I arrived at The Station shortly after 9PM. As I crossed the parking lot I could hear the brass noise of the opening act beckoning me forth. “Onward,” it said. “Come hither girl.” I stepped inside and paid the $7 door fee. When I turned toward the stage I saw the humans making the noise that had so invited me inside…
Sporting colorful fuzzy one-piece costumes, this 3-piece Durham-based band–Ctrl Alt Del–goes hard with a tuba, a baritone saxophone, and drums. I wasn’t sure what to expect from them at first. Their set went on for several minutes before their true sound emerged. For the proceeding 30 minutes not only did they cover several classic old school hip-hop songs, but they proved themselves to be masters of mashups. From “O.P.P” to “Baby Got Back” to “Big Poppa” I was having flashbacks to my youth dancing around the living room with sunglasses on thinking I was hot shit (oy children!).
Never in my life would I have imagined a tuba and a sax mashing up hip-hop classics and doing it well. I remarked to Photographer Larry several times, “I can’t believe I’m seeing this.” He laughed in agreement. Yes, Larry and I certainly had our fair share of bewildered giggles during this set, but more than anything, we were both pleasantly awed and surprised. Their on-stage chemistry was palpable and their proficiency in spitting rhymes was impressive. They had a cool sound, definitely practiced, jazz-heavy influence. Yeah–this band is a few dudes having a good time and, apparently, dressing up as furry creatures to do it. Oh my what wondrous strange! At the end of their set I couldn’t help but want more of their fantastical noise.
After a brief interlude, Durham-based rock band The Wigg Report took the stage. A 4-piece band with a definitive surf rock vibe, they were crunchy as fuck. A blend of pop punk and classic garage rock, and dare I say the slightest influence of metal, enjoying this set came easy to me. I was struck by the lead guitar player + vocalist–a man who reminded me a great deal in his stage presence, vocal attitude, and personal style, of King Buzzo, infamous frontman of metal legends Melvins. With stellar screaming vocals, a female percussionist (yay!), a sax, and bass, this multi-generational band proved to be oh-so-fun–rambunctious and totally unencumbered. Like with the opening act, on-stage chemistry reigned supreme at The Station on this night.
During the next interlude, Larry and I bumped into Jenkins, photographer and friend over at Steep In, who was also covering the show. Running into Jenkins was serendipitous indeed, as the rest of the night proved to be a collaborative effort to both cover and enjoy the show. I first encountered Curtis Eller a little over a year ago at The Pinhook when he opened for Asheville’s Tall Tall Trees (an old friend from my days at Quiet Lunch Magazine). He played a solo set that night and did not once step foot on the stage. Instead he played the whole set in the audience, folks crowded around him as he played and frolicked about. Being able to see Curtis again and this time to write about him was a long-time coming.
Curtis Eller’s American Circus is a unique group of talented local musicians, many of whom participate in several local acts. They took the stage at The Station around 11PM. While the set itself lasted for a solid hour and a half, he did not remain on the stage for long. As I had hoped, his liveliness, or perhaps better: sprightliness, was on full display. Yes, he is a regular old Puck indeed! “This song is in the key of G minor if you feel like dancing,” he spouted from the mic. His music is wild, satirical, and witty. His energy is infectious. I abandoned my notebook, kicked back a few beers, and started dancing. Unsurprisingly I found Jenkins on the dance floor doing the same, at which point we joined forces and twirled around to “The Heart That Forgave Richard Nixon,” a most amusing tune for dancing around like gypsies. Curtis has great “stage presence” even if he doesn’t stay up there the whole time while he’s performing. At one point, in between songs, the Circus kept on playing, but Curtis himself was out in the audience climbing on furniture, on people, making a ruckus of things. Appropriately, he ended his set off-stage, standing atop a bar table surrounded by his band and the audience, all of us together looking upward at and in delightful awe of the banjo-man extraordinaire.
Following the show, I sat down with Curtis, his bass player Hugh Crumley, and Jenkins from Steep In for the first installment of our new SoundCloud Series Raw Bites, our totally raw, unedited post-show interviews with artists.
An Original Photo Series by Staff Photographer Larry Jones.