The ArtsCenter—Parents, should you ever flip past the cable channel Noggin, you might find yourself confronted with any of a number of garish music videos from bands attempting to crack the lucrative children's market dominated by the likes of Raffi and the Wiggles.
However, one children's-song character is already earning credibility among independent rockers and children alike. Gustafer Yellowgold is a pointy-headed yellow creature who came from the sun to live in snowy Minnesota, and who hangs out with such characters as a flightless pterodactyl, an eel and a dragon named Asparagus. This morning, the character makes his Triangle premiere with a live show that combines music, sing-alongs and video projections.
The brainchild of Morgan Taylor—who's also a member of a band called Autumn Defense with Wilco's John Stirrat and Patrick Sanson—Gustafer has earned raves from numerous family publications and was picked as 2008's "Best Kids Performer" by New York magazine. In addition, one of the Gustafer songs won the grand prize in the children's category of the 2008 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. On top of that, Gustafer has been the wild card opening act for Wilco and the Polyphonic Spree. You'd never see SpongeBob do that.
"I think the core to Gustafer's appeal is that he's not pandering, and there's nothing so kiddy about it that it turns adults off," Taylor says.
Taylor believes the biggest mistake most children's bands make is resorting to nursery-rhyme lyrics and overly obvious lessons. "I don't really change the show that much when I play it for adults—there's something disarming about asking a theater full of adults how they feel about dinosaurs."
Taylor, who started his new tour in Charlotte, is gearing up for the release of Mellow Fever, his third CD/ DVD, March 17. "We've been in bands for years, so touring is the only way we know how to get something like this out there," Taylor says. "It's not like we have a TV show." Just wait.
For more on Gustafer Yellowgold, including songs and interactive games, visit www.gustaferyellowgold.com. Tickets are $7. —Zack Smith
- Photo by Vinciane Verguethen
The ArtsCenter—On its face, the concept of an under-heralded indie singer-songwriter recording an album in Russian of songs by a little-known Soviet punk-folk hero and releasing it via a small indie label doesn't seem quite like the American attention-getter. But the readymade story scored the Ukrainian-born, former Carrboro resident Alina Simone loads of positive press in 2008 from indie tastemakers Pitchfork and The Onion, as well as mainstream heavyweights NPR, The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. It's for good reason: There's more to Everyone is Crying Out to Me, Beware than an easy story. Simone pays tribute to the tragic life of Yanka Dyagileva by preserving her haunting, emotional tone while fleshing out Dyagileva's bare lyrics with moody instrumental embellishments. "I've tried to walk that line between maintaining her rawness and spontaneity and still creating lusher and more complicated arrangements," Simone told the Indy last summer, before expressing disbelief that she was "on the way to Omaha to sing a bunch of Russian songs."
On her return to Carrboro, Simone will perform a set drawn from Everyone is Crying Out to Me, Beware along with a set that will pull from her two prior English language releases and Make Your Own Danger, an upcoming full-length that she hopes to finish in February. She's not stopping there: Simone, who signed a book deal with Faber and Faber last week, will release a series of essays in 2010 that she describes as a split between her Russian background ("my quirky family, Yanka Dyagileva and my weird adventures in Siberia seeking out her music") and her "life in the indie-rock trenches here in the U.S." Tonight's show starts at 8:30 p.m. and will set you back $12-$14. —Spencer Griffith
At the Heart of Progress: Coal, Iron and Steam Since 1750
Ackland Art Museum—For all the talk about alternative energy sources, coal continues to play a central role in America's energy policy. And, for more than two centuries, it's also been a major force in the development of Appalachian culture and shaped the worldview of an art collector named John P. Eckblad. The Ackland Museum opens a show of approximately 75 coal-themed artworks from the collection of Eckblad, who spent his childhood amid western Pennsylvania's mining culture. Not all the art is American, however: The exhibit boasts work from Camille Pissarro, Theophile Steinlen and Constantin Meunier, among others. Also on display are commercial and documentary imagery that comprises this overlook of humanity's relationship with carbon, capitalism and industrialism. The exhibit continues through May 17. Admission is free. Visit www.ackland.org or call 966-5736. —Megan Stein