23 August 2010

North Carolina New Wave



Everyone knows that the 1980s got to be cool again in a kitsch sort of way right around the turn of the millennium. (Take that, fin de si├Ęcle scholars!) I've always assumed it was part of the twenty-year cycle of coolness: the thin lapels and skinny ties popular during the 1960s came back to haunt the 1980s; second wave feminism and bellbottoms, new in the 70s, were thoroughly distorted but nonetheless revitalized in the 90s; and wait, what's that? The 90s have hit the runway?

Candace Lazarou

If it looks silly to begin with, it always looks at a little sillier the second time around. The 80s comeback exemplified that rule, I think. And yet, as the trend starts to fade, I feel compelled to admit that many of us who thought 80s chic was pitiable at its peak couldn't help falling under its influence. The vintage 80s arrived in the small North Carolina mountain town where I was living from 2002-2006, just about the time it arrived everywhere else, which meant I was right on time for the NORTH CAROLINA NEW WAVE REVIVAL.

Emily Staton

In conjunction with the world of fashion, the 20-year itch of nostalgia left an indelible mark on the music scene in Asheville, NC. Okay, admittedly, it wasn't so central as all that to the music scene. Asheville's best band certainly didn't lose its way. But my favorite band at the time could be described fairly as retrograde 80s new wave. The members of that band wouldn't appreciate the description, I'm sure, so let me add a caveat. Among the mad wash of neon leggings and blipping synths, they harvested the most interesting ideas and plenty from beyond that limited sphere of influence. That's what makes them worth sharing here.

Charles Corriher

Piedmont Charisma was a five-piece band featuring Josh Carpenter (drums), Chad Pry (bass), Ben Ridings (guitar), Emily Staton who was later replaced by Erin Sale, and Charles Corriher (vocals) who seems to have had a falling out with most everyone in Asheville. I lived with Charles for a time while he was dating my friend and then roommate Candace Lazarou. He gave me fodder for one hundred good stories, none of which I remember anymore. But, while living with Candace (and sometimes Charles) I played in her band, which sounded a lot like his.

Piedmont Charisma (2002)

Some people called the band "Candace Charisma" instead of its proper name, Congratulations, which she hated because it came a little too close to the truth. She also hated her music being described as New Wave, 80s Dance or Synth Pop, but I suppose none of those labels tell a lie. We described it otherwise, of course, but our disavowal didn't save us from sounding like part of a trend. I guess time leaves its mark on shitty art. I can still hear a sincere grasp for something better in those songs, though, so I'm sharing them with the world for the first time. They deserve that.

Josh Carpenter

Perhaps my former band mates would disagree. Two of the four of us have gone on to record better things. Jascha Ephraim (drums and professionalization) moved to California to make it big and, whatever success is, he certainly made it bigger. Evan Hill (guitar, song smithing) now fronts his own band, Wilson the Rocker. Last I heard Candace (guitar, keys, vocals, vision) was driving around the Continental United States in a Kia Sephia, but even she's still making music. I, on the other hand, put my bass away and am now writing stuff so boring that not even my family will read it (this blog included).

Evan Hill

Whatever. Have a listen to Congratulations' only demo. We recorded it in the fall of 2003, if I remember correctly. It's not a great mix, but the guy who did all the work did it for free and did it in a hurry. I hear there's a better mix and another song floating around somewhere, but I don't have either. I do, however, have a copy of Piedmont Charisma's only album, released in 2002, which I'm including alongside the Congratulations demo for an honest comparison. Apparently Piedmont Charisma almost finished a second album before learning to hate Charles Corriher's guts, but it's never been released. Their best recordings are from an early single, which has been posted at Willfully Obscure.

Nearly ten years later, it all sounds oddly dated and post-dated. Who knows, maybe it'll be cool again ten years hence.

16 August 2010

We Insist! Freedom Now Suite

I didn't want to post this one on account of the lead vocalist's death, but here's the occasion. Abbey Lincoln died Saturday, August 14, 2010. She provided the vocals for one of the most impressive and important recordings of the 20th Century, Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite. Please have a listen.


10 August 2010

Things I ate this summer

Summer's not quite over, but all my travels have ended for the season. I saw a lot of friends and ate a lot of good food. Of course, I didn't take pictures of any of the friends and only took pictures of the food if I happened to think of it. Nonetheless, this series of images recounts some of the fond memories along the way.

To start the summer off, one of HRH's old friends came to Buffalo. We saw a lot of Rust Belt points of interest here, but I felt quite lucky to find a Southern staple being served up at my favorite local out-of-place restaurant, Lagniappe's. Displaced as it was, the crawfish boil provided a fitting start to my summer adventures.

On our way to Richmond, VA, HRH and I stopped in Ridgeway, PA to have lunch. We almost ended up at some nondescript pizza joint, but happened upon the handsomely named Pennsy's Cafe instead. I ordered the best club sandwich I've ever had. They make it with their own wheat bread, thick slices of baked ham, locally cured bacon and just the right dab of mayonnaise. Yum.

In Richmond, we had our best meal at The Black Sheep. Of course I forgot to document the experience. However, we also had a good meal at Millie's (rather fancy) Dinner. Above is one of their egg "messes," which is basically an omelet. But a good one!

On our way to Atlanta, HRH and I stopped in Lexington, NC to eat Western Carolina-style barbecue at the appropriately named Lexington Barbecue. HRH had her first pulled pork sandwich there, but I ordered the plate.

Following one good tradition with another, I ate the above banana pudding at a friend's wedding in Hunstville, AL. It wasn't as good as my favorite banana pudding (made by the groom's grandmother), but it wasn't bad. I also had some good barbecue at a wedding in Atlanta. I forgot to take pictures, although that pig was raised by the bride's mother. Southern weddings, bless 'em!

I ate my first bite of Spam while visiting family in Austin, TX. My dear Auntie took me to a going away party for some band from Okinawa. They wanted to cook everyone a real Okinawan meal, so we all indulged in fried Spam with scrambled eggs smothered in ketchup. It wasn't as bad as one might expect, really.

I had one of my tastiest meals of the summer in Chicago at Pozoleria San Juan. I've been eating posole since I was a kid, but that was the first time I'd ever eaten it outside my home. It was great. HRH ordered the green posole, I ordered the red, and we split a torta de chile relleno. I'm not proud, but very satisfied, to say that we cleaned our plates.

The next evening we ate duck, fried scallops and Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce at Sun Wah Bar BQ. I'd skip the scallops in the future and save more room for the duck.

Lastly, I share a photo of something I actually made myself. Still, though, I have to thank a friend for introducing me to shakshuka. It's a great thing to do with the plentiful tomato harvest this time of year, and the ease-to-deliciousness ratio is high.

Next up, music. I swear. I'm here to share more than my own dietary habits.