Random acts

Of note

Shift in identity: The Asheville-based, experimental-metal band RedShift has officially changed its name to Underscore. The band can still be contacted via their Web site at www.redshiftband.cjb.net.

Raven set to rock: Local performers George Martin and Michael Channing are set to record their debut CD as the new band Raven. Rock Bottom Island will take shape at Onion Music later this month. Onion founder Paul Conrad is slated to appear on the record as guest drummer. For more information, e-mail Martin at tunnelofgeorge@yahoo.com.

Front-row reviews

Who: Scrappy Hamilton (with the Cigar Store Indians)

Where: Stella Blue

When: Saturday, June 8

Scrappy Hamilton hasn’t changed a bit. In fact, I think they gave the exact same show the last time I saw them nearly a year ago: Highly polished, well-arranged, musically tight — and a little dull.

The inventors of “Stomp Rag Boogie” seem to have found their plateau. Five years ago, when swing was the thing and cigar bars were filled with patrons just discovering the joys of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, their brand of music was fairly edgy. But the novelty of throwback music continues to wear.

The music is still good in its own context, and — as the other patrons at Stella Blue that night will surely attest — still danceable. But many of their tunes seem to lack something of their former life.

Who: The Junkadelic Orchestra

Where: The Grey Eagle

When: Sunday, June 9

“We are the Junkadelic Orchestra,” began vocalist Bill Melanson, “a bunch of dads from the Asheville and Burnsville area. We’re very grateful to our families for letting us play.”

As he said this, a swarm of small children ran around the dance floor, limbering up for a full evening of, well … running around the dance floor. It was by far the most family-friendly rock concert in Asheville that night.

Junkadelic is an easy band to like. Their music is based on a sort of fun, light blues-rock that’s immensely flexible and easily adapted to slow acoustic songs as well as harder, down-and-dirty numbers.

At six members, they use their size to their advantage, creating a rich, layered sound. When the entire band kicks in, the effect can be quite impressive. A good example of this was their powerful, percussion-heavy cover of Crosby, Stills and Nash’ “Cost of Freedom,” which saw a guest appearance by local folkie Billy Jonas on backing vocals.

It wasn’t the most screamingly wild, raw-energy and visceral-bloodletting spectacle of all time, but in an otherwise quiet Sunday evening, it wasn’t bad at all.

Local vocals

Quinto Espina is an impossibly quiet man. Even sitting next to him on the tiny concrete park bench in the courtyard of Vincent’s Ear, I have to strain to make out what he’s saying.

His softspokenness is a little frustrating, because the story he’s telling me in his whispery, almost-fatigued-sounding voice is an incredibly interesting one: his life story.

Espina grew up with his father’s Spanish surname in a decidedly Irish household (“We were always not allowed to forget that we were Irish,” he explains). His early life was filled with music, and his first experience with performance came by way of the Asheville Pipes and Drums. He’s spent his entire life, now nearly 40 years, learning and playing Celtic music.

“The biggest thing for me,” he explains, “was when I finally became an Irish bagpipe player.”

Long before this nearly inaudible conversation, I became interested in another of Quinto’s incarnations: In a series of appearances at the holiday show at Vincent’s Ear, he shuffled on stage, seemingly drunk in a blind stupor, to play a rambling, nearly incoherent blues cover of some classic holiday song. The act was so perfect it often took the crowd a full minute to get the joke. And when they did, the laughter was deafening.

Turns out, however, that there’s much more to the man than that. For years, Quinto performed with a variety of Celtic acts ranging from the deeply progressive (and short-lived) Def Leprechaun to the more traditional Bundle and Go, and was a regular at many local Celtic sessions. The genre was very much his life — before burnout set in.

“It became too much like jumping through hoops,” he says, “and performing music somehow became separated from being a musician.” In the last few months, however, Quinto has found another kind of music calling him.

“I’ve always been interested in antique music. The one thing that resonated with me was the sound of the country-blues on the guitar,” he says.

“It’s sort of about channeling,” he continues in a half-whisper I strain to hear. “Opening yourself up to some force from the past.”

Top threes

Three local bands from yesteryear that have us asking: “Where are they Now?” (Send info to the e-mail address below):

• The Mountain Express

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