Monday, December 22, 2008

Show Review: Lonnie Walker

Vintage 21, Raleigh
December 20, 2008

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Approaching the doors my expectation was to watch a rock show in the foreign surroundings of a warehouse district night spot dressed up as a progressive Christian church. What I found was a space remodeled and re-fit as a performance venue with very few overtones of the cloth. A Non-denominational contemporary Christian church, Vintage 21, now occupies the space best known for its former tenant, Jillian's, and organizes events such as rock concerts under its sub lease arrangement v21 Productions. Within the brick walls that once held the massive game room sports bar, pool tables have yielded way to a concert room floor with a mixed - seating in the rear, standing room at the stage - type of arrangement. The former bar area, which I secretly hoped would provide for a small nostalgia fix, has crumbled away in favor of a grand riser style stage which prominently draws the eyes. As I stepped through the propped open double doors into the darkened stage room, a crowd of 500 plus was dancing to The Never's closing song. The grandeur of the room was smartly alluring and its energy engaging, I was remiss that I arrived later and would only catch the final two acts of the four act bill.

Headlining the event in both billing and order was the dually residing Raleigh/Greenville group Lonnie Walker. Lonnie Walker's colorfully old-fashioned story telling back drops a combustible mix of Dillon-esque 60's era folk rock and very hip indy twang. Well written and well composed, their one-liner intensive lyrics match with easy and comfortable grooves for music you listen to on Saturday night, and then "hear" on Sunday as the metaphors tumble around in your head collecting meaning before becoming entwined in your greater understanding of life, love, and letting go. With their elemental presence and swagger on stage, one would believe Lonnie Walker indigenous to a region where microphones and guitars occur as an element of nature and folk music is the native tongue.

Lonnie Walker's performance drew upon the energy of a committed crowd of followers who sang along to every lyric. With a showing of skill and musicianship, Lonnie Walker treated us to a cover of Greenville connection cult classic synth monster Future Islands whose stark, dire, distressed sounds are the essence of unique and until Saturday night, considered by most as unreplicable.

With an early to start and early to finish show, some of us retreated down the street to a small bar to see the night through. The humor of the moment was, "hey, now we don't have to go to church tomorrow, we already went." The obvious contrast behind the joke was the passively presented and multi-purposed V21 whose clean lines and dark format provided an enjoyable room to see a great show and left us wondering how exactly a church holds sermon at a markedly live music oriented venue.

Visit Lonnie walker's profiles here: Lonnie Walker on myspace Lonnie Walker on reverbnation

Next on the calendar for v21 Productions is a true-to-form culturally diverse booking of regional pro wrestling Gouge Pro Wrestling on 1/9/2009. I'm going by the way; I absolutely have to see this.

Sunfold, Vintage 21, 12-20-08
The avant-garde "happening" seen in the above image at the right end of this broadly shouldered stage holding Sunfold's Kenny Florence underscored the creativity of Terpsikhore Record's art/music mash-up showcase at the culturally varied and urbanly tethered Vintage 21 Saturday night. With the intention for art to occupy the environment both on stage and off, the blank canvass of v21's sharp black space proved a welcoming choice.

More Images from Saturday Night:

Lonnie Walker
Lonnie Walker

Lonnie Walker

Lonnie Walker

Lonnie Walker

the happening
Lonnie Walker

Lonnie Walker

Vintage 21 images
Lonnie Walker

Lonnie Walker

Lonnie Walker
as I walk through the valley of darkness I will keep my eyes closed...

Vintage 21 - front end
Lonnie Walker

Lonnie Walker
The sparsely arranged white walls of the venues brightly lit front end catch a municipal art-exhibit feel.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

MAX Indian CD Release Party in Pictures

MAX Indian CD Release Party

Local 506, Chapel Hill
December 13, 2008

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If Local 506 sells out of PBR during a CD release party it's usually not because they forgot to stock the fridge and more likely because the releaser’s followers came out in force of numbers to celebrate. That said, the image above was taken just before MAX Indian took stage, and just after High Life stepped in to fill the vacuum left by a rapidly depleted PBR supply. Enjoy the pictures!

To make an on-line purchase of MAX Indian, You Can Go Anywhere, Do Anything, follow this link: buy CD

MAX Indian
MAX Indian

MAX Indian

MAX Indian

MAX Indian

The Old Ceremony
The Old Ceremony

The Old Ceremony

The Old Ceremony

The last two PBR's and an acceptable alternative
The last two PBR's

DJ Steph Ross
DJ Steph Ross

The Love Language
The Love Language

The Love Language

The Love Language

The Love Language

crowded at the stage

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Show Review: Wembley

BCHQ, Durham
December 6, 2008

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Saturday night's modest crowd of two dozen was given room to stretch their arms and minds as the narrow murky walls of Durham's eclectic Bull City Head Quarters were shoved apart by a performance by Wembley so robust and lusty that attentions were blinded to all surroundings. With compulsively bouncy piano rhythms and disarming melodies, this Hillsborough indy outfit is a sleeper band that is ready for the alarm clock to go off.

There is a worldly quality to this group, if not from the successfully demonstrated British pop undertones, then from song writing that draws on introspection and entirety. The masterful application of vocal effects through a minimal PA arrangement turned a small venue into a large stage just on presence alone. Venturing so far from the straight forward norm of a dry mic and a hot guitar, there was a sense that this music was made beyond the influence of our localized indy rock fingerprint.

Just as it is heard on the CD-R handed out after the show, Elizabeth Hull's softly antiqued voice breezed in like wind-chill accentuating the lofty ring of Neven Carswell's cool crisp Thom Yorke-like vocals, so beautifully balanced it was as though they were singing to each other rather than harmonizing for the microphones. Elizabeth Hammond's blending of a grainy traditional drum set with a poppy synth drum pad was as entertaining to watch as was it to listen to and underscored the band's bravery for the unique while Tracy Sumner's expressionless shoegaze bass strumming further promoted a sense of invasion music. This is a local group that could step onto the world stage with none the wiser that they aren't from London or Glasgow.

It would appear that the faithful caught the last Wembley show of the year on Saturday but as their myspace blog suggests, they may be retreating to record a few more songs before they reappear in February at The Pinhook.

View Wembley's profiles: Wembley New Town Drunks

Images from Saturday night:

Wembley at BCHQ 12-6-08
wembley at bchq 12-6-08

Neven and Tracy after the show
Neven and Tracy

Elizabeth's drum kit and synth pad
Elizabeth Hammond's drum kit

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sequoya: Sleep and Dream of Fire

Sleep and Dream of Fire

purchase from CD Baby

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Once I wrote a song about going to jail. It was a minor keyed emo tale about strife and troubles that I thought to be pretty clever. After playing it for a friend the response came, "so what personal experience are you drawing from?" Seeing as I have never been to jail nor have I even committed a jailable offense, there was none. So why favor a fictional tale rather than draw from a painful bag of my true misfortunes? My lesson was found in the vulnerability and damage exposed on Sleep and Dream of Fire, the latest album from Sequoya. This album comes to terms with wounds that will never heal and broken questions which have no answer. Bonnie and Matthew have spilled their hearts upon the table and asked us, "What color is the blood?" There is no anthem to be found here, just true-to-form folk music that pairs the listener with the artist and hikes an emotional trail of guarded fears and troubled memories. This is mature songwriting that has the guts to reach deep into a bag of pain and pull forth the stories, none of which by the way, are about a fictitious trip to jail.

The importance of this album reaches further than just listing Sequoya's artistic address. It is also significant to the Durham independent DIY music culture. With the self described "DIY Musicians Collective" Subdivision 67 and "local to Durham DIY Indie Label" 307 Knox Records promoting a local DIY infrastructure, the trampled grass of a lawn the morning following an open invitation house party showcasing a full bill of Durham DIY acts, and the rising frequency of minimalist DIY and duo bands booking headlining positions in local shows, the signs of a billowing new DIY music culture in Durham stands unobstructed. Sequoya successfully employing minimalist and DIY techniques to record, produce, and promote Sleep and Dream of Fire is a victory for the movement in that it stands as further proof that it posesses tangible, sustainable, and desirable qualities.

To mobilize a following as I am describing, the first component is music that inspires. Sequoya masters a technique of story telling through music and song that uses metaphor to put the listener in the shoes of the artist and draws upon common ground in order for the listener to relate. No better example of this metaphorical story telling than on "Satellite" which compares estranged love to a hunk of metal in space or the "My Father" lyrics "When my father left for space, I was not awake" painfully describing a father who walked out on an expecting mother. By the way, this song and "Cosmonauts Wife" seem to be the same story told from two different perspectives, a surprising and delightful energy from a talented songwriter. I suggest listening to these one after the other and make your own conclusion. Sequoya proves that DIY doesn't mean simple and terse also. There is art found in the arrangement and recording technique of this album. The elaborate layers of harmonies found in "Rocket" represent a track that could have been mulled over by a team of studio engineers, a rare quality for DIY recording.

Bonnie's blog on blogspot, "I'm so happy that it's done, but after completing a project there is a sadness that goes along with the joy. I chalk it up to nervousness and the uncertainty of what's to come, but that's the fun part" strikes me as the dissonance created in the anticipation of a response, not unlike the combination of fear and excitement of saying "I Love You" for the first time and panning for the same words to be returned. With a fresh and meaningful album to fuel live performance and a eagerly growing local music scene to fill out the schedule, the response could be overwhelming. The Pinhook hosts Sequoya's official CD Release party for Sleep and Dream of Fire on Saturday December 6, 2008.

Visit Sequoya's profiles: Sequoya sequoya

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Show Review: I Was Totally Destroying It

Duke Coffee House, Durham
December 1, 2008

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If I Was Totally Destroying It ever had a jam session sizing up one another's abilities and searching for a sign for why they should make music together, the uncommon balance of drive and control found in the vocal harmonies of John Booker and Rachel Hirsh on the super contagious "Hey Alright" had to be the sound they heard and aspired to evolve. The separation between wall-of-sound versus listenable loud garage rock is found in the dynamics of a band playing full-tilt together as opposed to going ape for forty-five minutes in their own corner of the stage. The unique register of John and Rachel's blended vocals, the throaty growl of a matched pair of American Telecasters playing as a single instrument, and the surge of a complimenting and cohesive synth, bass, and drums are the dynamics that I found highly listenable from this loud garage rock band at Duke Coffee House last night.

iwtdi at Duke Coffee House 12-1-08

As I can readily demonstrate should an unsuspecting relative or neighbor mistakenly wander into my music room and say, "hey, let me hear you play something," anyone can plug an electric guitar into a tube amp and blow somebody's head off. The difference between "anyone" playing a guitar and an artist using the instrument to create a desired tone is in the nuances of how the guitar, pedals, and amps are set up and dialed in. One glance at the pedal board that feeds John Booker's amp tells a story of a man eating, sleeping, and living guitar tone.

pedal power

The warm buzzing brown sound of John's tele last night was material witness that the obsession has not been for not. Add an elaborate melding with the draconic ripping of Curtis Armstead's Orange fed tele and there is further proof that with these two, there is more than meets the eye. Far from the traditional rhythm guitar/lead guitar approach, Curtis and John are both all over the neck, all the time. Seemingly one starts a riff and the other finishes it. Watching the full set I don't believe I witnessed a single traditional chord being strummed the entire night, but rather two guitars making tone bigger than either could alone.

"Hat's off to I Destroyed It," said Jordan Jeffares of Atlanta indy phenom Snowden who as he said it, knew that he was "totally destroying" the name of their local based opener. Smirks grew around the room but fortunately no beer cans were released at the stage. He may have missed the name but the gesture was genuine, IWTDI opened a small Monday show on a cold night and brought the heat. With the subtleties of their louds and softs that mold a unique brand of garage rock, it isn't a stretch of the imagination to visualize IWTDI on a much larger stage outside on a warm summer evening soon.

Visit their profiles: I Was Totally Destroying It Myspace Page I was Totally Destroying It at reverbnation

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Show Review: New Town Drunks

Fuse, Chapel Hill
November 26, 2008

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It could have been a warm summer eve in Havana, the sticky sweet fume of cigarette smoke numbing my senses as it swirled up to the sparingly few lamp shades whose dim light drew a rich and dark red hue from the walls of the small lounge. The men leaned in with wide grins from their booth seats to hear stories being shared across the table while extravagantly decorated women arranged themselves at the bar being seen and admired. But the favorite drink at this club wasn't a mojito and it wasn't warm outside. We were at Fuse and the favorite drink is the good old Chapel Hill alt music scene mainstay, PBR. Outside on a cold and dark Rosemary Street, the members of a proud and diligent music subculture began to follow their shadows into the small room where New Town Drunks were about to hold their second free pre-record release show.

I walked in alone and was greeted by every pair of eyes in the room. This is a band whose following know each other by first name and new faces are welcomed with curiosity. Instinct lead me to the bar, serendipity gave me a spot right next to Diane Koistinen whose voice is readily noticeable as the ballad-belting singer for New Town Drunks. I dubbed in "I'll take one too" as Diane ordered a PBR and we shared the quick smile of approval for one another's taste in beers. Having listened to and enjoyed all of the tracks posted on their myspace and reverbnation profiles I was eager to know what of their new album they would be playing but I held my tongue and found a wall to hold up in the back of the room while watching gear set-up and sound check.

My chosen spot being right next to a pair of room heaters proved to be a great place for conversation however as the blustery November night drove a steady stream of cold hands my way. In random conversations three times I was asked who I was/where I came from, once I was offered left over pizza (which I ate), and once if I had voted, which in retrospect I should have not hesitated with my answer because the conclusion jumped that I was socially expressionless and I spent the better part of my beer defending my politics while being cackled at. When I finally steered the conversation with the pollster back onto music I learned that she had not heard New Town Drunks before and confessed was more interested with their name. As the music started however, her reaction told a story.

Here a new impression was being made as the pollster and I shared a toast of approval to each song we found pleasing. From the modern day call of the wild, "lost" which is both an instructional tale for what we are to do on the day we say "F!" it and just start driving as well as it is a guide for those who will endeavor to know where we went, to the down-and-out stay predictably down-and-out "Down With The Poor," these are characteristically American songs about the human condition having reached the summary of ones mistakes and interestingly enough, they are arranged to melodies that kept me and the pollster's heads bobbing.

In writing about these songs however, this blogger is late to the party as these previous releases are soon to be playing back-up in favor of their new album, "The Ballad of Stayed and Gone" of which two songs were played for us and as far as I could tell maintain form with the NTD subject matter of heartache and it's self-prescribed remedies. In that tradition, their music plays theme for an alternate reality for each us should we have zigged instead of zagged and offers a suggestion to "who would I be if not who I am?" Perhaps a raging alcoholic? If I were I could think of no better songs to rage to and no better bunch of folks to hold my hair.

The New Town Drunks next listed show is December 27th, 2008 at The Cave with Taz Halloween and Dexter Romweber.

New Town Drunks revernation and myspace profiles: New Town Drunks New Town Drunks

Monday, November 24, 2008

Show Review: The Tender Fruit

Nightlight, Chapel Hill
November 22, 2008

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There are two types of hooks in rock and roll. Most songs I profess my love to hook me with the vocal melody whose writer likely invested the better part of their sanity weaving vocals with chords and alcohol until the pattern of a hook appeared. Friday evening however, as I walked the dark ally which serves gateway to Nightlight, my mind was on the more elusive and enduring of the two, a hook born solemnly and singularly from instrument, and there is no better example than the knuckling lull of the Tender Fruit's "The Truth Is" guitar lick which was playing in my head as I stepped through the doorway.

Recently introduced to The Tender Fruit during a normal morning routine of perusing show schedules over coffee and listening to myspace profiles of any that I had not become familiar with, and my reaction to their music was chemical. The attraction was not unlike the first time I heard "Wish You Were here" or "Mary Jane’s Last Dance," attention lifted to entirely foreign yet eagerly agreeable notes resonating as they scribed to my mind. Sometimes you hear a song and a voice and you just know.

So with expectations stacked high from adoration of the few songs posted on their myspace profile I sipped my PBR and mused at the commotion of one band tearing down and another setting up while fending off the lingering question, "would their live show live up?" Answers came quickly as their first song, "Would You Know Your Lover," eased its way into our ears, my expectations given away in favor something more, something unintended. Not only was this a powerful and inspiring live performance but it coursed to an intimate and endearing quality that reached far beyond "a faithful reproduction" and touched on a fleeting uniqueness, exclusive and profound. Those fortunate enough to be huddled on chairs and couches to witness it found themselves on an emotional coaster ride, responding with grins and giggles to lead singer Christy Smith's innocent and girlish flirting on the mic’ between songs and with jaw drooping wonder as her meanderingly soulful voice strummed our heart strings during them.

Each song's performance molded differently from the last invited an engaging ensemble for the eyes as well as the ears. Watching the mechanized coordination of Staci Sawyer and Josiah Drewry sitting side by side both swinging sticks at a single set of drums and seeing Christy's purely acoustic guitar ring clearly and loudly over drums and amplified vocals demonstrated the creativity of a rock group that is making up their own rules. As hearts fell one by one for the sad songs that made us happy, it became clear that The Tender Fruit are a tremendously talented folk rock group with a welcome home in Durham's brimming music scene.

The Tender Fruit's next Durham show will be at The Pinhook on December 19th, 2008 alongside local folk group Midtown Dickens.

visit their profiles: virb myspace profile