Random acts

Rocking Pritchard Park

Last summer, a haphazard series of open-air rock shows held at Pritchard Park caught the attention of residents and tourists alike. Coordinated by members of local rock bands, the daylong shows were a haven for still-developing local talent that often found itself overlooked in the shadow of summer-event giants Bele Chere and Downtown After Five.

This year, the Pritchard Park music series is back, better organized and renamed as UsOrUs. The summer-long procession of shows kicks off on Friday, May 7, featuring headliners — and series-founding bands — Kerouac or the Radio and An Infernal Device. This free, all-day event will be filled out by The Rent Party Quartet, Kevin Campbell, The Staring Contest, Elara Luna, Pan, Jeremy Gunalda and Jared Jacobs (formerly of That Outre Hammer). Music runs from 1-10 p.m.

UsOrUs will continue through October on the first Friday of every month.

“The idea is to get people connected,” says organizer Jeff Markham (of Kerouac or the Radio). “There are a lot of good bands in town that aren’t getting a lot of shows right now, and we’re trying to book them with bands that are getting shows.”

According to Markham, two bands at each UsOrUs event will be from out of town — it’s a way, he says, to foster connections with nationally touring groups.

“Asheville has so many great musicians, but not so much a music scene,” is Markham’s take. “A lot of the upcoming bands in Asheville — some of which are super-good bands — just can’t get shows right now, because there’s no place for them to play.

“We really believe that this kind of event will provide the momentum to move [local musicians] in the right direction to begin touring.”

Listening room (album reviews)

Constellation Nick, LICE

A few months ago, I received a very strange envelope in my mailbox at Xpress. It contained a hand-written letter; a CD-R in a jewel case; two Moontraveller-brand bottle rockets; and a battered, blue-painted metal name badge from the K-Mart “Christmas Spirit Benefit Car Show 2000,” bearing the word “Participant” in thick letters. The package was from LICE, and I immediately found myself feeling conflicted.

A lot of people have hated the band outright since its initial line-up formed in the late-’90s. Little of this spite has to do with LICE’s music, however, since almost no one has ever actually heard it. Their live shows are rare, and to date they’ve only released one recording, the mediocre six-song demo around the house of Malinak.

Instead, most of their infamy comes from their randomly distributed, self-titled zine that aired the group’s political, social and ethical views, which occasionally bordered on racist and were certainly violently misanthropic (the zine was also littered with typos and surprisingly tame short stories about emotions).

Their music, too, has always been a kind of insipid experiment — one relieved only by brief flashes of cruel originality and gut-slicing, low-brow cleverness.

LICE broke up a few years ago, and I was hoping that the reformed version in the incarnation of their new record, Constellation Nick, would show a musical growth on the part of returning members Nicholas Zorro Ayguey and Shen Kershner. Perhaps, I thought, they’ve left behind the half-produced metal/industrial drone of Malinak and have become something … well, almost anything would be better.

Certainly, Constellation Nick is an improvement over LICE’s previous recording, taking cues from early synth-rock and monster metal. Something close to real potential is even found on the instrumental “Track 6.”

Unfortunately, every time singing comes into a song, everything falls apart. Ayguey’s voice is reminiscent of Trent Reznor’s, though lacking the NIN leader’s range and torment. Instead, it adds up to little more than flat-toned whining in a sea of fair instrumentation and arrangements. The combination isn’t a good one.

Listening to the worst of the album’s songs makes pouring hot pizza sauce directly into your own ear canal seem preferable. And yet, every once in a great while, a flash of intelligence and potential catches you completely off-guard. Then you realize there might be a method to the badness after all.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

To hear songs from LICE’s Constellation Nick, visit www.liceband.com, or pick up the CD at Green Eggs & Jam.

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