The Independent sent three writers to Durham's Troika Music Festival last weekend. Each returned with full reviews that generally glowed about the festival's curating and organization and the sense of community it exhibited in the Bull City. Below, we've excerpted the lauds. For the full reviews from Spencer Griffith, Ashley Melzer and Bryan Reed, and more photos from D.L. Anderson and Lalitree Darnielle, please visit our music blog, Scan.
Even with more than half of the festival's venues on one block, the schedule encouraged hopping a few more to visit spaces like The Pinhook and Casbah, both on Main Street. Unlike its predecessors, Troika 2010 was (as advertised) entirely walkable. It made moving from 618 Foster to The Pinhook—to see Boone groovers Naked Gods play between Georgia garage trio The Humms and Chapel Hill's frenetic Los Naturales—not only possible but logical. The same was true Saturday; one could scurry up to Main Street to see The Wigg Report and Last Year's Men at The Pinhook between early sets from Billy Sugarfix's Carousel and Joe Romeo, and a later one from Mount Moriah.
Past Troikas demanded precise planning, or venue campouts to see desired sets. I remember breaking the mold and learning exactly how far apart The Pinhook, Duke Coffeehouse and Broad St. Cafe are from one another—and how that distance feels compounded when it's chilly and you're walking. This year, one did not need to devote an entire evening to one unmissable set when so many were within reach. The foot-friendly map and excellent schedule couldn't guarantee easy decisions. (Choosing between Free Electric State and In The Year Of The Pig was a particularly grueling instance.) But it did allow for more opportunities to see more bands—and to enjoy crossing paths with friends, and the wonderfully omnipresent Sausage Wagon, along the way.
Food trucks—a Durham staple—were a near constant parked outside venues. Early Saturday evening at Motorco, Chatham County Line frontman Dave Wilson described a traffic jam of the rolling eateries from his onstage vantage point looking out onto Geer Street through the huge windows of the former showroom. Rooms were routinely packed across town, but especially so during CCL's short and tight set, which drew heavily from their last two gems, Wildwood and IV. Though banjo player Chandler Holt has been a Durham resident for several months, it was one of the few times his quartet has played the Bull City, thanks in large part to a lack of sizeable spaces.
As much as anything else, this year's Troika proved that limitation no longer exists. With the 500-capacity Motorco directly across the street from Fullsteam's warehouse and the multi-use Trotter Building just a stone's throw away, there's a clear live music beacon emerging near Durham Central Park. Although it's less than a mile away on Main Street, I didn't even make it over to the Casbah—another piece of new Durham that didn't exist just months ago.
The weekend ended for me when Mount Moriah stopped playing Saturday night. It was enough. The band—lead singer Heather McEntire and guitarist Jenks Miller, plus a newly revolving cast of sidemen including Lee Waters on drums and Megafaun's Phil and Brad Cook on keys and bass, respectively—melds indie, Americana and folk into a heartrending canon. Their set at Fullsteam offered far more than one would imagine could rise from a little wooden stage in a corner.