Friday, May 4, 2018

PRF South (Day Three) at the Pinhook - 4/15/2018

PRF South (Day Three)
With Five Eight, Conan Neutron & The Secret Friends, and 1970s Film Stock
The Pinhook
4/15/2018

Like the day before, I headed back over to Durham to catch a few acts from the all day festivities that are PRF South.  This day featured a special guest: a torrential storm!  I found their music a little redundant, to be honest.


No slight to the other performances this night, but the real excitement for me was Five Eight.  They were one of the first bands I ever saw live, back in the early nineties as a 10th grader (I think).  The club was called the Squashpile - it was in a bombed out, super dead part of Asheville that now is the home to breweries and high end lofts for rich people.  It also doubled as a makeshift skatepark, which was actually the reason I was there, but I dug what Five Eight was offering and bought whatever cassette they had for sale (which is long since gone, apparently with all the rest of my tapes that got lost in one of my many moves).  I saw them one other time a couple years later during college, but it had still been nearly 25 years since this band was last in my life.  They’re a little older and greyer now (who isn’t), but honestly not a thing had changed…equal parts punk and art rock and that jangle pop sound for which their hometown of Athens is famous, their songs manage to be both weird and catchy at the same time.  My biggest surprise was learning this show wasn’t part of a reunion – this band never stopped!  The output has been sporadic, but they’ve seemingly seemingly remained a group throughout, including a new record last year that I need to make a point of hearing.

Next up was Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends, a loose musical collective featuring Conan and whichever of his musician friends are free to record and/or play gigs with him at any particular time.  Collaborators have included former and/or current members of Melvins, Big Business, Coliseum, and more; and on this particular evening, they employed two-thirds of Maple Stave to round out their line-up.  Conan and I go way, WAY back - I met him pretty early on after I moved to SF, and saw his old band Replicator tons of times.  This is very different – you’re much more likely to get a Kiss comparison for this act rather than the constant Shellac comparisons Replicator always got.  They're going for a very big, almost theatrical heavy rock n’ roll sound, and Conan has a stage presence that far outsizes a place with the capacity of the Pinhook.  They’re definitely fun, and even though I’d never heard it before, their song “Chair Of Antlers” wormed it’s way right into my head for the next few days.

I stuck around to hear some of 1970s Film Stock, knowing absolutely nothing about the act but having seen the name on a number of show bills over the last couple of years.  Turns out it’s not a band, but just one dude playing guitar.  It was mostly instrumental with the occasional sparse vocal, plus a shitload of pedals and samplers and god knows what else at his disposal.  He did a lot of layering - playing notes/chords, looping the line, then adding a different part on top of that, etc - it was at times spacy, swirly, psychedelic…insert like-minded adjective here.  It was somewhere loosely in the realm of Umma Gumma-era Pink Floyd combined with Chuck Johnson in his Spatula days.  These are all things I like, so I give 1970s Film Stock the proverbial thumbs up. 

PRF South (Day Two) at the Pinhook - 4/14/2018

PRF South (Day Two)
With Wailin’ Storms, Spider Bags, and Maple Stave
The Pinhook
4/14/2018

I’m still not entirely sure what PRF is (some sort of music forum I think?), but they put on a whole weekend of shows in Durham under the name PRF South.  It had been a while since my lazy ass had left the house for some rock music, and this seemed as good a time as any. 


There were bands scheduled all day at the Pinhook, but I'm rarely an “all day” sort of person, and instead got there in the early evening to take in just a few sets.  First was Wailin’ Storms, a local group I’m always seeing listed on bills, but I've never actually witnessed in person.  They’re a four piece of mostly tall dudes, which I only note because so many musicians are short.  I don’t know why that is, but it felt noteworthy.  They had a smoke machine, and they had it working overtime…not great for photos, but who doesn’t enjoying feeling like they’re watching a band inside of a bubbling cauldron?  They were pretty damn heavy, yet not what I consider metal – my first instinct was the punk of Drive Like Jehu crossed with the sludge of Tar, maybe throw in some Unsane…I really need to update my references past the early nineties probably.  I dug it for the most part, and since their set was only thirty minutes they never overstayed their welcome.  Let me go on record that with only a few exceptions, I’m totally fine with thirty minute sets being the norm for every band.

After all that rock and hard work of standing around losing my hearing, I was forced to go upstairs to Pie Pushers and eat pizza.  That all rock clubs don’t have a pizza parlor directly above them is a goddamn traveshamockery, and it makes me question their dedication to the craft of making me happy.  


Speaking of my desire for short sets, the next act I saw, Spider Bags – are maybe my favorite local, are definitely one of the exceptions – they are always welcome to play as long as they want.  I haven’t seen them in what feels like forever (actual elapsed time: a little less than three years) – they used to play constantly, but much to my chagrin they have slowed way, WAY down.  There were new songs this evening, and a mention of an impending new record, so hopefully the live appearances will again become more plentiful.  In fact, outside of starting their set with “Que Viva Rock N’ Roll” and one other older track, they performed nothing but new songs.  And if those new tracks are indicative of the rest of what is to come, their transformation from garage punk to a modern version of the James Gang is getting closer and closer to completion.  You know who’s a-ok with that?  This guy right here.

The last band I caught this night was Maple Stave, the closest thing we have in this area to the late-nineties/early-oughts math rock that used to dominate my listening habits.  I’m not sure if that once dominant style of music has died out, or I’m just not tuned into the scene anymore, but it feels like you rarely hear math rock anymore.  Or maybe it was never as popular as I thought it was back then, and it was my own listening habits that skewed my perception?  Fuck, who knows.  They’re pretty damn good at it though, and even if I don’t listen to this kind of rock all that often now, if you are in the mood Maple Stave is a pretty good option.  Double baritone guitars but no bass, a drummer that plays so hard you’re afraid he might have a heart attack at any moment, exceptionally silly song titles…they check all the boxes, and with aplomb.  Good on them.