Bands & Cans

Words by Stephen Mullaney
Photos by Christine Fantini

Durham is a city that has produced amazing art, theater, and music. The people who make your coffee, fix your computer, serve your beer, and believe it or not, teach your kids are producing some of the best music in the country.

Music has been fueling Durham since forever. Its makers are as diverse as the sounds they create and are a major part of what makes Durham a haven for creators.

There are so many bands in Durham you haven’t heard of, while there are others who have been adopted as hometown heroes only after they have exploded beyond the Bull City.

In the not too distant past, Durham was producer of tobacco products and carcinogens that were inhaled internationally. While for some this may not necessarily be something to be proud of, the tobacco industry did construct many buildings in Durham while employing countless people and keeping those families in homes and eating.

Nowadays it is livers everywhere that we are sending products to… beer, cider, and distilled products are now a major industry and export of our Durham city and North Carolina home. As so many of you are aware, alcohol and music can sometimes make for a beautiful match that will lead you into the deepest corners of hell or the farthest reaches of heaven.

As summer weather pushed us into Fall, and now Fall into Winter, I chose IPA’s to ease the pain. In the spirit of pairing alcohol and beer, here is a look at three bands and three cans that go well together.

Let’s go take a ride! Strap on a helmet, hold on tight and enjoy!

The Band

The Muslims
Whatever you choose to drink while listening to The Muslims, here is what I suggest: Honor the music. Pull out the first can or bottle and spill or smash it on the ground. Maybe knock a lamp over. If this is going to be an outdoor experience, then go sit on the tracks or perhaps gather a few friends and pull down a monument to racism and intolerance!

This band’s talent runs deep… The music, the lyrics, the delivery… So Fucking Good!

The Muslims hit hard, channeling the energies reminiscent of late 80’s punk. Take it to the edge of falling apart only to tighten up and hit again. Pixies? No punches pulled, in your face. The Stooges? You tell me.

A David Barrett-like production is spot on, bringing out the talent without taking away from the live energy.

My plan: stick a can in the water bottle holder of my bike, make my way to a rooftop and celebrate the music.

The Can

“Something so Sincere” by Casita Cerveceria. Double IPA, not a sneak up and get you IPA. You know your shit is getting shook when you crack the can. Amazing flavor, brewed in Farmville by the same people who bring you Duck Rabbit beers. Load up the van with The Muslims, a trunk full of “Something so Sincere”, and storm the white house.

The Band

Cosmic Punk
Happy, bike riding, lay in the grass on a warm Fall day. Take a walk or go for a ride while listening to Cosmic Punk. No matter what is going on in the world, you feel it will all be all right. At times, the music feels like rollercoaster ride, up and down, and then slides seamlessly back to dreamy pop.

I found a live performance of Cosmic Punk that altered my bleary-eyed Sunday.

The Can

Burial “Surf Wax” IPA. The can reads “the human spirit is still alive” and that spirit is what binds the beer and the band. That and the surfy/pop/summer vibe. Burial says each cans label art is a story of the beer.


The Band

The Tan and Sober Gentlemen
It would be easy to dismiss the songs of Tan and Sober Gentlemen as Pogues or Dropkick Murphys-like music. The ability to play this style, “backcountry Celtic”, with a high level of expertise and emotion is hard as hell.

Fast, free, NC Celtic that would be right at home in the streets of Boston. We need a band like this in our state. The music can deliver fun and send a message. Working class music is still alive and well even if many forget the working class is what keeps our everyday running smoothly.

The Can

“Trophy Wife” by Trophy Brewing. This is a crisp, clean, fast drinking IPA that can be enjoyed by the can or by the dozen. I want to see The Tan and Sober Gentlemen share the stage with a mariachi band on the streets of Durham during the Pride Parade. Then I will feel like, for a blink of an eye, all is well in the world.

The Post-Show: Since Forever, 10 Years of Pinhook Show, November 17, 2018

Self-doubt. The first thing I felt when The Editor asked me to cover a few sets at Pinhook’s 10th birthday party on Saturday. But of course, I said yes. It was our first meeting to discuss the possibility of me writing for Durham Beat, so when she asked what I was doing later that night I jumped at the opportunity.

Immediately a ball formed in the small crevice between my throat and chest… I’m not qualified for this. What did I know about music? It’s been years since I’ve written creatively. Everyone will think I’m a fraud! These are just a few of the words that swirled together to form this ball. A moment and a deep breath later, I swallowed, expressed my excitement, and told her I’d see her at The Pinhook in a few hours. After all, I had wanted this. Hell, I had asked for this.

I arrived at The Pinhook alone. As the youngest of five children, being alone isn’t really my forte. I’ve been working on fighting that feeling recently, so I dropped $10 into the donation box, held my arm out for a wristband, and marched past the entrance. The room was buzzing – literally – as in the front corner of the venue a local tattoo artist, who I later learned goes by the name Velvet Doe, inked a selection of flash designs onto willing clients. I briefly considered getting one, but managed to convince myself it wasn’t the kind of night to get a spontaneous tattoo in a bar. I moved on toward the dimly lit stage draped in red and blue.

I scanned the room, desperately searching for someone I knew. I recognized a server from far-too-frequent trips to Monuts, but otherwise didn’t see a soul. A pretty typical experience for a Raleigh native who no longer belongs in Raleigh, but doesn’t quite fit into the Durham scene yet. Two other showgoers stood just under the giant PBR panda. PBR and other loners, that’s my spot, I thought. I settled nicely into the familiar periphery, blending into the center of the action just well enough to be present yet unnoticed.

I realized I had positioned myself in almost the exact same spot where my husband and I spent one of our first dates nearly eight years ago. On a frigid January night in 2011 he took me to The Pinhook, my first visit there, to see Greil Marcus host a listening session. Downtown Durham was just starting to blossom at that time, and we had initially shown up at DPAC, mistakenly assuming, as many Raleigh natives would, that it was the only venue in town. Imagine our surprise when we walked into the lobby to find hundreds of fourth graders donning their school colors and carrying recorders. Confused, we walked to the box office where he announced he had won tickets to a Greil Marcus lecture from 88.1. “That’s tomorrow night honey,” the lady said. “But I think he’s at The Pinhook tonight.”

Assuming that’s what he had actually won tickets to, we set out for The Pinhook. We walked up the hill, took a left onto Main, and headed straight toward the one lively storefront in an otherwise silent downtown, like two moths flapping towards a blue light. When we arrived at The Pinhook and announced we had won tickets to the listening party, the bouncer, at first confused, laughed and waved us in for the show. “It’s a free event,” he said. Being only our third or fourth date, my future husband was visibly embarrassed, but I reassured him it wasn’t a big deal. Not only did we stay, but the event also turned out to be one of my favorite dates of all time. It marks one of the first experiences on my journey falling in love with Durham–and my husband.

Fast forward eight years, this memory had me coming around to feeling like I did belong there when the first strum of Jesse Boutchyard’s guitar snapped me back into the present as Severed Fingers prepared for their set with a quick soundcheck. That single strum was all I needed to remember exactly what I was doing there. I love music. I love musicians. I love the feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when the lights go down and a show begins.

Severed Fingers

Jesse opened the set by announcing what The Pinhook meant to them, a snapshot into a theme I would see weave itself through the rest of the sets that night. Jesse reflected on the support The Pinhook had offered them in their journey to come out as nonbinary, how they had found a home there, and even a job, setting the tone for a deeply personal set.

I was still processing the way that single strum of Jesse’s guitar hit me when they wailed the first note into the microphone from the type of voice that sounds like freshly packed snow crunching underneath your boots–smooth, but announcing itself in all the right ways. The kind of voice that reaches deep down in my throat and punches me from the inside of the gut. I was immediately hooked, and also grateful I had decided not to preview Severed Fingers before I set out to write about them. They’re the kind of band you want to hear for the first time live.

Three songs into the set I found myself dreading its end. Jesse had captured me so deeply that I couldn’t take my eyes away to focus on other members of the band. That is, until they announced their last song, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. Slightly disappointed that it wasn’t an original, I spaced out for a moment and turned my attention to the room around me. Then, a beautiful sound caught my attention. It was the strategically shaky stroke of Riley Zed’s violin. Suddenly, a song I had heard covered so many times felt new and raw and right. At the end of the song the band stepped away from their microphones, wordlessly inviting the audience to sing along to the last verse, to belong in that room and in that moment with them.


By the time Bangzz came on, I had found The Editor, grabbed a drink, and listened to the sister,brother set: shredding vocals and some of the most incredible bass-playing I’ve ever seen. Noise-based music isn’t really my cup of tea, but I respected the objective talent they showed in their craft, and I could see what others see in them. Let’s suffice to say I was ready for what was coming next.

Bangzz had been described to me as “Feminist Punk Rock,” so when two women stepped on stage and announced their presence by demanding a change to the lighting, I was both unsurprised and excited to see them take creative control of the space. Following a few stage adjustments and some witty banter between lead singer/guitarist Erika Libero and drummer Blair Coppage, Bangzz began their set.

This was more my type of music, I thought. Not only did it jive with what I like musically, but as a woman in her late twenties, it was also lyrically relatable. When Erika introduced a song about men feeling the need to explain things that women already know, (aka “mansplaining”) I was hardly the only woman in the audience to chuckle. Perhaps most relatable though, was Blair’s announcement that she had to adjust between every song because her thighs were sticking to her stool. It was at that point that I turned to The Editor and said “I want to be friends with them.”

I loved their music, but it was the apparent chemistry between them that admittedly stole the show for me. So hi Erika and Blair, you rock. Let’s be friends.


I grabbed another beer just before ZenSoFly took the stage. By this point, empowered by Bangzz’s set – and maybe the PBR – I was feeling more comfortable in my role there. So when The Editor suggested I may want to be up front for ZenSoFly’s set, I didn’t hesitate. I settled into a new spot right next to the stage, and waited patiently as a stagehand made way for ZenSoFly.

Admittedly, rap is one of my least explored genres, and I usually have to listen to it alone and through headphones before I can judge whether I like it. Weird, I know, but it’s just one of those strange quirks.

Two thoughts immediately came to mind when ZenSoFly stepped on stage. First, there was something incredibly calming about her presence. Second, she radiated cool. I wanted every article of clothing she was wearing, from her retro Bulls hat down to her black Vans sneakers. And it’s just now, as I’m typing this, that I realize her stage name could not be more appropriate. She is somehow simultaneously zen, and so fly.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I also loved her set, every minute of it. And, I wasn’t alone. At one point I looked back to realize the place was more crowded than I had seen it all night, and every person appeared to be having the time of their lives. Like the other artists who had performed on this night, prior to her set, she had talked about what The Pinhook meant to her and went on about the incredible people she had met there. By the end of her set, as I looked around at how she had brought the crowd of people together through a dance move she had coined, I realized she had “that something special.” Those of you who are familiar with her music probably know that’s one of her lyrics. For those of you who are not familiar with her music, you may want to check out her Sunflowers EP.

ZenSoFly ended her set around 10:15. Knowing I had an early morning workout (I slept through it by the way) and wanting to end the night on a high note, I turned to The Editor and told her I was heading out. I knew I was on a music high, but it must have been more outwardly evident than I realized because she said “Did you have fun?” When I responded that I had had a great time, she said, “I can tell. You’re glowing.” She was right, I was.

It was at that moment that I realized I belonged there just as much as anybody else in that crowd. While all of the artists stepped on stage and shared what The Pinhook had meant to them over the years, I had been reminded what it first meant to me on that January night eight years ago. When I left I was excited, as I imagine everyone else there was, about what it could mean to me in the future. And that feeling, now and since forever, is the essence of The Pinhook.


Featured image is the logo of The Pinhook. 


5:50am pedaling past a glowing building tattooed with corporate lettering “WE WORK”! If only the occupants of that building knew… years ago in a room with yellow stained walls and shoes piled six feet high, people were gathered thinking about anything but work. Mer Shoe! If you remember that space, then you have beautiful cigarette-, booze-, and weed-filtered memories of great times. However, if you don’t remember, then it’s okay—you are still are benefiting from that time.

Back then, bandit musicians and artists taking over spaces, convincing restaurant and bar owners to let their bands play, were slowly shaping a venue-less Durham. Some saw the benefit, while others ended up with punctured walls and broken chairs. Most of those places are gone now, but you still benefit from that era, even if you weren’t there to see it.

The Pinhook was born out of the ashes and dreams of people living in the underground, squeaking by, putting up art, and making noise wherever they could.

The Pinhook… incubator of the underground. I say that because nowadays organizations (corporate Durham) throw around the term “underground” in advertising everything but the underground. Now home to numerous start-ups, business-types often refer to Durham as a hub for innovation, or incubator for these kinds of pseudo-underground businesses.

The people of the Pinhook, having created a space of openness for politics, sexual identities, and the arts, are among the elite cultural shapers and binders of the Bull City.

On any given night, you may see the next “big thing” band or a romp of locals making a ruckus, while bumping into local politicians, culinary kings and queens, the owner of some six-figure start-up, and that punk kid who lives on your block. They are there because they understand the value of The Pinhook culture. Part community center, part theater, and part epicenter of a guerilla movement towards positive change, The Pinhook has forever lived to serve local.

Have you been there? Do you know someone who works there? Are you a member of one of those bands practicing on a Sunday, the floor sticky with beer and smelling of rock? Have you scribbled something on the bathroom wall, added your band sticker to the collage of your forbearers? Were you there for those cloudy nights on the back slab watching the fireworks from the stadium? Have you seen the glow of high-priced entertainment from DPAC while sipping on your PBR in between sets at a punk show?

The Pinhook is a city within the city. They are the ambassadors of the underground, leading sometimes with a whisper and many times with a roar!

Thanks for being there for us. And happy birthday.


Featured photo is the logo of The Pinhook.

Preview: Jo Gore & Azul Zapata at Motorco, November 10, 2018

Earlier this week I met up with Jo Gore and Azul Zapata at one of my pseudo-office spaces, Sam’s Quik Shop. Sipping on water after expending a little bit too much energy hosting two events on behalf of the Beat over the weekend, I summoned myself into presence of mind to talk to these two lovely locals about their upcoming show at Motorco. Over the course of an hour and a half we shared an intimate conversation complete with giggles and tears, while touching upon topics like artistic inspirations, personal traumas, and the struggles of female artists in male-dominated industries.

On Saturday night (November 10th), these two proud women will share the stage for an all-female, all-local show at one of Durham’s biggest venues, the much-loved Motorco Music Hall. A night that promises to be every bit as girl power-inspired as it will be emotional, intimate, sexy, and fun, this night marks a big moment in the lives of these young artists. Tell me, dearest readers, how often have you seen an all-female, all-local lineup at a major venue on a weekend night? Yeah, me neither. “This moment for me is something I’m going to be bragging about when I’m 85,” Jo Gore said to me when I asked her about her hopes for the night. Meanwhile, Azul Zapata “had some pants tailor-made for this event,” which alone should indicate to you how important this night is to these two.

Support of local artists is something local artists often give to each other. As many a-local artist will say, sometimes community support can be a bit elusive, especially in a place like Durham where local arts are abound and conflicting events can often be an issue for turnout. This show on Saturday is not only a chance to see some celestial live local music, but an opportunity to support the performers, particularly Jo Gore, in a very tangible way. Jo recently launched a Kickstarter campaign that will continue only for the next few days to raise money to fund the making of her new album, a 20-track sensation called, “i am worthy” from which she will be performing at her headlining show on Saturday night. “I believe in my work,” she said. This Kickstarter campaign is meant to fund the professional treatment her work deserves. Due to be released on April 1, 2019, “i am worthy” promises to be a work of exceptional craft.

Born from an extreme human experience, the album is a vocally-driven and emotionally delivered triumph of female certitude, her power and pain and joy. “We women folk go through a lot of stuff and so often we stay silent. I’m not going to be silent anymore,” said Jo when talking about the spirit of this album. Many women, myself included, have experienced all different kinds of abusive behavior, from emotional and physical violence, to gaslighting, and sexual harassment. Jo’s album, “i am worthy” tells her story. “It’s a full picture,” she says, complete with the high moments of joy to the ultra low moments of extraordinary pain and suffering and doubt. Jo’s album is very much a deep personal expression which she delivers by way of a 3-piece band and her exceptionally well-trained voice. Raised by a deacon and pianist father, Jo has been singing quite literally for her entire life.

When she and Azul Zapata met for the first time at 2nd Wind in Carrboro two years ago, they instantly connected over their mutual love for singing and obvious talent for vocal artistry. Azul, who is a big hit here at Durham Beat, has been mesmerizing all of us here on staff with her elegant voice for months now, ever since the always-groovy music writer Zoe covered her show at The Station earlier this year. Having recently performed at our Monthly Market series at the Quik Shop, Azul is someone we’ve been happy to spend time with lately, and one whom we all here on staff are eager to continue supporting. When she wrote to me about to talk about this upcoming show, I jumped on the opportunity to do this preview spread.

As I am also a female artist (writer/journalist/editor) working in an industry (journalism) long dominated by men, and especially in a genre (Gonzo) that has been governed almost exclusively by men (great men tho!), I understand very deeply the struggle for validation that so many female artists go through. I have reached a point in my own life though, where the only validation I seek is my own. Am I living up to my standard? Am I being my best self? Jo and Azul exhibit this same level of personal confidence. Our meeting earlier this week served not only as a means to gather the necessary information for this piece, but as a coming together of like-minded women, all of whom are ready and eager to share our art with the world. Thus, I extend an invitation to you, readers of this article and humans across the triangle, to join us on Saturday night at Motorco for what promises to be a most delightful show.


Featured image provided by Jo Gore.

The Post-Show: Manifest III, October 19, 2018

Manifest, a two-day and three-venue showcase of queer, trans, and gender non-conforming artists from around the Triangle (with a few select guests from out of state), successfully concluded its third year this October. The most well-attended yet, Manifest III was an exceptionally well-organized and thoughtfully curated event series.

On both days, at all three venues (Local 506, The Cave, Nightlight), Durham Beat was on the ground to cover as many of the acts as possible.

I (The Editor) was stationed for the most part at Nightlight, although I did QUITE a bit of running around between the venues. If you attended, then you probably saw me, camera dangling, moseying around in my super dapper five-panel black hat with red roses on it.

One of our staffers, Riley the Photographer, performed at Manifest as a member of two acts on the lineup, Sidewalk Furniture and Severed Fingers, while also running around taking tons of excellent photos.

And of course, the always groovy and exceptionally stylish Zoe (who recently covered the Free Things Festival) spent her two days at Manifest roaming between The Cave and Local 506. Together we have composed a comprehensive two-part writeup to go with numerous photo series (on Instagram) documenting as many sets as we were able to see. Each section is signed by its author.



Noise from Spookstina opened the Nightlight stage on the first night of Manifest. As she began her set in the dark room, I flipped open my notepad, took hold of my tiny pencil, and started writing. I kept writing throughout her set. I couldn’t see the pages but I knew I was attaching words to them. Afterwards I read what I had written and, to my surprise, discovered that I had composed a poem right there in the dark during her set. Thus I present to you now my stanzaic coverage of Spookstina’s set…

Noise Mechanic

dark light
night light
and a triangle
and a slaughter-
house of noise
making broken
stanzas come
out of me

break me with
a million little
pecks of noise each
meaningless on their own
but together
a cacophonous wave
a horde of sound
a crescendo of magic
death don’t
wake me from
this dream
don’t make me

take this wire and
connect me to chaos
make me see
me in dark light
sparkle pbr
another no
stay no
leave no don’t
write poetry the
masses will not
accept it
fuck them

wind up toy
noise sprinkling
like rain shushing
me into a wakeful
dream gaze make
me make noise come
out of a pencil

came not for the
poetry of others

only for noise

metallic gestures
translated into

turn the bucket over
dump the noise
into the street and
let the people
wonder where
they were or could
have been another
day will not do
tomorrow is not

you are a noise mechanic

i can scream like
that too–just
the other day in
my car alone i
hear it now–
the primordial
scream the
anxiety belch
the noise catharsis
of my everyday

all the way to the static end

–The Editor

H.C. McEntire

H.C. McEntire, the vocalist of indie-alt band Mount Moriah, took the stage and announced that she would be performing solo. Some people (The Editor) might like their music with a bit of crunch, but I like mine soft. I have a weakness for artists that wear their hearts on their sleeves. Not wanting to neglect my duties to the Beat, I snapped pictures in between sips of whiskey.

“I have found heaven in a woman’s touch
Come to me now
I’ll make you blush”

This may be the first time in my life that I’ve gotten chills from a live performance.


Sand Pact

Anyone who has been regularly reading Durham Beat knows that I struggle with electronic music. Just the other day, a few days before Manifest, I had a very frank discussion about it with my friend Cool Boy 36. He told me the only thing about my Moogfest Zine that he didn’t like was that I kept calling all of the artists “DJs” when most are in fact musicians making electronic music live, like any other performing artist plays their instrument live. I understood, conceptually, what he meant and proceeded to remind him that I wholly admitted my ignorance in the very first chapter of that whirlwind story. Of course, everyone who has read the Moog Zine knows it wasn’t really about the music. Still, our conversation lingered at the forefront of my mind as I prepared to cover Manifest.

The glow from Spookstina’s set still cloaked me when Sand Pact took the stage. That glow would blossom into joy as the set unfolded. It was during Sand Pact’s set that I finally understood what Cool Boy meant when he was talking about “making it live.” Electronic musicians simply use different instruments. While this may seem like an obvious realization to those of you familiar with electronic, for me, coming from a much more traditional background in music, having been raised and trained in music by a purist (Hi, Dad!), recognizing electronic’s elaborate equipment as musical instruments (the way a piano and a trumpet are instruments) as opposed to tools playing something prerecorded–this was an epiphany for me. The nature of Sand Pact’s set made this moment of awakening a seamless experience. There I was, standing at the front of the crowd at Nightlight getting schooled.

An electronic duo, Sand Pact redefine what “playing together” looks like. Passing back and forth one set of headphones between them, Sand Pact is a team effort, each one taking turns to crush ears, lay down crunchy beats, and manipulate live noise into live music. Yes, dear reader, I did in fact dance during their set. Me and my clunky camera sweat out a good deal of anxiety on this night.

While dancing my phone buzzed with a note from Zoe who was over at Local 506 for the night’s sets. She told me she was seeing H.C. McEntire and that listening to the set was like “breaking my heart and stitching it back together in 45 minutes or less.” Struck by this, I wrote back that I was going to go break my heart so I could know what it feels like for Sand Pact to “fix me.” This is an appropriate moment now to abandon words… at least for a time. Riley the Photographer captured this shot of me immediately after the Sand Pact set ended.

Enough said.

–The Editor


Bangzz a powerhouse duo including one of the Manifest organizers, Erika Libero (also lead vocalist for Henbrain) and drummer Blair Coppage. It was rage in a bottle (Four Roses, to be exact). So many things that I hadn’t thought about before or just didn’t have the words to express were played out to my very ears. The Editor, who adores BANGZZ (and wrote about them recently), enjoys quoting them when she talks about being vocal with my words: “Take up space.”

During the set, I ran into Riley the Photographer at the front of the stage. I glanced away but for moment and I was unable to find them seconds later. The Editor texted me that Riley joined her at the Nightlight.



An obvious riff on the term “diaspora”, this one-human act is a wokeful charmer with a delightful stage presence. I have a tiny bit of poetry in me, as you know, so while I could manufacture several verbose ways to say what I mean, simplicity will do the trick here: this set was fire.

For those who may be unfamiliar, the predominantly academic term “diaspora” broadly refers to the migration or flight of a massive group of people from their original homeland and away from the traditions of that homeland–a migration that is, according to certain contemporary uses of the word, involuntary. The trans-Atlantic slave trade, for example, created the African Diaspora. Put another way, it is the forceable dispersal of a large group of humans into foreign practices and foreign spaces. If you are curious to know more, then a simple Google search will yield a plethora of excellent university-related works. However, if you’re more like me and you prefer artistic expression over theoretical intellectualism, then I strongly recommend you check out “to the Diaspora” by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks.

As I now return from my tangential stroll on campus, this definition of “diaspora” is obviously central to understanding the sound and message of Diaspoura, whose ultra woke stage commentary captivated an already attentive audience. Between their stage banter, their beats, their whimsical dance moves, and their fiery message, Diaspoura’s set was totally inclusive and musically inspired. (I have since been glued to their bandcamp page listening to their first release, Demonstrations.)

–The Editor

The Muslims

The Muslims never stop dropping the proverbial mic with their political thrash rock. Wearing a red “Make Racists Afraid Again” cap, the guitarist effortlessly putting to bed the notion that Irish were enslaved.

While taking a moment to show off their new band tattoos (3 identical horseheads, all still glistening), bassist Gen grabbed the mic and began to speak. The guitar fell in, the drums followed, and they began to jam. It went something like this: “We got tattoos! ‘Cause we fucking love each other! We fucking love each other! We fucking love each other!” Soon they had us singing along to a song that appeared to be made up on the spot.

It was clear the Muslims were having as much as fun as the rest of us. Not unlike a lollipop, underneath their tough exterior, they have a soft caramel center. Suck on that.



They played. It was loud. Mark was obviously trying to get used to their new setup, thus their set sputtered at the start. He still made sure to wrap the mic cord around his neck though, as one might expect from a “suicidal dystopian” noise maker. Their set eventually got going. The crowd loved it. Alison was killer as always. I really admire how she plays that bass like she’s got Jimi Hendrix living inside her hands. I don’t have much else to say about them. I’ve written quite extensively about sister,brother, much to their dismay. If you want to know what I really think about them, then read this. I’m sure they will hate how much you will like the way I write about them.

–The Editor

Pie Face Girls

I have seen this band play more than a few times. After the sister,brother set concluded Zoe, who I had compelled via text to join me briefly at Nightlight, and I made our way over to 506 in her classic VW Beetle (even though the venue was only around the block). It was cold and I had never ridden in a old bug before. It was like being in any other car but smaller and more groovy. When we pulled up to 506, we remarked to each other that we couldn’t hear anything. Zoe, who is much younger than me and blessed with an abundance of that early 20’s energy, popped out of the car in flash and went up to the door of the venue before I had even stepped out of the car. “They’re still playing!” she burst with excitement as she flung open the door and hastily made her way inside. I locked the car door, slammed it shut for good measure, and waltzed into the venue at my usual ambling pace. One PBR and shot of Jameson later, I found Zoe at the front of the crowd, giddily swaying to the heavy bass riffs of Pie Face Girls.

Playing for a packed house, Pie Face Girls owned the stage like true headliners. The crowd, wild with enthusiasm, sang along to familiar hits like “Fuck You, I’m Pretty”. As I slid over to the back of the stage to get some choice pictures, the crowd, populated by many familiar faces from other performing bands, broke out into an inclusive mosh pit. I watched Zoe as she gracefully glided out of the center of the pit in one large step and made her way over into a wallflower position. Jesse, lead vocals and guitar for Severed Fingers, had started the pit with Blair, drummer for BANGZZ. The energy in the room was high and no one, it seemed, wanted to leave. When the band asked for the time and discovered it was well past 1AM, they continued on anyway, much to the delight of all of us in that room.

When their set finally came to a close, and with it, the first night of Manifest, the crowd lingered awhile, smiles affixed to all of their faces as they mingled. Zoe and I stayed for a little while too, talking with so many of the lovely familiar artists we have both written about at length. Afterwards, we moseyed over to Heavenly Buffaloes for a late night snack and sat in my car listening to some very special unreleased tunes from my good pal Anjimile, a “queer/trans songmaker/lover boy” currently making waves up in the Boston music scene. Anji and I had been corresponding a lot in the days leading up to Manifest to discuss an upcoming release of theirs. I mentioned to them my excitement about covering the festival and how I wished they could be here. 

Many years ago when I was Managing Editor at Quiet Lunch Magazine, I had discovered Anjimile at a little local showcase at The Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge. Totally floored by their performance, I found them in the crowd afterwards and said, “I need to write about you.” I wrote about them extensively for my former publication and even made a music video. Following that experience, we become excellent friends and worked together creatively outside the world of journalism. It’s been over five years since Anjimile first burst onto the Boston music scene, but only now, all these years later, are they finally starting to be recognized for the truly special human that they are. Had a platform like Manifest existed in Boston during their formative years, where they could have gained exposure to a much wider audience far sooner, then I suspect it would not have taken so long for Boston to start listening them. The work that Erika and Sarah have done to create the Manifest platform is incredibly important–not only for being a space for dramatically underrepresented artists, but because a healthy and inclusive local art scene will create a culture of inclusiveness, will inspire more young people to pursue their artistic dreams, and maybe… just maybe, help to foster the right environment for a locally-supported creative economy where artists can make a living off of their art.

–The Editor

The Post-Show: The Muslims at The Fruit, August 30, 2018

The Muslims Do TOUR, which began on the “laborious” Labor Day weekend opened on August 30th at the Durham Fruit. I had not yet attended a show at The Fruit, so as I walked up to the entrance and scanned the entire space, I found myself in a daze, taking in all details of this unique venue space. From the graffiti unicorn on white cloth urinating a rainbow to its red sickle and hammer, I knew from aesthetic alone that I was in for a night to remember.  I met the gaze of the person who had been waiting for me to pay admission. It was cash-only this night as the band was raising money to fund their tour, but I did not have anything resembling legal tender in my pocket. Thankfully, The Muslims had a sliding scale admission of $5-10 and their Venmo and Cash app written down for anyone who might find themselves in line thinking, “Shit, money, shit,” expecting to be turned away to search for an ATM. When my phone would not load the apps, I asked if they needed proof of payment and was met with a “Nah, I trust you.” Community, y’all.

When I walked into The Fruit, I scanned the room and noticed the projection screen displaying clips from music videos by The Muslims and “Let’s Learn Arabic with Zachary.” The projection screen was to my right, while to my left I saw a unicorn shooting a rainbow from its loins with a Socialist hammer and sickle on the same cloth banner hanging on the wall. In front of the banner, I noticed a small display of merch items for sale: original, silver-pressed CDs of the band’s music, a zine put together by Laila, and more. I saw a crowd of people slowly filing in and made my way to the beer stand before there was a line. Once I grabbed a beer, I stood watching the band play around with tuning meanwhile asking the crowd about sound levels before stopping to let us know that it was Laila’s birthday.

I recently started listening to the band when The Editor asked me to dive into their self-titled album for a review on Durham Beat. I had not yet seen them live. From the very first track their energy, vocals, and instrumentation were reproduced to that same CD quality with the added benefit of seeing the members trade smiles, nods, and laughter before each song, as if playing out an inside joke. The crowd was trepidatious, in need of a bit of encouragement to move closer and unfold their arms to dance, but the band kept their same energy throughout each song and danced freely as they performed.

As I write this, the tour has finished and I can only imagine how well they must have done across the dates and venues. The Muslims have consistently proven to be a gem within the local music scene in Durham.

Featured photo by Riley The Photographer. #durhambeatoriginal

The Post-Show: Real Dad, Case Sensitive, Moon Ruin at The Pinhook, August 3, 2018

I composed this post-show writeup in my head several weeks ago. The demands on The Editor during those same weeks have forced me to carry this piece around with me while tending to the growing business of The Beat. Only now, long after the happenings have happened, have I been able to attach these words to the page. I could list the reasons why it has taken this long, but none of that will matter to the musicians who have been waiting for these words. I deserve to scathe myself because of this tardiness. And yet…

…right at this very moment I am sitting on my stoop with a cold beer, headphones on listening to that Jimi Blues, writing these words on actual paper, and feeling positively grand. I ruminate still on that August 3rd show.

“Look for a black hat with red roses on it, and a tiny pencil.” That’s what I said to Real Dad when I told him how to find me at his show. He had invited me, you see, to come as Durham Beat for his Friday night show at The Pinhook. I got all dressed up in my Editor uniform and casually made my way over to the show.

I rolled into The Pinhook moments before Case Sensitive took the stage. I went over to the bar and ordered a Natty Bo before heading to my usual front of crowd place. I soon realized I was missing something key and scurried back over to the bar for my ritual pre-show shot of Jameson. The bartender poured the last of the bottle out into the shot glass, then opened another bottle and topped off my miniature beverage. The girl next to me at the bar looked over at me and said, “You inspire me.” “Oh really?” I responded skeptically. “Yeah, I’m going to get a shot too.” I threw back the shot of brown and remarked, “It’s a good idea,” then made my way back to the front as Case Sensitive emerged from sound check and began their set with heavy guitar, deep bass, and wild drums. I recognized the song immediately. “Six Feet” is the second track from their two-sided single released earlier this year. I had done a little writeup about the release back then. In fact, it was the first piece I ever published on Durham Beat. I knew the song well, having listened to it dozens of times while dusting off my rusty journalist voice. I had seen Case Sensitive for the first time at a their album release show at The Station. They were every bit as glamorous as I remembered. Sporting casual black attire, the ladies rocked out, at times switching instruments with each other for different tracks. Ethereal female vocals combined with raucous stoner-rock-styled guitar riffs and a general DGAF attitude, all live at the heart of Case Sensitive’s sound. These women are not only inspiringly talented, they are decidedly true-to-self.

By the end of their set, the crowd had grown considerably. Their exuberant cheering for the all-female Carrboro-based rock trio was welcome noise to my ears. I am always gratified to bear witness to outpourings of love towards artists I’ve written about.

During the interim set switch, I found Real Dad over at the merch table, merch-less, and selling on behalf of the other bands. “I know you go by The Editor, but what’s your real name?” he asked me. To be clear, Real Dad’s real name is Nolan Smock. Many of you reading this raggedy writeup know this already, but in the world of gonzo journalism, staying true to character identities is a tenet of this artform’s authenticity. True-to-self was very much the theme of the night, as Real Dad’s set on this particular evening was an expression of personality and vulnerability. But before I get into all of that, I would be remiss to dismiss the second set from out-of-towners Moon Ruin, a synth-heavy four-piece from the midwest (Peoria, IL and Eau Claire, WI), who were passing through our dirty little city in support of an album released earlier this year.

Because of my experience covering Moogfest, the synth-centric art/tech festival hosted in Durham in the springtime, as well as innumerable other run-ins with electronic music, I have been a bit spent on the genre of late. Thus I must admit to you, dear reader, that while I found Moon Ruin to be of sound musicianship and their set of excellent quality, I was in no position to appreciate synth-centric sounds on this night. During their set, in between moments of Bon Iver-esque solemnity and sounds broadly resembling synth-inspired art rock, I fantasized I was in room with some string players and a harmonica. There may have been a piano there too. Lately I find myself craving the familiar noises of traditional musical instruments. I was drawn back into Moon Ruin’s set by their drummer, whose natural rhythm and energy lifted me from my synth-evading daze and yanked me back into the show. I made a point of finding him at the end of the night to thank him.

Following a brief tobacco-stained interlude between sets, I once again found my front of crowd place for what would be a wholly inspired set from Real Dad. In an atypical gesture, he announced to the crowd that “Durham Beat is in the house.” While I usually prefer to slide under the radar of showgoers, I am always happy to receive some public love from artists–since they do so often receive it from me, even if it is a tardy, self-deprecating, oddly poetic piece of prose. Real Dad did a solo set with the technological accompaniment of a sampler, while switching back and forth between guitar and bass. I have seen many one man shows in which the artist employs the aid of tech to make a set come to form, but those sets have always tended to be a bit ostentatious and sometimes overly technical. Real Dad’s setup was comparably modest. The man himself came across to me throughout our encounter as decidedly modest and comfortable in being vulnerable in front of people. I managed to capture on video the moment during his set where he quite literally shook off whatever inhibitions might have been plaguing him and he started to dance, slowly letting himself go, sliding fully into his Real Dad persona. Don’t worry y’all–I posted it on Instagram so you could share in the moment too.

Real Dad’s sound is not genre-specific. Real Dad is not a band. Real Dad is a music act intended to rouse your humanity, your uncomfortable self, the vulnerable you, to bring all of that into the light where it doesn’t matter if you dance like an al dente noodle, or if you cried a little bit during that one song, or if your heart is broken and there’s nothing you can do to hide it from anyone who might glance your way. I walked out of The Pinhook on Friday, August 3rd in an emotional state. Real Dad had summoned in me an acute awareness of some of my own vulnerabilities, so much so that in posting this piece now, as tardy as it is, I am laying myself open to all of you. And that’s okay.

Immediately following the conclusion of the night’s sets, I had the pleasure of conducting a Raw Bites Session with both Real Dad and Case Sensitive in the downstairs green room of The Pinhook. Our conversation touched upon many topics, not the least of which was vulnerability. Please enjoy.

The Post-Show: Free Things Festival 2018

Our tale begins at Hunky Dory. I was shopping for records when I ran into one of the organizers for the Free Things Fest. They pointed to the poster on the wall and personally invited me. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. First, it’s a free event. Second, I love music, but I’m poor and often find it difficult to bridge the two.

Lately, my lovely VW has been having a problem, which I have thrice paid to be fixed, only for it to resurface yet again. Lest my wheel should fall off while driving (which has happened before), I asked a family member if I could borrow their SUV for the day instead. As much of a bummer as it is to drive anything else, I always feel #blessed to have A/C for a change. I drove to Durham to pick up Riley the Photographer and we carpooled to the All Peoples’ Grill. I put on some driving music and Riley commented that ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ is “the ‘Free Bird’ of jazz.” I couldn’t disagree.

Rolling up to the festival, we saw a white concrete shack on the side of the road next to a field. A man in a panama hat was giving very confusing parking directions on the way in, but we were able to snag a front row spot from a car that was leaving. We couldn’t have had better luck, because now we had a direct view of the stage from our vehicle. As soon as we stepped out of the car, we were greeted by the smell of fish fry. There are few smells more welcoming to a Southerner than the smell of a fish fry. Soon we were joined by a mutual friend and we started exploring the grounds.

The woman at the information stand gave us wristbands and encouraged us not to “forget to leave with something from the table, it’s free.” I was unsure why they would give out wristbands at a free festival, but I was more than happy to oblige.

First we stopped at the water cooler for refreshments, then went to the lounge area for some shade. Walking by the food trucks, I noted that the vendors had not inflated their prices for the festival: $3 for cotton candy; $7 for red velvet waffles; $10 for the chicken & waffles special. There were no out-of-town corporate sponsorships. There was no VIP frou-frou. They didn’t even charge for parking. They were just good, honest folks who wanted to bring their community together for the sake of it. It all felt so wholesome.

In the shade, I played a game of horseshoes with Riley, then we walked around the makeshift outdoor gallery, looking at canvases affixed to the trees or just propped against them with a 2×4. Suddenly, a woman appeared out of nowhere and led us to a wooden archway covered in ribbons. She said “Write down a wish and put it in the jaaaar! All wishes made in the fairy forest come truuue!” I looked at my crew, skeptical, but when I turned back, she was gone. My childlike imagination envisioned that she had vanished into a cloud of confetti, but she probably just left for some fried catfish and a smoke.

I opted to make a wish in the fairy forest, but Riley said they would save their wishes for when they really needed them. I grabbed a flower pen from the jar and scrawled “WORLD PEACE”, which, admittedly, was a bit of a throwaway. I should have wished for something more practical, like some bug spray or a joint.

Towards the end of No Parking’s set, we visited the vendor’s table by the side of the stage. She was selling scented candles that she and her wife make at their home in Greensboro. She mentioned that the melted wax can also be used as a moisturizer. Out of all of the scents offered on her table, my favorite candle smelled exactly like Starbursts. It was pure, sugary deliciousness. I couldn’t get enough of that sweet nose candy.

Sarah Summers covered Aretha’s version of “Natural Woman” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. She also performed an original song entitled ‘Part of Me’. The crowd gathered around like flies to honey, like moths to a flame, like ants to a picnic. Everywhere people stopped in their tracks and listened. As she finished her set and was neatly leaving the stage, a distant voice in the field called out “do you wanna do another one??”

The next vendor was from The Microgreenery, and he was selling microgreens! What are microgreens, you say? Plants, after the sprouting stage, expend most of their energy on growth, resulting in a plant that is larger in size but lacking in nutrients. When harvested before the growing stage, they’re called “microgreens”. A plate of salad has few nutritional benefits compared to a cup of microgreens. I sampled a few varieties, and they tasted the same as regular greens, but just… micro. Before you ask, yes, microgreens are just a hipster word for sprouts. The interaction did seem more like a Portlandia sketch than reality, but I’m a vegan who hates salad, so I was sold on idea of having to eat less of it to be healthy.

I could feel a single bead of sweat collect at my nape and start its slow descent down my spine. “Let’s go sit in the shade.” I said to my companions. Riley offered, “Or we could go back to your car and sit in the A/C.” It was a novel idea. As we made our way to the last vendor, Riley was hit by a stray soccer ball. We ran back to the car and sat overlooking Tennis Rodman. I first noticed his energy and the intensity of his performance even in 90-degree heat. He even sampled his cat in his track! “Shoutout to my cat. Any of y’all got cats?” Still in the driver’s seat, I excitedly raised both of my hands for my two cats, but to no avail. Surveying the crowd he praised, “It’s great seeing so many black people here, great having culture supporting culture.”

We stayed until the end of 3AM Sound’s set and decided to call it a day. As easy as getting into the parking spot was, getting out of the parking spot was the opposite. The aisle was too narrow for an SUV to reverse! It took more than a few tries toing and froing, and it annoyed the drivers in the cars behind me whom I was blocking in. Riley asked if they should get out of the car and help me to reverse. My pull-out game was weak, but my fear of failure was stronger than ever. Determined to never admit defeat, I gave it one last try and finally cleared all of the parked cars. Leaving the festival grounds, we made a dash to Heavenly Buffaloes, which, as always, was divine. We congratulated ourselves for making the departure for downtown as night fell around us.

All original photography by Durham Beat’s own Riley the Photographer.

Album Review: The Muslims – “Self-Titled”

August 2017 was my inaugural experience of free, public events hosted in Durham’s Central Park as a fresh-faced resident of Durham County. I had been swiping through innumerable dating profiles to cope with the isolation of existing in a new city, while also preparing for graduate school and ravenously binge-watching HBO’s Insecure, before a blind date led me to stumble upon Laila Nur’s enchanting live performance. Nur’s banter with the audience espoused condemnations of institutional racism and gentrification, unabashed and at length, saying their artistry was an invitation to discuss issues not to avoid them.

A year later, I sat across from The Editor at Cocoa Cinnamon giddily fiddling with a handwritten list of bands I could review for Durham Beat, including a side project involving Laila called The Muslims, self-described as a “Punk band full of queer, Black/Brown moozlems & friends.” Punk, being an almost inherently political form, often still erases the narratives of POC and other marginalized groups—The Muslims adding themselves to the various outfits pushing against this problem within the genre.

Muslim Ban,” the track that placed both of its hands on my head and grabbed me through my ears, is a monologue drum and guitar instrumentation decrying, “We’ve been through this shit before/White people and building walls, that shit won’t keep us out/ Now they want a Muslim ban/Another racist president—white people fix your shit!” The music video for “Muslim Ban” opens with a fixed shot on a burning image of Donald Trump (or “Agent Orange” per the first track on the album) cutting to a sequence that presents an arrangement of sticky notes addressing this country’s many problems. “Muslims at the Mall,” a 90-second visual shot at Southpoint Mall, shows a person head-banging in a burqa comprised of Lilly Pulitzer fabrics, accompanied by a short burst of screaming vocals, irreverent and purposeful—the video was later taken down from YouTube and uploaded at Vimeo for an alleged violation of the former’s community guidelines. The Muslims, both an album and a band, are imbued with this sort of in-your-face gravitas and having fun while doing it.

During my aforementioned conversation with The Editor, one of the last questions she asked me was what I thought of genres. “Genre” serves the utility of creating a nomenclature for accessible consumption and comprehension, but The Muslims’ genre-blending content muddies these boxes, and their sound is not intended to be neatly packaged. The discussions happening within their songs shouldn’t necessarily be easy for the listener to comprehend or engage with, but rather a conversation on difficult topics ranging from oppression, marginalization to orange presidents. The Muslims launch their tour August 30th at The Fruit in Durham, NC with four other tour dates throughout August and September.

Featured image is The Muslims album cover.

The Post-Show: Waking April, Dane Page, LAIRS, at The Pinhook, July 9, 2018

I went to The Pinhook on Sunday, July 8th by invitation of Raleigh-based synth duo, Waking April. They had written to Durham Beat to convey their regards and to make us aware of the show. As it turns out, I was planning to go anyway, but an invitation from the band? Yes, please.

I arrived at the show shortly before the opening act, Durham-based trio LAIRS, took the stage. One Natty Bo and shot of Jameson later, I found my usual stage front position and settled in to listen to the first of three local North Carolina acts on the bill. With a sound ranging from blues rock, to psychedelic indie rock to occasional flairs of Brit Pop, LAIRS set was high energy, audience inclusive, and straight up crunchy. During one song, lead singer and guitar player Patrick, pulled a friend up on stage to take over guitar duties, while he assumed the role of full-fledged lead vocalist, leaning into the crowd, and–dare I say–flirting with us with his amiable gesticulating. It’s sets like theirs that remind me time and time again how important it is to show up early to catch the opener. Much of the audience at this well-attended show turned up during the second set, missing out completely on an incredibly promising up-and-coming group from right here in town. To paraphrase myself from a previous local band writeup: the easiest way to support your local music scene is to show up. Luckily, you, dear reader, will have a chance to catch them in just a couple of weeks at one of my favorite local hangouts, The Station.

The second set came from the Charlotte-based indie folk act Dane Page. Two guitars, synth, bass, and drums. With sounds ranging from eerie-Bon Iver-esque to upbeat folksy to ambient to straight up swampy, Dane Page has captured the essence of nouveau indie folk. Harnessing the electronic edge that has steadily crept its way into folk music, Dane Page has a balanced, accessible sound that I want to keep hearing. This is all not to mention the utterly delightful and captivating vocals. Charmed. That’s how I felt at the end of the set. This Sunday evening show, as I later discovered when I went to chat with the band, was their first time playing in Durham. Something tells me they will be back soon…

The night culminated with the headlining set from synth pop duo Waking April. Their setup is very straight forward: Alex on electric guitar and vocals, and Bethany on vocals and synth. Rocking a sound ranging from soft and ethereal to super edgy dance pop, this high energy duo weaved between original songs and a few choice covers, including a brilliant rendition of “Blood in the Cut” by K.Flay. Last year, I had been shamelessly blasting that very song out of my car at all hours–stung as I was then by a certain faux feminist asshole who had broken my heart–but on this night, this cover, this set, hearing Alex and Bethany perform this song was very much a celebration. And I was so delighted to hear it live and done with such precision and energy. When I eventually left the venue to head back to my quiet little corner of Durham, I carried with me the residual energy and joy from a night of positively wonderful local sounds.

Immediately after Waking April left the stage, I joined the duo in the downstairs artist hangout of The Pinhook for a Raw Bites session. I invite you to listen to our post-show chat:

Check out the photo series from the show on Instagram!