Monday, March 26, 2012

Racing the Cure benefit brings local music community together

Friday night was quintessentially North Carolinian. Super stars came back to their roots, The Tar Heels and the Wolfpack battled in the Sweet 16, and a music community used its powers to support Oliver Gant, a young boy battling cancer. The event raised over $45,000 from ticket sales and a silent auction.

Fans of The Avett Brothers began lining up outside Kings Barcade before noon to catch the trio in a rare rock club performance. This meant that Kings was out of the question for most of the benefit’s attendees, but many devoted fans continued to stand in line in hopes of nabbing a spot for the midnight performance.

I started out at The Pour House to catch Gross Ghost, one of North Carolina’s most buzzed about bands in recent weeks. Live, songs off their newly released album, Brer Rabbit, display an energy that countered the slightly slacker vibe on the record. I was particularly impressed with “Leslie” which was extremely infectious. I didn’t expect to start out the evening dancing, but Gross Ghost made it hard not to move my feet.

Up next was the mighty Spider Bags. In terms of rock and roll prowess, few bands in the Triangle can match the Chapel Hill trio. Lead singer Dan McGee was in fine form, clearly inspired by the generosity of the community around him. “You’ve changed somebody’s life. Thank you,” he told the crowd.

Spider Bags is always louder and faster live — a more up-tempo version of “Que Viva El Rocanroll” really got the crowd going — but this was one of their most enjoyable sets because the vocals weren’t buried by the guitars. McGee’s voice was able to come through and deliver the band’s underrated melodies.

Band schedules weren’t staggered for Racing The Cure, but it worked out well considering two of the Triangle’s universities were playing in the NCAA tournament Friday. At Tir Na Nog, the crowd immediately turned to the TVs after Hammer No More the Fingers finished their set to watch UNC eek out a victory in overtime. Soon after, Whatever Brains cranked up the volume and brought attention back to the stage.

The sheer power and occasionally cartoony vocals of Whatever Brains cleared out basketball-only fans, but those folks missed one of the most unique live bands in North Carolina. The exaggerated facial expressions of singer Rich Ivey are worth the price of admission alone.

The band — Ivey especially — seemed frustrated at many things, but their kick drum, with “The Avett Bros” taped on it, hinted at one source: fans who bought tickets to Racing the Cure to only see the headlining band. They channeled this frustration in an aggressive set that was over all too soon.

Around 11 pm at the Lincoln Theater, Bombadil started out their first live show of 2012. Dressed in coats as quirky as their music, the band played a mix of tunes from their last two albums to a crowd that clearly adored them.

The highlight was a very vulnerable rendition of “I Will Wait” from Stuart Robinson that included a solo guitar coda by guitarist Bryan Rahija. Seeing the emotion vibrate through Robinson as he sung this powerful song is going to a favorite moment of mine this year.

My night started out loud, but ended quiet as I joined the older crowd that stuck around the Lincoln Theatre to see the Tift Merritt. Basketball once again made its presence felt as Merritt asked for the score of the NC State/Kansas match up and said she was going to play a song for State.

Merritt’s beautiful voice silenced the crowd as she played songs from her most recent record. I’ve always overlooked Tift Merritt in favor of many other female country singers, but her set reminded me that Merritt is an artist I need to listen to more.

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