Don’t Be Mean To People
Mini rock festival! This is the third year they’ve done this sort of all-day rock thing at Ponysaurus involving local bands both big and small, and at least the second year where they used the event to raise money for the ACLU (the first year was the 11th anniversary celebration for Bull City Records, but I’m not entirely sure what the fiscal motivations were one way or another). This year was actually a two day event, but I only caught the back half of Saturday - and it was a COOKER. Best of all, they had two stages set up, so as soon as one act finished the next would be starting within just a few minutes. There was a healthy crowd but it never felt crowded, the weather was pristine, and tons of food trucks – it’s damn near a perfect event.
I caught the last couple of songs from Tooth, a local metal act that has been around for what seems like forever but who play only rarely. Or maybe they’ve been broken up for ages and this was a reunion? I dunno, but either way I wish I’d gotten there to see more of it – I dig the type of metal they’re serving up, heavy and aggressive and a little stoner-ish…to make the laziest comparison possible, since both are North Carolina products, if you like Weedeater you’d probably like Tooth. I’m really shit at describing metal bands – what I do know is I’m picky with the bands I actually like in this genre, but these guys definitely pass the test. As required by law, all five members of the band had beards; no facial hair citations were issued.
I always ask myself “do I need to take more photos of Spider Bags?”, and then I usually proceed to take more photos of Spider Bags. In this case, this was my first time taking outdoor photos of the band during the golden hour, which gave some decent results. Something I’ve never asked myself is “do I need to see Spider Bags play again?”, because the only possible answer to that question is yes. Scratch that: FUCK YES. The band is still a three piece like the last time I saw them - no idea where the other guitarist went. I wouldn’t say he’s necessary to enjoy the music of Spider Bags, but I did enjoy that extra layer of guitar at their live shows. It was otherwise a typical, great performance by them, with the added bonus of revealing their definitely completely original Halloween song called “Have Love, Jack-O-Lantern” that was in no way a slightly modified cover of “Have Love, Will Travel,” made famous by the Sonics.
Work Clothes were up next – I guess they were a thing a decade or so ago, which totally escaped me at the time, and this was a rare reunion. The group is a duo, guy and gal, who are seemingly a couple of some sort (there was some talk of kids and babysitters). Both played guitar and sang, it was very low key and ethereal. There were a couple of moments that reminded me a bit of Low, and a couple of others that made me think of Julee Cruse/Twin Peaks. It was fine but after a couple of songs I used the rest of their set as a chance to rest at one of the many outdoor picnic tables at Ponysaurus.
The entire band dressed completely in white, Skylar Gudasz was up next with her goddamn golden voice that is so melodious and heavenly it almost makes me angry. I’ve been stuck trying to think of what to write about her, and getting nowhere – much like watching Skylar live, your mind goes blank while she performs her hypnotic Carpenters-esque soft pop. It’s all held together by her incredible, professional-grade backing band that included Casey Toll and Joe Westerlund. Her album “Oleander” from 2016 is a good listen, but live she achieves another level – any chance you get to see her perform make every effort to do it.
From past experience, I assumed the acoustic version of Superchunk would be Mac and Jim and a pair of acoustic guitars, and I was correct. I saw this same configuration ten years ago in the middle of the day at some sort of election rally at UNC (also featuring Billy Bragg, Bowerbirds, and others); it’s only fitting we’re seeing this version of the band in another important election year, and no one talked more about the importance of voting this night more than Mac. Other than the voting angle, it was a pretty typical set – some new songs from their most recent record “What A Time To Be Alive,” coupled with plenty of their classics like “Detroit Has a Skyline” and “Learned To Surf” and “Water Wings” and…you get the point. They actually didn’t play end-of-set staple “Slack Motherfucker,” which I suspect was because there were a number of kids running around the grounds and Mac, being a parent himself, decided to keep things PG.
The big finale of the night was Wye Oak, fresh off a long tour and as tight as an overinflated balloon. They were surprisingly performing as a three piece, with local musician Will Hackney (Loamlands, Midtown Dickens, Mount Moriah, probably every other band from Durham) helping on bass. I have no idea as to the temporary or permanent nature of this particular line-up, but it worked well and anything that keeps Jenn Wasner on guitar as much as possible is a keeper (not that she isn’t also an amazing bassist…hell, she’s amazing at everything). It appears the trade where we sent Future Islands to Baltimore a few years ago was finally completed, as drummer Andy Stack has now also moved to the Triangle, following Jenn who made her way down here a few years ago. Will this result in more frequent local Wye Oak shows? Jenn living here hasn’t resulted in an increase in the Flock of Dimes performance I had hoped for, so I’m not holding my breath…but at least we can call them “ours” now. I’ve seen Wye Oak live a number of times and it’s always fantastic, but this might have been the best I’ve ever seen them – and I say that even though they didn’t play my favorite song, “Holy Holy.” There were lots of tracks from “The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs,” a smattering of classics, and one of the best Kate Bush covers (“Deeper Understanding”) this side of Maxwell. This band is flawless and at the height of their powers, and I’m already excited about the next time I get to see them, whenever that might be.