Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Beginning of the end, or end of the beginning?

When I was in college, I discovered this great, quirky band called Nickel Creek. (Thanks, Kevin.) I was skeptical at first, as I was raised on Long Island where the only people who listen to bluegrass chew on straw and marry their cousins, but I gave it a chance and soon enough I was in love.

If you haven't heard the band's music, then shame on you. People say all the time that a group's music is groundbreaking, but in this case it really was true. Nickel Creek somehow found a way to blend all sorts of genres, from bluegrass to classical and alt-rock. They cover everyone from Radiohead to Britney Spears in concert (listen to their version of "Toxic" on MySpace), because they're just that cool.

But yesterday some sad news was released. Nickel Creek, after three albums and some 17 years as a band, is hanging up the mandolin, so to speak.

"We've decided to take a break of indefinite length at the end of 2007 to preserve the environment we've sought so hard to create and to pursue other interests. It has been a pleasure to write, record, and perform for you through the years and we'd like to heartily thank you for your invaluable contribution to our musical lives," the group said on its web site.

Nickel Creek is currently on tour through Sept. 30, including a stop at UNC's Memorial Auditorium on Sept. 19 that I urge you all to get tickets for. The band's Durham-based label, Sugar Hill Records, will release a "Best of " compilation later this year.

After that? Who knows. Chris Thile is slated to release his umpteenth solo album, How to Grow a Woman From the Ground, on Sept. 12. After that he will tour and record with bassist Edgar Meyer. Sean Watkins has said he wants to score films, but also have some resemblance of a normal life. Sara Watkins is planning to release her own solo album and also collaborate with other friends and artists.

Order tickets for the group's Memorial Auditorium show here. Check their music out here and here.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Kevin's weekday picks

Monday, August 28 - LOCAL SHOWCASE featuring The High and Mighties, The Vints, Red Radio, A Clerestory, Doco @ The Pour House (rock)
Tuesday, August 29 - The International Drive, The Bleeding Alarm, Minutes Too Far
Wednesday, August 30 - Wheels On Fire @ The Cave (rock)
Thursday, August 31 - Regina Hexaphone, The Rose Marie, Jennifer Daniels @ Local 506 (indie/folk)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Kevin's weekend picks [UPDATED 8.27]

Friday, August 25 - Roman Candle, The Whigs @ Cat's Cradle (indie pop)
Saturday, August 26 - Work Clothes, Un Dexu Trois, Sons @ Wetlands (indie rock)
Sunday, August 27 - Smoking Popes, Critieria, J Page @ Cat's Cradle (indie rock)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Change is good for The Motion

The members of The Motion may be a bunch of jokers, but they’d like to be taken seriously.

“I trust him musically,” lead singer Mark McKee said in reference to the band’s newest addition, guitarist Chris Boyette.

“But not with money,” piped in drummer Mike McKee, Mark’s older brother.

“Yeah, every time I take out my wallet he’s always asking to borrow money,” Mark said, not missing a beat. OK, so maybe members of the Cary-based rock band don’t always take themselves seriously, but their music is a different story.

The group released its debut five-track EP, aptly titled The Arrival EP in May and has since been working hard to get the word out.

The group’s next local show will be Friday, Aug. 25, at The Brewery in Raleigh.

“We’ve grown as a band. We’re tighter. We feel good about the way we sound,” Mark McKee said in reference to changes in the group in recent months. “We’ve gotten more collaborative about the writing and how stuff is arranged.”

Some of the changes — such as adding a new member — are more noticeable than others. Chris Boyette has joined the band after returning to the Raleigh area from Nashville, Tenn., where he lived for several months.

“I’m really excited to play with these guys,” Boyette said. “You have to find three or four guys who have the same vision musically. It’s really hard to do that. Just listening to their stuff and putting a different spin on the music — it’s really exciting. They’re writing really good stuff.”

Mark McKee added, “We sound the way we’ve wanted to sound for the last two years.” Chris Rafetto, the group’s bassist, agreed.

“I think every band has to go through a lot of steps to get where they want to be,” Rafetto said. “We’ve been taking baby steps for a long time. Just having that fourth person will take our writing and performance to a new level.”

But Mark said sometimes taking it slow can be a positive thing.

“We’re OK with spending time to make it sound really good, and then evolve from there,” he said.

The Motion will play at The Brewery, 3009 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh, on Friday, Aug. 25. Tickets are $8 and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Strokes out. Crowes in.

When Tom Petty announced the third leg of his North American tour, he was nice enough to make time to stop in Raleigh. Not only was he coming to Alltel Pavilion, but he was going to bring indie rock giants The Strokes with him.

Well that was then and this is now. After moving the date from September 19 to September 10, it turns out The Strokes can no longer make the gig.

Who has come to save the day? None other than The Black Crowes.

This will be Chris Robinson and the gang's second stop at Alltel this summer. They stopped through with Robert Randolph and the Family Band on July 12.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers plus The Black Crowes equals a night of rock 'n roll.

Tickets are still available for the show.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Kevin's weekday picks

Tuesday, August 22 - Get Him Eat Him, Cities, Eyes To Space @ Local 506 (indie rock)
Wednesday, August 23 - Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls, Eliot Morris @ Alltel Pavilion (pop rock)
Thursday, August 24 - Vienna Teng, Sanders Bohlke @ The Pour House (pop/alternative)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Kevin's weekend picks

Friday, August 18 - Colossus, Hellrazor, The Anchor Comes Home @ Local 506 (metal/indie rock)
Saturday, August 19 - Gin Blossoms, Athenaeum, Plan B, Brooks Wood Band, Modern Skirts, Hope Massive @ Raleigh Dowtown Live (rock/alternative/pop)
Sunday, August 20 - The Comfies, Mingus Young, People Under the Bridge @ Wetlands (indie pop/rock)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Josh Kelley's in control

Josh Kelley may be a bit of an aggressive driver.

“You just have to figure out a way to balance your life ... and I can’t believe this guy isn’t turning!,” said the 24-year-old singer, briefly interrupted by the infamous Los Angeles traffic.

It’s just a regular day for Kelley, running errands on a warm California afternoon, but the singer is eager to talk about his latest album, Just Say the Word, which was released on his own record label in July.

“I just basically wanted to take control on this record, take control of my career,” said Kelley, who left Hollywood Records, where he released two previous albums, and set out on his own.

But not only did Kelly release The Word, a soul-infused pop-rock blend, on his own label, he produced the entire album himself, mixed and engineered the songs and played most of the instruments, making him a one-man-show of sorts.

“To tell you the truth, I’m a little bit of a control freak,” Kelley said.

But he said the beauty of that control is absolute freedom.

“I can produce any style I want,” he said. “When there’s too many cooks in the kitchen it can kind of taint your project. It’s how I wanted to do it and the response has been unbelievable.”

Kelley started writing his own music as a young teenager, branching out from conventional pop and rock instruments and experimenting with the banjo, mandolin and dobro.

“I wanted to learn,” he said. “When you really want something and you’re passionate about it, you’ve gotta figure out how to do it.”

While studying at the University of Mississippi, the Augusta, Ga., native put some of his music up on Napster and began sending people messages about his music.

“Basically your guerrilla-style marketing,” Kelley said.

After sending out messages for about a month and a half, Kelley was discovered by an A&R representative at Hollywood Records.

As they say, the rest is history.

Now he’s living in the midst of “The Pop Game,” the topic of his first single of the same name.

“I’ve gotta admit/I’ve changed a bit/But what the public wants, the public gets,” Kelley wrote in the song’s lyrics.

The song allowed Kelley to lightheartedly comment on the world he lives in and his place in it.

“I understand how necessary it is,” he said of the “game” of celebrity culture. “If it was gone there would be some really freaking boring days. The pop game is a fuel that keeps the business going.”

Being engaged to Katherine Heigl, one of the stars of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Kelley knows all about the business of Hollywood.

“It’s pretty weird,” Kelley said of his relationship being the focus of some of his press. “We’re actually against it. ... In the press world, if you open your relationship up to other people, all of a sudden there’s a little bit of your life that’s less sacred.”

Kelley will perform at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre at Regency Park in Cary on Wednesday, Aug. 23. Proceeds from the show will benefit the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Kevin's weekday picks [UPDATED 8.15]

Monday, August 14 - The Foundry Field Recordings, So Many Dynamos, The Future Kings of Nowhere @ Local 506 (indie pop/experimental)
Tuesday, August 15 - The Drams (early) @ The Pour House (rock/pop)
Wednesday, August 16 - Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco), Jennifer O'Connor @ NC Museum of Art (folk/rock)
Thursday, August 17 - Baby Calendar, Keith John Adams, Bombadil @ Wetlands (indie pop/rock)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Kevin's weekend picks

Friday, August 11 -Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Binky Griptite and the Dee-Kays, DJ Marco @ Cat's Cradle (soul/r&b)
Saturday, August 12 - Last Waltz Ensemble [Tribute to The Band] (late) @ The Pour House (classic rock)
Sunday, August 13 - The Walkmen, Bobby Bare Jr., Nathan Asher and the Infantry @ Lincoln Theatre (indie rock/alternative)**

CD Review: James Dunn

If there was ever a perfect album for driving windows down on a crisp autumn day, James Dunn's Lonely American Dream is it.

Written in his Five Points apartment, Dunn's eight-song EP captures the best of rock, folk and blues music in one package.

Though Dunn came into music later in his life than some (he picked up his first guitar in college), his stories speak with a voice of experience. From his first single, "When the Eagles Cry," the heartbreaking story of a father who lost his son at war, to the more lighthearted "My Way or the Highway" with its swing dance beat, Dunn takes each listener on a journey of love, loss and life. Pair his lyrics and melodies with his deep, smooth voice and you've got the perfect package.

Dunn will perform in the VIP area Alltel Pavilion this Friday and Saturday, August 11 and 12, before both Kenny Chesney shows. You can also catch him Sept. 9 at Dive Bar in Raleigh at 10 p.m. His EP is available for sale at CDBaby.com and in the iTunes Music Store.

For more on Dunn, read Stuart Hall's story about him in The Cary News.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Films: Coming to a rock club near you Thursday night

The Films are awesome. Simple statement, but it's true.

The pop rock quartet will bring their live show to town tomorrow night at Raleigh Music Hall, along with their new buddies Simon Dawes.

I'll admit my opinion of the band is quite biased. I've known them for a few years now, back into their days under the moniker Tinker Punishment. Any of you Jump, Little Children fans out there may remember their tour with the group in 2002 and 2003.

They've always had this cool vibe about them. A little bit different, a little off from the norm but you couldn't really put your finger on what it was. Their music has evolved quite a bit since those days, but it still retains that same unhomogonized quality, and that's probably the thing I like most about them.

But look at me, going all this time without giving you an inkling of what their music sounds like. Take all the great bands from the 60s — The Kinks, The Beatles, etc. — and their songwriting sensibilities, throw in a little Radiohead for good measure, possibly some of the melodic stylings of bands like Muse, a dash of Elvis Costello, The Pixies and The Violent Femmes ... I could go on, and you've got The Films.

Don't believe me? Come to the show. Tomorrow night (that's Thursday, August 10) at Raleigh Music Hall, 14 W. Martin Street. Doors at 9, show starts around 10.

But first, check out The Films' MySpace profile and download "Strange Hands." It's the mastered version of a song for their first studio album, which should be released early next year. While you're there, check out their latest tour video and a video for their last single "Black Shoes," off the EP of the same name.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Fiona Apple packs a powerful punch in Cary

Fiona Apple may be small in stature, but she is surely not meek.
The 5-foot-2-inch singer brought her summer tour to Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre last night for 90 minutes of pure female fury.
Apple walked on stage in an elegant, black single-strap gown in front of about 1,500 of her adoring fans before taking her place behind a baby grand piano to spit out the lyrics of “Get Him Back,” the latest single off her 2005 album Extraordinary Machine.
She wound her way through a brief 16-song set that included material from all three of her albums. Not surprisingly, the best reactions from audience members came when she played songs off her 1996 debut Tidal, including the songs “Shadowboxer,” “Sleep to Dream” and “Criminal,” the song that made her a household name.
When she wasn’t behind the piano, Apple spent much of her time crouching low at center stage and clutching her microphone stand for support as she shouted out lyrics more often than she sang them.
During “Sleep to Dream,” Apple seemed to get so emotionally deep into her performance that as the band played the song out, she ran to the back of the stage and sat down, head between her knees.
The few times she did address the audience, she seemed to be in a trance.
“It’s beautiful here. ... It’s really beautiful here,” she told the audience with a sense of wonderment. “You never know what you’re gonna get. I spend all my time alone in a hotel room.”
But Apple rejected her fans’ sighs of pity.
“Oh, it’s not sad,” she quipped. “It’s my own choice. OK, maybe it’s a little of both.”
Though her performance may have been brief, she surely earned an “A” for effort — and the fans knew it.
“Come on, girl!” one woman cried out as Apple belted the lyrics to “Not About Love” as others whooped and cheered.
One of the things fans seem to love most about Apple is her passion — and she’s got plenty of it.

Kevin's weekday picks

Monday, August 7 - Luna Halo, Ariel Down, Forward All @ Local 506 (rock)
Wednesday, August 9 - Gray Young, Invasion @ The Cave (experimental/indie)
Thursday, August 10
- The Films, Simon Dawes, Supreme @ Raleigh Music Hall (indie rock/pop/alternative)

Friday, August 04, 2006

From the "Who the hell is that??" department

Last week we let you know about this year's State Fair concert lineup and its heavy reliance on country and Christian music. There was also that mystery TBA slot on the final night. Perhaps just right for local American Idol contestants of past or present.

Well, about 20 minutes ago, the N.C. State Fair sent out a press release announcing that final concert and I must say...I'm a little perplexed.
Country music chart topper Gary Allan will wrap up the N.C. State Fair concert series Sunday, Oct. 22, with hits from his newest album "Tough All Over," the N.C. State Fair announced today. The concert series, which was announced in July, features Nashville superstars, teenage dance favorites and contemporary Christian music.
Gary who? Oh well. The show costs $10 and will start at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 22.

Kevin's weekend picks

Friday, August 4 - Two Dollar Pistols, Hearts and Daggers, The Bo-Stevens @ The Pour House (country/rockabilly)
Saturday, August 5 - On Three, Elevator Action, The Dirty Little Heaters @ Local 506 (indie rock)
Sunday, August 6 - Eels @ Cat's Cradle (alternative)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

O.A.R. incites a revolution in Cary

Fans of jam rock band O.A.R. were out in full force for the band's concert at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary last night.

For those of you not in-the-know, O.A.R. stands for "Of a Revolution." The Maryland-based band has been enjoying its fame with the college-aged crowd since its debut album was released nearly a decade ago.

About three or four thousand fans turned out for the show, part of O.A.R.'s
nationwide summer tour.

The band took the stage around 7:30 and opened with "City on Down" off their 2001 album Soul's Aflame. Throughout the 14-song set they played material spanning their decade-long career, from "Heard the World" off last year's release Stories of a Stranger to "About an Hour Ago" off their debut 1997 release The Wanderer.

Fans proudly sang along as they danced to the music, from the front row all the way to the back of the lawn.

Jack's Mannequin, a southern California-based pop rock band, opened the show. Maybe you've heard their recent single, "The Mixed Tape." While most of frontman Andrew McMahon's stage banter is not fit to publish, suffice it to say he was glad to be in Cary, despite the bleeping hot weather.

Jack's Mannequin will return to the area Oct. 2 when they play the N Club in Greensboro.

[photos by Kevin Norris]

Ryan Adams hates celebrity gossip

Well, Ryan Adams is at it again.

After going all sorts of batshit on readers of Stereogum.com for questioning his songwriting process and artistic merit after announcing he was prepping another three albums (To which I say, good for you man. Put out all the damn records you want), the Raleigh ex-patriot has once again leapt to his keyboard — this time in defense of former New York Observer writer and sort-of socialite Jessica Joffe.

Celebrity gossip blogs Gawker and Jossip both posted items yesterday poking fun at Joffe for writing a cover story in the September issue of Glamour magazine and also appearing in an ad for Banana Republic on the back cover.

Gawker's post also took a stab at Adams, mocking up a faux ad and writing "Earn Parker Posey's sloppy seconds," a reference to Joffe's relationship with Adams, who had formerly dated Posey.

But Adams' comments go deeper than just defending Joffe — he seems to be trying to make a statement against gossip and snarkiness regarding celebrities in general.

Adams wrote:
I think it is very unfair to attempt to humiliate someone so obviously "not-asking for this" kind of thing. It is just cruel and meaningless. It adds nothing to the world and only invites harm to people who do not want to be harmed.
So what do you guys think? Does Adams make a good point or does someone just need to cut off his wi-fi connection?