We've all heard the meteorological cliché "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." Here's a variant for the Chapel Hill music scene: If you're curious what this bassist and that drummer would sound like together, wait five years.
At Saturday night's Solar Halos
album release show in the Cat's Cradle Back Room
, the bands on the bill all had near-familial ties going back a half-decade or more. Just one example of the intricate web of connections goes that drummer Lauren Fitzpatrick joined Bitter Resolve
after her psych-metal duo, The Curtains of Night
, split; that band's guitarist, Nora Rogers, now plays with Solar Halos. When Fitzpatrick moved away from the Triangle, she was replaced by drummer Mike Glass, who plays in Fin Fang Foom
with Solar Halos bassist Eddie Sanchez. This ouroboros is not broken.
Opening band Bitter Resolve debuted a new lineup and an almost wholly new flavor. Across five songs and 30 minutes, the Chapel Hill trio explored the heavy-lidded proto-metal familiar from their first two LPs, but they also showed off Southern sludge echoes and an extended, set-closing guitar solo that laid respectable groundwork for the evening to come. Greensboro's Irata
played a practiced, hard-driving set with a distinct '90s flavor, like a technically proficient Neurot band covering Jane's Addiction.
Solar Halos closed the evening with a compact and often-hypnotic performance. Sanchez multi-tasked, playing a floor tom or jingling bells while sustaining root notes on his bass, while John Crouch punctuated desert rock-flavored drumming with his trademark counterintuitive fills. Rogers, who spent most of her time in The Curtains of Night screaming demonically, came across as a more confident vocalist, with a mournful, melodic approach. This nicely balanced Sanchez' staccato chants in several well-timed, call-and-response sections.
Part of the fun of keeping up with new combinations of familiar musicians is that it's like collecting baseball cards. I overheard at least one person combing through the bands' interconnected histories during Solar Halos' set. During excellent sets like these, paying close attention Chapel Hill and Carrboro's heavy music community goes beyond the musical equivalent of collecting baseball cards. While it's easy to pick apart who has played (or still plays with) this band or that one, there's no guessing what the different combinations will sound like. Solar Halos can't be reduced to Caltrop plus Horseback plus Bellafea, or any similar equation; it's a strong, distinctive band with a future all its own—stronger for its Chapel Hill roots, yeah, but not beholden to them.