WNnG – Musings from the desk of chaz.

Stooges on WXDU
January 7, 2009, 1:09 pm
Filed under: Durham

This is why I love my local radio station. Last night I heard the sad news of Ron Asheton passing away. Ron Asheton (the original, founding guitarist, then bassist, then guitarist again) was basically the one Stooge with his head on semi-straight. While the others recklessly pushed their health and mental states to the limits, Ron hit a point where he knew it was time to stop, or at least slow down. He was the Stooge that always wanted to keep the unit glued together and looked on at Iggy’s post-Stooges solo career with hurt and a bit of embarrassment. Even as the Stooges were gearing up for their reunion shows over thirty years after the fact, he was still humbly living in his mom’s house outside of Detroit.

I walk into work today, go about my usual routine and flip on WXDU. Cranking out of the speakers comes a familiar raw, dark mantric sound. It’s the Stooges. And it’s great. I can’t think of a better way to walk into work today. It’s a crummy, overcast day, probably gonna be slow in the shop, but I’ve got my Stooges and I’ve got my WXDU. The three Stooges LPs are untouchable, unsurpassable masterpieces of simplicty, rawness and brutal passion. They locked into meditation-like grooves with a manic, inner-agitation creating this amazing, nervous confusion of emotions. Iggy and Ron would surge and sear through the locked rhythm creating a frenzy and mini-riot onstage. They were well ahead of their time and suffered a severe crash and burn amidst hails of mostly bad criticism, sending all members splayed out in different directions. The Stooges combined free-form, psychedelic rock and a snarly take on blues rhythms with unbridled outpouring from a split personality frontman. Part poet, part madman. This style would soon find a name in punk rock and inspire four decades worth of kids (and counting) to pick up instruments and bash out noise.

This morning, WXDU played three Stooges tracks resulting in a great 15 minute block tribute to one of the finest bands of the last thirty years. Thanks WXDU! For anyone reading this out of town, WXDU is our local college/community station. It’s based on the campus of Duke University and is run by a combination of undergrads, grad students and community members. The programming is phenomenal for such a small station in such a small town, there’s hardly a dull moment. I owe them a lot of gratitude for turning me unto new stuff and simply just keeping me entertained throughout the day.


Directly following the block that gave this day a headstart over all other days this week, the DJ, Mark, played the first track off the new Whatever Brains 7″! More on that very thing later. Probably this afternoon as I need to plug a show that they’re playiong tomorrow night. Gotta get on that.


The Return of Troika!
November 7, 2008, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Durham, Shows

After last year’s awkward gasp of the previously inspiring Troika Music Festival (aka the Durham Music Festival), it did not look too good for the longevity of the event or its handlers. It rattled the community and left bands crossing the festival off their lists of possible future shows. It was unnerving and I was even guilty of not saying very nice things about it to a few friends. Not being easy things to organizing and maintain, festivals rarely run smoothly in their first handful of years and this was absolutely no exception. Before the work started getting done this year, it was already not looking too good. Then something happened, something flipped inside the inner workings of Troika and a ship that was once slowly sinking was immediately righted to enthusiastic, cheering masses. Even bands that had sworn off the festival reapproached it, excited again.

On stepping into the Pinhook last night, I was enamored with the overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment I saw on faces as I entered. Then it slowly crept across my own face. This wasn’t just another show in another city. It was the Triangle celebrating itself. It was music bound by a community that loved it and appreciated it. It was a newly opened, three-day-old meeting place packed wall to wall with an unapproachable bar! It made me proud of Durham, the Troika Music Festival and all the bands that exist here. It’s amazing that so many bands of different styles and backgrounds can play shows together, share crowds, even members and end the night with smiles on their faces and exclamations of how good the other groups were.

In my little corner of Troika last night, the belles of the ball were the Screaming Females. I have never, hands down, seen a better guitar player in person in my life. Granted, they’re not exactly local, but they’re honorary Durhamites having played here countless times and befriended countless music geeks and lovers. They’re an always welcome guest at area spots like BCHQ and the Nightlight as they make a point to play all ages spaces. All five plus feet of Miranda channels every ounce of her being and passion into her squealing guitar. Quietly she mumbles into the mic in between songs, but as soon as you’re thrown thick into the heart of the song, you realize you’re witness to a battle – the bending of the will of an inanimate piece of wood and metal turned screechingly animate. Blues. Punk. Psychedelic garage. It’s the best, bastardized awkward hybrid I’ve seen of those genres. To see this band is truly something magical and I suggest you make a point to see them next time they’re in the area.

Future Islands then crashed the stage and took the night in a totally different, though equally awe-inspiring direction. As the bar was so packed (and the band played on the floor), I could only make out the mylar-colored backdrop aiming all noise directly at the audience. No one’s ears were to be spared or left unbruised. This was my first time seeing the group and I was surprised to find myself really getting into their dark dance synth dance party dance music. Sweaty. 80s dark dance wave? There, that’s it. The singer has a great, creepy way of offering out his lyrics which becomes the main aspect of the group that really draws them out ahead of the pack of their fellow dance wavers. In my opinion anyway. Anything that veers off in a creepy or dark direction will always get my attention.

Don’t miss another night of this Festival. Make it out. Those were just a couple of the amazing bands playing. Both were from a little bit out of town, but have close ties to the community through friends and labels.

Highlights tonight – the Rosebuds and Kimya Dawson at the Carolina Theater! Wigg Report at Bull McCabe’s!
Highlights tomorrow – Hammer No More the Fingers, Tooth, Midtown Dickens, Dry Heathens, Travesties, I Was Totally Destroying It, Heist & the Accomplice, etc, etc, etc. Good luck making it to all these as they’re all over the place and all happening at the same time!! Yikes!!

It’s the most amazing thing when there’s too much in this town to see everything that you want to see. It’s truly inspiring. Thanks Troika!!! We owe ya one!

In Local News!
September 3, 2008, 2:10 pm
Filed under: Durham

A couple things.

1) Shuffle Magazine.
Pick one up. Right now. It’s an amazing glossy local zine with standout writing. How much is it?? Absolutely FREE. Honestly, it’s everything that I had hoped Performer would be when I had first heard of it. I guess it’s not really fair to compare the two though as Performer is more Georgia based and Shuffle is kicked out right in our own backyard. I believe it’s based out of Charlotte, but covers the Triangle, the Triad and Charlotte as well as a bit more in between. Perfect. All the local stuff that’s close enough to be truly called local and not “regional.” All the stuff to be proud of.

Bryan Reed who used to write for Diversions over at UNC is the main brain behind this venture. Apparently they’re already on the 3rd issue or so!! I totally missed the first couple! The writing is exactly what you’re looking for – they’re writing in the manner that you’d talk up an album to a friend. Straight to the point and without frills or lofty metaphors. There’s no hyping a band either, it’s just take-it-or-leave-it brand of music reporting. The manner that they work the ads into the zine is amazing as well and definitely worth taking notice of. They blend so well into the glossy pages that they’re not eye sores and are more a piece of the magazine as a whole. Check it out! It’s the first time I’ve actually been excited to look at the ads and how they’re displayed. Strange. Advertisers take note, I actually flipped through looking for ads just to see how they got worked into the full picture.

I’ve got a handful at the shop. Grab ’em while they’re around and brace yourself for the next issue!

2) Ultimate Comics on 9th Street!!
Still need more reasons to move to Durham? Everyday that passes, 9th St. becomes more and more exciting and more independent focused. It’s amazing. A couple weeks ago a new comic book shop opened up right between Dain’s Place and Charlie’s on the Markham end of 9th St. Technically, I guess it’s not entirely new, this is the 4th installment of the local chain and I couldn’t be happier with the new location. Just in time to renew my subscription to geeking out over comics! Haven’t done that since I was a kid and my brother would go with me to our local shop in Richmond. With this just up the street now and my known habit for getting addicted to all things collectible, I fear for the couple bucks I squirrel away into my wallet.

I suppose I can easily trade a few beers a week for some comics! I swung in this morning on my way to work after the bus dropped me off (right next to the shop actually) about 20 minutes before worktime. I tried the door and it was locked, I was a little too eager to get in despite it obviously being closed. The lights were out. I lingered looking in through the windows until someone nonchalantly unlocked the door. Guess that was my cue! I am as out of touch with comics as someone would be with music if they had not turned on a single radio or TV nor picked up a magazine in ten years. I was embarrassed and awkward in asking the owner of the shop “what’s new and good?” I was annoyed at myself for having to ask the question, but his mind started spinning as soon as I asked. It was great. Another step in conquering the big question in my own head!

I walked out with the Watchmen graphic novel and a trade copy of Kick-Ass…which was awesome. It’s actually a reprinted “Director’s Cut” copy of the first issue, but I’ll definitely be swinging back in for the issues that are already out and then I’ll be on track for the Wednesday releases for the rest of the series. I was looking for a series to get hooked on and I think I found it.

If I’m right in my analogy, I think the Watchmen graphic novel would translate to the Arcade Fire in music terms. On the front cover, it boasts “One of Time Magazine’s 100 Best Novels.” It’s definitely hit the pop mainstream with big numbers, but respectfully retains its indie aspect and is well regarded it seems. It’s dark and artsy too, deepening the connection. Am I right in this? I have no idea, you tell me, I’m new at it.

Pink Flag & the Homewreckers
August 20, 2008, 4:34 pm
Filed under: Durham, New Music

So my friend Betsy just came in and got me pretty psyched on some recent going-ons here in Durham. For a while now there’s been a good undercurrent wrenching through our streets and practice spaces, despite the strange lack of a sustainable real-live venue. Sure, there’s BCHQ, but that’s only up and running a night or two a week and unfortunately can’t house the surplus of bands roaming the streets. Hopefully this is an issue that will get resolved sooner rather than later, but it brings up an interesting point. Where, then, are all these bands coming together and multiplying around town here??

That’s the exciting part. Just when you’ve started getting comfortable with thinking you know all the local bands, things seem to creep out around you. With the lack of venues, bands have been plugging away, refining their music in basements and DIY spaces. They’ve been taking it over to the Cave in Chapel Hill, tightening their chops, where those of us tethered to Durham forget to check the bar schedules. If only we had something like the Cave around town, man. Right under our noses, there’s still this buzz happening and it’s nothing short of anxiously exciting. Maybe that’s why Durham doesn’t seem to have a bar rock scene? There’s no real bar venues that encourage that type of behavior. It’s all do-it-yourself and basement induced.

Anyway. I finally got around to checking out Betsy’s new band – Pink Flag – on the innernette and I was pleasantly surprised. I think this might just be one of my favorite vehicles so far for her songwriting. Yes, the name is lifted from our favorite Wire album and that just makes it that much more enticing. Rather than being strictly jittery punk like the name would imply, it’s got a powerpop mainline running through it. They’ve got that late-70s, do-whatcha-want punk sound, but it’s really cornering itself into the sugary pop side of post punk that bands like the Shivvers and Nikki & the Corvettes were kicking around. As far as newer stuff goes, I’d maybe book them on the same show as someone like Kill Rock Stars’ Mika Miko.

She also mentioned one of her new favorite local bands. The Homewreckers. So it looks like they just moved from Rocky Mount to our neck of the woods and it’s great to have ’em kicking around out here! From Betsy’s explanation I got excited and went to check them out. Sadly they just have one song up on their myspace page, so I couldn’t hear more, but that’s fine there. I don’t trust myspace music anyway, bands are usually 100% better than their page might give away. She explained them as something like a Portland band circa 1991…which means Kill Rock Stars, pre-riot grrrl era stuff. It kinda implies – brash, bratty, lo-fi, DIY fun punk. Not a lot of emphasis on instrument skills, just ability to play out how you feel. Music straight from the gut. And that’s what it looks like we’re gonna get. I’m pretty psyched to see ’em play.

Again, for Cy.
July 18, 2008, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Durham

Check for his updates here – CyBLOG!

July 17, 2008, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Durham

There was a really flattering write-up on BCHQ in Performer Magazine. They interviewed our word-liaison, Rebekah Meek. She can get ideas across better than most of us. Certainly better than me for sure.

Check it out here – Performer Magazine.

Thanks for keeping it interesting guys!! It’s weird that the place has been there for over a year already.
And again, it’s all thanks to those of you that turnout!!!