Aha moments

Fired up: Ahleuchatistas (Shane Perlowin on guitar and Ryan Oslance on percussion) rocked so hard, a speaker ignited. Photo courtesy of Moog Music

One of the most legend-worthy local rock shows of the year belongs to Ahleuchatistas. It was a midweek performance. The beer was cold. And free. And then, because the instrumental duo rocked so hard, a speaker caught on fire.

The show was the sixth installment of Moog Music Inc.'s AHA AVL series, a showcase of WNC-based bands that perform in Moog's Broadway Street building, in front of video cameras and an enthusiastic, invite-only crowd. (Want to be on the list? Email aha.avl@moogmusic.com.)

Last fall, Moog Music debuted a new performance space in its retail store. The inaugural AHA AVL band, playing in September, was electronic/hip-hop group Two Fresh (they returned in March for a short set before playing the Orange Peel). According to Moog Music's senior marketing and brand manager, Emmy Parker, the AHA in AHA AVL “is like, ‘Aha!’ What you say when you find something you've been looking for. So it stands for discovering Asheville.”

The musical discoveries have included, to date, Ben Lovett, Kovacs and the Polar Bear, RBTS WIN, The Critters, Naked Gods, Soft Opening, Alligator Indian, Sonmi and Doc Aquatic, all local acts (except for Naked Gods, from nearby Boone).

“We wanted to help Asheville-based artists gain exposure throughout the Carolinas, and at the same time deliver content to an outlet that was 100-percent dedicated to independent artists in the Carolinas,” says Parker, who, through Crissa Requate of Mason Jar Media, reached out to Shuffle magazine to host the AHA AVL-generated videos on its website. Shuffle is based in Charlotte and covers the indie music of North and South Carolina. 

“We were immediately excited,” says Shuffle's publisher and general manager, Brian Cullinan, who calls Moog “an iconic music brand and positive element in Asheville's music community.”

The first group of videos (Kovacs, RBTS WIN and The Critters) landed on the Shuffle website in February — according to the magazine's online and contributing editor, Bryan Reed, the RBTS WIN video has been a favorite with viewers and the footage from the Two Fresh March show is the most-viewed. “It definitely speaks well to their popularity and influence,” he says of the bands. “We always see a little bit of a bump in traffic when we post the videos, and I know, anecdotally, that people look forward to them.”

Reed adds that Shuffle has been striving to do more with video content. “AHA AVL is one of the avenues we're working to accomplish that,” he says. (Another is Shuffle's quarterly "Take One" series, including Charlotte's Andy The Doorbum and the Charleston, S.C., band Company.) “I'd like to see our video site continue to grow,” says Reed. “Having so many good bands to film helps a lot.”

When asked what his favorite video has been so far, Shuffle's music editor, Jordan Lawrence, says, “Gotta go with Naked Gods. They played 'Shaq & Diane,' a ‘guitarmony’-propelled highlight from their latest LP, and they used a Minimoog to add this weirdo synth flourish to the beginning. It sent the song spiraling in a twisted, psychedelic direction, which I was definitely into.” (Bands get to test-drive Moog equipment for their sets; Sonmi went to far as to compose a new song using the borrowed instruments.)

Shuffle has had a hand in choosing the AHA AVL bands. Parker says that “the strongest voice in the selection process” was the magzine’s, though Moog Music's team also added a few of its own picks. (And, while the bands have been invite-only so far, Parker is interested in hearing from others who might like to perform.)

There's a good deal of crossover between who plays the Moog stage and who lands on Shuffle's pages. “Our first Ahleuchatistas write up was in our second issue, almost five years ago,” says Cullinan. “They played a Shuffle release party for us recently in Columbia and we're all big fans. Naked Gods played one of our first shows at The Milestone in Charlotte and recently penned a scene piece we did on Boone, so we go back a long way with them, as well.” Alligator Indian appeared in Shuffle's 2012 summer issue just after the duo's May AHA AVL set (disclosure: I wrote that story).

As far as the partnership goes, Cullinan says, “Anything that benefits a music scene in the Carolinas ultimately benefits Shuffle and our readers,” and Lawrence points out that “you can't go wrong associating yourself with the Moog brand.”

Lawrence also says that he's excited about the opportunity for the bands who take part: “It's like a double seal of approval from Shuffle and Moog.”

And, even with early start time (7 p.m. for most shows), Parker says they've been well-attended, with only two pulling in audiences of fewer than 100. “The rowdiest turnout was definitely for the Critters,” she says. “The cameras were shaking the entire time because the crowd was jumping around so much.”

The current AHA AVL series runs through February 2013, with Razor and Blade and Curtains still on deck for late summer, and upcoming acts to be announced. Parker says that while no decisions have been made to change the local-only format, “Maybe we'll switch it up and bring bands from the eastern part of North Carolina to Asheville to play. We're really lucky to live in the Carolinas where there is so much rich musical talent.”

Lawrence is on the same page: “At some point, I wouldn't be opposed to expanding the reach a little bit, maybe roping in Carolina bands that tour through Asheville frequently,” he says. And, he would like a heavier act like US Christmas take the stage because “it'd be really something to see them augment their heft with some Moog hardware.”

For now, Parker is focused on marketing efforts to highlight the AHA AVL bands. She says the series is “really a labor of love by Moog's marketing department. It's just about giving back to Asheville and putting our city on a bigger platform.”

— Alli Marshall can be reached at amarshall@mountainx.com.

who: Razor and Blade performs an AHA AVL showcase on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 7 p.m. show time, doors open at 6 p.m. and close at 6:45 p.m. Invite only.
who: Curtains performs on Wednesday, Sept. 12. For an invitation, contact aha.avl@moogmusic.com
where: Performances are at 160 Broadway St. Learn more about AHA AVL at moogmusic.com/aha-avl; view the videos at shufflemag.com.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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