8th ounce sinsemilla, Humbolt County, 30 ounces Robin Hood Cream Ale, 1 Tab Mr Natural, 8 oz flask of vodka, 2 black beauties and 1 quaalude.
10 ounces filtered water, 2 tabs Azo, 2 teaspoons fiber, 2 Beano, 8 oz 15:1 ratio Oren’s Special Blend Coffee, 1 Preleaf, Desitin, 4 Advil, -19dB earplugs
5/19/23 Local 506 Chapel Hill, NC
Yeah, so my pre-game is a lot different now than it was 40 years ago. Everything is based around endurance and comfort. And getting there early enough to find parking: Chapel Hill is no joke when it comes to that basic need. I can handle a quarter mile jaunt, but the days of getting wasted are long gone. It makes me think that doing drugs is one long simulation for aging. I basically had the same capacity for movement and thought, and I can’t help but think ambulating on two legs while on beer, weed, and Quaaludes was basic training for turning 60…
But that was far, far, from the biggest difference in 40 years. Back then the clubs and bars were packed, mostly because there were only about a dozen channels on TV and no Internet. Sure, I’ve been to a lot of packed clubs over the past couple years, but those were for the kind of bands that 40 years ago would fill a small stadium or theater. I’m sorry, man, but 200 people to see Ruby the Hatchet and Elder disorients my Boomer brain.
The quality of the bands back then? Dubious at best. I still have horrific, traumatic flashbacks of local bands in the 80s wearing headbands, wristbands, and basically looking like Lover Boy with edgy cut-off shirts and spandex.
Nowadays, the bands really fucking mean it. It’s not like your second cousin’s boyfriend can get you into a show, where are you take the till from the cover charge while the bar makes Bank on the beer/liquor sales. Nope, now it’s a Darwinian gauntlet with a cold calculated viciousness as every possible factor is stacked against you. Or is it…?
The quality of bands in 2023 were unimaginable 40 years ago. Instead of honing their skills in their step-parents garage over the summer, today’s crop of musicians are battle tested before they even hit the stage. Sure, anyone with Garage Band can make their own recording and upload it to Bandcamp, maybe even Spotify. But to succeed, each band needs to be thoroughly conversant about everything from mic placement to operating complex software that can literally simulate any recording studio on the planet, and of any configuration. With thousands of bands uploading their latest opus, the competition is fierce, mean, and absolutely unforgiving.
This is in addition to competition to even get a gig at a bar that has accommodations to house the Marshall half-stack, full drum kit, obligatory Ampeg refrigerator bass cab as well as modern luxuries like front of house monitors and subwoofers. Even after you get that gig, the reality is that the whole band is now the road crew. I’ve even seen singers assist with the drum kit or hooking up the snake to run back to the boards. All the while, the band is most likely paying the club for the privilege of loading in, performing for a dozen or so drunken souls chatting over the guitar solo, then loading out for the next band to set-up.
All that being the case, how did our heroes and heroines fair at the storied Local 506?
Like just about every other person reading this review, I knew absolutely nothing about this band. In fact, the bill announcing the show didn’t even have them listed at first.
I still don’t know much about the band, except they were the perfect opening act for the evenings entertainment. I always flashback to opening bands from back in the day, usually some variance of White suburban punk band with a chip on their shoulder and a bad cocaine habit coupled with an inhuman tolerance to alcohol while wearing a ripped Blag Flag or Bad Brains t-shirt. This was certainly not that.
Imperfect Son brought the right amount of heat as an opening act. I think the best way to describe what I heard was a bit like Yawning Man. The music was definitely Stoner with a slight tinge of country, indie and a smidge of grunge.
Everything was tight without sounding stiff. The singer has an excellent look and presence, along with the unusual ability to sing clearly and well (always a pleasant surprise.)
Also notable was the bass playing, which was essentially a clinic on different styles and approaches. I’m not sure where they found this dude, but he’s a serious find and a couple levels above what we usually see in a bar band or even a mid-level wedding band.
It was hard not to appreciate the guitar playing as well. When rhythm and lead players are in total sync, it really frees up the rhythm section to focus on the groove. This made their set compelling, engaging, leaving room to be surprised. Behind it all, the expert drumming made the whole thing seem a little bit effortless. But that’s only how it seemed. They obviously made a few mistakes, with a few grimaces in the middle of the lead solo, or in a challenging rhythmic change up. But the facial expressions were short-lived, and they were definitely pro enough to carry on.
I know I am writing a lot about an opening band. But they really impressed me, especially after the show, outside the club. We talked a little bit, and I complimented them on their last song, a heavy affair worthy of any stoner/doom compilation. They mentioned that they planned on closing with a different number, but knowing that the rest of the bands were on the heavier side of things than they are, they changed their setlist to accommodate the rest of the lineup.
Class like that is always worth a few more words…
I don’t keep it a secret: I am very high on this band, so to speak. I’ve enjoyed reviewing their work, interviewing them on my YouTube channel, and sharing comments on Instagram and everywhere else the band is. So yeah, they were the number one reason I went to this gig in the first place.
I try to always be mindful that expectations can be a double edge sword. I have high hopes for what I was going to hear, but at the same time I was firmly aware that this is an extremely young band with limited stage experience. I was a bit nervous as they were taking the stage and not quite sure what I was going to hear and see.
What I heard is wrong. All wrong, man.
I mean, their studio recordings are great. Maybe a little bit over-produced, but the music is awesome and some of my favorite stuff from the past year. In fact, I think they write material worthy of bands like Witch Mountain, Black Road, and Windhand.
But Evil Leaf is a young band, and there’s simply no way they can possibly sound better live than on their debut EP, Slow Burn. And yet, they do! When a band can sound as good or better than their studio recording, it’s usually the result of years of touring and the simple, basic grind of road-testing and forging the material. For now, the combination of solid song-writing and raw ability by all involved is the only thing I can put my finger on. Regardless, the result is magical.
Sara Sage’s voice, range, and stage presence is the obvious factor. But the rest of the band is her equal, with solid and distinctive songs that come alive in a club, with a bit of dirt and grit to it. Regardless of any “mistakes” the band might focus on, the set was tight and sounded perfect.
Other than myself, I counted 14 people in attendance watching the stage. I’m pretty sure the small turnout was foremost in their minds. What they couldn’t see, though, were the open mouths and silent “what the fuck’s?” from that sparse “crowd” as Sara effortlessly went from clean to harsh vocals, followed by a jump in octave. No one left, no one looked away…
EvilLeaf sees themselves as a “little band from Gastonia.” At this stage of their development, I guess that’s true. But for that small handful that witnessed the night, they were anything but that. EvilLeaf was an unexpected, unheard of force of nature. Eventually, the band will understand that, capitalize on it and own the crowd, whatever the size, with swagger. I strongly suggest seeing them for yourself!
I keep hearing whispers, reading snippets of rumors, about Lie Heavy. All I knew, all I felt, was that something big was being unleashed. As I stood in the middle of the room, the only person present, the singer put his hand above his eyes to block out the lights and made fun of me while thanking me for being there. It was funny as hell, and he knew how to make the best of it.
That’s when I realized who the moogerfooging singer was: Karl Agell, singer on Corrosion of Conformity’s Blind. Holy shit. I mean, he looked old back in the day. And he seriously looked older 30 years later. But those years, on that night, seemed kind.
That’s how much time separates Lie Heavy from EvilLeaf, and it showed. While the EL gang suffers from an excess of self-consciousness, Lie Heavy is awash with self-awareness. Even though a paltry 16-or-so people managed to see their set, those guys hit it like there were 1600. Once that first LP gets released in a few weeks, we’ve got another AAA monster on our hands. These guys are heavy hitters with serious pedigree. Stage presence, onstage banter, and a lot of silver in their hair and beards. I’ve been feeling for a while that there’s a developing scene in the Carolinas, and Raleigh specifically, that’s about to make some serious noise. Lie Heavy has the experience and cred to join up with the likes of Holy Roller and Doomsday Profit and make that a thundering reality. With up-and-coming acts like EvilLeaf, Green Machine, Luurch and Skullservant ready to join the party as well, it’s about to get real down here.
I owe serious apologies to the folk in Trash Pinata. The demands of my job and the “pre-game” list above make it hard for me to stay to the last act. For example, when King Buffalo opened for All Them Witches, I had to bounce before the headliner. Sad, but true…
Venues are the lifeblood of any scene. On the surface, Local 506 is your basic square box, painted black, with a stage. But there’s something special about- probably something to do with the Heaven and Hell and Rainbow Rising album covers painted on opposing walls.
But there’s more to the vibe of a place than paint. The staff was excellent, and even had the single unsung hero of the night. The sound guy was off-the-hook good, and each band had access to the best the equipment could produce. He’s one of those timeless looking dudes that could be anywhere from 40 to 60 years old, depending on the degree and quality of his hard-living lifestyle. Whenever I saw him, he looked like he was trying to smoke just one fucking cigarette before the next urgent issue popped up. There are always urgent issues…
Is it really a scene…?
My gut tells me that the stars are aligning right now, and that North Carolina is about to get some attention. One or two shows don’t make a “scene”, so I’m cautious in suggesting one. But the biggest hint that something big is brewing struck me as I walked to my car. I heard, and then felt, a rumble coming from a couple blocks ahead. When I got to the source, there was a stairway down to a basement, bathed in red light. I heard a familiar thunder, and paused for a minute until I realized…
The mighty Skullservant was destroying some hapless PA beneath the earth’s crust. Damn. Just 2 blocks apart, in Chapel Hill, at least 4 of the best emerging bands were laying it down in a small college town. Yeah, long-dead roots are stirring, indeed.