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Raleigh Rhythms

Notes on the Raleigh music scene

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Room for Excitement
If you've ever had trouble believing the scoffing cynics and downtrodden record-store jocks who complain that teenage girls with braces and Daddy's money control the entertainment industry, start believing it. Just ask

Adam Duritz , the 39-year-old Counting Crows lead singer famous for his dreadlocks, a Jennifer Aniston romance and a scorching voice that probably makes Chris Carrabba feel as bad as he sounds.

In 1997, Duritz and company headlined at what was then the Hardees Pavilion at Walnut Creek, touring with The Wallflowers on the success of their sophomore gem, Recovering the Satellites. Duritz pulled through again in 2000, headlining with the Crows on a highly touted bill with Live (who have done nothing since but make deplorable records). Closing that set with a mammoth, 30-person rendition of "Hangin' Around" that found everybody--from the front rows to the top of the hill--indulging in a gorgeous refrain, all seemed well in Crows' Country.

Subscribing to their own regular three-year touring and recording schedule, the Crows pulled back into Walnut Creek last week--as the billed opener--for John Mayer, the talented, but annoying 25-year-old guitar-slinger with one full-length to his name (though his second, Heavier Things, hit stores last week).

No strangers to 20,000-seater tours, the Crows shined, igniting the crowd with crazy hand jerks, pout-box faces and material spanning their entire career. Duritz and his revolving-door ensemble came out strong, slipping enigmatically into "Rain King" and popping into the bouncy "Hard Candy" before rising to the sincere storyteller occasion with "Miami." The Crows did their damnedest to summon Dylan's thin man with "Mr. Jones," Duritz and his gape-worthy mop flailing in positively every direction. But it was convincing.

That is, until Mayer, who has the onstage charisma of a pitifully lame hamster and the sense of humor of a crude 13-year-old boy, hit the stage. He sang well, but he nearly made canine contact with the microphone at some points. And he kept pace with his altogether soulful band (especially during a new Stax-influenced bit of soul), bouncing and jerking in true David Gray fashion from the tips of his feet. His trademark guitar solos, though, seemed largely absent and, at best, entirely too mimetic, paying insipid homage to the Texas Blues for a crowd that, by and large, could have cared less. Convincing? Perhaps if you had rubber bands in your mouth.

Funkin' Freak

Pepper Keenan , long-time guitarist and vocalist for metal favorites Corrosion of Conformity, was backstage at B. B. King's Music Festival at Cary's Regency Park on Sept. 7, hanging out with childhood friend and funk-heavy Galactic drummer Stanton Moore. Moore and Keenan ran into each other last year at El Matador, a New Orleans bar, and mutually stormed the stage after becoming disgusted with the house band of the night.

"I was just pissed off that my ears were being bombarded by that damn racket. We were partying, and both of us were pretty intoxicated," Keenan laughs. "So we just jumped onstage, and he got behind the drums while I tuned the guy's guitar down a few octaves. It was awesome."

Skerik, the veritable avant-garde saxophone freak from Les Claypool's Frog Brigade and Moore's Garage a Trois, later joined the mix, creating a heavy, head-turning homebrew of Led Zeppelin riffs and New Orleans spice. The band--known as Kurb Feeler--plans to record in the near future, though Corrosion of Conformity plans to spend the next few months in the studio recording with Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster.

Galactic's new record--their most exciting studio album to date--hits stores Oct. 7. They play the Lincoln Theatre Nov. 12.

Thank Michigan
Schoolkids Records on Hillsborough Street sold out of their first batch in less than a day, and Lumberjack Distribution has already shipped every unit in the initial pressing of 1,000. That's right, kids. The new Utah! record is that good. A Raleigh trio by way of a college friendship stretching all the way to Kalamazoo, Mich., Utah! takes the high-road with their winning, contagious sophomore effort, Plays Well With Others (Bifocal Media). Mickey D'Loughy's drumming is nearly perfect, driving for stick-snapping dynamics at some turns and yielding for quirky, scattered fills at others. Death Cab for Cutie vocalist Ben Gibbard should be chock full of envy if he ever hears Eddie Pellino's voice.

Back in the Stillhouse
Stillhouse--the roots rock outfit that gave rise to Chatham County Line before dropping their regular Raleigh schedule due to commitments with The Line and Tift Merritt--is back at it again. Dave Wilson (who plays guitar and sings in both CCL and Stillhouse) says the band's sound is stronger, harder and louder this time around, relying more on "Live Rust" chaos and volume than "Harvest" country. Greg Readling, one of the best steel guitar men anywhere, has moved to the Wurlitzer and Hammond in the band's latest incarnation, backed once again by Zeke Hutchins on drums and Jay Brown on bass. Johnny Irion--former member of Dillon Fence and Queen Sarah Saturday--occasionally joins the band, adding what Wilson affectionately terms "a Buffalo Springfield feeling." Stillhouse is sporadically working on a new record with Ryan Pickett (who was also in QSS with Hutchins and Irion) in his home studio.

See both Readling and Wilson become musical schizophrenics Wednesday, Sept. 17 at Local 506, as the rockin' Stillhouse joins a double bill with its banjo-pickin' country cousin, Chatham County Line.

Thanks for Waiting
Pico vs. Island Trees finally seems to be approaching the release date for its long-time-coming debut effort, Just Wait. The trio of Bryan Carter, Chris Karlsson and Jeremy Bullock spent a majority of the second semester of their senior year in high school recording with former DAG frontman Bobby Patterson. Patterson, who produced the effort's 12 tracks in his Raleigh home, plays bass on the entire album. Robert Sledge, Jeff Dennis and Rob Farris also joined in the recording, along with Polyphonic Spree/Go*Machine multi-instrumentalist Daniel Hart. Expect a December release on local Deep South Records. EndBlock

Please e-mail Grayson with your Raleigh news: dgcurrin@unity.ncsu.edu. He loves people, really.

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