Tag Archive: The Emerald Lounge


So the last time I wrote something in here I was anticipating going to see A Place To Bury Strangers with my friend Rhiannon. I took Monday off and we decided to meet around 1:00, which would give me a chance to (finally) sleep in. Of course, life had other plans. My landlord called me around 9:00, then again an hour later, and another hour or so later. They decided to send their “other” maintenance guy out to look at our fridge. He works mainly on their other properties, and basically if he says it can’t be fixed, they take his word for it. He looked at my fridge and came to just that conclusion. Hopefully that means I’ll get a new fridge soon. Fingers crossed…..

Also during that I-really-want-to-sleep stage between 9:00 and about 11:30 when I finally got out of bed, Morgan texted me. We chatted a bit and then I had to start getting ready. When I got out of the shower I saw I had a text from Rhiannon saying she was running behind. I took advantage of this extra time by doing a little shopping. I kept texting Morgan, who said she hoped I didn’t get stood up again. I assured her that wouldn’t happen and I tried to find other ways to occupy my time until Rhiannon finally got there.

We arranged to meet at Waffle House. Her car was messing up so she got her roommate, a guy named Ryan, to drive. He bought a ticket at the last minute and they headed to Asheville. It was around 3:00 when they finally got to Waffle House. We talked for a while and caught up, and then we went to the mall so she could look for some new running shoes. Along the way we went to Hollister, where she “ordered” a sex on the beach and I suavely asked the girl at the counter if she came here often. Oh, and Rhiannon freak-danced a mannequin.  After the mall we went to Goodwill. She found a HUGE bra and insisted we pose for pictures with our heads in the cups. One such picture became the most-liked picture on my Facebook page in years. Then we had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. When the waitress brought out celery, Rhiannon asked her if she had any peanut butter. She’s a complete and total lunatic. Which might be why we’re such good friends.

Finally it was time for the concert. I could write a detailed review like I usually do, but I don’t really have the time. Maybe another day. The short version is this… The opening band was a group called Bleeding Rainbow. They had a girl and guy who sang lead, a guitarist who mostly made random noises, and a drummer who frequently changed beats in the middle of a song. Their overall sound was kinda like if Courtney Love would’ve hooked up with Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. They were pretty good; I wound up buying their newest album. Turns out the release got delayed and it won’t “officially” be out until January, but they had a few vinyl copies for sale, even though the mp3 download won’t work until the official release.

There really aren’t words to describe A Place To Bury Strangers. I love their first album, and the songs I’d heard of their second, but I wasn’t prepared for what I experienced. They were loud. Very loud. So loud their merch table sold earplugs. So loud that I wish I had bought said earplugs, because nearly two days later my ears were still ringing. We were right up at the stage, so that might have something to do with it. At that point the acoustics worked so as to make the guitars many decibels louder than anything else. Their guitarist/singer/songwriter is actually an engineer who makes all of the effects pedals he uses. And boy is he good at what he does. He created beautiful chaos, waves of sound and noise and feedback. The songs tended to blur into each other because of the sheer power of the guitars, but the band clearly put their hearts into their performance. I don’t remember the last time I saw a band play with such passion and energy. This might actually be one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. In the tiny confines of The Emerald Lounge, their noise-rock sounded positively humongous. The light show was definitely the best I’ve ever seen, with projectors flashing up colors, patterns, flowers, TV clips, you name it. They had strobes and smoke machines galore, creating a beautiful visual experience. The vibe was amazing, and the crowd was mesmerized. For the finale, the guitarist guy put his guitar on the floor and let it feedback and echo, while he went around turning off the projectors and turning on more strobes. He took a strobe and held it up to his guitar, causing all sorts of interference and noise. Then he rubbed it up and down on the strings, creating a cacophony that was epic in every sense of the word. This was a show you truly didn’t want to miss a second of, because there was no telling what would happen next. It seemed like everything was total chaos, yet the band members were fully in control of it all. I don’t know what else to say, except that they are a must-see band.

After the show we drove around looking for bars, but evidently because of the unexpected winter weather they were all closed. We came back to my house and decided to drink there instead. And drink we did! Rhiannon is a bit of a lightweight, but I totally showed my tolerance. I had two ciders at the show, then two big glasses of gin and ginger, a glass of absinthe, a shot of absinthe, a shot of brandy, and half of one of those tiny bottles of flavored vodka. I got a little tipsy, but for the most part was my normal self. Rhi on the other hand got drunk off her ass, on about a third of what I had at that. If you think she’s crazy when she’s sober, you should see her drunk. Easily the most fun night I’ve had in years. The actual sleeping part of the night didn’t go nearly as well, as she’s a bed-hog who kept rolling over in her sleep and pushing me off the bed. We finally got out of bed around 1:00 to find everyone else already up and around.

Rhiannon and Ryan headed back to Charlotte and I headed to Blend to show my stuff to Joel, the guy who is coordinating things. Evidently he didn’t know what time they opened, and when I got there it was locked. He suggested going into nearby Loretta’s while he tried to get someone to come open up. No one ever came, and he liked every piece I brought. Since we couldn’t get into the bar, he took my stuff home and brought it back the next day. I stopped by after work to drop off my tags and sign the insurance waivers and whatnot. Turns out one of the other artists is out of town, so Sunday won’t work for the opening after all. He suggested Thursday, and even though he never said 100% that’s when it would be, that’s what I put on my quickie promotional posters. Hopefully nothing changes and I can actually get some people to come out to this. I’ve never worked with someone this disorganized, so it’s pretty frustrating. But it’s exposure, so hopefully it will be worth it.

Today was my day “off,” but I spent the whole day running around. I got my mini-posters printed and brought some to True Blue, along with a painting for our staff show this month. The rest of my evening was spent eating Chinese takeout, watching TV, and relaxing for a change. Tomorrow and Saturday I have to work, but I’ll be off Sunday. I originally took the day off because of the opening, but now that it’s been moved I have a free day. Morgan said that she might want a break from her studying, so perhaps we’ll get together. I’ll probably spend the rest of the day taking the final exams for my online classes. And that’s about it. The End.

 

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A Weird Week

It’s been a full week since I updated. I’ve been pretty busy. Let’s go into more detail…..

Tuesday the guy from Skyrunner, a local internet company, came out to check if they could get a signal from my place. Sure enough they could. The only problem is my landlord doesn’t like the installation process. I guess an antenna the size of a pack of cigarettes and a tiny hole through which a cable is threaded is too intrusive for his liking. The maintenance guy told him to call up here on one of the days the girl is working in the office. She’s a little more tech-savvy and could better understand the process and explain to him it’s no big deal. But if that doesn’t work then I guess I’m stuck with Charter, which means a bigger bill. Blah.

The aforementioned maintenance guy came out that same day to look at our fridge. Evidently there’s a piece that is keeping the freezer fan from working, and to get to it he’d have to remove this whole front bracket. The fridge is so old that they no longer make the size hex wrench needed to take off the bolts. Hopefully this means they’ll give us a new fridge. But if one of my neighbors is any indication, that could take quite some time. Stupid cheap landlord.

Also on Tuesday I was supposed to have a date with Amber, a girl I met on a dating website. The same girl who texted me when I was out with Morgan last Saturday. She decided she didn’t feel well enough to drive to Asheville. She lives in Brevard, and I offered to drive there instead. At first she was down with the idea, then decided we should just reschedule. We decided on Thursday, my next day off. I texted her to get directions and she said that she had thought it over and she didn’t really want to date anyone right now. Why you would join a dating site if you don’t want to date is beyond me, but whatever.

Most of the rest of my week was spent stressing out. We fired someone last week at the art supply store, so we’ve been stretched pretty thin, with a lot of days being one person by themselves. Knowing that I would have very little free time because of a few social engagements and the last week of classes, I decided I needed to spend most of my time at work finishing up the newsletter. Trying to do that and run a store by myself is pretty hectic. Add to that the increasing difficulty of communicating with Joel from Blend about the show. He’s been terrible about responding to calls or emails, so the other day I went down there after work to see if the people at the bar knew anything more than I did. The girl who was there is actually dating one of the other artists, so she gave me his number. We talked it over and decided we need to take things into our own hands. We set a time for the show, and he’s going to get one of his friends to DJ. All we need to do is find out who the third artist is. Oddly enough, Joel just sent me a text message saying we should all get together to discuss things on Tuesday. Has he finally decided to coordinate this? Better late than never I suppose…..

Last night I hung out with Morgan again. She came over my place, and we basically just drank and talked about random stuff until my roommate and Joshua got home. Then they got involved in the conversation and it became even more random. A thirty-something couple, a nineteen year old college student, and the thirty-something guy who is hopelessly smitten, all talking about religion, sex, Mitt Romney, philosophy, Freud, origami, and art. With copious amounts of alcohol. It sounds like an indie rom-com in the making. But yeah, we all had a good time. Sofia and Joshua went to her room to watch a movie and Morgan asked me a lot of leading questions, possibly fishing for compliments. Because, you know, I don’t give her enough already. Somehow it became 1:30 and she decided it was time to go home. My neighbor Angela was coming home just as we were leaving, so I introduced them and we chatted for a few minutes. After I dropped her off I hung out at Angela’s place until I was too tired to be social. I came home and realized I needed to pay my Charter bill, and somehow ended up spending half an hour online. I attempted to go to sleep, but Ty’s roommate came home very drunk and very loud, and her voice echoed up to my window. Even when I closed it I could still hear her loud and clear. So yeah, I didn’t get much sleep. I drank three energy drinks just to get through work today and was still exhausted. Fun times.

Now I’m going to attempt to discipline myself enough to read the last few chapters for my online classes. Our final exam was released the other day, and even though we have until November 9 to finish it, I’d like to at least do something now, rather than wait until the last minute. Tomorrow my friend Rhiannon is coming up from Charlotte and we’re gonna hang out all day and then go see A Place To Bury Strangers at The Emerald Lounge. I’m pretty excited, both for the show and because I haven’t seen her in forever. But it basically means I won’t get any work done tomorrow, so yeah. Eventually I’ll need to try to get some sleep too. Man cannot live on caffeine alone. But he sure as hell can try…..

 

I arrived at the Emerald Lounge a few minutes before 9:00, but evidently they are keeping alive the tradition of starting late, which happens at pretty much every Emerald Lounge show. Things didn’t really get underway until a little after 9:30 when opening act Cory Branan took the stage. I wasn’t familiar with his music at all and didn’t know just what to expect. He proceeded to do the last thing I had expected from someone opening for Maps & Atlases – play a set of songs accompanied by only an acoustic guitar and a thick southern drawl. Evidently he’s friends with the guys from Lucero, and that’s probably a good reference point. His guitar playing would alternate between very intricate fingerpicked arpeggios and him basically banging the shit out of his guitar. His lyrics were quirky and well written and his songs had strong choruses and interesting narratives. At times he would raise his voice and his southern accent would disappear, only to be replaced with a gravely growl that sounded a bit like Shane MacGowen from The Pogues. In between songs he would offer up witty banter, clever observations, and drunken nonsense. For someone who plays a completely different style of music than the headlining band, he was pretty well received by the crowd. I ended up buying his album and talking to him for a bit, he seems like a pretty cool guy.

Maps & Atlases wasted no time getting on stage and immediately started their set. I’ve listened to their first album and liked it, but I never actually bought or downloaded it, so I wasn’t terribly familiar with their music – just enough to know that I wanted to check them out live. They play a very technical form of indie rock, with roots in classic math rock, jammy prog rock, and Afropop. To compare them to contemporary bands that might be better known, they sound a bit like a cross between Minus The Bear and Vampire Weekend.

I was constantly blown away by their musicianship – these guys can flat-out play! The lead singer played a semi-hollow body guitar and did a lot of two-handed tapping. Their second guitarist also did some tapping, some slide guitar, some chunky rhythm work, and quite frequently switched off and played an analog synth. On a few songs his backing vocals were run through a vocoder, and on one song he used a sampler to loop his guitar and the singer’s vocals to form the backing track. Their bassist was the epitome of a good bassist, in my mind. He kept a fat and steady low end at all times, even when playing lead parts and runs way into the upper register of his bass. He knew how to lay down a funky groove and really propelled the songs forward. But he also knew when to shut up and take a back seat, letting the guitarists have the spotlight while he thumped out root notes. On one song he played a bass drum and the second guitarist played a snare. On a few other songs he directed the audience on when to clap while he sustained an open note. But the real treat of the night was the drummer. He played extremely technical beats, using everything from mounted bongos to synth pads to wood blocks to a tabletop. He did a lot of polyrhythms, and often used a sampler to loop his own playing and build up layer upon layer of percussion. When he wasn’t being flashy and complicated, he banged the shit out of the drums, often drowning out the rest of the band.

Visually the show was impressive as well. The use of stage lights was well executed and really enhanced things. The drummer’s kit was clear and had yellow and orange lights shining through it. The mounted bass drum that the bass player played on one song was also lit funky shades of yellow and orange. All of the amps were mounted on bizarre triangle-shaped stands, which lit up at different times in several different colors. There were several times where the lights all went down and the band performed parts of songs in complete darkness, which added a vaguely spooky flavor to the show.

All in all, this was a show for thinking musicians and music fans. If you’re impressed by technique, then both of these artists would have blown you away. But they both also know that the song itself is key, and neither band fell prey to pointless noodling. No matter how long Maps & Atlases jammed on a riff, soloed, or inserted random bits of other songs, they always came back to strong melodies and solid choruses. No matter how intricate Cory Branan’s guitar playing got, it was always in the service of the unique stories he told with his songs. These are two artists who don’t shy away from technical ability, but rather use it as a vehicle for constructing great songs. In a musical landscape of technically proficient musicians with boring songs and great songwriters who can barely tune their instruments, it’s refreshing to know that there are still people out there who know how to combine great playing with great songwriting.