Random acts

Of note

Maggie Valley-based hard-rock band Vic Crown has announced plans to release a new CD in late April. The album, Long Time Coming, will contain 12 songs. For more information, visit www.viccrown.com.

Asheville-based heavy-metal band Redshift has recently parted ways with keyboardist Nate Juraschek. The split was apparently a friendly one. For more information, visit www.redshiftband.cjb.net.

Front-row reviews

What: Smush Factor presents “The Personal Journeys Tour”

Where: Asheville Music Zone

When: Friday, March 22

Asheville isn’t generally much of a haven for hip-hop and rap. Sure, we have groups like GFE and The Backwoods Click, rappers like Philo, and the occasionally interesting experiment by some incarnation of the ever-changing underground scene — but the local coterie is largely unprovocative, especially when compared to the lively acoustic community.

The recent show presented by regional promoters Smush Factor, however, was an enormously enjoyable exception.

Grand Buffet was a highly energetic pair of MCs who performed to a CD rather than a DJ. But their songs — which did justice to such underexplored topics as Scientology and equestrian clubs — and their kinetic performance style (including kung-fu kicks, amp-climbing and piggy-back riding) more than compensated for this lack. Next up was a solo performance by Edan the Humble Magnificent. While he did possess skills at the mike, Edan’s real gift was his charisma, which allowed him to keep the audience’s attention while he goofed around: After informing them that he was tired of hip-hop, he proceeded to play a moderately funny tune on his acoustic guitar. He stopped mid-song to explain, “You see, this s••t’s more intimate. Check me out, fool!” Of course, the ruse didn’t last long, and the rest of his set was composed of fairly listenable old-school rap.

The headlining act turned out to be worth the wait. Sage Francis successfully melds the power of spoken-word poetry with the lyric flow of rap, even managing to work in some singing from time to time. His DJ, MF Shalem, was equally impressive, mixing fragments of melodic classical pieces with driving bass lines for an unexpectedly atmospheric effect. The combination led to a surprisingly personal — yes, even intimate — level that mainstream rap rarely achieves. Still, meaningful introspection aside, after about 30 minutes their set began to drag on a bit. To their credit, Sage Francis and MF Shalem understood this, and finished the set with several upbeat songs.

Who: Whitney Moore, Alan Haggar and Mike Alexander

Where: Beanstreets Coffeehouse

When: Friday, March 22

The Friday-night shows at Beanstreets always seem like such relaxed affairs. Musicians sip coffee and chat with the crowd while waiting to play their set. It’s a great venue for, well, intimate performances — assuming, of course, you can get the crowd to shut up. There were moments at this show — particularly when all three musicians were playing together — where people stopped chattering about whatever was occupying their minds, and actually listened. Credit the miracle to vocalist Whitney Moore, who sang both lounge-inspired blues and Celtic folk songs with such power and innocence it was hard not to pay attention. The few songs that combined Moore’s talents with those of bassist Mike Alexander and guitarist Alan Haggar were well worth the one-dollar minimum at Beanstreets. Sadly, the rest of the show was less interesting, as Mike Alexander left halfway through to go to another gig. The remaining songs consisted of some easily ignored covers by Haggar, and less-inspired singing by Moore. For the patrons, it was probably for the best that the music became less entrancing. After all, their coffee was getting cold.

Local vocals

All bands have growing pains. Take Unscathed, for example. Just a few months ago, they were considered one of the least-entertaining bands on the local heavy-music scene. By their own account, their music was unlistenable. That changed late last year. The band parted ways with two members in quick succession, and made several decisions not only about what kind of music they wanted to play, but also what kind of people they wanted to be. Put another way, Unscathed decided to grow up. Random Acts spoke with vocalist Matt Robinson and drummer Ryan Dodd about the band’s new direction. For more information about Unscathed, visit www.unscathed.net.

Mountain Xpress: Tell me about your very first show as Unscathed.

Matt Robinson: [It was] July 17, at the Asheville Music Zone. It was with Life’s Ruin, and Stammer. We set up our stuff. We were playing first. We were in there, and there was about 20 people in there. We were like, “All right guys, let’s go and get psyched. Let’s go get pumped.” We all piled into Ryan’s Trooper, turned on some Fear Factory, loud as hell, and we drove down to the Fresh Market. We jumped out of the Trooper, just jumped around, and all piled back in the Trooper. We came back to the Music Zone, there was a line out the door. We were just really excited. We go in there and there was 140 people there that night. That’s not a huge show, but we were really impressed. Our first show felt really good, [but] we recorded it on a DAT tape, and we really sucked.

Ryan Dodd: But it was our first show, and we really enjoyed it. It was a good experience. It really motivated us to practice more, and get better.

MX: Unscathed has received many negative comments. You are openly trashed on many other bands’ message boards on the Internet. Why?

MR: If you’ll notice, [it changed] after February 26th. That is when the new band finally emerged. We were like, “Look, we’re here now, and we are not the way we used to be.” Nobody trashed us after the 26th. I don’t know if that is because people were tired of it, or [what], but nobody really trashed us. We got compliments after the 26th. Before, people trashed us because we had at least two members in there that would constantly run their mouths. I’m not going to solely blame it on that. Our music was, like he said, all over the place, because of the lack of a really strong rhythm section.

MX: Would you listen to yourselves now?

MR: Oh yeah! I’d pick up an Unscathed CD.

RD: If you put [the current] Unscathed against the way we used to be, you really wouldn’t see any resemblance. We’ve changed it. The people that came to [the most recent] show, all of them were impressed. Some people said that they didn’t extremely love it, but I haven’t heard one negative thing so far.

MR: We’re always referring to it as “the old band” and “the new band.” I always tell people, “It’s new music, new members, same name.” It is Unscathed, but it is really a new band. In the old band, it was basically five guys up there with instruments, just kind of doing their thing. Now, it’s a unit. It’s not four guys playing whatever they want, it’s a unit. It’s one band, playing songs. It wasn’t like that before. We didn’t really have any unity. People used to bash us, and if people want to still bash us, we’ll take it with a grain of salt. A lot of people really like to not give people a chance before they just go bash [them]. I’d say about 55 percent of the people that used to bash us have never even heard us. If people want to have their opinions, they’re entitled to them, but I would really just like … and this goes for all bands, before you make a judgment on a band, just go out there and listen to them. It’s worth your time, just to hang out and just see this band, so that you know what you’re talking about. If you don’t like them after that, then give some constructive criticism.

RD: People who’ve had a bad opinion of us before, I’d really try to influence them just to give us a chance. Come out and hear us now.

MR: [Former bassist] Troy [Russell] is gone, and [former guitarist] Justin [Smith] is gone; come see us.

RD: Give us a chance! It’s a lot better! Just listen to us.

MR: And there is really something for everyone. Like, what we were talking about, the whole musical style. Even though we’ve kind of dropped the whole thrash metal and speed-metal crap, if you like really, really heavy stuff, we’ve got the heavy stuff. We just want to make it to where if any average person on the street, music lover or not, came in and heard us, they’d like at least something that we played that night.

Top-three least-popular local songs, according to mp3.com.

• “Star Rider” — Blue Shock

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