Random acts

Of note

Bela never said there’d be days like this: Bela Fleck & The Flecktones bass ace Victor Wooten will be a “guest instructor” at Earth School’s upcoming “Wilderness Survival & Self-Reliance Skills” program, to be held in the woods of WNC (near Tryon). The weeklong camp runs Saturday, May 22 through Friday, May 28, but it isn’t cheap (ringing up at $650). This outdoor-survival program isn’t exactly music-oriented, either, though Wooten has agreed to perform at various times throughout the week. For more information on this one-of-a-kind event, visit www.lovetheearth.com.

Now hear this: free concerts! Former Pharmer’s Almanac editor Kevin Cassels, who now owns Good Music and Other Stuff (55 Broadway), recently announced new installments in his series of free, acoustic, in-store concerts:

Lotus (Thursday, May 20, 7 p.m.)

Klarcnova (Friday, May 21, 7 p.m.)

Angelo Moore of Fishbone (Saturday, May 22, 6 p.m.)

Stephanie’s Id (Thursday, May 27, 7 p.m.)

Arrested Development (Friday, June 4, 6 p.m.)

Hayseed Dixie (Saturday, June 5, 6 p.m.)

Addison Groove Project (Wednesday, June 9, 6 p.m.)

Call 258-0641 for details.

Word off the street: Obsessed with local-music updates? Check out www.AshevilleUpdated.com, a new Web site of show listings, WNC events and news.

Re-covering rock: Local cover-band-turned-original-material rockers 99 Years recently released their self-titled debut album. For more information, visit www.99Years.net

Front-row reviews

Who: The Red Elvises
Where: The Orange Peel
When: Thursday, May 6

Were they any other novelty band, I’d have soured on the gimmicks before the end of the first set. The tiger-striped suits? A way to draw attention from aging faces. The faux-broken-English lyrics? A way of making surfabilly sound less dated.

I might even have gone so far as to mock their signature “bass-balalaika,” an electric three-string instrument with a red, triangular body so large it needed a prop stand. Were they any other novelty band, I’d have probably left before the big, drawn-out, campy finale.

But they weren’t any other novelty band. They were The Red Elvises, and they rocked.

Formed in 1995 by two Russian political refugees (or so the story goes), the Venice, Calif.-based group have chiseled themselves a nice niche in the stony cliff-face of American novelty pop. Their sound isn’t far removed from that of most other nostalgia-rock groups, mixing in the tricks of surf-rockers Los Straitjackets with a tongue-in-cheek obsessive worship for rock legends Tom Waits, Bill Haley and His Comets, Buddy Holly and (of course) Elvis.

“We are Red Elvises, your favorite band,” guitarist/vocalist Igor Yuzov was quick to remind the crowd. “All twelve of you,” he added.

Yes, the show was comedically under-attended. With perhaps three-dozen people scattered about the immense Orange Peel floor, it was hardly an all-out Ruskie-rock party. But pleasure was still to be found: During “Sad Cowboy Song,” bass-balalaika player Oleg Bernov urged the crowd into a conga line, explaining that it was “just like real cowboys do.” Many other happy moments — from the interactive routine in “I Wanna See You Bellydance” to the silly dramatics of concert closer “Rocketman (Bebop-a-lula)” — also colored the gig.

Such audience-roping behavior and high-output gimmickry could easily have yielded a very stupid evening; thankfully it was always just fun — maybe, ironically, because the Elvises cut their shtick with more serious songs. There was Tom Waits’ “Phone Call From Istanbul,” for instance, plus a wonderful encore featuring the group’s take on the classic Rodgers and Hart tune “Blue Moon.”

Rare indeed.

Virtual Battle of the Bands

Vote for your favorite band in each set of two below by sending an e-mail to unknowncity@hotmail.com, with “Battle of the Bands” in the subject line. To check out each of these local acts’ music, visit the suggested online sites. Winners will be announced in the June 2 edition of Random Acts.

Round 1 — Best Alt-Retro Rock: Fantastic Life vs. Senatobia. Visit www.senatobiamusic.net and www.fantasticlifemusic.com.

Round 2 — Best Odd Rock: Reductio Ad Absurdum vs. Dig Shovel Dig. Visit www.digshoveldig.com and www.reductioband.com.

Round 3 — Roots Rock Grudge Match: Black Eyed Dog vs. Wayne Robbins & The Hellsayers. Visit www.blackeyeddog.com and www.goodluckcricket.com.

Round 4 — Best Schlock-Rock Shtick: Crank County Daredevils vs. Monsters of Japan. Visit www.monstersofjapan.com and www.crankcountydaredevils.com.

Round 5 — Titan of Tranquility: Benjammin’ vs. Michael Farr. Visit www.bjbmusic.com and www.iamthankful.com.

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