Thursday, October 6, 2016

Autumnal Vibin' (a mini-mixtape of local releases for your enjoyment)

Lately, I've been listening to a playlist of recent local and sorta local releases on my trusty Galaxy SIII (hey, at least it doesn't explode!).  I think these bands all go together in a mellow way appropriate for the fall season.   Since I never have time to review records, and this is only a small selection the the many great local releases to come out in the past few months, I thought I'd share some here.

Beauty World and Moon Racer celebrate their two releases Saturday at the Carrack in Durham.  Eston Dickinson recently released a collection of songs that's decidedly more lo-fi than the his last, AM Gold (fully fleshed out with his Carolina Wrecking Crew).  But this set of tunes shows that if the songs are good, production is secondary.  Sort of the same thing can be said for SE Ward, who's recent EP is stripped down compared to the full band she's been hitting stages with of late.  But either way, the songs are good; and damn if her voice doesn't sound awfully Southern for being from Vermont.  Oh, and BTW, Eston will be on Raleigh Little Radio tonight from 9:00-10:30.

While Flock of Dimes may not be considered local (listed as Baltimore on their bio), Jenn Wasner now calls Durham, I think, home.  And DavĂ­d Garza, though not a local, was a big part of my scene coming up in Baton Rouge.  He's always been an Austin guy, but came east to play Red Stick a bunch of times when I was hosting local radio show back then, so he's kinda "local" to me.  Plus, for the first time since I've moved here, he plays the Triangle!  (Nov 1 at the Pour House, with Gaby Moreno).  I can't recommend that show highly enough; and show up to catch Garza opening!

My short little mixtape closes with Greensboro's Echo Courts, kicking it up a bit (though this song is mellower than most of the psych-romps on their new LP, In the Garden).  So here's a short little playlist of that stuff.  Be sure to check out the full releases! (which you can jump to from each of the tunes below)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hopscotch Music Festival - Saturday Night (9/10/16)

At long last, here's the last night of my Hopscotch Music Festival coverage... is it Hopscotch 2017 yet? (I know, practically... :) )  You may have noticed I skipped the big shows at City Plaza, save for the wonderful Wye Oak on Thursday.  With all the day parties (often stretching into the City Plaza time slot) and the great night shows, I had to take a break sometime!  Plus, I've never been much for bigger venues... takes the immediacy away.  Live music for me is as much about a shared experience with the band as it is about hearing the music.  I need to be front and center whether I'm taking photos or not.

Side note:  It's come to my attention that some people think I'm "working" when they see me shooting a show, or they don't want to get in my way, etc.  Nah, I'm having fun like everybody else.  Dive in!  Say hi!  The camera's just the way I see things.

Anyway, two shared experiences I was looking forward to in this last batch of night shows were at Deep South, always a good venue for Hopscotch shows.  I had never seen Weird Pennies (of Raleigh) yet, but knew of frontman Thomas McNeely when he was with Jenny Besetzt.  The Pennies' music sounded great online, and the show didn't disappoint.  Jerky, punky indie-experimental in the vein of a (slightly less esoteric) Whatever Brains or the next band in the lineup (see later)... I'll have to listen more to fully digest their sound, but it was good.

Weird Pennies...
Next band in the lineup (see now) was Columbia, SC's, ET Anderson.  As I wrote a few weeks back after their Kosher Hut pre-Hopscotch show, they may be my new favorite live band.  Recorded, they come off a bit quieter... chill, introspective weirdness with a slow burn.  Live, they take the same songs and blow that shit up.  Either way, it's a meld of soul and indie-weirdness.  A little bit Devo, a little bit Pavement, a lot bit outer space.  That shot at the top is ET Anderson bassist Hot Tub John, his wife's eyes lit up with love (and guitar glare).

ET Anderson...
Speaking of Whatever Brains, my next stop was to be Neptune's to see Bodykit, a new project featuring Rich and Josh from the Brains.  Unfortunately, I found out on the way over they were done. But I bumped into most of Beauty World and Moon Racer (where they told me about their joint release show at the Carrack in Durham this weekend, to which all of you MUST GO!) and followed them over to Memorial Auditorium to catch a little of Andrew Bird.  I'm somewhat familiar with Bird's music (having only one of his releases), but again, me and big venues... not so much.  Still, it was a nice break from the treble and the clang.  Tift Merritt even got up and sang a couple with him (see below).

Andrew Bird...
One way or another, I was gonna close Hopscotch with some brass.  My initial thought was fellow New Orleanians the Stooges Brass Band.  I figured the shotgun shack that is Slim's would already be at capacity for Downtown Boys (sorta-kinda brass in that members come from brass band What Cheer? Brigade, who wowed Hopscotch a year or two ago).  But I was getting reports that the line at the Pour House for Stooges was around the block, and when I walked by Slim's, it was open!  So I camped out there for the remainder.

Downtown Boys describe themselves as a "bi bilingual political dance sax punk party from Providence."  Yeah, that's pretty much it.  Singer Victoria Ruiz opened most songs with a rant against the given injustice of the next song, and then proceeded to cap it with a blast of raw energy, belting out lyrics in English and Spanish with the ferocity of Ian MacKaye in his heydey.  She spent half her time in the crowd, singing and slamming, as the band held down the fort with dual saxes.  Definitely a fun way to close Hopscotch 2016.

Downtown Boys...
Are we done yet?
Not quite.  Here's a few black and white shots that better capture the controlled chaos of the Downtown Boys at Slim's.
See ya next year, Hopscotch!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hopscotch Music Festival - Saturday Day Parties (9/10/16)

I started Hopscotch Saturday's day parties Upstairs/Downstairs at King's/Neptunes, with the OCSC party.  Slow and dark downstairs at first -- literally and figuratively -- with Boogie Reverie.  He's a CH-Carrboro singer-songwriter I'd never seen yet.  He reminded me a little of John Darnielle, or anti-folk singer Roger Manning, but his stuff I've heard online is much more wide-ranging pop-rock and experimental.  

Boogie Reverie...
Next I popped upstairs to see Mac McCaughan, who played a variety of tunes from Superchunk days to his current Non-Believers material.  Kings was packed early for this one, and they all -- from the  aging indie-dads (like me) to millenials giving props to the Merge progenitor -- appreciated it.

Mac McCaughan...
After a bite at Garland's (yummy Korean tacos!) I went back downstairs to see Shelles, for only my second time.  Shelles is the current band of Stuart Edwards from Old Bricks, with a host of great sidemen who cast hypnotic spells full of reverberating guitar and violin.  They don't play often enough, but with their just-released LP Carousel, they're hitting stages more often.  This Thursday (Oct. 6th), they bring this moody, southern gothic vibe to the Pinhook for their Durm release show (I missed one earlier at the Cradle Backroom, but I'll try to make this one).

On my way over to the Pour House, I stopped into Slim's and caught just a couple from the Charming Youngsters.  They're another local act I hadn't yet seen (there are a LOT of bands 'round here, folks!) so I wanted to make the effort.  Their quirky pop sounded good to me in an Elvis Costello kinda way; gotta check'em out for a full set soon.

The Charming Youngsters...
Then over to the Pour House to close out my day parties with a big one by Younger Brothers Productions.  Raleigh's No Eyes were the penultimate act, taking the stage in some rather sexy evening wear.  You wouldn't expect such well-dressed young gents to tear up the stage with the dark-psych-southern-doom-rock that they do.  But there you are.

No Eyes...
I can't say much more about Zack Mexico than I've said here a hundred times.  Suffice it to say I like'em just a bit.  They usually burn through an hour or so with about 4 or 5 extended jams (not to be confused in the slightest with jam bands).  This was the case with their nighttime set at Hopscotch 2015, which IMHO was the best of that year's fest.  NO ONE was left wanting for more after that blast of intense fun.  But this time, they played more songs than I remember them playing in forever.

I've taken so many shots of this band they start to all look the same to me.  So this time, let's do some portraits... TIGER BEAT-style! (anybody else remember that or am I just way too old?)

Hey kids, it's Zack Mexico!  Introducing...
The Shredder, Jamie!
The Mad Scientist, Matt!
The Wild Man, Joey!
The Machine, Stephen!
The Guru, John!
Finally, as Happy Mondays had their Bez, Zack Mexico has their Jesse...
There you have it, boys and girls, ZACK MEXICO!  

Too corny?  Yeah yeah, whatever, I've got writers' block and a backlog of photos.  Anyway, ZM are always a blast.
(Well whaddya know!  It's still a it's still alive, courtesy the interwebs!)