Coke Weed is coming off quite a busy last year. They released their third self-released, full-length Back to Soft back in July and toured heavily throughout the end of the year. The Maine quintet have laid pretty quiet throughout 2014 working on their next effort.
Back to Soft was born during the Mt. Desert Island Recording Sessions. The album features the signature, intricate guitar interplay with the enthralling backing of a solid rhythm section that we have come to expect along with the beautiful contrasting vocals of Nina and Milan. This album takes a more electric approach over the more acoustic sound of previous recordings.
Be sure to check out the interview I did with them shown above. It was recorded ahead of their show at The Cave last year on November 1st. We discussed the album, their experience on the road and at CMJ, as well as their influences, their writing and recording process, how they do it all on their own, and much more. They also performed stripped down versions of a few tracks, so be sure to check it out.
I have never been to Bar Harbor or anywhere in Maine for that reason, but I like to imagine that their breed of alt/psychedelic rock captures the beauty of the vast, coastal landscape. This show is an absolute must-see at Hopscotch. Be prepared to lose yourself in their warm, inviting music. The laid back sound of the music will catch you off guard as you will leave the venue wondering what happened in a completely unexpected, calm state. Consider it your own personal vacation during Hopscotch. Trust me, you’ll need it by Saturday night and you won’t want it to end.
Saturday, September 6th, 10pm @ Deep South
Paste Magazine premiere of new single mentioned in interview here.
dJ/dx and Me interviewed Ancient Cities last Thursday before they played Local Band Local Beer at Tir Na Nog Irish Pub in Raleigh.
You can hear three of their songs during the interview: Edie Sedgewick, Werewolf and Juice. Listen for details about their new music video and the answer to “what movie would Ancient Cities write the soundtrack for?”
Each year, Hopscotch Music Festival brings in an incredible lineup of artists from all over the state, country, and world to play the three-day music festival in Raleigh. But have you ever wondered exactly where all of the bands are from?
This year, WKNC’s dJ/dx used Mapbox to create a map of Hopscotch 2014 artists based on the hometowns listed on their Hopscotch Artist Bios. The marker’s aren’t quite exact, but they’re are placed near each city/town. You can click on each marker for the corresponding artist/band’s name, picture, and link to their Hopscotch Artist page.
If the map appears below as a gray square, you can click on the square to view it on the WKNC blog, or you can click here to view it on Mapbox.com.
If you’re going to Hopscotch, or thinking about going to Hopscotch, this year, then there are two possibilities:
You’ve heard that Death is headlining and you are going be at City Plaza, rain or shine, on September 6th to see this monumental event.
You have no idea who Death is.
If the second category describes you, fear not. I am giving you a chance to become enlightened.
“Why should I be excited about Death?” you ask.
The story of Death is so compelling that it almost seems fabricated. Where do I start?
How about Detroit, Michigan, 1973. Three teenage brothers – David, Dannis, and Bobby Hackney – growing up in the black community at a time when Motown music predominated. Think Earth Wind and Fire, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson. The Hackney boys, led by charismatic David, had long been immersed in music. Their father, a Baptist minister, had fostered and encouraged their interest from a young age by exposing them to the Beatles and a wide range of other artists. The close-knit family did not have a lot of money, but the boys were able to get their hands on some instruments. Their first incarnation as a band was a logical choice considering what was popular in their community at the time: a funk outfit, called Rock Fire Funk Express.
In 1973, everything changed when David saw The Who. The brothers quickly became obsessed with this new kind of music – pure rock and roll. Inspired by Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, and Iggy and the Stooges, the band went in a completely new direction: and changed their name to Death. The brothers would play in their small bedroom-turned-studio. They were heard, though not necessarily enjoyed, throughout the neighborhood.
This is where things get important historically. This was 1973 – several years before The Ramones would burst onto the scene and essentially start the punk movement. But here was Death, playing proto-punk (although they didn’t know it, since punk didn’t exist yet). No one at the time was playing anything on their level. The raucous energy, the huge riffs, the politically-charged lyrics, the snarling and screaming vocals, even the band’s name itself – they were totally against the grain.
Unfortunately, the world didn’t seem ready for an all-black punk band called Death just yet. The Hackney brothers faced rejection after rejection from record labels. Most notably, they turned down a $20,000 contract with Clive Davis (Columbia Records), who liked their music but wanted them to change their name. David, the group’s spiritual, creative, and emotional leader, was outraged, and the deal collapsed. By 1980, the brothers were sick of the rejection and went their separate ways – Bobby and Dannis to Vermont, David back to Detroit – after only ever putting out one self-released EP.
This could have been the end of Death. Bobby and Dannis formed a reggae band, and David continued to make music by himself until his death from lung cancer in 2000. Shortly before he passed, David had given all of Death’s old tapes to Bobby for storage with the promise that “the world would come looking for this music after he died.”
And, in an eerily fitting twist, the world did.
Nearly 35 years later, some record-collecting nerd found that self-released, two-song EP in a record store and realized that what he had just bought was not only some really sick shredding, but also a lost piece of music’s cultural history.
He headed straight for the internet and Death was soon being spread around, shared, and enjoyed, creating similarly stunned reactions wherever it was heard. The two remaining members of Death, Bobby and Dannis, had no idea this was happening until Bobby’s son, Bobby Jr., heard a friend raving about Death and recognized his father’s voice on the tracks. The buzz grew and reached the attention of Drag City, who contacted the brothers about releasing the old material – unheard since the 70’s – as an album. In 2008, Death released its first album, …For the Whole World to See, recorded in 1973. Finally, David’s dream had come true.
In many ways, Death represents rebirth.
Bobby’s sons, Bobby Jr., Julian, and Urian, were so inspired by their father’s and uncles’ music that they formed a band themselves. They called it Rough Francis, after the name their uncle David used for his solo work. Rough Francis started out as the boys’ tribute to Death; they just wanted people to hear the songs that had been collecting dust in an attic for decades, songs that had never been played for a live audience before. Now, Rough Francis writes and records their own music, though they still pay homage to Death at every show.
Another important rebirth: after the album release, Bobby and Dannis began playing Death’s songs again (with the guitarist from their reggae band filling in for David) for the first time since 1980. They have even done some touring since then, and released some new material in the form of a single. Drag City has put out two more full-lengths of Death’s archived material. This band, the would-be pioneers of punk, is now finally getting the recognition it deserves.
When Death takes the stage at City Plaza on September 6th, the songs they play will be old; probably older than many of the festival’s attendees. But they will still ring true. For Bobby and Dannis, playing the songs they wrote with their brother is a deeply spiritual and emotional experience. From 1973 to 1980, no one wanted to hear what Death had to say.
But this time around, the world is ready to listen.
Author’s note: I did a lot of my research for this article while watching the incredible documentary, “A Band Called Death,” which is available for streaming on Netflix.
Most Anticipated Shows of Hopscotch 2014/Personal Itinerary
DJ SALINGER — a personal itinerary for Hopscotch 2014
The kick off night for Hopscotch is going to be incredible to say the least. To start with, the first highlight of the night will occur at Slim’s at 9:30 PM when Southport, NC’s own Museum Mouth takes the stage (or shall I say rocks the stage) with all of their wonderfully emotional songs off their latest album Alex I Am Nothing. Then from there, you will want to make sure to grab a portion of The Till’s set at Pour House Music Hall before making your way over to Deep South to catch my most anticipated performance of the evening by Reptar who are making their way to Raleigh from their hometown Athens, Georgia…which is coincidentally from the deep south.
Alright, it’s already a given that all of Friday’s City Plaza’s shows will be a must see with Lonnie Walker starting at 5:45, St. Vincent at 6:50, and Spoon at 8:30 PM. Now the big question arises: Where do I go from here? Well let me just tell ya, I am really looking forward to starting the post City Plaza extravaganza with Raleigh’s own Ghostt Bllonde who will be playing at CAM Raleigh starting at 9:30 PM. After this set, I will definitely stop by to catch Loamlands at Lincoln Theater, then a little bit of the Nervous Ticks at The Hive before heading over to my most anticipated performance of Friday—Mapei. Coming all the way from Stockholm, Sweden, Mapei’s infectious songs are sure to be a must see at midnight in Tir Na Nog.
If I learned anything from last year’s festival, it’s that by the last night I am WORN OUT. Having a blast running around downtown Raleigh can really take a toll on one’s body, so come Saturday night I will be staying put in one spot to see all of my most anticipated performances for the evening; and that spot is the Fletcher Opera Theater. Starting out at 10:00 PM with the talented Asheville based folk singer Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, as part of the group Mountain Man, Alexandra’s beautiful vocals are surely not to be missed. The night only gets better with Chicago’s Ryley Walker taking the stage at 11:00 PM and then perhaps my most anticipated show of the whole festival, a solo performance by Phosphorescent at midnight. The level of intimacy Saturday night in the Fletcher Opera Theater will without a doubt be through the roof; and for that reason alone, overall, I am anticipating Saturday the most out of all the days.
Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) w/ Warren Franklin @ Area Fifteen (8/3/14)
This past Sunday night I saw one of my favorite bands play Area Fifteen in Charlotte. To my surprise, the band was on an acoustic tour, and that night they played without the normal headliner, The Early November. Charlotte has been budding several emo and punk bands lately, artists like It Looks Sad. and Couches (a band that was also on the bill that night). The city is also called home for the Tiny Engines record label who have released music for many renowned emo and punk bands, including Tigers Jaw, Dikembe, and The Hotelier.
Driftwood Miracle opened up the night. They are a very energetic Durham band whose members look like they haven’t even left their teens. They seemed thrilled to be playing in front of that small crowd of around twenty people. Sinai Vessel followed. They are another North Carolina emoish band whose singer began the set with a crucial cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River”. He sang the song like it was his own, and the result was completely heart-wrenching. However, Warren Franklin became my new favorite artist of the night. He wore an Early November shirt and played a solo acoustic set that was even akin to The Early November’s work. His songs were youthful, catchy, and endearing. Couches was the last band to play before Empire! Empire! Couches’ vocalist has a partiality for wearing Hawaiian shirts, but don’t be surprised when you find a severe lack of “good vibes” in their music. There is a lot of screaming, heavily distorted guitar, and some occasional blast beats. Did I mention angst?
And finally, Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate). When I first listened E!E! (IWALE) I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Their album What It Takes to Move Forward was my introduction to the whole DIY “emo” scene back in 2010, before emo was ever “cool”, or garnered much attention from independent music sites. The band, however, has been at it much longer than I’ve been listening to them. They’ve been putting out music since 2007, when Keith and his wife (the two constant members of Empire! Empire!) started the Count Your Lucky Stars record label. Keith and Cathy write guitar lines that intertwine, sometimes complementing, and sometimes counteracting each other to create a signature sound. I was drawn in by their nearly therapeutic lyrics that possess a strong sense of urgency. Seeing them live felt like things were coming full circle. I was finally getting to see a band that had a major impact on my life. Warren joined the ranks of Empire! Empire! that night, and they played a variety of songs from their discography. I was reminded why I loved the band in the first place, for the songwriting, and for their sheer tenderness. They were seated on fold-up chairs in front of a crowd that was quiet and inoffensive. We sat there on the dusty concrete floor of that art space, and we listened. We listened a display of emotion. We listened to those beautiful melodic guitar lines. We listened to Keith tell stories in the dark. It felt like I was back in a simpler time, the way music makes the peripherals of your life fade away. It felt like we were all children at an away camp, huddled around a fire and listening intently. It was a wonderful way to end the first day back in my hometown.
dJ/dx interviewed Raleigh’s own GHOSTT BLLONDE live in the WKNC studio Monday, August 4th, including a first listen of their brand new track Dissonance, to be released August 19th!
Other songs played include “Home” and “Suzanne” with Jacki Huntington of Sea Gulls. Listen in for details on their upcoming release show, new EP, their Hopscotch performance, and favorite Gatorade flavors.
GHOSTT BLLONDE’s release show is this Saturday, August 9th at Nice Price Books & Records in Raleigh with FS (Greenville) and Black Santa (Goldsboro). They are also playing Hopscotch 2014 on the CAM Stage at 9:30 on Friday, September 5th.
Until a week ago, I’d never had an opportunity to go to a music festival, so you can bet that I was pretty stoked when I found out I was going to Merge 25.
I figured that it was going to be awesome, but it wasn’t until I discovered the lineup that I truly flipped out. Among many other artists, two of my favorite bands of all time, The Mountain Goats and Telekinesis were playing at the three-day festival spread out across venues in Durham and Carrboro. I attended on Saturday at Cat’s Cradle, and I didn’t know then that I was going to see one of the best performances of my life.
I was a bit busy helping out the Merge staff in the morning, but I did get the opportunity to see The Love Language, the North Carolina natives who certainly rocked it on stage. They played a bunch of fan favorites including “Heart to Tell” and “Calm Down”, but “Lalita” was definitely my favorite. Something that I’ve always admired about The Love Language is the amount of soul that they put into their performances. This was my first time seeing them live, and they certainly did not disappoint. Frontman Stuart McLamb puts his heart into every verse he sings and every chord he plays; it’s the kind of passion that inspires people to achieve their own greatness. The Love Language is an icon of the North Carolina music scene, and their sound makes me proud to be from NC.
Later in the day, I caught the very end of Caribou’s set, and managed to get a rather decent spot, dead center, but about eight rows back to see what we’d all been waiting for- Neutral Milk Hotel. I assumed that Neutral Milk Hotel live was going to be an amazing experience, since the filming and photography of their performances was prohibited. It must be pretty special, right?
Well, it was pretty special, to say the very least. I’d never seen them live, and I didn’t know what to expect. The crew feverishly raced to assemble Neutral Milk Hotel’s set in a reasonable amount of time after Caribou’s performance. The stage was littered with all sorts of horns, in an almost Beirut-esque ensemble. There was an accordion, and even saws. After the stage was readied in what I’m sure was record time (shout out to the Cat’s Cradle and Merge employees), Jeff Magnum walked out on stage alone, gripping his guitar. By the end of the first song, the whole band was on stage. They dived straight into “Holland, 1945”, a definite fan-favorite, judging by the volume that the crowd shouted the lyrics back at the band.
The setlist slowed down a bit after that, with favorites such as “Two Headed Boy” and “In An Aeroplane Over The Sea.” People were singing, dancing, and even a few were crying during the unreleased “Little Birds.” I’ve never been to a show where I’ve seen people more connected with each other. The crowd felt like a single being, with everyone intertwined by the shared experience of witnessing such a performance. I couldn’t imagine a better way to end my first festival experience.
Memories at Merge 25 - Caribou and Neutral Milk Hotel
Seeing Neutral Milk Hotel has always been on my bucket list. I thought I was never going to get that chance since they disbanded in 1999. But last year I was happy to learn that the band was back together, and touring again - coming to Raleigh for Merge Records’ 25th anniversary celebration.
The lineup for Merge 25 was stellar - Caribou, Destroyer, The Mountain Goats, Mikal Cronin, The Love Language, Mount Moriah, Superchunk, Hiss Golden Messenger - to name only a few of the bands that performed during the three-day event.
I was only able to see Caribou and Neutral Milk Hotel on Saturday, since I was busy in the afternoon helping out the Merge folks make sure the festival went smoothly.
About 20 minutes before Caribou came on, I slipped into the crowd alone and found myself a spot about four or five standing rows from the stage. I hadn’t heard a whole lot of Caribou, just their song “Leave House,” but I really liked it and was looking forward to hearing some of their other music.
Four men dressed in white sauntered on the stage and launched right into “Leave House.”
Alex G on writing music for yourself and loving the process
There’s an undeniable charm that comes from seeing an angsty college band play a show in the soggy, rundown quarters of a musty basement. Moldy walls hug the pseudo-tortured souls inside as cigarette smoke slips in from under the door frame.
When I finally arrived at Area 15 in Charlotte, the building seemed like less of a venue and more of an abandoned screen printing shop. In fact, the street level is a small business incubator housing miscellaneous companies from real estate agents to fitness consultants. The actual show is in the basement of course, down the stairs past some abandoned rooms filled with discarded furniture. But that’s what you would expect of an Alex G and Elvis Depressedly tour.
I identify Alex Giannascoli quickly by his iconic shoulder-length black hair and slouched shoulders. He is sitting in the back of the venue, behind some merch strewn out on a lawn table. Although he is next to his bandmate Sam Accione and chatting occasionally with fans who approach him, the 21-year-old songwriter seems distant from everyone in the room.
I’m nervous initially when I introduce myself to Giannascoli, but his warm, inviting smile quickly puts me at ease in the first few seconds and we fall into a comfortable conversation. I can see soon that he’s just a normal college kid, slightly surprised by his own success, but mostly just taking life as it comes to him.
Giannascoli began uploading his songs online under the name Alex G when he was 17. His raw, emotional lyrics eventually caught the attention of Mathew Lee Cothran – frontman of the band Elvis Depressedly occasionally recording under solo project Coma Cinema. Cothran already had an established internet presence at the time and was signed to indie label Orchid Tapes, so getting the word out about an incredibly talented new artist was in his field. Giannascoli credits Cothran with his renown.
“Mat definitely helped me the most, you know Mat,” he motions to another room where I assume Cothran is waiting. I nod and his eyes brighten as he talks to me about his mentor. “He posted about me on his band’s website and that got me a lot of recognition.”
Mathew Lee Cothran
Over the next few years, Giannascoli released music on his bandcamp at a steady rate, gaining increasing recognition for his work as more people were exposed to it. DSU, his first full 12” vinyl was released this summer through Orchid Tapes and made reviews on Pitchfork, CMJ, and The Rolling Stone.
I ask Giannascoli if he’s ever felt like giving up on music, but he’s confused with the question. I rephrase it asking him if he’s ever lost faith in his ability to produce something good. He immediately rejects the idea.
“I never let myself think of it as a career,” states the song-writer. “I make music for me because I really enjoy it. I would just record songs every time I felt like I needed to personally. I never had any intention other than making noise I like, in order to avoid disappointment.” He thinks about it for another moment. “It’s kind of like having a girlfriend or boyfriend. If you love them, you don’t want to think about marrying them because if it didn’t work out, you would be so disappointed.”
Giannascoli first started playing guitar when he was 15 in a band with his friends called Skin Cells. I ask him about the first show they played in his high school’s library, put on by its own radio station The Screaming Females.
“We were pretty bad, but it was our first show,” recalls Giannascoli. He looks over at Accione who was in Skin Cells with him to trigger his memory. “I remember I couldn’t get my guitar in tune. I had just learned guitar and I switched with one of my friends right before we played. But it went alright I guess, for a first show.”
Giannascoli’s success with his last album keeps faith in the DIY, bedroom recording music scene. Just as he looked up to Cothran, many emerging song-writers look up to him now. I ask Giannascoli if he has advice for young artists.
“Make some good music, send it to a lot of blogs, play a lot of shows.” He considers it more. “You have to do it because you love the process, if you do it for any other reasons, you’ll get discouraged.”
Giannascoli performs a short set later mainly playing songs off DSU. The small crowd screams the lyrics to Animal along with Giannascoli. He ends his set with Message, the final songoff of his album Rules, closing with the somber lyrics But I’m just stuck here by your window / Oh look how you have changed.
Giannascoli said if he DJ’d for his college radio, his DJ name would be “Spicy Boy” and he would play Jessica Lea Mayfield, Lucinda Williams, The Knife, and Aphex Twin on his first show.
All of his music can be downloaded off sandy.bandcamp.com
Fresh outta high school, Astro Cowboy releases Hedonism Colosseum
Wilmington indie rockers, Astro Cowboy, released their first full length album last weekend titled Hedonism Colosseum. Complete with a release party at Bourgie Nights in Wilmington on July 12th, the band handed out a hundred free copies of their album and also released it on bandcamp the following day.
Hedonism Colosseum explores the feelings, relationships, drama, and juvenile joy of being in high school. As the band writes on their bandcamp page:
"Remember when you thought that high school was going to last forever? When you thought that it was the apex of real? Every relationship, decision, and action you made, you thought was going to remain relevant and important for the rest of your life? This album is the result of those feelings."
The album features 10 brand new, original songs. It includes the heavier, punk influenced songs like “White Shoes" and "Suntan" which share a similar sound with the band’s first EP Rat-Man Vann, but on more than a couple tracks, such as “Inhale" and "Goodbye, A.E.G." the band takes instrumental explorations with intricate guitar riffs and drum fills that sound reminiscent of Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West.
All in all this is a very solid record, and my only complaint is that it’s not longer! Clocking in at 40 minutes, the end of this album leaves the listener wanting more.
Astro Cowboy follows the release of their album with an East Coast tour supporting fellow Wilmington band, Museum Mouth.
One of the best parts of North Carolina’s music scene is the familial vibes that go around. Some have described it as an “incestuous” community where lineups are interchangeable, band members come and go, but everyone feeds off of one another. So what happens when one of the area’s most beloved songwriters decides to go on his own and craft an album entirely on his lonesome…well something along the lines of Weller.
Nathan Toben has long been a fixture of the North Carolina music scene. Years ago he could be spotted in rhythm sections for acts like Wild Wild Geese or Americans in France, but he’s best known for being the mysterious front man for The Toddlers. The Toddlers received constant praise from musicians and concertgoers alike for their dark, dreamy pop songs that propelled them to opening spots for acts like Lost in the Trees and The Love Language. But once the band released their full-length debut they seemed to die out with a whimper. Now nearly half a year later Nathan Toben has resurfaced as the sole member of Weller, an incredible music expedition into the depths of “studio magic” and the inner-expanses of one man’s mind.
Toben joined Grant Golden in the studio for Carolina Grown two weeks ago to discuss the inspiration behind his concept album 1, a piece of work that’s as brooding as it is groovy. Compelled by the age-old concept of the four elements, Toben teamed up with Wesley Wolfe (who covered most of the production for the album) to crank out an album’s worth of introspective pop brilliance. Throughout the hour Toben discussed the songwriting process behind these tracks, his inspiration for making this a studio exclusive project (meaning no live shows) and what we can expect to hear from the esteemed songwriter in the near future.
Listen below for some selected tracks from Weller’s debut full-length and the full conversation:
MYKKI BLANCO feat. TENNIS RODMAN and discovery djs
This performance was by far one of the most spectacular nights I’ve had all summer, and it all happened thanks to these rising artists of Raleigh.
The show began with the Discovery DJs spicing the crowd up with some irresistibly catchy club beats. Tennis Rodman took it from there with his experimental mash-up of hip-hop, rap, beats and dance. His energetic personality emerged as he spit a diverse range of aggressive rap styles and beat production to the crowd.
Next, Mykki Blanco sat amongst the crowd as a casual participant and quickly began his show with an attention grabbing poem filled with drama. His performance ranged from sarcastic and narcissistic tirades of gender confusion to theatrical explosions that included eating a microphone and having a voluntary seizure on the sticky concrete floor. Mykki Blanco had me constantly entertained with not only his mastery of performance art, but also with the interesting commentary in his lyrics and the various ways of executing them. This included acappellas or mosh-instigating rap styles that offered outrageous and unexpected performances that made me laugh or feel uncomfortable at times. Nonetheless, I can surely say that everyone at the show had a crazy night.