Monday, March 10, 2014

Midnight Plus One, Positive No, Static is a City 'Let Feedback Ring'

Photos by Justin Weber
About four blocks west from the heart downtown Raleigh’s nightlife that stretches from Salisbury Street to Blount Street is Legends Nightclub. The rainbow hues that splash against its front on West Hargett Street invite newcomers to open a door that’s locked before realizing they’ll need to walk around the back and gain admittance through an airlock-like ID check. The club’s interior eventually leads patrons to the “Spotlight Theater” in the very back. It’s here on the first Friday of most months since last November that Let Feedback Ring, a locally-sponsored punk rock showcase, takes place.

Let Feedback Ring is put on by Raleigh-based Negative Fun Records, more specifically Chris DeFusco and Corbie Hill. The regular first Friday series evolved from a successful day party — also at Legends — at last year’s Hopscotch. The series sometimes features bands appearing on the label and its new cassette tape imprint, Antiquated Technologies, but it's not limited to them. The purpose of the series is not to highlight a specific label, but to help build a community. As such, DeFusco and Hill book every kind of band: brand new bands, under-appreciated veterans, out-of-state groups branching out, and established acts (December’s lineup was headlined by Whatever Brains). The music in the series covers most of the aural tendrils that branch out of punk from the poppier, melody driven styles to those that are all about volume, speed, and energy.

March’s show took place last Friday and was a good sampling of what makes this new series so special. Back in the Spotlight Theater, a crowd of 20 to 40 people flowed in and out between 7:30 and 10 p.m. The small space breaks away from typical rock venues with coliseum-style risers around the perimeter and a pullout catwalk protruding from the small stage. There are few places one can get closer to a band in a proper venue.

Up first was Raleigh’s Static is a City playing their first show together. Made up of veterans of post-hardcore bands, the group bulldozed their way through a short set. They were loud — easily the loudest band of the night — and the small theater only compounded the volume. The band seemed to be playing through some first-show nerves and cranking up the decibels was their go to cure.

Lead singer Chris Skelly was the most obvious representation of the band settling in. He started the set looking down, looking up, and clearly counting beats. He was a bit stiff at first, but was more relaxed with each song. By the end of the short set, Static is a City felt comfortable enough to let off the volume and let their best song, “The Hive,” be heard clearly.

Richmond’s Positive No played their first set ever in North Carolina next. Front woman Tracy Wilson took full advantage of the catwalk while she belted out her dreamy vocals over the band’s fuzzy pop. It was a big shift from the volume of Static is a City, but no less powerful.

Wilson was having a lot of fun, smiling and laughing as guitarist Kenny Close played humble solos and pogoed along when the music hit higher tempos. Close joined Wilson on the catwalk at the end of the set, cautiously testing the waters outside of the dark corner of stage he had inhabited. The Triangle’s music scene is richer for having Positive No venture down south and regular shows from them could create a local fan base.

The increasingly popular Midnight Plus One closed the night out with a thrilling performance. Casey Cook is a captivating lead singer whose performance had the effects of adrenaline. She swings from piercing evil stares to devil-may-care laughter to possessed screams that take over her whole body. I’ve experienced a live concert high before, but never in a room with just 20 people.

Midnight Plus One combine the vocals of 70s punk and pummeling guitars and drums of 80s shoegaze. It’s invigorating on its own and multiplied when Cook rips into her vocals and collapses to her knees. For the final song she asked people to join her on the catwalk. The energy was there, but there were only a few people left and nobody with the courage to make the first move. Cook seemed disappointed, but quickly brushed it off. It’s hard to imagine her letting any type of crowd affect her performance. She loves what she does.

That’s a common thread throughout Let Feedback Ring. Everybody involved loves what they do. From the outside it might be easy to perceive this series as something pretentious and secretive and from the inside one might be tempted to call this something like “The Triangle’s Best Kept Secret” due to the lesser-known bands and small crowds, but nobody’s trying to keep this a secret or craft a sense of exclusivity.

By bringing in bands from all over North Carolina and Virginia, DeFusco and Hill are trying to connect people, not exclude them. In a short time, Let Feedback Ring has started to build bridges between the Triangle and Greensboro, Charlotte, Richmond and more. That’s something special and our local music scene will be richer for it.

Let Feedback Ring will return on April 4 with The Caribbean, Wichita Falls, and Naked Naps. May’s show will be May 2 with Museum Mouth, Pink Flag, and Less Western.

Positive No set list
Venetian streets
You Shoot
Georgia Purchase Agreement
Automatic Cars
Slumber Sequence
Powers of Ten
Pocket Park
Bonded Pair

Midnight Plus One set list
On The Mend
Tumbleweeds (Die Z.)
Chain Gang
Like Camera
White Flowers
Unlearn Every
Voodoo Medicine
Prove It (Open Sky)

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