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Front-row reviews

What: Goths on Wheels

Where: Tarwheels Skateway, Swannanoa

When: Friday, Feb. 6

It’s hard to look haunted and emotionally detached while balanced on a pair of roller skates. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Tonight is Goth Night at Tarwheels, and all around me, black-clad angels of death and despair-spewing nihilists are desperately attempting not to bail onto the blacklight-bathed floor.

But those few skating-adept creatures-of-shadow in the rink with me somehow look too happy to be real goths. They rocket past, their bright-orange rented skates glaring out from the sea of dark clothes and pale faces rolling in time to one of the DJ’s seemingly endless knockoffs of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

Mixing the saddest of the scene-oriented subgroups with such an inherently upbeat activity seems misguided at best (who, after all, goes to a roller rink to mope?). And yet the event has brought out a crowd of at least 40, and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.

And that’s the real problem here, isn’t it? Would proper goths ever consent to a party table festooned with balloons (albeit black ones) and a Betty Page-themed cake? Would genuine urban darklings and unshakable fans of The Crow ever deign to crack a black-lipsticked grin, even if they’d just lost their balance and fallen for the fifth time that evening?

Almost certainly not.

Then again, I’m almost glad no real goths bothered to show up. They’d probably be no fun to roller skate with.

Listening room (album reviews)

Premium, Blue Collar Groove (Blue Collar Groove, 2003)

Smooth and sweet, Blue Collar Groove‘s full-length debut album is an aptly named, premium collection of easy-on-the-ears jam rock, blues and jazz-inspired fare.

Though not groundbreakingly original — firmly rooted, as it is, in the mellow, meandering flavor of a live jam band — the record nevertheless demonstrates the group’s astounding range of influences. The band drops hints and throws out references spanning funk (“Need to Know”), alt-country (the masterfully arranged “Alt Truckin”) and rock (“Caroline”). This might not be all that unusual for a jam group, but Blue Collar Groove does such a good job of interpreting and applying the core elements of each style that it’s hard not to find something to enjoy here.

Sure, there are times that it appears the group hasn’t quite mastered the style they were attempting to emulate (the semi-Latin-lounge jazz song “Devil in Disguise,” for instance). But even at their worst, BCG’s tunes are simply forgettable, and never actually hard to listen to.

Altogether, Premium is a highly potent collection of enjoyable tunes.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Under the radar (demo reviews)

The Great Slide, The Great Slide (The Great Slide, 2003)

On the very first track, “endless whenever,” The Great Slide tells you everything you need to know. In this dreamlike song filled with muffled instrumental echoes, compelling rhythms and thickly layered vocals beg you to get lost in its own groove.

There’s a strong appeal to psychedelic sensibilities — and yet in choosing to record the song at just over three-and-a-half minutes long, the band obviously don’t want you getting too lost.

They want you to hear the rest of the demo, after all — particularly the allusions they make to Achtung Baby-era U2 in “waiting for the day,” and their acoustic treatment of a Beatles-inspired jam in “sideways leaves.”

And it works: By the time you reach the final mellifluous track, “the somnovata,” you’re completely blindsided. The Great Slide has pulled off a perfectly orchestrated auditory scheme, sneakily tricking you into listening to yet another jam-band demo, and not hating yourself in the morning for it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


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