Red Fang coming to Motorco with Torche and Whores

I know for a fact that y’all ain’t doing shit on Wednesday, November 30th, so you might as well take your asses to Motorco in Durham for a night of sick riffs courtesy of Red Fang, Torche, and Whores. RDU Music will be there in full force because we happen to enjoy serious riffage. (Little-known fact.)

Red Fang: Facebook | Bandcamp
Torche: Facebook | Bandcamp
Whores: Facebook | Bandcamp

While you are at it, check out the sweet new Red Fang video for “Shadows” below. Do you like PBR, Big League Chew, the Predator, and dank riffs? Then get in here.

Hopscotch Music Festival 2016 – Day 3

Hopscotch Music Festival 2016

Day 3 – Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Downtown Raleigh

I say it every year, but this year it might actually be true: This is my last Hopscotch. It’s not that Hopscotch is anything other than the best curated and executed music festival in the Southeast, but rather that a 3-day festival is a younger man’s game. I was ready to go home midway through Day 2 but I knew there were still some gems to be found on Day 3. Instead, I only managed to see about 3 sets because I again decided to not park myself at one venue since I thought some change would do me good. (That mindset caused me to miss Tribulation and Baroness. Or maybe I missed them because I fell asleep at Memorial Auditorium. -Ed.)

Hopscotch Music Festival 2016

Day 3 – Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Downtown Raleigh

I say it every year, but this year it might actually be true: This is my last Hopscotch. It’s not that Hopscotch is anything other than the best curated and executed music festival in the Southeast, but rather that a 3-day festival is a younger man’s game. I was ready to go home midway through Day 2 but I knew there were still some gems to be found on Day 3. Instead, I only managed to see about 3 sets because I again decided to not park myself at one venue since I thought some change would do me good. (That mindset caused me to miss Tribulation and Baroness. Or maybe I missed them because I fell asleep at Memorial Auditorium. -Ed.)

Sylvan Esso

City Plaza

Sylvan Esso Facebook | Website

My heart swelled with pride at the fact that the arguably biggest City Plaza turnout was for Durham’s own indie-electronic duo, Sylvan Esso. I immersed myself in the center of the massive City Plaza throng in order to fully experience a musical style that was markedly outside my personal spectrum. I only lasted a couple songs before I found myself searching for an egress. I will say that SO was a pleasant surprise to me but the crowd was hanging on Amelia’s every word and Nick’s every bleep and bloop.

Necrocosm

Kings

Necrocosm: Facebook | Bandcamp

Next up was a short walk to Kings where I felt more comfortable among those of my own ilk who turned out to see hometown melodic death metal upstarts, Necrocosm.

Now we’re cooking with gas! I had seen the Necrocosm boys around the scene and caught a few of their sets before but this one was the pièce de résistance. The crowd was amped, filling Kings pretty full for such an early set. Necrocosm immediately went to work with their high-octane guitar histrionics.

Frontman Zach’s large and commanding stage presence was offset by how excited and grateful they were to be playing for a crowd that was diggin’ it. Joel’s luscious locks were flying in the non-existent breeze as he headbanged with almost the same ferocity that he uses to attack his ripping riffs.

Necrocosm played three new tracks which I am sure will feature prominently on their upcoming October tour. One of them, I believe, was called, “Atrocities of the Ephemeral,” whose subject matter centered on Peruvian human fat harvesters selling their ill-gotten gains to the highest bidder for use in beauty products. Metal is the fucking best…and Raleigh is proud to let Necrocosm carry that banner for the City of Oaks.

Andrew Bird

Memorial Auditorium

Andrew Bird: Facebook | YouTube

What would become my last show of the night, I swung by Memorial Auditorium to catch America’s premiere indie-folk violinist and whistler extraordinaire, Andrew Bird.

AB is highly talented: violin tricks, guitar, great voice, etc. I have never been a fan of whistling but Bird makes it much more musical than the average asshole whistling next to you at the urinals. The classiness and large scale of Memorial Auditorium was a great setting for Bird and co. The smoke and lights were understated which was a nice touch that matched the tone of the set. I liked that all four musicians on stage were lined up equally, creating a sense of cohesion despite AB’s many overpowering talents.

A highlight of the set was when Bird stated that he had earlier thought that the venue was conducive to an acoustic session so he made it happen as he and his bandmates gathered around an ambient mic for quite a few songs under that setup. Then it was back to the Andrew Bird recipe for success: Whistle a bird noise, loop it; pluck the violin, loop it; bow the violin, loop it; put down the violin, pick up guitar, sing.

Bird played an exceptionally long set as he was the Memorial headliner for the evening but it did not feel as if it was dragging on. I did doze off for a few minutes but that had little to do with the show. I was simply draggin’ ass after three nights of festival shenanigans.

As much as I wanted to catch Tribulation and Baroness, I knew that my tank was empty after Andrew Bird so I simply disappeared into the night, bidding yet another Hopscotch Music Festival adieu.

Hopscotch Music Festival 2016 – Day 2

Hopscotch Music Festival 2016

Day 2 – Friday, September 9th, 2016

Downtown Raleigh

I am really proud of myself for my Hopscotch 2016 – Day 1 recap. I paid attention, took insightful notes, and came away with a solid piece. Then I threw all that out the window for Day 2 as I simply meandered about the city with no real destination in mind.

Beach House / Anderson .Paak

City Plaza

Beach House: Facebook | Soundcloud
Anderson .Paak: Facebook | Soundcloud

Day 1 was a solid turnout in City Plaza for Wye Oak and Wolf Parade but even more people packed the street for Day 2’s lineup of Anderson .Paak and Beach House.

Hip-hop funk revivalist, Anderson .Paak got the crowd moving early until Beach House emerged through the fog to drop a dark and smoky set.

Erykah Badu

Red Hat Amphitheater

Erykah Badu: Facebook

2016 marked the first year where Hopscotch added Red Hat as a venue and invited hip-hop & soul visionary Erykah Badu for its inaugural run. It’s a good thing too as Red Hat filled up quickly, likely past the point of City Plaza’s capacity.

I received an email from Etix earlier in the evening saying that Erykah was delayed in transit from Texas so her set was pushed to 9:15 but it was actually closer to 10 before she took the stage. The house music kept fans occupied for a while but eventually Erykah’s band took the stage for a jam session in order to buy some extra time.

Erykah finally took the stage in dramatic fashion, both literally and figuratively. She casually sauntered out on stage wearing a 10-gallon leather hat adorned with a fox tail. It didn’t take her long to shed some of the excess leather as the NC heat has a tendency to remain oppressive well into the wee hours of the night.

Young Thug

Memorial Auditorium

Young Thug: Facebook | YouTube

An artist that generated one of the largest pre-show buzzes was Atlanta’s paradoxical fashionista MC, Young Thug. Memorial’s meager pit area couldn’t contain all of the concertgoers so there was substantial spillover into the aisles as Jeffery brought his unique brand of Southern rap. But he left the wedding dresses at home.

Demdike Stare

Fletcher Opera House

Demdike Stare: Soundcloud

After leaving Memorial, I realized that Fletcher was directly next door so I thought I would check out the odd stylings of dark ambient electronic duo, Manchester’s Demdike Stare. I didn’t know what to expect as I’d only briefly familiarized myself with their music that afternoon, but I will be perfectly honest with you: It had been a long day and I was excited to sit in the dark and get weird with Demdike Stare.

I was hoping to more eloquently describe their sound but it is a sensation best experienced. There wasn’t much “show” as DS are simply two chaps with some electronics on a table but they were able to take the scattered, post-midnight crowd on a sweeping and disconcerting journey through dark, industrial landscapes of the mind.

YOB

The Pour House

YOB: Facebook | Bandcamp

To close the night, I staggered over to the Pour House where I had intended to spend the entire night but got sidetracked. That venue’s lineup was stellar: MAKE, Occultist, Cobalt, and YOB. But I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself into the same experience as Day 1 where I pretty much posted up at Lincoln Theatre until it was time to go home. Since I had a pleasantly surprising experience the night before by stumbling into a set by the stellar Battle Trance, I thought I would try my luck again on Day 2 in hopes of turning a corner and being surprised. Unfortunately, I should have stuck with my initial impulse and hung out at Pour House all night to catch bands I actually wanted to see. Oh well. You can’t win ’em all. At least Lan got some dope shots.

I was only able to catch the back half of YOB’s set but that was more than enough for me to solidify the fact that I had chosen my route poorly for the evening. I should have been there, front and center, for YOB’s entire set of top-tier atmospheric doom. (Missing Cobalt might have been my biggest mistake of the Fest though. -Ed.)

Hopscotch Music Festival 2016 – Day 1

Hopscotch Music Festival 2016

Day 1 – Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Downtown Raleigh

As another muggy North Carolinian summer begins to wind down, the town of Raleigh begins to amp up for the annual Hopscotch Music Festival. I got the call from my partners in crime, Lan and Yang, late in the afternoon. They were headed downtown to check out some day parties, one facet of the Hopscotch experience in which I seldom partake. Yes, they are free, fun, and overflowing with the best underground talent in the area but I am not a young man. I can’t start drinking in the hot sun around noon and expect to close down the bars for the nightly headliners so I tend to spend my Hopscotch days writing in the cool confines of my ever-darkened apartment.

I met the boys at the Pour House where I comically missed Bedowyn’s set for the eleventeenth time. Seriously, every time I see Bedowyn drummer Marc, I am apologizing for perpetually arriving 20 minutes after they finish their set. Which is unfortunate since Bedowyn are one of the best metal acts in the region. Go spin Blood of the Fallen right now. Thank me later.
Bedowyn: Facebook | Bandcamp

Wye Oak

City Plaza

We made it to City Plaza in time to catch one of my favorite bands on this year’s bill, Baltimore’s Wye Oak. I have caught them live a couple of times after falling in love with their sound on 2011’s Civilian. They opened the night perfectly with their varied instrumentation and widely-accessible-yet-unique sound which brought a great turnout to the Plaza. Frontwoman, Jenn Wasner, has a great stage presence and was adorably touched as a generous concertgoer tossed flowers on stage for her and her partner-in-crime, multi-instrumentalist percussionist, Andy Stack.
RDU Music’s own Yang may have more on Wye Oak later as he tackles a piece about one of his all-time faves, Wolf Parade, who headlined the first night of the City Plaza shows but since I took the day off to write, I am going to sneak in this mini-review of Wye Oak before he notices.

4/5 stars = Great
Wye Oak: Facebook | Merge Records

Battle Trance

Nash Hall

Battle Trance: New Amsterdam Records | Bandcamp

Lan received an email from New Amsterdam Records asking us to check out tenor saxophone quartet Battle Trance. I was immediately intrigued by that statement so we left Wolf Parade in Yang’s capable hands and made our way to Nash Hall, a fresh and artsy 300-capacity seated venue in a church converted from Nash Motors. Hopscotch’s site aptly describes the venue as, “a more intimate CAM Raleigh.” It was the perfect venue for such a unique act as Battle Trance.

Oftentimes at Hopscotch, I tend to gravitate toward metal acts and plant my feet firmly in the same venue for an entire evening. Battle Trance reminded me why it is so fun and liberating to roll up on a strange, new place to hear even stranger things.

I walked in expecting a jazzy good time but was immediately proven wrong. Battle Trance are an altogether different kind of animal, weaving ambient aural textures by shattering one’s preconceived notions about the “correct” way one should play a saxophone. By trading solos in the round and relying as much on breath sounds and key-clacks as “notes,” Battle Trance’s sound at times flirted with the cacophonous before devolving into emotionally-moving minimalist sections reminiscent of say, Sigur Ros, before ramping back up to a sound one might more traditionally think of when envisioning a tenor sax quartet.

Their ability to hold on loosely to a gossamer, cohesive thread of “song structure” while taking it for completely unexpected rides in multiple directions at once was masterful. There weren’t even any breaks for applause. The crowd had no idea when to clap so they thought the better of it, which only contributed to the eerie atmosphere weaved by Battle Trance.

I wish I could have seen my face as I tagged along for Battle Trance’s musical journey. I could feel the look of incredulity as my brain struggled to grasp what was happening. I then felt by brow begin to unfurrow as an aural wave of emotion crashed around me and permeated my being. I looked around and saw similar emotional rollercoasters on the faces of the rest of the concertgoers. Many never reached the same sense of acceptance and fulfillment that I did. There were some palpably negative visceral responses to some of the tones and movements but that only made me appreciate Battle Trance even more. It felt as if I were becoming part of some secret musical society that was able to appreciate all that Battle Trance had to offer.

5/5 stars = Excellent
After only the first night of Hopscotch 2016, Battle Trance proved to easily be the biggest and best surprise of the festival. Their set was a wholly transcendent experience that made me wish I were a more eloquent writer so that I might adequately do it justice.

Mutoid Man

Lincoln Theatre

Mutoid Man: Facebook | Bandcamp

After a brief side trip to another plane of consciousness courtesy of Battle Trance, I headed south down Blount, making my way to the Lincoln Theatre where one of my more anticipated acts of Hopscotch 2016 was beginning to soundcheck: Mutoid Man. (Steve soundchecked his mic with “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones, so you know they were ready to party.)

Boasting a pedigree of some of my favorite bands of the new millennium (Cave In, Kid Kilowatt, Converge, All Pigs Must Die, etc.), my excitement level was already off the charts before Mutoid Man opened with the world’s all-time rockinest cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Steve can really hit those high notes too.

The central theme of Mutoid Man’s set was pure, unadulterated fun. Those three fellas were having the time of their lives: Steve and Nick trading middle fingers to each other between riffs, Ben losing a drumstick and deciding to try ramming it into Nick’s ass, all while cruising through a stellar setlist of mutant jams. They even played some new songs, the first of which lasted for all of about 6 seconds before they all stopped and Steve announced, “This one’s still cooking.”

Hopscotch is always weird about crowd sizes due to the fact that the entire city is hosting shows at overlapping frequencies but a decent crowd turned out to see Mutoid Man, all of which were headbanging along with all the dank-ass mutant riffs.

5/5 stars = Excellent
SO. MANY. RIFFS. I defy you not to hurt your neck.

The piece de resistance of this year’s Hopscotch for me was the announcement of Converge to the bill. If I didn’t already have enough reasons to purchase yet another wristband, Converge sealed the deal. They have consistently been one of my favorite bands for the last 15+ years. I got into them during the heyday of 2001’s seminal game-changer Jane Doe. I didn’t “get” that record for the first 3 months I owned it until one day I succumbed to its harrowing bleakness and never looked back.

I saw Converge a couple of times in those days but haven’t seen them live in 10 years, since the release of 2006’s No Heroes. The timing was perfect since Hopscotch was to be Converge’s last show of the year (or longer) so that they could go home and start working on a new record. I am forever grateful that they decided to swing through Raleigh and rekindle my fire with a blistering set that further reminded me that they remain at the top of their game.

Each member of Converge is larger than life with a stage personality all their own. Jake pacing the stage like an enraged teenager bouncing off the walls of his bedroom; Kurt looking like the elder statesman who no longer cares about punk fashion, doing more with one guitar than many bands do with three; Nate furiously hitting the bass so hard that he probably goes through three straps a month; and finally Ben, a drummer’s drummer whose intensity is head and shoulders above anyone else in the game. They’ve all been together so long that the sum of those parts generates a palpable electricity each time they take the stage together. It felt as important and meaningful now as it did 10 years ago.

I’ve never been able to adequately describe why I feel Converge so deeply but as soon as they took the stage, all the old and unnamed feelings came flooding back to an overwhelming degree. Ragers like “Trespasses” and “Concubine” will bring out the beast in any man but the highlight of the evening for me was when Steve Brodsky (of Mutoid Man, Cave In, and early Converge) joined the band on stage to close out the night by singing the high parts of “Jane Doe.” The sheer bleakness and raw, overpowering emotion of “Jane Doe” will haunt me forever, in the best possible way.

5/5 stars = Excellent
Lost in you like Saturday nights
Searching the streets with bedroom eyes
Just dying to be saved

If you are in the mood to reminisce, you can check out my coverage from last year’s Hopscotch below.
Hopscotch Music Festival 2015 – Day 1
Hopscotch Music Festival 2015 – Day 2
Hopscotch Music Festival 2015 – Day 3

King Buffalo @ Slim’s

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King Buffalo

with The Hell No and Emerson Boozer

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016 – Slim’s Downtown

I tried to do you a solid, Raleigh, but you let me down. I told you that King Buffalo was the cat’s pajamas and yet a whopping 15 of you turned out to have your faces melted on a Tuesday. For shame.

Opening Acts

Kicking off the night was the Southern-fried hard rock stylings of Raleigh’s Emerson Boozer.

Up next was the female-fronted four-piece rock fury of Raleigh’s own The Hell No, who are set to open the bill at Slim’s on the first night of this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival.

Vocalist Brenna could have been a jazz singer in another life. Imagine her in smoky rooms with even smokier eyeshadow, belting out a dolorous tune. Instead, she found herself in the heyday of modern turmoil and is not going to take it lying down. As the focal point of the band, she was sassy ferocious and biker fabulous while their bassist, Ash, expertly shredded and was able to keep up with Brenna’s chops as he sang backup. Side note: Adam on guitar looks like he could have been cast as Mark Kozelek’s character in Almost Famous.

Alternating between a double-time ragers followed by a downtempo “feeling it” numbers made for a delightfully varied set by The Hell No. I expect big things from them in the future.

Ambience

Slim’s is a small venue but I happen to like it quite a bit. Over the years, I have seen some highlights such as Coliseum and Colossus lay waste to Slim’s 12-inch stage. It is an intimate venue that gets overlooked by many a band but it reminds me of the shitholes [I use the term lovingly. -Ed.] of downtown Lawrence, Kansas where I cut my teenage rock ‘n’ roll teeth. Plus, the bartender isn’t the kind of chap to ignore you for 15 minutes just to make some kind of self-serving point like a lot of purveyors of potent potables in this town.

I would like to take a moment to ponder the mathematic improbability of seeing 3 different people wearing Soundgarden t-shirts at Slim’s over the course of that evening. Not that I don’t appreciate Chris Cornell and co. [I’ve always been more of an Alice in Chains sort of fella. – Ed.] but what are the odds? Did I miss another memo?

I was, as usual, clad in my Hydra Head Records t-shirt that has become my default gig uniform because I think promoting a near-defunct, unmarketable, experimental noise metal record label makes me look “hip.”

King Buffalo

Bandcamp
Facebook

As King Buffalo began to load in, I noticed a strange phenomenon: The venue started to empty. The problem was that only myself, and maybe that one other guy that was totally feeling it, had ever heard King Buffalo’s recently released psychedelic riff-fest, Orion. All the other patrons that night appeared to be the friends and family of the two local openers, who promptly left after the opening sets. [Portions of the bands themselves appeared to have stuck around because that is the classy thing to do. -Ed.] By the time KB were ready to rock, it looked like last call up in Slim’s, which is unfortunate because anyone that left missed one helluva set.

King Buffalo is the kind of band that understands a proper rise and fall. They employ a lengthy build-up but also don’t neglect the pay-off. Your ears will first be dazzled by some trancey feedback manipulation, care of the intricate pedal setups for both guitar and bass, until KB deems that it is high time for some dank riffs. They employ a near-effortless groove that feels like a slow burn which culminated in some synchronized headbanging from all dozen of Raleigh’s finest concert-goers.

Since I had been spinning Orion for a couple of weeks, I had to lead the sparse crowd in all the cheers at the end of songs since no one else knew when each song ended. I felt bad for King Buffalo. They brought the thunder but it was a Tuesday night and Raleigh decided they had better things to do. Your loss, Raleigh. If you are lucky, King Buffalo will swing back through in another year when they are a bigger draw because they are definitely on the rise.

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