Wanna hear a good one? Kickin' Gras. Get it? (Hey, we do--our 20th anniversary issue two weeks ago couldn't get enough of that joke.) And they play bluegrass. Lots of people think it's a pretty good joke--enough people to name that name the winner.
Alli with an I made a concerted effort to promote their band title in our readers' poll, but didn't win. But because of their clever name, we're making them a critic's pick. Don't get it? If we said to you, "It's Daniel, with an L," would you get it? Still no? Alli with an I was Daniel Larusso's girlfriend (Elizabeth Shue) in The Karate Kid. That may not be why they chose the name, but anyone who evokes memories of that great film deserves a nod.
Best Open Mike Night
The Skylight Exchange, or more appropriately nowadays, Nightlight, has the best open mike around according to our readers. Regulars at Crowley's love their E.G. Peters, too, but not as much as folks love the Skylight. Their open mike has been going steady for 10 years and soon it'll be retitled "The Gong Show," to be hosted by Jimmy Magoo. Feel like sharing yourself with the world? You've just found a venue.
Best stage performance
He thrashes around the stage like a man possessed. Viva, the 6-foot-6 singer for Durham rock band Jett Rink, is the best stage performer in the Triangle. Normally mild mannered and polite, Viva has a stage persona that's always unpredictable. He's been known to climb on top of amps and wrap his willowy, androgynous body around doomed microphone stands. It's not uncommon to see his glam-punk makeup smeared with blood from a fall or a cut. And he frequently sings to audience members in a way that's entrancingly confrontational. Viva's strange, vibrant energy helps drive the energy of the band and the crowd--the best part of his performance is that he goads on an audience that normally does little more than nod their heads and smoke.
Most Ignored Local Band Worthy of Attention
We love ballot stuffers. It's a true statement of affection. Really. And Permanent Darling has been overlooked. So much so that we had to do some research: The Chapel Hill band plays "dynamic electro rock songs under a canopy of soaring emotional vocals" according to their Web site, www.permanentdarling.com. Go read about 'em. Bring an end to their obscurity. At least 70 people feel strongly about them, which is almost the largest number of votes we got for one answer. Feel the love.
Alli with an I was unsuccessful in winning the readers' poll in the best band name category, but their drummer, Mike Sileno, is the people's choice for best drummer. The poppy punk band from Raleigh has an enthusiastic following--check out their reviews at www.alliwithani.com/reviews.htm--that seems like they'd nominate Alli's guitarist or bassist if that was the category we posted.
Best jukebox in Orange County
There is a certain competitive aspect to jukeboxes--that sly subtle way patrons set their dueling mini-playlists in motion. So it's not surprising that there would be close competition for this title.
Carrboro's Orange County Social Club has a tight, frequently updated selection of indie rock and all-time-top-10 albums. The Flaming Lips, Galaxie 500, The Shins, Guided By Voices and Yo La Tengo share space with The Smiths' Louder Than Bombs, Bruce Springsteen's The River, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Elvis Costello's This Year's Model and David Bowie's Hunky Dory. Local bands are well represented, and there's a special excitement in knowing that members of the band you're listening to are there drinking at the bar (North Elementary, Kerblocki) or serving the beer (Work Clothes, LUD, Superchunk, Ghost of Rock). Mellow, melodic tunes work well in the small, cozy space.
But in the end, Hell wins for sheer diversity. At the Rosemary Street bar in Chapel Hill, you'll find Roxy Music next to Frank Sinatra, Mooney Suzuki next to RUN-DMC, Stephen Malkmus next to Notorious B.I.G. and Buck Owens next to PJ Harvey. There are lots of all-time-great rock albums there, like the Sex Pistols' Nevermind the Bollocks, Captain Beefheart's Safe as Milk, and the Velvet Underground's Loaded, as well as some more obscure but no less great bands like the 13th Floor Elevators. Bartender and part-owner Jeb Marlowe is the jukebox auteur. He used to own the Franklin Street music store Two Way Pull that shut down several years ago, and since then his collection and his tastemaking have gone to Hell, so to speak.
Hell and OCSC draw many of the same patrons, and there's a little bit of overlap--such as Spoon's Kill the Moonlight, Beck's Sea Change, Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home and local favorite Evil Weiner--but not much. The inferno-themed cinderblock basement surroundings at Hell create a mood that's well matched by the selection of loud rock (AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Sonic Youth, The White Stripes) and rap (Missy Elliot, Mos Def, Outkast).
Whichever place you're in the mood for, don't forget to bring ones and quarters. Let the games begin. Orange County Social Club, 108 Main St., Carrboro, 933-0669. Hell, 157 1/2 East Rosemary Street, Chapel Hill, 929-7799.
Best Local Musician to have a Crush On
Ever hear the name Turner Walston? If not, he's the guy y'all should have a crush on. Our readers voted him the most crushable, and when we hazard a guess why, we find his self-description on his IUMA site works: "[My music is] mostly just me and a guitar, sometimes just me and a piano, and sometimes me and friends. I like to have fun, writing what I know. That is, sappy songs about girls." Aw, shucks. He is pretty darn cute.
Now, if you haven't heard of Tift Merritt at this point, you've been listening to too much Clear Channel radio--and you clearly haven't been reading your Independent. The alt-country darling is pretty darn hot, especially taking on the big media boys at the recent FCC hearings. And she is definitely crushable, although we got some hollers from readers who are a little miffed at her overexposure, responding simply "definitely NOT Tift Merritt."
Best Local Music Store
Schoolkids is a Triangle institution, however, it's only a winner in Raleigh. It did receive votes for its Chapel Hill store, and even its Durham store, which doesn't even exist any more. For those who shop for music in Durham enough to know what's open, the readers' selection was Millenium Music in Brightleaf Square: It's huge and they sell classical, too. In Chappie, people love CD Alley--a store begun by the same guy who owns CD Alley in Wilmington (a hugely popular store in its own right). Listen to music, hang out, check out the art on the walls--and buy something, you downloading freeloaders.
It's been a rough year for Radio Free Records. The popular indie record store owned by San Jose transplant Ethan Samsky was broken into last June in a senseless late-night robbery in which thieves took cash, stereo equipment and more than 4,000 discs--but left the jewel cases behind. The store (which was uninsured) had been open for little more than two years, but it had already become an anchor for Durham's budding music scene and was drawing customers from all over the Triangle. Local bands, fans and DJs from WXDU, Duke's college radio station, pulled together for a series of benefits that allowed Samsky to reopen by mid-July. Samsky says the stock is now almost replenished, and yes, they have insurance.
Walk into Radio Free today and you'll see no sign of the crime, just the stylishly minimalist interior with hardwood floors and well-organized racks of CDs and vinyl. The music is organized by genre, along with special displays of employee-picked classics and new releases. Take their advice, and you'll be challenged and engaged. You'll also see a selection of indie music mags and zines. The store's impressive collection of poster art hangs on the walls, a mix of locals and legends that's so seamless, it makes you proud. Radio Free Records epitomizes what an independent record store can be for listeners and the music-making community. Radio Free Records, 2803 Hillsborough Rd, Durham, 416-8866.
Best Place to Buy Vinyl
When we said vinyl on the ballot, we meant the musical kind. To avoid confusion, we've moved it to the music section. Most people understood, however, and named Schoolkids. Readers didn't specify which location, but with the same warehouse, you're likely to get similar stock at all locations. Nice Price Books also got nods for its vintage vinyl. PHE Inc. (Adam & Eve), Priscilla's, and Carolina Builders are recommendations for the other kinds of vinyl one might need.
Best hip-hop club
Do we really have to tell you again? We tell you almost every season, that the best hip-hop club has got to be Five Star. Fridays are ill! DJ's Mooney and Merlin make the night non-stop party. They don't just run records, they are turntablists! Ya hear me! They have to play slow songs at the end of the night just to get folks outta there, and there are always mutherfuckers still wanting to stay. Oh, and the food--hello! The bomb diggity Chinese food till 2 a.m.! Hip hop and dumplings ... doesn't get much better than that! Five Star, 511 W. Hargett St., Raleigh. 833-3311.
Best Hip-Hop DJ
Are yawl really that stoopid? You really don't have to call 4/4 Records (the best hip-hop store, by the way) about this one ... DJ Soundmachine! Come on! For one thing he is like one of the oldest DJs around (ladies, old means more experience--know what I mean?). Plus he keeps up to date on all the latest tricks, he never misses a beat and he is just a badass DJ! You can catch him in action every once in a while out at Retail and 5 Star. And if you don't go out, you can just listen to him live every Saturday from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 88.1 WKNC, The Saturday Nite Mixtape with BumRush.