Artist Profile: Cool Boy 36

Editor’s Note: This piece was written for print and is the feature writing in the limited edition REUPCYCLE LOOK BOOK Zine, a collaboration between Durham Beat and Cool Boy 36. To purchase the look book, please visit our online shop HERE.

Blaine Wyatt Carteaux. Yes, that’s his real name. You might know him better as Raund Haus co-founder and local fashion artist Cool Boy 36. I met Blaine for the first time in the weeks leading up to Moogfest 2018. As the resident local journalist dedicated to covering all of the local sets, I first started to get to know Blaine in the short, intense burst of time surrounding the festival. I knew from the very first moment I met him that he is an innovator. Quixotic though he may be at times, Blaine is a fiercely self-aware individual who effortlessly emanates an energy of uniqueness.

Born in upstate New York and raised in North Carolina since the age of eleven, Blaine has been making art for his whole life. Through the years he has walked down many creative roads. From his early affection for street art, sketching and drawing, to the design, screenprinting, and VHS video art of his current path, Blaine has been a fearless navigator of “creating something in a non-traditional way.”

“I started as a design student at UNC Greensboro,” he told me over drinks at Criterion. During his five years in undergrad, he dabbled in mediums ranging from photography to etching. Throughout these formative experiences his design process grew, became more intentional, and more inclusive of different mediums. By the time he finished college and had landed in Durham, the spark for Cool Boy 36 had already been lit.

Fashion wasn’t something he studied in school. His passion for it grew over time and took root when he worked in fashion retail. Between flipping through fashion magazines on breaks to the inevitable people watching of the mall, his observations and experiences during this time would help inform his path to come. His first foray into fashion would come in Durham when Cool Boy 36 was little more than a great notion waiting to be born. Thanks to an injection of income from a tax refund, Blaine was able to do his first-ever run of shirts under the Cool Boy 36 brand. Now five years old, Cool Boy 36 is an established presence in Durham.

Cool Boy 36 is as much an artist persona as it is a brand. The aesthetic of Cool Boy is driven by Blaine’s longtime affection for street art–everything from graffiti to busking to trash art and found art. To his core, Blaine is a street artist. While today the Cool Boy 36 brand represents a much larger body of work and artistic mediums, street fashion is the cornerstone. The Cool Boy garments are every bit as unique as the artist who makes them. One of the fundamental qualities of the brand is the non-traditional approach to production. No two garments are ever the same. Cool Boy 36 specializes in limited edition one-of-one garments, each its own unique piece of art, which can never be truly replicated. If fashion is meant to help people express their individuality through personal style, then Blaine’s approach is true fashion sense. Over the last year, Blaine describes himself as having “hit a stride” and achieving “a level of rarity I’ve always wanted.” The Durham environment has certainly aided in Blaine’s creative ascension.

Since Blaine has been living in Durham, the Cool Boy 36 brand has been reacting to the growth and changing landscape of the city. “I’ve been growing as the city is growing,” he told me. Durham is home to a vibrant art scene, some publicly funded, some strictly DIY, but all of it furiously local, and often intersecting. Blaine himself describes Durham as having a “very open artist community” where people are “down to collaborate.” But in the midst of this highly creative space, there exists a particular chaos that goes beyond people and art and community.

Durham is undergoing a transformation for all to see. Construction makes itself known everywhere it goes: orange cones, workers in green and orange vests, fences, piles of dirt and rubble, and dead empty lots. All of these images exist in the daily life of Durham. This is the everyday chaos of tangible change that Cool Boy has captured in his REUPCYCLE clothing line.

For this new line, Blaine designed images inspired by urban development, signs posted, utility work, orange lines spray painted on the street. Bright colors and images of chains, “restricted area” signage, and his own rendition of Durham’s recycle logo, all reflect the face of a space in flux, of a city preparing itself for a massive infusion of new residents, and with them, new cultural values. According to city officials, Durham is currently growing at a rate of 20 new residents per day, or 7,300 per year. The city has grown more than 12 square miles since 2000, and has already seen a 22% increase in population during the decade of 2000-2010.

Durham’s changescape is highly visible, and yet the impending impact of these changes is most often heard in cursory complaints about traffic and parking and housing and road closures and spontaneous utility work–the usual quotidian dilution of a much larger conversation. Still, Durham is fighting the implications of its gentrifying trend, walking the contradictory line between embracing the inevitability of growth, while also seeking to retain aspects of its identity that are at risk of being eradicated by that same persistent change.

The REUPCYCLE line is both a reaction to and reflection of this transformation. Blaine deliberately calls attention to Durham’s changescape through his use of color, color manipulation, and street-inspired imagery. The utility orange color of construction is a bright camouflage for gentrification in Durham. Utility work and construction sites around the city throw up signs, build fences, and spray paint lines on the street, creating a particular visual aesthetic, and, at the same time, an unintended street art. No matter where you live in Durham or even elsewhere in the Triangle, the visual of change and growth, as indicated by this unintended street art, is widespread. Those of us living in Durham breathe that dusty air, drive on those torn up streets, swerve to avoid poorly placed road plates and erroneous cones, and watch the prices for consumables slowly creep up.

This is an appropriate moment to mention bleach. In addition to the unique designs of Blaine’s REUPCYCLE garments, one of his Cool Boy 36 trademarks is his use of bleach to manipulate color and create distortion. While the use of bleach on garments in this way is typical for the Cool Boy 36 brand, it carries special significance to this REUPCYCLE line. Bleach is a product typically used for cleaning, to make clear again that which was distorted by dirt and grime. Blaine uses bleach in a way that directly contradicts its traditional purpose. He creates color chaos. He distorts the original crisp coloring of a garment to imbue a sense of commotion into the very products he makes. Then, by screenprinting his designs on these distorted garments, he has simultaneously created a background of the dusty mayhem of a city wrought with construction, while overlaying his interpretation of the Durham changescape’s unintended street art. REUPCYCLE is very much the embodiment of a complicated relationship between the artist and his space. It is also a rigorous commentary on the fashion industry.

The REUPCYCLE name is meant to evoke the thought of recycling, “something that needs to be continually promoted,” as Blaine said to me. The name is also a riff on the common street term “re-up”, which simply means to resupply one’s stash. The union of these two practices does more than simply tie together Blaine’s passion for street culture and his clothing brand; it is also a nod to the process and the materials used to create REUPCYCLE.

“I’m sick of the waste of the fashion industry,” Blaine told me. An oft glossed over topic, even in this contemporary time when repurposing and recycling have become more prevalent, the waste of the fashion industry remains rampant. According to an NIH study published in 2007 called “Waste Couture”, the fashion industry is second only to the oil industry in polluting. Only a fraction of clothing donated to charities and thrift shops stay stateside for reconsumption by the American consumer. Nearly half of all used clothing is shipped overseas. Between 1989 and 2007, the total weight of used clothing shipped from the United States rose to seven billion pounds per year.

Ever mindful of this reality, Blaine actively seeks out used clothing to serve as the canvas for his designs. He visits thrift shops across Durham to find garments he can give new life to and make relevant again. This practice is uniform across all Cool Boy 36 fashion productions. It is especially relevant to the REUPCYCLE line ostensibly because it seeks to promote recycling and the culture of repurposing existing materials. Similarly, the Durham changescape maintains an element of this “repurposing” of existing spaces. While new development all over the city has popped up at an alarming rate (in light of the population explosion), several small businesses have taken the initiative to use existing infrastructure to house new offices or retail spaces or venues. The Durham Fruit is a good example of this: once home to a fruit packing warehouse originally built in 1926, the former industrial warehouse has since been successfully converted to a multipurpose arts and event space… an old building made relevant again by a new purpose.

REUPCYCLE embodies within it the very heart of Durham’s struggle to grow while still maintaining its authenticity and edge. As a member of the artist community which thrives here, Blaine, through this project, has contributed substantial commentary on Durham’s present moment and its difficulty in reconciling its future self with its present identity. This fashion line is a statement, an authentic and unforgiving reflection of Durham right now. From concept to process to final product, Blaine has produced clothing for people who consume art, while also delivering a solemn, although brightly colored, message to anyone who wears or encounters one of his REUPCYCLE garments: look up, look around, understand where you live.

I am also a resident of Durham and a member of the local artist community. Throughout this months-long collaboration with Blaine, we have shared many moments of mutual lament about the changescape of Durham. Having already been displaced from my home city because of the economic violence of rapid gentrification, working on this project has struck a chord in me. I have already seen what happens when development is not merely left unchecked, but actively pursued regardless of cultural impact. This look book collaboration, from the perspective of your humble author, is a stake in the ground, a declaration to fight for the heart of Durham, to preserve its authenticity, its edge, and especially the creative economy of the local artist community.

Featured Photo: Cool Boy 36 Polaroid by Tyger Locx.

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!

FESTIVAL FOR THE ENO: Staff Picks (Part Two) for July 7th

The Festival for the Eno is a well of potential–from aspiring local musicians and craftmakers, to inspired food truck chefs, to the Eno itself, a beloved local ecosystem, a source of clean water, and a community space for the enjoyment of local natural beauty. For the 39th Annual Festival for the Eno, the organizers did an outstanding job bringing together excellent local talent, some hella keen visiting acts, and, of course, the community itself.

For the second and final day of the festival, we have put together a robust list of picks for those festival-goers out there. Even if you can’t make it to the festival this weekend, be sure to check out these outstanding local acts!

Staff Picks Part Two–July 7th

XYLEM–10AM at River Stage

When I bumped into Donovan on July 4th at the Eno, he told me his band plays “psychedelic space jazz” and I was, of course, instantly intrigued. Later that day I spent some time on their SoundCloud and that’s when I knew I was going to be at the festival early on Saturday in time to catch their set for myself. I can’t think of a better way to kick off Day Two at Festival for the Eno than with some space jazz down by the river.

Chatham Rabbits–11:30AM at Chimney Stage

A local folk duo rocking banjo and acoustic guitar, Sarah and Austin bring to the stage a reverence for traditional folk music with a flair for the contemporary. Formed back in 2013, Chatham Rabbits have been gracing stages across the South, bringing with them a genial sound and North Carolina roots. This set promises feel-good vibes and a whole lot of dancing.

Nathan Bowles–1:15PM at Grove Stage

A fixture in the local scene, Nathan Bowles is a multi-instrumentalist wandering between “Appalachian string band music and avant-garde composition…” His latest solo album, Whole & Cloven explores this genre-straddling in-depthly. His set at the Eno is one you won’t want to miss.

Honey Magpie–10AM at Meadow Stage OR 1:15PM at Chimney Stage

Honey Magpie is a three-piece all female indie folk band from Chapel Hill who released their debut self-titled album last summer. Vocal harmonies, string instruments, and a wide array of musical influences, they make captivating, graceful sounds. Honey Magpie is a must-see.

Stray Local–1:45PM at Meadow Stage OR 4:15PM at Chimney Stage

Stray Local hails from Wilmington, bringing with them a feel-good indie folk vibe. Like many of the artists on this list, Stray Local’s sound spans the depth of folk music, from its most traditional string sounds to its new electronic edge. This set promises to be as riveting as it is delightful, and certainly dance-worthy.

Tan & Sober Gentlemen–315PM at River Stage

A riotous bunch playing celtic-inspired punkgrass. Having seen this band before, they are nothing short of spitfire fun. The River Stage seems to be hosting the loudest of the music at this year’s Festival for the Eno. Wander over there at 315PM on Saturday and get wild with the Tan & Sober Gentlemen.

NiiTO–3:45PM at Meadow Stage

Jazz meets R&B with a distinct millennial twist. NiiTO has been making waves in the scene lately, playing shows all over the Triangle with hip hop artists to singer songwriters. This band is highly skilled and super fresh. We hope to see you over at the Meadow Stage for this one!

Be sure to check out the full lineup for July 7th at the Eno. Don’t forget to check out the many excellent local craft vendors. The folks at Festival for the Eno have compiled a complete list. If you’re going to be at the festival, then we look forward to seeing you there. If not, then tune into our Instagram pages and follow along with our coverage!

Featured Image courtesy of Festival for the Eno and Eno River Association.

FESTIVAL FOR THE ENO: Staff Picks (Part One) for July 4th

We are very excited to be participating in the Festival for the Eno this year. Spanning two days, July 4th and July 7th, the Eno River festival promises to be a treasure-trove of excellent local talent (with a few choice visitors too!), musicmakers and craftmakers alike.

We have taken some time to go through the entire festival schedule to put together some recommendations for those of you who are planning to attend. Even if you’re not going to be there, we strongly urge you to check out these acts!

Staff Picks Part One–July 4th

Charles Latham–10AM at Meadow Stage

One of the first acts to play at the Festival for the Eno this year, the Durham-based singer-songwriter should be a transcendental way to start the day. Introspective and ethereal, Latham’s music captures a wide range of the human experience.

Violet Bell–12:15PM at Grove Stage

A string duo–guitar and fiddle–Lizzy and Omar are both incredibly skilled musicians with a positively delightful stage presence–something to which we can personally attest as we covered Violet Bell at their recent residency at Arcana. You can listen to our chat on the Raw Bites Sessions as well. One of the most promising nouveau indie acts in the area, Violet Bell is an absolute pleasure to behold.

Lightnin Wells–1PM at Grove Stage; 3:15PM at Chimney Stage

A long-time local icon and keeper of the traditions of local folk music, Lightnin Wells is a must-see. From 1920s blues and folk to the ever-popular Piedmont style, Lightnin’s performances are an ode to the local musicians of old and an opportunity for the present day audience to glide through time with a man who is as much a performer as he is a living archive.

The Birdhorse–1:30PM at Chimney Stage

Toni Hartley is enchanting. Her sophomore album, Fool’s Adventure, released in March of this year, is a big hit here at Durham Beat. Recently featured in our collective long-form album review column, TL;DR Reviews, Fool’s Adventure is a nature walk through a forest of human emotion. We are beyond excited to see Hartley perform live and to experience her lovely voice in person.

Chatham Rabbits–2:30PM at Chimney Stage

A local folk duo rocking banjo and acoustic guitar, Sarah and Austin bring to the stage a reverence for traditional folk music with a flair for the contemporary. Formed back in 2013, Chatham Rabbits have been gracing stages across the South, bringing with them a genial sound and North Carolina roots. This set promises feel-good vibes and a whole lot of dancing.

War Twins–3:30PM at River Stage

One of the few non-local acts to make the staff picks list here–War Twins embody the spirit of rock n’ roll. Their new album American Kids is a profound culmination of diligence and dreams. Gaetana and James got their start years ago in Boston where The Editor, who was working as Managing Editor at Quiet Lunch Magazine at the time, featured them (known as Little War Twins then) in her column The First Act. Several column inches, tours, and life events later, this unexpected reunion at the Eno River promises to be a fervent display of American rock n’ roll in its newest and truest form.

Boom Unit Brass Band–4:30PM at River Stage

It’s hard to go wrong with a brass band. A multi-instrumental ensemble from Chapel Hill, Boom Unit Brass Band is composed of highly skilled musicians, many of whom participate in other local projects. This set promises to be noisy, fun, and inspired.

Simone Finally–4:45PM at Chimney Stage

A Durham-based musician, Simone Finally is one woman with a guitar and a lyrically-driven style. Since stumbling upon her music recently, I have been camping out on her SoundCloud page. Another lovely voice to be sure, Simone’s set will be a most enjoyable way to end day one at the Festival for the Eno.

Be sure to check out the full lineup for July 4th at the Eno. A number of local craft vendors will be onsite as well. The folks at Festival for the Eno have compiled a complete list. If you’re going to be at the festival, then we look forward to seeing you there. If not, then tune into our Twitter and Instagram pages and follow along with our coverage! Stay tuned for our July 7th picks later this week!

Featured Image courtesy of Festival for the Eno and Eno River Association.

The Post-Show: MAKE/BELIEVE by Culture Mill

On a recent Friday, I attended a performance of MAKE/BELIEVE by Saxapahaw-based nonprofit, Culture Mill. Eager to be on time, I left the office early to make my way from Durham to Graham for the 5pm start time. I’m a frequent attendee of Culture Mill’s summertime series “Trust the Bus,” wherein passengers climb onto a Bluebird school bus and are transported to a surprise location for an undisclosed art performance. MAKE/BELIEVE is a new hybrid version of this approach. Half of the audience began with a walking tour of downtown Graham, and half were transported on the bus from Saxapahaw.

As I rolled through Graham’s version of rush hour traffic, it occurred to me that there are only about three blocks in between “where is this place?” and “oh, I’m literally in the middle of the town now.” Traffic was bustling for a small town, but I was able to swing into a parking spot directly in front of Press Coffee & Crepes, where I had arranged to meet a friend before the performance. Press has a surprisingly lush interior and a distinctly hipster vibe. From a late cold spell, we had tumbled straight into blistering Carolina summer, which hit hardest that afternoon, and the café’s cool, dark interior was a welcome relief.

As five o’clock drew closer, we wandered out into the still-searing sunlight and made our way around a traffic circle which encompassed an extremely stately courthouse—clearly the center of civic activity around these parts. We passed by the unmistakable Dana Marks, Managing Director of Little Green Pig and well-known local actor and musician, lounging on a bench in a black evening gown. I gave her a big grin and wave, but ever the consummate professional, she remained stern-faced and unaffected. We realized that we had made our way to the southwest corner of the circle, and not the specified southeast corner, so we crossed at a highly official looking crosswalk, exaggerated in scale considering the small road and minimal traffic it officiates. But I got that impression about a lot of Graham—that it has been laid down in excess, as if someone was planning something.

We joined the small crowd milling about outside of a shuttered storefront and were checked off a list by Lauren Monroe, Culture Mill staff and production manager for MAKE/BELIEVE. The heat was stifling, and I broke out a cheap folding fan. This was not my first Culture Mill rodeo. Their performances have always been enjoyable, but rarely air-conditioned. At one past event the heat was so terrible, bags of ice were distributed to those deemed elderly or infirm. I came prepared.

After a time, Lauren directed us around a corner, to where dancer and Co-Director Murielle Elizéon stood on a folding chair in a gravel lot, wearing a black satin evening gown. She beckoned us with her arms to gather around. “Closer” she said. “Closer, closer… Not too close!” she chastened suddenly, eliciting quiet laughter as she threw up her hands. She gently invited us now, “before we begin,” she said, to take exactly one minute to turn exactly 360 degrees and notice everything around us. With the rest of the group, I rotated slowly, overestimating the length of a minute in my head. As we circled, she spoke to us about place. What is a place? What is this place? If a place is composed of the people there, what effect are we having right at this very moment? As we came around again, she asked us to actively “notice” and to point to anything we noticed in particular. She raised her hand and pointed slowly, gracefully, and directly at me. I had stepped slowly back from the crowd in order to snap a surreptitious picture and was caught! She smiled though and pointed with her other hand towards the courthouse. We moved on.

Arms outstretched as if beckoning us along with her like little ducklings, she led us back around the traffic circle. We passed an old brick building and she invited us by wordless example to come up and lay a hand upon the wall. Stepping into the generous crosswalk, she guided us to the courthouse steps, where she prostrated herself for a moment on the warm concrete. One man, inspired by the brick-touching exercise, reached down and placed his hand on the concrete as well. Elizéon rose up and invited us to close our eyes and focus our attention on the shaded northwest corner of the block, where cellist Shana Tucker was seated and began to serenade us. The music was beautiful, but the audience stood facing directly into the sun, and the fear that my cheeks might actually burst into flames became somewhat of a distraction.

Still shepherded by Elizéon, we forged through traffic again, strolling past a local restaurant patio, where we were observed with polite amusement by the locals, and with unabashed curiosity by the children, who loudly asked “who are they?!” “I think they’re on some kind of tour” shushed the parents. I wanted to lean over and whisper “don’t worry… it’s art”; a panacea of a statement which always seems to both calm fears and end inquiry.

We paused again, waiting obediently for a moment until we were beckoned forward. As we walked, the Culture Mill bus pulled up beside us in a sunny gravel lot overlooked by a lofted warehouse space. The bus doors opened, and as the guests who had arrived by bus joined us in the lot, a disembodied voice began humorously narrating the scene from a speaker in the corner. “The crowd turns.  Who are these people from the bus? Where is this incredibly talented man that is speaking to them?” the voice said.

A moment later a pair of barn doors in the warehouse loft overlooking the lot opened up, and a tall man in a tuxedo revealed himself. Patience, an actor known for work with Little Green Pig (among other projects) spoke poetically to the crowd about the history of the building, which had been used for various types of agricultural auctions. He talked about “value” and “place” and “history,” as well as the buying and selling and assigning of value. He referenced but slid obliquely past the topic of the buying and selling of people. There were also a few comical moments as he answered his cell phone or spoke to an individual offstage. These interludes eased the somewhat ridiculous spectacle of several dozen people standing in a hot parking lot staring up at a guy in a tuxedo waxing poetic about tobacco farming.

As his remarks came to a close, two small children in formal wear, like mischievous elves, appeared behind us and beckoned us to follow them. They dashed ahead impatiently, waiting just long enough so as not to lose us. We circled the building and headed up a flight of decrepit stairs to a wide open room with a few rows of folding chairs. Lauren and Dana offered us water and paper fans (a nod to the intense heat that followed us as we settle into the space). I responded to the offer of a fan by brandishing my own. Dana laughed, “You’re a smartie!” As we took our seats Dana continued this banter with the audience, but as we settled in, her teasing and questioning morphed into a sort of stylized auction.

In a row facing the audience, Patience (now drumming) was seated next to Tommy Noonan (soon dancing), and Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins sat next to his trademark marionette, followed by Murielle Elizéon and Shana Tucker. Lined up in front of us, each stood and performed in turn as Marks called them out. Meanwhile she exhorted the audience “five dollars? Ten? Do I hear fifteen?” As she spoke, she wasn’t just auctioning the performances, though; she was auctioning the concept of art. “Okay Shana, play that cello in the real-est, most authentic way possible!” Dana chanted to us over and over “Is it real? Is it worth it? Do you buy it?!” Will you buy it, she asked but also—do you believe it? Do you buy into it? I couldn’t help but remember that this was a free performance. What did she mean? What was being asked of us, if not money? The auction ended dramatically at $200. It was unclear what transaction had taken place.

Noonan then launched into a spoken word piece, with accompaniment from Tucker. The heat had started to fade and his voice and Tucker’s cello were hypnotic, as he spoke about the history of Graham and of past generations working in the fields. He painted a nostalgic picture, not idealized so much, but detailed, real, and very much a picture of a lifestyle that has passed away.

After Noonan finished his piece, the performers filed out while the crowd sat for a moment looking about wondering “is this it?” until the two children from earlier reappeared. They beckoned us down the stairs, miming impatiently as if to say “What’s the holdup? Come on guys!” Back out on the street, the performers posed on the other side of the road, giving us a moment for applause before disappearing into the scenery.  I couldn’t help but notice the looks on the faces of the folks driving between us, the audience on the west side, and the formal-wear clad performers on the east. Half a dozen vehicles drove slowly through, visibly noticing, looking from side to side, and tilting their heads in confusion. Again, I wanted to whisper to them “Don’t worry, it’s just art”.

Stuck in that dreamy post-performance haze, and not quite ready to return to the real world, I walked back towards the coffee shop where I had started and opted for Fitzgerald and Faulkner, a cocktail bar located upstairs. As I wrote up my notes on the performance, I listened to the bartender’s banter about Michelin Stars and fine wines and obscure garnishes. They seemed to be lifelong service industry types, the kind with copious tattoos and very specific opinions about foie gras. I asked them what they thought of Graham. They said they love it; they think it’s the next big thing. I had to ask if they were from Graham. Not at all; they were from Florida and Asheboro respectively. I asked them if anyone was actually from Graham. Oh no, they said, not anyone that comes in here, anyway.

I was reminded of Murielle’s musings from earlier. What is a place? What effect are we having right at this very moment?

The Post-Show: Brassious Monk, “Working…” Album Release, June 23, 2018

I’m one of those pieces of shit that you never see at shows, one of the ones who “has to get up early” but really just wants to hang with boo. Don’t get me wrong, I only want the most for local musical artists, but I suck at going to their performances.

The Editor asked me to attend Brassious Monk’s release of Working… and I was definitely into it in theory. Local hip hop artists at a new music venue, an intimate setting in which to appreciate what still (unfortunately) proves for me to be mostly-unknown genre territory. But like,


Goddamn, the shit starts so late and has four openers that you’ve never heard of, and you’re tired and you live in Durham and shit. Without traffic, you’re looking at a 25 minute drive one-way, not including looking for parking. Then you have to risk your life (or freedom) driving whilst towing the forbidden .08 back to the Bull City, because lord knows if you’re going to get through this night, you’re gonna need a few drinks. You start to make up other things to get upset about just to give you more reasons not to go. Netflix and chill looks more and more tempting…

But fuck it. You said you would, so you will. This is what I, the aforementioned piece of shit, had to tell myself to attend what turned out to be one of the most inspiring performances I’ve seen in Raleigh thus far.

The Wicked Witch is a cash-only venue on the outskirts of South downtown Raleigh, kind of on the edge of the warehouse district. You walk up two flights of really sonically-intriguing stairs and end up in one of those spots that you never would have guessed was there if you looked at the building from the outside. I bet this joint is gonna have killer Halloween parties for the rest of time. I bought my first drink (a dark and stormy, for you gingery bitches who were interested), sat down, and spilled my petty bullshit to The Editor, who is somehow always down to go anywhere to see local live music. DJ Aston Martin was dope, I knew, but I needed a little more warm up time (and a few more drinks) to truly begin to vibe on what was happening.

BluHouse Band’s groove-rooted psychedelic hip hop was followed by a terrifyingly real performance by Durham’s own JooseLord that made me just about, how do you say, “break [my] fuckin’ neck.” Granted, I got really, really excited by BluHouse’s bass/drums rhythm section who held it DOWN in the face of guitar solos played from back-of-neck, but seriously. Joose is one of those artists that everyone loves to hate but everyone needs to listen to if they want a real peek into the minds of Black men who’ve been tortured by systemic racism for their entire lives but still, somehow, have a sense of humor about it. Later in the night, Joose told me that he loved the Durham punk band Pie Face Girls and that he’d played on bills with them in the past, which seemed to me to be one of the most profoundly fucking perfect lineups that I would ever get to see. Someday.

So, at this point, these openers became more than just openers to me. In the words of Brass himself, “I hate when people don’t come to see the supporting acts. Like, if you respect me enough to see the show, you should respect my choices in artists that I want to support me.” True. Each performance played a role in creating a sounding board for Working… to grow from; they were all imperative for both the audience and Brass to feel the full impact of the release. Joose called us all into the room, where eventually Brassious Monk, the perfectionist, meandered on the stage, sat down at a card table equipped with a desk lamp and a laptop, and inconspicuously made his project available online for purchase. He performed the first track, left a sign that simply said “Gone Fishing” on the card table, and disappeared.

Alright, cool. Another track starts playing, we’re all out here looking like content pitbulls, smiling about nothing, slightly confused, tongues hanging out (nah I’m just playing). A voice comes out of nowhere. A few cues from the audience lead me to look along the mirror-lined walls to find Brass, decked out in a fishing vest and cap with fairy lights running down his arms and torso, spitting rhymes while circling a plastic crystal ball on the floor.

This has got to be the point when I realized that I had completely gotten over myself. Like, I was SO glad that I was in this room, arm’s-length from the artist who had brought us all together that night, on the edge of the small group who had made it to the end. Yes, the aforementioned piece of shit made it to the END because of the sheer power of community and hip-hop! Brass’s set was perfect despite his own disclaimers, filled with intimate narrative about his life and beats to match. After what seemed like no time at all, it was all over, and I found myself wanting so, so much more.

So let this be a testament to us all. GO TO SHOWS. SUPPORT LOCAL ARTISTS. Even when you’re a piece of shit like me. The artists will definitely be grateful that you came, and hopefully you’ll feel better than you did before you left your bed.