Experimental music and art are alive and well in North Carolina. The second annual Staycation Fest was hosted (and organized) in Burlington by Zachary and Denny Corsa of Lost Trail this past weekend. Two days of bands and artists from across the state (and Virginia) produced a great sampler of cerebral sounds and feels. Although I didn’t get to see every act, here’s what I caught from beginning to end.
SPAZZ FEST VI / 2015
The Monday following Spazz Fest is always sort of a bummer; you go back to wherever you traveled from, you’re exhausted, your body hurts, and you go through show withdrawals. At least there’s that feeling that it was all worth every single second. Cheers to all of the kindred spirits I met (or was reunited with) over the weekend! Thanks especially to Jeff Blinder and way too many other names to list. See you soon.
SPAZZ FEST VI SCHEDULE
‘Tis the season for Spazz Fest! Officially kicking off tomorrow night in Greenville, NC, the next four days and nights will be filled with more music than what’s buried in your dead iPod Classic. As always, there will be some surprises in store (did you catch The Emotron last year?).
I’ve teamed up with Spazz Presents to create the official SPAZZ FEST VI SCHEDULE listing all of the main shows so you can plan accordingly. See you in Greenville!
Caspian / Greenville, NC / 2007
By October 2007, The (now defunct) Spazzatorium Galleria was bustling with illegal underground shows on a nightly basis. Summer had been a blur of paint cans, parties, bonfires and sauna-esque feelings (no A/C in the gallery). All of the fun came to an abrupt and traumatic halt after several friends were victims of a gang-related robbery (not at the gallery), which left one friend in the hospital with gunshot wounds.
It was during this haze that Caspian came to Greenville with their post-rock ballads. Wrapping us all in a womb of sweeping drums and guitar, their songs gave some sort of comfort and solidarity during a time when words would have done no good.
On this 2007 tour, Caspian was in the midst of a three-month stretch playing shows coast-to coast to promote their album The Four Trees. As I write this today (in 2014), Caspian is preparing to celebrate their 10-year anniversary by playing a sold out show next month in their hometown of Beverly, MA. To get a feel for their grandiose sound, you can listen to their full catalog on Caspian’s Bandcamp page.
At the end of these photos, you can watch a video from this night in 2007. About 4:50 in, you’ll catch a pan of the crowded room, stairs and catwalk, along with lots of heads having a great time.
This post is dedicated in memory of Chris Friedrich.
Hopscotch 2014 Day Party Lists
Hopscotch Music Festival officially kicks off on Thursday evening. If you’re planning to be in Raleigh, don’t bypass the excellent lineup of FREE day parties from Thursday afternoon through Sunday! If you don’t have a wristband, you can still see a hearty selection of acts that range from local to national. It’s also not too late to buy a wristband to the official festival! A small amount remain available for purchase through Hopscotch’s website.
Having trouble wrapping your mind around day party schedules and time slots? I’ve compiled them into a list for Thursday through Sunday*, and you can download it right here**: Hopscotch 2014 Day Parties
A couple of highlights:
On Friday, Valient Himself (of Valient Thorr) fronts Brief Lives from Richmond, VA 2:00PM at CAM. Saw them play Neptunes a few months back and they will rock your face off.
Also on Friday, legendary Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) will play Kings Barcade with harpist, Mary Lattimore at 4:20PM. If you’re not outwardly familiar with Lattimore, she played on Moore’s 2011 solo album, Demolished Thoughts, and was part of the band during that tour. There’s an interview somewhere out there where Moore states that Lattimore is the first person he’s ever had to “fire” (begrudgingly) from a band. Transportation costs are high for harps.
On Saturday, Landlady plays Pour House at 3:30PM. Frontman, Adam Schatz has a repertoire that includes playing saxophone for Man Man as well as Vampire Weekend. Catch them at this show because it will be easier to see and the acoustics will be better than when they play during the actual festival at Tir Na Nog (no hard feelings).
Girls Rock NC will be hosting a ‘Babes in Boyland’ party on Saturday in the Warehouse District where Ex Hex will slay. If you missed them at July’s Merge 25 Fest, here’s your chance to catch them. The party runs from 12PM – 5PM, and although I couldn’t find a set lineup with time slots, I’d venture to guess they’ll headline and go on close to 4PM.
Special love to The (now defunct) Spazzatorium Galleria, as Jeff Blinder (Spazz Presents) brings another great mix to Slim’s during this year’s SpazzScotch III day party on Saturday from 12PM – 6PM. You can catch many of the bands that have played Greenville’s annual Spazz Fest. There’s one secret act on the lineup that you will have to show up to see.
*The times listed are based on a mix of times provided on Hopscotch’s website, along with the official Facebook event pages for each day party. Check those for any last minute changes.
**Schoolkids Records and Humble Pie were cut from my Saturday list in order to fit everything on one page (I’m really sorry). You can view those on the official Hopscotch Day Party list here.
UPDATE 9/3/14: Schoolkids Records has added a list their day parties to their website.
Moogfest / Asheville, NC / 2014
Beyond the music, Moogfest is a meeting of the minds. It’s a showcase of digital music at this point in time, and a venue for discussion on where and how music can evolve. During this year’s Moogfest, I attended a panel on the Future of Instruments presented by Cyril Lance of Moog Music, Jesper Kouthoofd of Teenage Engineering, and Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music. Talking points spanned all angles; from analog to digital, from Maker/DIY to commercial. But where all of these points converged was the role music plays in our lives. One quote from this panel summed up the whole festival perfectly:
“Creating music and art are ways of celebrating the beautiful parts of being human.” – Cyril Lance (Chief Engineer of Moog Music)
Here’s a small sampling from what I saw during Moogfest 2014 (I’m being sort of biased. Escort was just mind-blowing. I might have to do a full piece on them soon)…
Warpaint / Raleigh, NC / 2011
Since there was a tie in the Choose Your Own Adventure poll, an executive decision has been made to feature Warpaint next.
Late 2010, I hosted a holiday dinner party. My friend Jon arrived with a stack of CD-Rs for me, which included Warpaint’s 2009 EP, Exquisite Corpse and their 2010 album, The Fool.
When I got a chance to listen to the CDs, Set Your Arms Down (the first track on The Fool), immediately conjured up haunted memories of living in Greenville. All of the songs to follow had that same feel. And for once, it felt like there were others out there struggling with the same issues of being female, dealing with relationship limbo, having to quell primal feelings and still be taken seriously as an artist or musician without cheapening the sound and feel of the songs being created and produced. Aside from feeling a personal connection, this album was packed with solid riffs and harmonization and I had it on heavy rotation for weeks.
Fast-forward a few months to April 2011. Warpaint played a packed show at Kings Barcade in Raleigh and did not disappoint. Guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman flanked both sides of the stage with ethereal presence, while Jenny Lee Lindberg (bass) and Stella Mozgawa (drums) kept all of the songs grounded from center stage. I was able to pick up this setlist after the show. There’s also a video below of Warpaint playing Majesty. The camera I used at the time was pretty heinous and I’m kind of cringing at the idea of sharing this with you, but I’m just an amateur and the audio is good (close your eyes or look at something else while you listen).
The Emotron / Greenville, NC / Spazz Fest V – 2014
One undeniably great aspect of show-going is watching bands and artists grow and morph over the years. That being said, when Jeff Blinder booked The Emotron for Spazz Fest V’s huge Saturday late-night party, I was feeling a little bit on the fence. The Emotron’s past Greenville performances have become those of show lore and legend; his GG Allin-esque antics included nudity, bodily fluids, you name it. But sometimes (a lot of times?) you just want to go to a show and not have to worry about someone peeing on you. So, I felt more than a bit relieved when Jeff released the following info in the days leading up to Spazz Fest:
THE EMOTRON. REUNION SET. No words — just come get experienced. There will be no bodily fluids exchanged by him during this performance. It’ll involve tree branches. That’s all he’ll say.
By the time I was able to make it down to the party, it was getting close to 3am. Jumping out of the car, synth beats were echoing down the street, so I hustled my way up Dickinson and was met at the door by a wave of Nag Champa. Up on stage, The Emotron was in his signature cowboy shirt, a curly wig and a silver glitter cape. More subdued and focused, this version of The Emotron was more enjoyable than previous versions. His stage presence and performance were practiced, and had much more of an impact than the old Emotron’s spastic shock value sets. His last song, dedicated to a friend battling heroin addiction, was the most poignant of the evening. At intervals during the song, The Emotron grabbed handfuls of flour, put them in his wig and shook his head while screaming a chorus about depression. By the end of the song, he had made the transformation to an old man with white hair.
Although I didn’t get that song on video, I did record The Emotron talking about his 10-year anniversary of playing shows as The Emotron before going into a new version of his song, “The Guy”…
Valient Thorr / Greenville, NC / 2005
Sword Heaven / Greenville, NC / 2006
Spazz Fest V kicks off tonight! A celebration of DIY music in Greenville, this time of year brings waves of nostalgia for those of us who supported (and still support) a robust and diverse music scene out in the middle of eastern North Carolina.
Last week, a few friends were reminiscing about this 2006 show at Spazz Haus. An intense night of noise, Sword Heaven (Columbus, OH) scraped skulls along with Greenville solo acts Birth Rattle and Camarilla. One of the most intense bands I’ve ever witnessed in a living room, Sword Heaven (whose influences include Swans, Sun O))) and Godflesh) was a possessed duo that can only be completely experienced by seeing live. Although not quite the same as being surrounded by sweaty bodies, you can skip the musty armpits & ringing ears and check out this clip of them playing Amsterdam in 2008.
- By this point, you’re probably thinking that the guys in Sword Heaven are pretty dark people. BUT, guess what? In 2009, Aaron Hibbs (drums) broke the Guinness world record for Marathon Hula Hooping by hula-ing for 75 consecutive hours. To answer the next question in your mind, he wore a catheter. You can check out his Hula Hoop Marathon site or this short interview.
- The other half of Sword Heaven, Mark Van Fleet, is still making music under his own name.
- Camarilla was the solo project of Steve Backus from Network of Terror. A wiz with the theremin, the first time he ever played one was at a showing of ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ in Raleigh, NC.
- Greenville’s own Fathers of Noise, Jim Capps and Nathan Maxwell, are still playing sets as Birth Rattle.
- Check out a clip of Jim playing Nightlight in 2010, or a more recent vid of him playing as part of the J.M. Borer/ C. Arthur W./ Jim Capps Trio at All Day Records’ 3rd birthday celebration.