World beat to breakbeat

This year's Trinumeral Music & Arts Festival boasts a heady lineup: World beat trio Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain & Edgar Meyer headline, along with experimental jazz collective Sun Ra Arkestra, "new funk" act The New Mastersounds and Asheville's own rock/Afro-beat quintet Toubab Krewe. But, before you start comparing Trinumeral's extensive long-weekend lineup to that of world music/arts fest LEAF, here are a few names unlikely to find their way on to the Lake Eden roster: California-based hip-hop act The Glitch Mob, electronica artists RJD2 and Pretty Lights and rapper Gift of Gab.

Rhythm method: Asheville's Toubab Krewe brings African-inspired beats to Trinumeral.

While promoter and performer Will Bradford is reluctant to typify Trinumeral (named because it's held each year on the triple date: This year festivities begin on Wednesday, Sept. 9 or 09.09.09) as an electronica dance party, he does point out that there's been a concerted effort from Trinumeral's inception in to tap into the dance music scene. Last year —the first that the festival spent in Asheville — brought live-improvised breakbeat, trip-hop, house and drum & bass project EOTO, electronica up-and-comers Pnuma and trance-fusion duo Conspirator.

Last year, festival creator (and coiner of the term "trinumeral") Grant Howl told Xpress that the 05.05.05 event, held on Cinco de Mayo in Miami, "had five dancers, five visual artists, five DJs, five performance artists and five bands." The electronic aspect was already established, as was Trinumeral's bold blend of performances. "It set a precedent for the well-roundedness of arts that Trinumeral-goers could expect." Such as last year's coup: rapper GZA of Wu-Tang Clan. And if, last year, it seemed unimaginable for GZA to be hanging in the green wilderness of Deerfields, rubbing elbows with reggae-bluegrass-quirk act Snake Oil Medicine Show, is it any harder to imagine renowned Indian tabla player Hussain busting a move to the beats of self-professed dance floor melters The Flying Skulls?

Actually, for a musician like Bradford, that juxtaposition might not be so far-fetched. Last year, Bradford's upbeat rock outfit SeepeopleS played Trinumeral for the 08.08.08 celebration. This year, when Howl and his childhood buddy/business partner Par Neiburger decided to keep the show in Asheville (rather than move to a new city as they've done previously), they booked Bradford's live-electronica duo, Freepeoples Frequency.

Derek Vincent Smith of "electro organic" Pretty Lights.

"Freepeoples has only been gigging out for eight months," says Bradford of the group he formed with SeepeopleS' front-of-house engineer Brooke Binion. The plan was to first record an album of their unique beats, modulations and effects. However, demand for the band has kept them out of the studio. The duo will finally release its debut in November. In the meantime, Bradford and Binion are busy honing their live show.

Though some musicians might draw a line in the sand between traditional bands (guitars, pianos, drum kits, vocalists) and electronica, but for Bradford the two world overlap. "It's totally natural because I started out in high school as a DJ and playing in a rock band," he explains. "With Freepeoples Frequency, despite the fact that it's electronic and dance music, we play a lot of the parts live."

A combination of composed parts and freeform experimentation, a Freepeoples show is both mapped out and off the cuff. "We do the sequencing live, as far as the arrangement," Bradford explains. "The modulations and effects are live. But, like a rock band, 90 percent of the parts are written out and performed the same each time. We rehearse like a rock band."

Amplitude: Asheville's Freepeoples Frequency performs live electronica.

According to Bradford, live electronica is not the exception to the rule. In fact, this year's Trinumeral lineup is rife with live instrumentation/engineered sound combinations. Boombox (from Muscle Shoals, Ala.) brings DJ/drummer Russ Randolph together with DJ/vocalist/guitarist (and Grateful Dead offspring) Zion Rock Godchaux. Adam Deitch, the mastermind behind Breakscience, is the son of two funk drummers. On stage, he DJs with live drums or a full band, blending live trip-hop, broken-beat, dub, drum & bass and hip-hop.

"People who listen to electronica music are really open minded," Bradford says. "If they're going to see it in a live setting, it's an energy thing. That's why electronic music has evolved into something with so many genres."

It's also probably why Trinumeral, grown from DJ and electronic roots, has expanded to include so many genres. So, even if banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck doesn't sit in with Gift of Gab this weekend, the two might not be as far apart — creatively speaking — as first imagined.

who: Trinumeral Festival: Featuring Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain & Edgar Meyer, The Glitch Mob, Toubab Krewe, m80 Dubstation, RJD2, Pretty Lights, Sun Ra Arkestra, The New Mastersounds, Pnuma Trio, Conspirator, The Egg, BoomBox, Gift of Gab, Future Rock, Afrobeta, Big Gigantic, Lipp Service, Zach Deputy, Josh Phillips Folk Festival, Granola Funk Express, Asheville Horns, Freepeoples Frequency, Sonmi Suite, DJ Bowie, Modo, The Burnin Smyrnans, Incognito Mosquito, Enemy Lovers and many more

World music trinity: Headliners Bela Fleck (banjo), Zakir Hussein (tabla) and Edgar Meyer (bass).

what: Weekend-long music and arts event
where: Deerfields
when: Thursday, Sept. 10-Sunday, Sept. 13 (Gates open at 10 a.m. Thursday and close at noon on Sunday. Tickets are $134.99 for a weekend pass and $300 for a VIP pass. A camping pass is $50, RV pass is $95 ). Launch party on Wednesday, Sept. 9 at the Orange Peel with The Egg, Lipp Service and Eskmo (9/9/9 free tickets available with purchase of Trinumeral passes.

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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3 thoughts on “World beat to breakbeat

  1. The Flying Skulls

    The Flying Skulls would love to have Zakir Hussein guest on our set!

    We are playing 9:30 at the Pond Stage, let’s do this!


  2. The Flying Skulls

    The Flying Skulls would love to have Zakir Hussein guest on our set!

    We are playing 9:30 at the Pond Stage, let’s do this!


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