bombadil & you won’t @ the cradle

bombadil @ cat's cradle

bombadil @ cat's cradle

bombadil @ cat's cradle

bombadil @ cat's cradle

Bombadil, like Josh Ritter, is a band that performs with such a sense of sheer joy at what they do — it radiates from the stage and infects the audience, who gives it back to him. Last night at the Cradle, there was a moment where I was standing in the crow’s nest, shooting the string quintet that was playing with them, and the audience’s voices on “Honeymoon” were so strong and so happy that my heart seized up for a moment. It was such a powerfully moving moment that I had to sit down and collect myself, and I was deeply lucky to have been given, again, free reign at a Bombadil show to photograph and showcase all that joy.

I also had the pleasure of shooting new photos for the Bombadil boys, in their shiny new white suits, prior to the show, and I can’t wait to share two or three of them with you later this week.

you won't @ cat's cradle

you won't @ cat's cradle

Boston’s You Won’t, a two piece band who makes a hell of a lot of noise for just two guys, opened, and won my heart while I watched the end of their soundcheck, before they even got on stage. Their sound is a bit rock, a bit Irish traditional, a bit Americana, all laid over with Josh Arnoudse’s extraordinary voice and Raky Sastri’s ability to play every instrument on earth, and they charmed the hell out of the audience, as well. Look for a review of their 2011 record Skeptic Goodbye in the next few weeks.

Full set is here.

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langhorne slim @ the casbah

langhorne slim & the law @ the casbah

Langhorne Slim is, along with Josh Ritter, one of the most captivating live performers I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, simply because being on stage, singing his songs, delighting an audience, seems to bring him such delight. He smiles, he spins in circles, he climbs the drum kick, he gets right up in the audience’s faces and encourages them to clap and dance and sing along.

langhorne slim & the law @ the casbah

And the crowd does — they pushed up close to the stage last night, creating a sweaty, swampy, happy atmosphere, and they sang along lustily to the new songs, and the old ones. Slim is a great showman in part because he can hold a crowd with the dancing singalongs as well as he can with the slower, sadder ones; for me one of the highlights of his evening’s set was “Colette”, a slow burner love song that always makes me cry, and the audience was pin-drop silent. (Of course, he segued directly into “The Way We Move” from that one, the gorgeous high-energy title track from his new album, which just proves my point.)

langhorne slim & the law @ the casbah

It had been two years since I’d seen Langhorne, but my love for his live show hadn’t diminished; it just grows, because he just keeps putting out kickass records and putting new songs into rotation with my old favorites. I didn’t keep a set list, but it was a great show — it was exactly the kind of high energy, happy, joyful celebration of music that I needed last night. Glorious.

I wrote about The Way We Move here and made the title track last week’s Jam of the Day at Speakers in Code. Full set, including Ha Ha Tonka’s set, is here.

frontier ruckus @ local 506

frontier ruckus @ local 506

frontier ruckus @ local 506

Up front, I gotta say, what this show did was make me salivate for Frontier Ruckus’s new album. Last fall, Matthew Milia told me that their follow-up to Deadmalls & Nightfalls was going to be even more dense and complex, and it is, based on the new songs that they played last night, but it’s also lighter and more full of space, wide open moon nights and love songs about fictional love triangles and hope. They’re one of the best live bands out there, Milia’s strange plaintive voice and the musicianship of his surrounding band, especially banjo player Davey Jones and jack-of-all-trumpets Zach. It was a small but rapt crowd, and the band played straight to them. As always with the Ruckus, it was intimate and note perfect. Lovely, lovely.

hoots & hellmouth @ local 506

hoots & hellmouth @ local 506

Philadelphia’s Hoots & Hellmouth opened; they are without a doubt one of my favorite bands who almost never ever ever plays convenient North Carolina dates. (Almost because they played Raleigh last year.) They have stomp boxes and Rob is playing all these complex organ and piano lines under Sean Hoots’ increasingly complex songwriting — Sean has always been the master of a lyric, but they’re getting more shudderingly sad and startling. It was beyond a pleasure to see them again and get to hang out a little after their set; they are one of the best little known bands out there and you should try to hit one of these FR/H&H tour dates, for sure.

Full set is here.

samantha crain @ local 506

samantha crain @ local 506

samantha crain @ local 506

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Samantha Crain; in that time, she’s turned over her whole band and released both a new album and a brand new 7″, but she’s no less of a great songwriter and a stunning stage presence — I often wonder how a voice that big comes from a woman that tiny, but it’s great — now than she was a few years ago.

Tuesday’s crowd wasn’t a big one, but Chapel Hill did turn out pretty well for great sets by both Samantha and American Aquarium; full set here, and some answers on songwriting, collaboration, and vices from Samantha here.

interview: samantha crain

samantha crain & the midnight shivers @ the local 506

Amazing songstress Samantha Crain is gracing the Triangle with not one but two shows this week; she headlines the 506 with American Aquarium opening on Tuesday, February 7 (Doors 8:30, show 9PM, $10) and opens for AA and their live CD release show at the Pour House on Saturday, February 11 (Doors 8PM, show 10PM, $10). Behind the jump, she answered a few questions for me about songwriting, Oklahoma, and where she’s finding her inspiration these days.

Your songs are often very intimate subjects that are backed by big rock guitars; is this purposeful? How do you juxtapose the lyrics you write with the music that comes behind them? Are you a music or lyrics first sort of writer?

I am not really at a point right now where I overthink the songs I’m writing….Its very normal to get into that spot after some time of writing songs and I have been there in the past but in order to continue being productive I just have to create what comes naturally to me. I don’t have a method. Sometimes I write music first, sometimes the lyrics come first….I usually just keep ideas of lyrics in journals and then recordings of melody ideas on a recorder and then when I sit down to work, I start pairing things together to see if any of them work together….Other times, I’ll just sit down and a song, words and melody, will all come together really quickly.

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bombadil cd release party for ‘all that the rain promises’

bombadil cd release party for 'all that the rain promises'

Everyone in the Triangle knows the story of Bombadil; in 2009, poised to break out with the spectacular and heartbreaking Tarpits and Canyonlands, the band took an abrupt and open-ended hiatus, based, publicly, mostly around de facto frontman Daniel Michalak’s deteriorating physical health. (If you aren’t from here, you can read last week’s Indy story about the band here.) They reappeared occasionally, playing a joyful set as an opener for last winter’s secret Avett Brothers show at the Cradle, and had, shortly before that show and unbeknownst to (most) of us, spent ten days outside of Portland … recording an album. They played a packed show at Hopscotch this past fall, an utter delight.

bombadil cd release party for 'all that the rain promises'

And on Saturday evening, thanks to the generosity of my buddy Adam (who put together a team of photographers and videographers to cover the show), I had the privilege of shooting Bombadil’s sold-out CD release party for the gorgeous, intimate All That The Rain Promises at the Cradle, from the best vantage point in the house — everywhere. Watching their set, from the crow’s eye view by the soundboard and the cramped space between the grand piano and the stage monitors, the packed and ecstatic crowd on the floor and the edges of backstage, was one of the sweetest, most genuine moments of my career as a photographer, musically and as a fan of the band and as a fan of reinventing yourself and as a fan of what the scene, here in the Triangle, means specifically. It was an evening without a single moment of bitterness; it was an evening that was joy in human form, rock and roll as worship.

bombadil cd release party for 'all that the rain promises'

The album is beautiful; the band are the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. Their story is a great one, but their songs are transcendent and transfixing. It was a privilege and pleasure to be there for it, and I hope that my shots convey half of how beautiful the whole evening was. Thank you, boys, for making something so lovely and for sharing it with us, and for letting me be a part of it. Thanks for reminding in the purest human way why I take photos.

Let me recommend a handful of Dan Dan The Taping Man’s videos from the evening, particularly “Smile When You Kiss” and “Reasons”. “Reasons”, the second encore, made me cry like a baby.

Behind the jump, a selection of photos from the evening, and the full set, including shots of openers Future Kings of Nowhere (who are another Triangle story worth telling, but that one is not mine to tell here and now) and JKutchma & the Five Fifths, is here.

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interview: frontier ruckus

frontier ruckus @ local 506

Thanks to my inability to operate technology, y’all don’t get the best part of this interview from this past Saturday evening, which was Matt waxing rhapsodic about Twitter, his use of it, and how it plays into his writing process, and Davey making fun of him. But trust me, it was great, and the rest isn’t much of a slouch – behind the jump, 3/5ths of Frontier Ruckus talks songwriting, their third LP, Michigan music, their parents’ record collections, and the Tigers, among other banjo-restringing-soundtracked things. Click. You know you want to. (And you should follow them on Twitter, because theirs is my favorite musician Twitter out there.)

bnko: So …

Davey Jones: (restringing and tuning his banjo) It sounds like we’re starting off in Deliverance.

bnko: It does. I’m with Dave and Matt and John from Frontier Ruckus, and we are gonna talk about some stuff. Are you guys working on a new album?

Matthew Milia: Always.

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