Best in show

As festival season comes to a close and the dog days of summer bark louder, the music calendar empties out for a spell. The chance of catching one of those life-changing, booze-fueled rock n’ roll shows you’ll talk about for months grows fewer and further between.

Those about to (locally) rock: Asheville’s tHE POLES, who recently added former Archers of Loaf bassist Matt Gentling, want you to “get ready for the post-rock fiasco.”

Or so you thought. This week, The Orange Peel offers up a showcase of bands that will take listeners to rock n’ roll promised land and back.

The best part is that they’re from right in our collective backyards.  Here’s a look at the bands playing this edition of the local showcase series:

For the last 4 years, Asheville’s tHE POLES have bridged the gap between Interpol’s dark, hummable rock and the more angular sounds of The Jesus Lizard. At the heart of the band is lead singer/guitarist Todd Lemiesz, whose faux British accent ranks among Asheville’s best.

“His songs really work,” says drummer Jon McDuffie.

Those songs rise above tHE POLES’ influences and display a scope and intensity that differentiate the band from similar acts. This isn’t the sound of a tortured college student’s art project: this is some of the most brooding, edgy rock n’ roll being played locally.

Yet within the darkness there are rays of light; the song’s hooks—those big, beautiful hooks. Those hooks and the band’s sense of dynamics are enough to endear them to audiences unfamiliar with the prodding, confrontational sound of tHe POLES.

If the dark sounds of tHE POLES are too much for the squeamish, then the irresistibly New Wave-inspired synth pop of Heypenny might be the band of choice for the evening.

Sure, Heypenny’s Nashville, Tenn. address isn’t exactly local, but one listen to the band will make audiences wish that Heypenny would set up shop in the mountains. 

Set against simple and danceable rhythms, Heypenny create quirky electronic pop with a human edge and a sense of humor. They may not be from town, but their sound will greet you like a friend.

Somewhere between the sunny sounds of Heypenny and the darkness of tHE POLES lies Bullets n’ Lace. Their name conjures a late-’‘’80s inspired, tight-pants-wearing, falsetto-singing, power-ballad machine of a band. Instead the band’s sound is closer to the heavy guitar power pop of Weezer, and that’s not a bad thing.

Bullets n’ Lace’s balance between headbanging and toe-tapping is an impressive feat considering that their big sound is the work of two people, singer/guitarist Cataldo Perrone and drummer Matt Watson. Between the two, the band mines their power-chord driven, ‘90s-inspired music with the -‘60s’ girl group choruses into pop perfection.

All of the bands performing at the showcase have pop leanings, but none of them display the mastery of the craft better than The Cheeksters. While those bands’ musical influences lie in the pop and rock of the ‘’‘80s and ‘’‘90s, The Cheeksters influences go a bit further—back to the pirate shirt wearing ‘’‘60s and those scooter-riding Mods. Instead of following the latest trends, lead Cheekster Mark Casson instead relies on his roots.

“I kind of followed my instincts with it and checked out other bands,” he said. “In the late ‘’‘70s in the UK there was a mod revival and I was really into that.”

What resulted from Casson’s instincts is The Cheeksters, who somehow manage to channel Burt Bacharach/Hal David pop, Dusty Springfield’s diva soul, T-Rex’s manic boogie and the pomp of David Bowie often in the same song without sounding derivative. But that’s The Cheeksters—timeless, tuneful, and terrific.

[Jason Bugg is a freelance writer based in Asheville.]

who: tHE POLES, Heypenny, Bullets n’ Lace, and The Cheeksters
what: A night of (almost) local music ranging from heavy math rock to pure ‘’‘60s-inspired pop
where: Orange Peel
when: Thursday, Aug. 14 ($9. www.theorangepeel.net or 225-5851)

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