Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Jenny Besetzt, Wing Dam, Secret Anderson (Kings, Raleigh, 8/5/17)

Jenny Besetzt has consistently been one of the best bands in North Carolina since I first caught them at a Hopscotch day party a few years ago.  Their new album, Tender Madness, should be on everyone's heavy rotation.  Driving bass, spine-tingling guitars, and what's becoming clear to be one of the most badass drummers in the Triangle, come together musically for an angular, retro-futuristic sound.  Bright light, dark energy.  But Jon Wollaber's unfathomably deep baritone is the cherry on the top (or deep down in the abyss).  Speaking of Hopscotch Music Festival, they're about to play with Future Islands on the big stage there, before embarking on a tour across wide swaths of the US and Canada with the Islands.

They played another powerful set at Kings last weekend, with two comparably great openers.  Baltimore's Wing Dam were full of crunchy indie-punk, and brought a grinding fun energy to the stage as usual.  South Carolina's Secret Guest and ET Anderson joined forces as Secret Anderson to celebrate the launch of the new label/platform/collective APT by the bands' respective frontmen Brett Churchill Nash and Wilson W. Wilson... or is it Tyler T. Tyler? :)

Photos and a couple of videos below.

Secret Anderson...

Wing Dam...
Jenny Besetzt...

Secret...!
... Anderson!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Just Another Raleigh Friday Night: Part II - Ghostt Bllonde/Seabreeze Diner/the Dead Bedrooms, Gudiya (7/14/17)

Continuing my chronicle of just an average Friday night in downtown Raleigh, after Granite In Reverse outside (see earlier post), I head indoors for what promised to be a fun 3-band bill at Kings Barcade.  All three acts share an affinity for mid-century pop, something I like to hear in new music after it percolates through the brains of today's kids.  I hadn't yet seen opening act the Dead Bedrooms.  They had perhaps the most straight-ahead-pop take... a little surfy and maybe a little '80s too.  They show real promise for a new band.

The Dead Bedrooms...
This was my second time seeing Seabreeze Diner.  They bounce crunchy dual guitars off smooth crooning, and filled the bigger room nicely (I'd seen them at the quaint, excellent but more quaint Carrboro venue the Station).  I'm not sure, but they might just like the Everly Brothers even more than Ghostt Bllonde's Marc Kuzio.

Seabreeze Diner...
(when the action is perfect but your auto-focus can't keep up)
What can I say about Ghostt Bllonde that I haven't already?  (after several years, I think I finally have the "LL"s and the "TT"s right?  Oh yeah, I know... GET THAT DAMN ALBUM OUT GUYS!!!  I know they're close; judging from the updates crossing my feed, praising the work of the great Missy Thangs finishing it up at Mitch Easter's Fidelitorium studio.  

Ghostt Bllonde...
GB having some fun with SD...
As I said, there was plenty going on this night.  Being a longtime fan of Indian music, Bollywood or otherwise, I had to check out a unique offering at Slim's called Garam Masala.  Advertised as "an experimental night of spicy selections", it featured a DJ, Gudiya, mixing South Asian sounds with electronic.  Altered the usual Slim's atmosphere into a more experimental, easy-going vibe... great for a post-show beer.  I even recognized a couple from the movies I used to watch much more often... think I heard Chaiyya Chaiyya, and maybe some Jazzy B.  Check out Gudiya's Sister Mix on her Soundcloud page.

Gudiya & incense...
Here's a couple of videos from the King's show...

Just Another Raleigh Friday Night: Part I - Granite In Reverse (7/14/17)

When I moved here about a decade ago, downtown Raleigh was a dead zone.  True, I was busy with two much younger kids and a wife.  I get out much more these days, as the former two are now much older, and the latter is no more... well no more my wife anyway, somebody else's :).  But even busy as I was with domesticity, when we managed to get downtown, there was NOTHING.  No events, no galleries, not even a decent restaurant (trailblazers excepted, I know there were a some brave pioneering spaces).

Now, it seems you can't throw a stick without that stick hitting something that challenges your artistic preconceptions or sates your creative palate.   One recent Friday night was a case in point.

I've appreciated the breath of fresh air that Ginger Wagg and Wild Actions have brought to the scene lately.  Wild Actions is a collective of performance artists, usually featuring Wagg moving silently and exploring a space in various ways (depending on the piece), accompanied by music, props, films, etc.  You might have seen Reflex Arc (Wagg and Crowmeat Bob on sax) opening for a band. Whatever the aim of the given piece--admittedly not always clear to me--you always come away with a different appreciation for the space, for sound (or silence), and for what art can be.

This time, the theme was somewhat more concrete (pun intended).  Granite in Reverse was a collaboration between Wagg and filmmaker Jaclyn Bowie.  It was inspired by Bowie's film, Geij, a short in which "a poisoned atmosphere is restored by a plant and its seeds."  In Granite... Wagg crawled and climbed around Exchange Plaza, stretching tendrils, leaves, and seeds over the cement and brick surfaces.  You could imagine in hundreds or thousand of years, that is inevitably what will happen... granite will degrade, nature will return.  On top of that, the "plant" offered the viewers a bounty!  Wagg placed little tamales of what tasted like corn and coconut.  Then, we placed the husks into a nearby sculpture, which took them in, "digested" them, and kicked out little pellets of totally natural um... fertlizer! (see video clips below).  It was a humorous end to represent the circle which will inevitably claim all that we, as humans, do.  Curiously, filmmaker Bowie was nowhere to be seen... ;)

video
video

As alluded earlier, there was a lot going on around downtown this night.  I caught Granite In Reverse before heading over to Kings for some live music, then Slim's for some DJ action.  More on that in Part II...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Kosher Fest - Saturday 5/27/17 - Long Live the Hut!

"Punk rock was my first girl / she left me a scar so I have her still" - Beulah, Silver Lining

I was a late bloomer in just about every respect.  Maybe it was just classic middle kid, ultra-geek (before it was cool, man!) syndrome.  Maybe I shared some of the genes that made my future son autistic.  But in life, in love, in pretty much all the social norms, I always lagged behind.  I was pretty much a grammar school kid in high school (you should see my yearbook photos!), a high school kid in college, an undergraduate in grad school.  It's probably why I now live my "adult" life like I'm still in college.

Even in my musical taste, I bloomed late. As a kid, I mostly listened to guilty pleasures like Boston, Styx, and Foreigner (hey, I was from da West bank of NOLA!).   But I'd listen to some weird stuff, too.  I'd spend hours perched over the turntable (before that became UN-cool, then cool again!), headphones on, absorbing Yes's Tales from Topographic Oceans; the definitive bloated prog-rock mind-bender if ever there was one.  Maybe most girls thought I was from another planet because, in my mind, soaking in 25-minute prog-rock movements, I quite literally was.  
But, musical or otherwise, punk rock was my first real "grown-up" passion.  In college I started to get into British stuff like Dave Edmunds and Elvis Costello, and that grew into love of American bands like the dBs, Let's Active, Game Theory, Descendants...  hmm...  seems the more off-the-mainstream-path I get, the better the music gets!  When I first I heard the Pixies "Gigantic" on KLSU (in Baton Rouge), I decided then and there to become a DJ.

Make no mistake, this musical passion is the main reason why I took 7 years to finish a PhD.  Years of deejaying, way too many shows, hosting the local music show, publishing a zine, starting a proto-website... it's really never stopped.  Zine-ing grew to the more acceptable adult past-time of an indie newspaper column.  This continues today into the humble blog you're reading.

But it's always been about punk rock.  And while that loaded phrase has as many definitions as there are people you ask, to me it's always been simply about any music that's different and breaks norms.  About artists that pursue their passion for the simple sake of it.  But beyond music, about voices that speak loudly and challenge the status quo.  Indie-alternative-underground-college-punk-whatever music has always been to me at its core, about free speech.  And I've always been passionate about experiencing and promoting that.

Okay, to the point.  In my mind, the purest manifestation of punk rock is (and perhaps always has been) the house show. It is the epitomy of that most punk of ethics, DIY.  "You don't need to tell me how to do this.  I'M gonna do it!"  Sometimes, even the most podunk, backwoods of towns can have the best ones.  Desperation breeds creativity.  At once angry and ebullient, lashing out and life-affirming, house shows give voice to the silenced, a place to the dispossessed.  A good house venue is more a home than any club could ever be.  Well, maybe a little because they usually ARE  homes :).
And there have been few house venues as welcoming as the Kosher Hut.  More home-y and familial than the buzz-iest club, the Hut's been a place where all are welcome... even this old dog.  But it's still punk as fuck.  Really, to me, those two things have always been one and the same.

The Hut's raised tons of dough for many worthy causes, all while providing one helluva great time.  Whatever Brains blew the lid off that joint.  Zack Mexico got naked.  9192 brought smooth raps.  Synths jammed, radicals screamed, horses played...  all in all, it's been weird and wild fun.  
And this Saturday, Kosher Hut's calling it quits with a blowout "show".. I say "show" because it's much more than that.  Kosher Fest features a line-up of  a dozen or more for day parties, on two stages.  Then at night, they'll have a Hopscotch-worthy line-up:  Lonnie Walker, ET Anderson, Acid Chaperone, Jenny Besetzt, Ghostt Bllonde, Zensofly, and Oak City Slums!  Killer.  But the day party line-up is no slouch either:
 
The whole shindig starts early (1:00pm) and goes on into the night.  I hear tell there'll be a BBQ food truck there, and there's even talk of a slip'n'slide!  But there'll be non-stop great music, all punk in spirit, though greatly varied in genre & style.  And that's punk, too. So come say g'bye to one of the great house venues, and have a good ol' time.  As for where... as they say, ask a punk. 

This is so big, they should just go all the way & sell out.  Maybe my great MS Paint skills could snag some o' that corporate $$! :)

Friday, April 21, 2017

The GOOD Kinda MOAB (Mother of All Bills) - Zack Mexico, Naked Gods, Lonnie Walker - Nightlight, Sat, 4/22/17

I don't usually promote a show beforehand other than to fire off a quick facebook post, linking to the event.  But this one merits more.  To Be Heard booking have put together numerous great shows since their inception earlier this year.  But this one tops them all.  And by "all", I mean all local shows.  Ever.

Okay, maybe that's hyperbolic.  Musical taste is subjective.  But these three bands are all right in my sweet spot, and in my mind, may just be the three best bands in North Carolina:  Zack Mexico, Naked Gods, and Lonnie Walker.

If you read my blog at all, you know I'm in LOVE with Outer Banks' own Zack Mexico.  ZM is my crush... if I weren't too old to crush, and if I were gay, and if he were a person.  He's HAWT!  Just Google How Strange... and Zack Mexico and you'll see some overlap.  I hate long jams, but I can sit and watch these guys extend a song over 10 minutes and love it.  Hell, I can and often have watched them build a long set out of 4 or 5 songs, and left completely satisfied and musically satiated.  I can't count the number of times I've heard newbies gush after one of their shows, and with a series of opening dates with Future Islands, they'll be making a lot more fans soon.

Here's a vid I took of them at Hopscotch a couple of years back, doing an older song that appears on their latest album, Get Rich and Liver Forever:


Then there's Naked Gods, from Boone.  I kind of consider them to be the mountain equivalent to the beach's Zack Mex... similar mindset, slightly more rootsy vibe.  But they got that indie-psychedelic jam thing going.  Their self-titled album is one of the best by an NC band in years.  Frontman Seth Sullivan is a force of nature onstage.  Expect bear hugs.

Here's them at Hopscotch a couple of years back with a great song from the afore-mentioned album:


Then Raleigh's Lonnie Walker.  They laid off for a while, but are back, and the recent Earth Canals was another one of the best local albums in years.   They lean even a bit rootsier (maybe twangier, really), but really it's just Brian Corum's unique style.  I link them with some of the great Ghostmeat records bands from that Athens GA label in the '90s (Sunbrain, Drip, Tony Tidwell, Dave Dondero... particularly Dondero's band Flatwheelers that predated his solo stuff...damn they were great.).    I regret that I never had time to give ...Canals its due when it came out.  Teenage Poem is perfect pop.  Songs like All Bombs Away and Baby Man are downright incendiary.  And it's all punctuated by sublime slower tunes like No Pure Light and Seasons.

Here's Lonnie Walker doing Summertime at the very same venue where this show of shows will be tomorrow night:


Any one of these bands blows up the stage.  All three, and it might just change your life.  Do not miss this show.  Zack Mexico, Naked Gods, and Lonnie Walker, Saturday, 4/22/17, Nightlight in Chapel Hill.  Mother of all Bills.

Friday, April 7, 2017

North Elementary - And Every Color You Have Ever Seen (Potluck)

North Elementary’s new LP, And Every Color You Have Ever Seen, opens with staccato guitar lines and words of encouragement and optimism:  “I know you’re dreaming of something / well I don’t care what it is / as long as you’re dreaming of something.”  I’m not great at interpreting (even hearing, really) lyrics, but I'd translate that as:  DO something, MAKE art, MAKE the world a better place.  It’s up to you!

…Color has lotsa psych-y vibes and straight-ahead power pop, and even swerves into southern rock territory at times.  As in earlier albums, North Elementary’s music is laced with ‘80s Brit & ‘90s American indie (I hear Versus and Built to Spill this time ‘round, especially the latter in Dems Da Breaks).  They pull all this diversity together into what is really a cohesive and non-derivative sound.

This collection makes for a really great (if a bit early) summer album, especially cuts like the jumpy Slippin’ Into the Sun and the stoner haze of Waste a Day.  What the hell, start your summer early.  

North Elementary celebrate this release with a great line-up at the Cat's Cradle Backroom, tonight, 4/7/14.  The Wyrms, S.E. Ward, and Reflex Arc open.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trolling the Proles

It only took two days to get our first new "Newspeak" (#Orwell #1984) term from the Trump administration:  "Alternative facts."

Most people not living under a rock know this by now.  But for background, on the first Meet the Press after Friday's inauguration, NBC's Chuck Todd was questioning Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway about the bizarre press briefing given by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.  In dressing down the media for allegedly spreading falsehoods about the inauguration's crowd size, Spicer read a prepared statement that itself was rife with falsehoods.

In response to persistent questioning by the understandably incredulous Todd, Conway -- who was avoiding an answer -- finally resorted simply to saying that Spicer was providing "alternative facts."  She couldn't help but choke on the words as she said them (entire interview here, jump to 4:15).


The next day in his first meeting with Congressional leaders, Trump repeated his thoroughly debunked claim that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton in the election.  At this point, I think it's completely warranted -- I would say necessary -- to stop couching words and simply call this what it is:  a "lie."  So kudos to the Times for being very clear in their headline.

So now, well under one week into the Trump administration, we are seeing the unprecedented assault on the truth that we feared.  Such things were said by Trump during the campaign, and were also unprecedented then.  But that was a political campaign, where distortions and bias (though seldom as blatant as Trump's) are to be expected.

We were warned about this; from the progressive left, from moderates, and even from some on the right.  But we've been warned about this sort of behavior long before.  Sure, George Orwell's 1984 is the easy "go to" literary reference for such actions.  But it's just so apt.  Never before has it been so prescient and relevant to modern-day America.  Little wonder the term "Orwellian" was used in numerous stories about Conway's words.

What we see the White House engaging in is what by Orwell called "blackwhite."  Let's look at the Wikipedia page on "blackwhite" (emphasis mine):
"Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink."  — Orwell, 1984
The word is an example of both Newspeak and doublethink. It represents the active process of rewriting the past, control of the past being a vital aspect of the Party's control over the present.  The ability to blindly believe anything, regardless of its absurdity, can have different causes: respect for authority, fear, indoctrination, even critical laziness or gullibility...  A true Party member could automatically, and without thought, expunge any incorrect information and totally replace it with true information from the Party. If properly done, there is no memory or recovery of the Incorrect information that could cause unhappiness to the Party member by committing thoughtcrime.
"Control of the past being a vital aspect of the Party's control over the present."  This is the goal.  And the causes for and nature of the blind belief by Trump's core supporters and loyalists are downright eerie when placed into today's "fake news" perspective:  the expulsion of "incorrect information" to make room for the party line, made possible by "respect for authority, fear, indoctrination, even critical laziness or gullibility."  The Party relies on all of these.

While Trump doesn't quite have a Ministry of Truth (yet), Spicer is trying to be the loyal editor.  Thankfully, thus far, the effort to "edit" the (very recent) past has been so outrageous that the media have been standing up to it.  Let's hope this continues.  A free press is our best defense against such outright attempts at re-painting reality.

Of course, it's not just about crowd size.  That only speaks to Trump's fragile ego.  This episode has merely proven that his thin skin will continue now that he has taken office (ironic that he criticizes "snowflakes" when he is the ultimate one).  But worse -- much worse -- is that this episode indicates that the Trump administration will have no problem blatantly lying to the media, and attempting to bully them into portraying events the way they want them to be portrayed.  This becomes much more important when we get beyond superficial issues like crowd size.

Throughout the campaign, many on the right haven't understood the nature of the resistance to Trump. They wonder why it's been much more vociferous and urgent than, say, to a run-of-the-mill conservative whose politics and worldview progressives may take great issue with.  Yes, he's said some horrible things about women and minorities.  He's proposed some abhorrent policies.  But it's more than that.

For those who still don't get it, it was made plain for all to see as soon as he took office.  What we have seen on the first few days of the Trump administration has been a concrete display of exactly what the warnings were about:  this man, who many had worried was exhibiting obvious fascistic and authoritarian tendencies in his campaign, just might bring those tendencies to his governance.

It's already started.