If Raleigh rock 'n' roll legend and inveterate Brewery soundman Jack Cain rushed to the upstairs stage at Sunday's Alejandro Escovedo Benefit at Retail Bar one time, he did it a hundred times. He practically skipped his way across an almost empty dance floor to check out a noise that kept popping into the mix from Gregory Rice's keyboards during a Cartridge Family set just after lunch; then he waded through an eager mob just after five to check on-stage monitors as the Philadelphia-based powerhouse Marah hit the stage.
But for all of his hard work and the undeniable flair of his unmoving, gel-drenched blonde locks, Jack Cain was not a popular man shortly before midnight when he started stripping down gear and rolling Superchunk amplifiers onto the stage.
"Encore! Please! Come on, just one more," screamed the crowd of several hundred, begging for one final glimpse of the as-of-that-moment-reunited Backsliders to return to the stage.
The encore catcalls, of course, made perfect sense. The Backsliders--led by Chip Robinson, astonishingly in perfect frontman form despite a cast over his broken hand--had just turned out a terrific set full of downright righteous guitar solos and a set-ending, barnstorming segue into "I Wanna Be Sedated."
That Backsliders return marked the beginning to the end of a nearly perfect marathon benefit. The crowds had started gathering in Retail around lunchtime, drinking and listening, marveling and applauding. Downstairs, Chatham County Line's John Teer limboed under Dave Wilson's acoustic guitar just in time to make it to the microphone for a mandolin break, and Thad Cockrell even accepted requests for tunes from the crowd in return for generous donations to Alejandro. Patterson Hood had awed. Jostle Lee had charmed. Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple had reunited.
And upstairs, almost every band started on time (something rare indeed), allowing Marah, Goner and Patty Hurst Shifter to play the day's best sets before the triple threat of The Backsliders, Superchunk and 6 String Drag capped the night off with gloriously loud, unpredictable and unpolished back-to-back-to-back thrill rides.
All told, the benefit raised over $12, 000 for the seminal songwriter and performer Escovedo, still struggling at his Texas home with complications from Hepatitis C. A silent auction with over forty items drew high bids for two guitars signed by the day's performers, as well as a poignant photo from Daniel Coston of Johnny Cash's final stand. Raleigh owes Caitlin Cary, Van Alston, Skillet Gilmore, Rob Farris and a host of some eighty others (including volunteers, musicians and Retail staff) gratitude for managing a benefit of this size so well. And Jack Cain, of course, is an amazing, amazing soundman.
Meet The Gaze
When a sniffling Charles Cardello sneezed last week at Kings Barcade, he smiled with a sort of nervous embarrassment, slinking into the shadows of a corner bench and wiping his face. But why would Cardello, the Bifocal Media co-founder, be so concerned with making any noise in the usually smoky, noisy downtown Raleigh rock club?
Easy. The Gaze was on stage.
The Gaze--perhaps Raleigh's newest experimental art rock duo of "smiling, beatific roommates" Dustin Dorsey and Drew Robertson--renders a slightly somnambulant noise full of hums, pops, scratches and squalls by way of two guitars (one bowed), a batch of loops, a Roland Juno-60 synthesizer, and a host of widgets and toys like Robertson's prized Sound Gizmo. Dorsey and Robertson faced each other from across a long, cluttered table, calculating, nodding and whispering their way through an unbroken thirty-minute set. The attentive crowd of fifty sat transfixed (largely on the floor) staring at a video loop of Josh Bryant, Jeff Skinner and Rich McIssac staring back while sitting and smoking on a front porch couch. Atypically inchoate, cohesive sonic alchemy from "art-school kids" that is worth checking out more than once.
Goldenboy, Shon Sullivan's trio of Flaming Lips-tempered smiling pop stripped to Elliott Smith standards, opened. The show was a last minute addition to the band's farewell tour for material from their fantastic 2002 debut, Blue Swan Orchestra. Local artist Lee Moore hosted the band during their three-day, two-gig stopover in the Triangle (they played The Cave the night before). Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! did not play due to a traffic accident on the way to the show.
Strange It Seems
Greg Elkins and Travis Kankle at The Panther Ranch recently wrapped up their first sessions with the experimental rock quintet, Strange. Strange--guitarist/vocalist David Mueller, drummer Nick Speaks, bassist Linc Hancock and keyboardists Vince Carmody and Joel Rhodes--plans on turning the thus far unmixed and unmastered three-track demo that resulted from the recordings into a longer EP next spring. The first minute of the demo's finest track, the cinematic "1001 Erotic Nights," greets a snapping beat of rim shots and brass falling in place amongst faint keys, a guitar loop and noise washes just before Mueller's voice--part Robert Smith, part Robert Plant--settles in halfway beneath the mix.
"Working with them is really great, it seems, because we had this kind of really natural relationship," Elkins explained. "And David's guitar playing is fantastic...he understands and uses the guitar and pedals to such a great effect."
Strange cancelled their post-Thanksgiving show with Degrassi (Katherine Carpenter, Christie Eames and Russ De Sena) at Bickett Gallery on November 28, though Mueller himself will be playing with selected friends in an improvisational and temporary Strange incarnation known as Strange: Special Operations. Degrassi and Anderson Airplane will still play be playing. A proper set from Strange will be rescheduled for December, and the band will play with US Maple at Go! in Carrboro on Dec. 11 and then with Sweet Militia at Nightlight on Dec. 17.
Far, Far Away
NC State's student radio station WKNC 88.1 FM recently moved from its 3,000 watt signal to a much-anticipated 25,000 watt signal after nearly a decade of planning and some three years of compromise, hassle and paperwork. The move has made the station--the university's student broadcasting point since 1966-- available to listener's as far away as Greensboro to the west and Wilson to the east, according to co-Music Director Ghassan Hamra.
30 Word Show Reviews
Galactic, Lincoln Theatre: The first set was so lackadaisical and standard, one has to wonder if these guys still enjoy being a band. A storming, brilliant second set, though, was almost life-affirming.
Melbourne and Parklife, The Brewery: Parklife--now with new life in trio form--is simply one of the best melodic rock bands in town. Melbourne, though, looks like The Strokes but plays like even bigger pansies.
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