Music » Music Feature

Troika Music Festival: Thursday, Nov. 5


Why you should go + Friday's schedule + Saturday's schedule

Durham Central Park

The Beast
  • The Beast

7 P.M. THE BEAST: Troika doesn't boast much hip-hop this year, but leading these next three nights is The Beast, a Durham quartet that treats both the stage and genre stratification with a tenacity that behooves its name. Built on the backs of three accomplished jazz kids who handle piano keys, drum sticks and bass strings like extensions of their own limbs, The Beast offers a dazzling springboard of beats, textures and solos for Pierce Freelon's positive but pragmatic verse. Whether excoriating the failures of his education or dipping happily into moments of bacchanalian existence, Freelon makes living sound like a conquest. Download "Translation." —GC

7:45 P.M. MEGAFAUN: North Carolina's best band? Probably. That the trio's latest, Gather Form & Fly, caught critical attention and wooed concertgoers nationwide is hardly a surprise. After all, Megafaun's sound spreads far across the folk spectrum, from its most old-timey front-porch creak and twang to its most harmonious, honeyed pop to its most fragmented, noise-heavy deconstructions. Reverent to the history of our country's musical traditions and actively inquisitive about its future, they suggest Charlie Poole, Gram Parsons and Rhys Chatham bonding over the love of sound and song. Good records don't always equal good shows, but the stage only emboldens Megafaun. Pristine harmonies and active reimaginings of its own songs make this band one to watch, but its ecstatic, participatory fervor makes it one to experience. Megafaun's shows, like its records, are essential. Download "The Fade." —BR

[This show is free.]

Backstage at Durham Performing Arts Center

8:30 P.M. GHOST CATS: The jangle is muted, but the melancholy is amplified: Backlighting sadness with amber melodies, new Durham quartet Ghost Cats suggest Scotland's Camera Obscura with an extra ounce of grit. Download "Lime and Secrets." —GC

9:15 P.M. HUMBLE TRIPE: The voice of Shawn Luby, who leads Humble Tripe, is rich like loam, its low tones gilded above by incandescent flashes of something a bit feminine. Think a sonorous young Dylan migrating to Anacortes, Wash., and singing with more soul than everybody else in that lo-fi land. Download "Washington." —GC

10 P.M. FUTURE KINGS OF NOWHERE: Ex-Durham fixture Shayne O'Neill has relocated to New York City. Before the move, he released solo demos: Restlessness was their sine qua non, urgency coursing through every clever couplet, loaded metaphor and frantic-strum exorcism. But an exposed heart leavens O'Neill's reliance on dramatic devices, making his resilient love songs impervious to cliché. Download "Let's Be Pirates." —JS

  • Bowerbirds

11 P.M. BOWERBIRDS: Bowerbirds make rustically elegant music that you can fall in love to or just as easily fall out of love to, with plenty of room between notes to either savor what will be or contemplate what went wrong. Oh, and these budding or crumbling romances usually play out in the wide, wild open. "And my mind is the open ocean that swells and rolls with wild invention," sing Phil Moore and Beth Tacular, their voices intertwining as a distant carnival sounds in the background (or maybe that's just Tacular's accordion). But it's the majestic "Northern Lights" that bottles emotion's expanse: "All I want is your eyes, in the morning as we wake, for a short while." So love can be fleeting, but not the Bowerbirds' beautiful sounds. Download "Chimes." —RC

The Pinhook

9 P.M. THE DESMONDS: Led by vocalist/ songwriter/ guitarist/ recording engineer Jeff Carroll, The Desmonds return after nearly 15 years apart. And with Carroll and company comes an abundance of well-polished pop. Download "If I Could Be a Brother." —RC

9:45 P.M. HOUSE OF FOOLS: Forsaking Drive-Thru Records' trademark pop-punk sound, House of Fools injects its dreamy indie rock with pop and prog influences. At its best, the Greensboro sextet is majestic, with stately drumbeats setting the course for waves of keys that crash against a wall of swirling guitars and desperate vocals. Download "Sleep Well." —SG

  • Aminal

10:30 P.M. AMINAL: One of the most exciting bands to emerge from Chapel Hill during the backside of this decade, the young four-piece Aminal brims with a potential only matched by its abundant hooks. Pairing a bit of early Rolling Stones swagger with an interest in the composure and cool of later Spoon, Aminal sashays through would-be rock 'n' roll anthems with high harmonies and clean riffs. Download "Drag Me Away." —GC

11:15 P.M. MAX INDIAN: As the flagship of Chapel Hill's burgeoning Drughorse Cartel, Max Indian exemplifies the collective's revivalism with a rootsy rock 'n' roll swagger: Larger-than-life melodies burst through sun-soaked harmonies and reverb-drenched guitars, all ripe for an autumnal sing-along. Download "Together at Last." —SG

Duke Coffeehouse

10 P.M. THE EXMONKEYS: Suggesting DJ Shadow in a dimly lit funhouse, Raleigh turntable-and-electronics duo The ExMonkeys gets aggressive with its sample-based anthems. Check "Aaayyy," the primo cut from this year's Being Human: Bits of industrial-strength guitar noise swing low, sculpting a heavy rhythm through which chopped chatter and keyboard sounds steadily claw, like an evolutionary artifact emerging from primordial goop—but more dancy that that. Download "aaayyy." —GC

10:45 P.M. EAR PWR: Rapping, singing, and intoning stiffly over misfiring loops, the Asheville electroclash duo EAR PWR makes agitated music that's nostalgic for commercialized childhood. Their haywire synth sequences suggest cartoon theme songs and ad jingles in a funhouse warp. Bona fide party-starters—well, if you can tolerate people dressed like they've raided Mom's leotards on a Saturday morning and screaming about Top Ramen. Download "Future Eyes." —BH

Future Islands
  • Future Islands

11:45 P.M. FUTURE ISLANDS: This Baltimore-via-Greenville crew sure knows how to throw a sweaty dance party. With all the amusing histrionics of an overzealous karaoke singer, Future Islands frontman Sam Herring owns the stage, holding day-glo throngs in the palm of his hand while they twitch and bop along to the pulsating synth 'n' bass of bandmates William Cashion and Gerrit Welmers. Thing is, the trio is nearly as captivating when slowing the throb to ballad pace, heightening the drama and giving Herring the opportunity to romance the mic like a sexagenarian soul singer. Download "Flicker and Flutter." —SG

Broad Street Cafe

9:30 P.M. REGINA HEXAPHONE: The fourth syllable does not lie: Regina Hexaphone has always been able to cast a spell with soothing rhythms, pastoral arrangements and Sara Bell's soft-focus vocals. But the band—Chris Clemmons, Jerry Kee and multi-instrumentalist Bell—is certainly not above smashing the mood. Just dig into its catalog for "Glory Be," which sounds like a church service performed in a garage, or the guitar-surge epic "Parade." Even after Halloween, there are so many ways to bewitch. Download "Glory Be." —RC

10:15 P.M. PINK FLAG: Tight, propulsive, female-led rock that lifts its name from Wire's first LP. Not as jagged and with more emphasis on hooks, the Durham trio still wriggles and writhes with enticing energy. Download "Nancy Drew." —CP


The Dry Heathens
  • The Dry Heathens

11 P.M. THE DRY HEATHENS: Beneath a lantern striped with elongated crosses, three members of the Durham quartet The Dry Heathens gather against a wall of loose hardbacks and sip from domestic brown bottles. A half-assed joke about reading some Faulkner is exchanged. Rounds of Bushmills will be downed later, but for the time being, the Heathens are settling into yet another sudsy night at Bull McCabe's Irish Pub in downtown Durham.

"If there's anything that anybody who knows us knows, it's that we don't get a lot done without drinking beer," says 24-year-old guitarist Steve Oliva, the band's latest addition. "It's integral." With their debut full-length album, the dryly titled First Contact With Ground, more and more people should know the Heathens for their sound—a driving, jam-econo mix of blue-collar punk-and-roll that's accessible but glass-darkly personal.

Sure, some of the group's catchiness can be attributed to co-founding bassist "Mississippi" Steve Jones and drummer Dave Parent, alongside the oft-smirking Oliva, who joined in 2008 and also plays in local outfit Rat Jackson. But guitarist and vocalist Darren Sink seems a songwriter who draws on a singular lifeline of experiences. He sings his lyrics as if ensnared in his region's storied history of lords, lasses and liquor. After a few Pabsts, Sink opens up about his appreciation for history—the album's cover is a photo taken by his grandfather of a crashed bomber during World War II.

And "Sociopath," which has a pogo twang that recalls a less flashy, early Rocket from the Crypt, is about the shock of remote paranoia spurred by "media bullshit": "It was inspired from when my sister lived in D.C. when the D.C. snipers attacked. I mean the odds were small but it was a pretty tense couple of weeks for our family. The last line, 'Holding my subconscious hostage,' comes from that, because you're like, there could be a killer aiming for her right now."

The somber, rollicking "Monkey Song" originated, Sink says, from an article in the Independent: "When I first moved here, there was an ice storm and all of the power in the Triangle was knocked out for about a week," he explains. "And, during that week, the Indy ran a story on this guy who was executed in Raleigh federal prison, the state prison. So 'Monkey Song' is about that guy on death row and about how nobody has power except for the prison."

Looking ahead, though, they estimate that 75 percent of their next album is already written and plan to record around the new year for a release next spring. "I don't think any of us have huge dreams of taking this super far," says Sink to the semi-surprise of his bandmates and this writer. With time, the buzz might surprise him. Something or nothing, it's still worth a drink. —Hunter Stephenson

Download "Splendid Little War."

11:45 P.M. THE MOANERS: Alongside drummer Laura King in the two-piece The Moaners, Melissa Swingle takes the wandering blues moan that was the core of Trailer Bride's distorted country and rocks it up. The edge is still there, big-time, but with The Moaners, it's a switchblade, not a rusty saw. Download "Monkey Tongue." —RC

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