It wasn’t the typical show that you’d drive 3 hours from Asheville to see – a lot smaller turnout than say, The Flaming Lips’ two nights in Atlanta a few weeks ago, or maybe Phish’s upcoming stop in Charlotte – but it’s summer. Driving all over the place for music is inevitable. I wasn’t making the five-hour pilgrimage to Bonnaroo this year, so when I saw the Facebook invitation to see three of my favorite North Carolina bands in Greensboro last Thursday, I said, “why not?” With a $3-5 suggested donation at the door, the gas price (roughly $50 round-trip) was nearly justified for a few days in a cool city and some ear-blistering rock.
Greensboro’s Legitimate Business lives up to its non sequitur name – the ivy-covered exterior, dilapidated backyard half-pipe and low-lighting all point towards a possible front, but I promise, it’s legit. Any venue that’s B.Y.O.B. has to be. The turnout was what you’d expect for a Thursday night, and there were points, like when Embarrassing Fruits opened, where more people were outside hanging out than actually inside listening to the music.
Just a few weeks off of its second UK tour, Durham’s Hammer No More the Fingers plowed through its set, stopping only to tune behind some goofy classical music. The trio, who often come through Asheville, put on some serious rock. Guitarist Joe Hall’s tone is crunchy and catchy, the type of stuff that will get stuck in your head. If you dig Weezer and the likes, you’d be right at home with Hammer – just don’t compare them to other indie rockers. It’s kind of weird to hear the band outside of the Triangle, without a wealth of fans screaming “Fuck Dave!” at just the right moment on “It’s About Caring,” but exciting to see a few people at the merch table checking them out for the first time. Trust me – it won’t be your last.
The Bronzed Chorus is a post-rock two-piece that sounds more like three. Guitarist Adam Joyce’s pedal board is a cockpit to a spaceship – lots of blinking lights, switches and knobs and things I’ve never seen before. He layers and loops guitar riffs live, and watching him play, it’s hard to believe that his single guitar is behind the sounds you’re hearing. It gives you respect for the control Joyce has – a few quick stomps and a song completely changes direction. U2’s “The Edge” proved that even the simplest riff could sound montage-worthy with a rhythmic delay, but Joyce’s effects-heavy sound – all of his delays, echoes, reverb and distortion – doesn’t come off as part of a gimmick. The songs are structured and the noise and dark jams build to heavy, anthemic choruses that force you to bob your head or pump your fist.
Drummer Hunter Allen is the real show – his drumming is absolutely frantic, almost impossibly fast. At one point during the set, Allen sustained a set of perfectly syncopated sixty-fourth notes on the low tom – it wasn’t a roll, just insanely quick drumming. It sounded unnatural, like something you would only hear quantized on a drum machine. To cover a Bronzed Chorus song would take a lot of equipment and a set of massive forearms – Allen makes music that you have to sweat to recreate. It’s worth getting close up to see him play one-handed – if lateralization of brain function actually worked in the way that popular psychology would have you believe, Allen would be a total left-brain/right-brain type of guy. One arm keeps time, the other, the bass line. And yet, standing at the back of the room, you wouldn’t realize the drummer was playing two instruments – you’d think there were three people on stage. For all of the visual shock and awe of seeing two very technically talented musicians put on a show that will probably leave your jaw ajar, the music is accessible and the band’s studio work holds up to the live experience. Check out The Gleaning, the band’s latest release.