Who says there’s no musical diversity in Asheville? From ear-friendly R&B to full-on sonic distortion, new bands are popping up all the time in our fair city. Trouble is, many of them linger in obscurity for years — and some never quite catch on, no matter how great their music might be.
How come? Lack of venues, lean promotional budgets, disinterested listeners … take your pick. You’ve probably never heard of the following sampling of new Asheville bands (i.e., they’ve played few or no gigs around town, to date), but one or more of them just might wind up leaving an indelible mark on the local music scene. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The Nola Bido Band
Featuring the mysteriously omnipresent “Nola Bido” herself — an enigmatic cultural icon who founded the group — Asheville’s newest swing/jazz-flavored band (self-described as “95 percent original ragtime”) made quite an impression at their debut, opening for Snake Oil Medicine Show at Be Here Now on June 19.
“We exploded,” notes lead vocalist/songwriter Scott Kinnebrew, who grew up in New Orleans. On the basis of that single gig, the freshly formed quintet (their current lineup — which also includes Byron Smith on drums, Joseph Mears on keyboard, John McKinney on bass, and Sammy Ensley on lead guitar — is only a month old) has already scored upcoming dates at Stella Blue (Thursday, July 2, with Luvsix), the Decline of Western North Carolina Benefit (Saturday, July 4, at Vincent’s Ear), the Montford Street Festival, Hickory’s annual street festival, plus a possible benefit for Radio Free Asheville. Nola Bido the icon may remain a secret, but it’s unlikely that the charismatic Nola Bido Band will be kept under wraps for much longer.
“What Asheville’s music scene lacks is diversity,” argues Dave Anderson (better known around town as Tampa Dave). “It’s got that whole bluegrass/jazz thing, and it needs something different.”
Rayford’s mission statement mentions that the band “thrives from driving punk into a hypnotic trance.” Say what? In any case, founders Anderson and Guy Campbell have played together in various local groups since 1995. Now, they’ve added bass player Dennis (no last name, please) and crafted a style thoughtfully described (by them) as “neo-rock [that] bounces wildly from hushed, darkly beautiful passages to an all-out sonic assault.”
Rayford plays the Decline of Western North Carolina Benefit on Saturday, July 4, at Vincent’s Ear.
Tim in Action
Ryan Chittick, Chad Pry and Richard Peabody Kent III share more than just musical chemistry — they’re all current or former UNCA students, too. Though drummer Chittick is leery of making long-term predictions for the band (“It’s not good to make plans,” he observes), he feels this trio fills a void in Asheville’s music scene by offering a brand of “upbeat, nervous, electro-rock music comparable to Shellac and Brainiac.”
That’s as much of a soul-searching analysis of the band as Chittick seems prepared to undertake.
Tim in Action plays the Decline of Western North Carolina Benefit on Saturday, July 4, at Vincent’s Ear.
The Rich and Famous
They already sport the coolest band shirts in existence (not the ones they’re wearing in the accompanying photo), and if Rich and Famous vocalist Miltjuan Cartier (you may remember him as Milton Carter, formerly of The Mathematics) has his way, they’ll soon conquer much more than the T-shirt market.
“We’re taking elements from the entire history of rock ‘n’ roll and making them our own,” he declares sweepingly. “We want to record, put out a CD, tour, and become famous by the millennium.”
The trio also features drummer Jeremy Stevens and multi-instrumentalist Justin Dylan (formerly of Jolene and Jenny Anykind).
Cartier is quick to point out that The Rich and Famous sound — which he sums up as a “hip-hop backbeat with a glam-rock edge” — features three-part “disharmonies” that are a key to the group’s retro-pop sensibility.
“We have no lead singer — that’s part of our [ethic],” he explains. “Everyone pulls their own weight. We’re a stickler for classic pop tunes and the great working-class heroes, [like] ZZ Top, Cream and The Who.”
The group recently debuted — sort of by accident, we’re told — at Stella Blue. Expect to hear their current repertoire of 25 originals at their next (as yet unscheduled) gig, plus “some real tasteful covers,” Cartier promises, before offering one last thought: “We’re all cute, but only two of us are eligible.”
Though based in Asheville, this two-year-old R&B outfit has seldom been heard here, mostly because of a lack of appropriate venues, explains drummer Ray Kelly. So far, vocalist Bill Morman, bassist Ricky Morgan, guitarists Howard Jefferson and Keith Hassel, and Kelly have been satisfied playing class reunions and private parties, and gigging in Greenville, S.C.
That may change, however, when the band (a tightly knit group: Kelly and Morman have known each other since first grade) brings its mix of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s R&B and funk to Vincent’s Ear on Saturday, July 18, and to Stella Blue on Saturday, July 25 (Stella Blue owners Peggie McGrath and Joe Haugh rave about this band: “I couldn’t wait to come out from behind the bar and dance,” enthuses McGrath.).
“We’re just trying to have some fun,” says Kelly — not that he would mind if the band got a little more attention in the Asheville club scene (Information Network is still Asheville’s only all-black band, the drummer points out). The seeds of change were already planted at a recent Vincent’s Ear gig, where the band achieved the highly improbable, in that venue: a room full of shakin’, groovin’ dancers.
Alive and Well
“I don’t hear enough rock music in Asheville,” laments former Philadelphian Joe Seabe, lead guitarist and vocalist for Alive and Well. “There’s a snobbery of jazz and hippie jam stuff, and we’re hoping to fill that gap when we start to play.” (They’ll debut Bele Chere weekend at Be Here Now, opening for Gran Torino on Saturday, July 25.)
This rock quartet — which also features bassist Bud Moore, keyboardist Kurt Harrigan and drummer/background vocalist Richard Foulk (who did a stint with J.P. Delanoye & the Mojo Workers and often gigs with bluegrass heavies Sons of Ralph) — has a sound Seabe passionately terms “heavy but melodic, like a Beatles/Sgt. Pepper mix, with heavy guitars and sort of an alternative groove.”
Integrity is a major issue with this group, whose all-original songs are rife with political and sociological intrigue (one tune, “The Ballad of Mary Shelley,” explores the classic tale from the viewpoint of Frankenstein as victim). Seabe also reveals that the band will eventually incorporate wild theatrics into its stage show.
Vendetta and the Nines
This expansive jazz outfit is so new, they’re still trying out names. But with veteran Asheville crooner Kelly Barrow (of Luvsix fame) on board, they’re already fronted by a vocalist who’s happy to draw on the influences of jazz legends Eartha Kitt and Ella Fitzgerald.
“It’s an eclectic mix of different jazz styles: ‘bachelor-pad music’ and swank old jazz from the ’40s and ’50s,” is how percussionist Jor Sutton puts it. That broad range of styles is what sets the band apart from other local jazz groups, says Sutton, a recent UNCA graduate. Brothers Aaron and John Price (on piano and bass, respectively) complete the foursome, whose members, Sutton says, found instant artistic harmony. They debuted at Tressa’s on June 25; catch them bebopping as The Metro’s house band in the near future.