The Cave, Chapel Hill
June 3, 2009
A few months back I was musing how one punches up the dynamics of a solo performance. Perhaps a tambourine on a high hat pedal, or a solo kick drum? Maybe, but how about a harmonica, Bob. As if clairvoyantly sensing my inquest a friend linked me a circa 1971 video of Neil Young performing “Southern Man” on a small stage with nothing but a microphone and a Martin D-28 flat top. Neil captivated the room with his bare hands, the performance was brilliant and not a single space within the sound spectrum was vacant. My reply was simple truth, the great ones need only their guitar and their song to deliver their message. Fast forward to Wednesday night at The Cave and the lesson was reinforced by Carrboro's newest best kept secret, Justin Williams of Twelve Thousand Armies.
Maybe playing tricks on my mind was the gratification and excitement of finally being audience side for a sound I've followed on myspace for months, but it wasn't until about three songs into the set that it donned upon me that nothing was missing from this solo performance. Sparkling Lennon-esque vocals cutting like sideways lightening through the mix would illuminate through cloud banks full of orchestra and a heavy bottomed Gibson making its own bass rudder would only marginally benefit from reinforcement. Brought to bear by a man so intense that energy surges from the stage and cascades into the audience, a solo Twelve Thousand Armies performance is less a contradiction in terms and more so a new dictionary entry for the expression wow.
Not a single poppy happy song in the set, and not a single sappy bluesy one either, these were just good songs. Justin sings about a person he used to loathe, himself. Swirling metaphors of wisdom and truth, his material is entrenched in the drama of his younger years but his vantage point is one of triumph over his vices and sufferance over his sins singing, "if you (knew me back then) I'm fucking sorry you can stab me in the chest." Justin, the only apology I will accept is for not bringing forth this intangible music sooner.
Carrboro's newest because this secret has just relocated from Charlotte to fill the ranks of the army with the talent rich recruits of CHCa(tm) and best kept because, aside from the virtual who's who of the local music champions found grinning headlong at the stage during songs and nodding agreement for their worthiness between them, the crowd was delightfully sparse. Being a favorite son among a influential cast of local talent will likely result in hand picked band mates which will likely result in the dissolution of the secret and the creation of long lines.
Speaking of filling the ranks with talent, Twelve Thousand Armies next performance will be Sunday June 14 at 506 with members of MAX Indian backing. No, this secret isn't going to take long at all to expose. --Carrboro Ninja
and virtual who's who b/c sitting at the kit for the last (and encore chanted) song is current "it" band The Love Language front man Stu McLamb punching up the sticks.