Some weekends are just that big. Indeed, the 50-some hours between the CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS' Thursday evening appearance at the Doris Duke Center on Duke's West Campus and the final notes of THE FUTURE KINGS OF NOWHERE's CD release party at Durham's Ringside sometime near 2 a.m. Saturday night comprised one of the most remarkable runs local bands are going to register all year. And that's saying something.
Top billing goes to the Drops, of course, the African-American, old-time string band that was in the gardens Thursday night with Joe Thompson, their Mebane mentor, on Thursday night. The next day, they were in Kansas, taping a segment for Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, which aired Saturday, six hours after the Drops had already landed back in North Carolina to play Juneteenth, an annual summer celebration at Historic Stagville Plantation.
The Drops' appearance on Companion marks a step into the national spotlight in a major way: They've got appearances booked through August of next year from here to Ottawa (including a stop at the Newport Folk Festival this August), and Sacks & Co.—a New York publicity firm that's worked with Buena Vista Social Club, Herbie Hancock and The Magnetic Fields—is representing the nationally distributed reissue of the trio's first album, Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind. You likely won't see the Drops playing in the Triangle until they join the excellent line-up of the 20th Bull Durham Blues Festival on Sept. 5.
A few hours after the Drops played Stagville, Durham Rising—a city-sponsored festival celebrating the renovated streets, sidewalks and plazas of downtown Durham—hit full stride. An estimated 10,000 people attended the event, headlined by The New Stylistics but playing heavy on diverse locals like CARNAVALITO, BULL CITY and COOL JOHN FERGUSON. THE SCENE OF THE CRIME ROVERS, the improvisational marching band led by Shannon Morrow, even invaded the People's Processional, a parade along the newly finished streets (and over several loose sidewalk bricks). And MIDTOWN DICKENS played its second of three sets last weekend at Durham Rising, baking in the afternoon sun before moving indoors to bake on the third floor of Ringside. Midtown was one of five bands on the bill for The Future Kings of Nowhere's CD release party. Fittingly, Future Kings stole the night, stirring up a mosh pit with acoustic guitars and keyboards and moms in attendance.
Midtown played Friday night at Local 506 with CHARLES LATHAM, who released his excellent new album, Beltline, with his last show in the Triangle before he moves to Philadelphia this weekend. One block east, THE SPINNS were reuniting only to break up again at the end of the show, while west in Carrboro, THE NEVER and THE PHYSICS OF MEANING got 310 people into the Cat's Cradle. Physics debuted a handful of songs from its forthcoming second album, which is now being mixed by former Physics member MARK PAULSON (Ticonderoga, Bowerbirds) in Raleigh.
Oh, SUPERCHUNK played its second show of the year, too, but that was on Sunday at Brooklyn's McCarren Park. For Robbie Mackey's account of that pool party, visit Scan, the Independent's music blog.