The Pinhook | Durham, NC | 4/12/14
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Record Label: Tiny Engines
Genre: Emo, Pop Punk
I believe the cover can say a lot about an album. This one’s a familiar image, suburbia. Though, it’s not a comforting view. The words of the album title are painted in black across the vinyl panels of this weary-looking house. It’s almost definitely a sarcastic remark. The lawn is overgrown. The hedges are misshapen. The shutters are dirtied. This doesn’t feel like home.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Oh no, another pop punk album about the suburbs.” Well, if there’s one thing that sets this album apart from — those — it’s the writing. The lyrics on a song like, “Your Deep Rest” make that very clear. You don’t have to read too far into them to see the song is about loss, particularly the loss of someone you love. It’s a theme that permeates the whole album. In “Dendron” it’s summed up with the words, “Part of your charm was the way you would push me from all of the traps that I just couldn’t see. Figures the one that was there to have tripped you up would be the one was set there by me.” For me, these aching moments of regret are the album’s highlights. Where you felt you could have done something more. You could have somehow fixed a hopeless situation.
The Hotelier’s sophomore album, “Home, Like Noplace Is There” was released a couple months ago. While this means I’ve missed the hype train, it also means I’ve had plenty of time to let this record settle. Well, this collection of nine songs has been on consistent rotation, and it still sticks. It’s the kind of emo/pop punk hybrid that hasn’t been a rarity in the past few years. But, it’s much more endearing than most. I think when people look back on the late 00’s and early 10’s era of DIY “emo” music there are only a few bands they’ll remember. Algernon Cadwallader, Snowing, TWIABP, and The Hotelier will be among the most prominent.
In a weird way, this album also shares elements with bands like Third Eye Blind, Blink-182, and Taking Back Sunday. But here, the emotions, the guitar distortion, and the vocals, are all much more raw. What I love about this album is its tendency to conjure up memories in me, like being in middle school, waiting endlessly in carpool lines, or just the feeling of being young and aching to have a purpose, dreaming of living an unhinged life, but still so scared to leave home. It brings back memories of hopping creeks and sneaking into construction homes. The failed relationships that can’t be resurrected, the regret of letting time make its move, the snare of depression. Things that feel so strange to look back on now… “Home, Like Noplace Is There” will surely be looked back on. It’s undoubtedly one of the best rock albums of 2014.
PS: Do yourself a favor. Read the lyrics with this one.
Favorite tracks: “The Scope of All This Rebuilding”, “Your Deep Rest”, “Among the Wildflowers”
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Phuzz Phest. It was incredible! I got to see a lot of my favorite acts, and there was not a set I didn’t enjoy. Here are a few standouts:
Loamlands played a bunch of material I hadn’t heard since the last time I saw them (February 14th for DBB11 Night 2). This new material has Will Hackney playing the most technically complicated parts I’ve seen from the band. There’s more grit everywhere, including on his acoustic guitar. Each note (both vocally and guitar-wise) from Kym Register feels more confident and deliberate. And of course, the four rotating members of the rhythm section are all some of the triangle’s best (Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver) and Nicolas Sanborn (Sylvan Esso, Megafaun) were in tonight, Terry Lonegan (Hiss Golden Messenger, Mount Moriah) and Brad Cook (Megafaun) have killed it on others). It has been amazing seeing their material grow from the first show they played together 363 days ago, and I see the band continually reaching into territory that no other local band, or any band for that matter, can claim.
Whatever Brains is another band I keep seeing, and after their performance on Sunday, that won’t change. It was very odd to see them in the context of Ziggy’s, which has the most massive stage of any rock club I’ve seen. Rich’s and Will’s vocals felt extremely high in the mix, which gave a very different quality compared to my usual experience of getting soaked up in droning noise. I’m really digging the two bass set up backed by Matt Northrup and Anthony of Winston Facials, Primovanhalen, and local “space” Reanimator. Check out their set on April 17th at Slim’s with the equally amazing Protomartyr.
Richmond’s Nervous Ticks was an extremely interesting find. Singer, percussionist, and noise wizard Liza Jane is spastic and loud, yet with a very amazing flow to her on-stage persona. Killa K beats a Floor Tom and Metal pale with an urgency that matches. And finally, Guitarist and frontman Chaz Tick plays with a harmoniously disorienting energy and speed that you have to check out.
I wrote about The Tills in anticipation of Phuzz Phest here, and their two sets met my expectations 100%.
Favorite set of the fest goes to Greensboro’s Drag Sounds. Drag Sounds have the perfect combination of all of my favorite things going on. The guitar parts are weavy, the bass lines fun, and the drums hit HARD. By the second song I was completely spaced out. Drag Sounds have an excess of good vibes. I can’t remember if this was taken during their set or the proceeding (and also great) band R. Father, but it pretty much sums it up. After that set, I think I mentioned to my friends that “Drag Sounds are great” something like 20 times. Note: their bandcamp releases do not represent what they sound like (yet). See this band live.
As absolutely incredible as my time at the festival was, I think it’s appropriate to mention my own personal feelings of what I’ve been seeing go on in the triangle these past few days. Without getting into details that have been arising through various social media outlets, I just want to say that I live for local music. Ever since I was a senior in high school in Durham, I’ve been going to as many shows as I can. I’ve made some of my best friends, had my best experiences, and met some of the best mentors I’ve had through the shows that many of you reading this have also attended. But all of these things should come second to our responsibility to make sure that the kind of content and events we all attend, promote, support and play so readily are safe for everyone. Do not be afraid to ask people for their support in this goal, do not be afraid to speak out if you feel uncomfortable, and do not be afraid to take a stance against things that might hurt others. It’s one thing to support only those musicians that don’t fall below your own personal threshold or intuition regarding the safety of people, but it’s much more important to actively assist in improving the quality of experiences through your own actions. What this means for me is that I will try to make sure that I am more diligent in making sure that the types of events I attend, talk about, play and get my friends to come to do not have the possibility of being hurtful to others. I’ll try to ask questions and seek responses when situations that feel uncomfortable to me do arise. And most importantly, I will try to make sure that you, whoever you are, know that I’m a person who has made the safety of people within our local music community a core value through my actions and words. We’ll all fuck up and make mistakes, but growing from those mistakes is how we will all actually keep this amazing community amazing for everyone. I also want to sincerely thank those that have come forward and shared their own views and actions including Aimée Argote, Ryan Martin, Philip Pledger, Kym Register, and many more.
Good vibes always,
My final thoughts on Phuzz Phest 2014 is a quality tip of the hat. Growing up from around the area, I never considered Winston-Salem to be the most hopping place in the triad. However, after experiencing Phuzz for the first time, I can rightfully say that I am impressed with the music scene and efforts that everyone is working towards in this old tobacco town. While there, it was not hard to believe that I was partaking in what could be the beginning stages of something similar to a SXSW. With places like Krankies Coffee, The Garage, Ziggy’s, Reanimator, and top quality restaurants, Winston-Salem is a hot spot that is full of potential.
Not only are wonderful things happening in Winston, but there is so much room for expansion. Be it abandoned warehouses, or the large piece of land that separates Krankies from the highway, I am eager to see the growth of Winston-Salem as a city and music scene over the next few years.
I should not dare forget to mention though that this year’s festival included top performers and was very well organized. One aspect that impressed me was how on schedule most of the acts seemed to be and how professional all the venues were run and organized. Additionally, Phuzz Phest provided a lot more events that were separate from just the lineup. With a coffee conference, brunch, and multiple day parties, Phuzz Phest was an unrelenting outlet of entertainment. Although I enjoyed all of the music acts that I came into contact with; I would say that at the end of the week it is the quality, growth, and potential of Phuzz Phest that ultimately puts the biggest smile on my face.
It’s not too often that you find a sold out hip hop show in Raleigh these days, let alone on an unsuspecting Tuesday night. But the formula of the infamous Mobb Deep, North Carolina’s own 9th Wonder, and a fresh album release combined to pack King’s with hip hop heads ready to celebrate some of the greatest craftsmen still in the game.
The show started off with 9th Wonder spinning beats for some of the up and coming artists on his new Jamla is the Squad album. GQ and Rapsody killed it and got the crowd sufficiently hyped up for the main event. 9th Wonder graciously relinquished the stage and the heavy weights entered (literally, Mobb Deep had a 350 pound body guard chilling in the corner). The Infamous kings of east coast rap have not lost a step, as both Havoc and Prodigy spit bar after bar of electrified gold.
Photos by Alex Cao. Used by permission.
I’ll be honest; prior to the Phuzz Phest lineup announcement I knew nothing about Judy Barnes. I’m still unsure of her musical background, but I have come to accept the fact that it doesn’t matter. The songs that Phuzz Phest put up of Judy Barnes from soundcloud captivated me like no music has recently. Barnes is able to blend beautiful piano melodies with jaw dropping vocals to create a sound of her own. Being a native a Winston-Salem, I feel like Barnes will be one of the best up and coming local acts to go see. Barnes will be playing at Krankies on April 6th at 9:00 pm; and even though I have to make the trek back to Raleigh that night, she is making a strong case on why I should stick around in Winston just a little longer.
"Yeah, we love strokin’ it."
After coming up to the band after their set at King’s Barcade for Zack Mexico's Album Release Show to tell them I really liked the song with the upstroke part, that's the comment I received. Essentially, this band is a bunch of bastards that make some great, sunny 60's tunes.
What sets them apart from the pack is their ability to execute. Lead singer Harry Harrison has an impeccable belt and this real loose way of strumming chords (probably due to all that masturbation) that pairs well with lead guitarist’ Jesse Meyers deliberate style. Tom and Josh keep the feeling loose but the groove tight on the rhythm side of things. I saw The Tills again at Nice Price Books with Jenny Besetzt, and even though that band now has a machine of a drummer (the dude from The Bronzed Chorus), I remember thinking they held their own when it came to drummer awesomeness.
After making some changes to her look and modifying her music a little bit, Jessica Lea Mayfield is definitely on my chart of must-see artists for this year’s Phuzz Phest. From growing up listening to her hypnotizing acoustic sets to hearing her equally as talented brother cover her songs, the lyrics of Jessica’s songs are always something that have seemed to captivate and keep my ears perked. On top of the lyrics, Jessica’s soft and sweet vocals are able to contribute even further to her fairy-like presence. Now, I’m not one to say if her current look/sound is here to stay, but I know for a fact that it has not changed my outlook and appreciation for her artistic talents. Be it in acoustic version or soft rock form, I’ll be eager to get the front row of any Jessica Lea Mayfield show that is in the North Carolina area.
This past Saturday, March 22, Merge Records (in association with Bull City Running Co.) celebrated its 25th anniversary with a 25 kilometer race from Merge’s hometown of Chapel Hill to the label’s new hometown, Durham. Over 800 runners signed up to run the grueling, 15 mile course from the streets of Chapel hill to the Motorco Music Hall in Durham. Dedicated runners, avid music lovers, and faithful supporters of Merge Records all came out to support Merge and to participate in the race. When the racing was over, food, music, and good times filled the atmosphere at the after-party as Merge Records artists, The Love Language and Vertical Scratchers, played for the crowds and rope skipping team, The Bouncing Bulldogs, performed jump roping tricks.
Merge Records is an independent record label that was founded in Chapel Hill in 1989 and has since gained much success from signing bands such as Arcade Fire, Spoon, and (WKNC, Double Barrel Benefit headliners) The Love Language and Mount Moriah. And just like the length of a 25k, Merge records has come quite a long way from their beginnings. Signing more bands and creating more successful events such as this 25th anniversary shindig, Merge continues to grow as a top independent music label.
In return for Merge’s many contributions to WKNC’s Double Barrel Benefit concerts, WKNC DJs volunteered to help out at the race. “It was really cool seeing how many people came out to support Merge and getting to cheer them on in their endeavors! …but the food trucks were pretty great too.” says WKNC’s Yvonne Chazal, who was one of the volunteers at the race. When asked what Merge Records artist Yvonne would race a 5k against she answered, “First of all, I would/could/should never ever run a 25k, but I would definitely start a race with Autumn Ehinger from the Love Language, stop halfway through, and go get waffles. (Autumn, hope you’re into this!!)”. Being a personal fan of the adorableness of Autumn Ehinger, it is safe to say this was an excellent answer.
Local dog fanatic and WKNC Underground DJ, Emma Badorrek, also had a few things to say about volunteering for Merge. “My favorite part was the concert afterwards at Motorco Music Hall. It was super fun and free. Another great part was seeing all of the dogs that people brought (I don’t know just really love dogs) it was also nice to live vicariously through people in good enough shape to run 25 kilometers.” well said Emma, well said indeed. When asked what surprised her the most about volunteering, Emma only had this to say “I don’t know”. Wow, short and well spoken, brilliant.
"Supporting local record labels is really important, we need to keep music accessible to people who don’t live in places like New York and Los Angeles". Says Yvonne. And Merge Records is doing just that, bringing great music not only to North Carolina, but to music lovers of all sorts who are looking for some good ole’, solid, independent music. Keep it running, Merge!
Also, look out for Merge’s 25th anniversary music festival coming to Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC! Details can be found at http://www.mergerecords.com/merge-25
So if you were in the Triangle area for the first week of March, you might have noticed the overwhelming amount of concert choices that made many music lovers faced with the typical music festival question; who do I choose to see? For me, this week had been planned out well before Christmas, but even as the week approached more and more shows were being announced that made me question my initial decisions.
As things started to pan out, the big questions seemed to boil down to these options: On Tuesday night, either St. Vincent at the Haw River Ballroom or Palehound with Pie Face Girls at Nice Price Books; then on Wednesday either Future Islands with Wye Oak at the Haw River Ballroom or Shovels and Rope with Hurray for the Riff Raff at Cat’s Cradle. Of course, with my obsession with HFTRR, I chose to see them for the fourth time within the past year (and you better bet I will see them for a 5th on April 10th at the Local 506) over the crazily passionate Future Islands. Then, since my ears were still ringing by this point I unfortunately had to sit out the Wool with Sun Club and Wharves show at Nice Price on Thursday night, but the action was soon to rise again on Friday. On this day, I was faced with another difficult decision; either Houndmouth with Rayland Baxter at the Haw River Ballroom, Oberhofer with Small Black and Numans at the Local 506, OR Tow3rs with Lilac Shadows and Body Games at the Chapel Hill Underground. Since I had already bought tickets to see Rayland Baxter and was really interested in seeing Houndmouth since I missed them at the Newport Folk Festival this past summer, I decided to stick with this show…and boy was that a good choice. Not only did Rayland Baxter serenade the crowd and provide some comical commentary, but Houndmouth absolutely blew me away. Being a young band out of New Albany, Indiana, Houndmouth seems like a band that just truly enjoys playing for people and with one another.
So with all this being said, why did I feel led to share this with you? It is not because I was mad about all the bands that I didn’t get to see (even though I really would have loved to see all of them), or because I had to spend a lot of money on gas and risk failing two midterms, but because I want people to understand just how amazing the music scene of the Triangle is shaping out to be. Not only are we thankful to be the host of the wonderful Hopscotch Music Festival, but we also have plenty of concerts to choose from on a weekly basis. Although this first week of March seemed to be crazier than the college basketball tournaments, I am happy to say that this music madness is here to stay. Looking ahead to the future shows at all the Triangle venues, I can confidently say that the amount of music coming our way is on a steady flow. So I suggest to my fellow North Carolinians to kick back, enjoy the tunes, and be thankful that you are living in such a blooming musical hub.