Station to Station: The Triangle of NC

A Kite and Its String

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Featuring three large universities (UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State, and Duke U.) and 10 other colleges and community colleges, the cities of Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham form “The Triangle” area of North Carolina. For many years, the Triangle region has served as a hot bed for indie rock, and is often underrated when compared to the likes of Athens and Austin. Like these other southern university cities, the Triangle is famous for a confluence of music styles with thriving rock, folk, bluegrass, hip hop, and rhythm and blues scenes. The truth is: if you want to find a particular genre, you don’t have to look very far in the Triangle.

Our orientation to this area begins with emergence of eighties bands like the dbs, The Connells, and later that decade, Merge Records pioneers, Superchunk. Merge’s growth seemed to parallel national notoriety, as the scene gained more prominence with indie acts like Polvo and Archers of Loaf, and pop rock acts like Ben Folds Five and Squirrel Nut Zippers. We appear to be on the crest of this wave with the internet age, as easy recording and electronic distribution help to garner attention for several acts.

If the Triangle is a kite, then we have to refer to the city of Greenville as its “string.”  Greenville is home to East Carolina University, which has great programs in art, music and theater. Students from these programs often start bands, and are a big reason that bands come to Greenville. Not nearly as capable of reaching the heights of the kite, the string serves as a base or a place in which smaller acts can gain their chops while trying to crack the Triangle’s thriving club scene.  The Avett Brothers and Lonnie Walker know this well, as do Future Islands who went onto to Baltimore to find fame.  Currently, the Charming Youngsters and hip hop outfit, The Rec League All Stars, are making their way between Greenville and Raleigh to gain notoriety.

Today’s station to station focuses on Triangle acts gaining prominence in the last 10 years, as well as a few that are on the rise.

Triangle Area Artists:

The Annuals – An amazing live band that got its start in 2003, The Annuals are among the Triangle elite in terms of acclaim and indie status in the blogosphere. Check out: Dry Clothes [mp3]

Avett Brothers – Seth and Scott Avett along with Bob Crawford bounced from Greenville to Raleigh to Asheville and other parts on NC while paying their dues.  We’re pretty sure you’ve heard of them… Scott is an East Carolina alum, and his dad Jim, plays Greenville once in awhile with a bluegrass outfit.
Check out: Paranoia in Bb Major [mp3 via Daytrotter]

Bellafea – Up-and-coming indie pop band that is getting some buzz has after playing the Hopscotch Festival last year.
Check out: Depart I Never Knew [mp3]

Birds and Arrows – This crossover folk-rock trio lives on the boy-girl vocal exchange of husband and wife, Andrea and Pete Connolly. She is fragile and he is silently gruff, and the contrast between the two is priceless.
Check out: Sugarlicious (SWASO cover) [mp3].

Birds of Avalon – A post rock psychedelic band that can really tear it up. They’ve supported a lot of big acts over the last six years (e.g., The Hold Steady, The Flaming Lips, The Raconteurs, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists).  You have to wonder why any headlining act would agree to work with them, because they blow crowds away like an atom bomb.
Check out: Your Down Time Is Up [mp3].

Bowerbirds – Akin to the Avett Brothers, this outfit uses folk and its varied forms to develop its sound. 2009’s Upper Air set a new standard for Bowerbirds, and helped them gain national notoriety.
Check out: Northern Lights [mp3]

Cassis Orange – AKA Autumn Ehinger, a DYI sorceress who wonderfully weaves together layers of keyboards, drum machines, percussion equipment, and lo-fi recorded vocals. In 2010, Ehinger released a stellar self-titled EP on Grip Tapes.
Check out: Kotzebue [mp3]

The Charming Youngsters – This will be the next band to make it out of Greenville and into the Triangle. A jangle pop band with experimental tendencies, “Los Youngsters” are playing several dates in the Triangle area over the next few months, and have recently opened a number of shows for bigger acts in Greenville such as Elf Power, The Love Language, and The Royal Bangs.
Check out: Walls [mp3]

Crooked Fingers – Former Archers of Loaf singer Eric Bachmann needed an outlet following the band’s breakup in 1998. He found it in Crooked Fingers. Imaginative and far more melodic the AOL, Bachmann keeps getting better. 2008’s  Forfeit/Fortune was an absolute masterpiece that left fans wanting more.
Check out: Phony Revolutions [mp3]

I Was Totally Destroying It – IWTDI do just that–destroy it. Classified as a “power pop” band, IWTDI is not afraid to crank it to 11 and rip the knob off.  More traditional rock-n-roll than anything else, the band is buoyed by Rachel Hirsh’s tough girl soprano, John Booker’s Chiltonesque vocals, crunchy chords, and a dominating back beat. Earlier this month, they released their third album, Preludes (stream here).
Check out: Regulators [mp3]

Lonnie Walker – Reminiscent of 80’s bar punks The Replacements and the Del Fuego’s, Lonnie Walker is a working man’s band that paid its dues through house parties, bars and venues throughout North Carolina before emerging on the national scene.
Check out: Summertime [mp3]

Lost in the Trees – Lost in the Trees is a collective of musicians based out of Chapel Hill led by Ari Picker.  On 2010’s All Alone In An Empty House, Picker uses the painful memories of his childhood to fuel much of the album’s dark orchestral folk. While cathartic, it reflects Picker reconciling with his past and the demons associated with it.
Check out: Walk Around the Lake [mp3]

The Love Language – Originally from Wilmington, Stuart McLamb found out that people liked to hear his songs about being heartbroken and desperate. Following his self-titled debut, he went back into the studio and then toured with a full band for 2010’s Libraries. His music traces influences from Wilmington’s beach music scene, and is often noted for its throwback sound.
Check out: Heart to Tell [mp3]

Megafaun – Out of the ashes of DeYarmond Edison, the band that sprouted Bon Iver (Justin Vernon), rose Megafaun. These Wisconsin transplants are known for delivering modernized folk and bluegrass roots music. This three-piece act is one of the current stalwarts in the Triangle scene. Check out: Carolina Days [mp3]

The Moaners – Guitarist/vocalist Melissa Swingle and drummer Laura King are the bluesy duo, The Moaners. The track Humid Air transports listeners to a dark, steamy, southern bar where they are stuck at outside drinking cold beer to fend off the humidity. Yep, that’s the vibe.
Check out: Humid Air [mp3]

The Rosebuds – The Rosebuds owe as much to Aussie new wavers The Church as they do the Kinks. Their first four albums were well received, and noted for making progressive steps with each release. This Raleigh-based duo, featuring Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, recently divorced, but they are set to release their fifth album, Loud Planes Fly Low on June 7.
Check out: Life Like [mp3]

Veelee – Edgy but accessible, Matthew Park (guitar, keyboard) and Ginger Wagg (drums) trade vocals over instrumentation that is minimalist in nature, but far from rudimentary. Veelee is touring in support of the 2010 release, The Future Sight (Grip Tapes).
Check out: When You Gonna Come Home? [mp3]

Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies – Is it a gimmick or just creative showmanship? Who knows? Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies offer a psychedelic take on 50’s era wall-of-sound goodness, while evoking images that would make Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson proud.
Check out: Can You Dig It [mp3]

Bandcamp Picks

Check out these freebies from up-and-comers trying to make it big in the Triangle.

Bright Young Things – EP (Rock)

Monoslang – Greener EP (Goth, Alternative)

Rec League All Stars: College Music for the High School Dropout (Hip Hop)

Tin Can Sailor: EP (Rock)

Heads on Sticks:  Mocking Bird (Alternative, Electronic, Hip Hop)

The Hopscotch Music Festival (Raleigh): 2010 was the inaugural year for this festival, and it was a major success. This year is bigger and better. Tons of national and internationally known acts are booked for 2011. It’s a great proving ground for some of the up-and-coming local acts as well.

Carrboro Music Festival (Carrboro):  This is a lesser known festival for folks outside of the Triangle, but it’s one that the locals love because of the variety of music and art on display. It’s held in September, and most shows are free of charge within venues all around Carrboro, which is the little “weird” town just outside of Chapel Hill. We mean “weird” in a good way.

Shakori Hills Spring Grass Roots Festival (Pittsboro): This festival is huge with the folk, roots, and jam band crowd. Held in April, it features legendary performers from the Bluegrass and Old Time scene, jam bands like Donna the Buffalo, several folk acts, and amateur instrument competitions that are often cited as being the best thing about Shakori Hills.

SpazzFest (Greenville): This festival just had its second run through Greenville and left everyone floored. Headlined by Future Islands, Lonnie Walker, Thank You and the Love Language, the big charge came from some of the lesser known acts like Railbird and the Rex Complex (Brooklyn), Motor Skills (Raleigh), and AWOL One and Ceschi (Los Angeles/Connecticut).

Live Music Venues:

Carolina Theatre (Durham)

Cats Cradle (Carrboro)

The Cave (Chapel Hill)

Lincoln Theatre (Raleigh)

LIVE Bar (Greenville)

Local 506 (Chapel Hill)

The Pinhook (Durham)

The Pour House (Raleigh)

The Tipsy Teapot (Greenville)

Recording Labels:

Griptapes (Raleigh): A label to lots of up-and-coming local acts

Diggup Tapes (Raleigh): Featuring cassingles (that’s right, cassingles) from many local acts

Merge (Chapel Hill): The Grand Daddy and Grandma…

Holidays for Quince Records (Chapel Hill): Many new and very cool acts, runs the spectrum of music
Check out the HFQR Bandcamp Sampler

Yep Roc Records (Haw River): 2nd biggest indie label in the Triangle, many cool acts have recorded on it.

Music Blogs:

Sunset in the Rearview (The Triangle)

Triangle Music

and some other blog from down the string…. : >



10 comments for “Station to Station: The Triangle of NC

  1. April 18, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    where the hell is Hammer No More The Fingers?

  2. April 19, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    Love this post, Clif. If you don’t mind, I’d love to add some artists and venues to check out.
    Hammer No More The Fingers
    Wesley Wolfe
    The Mountain Goats

    Obviously there are a lot more, but those are some I recommend checking out.

    Motorco Music Hall
    Kings Barcade

    Thanks for giving Sunset a shout out!

  3. April 20, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    Thanks, Lydia. I’ll have to update the post. Based on e-mails and other feedback, Hammer No More The Fingers was a big whiff on my part.

    And I appreciate the other venue adds.


  4. April 22, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Lots of great stuff here. Thanks.

  5. May 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM


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