KFR Live in Wilmington #2

KFR reviews Brandi Carlile at BAC, Taylor Chadwick Bryan & the Songwriters’ Showcase at TheatreNOW, Axiom at Projekte, Black Hellatones & The Hufton Brothers at Orton’s - three nights of reviews


Karmic Fury took in shows three nights in a row last week (artists: Brandi Carlile at Brooklyn Arts Center, Taylor Chadwick Bryan & the Songwriters’ Showcase at TheatreNOW, Axiom at Projekte, Black Hellatones & The Hufton Brothers at Orton’s) and we could have gone to more! There was just too much going on!

We are also proud to introduce the video companion to the text review. Check it out and read the full review below!!

Wednesday night we hit the Brooklyn Arts Center on 4th Street for the Brandi Carlile concert. It was a packed house. Local musician Mike Blair opened (without the Stonewalls), followed by Andy Hull. Despite our initial disappointment over the lack of a female opener, Carlile’s show was fantastic, much more rockin live than her alt-country recordings.

Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile at Brooklyn Arts Center

The show started with an old 78 playing on a gramophone, followed up dramatically by a wall of noise. This show was big. Songs went from soft, nuanced singing to huge, epic escalation. The sound quality alone was amazing. We’ve never heard better sounding drums, and drums that weren’t amped too loud! Brandi switched from acoustic guitar to electric guitar to piano. At one point the band quieted the audience and did a full song completely unplugged, nothing amped, no microphone, just upright bass, acoustic guitar, violin and vocals. It sounded fantastic. During the encore, the crowd went wild for the new single “That Wasn’t Me,” the twins kept on smiling, and Brandi tipped her hat to us at the side of the stage.

Thursday night we went to the Stone Soup Songwriters’ Showcase at the new venue TheatreNOW. The showcase, held on the second Thursday of each month, is the brainchild of event organizer and local musician Susan Savia. We arrived at the show a couple of performers in; while most shows say they are going to start at a certain time and then start at least an hour later, this show starts  promptly at 7:30pm, and anyone who attempts to talk over the music will be shushed just as promptly. It’s a rare delight to walk into a crowded room where everyone is paying attention to what is happening onstage, and you know you won’t be sitting around for hours waiting for the music to start.

TheatreNOW is a brand new building that sticks out in the rough-around the edges neighborhood on 10th Street. Already home to dinner theatre and a gospel jazz brunch, as well as movie screenings, this is a space we can see hosting a lot of community-oriented events. Equipped with tables throughout the room, bar seating, and a balcony all pointed in the direction of an impressive stage, the room was filled to capacity (45-60 people).

The showcase featured three song sets of original music from local artists Mike Adams, David Pell, Skylar Smith, and Brent Stimmel, as well as Paul Obernesser who closed out the evening with a set of his own despite working behind the bar all night. The featured musician was Taylor Chadwick Bryan (also known as Chad Taylor), a 20-year-old college student and country singer.

We enjoy most kinds of music here at KFR, however neither of your capable reviewers would describe ourselves as being “into” country. So we were a little unsure whether we’d be able to give a country singer a fair review based on our own personal tastes.

Taylor Bryan

Taylor Bryan at the Songwriters' Showcase

However, Bryan could have been singing any genre of music and it wouldn’t matter. Several things were immediately apparent: he loves music and the joy he gets from performing is mirrored by the joy the audience receives listening; he can sing, and he’s not afraid to go for it with a big note; and he can write catchy radio-friendly songs. Bryan took the stage looking every part the modern cowboy in a large hat and boots with tight jeans. He sang songs that most 20-year-olds growing up in the south would relate to – songs about girls, driving around, and a homage to “homemade wine and good times” on which he was joined on harmonica by Clayton Cole. Bryan’s acoustic set also featured superb leads by acoustic guitar player Anthony Lowery. The addition of the second guitar gave the set depth and fullness, and raised the music to the next level.

Cammeron Batanides

Artwork by Cammeron Batanides

The showcase wrapped up around 10:00 and we were ready to call it an early night, until we drove by Projekte and saw there was a three-piece band playing to a decent-sized crowd. Projekte is an art gallery/bar/coffee house at the corner of 3rd and Castle that recently re-opened under new ownership. The band, Axiom, was engaged in an epic jam of world music as we walked in. We were immediately distracted by the vivid paintings adorning the walls. The pieces had underlying music themes, integrating guitars and keyboards throughout and invoking the idea of sort of an Alice in Wonderland with musical instruments. The stunning display was created by local artist Cammeron Batanides.

Axiom

Axiom at Projekte

After taking in the artwork, we turned our attention back to the band, who had just finished what seemed to be a 10-15 minute song that featured congas, bass, and solos on both melodica and acoustic guitar. Lead-singer Perry Smith looks every bit the everyman, but he managed to sing in Spanish while juggling improvised solos on multiple instruments. Axiom is a trio comprised of Smith on vocals/guitar/melodica, Diana Zaccaria (Dr. Z) on bass/vocals, and Matthew Waltenberger on percussion. We’ve seen Smith and Zaccaria play before as part of Cosmic Groove Lizards, but we especially enjoyed them as part of this trio. All three members are seasoned musicians and they riffed and improvised off each other for the duration of their set. We also spent some time talking to Waltenberger afterward and he noted that he will be giving Middle Eastern drum classes at Projekte.

Friday night we set out for recently renovated and reopened Orton’s Underground (formerly Orton’s Pool Hall, which has been referred to as America’s oldest pool hall). Entering through a narrow opening on Front St. we were expecting a tiny little room at the bottom of the stairs in which we’d be battling claustrophobia all night. What we found was a huge underground club with tables and chairs, pool tables scattered throughout, and a fairly large bar that seemed to be much too big for the lone bartender to handle. The fact that such a huge place lay in the catacombs of downtown is absolutely amazing. The start time for the show was listed as 9:00, and we found ourselves walking in the door just before 10:30. A few minutes later, the first band took the stage. The opening band was supposed to be Black Hole Jets, but ended up being the Black Hellatones, minus lead singer Kelly Dickson. Guitarist Storm Castañeda launched right into some serious guitar riffs right off the bat, and he was then joined by his brother Kazz Castañeda who was just as lively on the drums. With fearless guitar solos and a larger-than-life stage presence, Storm is not just another guy with a guitar. We were watching the next generation’s Hendrix; powerful yet effortless, Storm played and danced and sang without once missing a beat or playing anything that could be considered ordinary.

Black Hellatones

Black Hellatones at Orton's

At 11:15 the Black Hellatones from Jacksonville officially took the stage, with the brothers continuing on guitar and drums and Kelly Dickson taking over on vocals. Each member of this experimental/progressive rock band is active on stage and not afraid to get loud and in your face. In fact, Dickson spent just as much time off stage dancing around as she did on. The lyrics may have been hard to understand, but the band’s freedom and energy was infectious. Storm jumped around the stage without missing a note, his long hair flying about. Kazz grinned with pure joy as he wailed on the drums.

The Hufton Brothers

The Hufton Brothers at Orton's

This feeling continued as The Hufton Brothers, also a three-piece band with a full sound, began their set around 12:45. The Hufton Brothers brought their share of energy, with brothers Jesse on vocals/guitar and Justin on bass/vocals, joined on drums by Shane Soles. From the sound of their recordings, the band would fit snugly in the genre of americana with some jangly bluegrass undertones. Live, however, the band rocks. The Huftons unleash on their instruments, and the sound coming through the speakers is more punk than country.  The Brothers showcased new songs, which were well-received by the crowd, and they also had a videographer filming the show. From what we saw, it looks like The Hufton Brothers are gearing up for something big, and we can’t wait to check it out. When we left at 1:30 am, the boys were still rockin’.

 

 

KFR Live in Wilmington #1

KFR reviews Jim Ashley, The Harts' House Concert, Vision Vine

We decided that a scorching summer evening would be the perfect time to venture out to local venues to catch some live music. Here, the result of last night’s quest, is the first in the series of Karmic Fury live music reviews.

We started the evening at Coastal Roaster in Carolina Beach. Tucked away in a small strip mall, the small external storefront doesn’t do justice to the coffee shop’s charm and size. Jim AshleyThe inside is large-ish for a coffee shop (although they also serve food and smoothies and recently started carrying beer and wine), but the placement of couches and tables throughout the room lends it a cozy feel. This is exactly the kind of place you’d expect to find local folker Jim Ashley. Jim is a soft-spoken storyteller with a lot to say, and he delivers his sentiments with just the right amount of self-deprecating humor. The feeling is that of being in the living room of an old friend having a conversation, rather than being talked at by someone with a microphone. As we took our seats with two very reasonably priced craft beers, Jim delivered an anecdote about the Olympics and his own lack of athletic prowess, noting, “When I was a little boy I had aspirations to be in the Olympics. If that seems ridiculous now, it would have seemed really ridiculous then” before continuing on about similar aspirations to be a genius. The story was a perfect set up for “If I Had a Better Brain”, a song about all that would be possible if – you guessed it – he had a better brain.

Jim Ashley CD

Buy Jim Ashley's CD Out on a Limb (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jimashley)

The solo acoustic set was a treat for people who come to shows to actually listen. The songs ranged from somber (“The Last Days of the Pony Express”) to nostalgic (“Paradise”) to frank and funny (“The Oprah Winfrey Blues”). The latter was a highlight of the set, largely due to Jim’s expert guitar work leading into the song itself. He dabbled in some Spanish flamenco for a little while and then somehow segued gracefully into blues riffs which led into a humorous song about the dangers of watching too much Oprah. Although he threw in a few Jim Croce covers by request, Jim stuck to mostly original tunes and played them in a way that connected with the audience. And that deserves our applause.

With the night still young, we decided to stop by a house concert on our way downtown. The Hart House ConcertHosted by two local musicians, it was a chance to jam and talk with like-minded people. The Harts are a husband and wife who literally rock in a bevy of Wilmington bands including Dirty Dakotas, and are fellow zealots of original music. We came in to find a handful of people bobbing their heads to a jam already in progress in the next room. The Harts (Chris on bass and Steph on vocals) improvised alongside an expert drummer and an adventurous guitar player and it was evident they were all having a blast. We’ve been to the Harts’ house concerts before. Last time the Black Hellatones from Jacksonville were there – Kelly Dickson, Storm  Castañeda, and Kazz  Castañeda. Their jam was nothing short of soul-riveting.

The Cellist

Katherine Niessner

The Harts host these parties regularly and attract a variety of musicians and people who love music.  Where else can you talk and jam with strangers (strangers who are musicians and/or music lovers), listen to The Police on vinyl, and watch a cello player doing Metallica?

We made it downtown around 11:30, with the Wilmington bar scene in full swing. The crowd at Duck and Dive on Dock Street was no exception, with the tiny British pub full of people talking and dancing to the music. There was a three-piece band crammed into a corner making sure they were heard. The drummer is a friend of ours whose skill on the drums is matched by his enthusiasm – we’ve never before see someone play the drums with a mile-wide grin on his face literally the entire time. We were happy to see so many people there listening to original music, rather than the usual onslaught of cover songs. It was a perfect counterargument to those who insist on booking cover bands because “nobody comes out to listen to original music.” Well, they do.

Starting to feel a little weary, we made our way a few blocks uptown to the Goat and Compass on Fourth St. in the Brooklyn Arts District. Another British pub, the Goat (as locals call it) was pretty lively for a place considered to be somewhat off the beaten path. They have a large back yard area with picnic benches and cornhole, and a lot of open space. The back might be bigger than the bar itself, which is a smattering of randomness; a deer head on the wall, a “W” on each bathroom for “Watercloset” (which led some drunken patrons to confusedly wonder if there was no men’s bathroom), and a large drunk guy sitting at a tiny Ms. Pacman video game demanding we play with him. The crowd was just as random, with college kids and touristy-looking baby boomers, locals rolling their own smokes, and a healthy helping of blue-collar beer drinkers. When we walked in, Vision Vine, the duo of Clay Crotts on acoustic guitar/vocals and Michal Oliver on percussion, had the crowd swaying and moving to the music. We’ve seen Clay before and he always brings an abundance of positive energy to the stage, and last night was no exception. Michal added a vital boost with his skilled percussion work. When Clay broke a string, most people didn’t even notice as they were too busy marveling at a well-executed impromptu conga/djembe solo. Perhaps the flow from jam to song with little time in between is why the people who were obviously bopping along and engaged didn’t clap, but you got the feeling the guys were there just because they love to jam. Although they did do a mix of covers and originals, it is a credit to them that it was difficult to tell which was which. Their original songs are upbeat and catchy and their covers are performed in Vision Vine’s upbeat acoustic reggae style. We arrived not long before a break in the set and didn’t stay as long as we might have if we’d come there earlier in the evening, but it was a fitting end to a night that proved that yes, people do like original local music. They like it a lot.