Random acts

Of note

More grabbing and growling: Not content with the success of Grab a Root and Growl, local bluegrass heroes Sons of Ralph have begun working on a new album. Tune to This should see release this September. “We’ve written a lot of new stuff,” said guitarist Marty Lewis of the project, “and a couple [of the album’s songs] will be older chestnuts from Ralph’s past.” For more information about the band, visit www.sonsofralph.com.

On the heavier side: Asheville-based heavy-metal band Down Break is set to begin work on its first full-length CD later this month. The album, tentatively titled Pure Aggression, will be recorded at Boogie Moon Studios. No release date for the project has been announced. For more information, visit www.geocities.com/downbreak2001.

Front-row reviews

Who: Fisher’s Songs for America on Ice

Where: Vincent’s Ear

When: Tuesday, May 28

It was the day after Memorial Day, and you couldn’t throw an empty 24-oz. can of PBR without hitting a noteworthy local musician. Vincent’s Ear was packed. And though the show did have its share of slow moments, the overall vibe was electric. For those who missed it, here are some highlights:

Andew Hauet opened the show with a reading of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” complete with over-the-top dramatic pauses and weird backing music provided by a motley collection of musicians from other acts. The next memorable moment came in the form of a wildly funny, mock-drunken blues cover of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” complete with hummed horn section provided by Quinto Espina.

The always-innovative Tyler Ramsey provided a duo of awesome songs, the first a crowd-pleasing theremin version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” followed by a blues-inspired solo performance of “God Bless America.”

About mid-show, a group of semi-mysterious performers billed as the Sex-Patriots took the stage to perform the high-energy Clash hit “I’m So Bored with the USA.” After some creative heckling, the band was then joined by a person who bore a striking resemblance to Andy Kaufman’s alter-ego, Tony Clifton, for a cover of David Bowie’s “Young Americans.”

Ami Worthen provided a nice change of pace with a solo acoustic version of “You Are My Sunshine,” which led to a frankly bizarre sing-along.

Many of the songs The Unholy Trio performed seemingly had nothing to do with the evening’s theme, but that detracted little from the audience’s enjoyment of them (a particularly interesting moment was the group’s take on the Elvis Presley hit “Viva Las Vegas”).

The last act was composed of the all-stars of the Onion Music set — Fisher, Jeremy Boger, Paul Conrad, and Jeremy Power, performing “American Woman” and “We’re an American Band,” both offerings filled to the brim with the kind of raw energy that makes live music worth the effort to see.

Who: Joe Dunckel and Joe Minnitte

Where: The Asheville Comedy Club & Deli

When: Friday, May 31

It’s opening night at The Asheville Comedy Club, and the distinctively scatological Joe Dunckel has the crowd by their collective reproductive organs.

Dunckel’s comedy appeals to the absolute lowest common denominator, and even avid Three Stooges fans have been known to find him juvenile. Every joke in his repertoire seemingly hinges on either the aforementioned reproductive organs or some form of bodily excretion.

But crowds love the man.

Stand-up comedy is no subtle medium in general, and even relatively successful, established comics like Dunckel have to hit their crowds hard and fast. Poop is funny. Sex is funny. Dumb people, in particular, are hysterical. Anything more complicated than that, and you risk losing the crowd.

With that in mind, Dunckel’s appeal becomes less of a mystery: Everything he throws hits well below the belt.

The opening act was New York comic Joe Minnitte. In terms of comedic sharpness, he was easily as together as Dunckel, but many of his NYC jokes — in particular his subway one-liners — simply didn’t translate to WNC crowds. Not surprisingly, his Asheville observations — including shots at the Vance Monument — drew steadier laughs.

Top threes

The top-three local demo/EP reviews:

• Reductio Ad Absurdum — Eclectic, wild and weird. Found bits of spoken word (usually televangelists) playing under groovy, sax-oriented jazz, with some very nice moments of heavy metal, techno, and funk thrown in to keep it interesting. Definitely brainy, if a little inaccessible to the casual listener. 4 out of 5.

• Discount Plastic Surgery — At its best, it can be deftly urban, darkly atmospheric, and surprisingly melodic. At its worst, it sounds like a rushed soundtrack for a cyber-punk anime flick. 4 out of 5.

• PANDAdub Music 2002 — Pointless electro-noodling or avant-garde techno-jam? A bit of both, actually, and largely unlistenable for all but the truly devoted. 2 out of 5.

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