Sugarland – Still the Same 2018 Tour with Brandy Clark and Clare Bowen

PNC Arena – Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saturday was a night of firsts for RDU Music. We covered our first arena show at PNC with our first country act, Grammy award-winning Sugarland. [I thought this was also our first time covering a Grammy winner but I forgot Deftones won in 2001 for “Elite.” And then I got tired of looking for other winners so let’s just pretend, mmkay? -Ed.] They are touring in support of their soon-to-be-released, sixth studio album, Bigger. Joining them were songwriter extraordinaire, Brandy Clark, and TV’s Clare Bowen, of Nashville fame.

Country fans turned out en masse for this bill. PNC Arena was hopping for Atlanta’s finest, who brought a whopping 22-song setlist to our fair city, replete with a 2-song encore, closing with crowd-pleaser, “Lady Marmalade.” It is no small feat commanding an arena crowd of roughly 20,000 but Jennifer Nettles has the chops to make it happen.

RDU Music’s resident photographer, Lan, was handed a less-than-stellar assignment to shoot from the soundboard in the back and yet he still managed to grab some quality shots. I’m not sure if the PNC Arena crew forgot to leave 4 feet between the stage and barricade for photogs but getting up close is what we live for. Maybe next time.

Pick up Bigger, Sugarland’s latest release, out 6/8, here and catch them on their huge summer tour, lasting into September.

Claire Bowen opening for Sugarland at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina

Claire Bowen opening for Sugarland at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina

Melvins @ Cat’s Cradle

Monday, May 7, 2018 – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro

Melvins at Cat's Cradle Carrboro, North Carolina

Melvins at Cat’s Cradle Carrboro, North Carolina

Lan and I have seen the Melvins open for just about every band in the late 90s but we’ve never been to a Melvins headlining show. Gonna see NIN? Melvins are opening. Tool? Melvins. Manson? You bet your ass Melvins are opening. So here in the year of our Lord 2018, it was time for King Buzzo and co. to show us what they are working with as the marquee act.

We headed to Carrboro and made it just in time to miss the opener. [Sorry, All Souls. We’re old. -Ed.] It was a pretty decent turnout for some old dudes on a Monday night. I was telling my girlfriend about the show and she said, “Who are the Melvins?” I guess I forgot that she is 25. She doesn’t remember Houdini or Stoner Witch. Say what you want about some of their records over the years, when they step on the stage and rock, it’s a unique experience. King Buzzo commands the stage and plays every show at full throttle. Except for that time I saw them at Ozzfest ’98 where Buzz was not stoked in the slightest and did nothing but feedback his guitar on the stacks for 20 minutes until I bounced to the main stage to catch Soulfly. Peep Buzz talking about his Ozzfest experience in an interview with Metalsucks here. “Not cuz Ozzfest wanted us, because Tool wanted us. And I quote, they told us that they will not do it unless we do it, because [Tool] wanted at least one band on the tour that they liked. So they took us with them on the tour. Ozzfest people were adamantly opposed to us playing.” [LOL! -Ed.]

The Melvins in 2018 are all about bringing the low end with 2 bassists and a kick drum that rattled my eyeballs so bad that I had to move to the back and get another beer. Their newest slab of downtuned, head-scratching weirdness, this year’s Pinkus Abortion Technician on Ipecac, only appeared once on the setlist. With 35 years of recorded output to choose from, I can see why they throw the rule book out the window. Also, they are the Melvins and never opened the book in the first damn place. The setlist bounced around between about 12 albums and a handful of covers. It was nice to catch some classics like “Honey Bucket” off of Houdini and Stag‘s opener, “The Bit.”

The King was resplendent in his eyeball wizard regalia, alongside Pinkus, who was looking like he came straight from a Midwest trailer park next door to Joe Dirt, and Steve, rocking a suit with an all-over print flame pattern that was likely tailored by Guy Fieri himself. Oddly enough, none of those fine gentlemen were the oddest thing I saw that night. [Honorable mention goes to the dude with a sweet Mercyful Fate backpatch. -Ed.] Sitting on some rigging, stage right, was an older lady, all kitted out with a lawn chair and art supplies. She was apparently live-sketching the aural dysphoria that is a Melvins show. It doesn’t get much more avant-garde than that.

Of Montreal @ The Cat’s Cradle 3/23/18

    Of Montreal playing NC is no surprise to those that are fans of their music.  In fact, they seem to play here on a yearly basis, whether they have a new album to support or not.  One of my best friends, Patrick, and I were there almost every time. While I have been a big fan of them since 2004 (roughly between when Satanic Panic in the Attic and The Sunlandic Twins were released), I must admit that my attention paid to them has slipped in recent years.  The Cat’s Cradle venue was their main home when their tour came through NC, so when they decided to make a stop in Raleigh at the Lincoln Theatre in 2015, I was very excited at the prospect of having a favorite band of mine play in my hometown, but I’d also be lying if I said that not having to make two separate 45 minute drives back and forth from Carrboro wasn’t appealing as well. Unfortunately, the live show left a lot to be desired. [Peep Negadave’s review here.] I recall the crowd turnout being low, and since Lincoln Theatre is bigger than Cat’s Cradle, I would’ve expected a much bigger turnout for a band of that caliber. The performance itself was pretty lackluster as well, which was very unlike their reputation. After this show, my interest in Of Montreal had started to subside.

    Fast forward three years into the future, the very same friend and I decided to go see Of Montreal return to their familiar stomping grounds at the Cradle. While walking up to the venue, I began to take notice of the lack of people around me which began to worry me that I might have a repeat of three years prior back in Raleigh. “Have Of Montreal sunk in into the pits of irrelevance where a lot of popular indie bands from the 2000s now resides?” Those doubts were squashed when we walked into the Cradle to see the big crowd already inside watching the opening act.  Apparently, we were fashionably late. The opening act (whose name escapes me) seemed very out of place by musical styles. Their tempo was slow with vocals reminiscent of Bjork. Unfortunately, this style did them little favors with the large crowd that was only getting larger, with their sound seemingly beginning to be drowned out by hundreds of conversations being had by the crowd.  They apparently had limited material to perform, with their last song having enough tempo and volume to hush the crowd and gain their attention. Unfortunately, it was their last song.

    The venue filled out even more once they knew Of Montreal was set to take the stage.  I was happy to see an even mixture of thirty-somethings, like me, and a much younger crowd.  Once Of Montreal took the stage, the collective cheers of a nearly full house rang out. Something that was drastically missing from their show in Raleigh.  When Kevin Barnes, who is, essentially, Of Montreal, showed up in an outfit that was equal parts a creation of something from a John Waters’ movie and an Andy Warhol painting, I knew we were in a for fun, energetic show that I associated with this band.  Majority of the songs performed were from their latest album, White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood, an album I’m unfamiliar with, however, it’s more dancy approach was a welcome surprise.  While the new material was foreign to me, the spectacle and theatrics of the show were not.  It is not uncommon for random masked and costumed figures to appear on stage to interact with Kevin, or to interpretively dance to a theme of that current song.  That night’s show even had two Chinese style dragons parading back and forth on the limited real estate that is the Cat’s Cradle stage. Massive projections enveloped the stage at all times with pop-art patterns or videos of drag queens.  No Of Montreal show would be complete without multiple outfit/costume changes from Kevin. Very few songs were performed from albums that I was familiar with, but some of my favorites from Hissing Fauna were played as well as the obligatory “Wraith Pinned to the Mist” (AKA The Outback Steakhouse song).  There were also more than a couple of songs played from the album, Skeletal Lamping, which conveniently happened to be the last album I was familiar with.

    Much like any live performance, the crowd is what makes the show.  This night’s crowd, which consisted of older and younger fans, were the driving force.  It was refreshing to see concertgoers dancing and jumping to the music since NC is notorious for tame and reserved crowds.  While I post up in the back at most club shows nowadays, I can still feed off the energy from the crowd that is in front of me, and that energy was such in full force that it reminded me of the old days.  I was reminded of how much fun a concert can be simply based on the crowd around me. This show definitely rejuvenated my love for Of Montreal, so much that I’ve started listening to the all the material they’ve released on my hiatus, but will also make it a point to see them again live the next time they stop by Carrboro.  When it comes to Of Montreal, it’s either Cat’s Cradle or nothing at all.

Setlist

Gronlandic EditHissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Paranoiac Intervals / Body DysmorphiaWhite Is Relic/Irrealis Mood

Plastis WaferSkeletal Lamping
(first half only)

Writing the Circles / Orgone Tropics White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood

Sex Karma (Solange Knowles song)False Priest

Wraith Pinned to the Mist (and Other Games)The Sunlandic Twins
(first half only)Sophie Calle Private Game / Every Person Is a Pussy, Every Pussy Is a Star!
White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood

It’s Different for GirlsInnocence Reaches

Plateau Phase / No Careerism No Corruption White Is Relic/Irrealis MoodCome Wander With Me Bonnie Beecher cover

Soft Music / Juno Portraits of the Jovian Sky White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood

For Our Elegant Caste Skeletal Lamping

Touched Something’s Hollow Skeletal Lamping

An Eluardian Instance Skeletal Lamping
(first half only)

A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger Hissing Fauna, Are Your the Destroyer?

Encore:

Gallery PieceSkeletal Lamping

Let’s RelateInnocence Reaches

Toadies and Local H at Motorco

The RDU Music staff was approached about covering a Tuesday night show in Durham. That’s one strike for a weeknight and another for Durham. [That shit is like 30 minutes away! – Ed.] It’s a good thing that the bands in question happened to be two of the best grungy, alternative rockers that the 90s had to offer: The Toadies and Local H.

Local H at MotorCo Durham, North Carolina

Local H at MotorCo Durham, North Carolina

Local H

Let me tell you: Local H’s Scott Lucas is looking great at 47 years young. Life on the road must have been good to him because I look like shit at 35 while he can still hit the high notes with ease. Alongside drummer Ryan Harding, Scott brought Local H back to the Triangle area for a raucous set that flirted with disaster for its entirety. By the middle of song two, Scott proclaimed that it was, “one of them shows already,” as kick drum mics got tangled in patch cords and certain over-the-hill drunkards tried their best to ruin an otherwise powerful set from one of my favorite and most underrated rock acts of the 90s.

Durham did not put its best foot forward at Motorco for this show. The majority of the crowd were likeminded thirtysomethings or higher who wanted to be reminded of how it felt to spin an excellent record like As Good as Dead for the first time in their parents’ basement. Unfortunately, a couple of bad apples spoiled the bunch as two middle-aged assclowns decided to get shitfaced before 9pm on a Tuesday and bum everyone out.

In the middle of the first goddamn song, these tools were taking cell phone photos from the first row with the flash on and pantomiming hitting Scott’s guitar as his rockitude brought him to the front of the stage. “I don’t want to be in your selfies,” said Scott as he unironically flipped off the camera. Things went downhill fast as the meatheads in the crowd began to feel like their declining masculinity was in question, causing them to pop off at the mouth about wanting to fight a complete stranger who was nice enough to play a show for them. Scott tried diffusing the situation with some humor as he called out one of the assholes for sloppily making out with his insufferable girlfriend during the set. “This is a rock show, not prom. Get the fuck out of here. You are bumming everyone out.” This was apparently akin to insulting one’s saintly mother so the shitty party boys proceeded to continue causing a scene while one of their girlfriends got into it with another woman, each ending up with a handful of each other’s hair before a larger and more level-headed woman stepped in. I was more than embarrassed and hope that Local H will accept my apologies on behalf of Durham at large.

I had written about three more paragraphs on the topic of the deplorable behavior exhibited by these buttmunchers but I realized that I was starting to bum myself out so I decided to not waste any more keystrokes on these garbage people. For those of you that need closure, I heard from a reputable source (some dude) that the buffoons in question got thrown out and were starting shit outside. All is right in the world. Now back to the true star of the show: Local H’s set.

I never thought I’d see Local H with a bassist [Scott’s guitars are modded with a bass pickup. – Ed.] but The Toadies’ Doni Blair made a guest appearance on stage to join the duo for “Michelle (Again)” from 2008’s Twelve Angry Months. Other set highlights included a rockin’ cover of the recently deceased Tom Petty’s “I Need to Know” in addition to some great crowd participation on hits from the Island years like “Fritz’s Corner” and “Bound for the Floor,” both of which found yours truly screaming along at the top of his lungs. Those lyrics are so deeply ingrained into my memory that I won’t ever forget them.

If my memory serves [It usually doesn’t. – Ed.], Local H closed the set with a fiery double-time version of “High-Fiving MF” which was worth the admission price alone.

The Toadies at MotorCo Durham, North Carolina

The Toadies at MotorCo Durham, North Carolina

The Toadies

Photog extraordinaire and RDU Music‘s own, Lan, busted out 1994’s seminal Rubberneck on the way to a party we attended the prior weekend. I was immediately transported back to a simpler time when rock had that fat groove and the weed was chockful of seeds and stems. I could almost taste the ill-gotten packs of smokes we had to get older kids to buy for us. If good music doesn’t have that effect on you, it’s time to hang it up and go sell some insurance for The Man.

On the surface, the years have not been quite as nice to The Toadies’ Vaden Todd Lewis but he and his cohorts have not missed a beat when it comes to knowing how to lay down the chunkiest riffs this side of 1995. The frontman laid it out from the beginning of the set: “We’re gonna play songs from the new record, songs from Rubberneck, and some in between.” He wasn’t lying as The Toadies burned through 7 songs from their biggest record, 4 from the new record, and a handful of others including an encore consisting of two covers flanking Rubberneck‘s underrated, slow-building closing track, “I Burn.”

Durham showed up with some solid crowd participation on hits such as “Backslider” and “I Come from the Water.” I had to laugh at the poor roadie who rigged up a separate mic solely for one song’s worth of some egg-shaker percussion. Toward the end of the set, I spied the best-dressed concertgoer I have seen all year: Coexist t-shirt and suspenders with a drug rug tied around his waist. Man, I miss the 90s.

The first cover of the encore saw The Toadies paying homage to the recently fallen rock hero, Tom Petty, with their rendition of 1977’s “Breakdown.” They then closed the set with some sweet back-to-back guitar courtesy of Local H’s Scott Lucas on the classic hit, “I Put a Spell on You,” which culminated with the Scott effortlessly crowd-surfing back to the bar as if he had done so a hundred times. I have good money that says these two bands had a blast at every single stop on this tour.