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Check this week’s Smart Bets for the lowdown on the One Degree of Separation Music Festival, planned for Saturday, Oct. 9, at downtown’s Pritchard Park. A slew of Asheville-area bands and other special guests will highlight this all-day jam-a-thon, which is also an informal benefit for WNC flood victims. Admission is free, so take a pocketful of change to throw in the Hearts With Hands collection jar.

Hope we see you downtown this weekend.

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Stockholm Syndrome, The Orange Peel, Saturday, Sept. 25.

After back-to-back weeks of “un-reviews” in Junk Journal — my reliving of a cancelled Great White show and exploring the fascinating discography behind The Weather Channel — the prospect of returning to an actual live performance was rather compelling. And as fate dictated, my joyous return to the real thing fell on the first weekend of autumn, when live music in fair Asheville takes a turn for the obscene (in the best way possible, of course).

Between now and, say, Warren Haynes’ annual Christmas Jam in December, area venues typically fill their schedules to the brim with some of each year’s most intriguing performances. The only problem with this inaugural weekend of real action was that I picked the wrong blasted show to review.

Not that there was anything particularly wrong with the sort-of-super-group-y Stockholm Syndrome, or with their second local performance this year. There just wasn’t anything particularly fantastic about it, either. The idea for this wee music column was to cover local music first plus imported acts of note, when they merited coverage. And while Stockholm had both the hype and personnel to justify a potential review, they didn’t quite live up to their own buzz, much less their $15 admission fee.

This rock-‘n’-angst quintet featuring Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, former P-Funk guitar stud Eric McFadden, and Jerry Joseph, one of the best songwriters working today, dropped by The Orange Peel for an overpriced if otherwise respectable romp through reverb-drenched garage-rock mayhem.

The show unfolded following an excellent acoustic-funk opening set from the John Butler Trio in front of a decent-sized crowd made up largely of our area’s sizeable Panic constituency. For $7.50 or so (if the band had been comprised of some young unknowns rather than a trio of almost-all-stars), Stockholm Syndrome would score a Check Plus-Plus on the kindergarten grading scale.

But alas, that was not the case. So I’ve kindly included a couple of suggestions for the band on how to bridge this troubling price gap in the future:

Lose the keyboard player. Theoretically speaking, if band members are splitting the night’s take evenly, then nixing Danny Dziuk automatically brings admission price down to 12 bucks. I only suggest this because you couldn’t really tell that Dziuk was contributing much to the ear-ringing rampage in the first place — his keys were audible on maybe two separate occasions. This hardly amounts to a justifiable presence in a feedback- and reverb-fueled group whose name is synonymous with an intriguing psychological condition wherein hostages become emotionally attached to their captors.

Beyond those needless keys, Joseph and McFadden worked to great effect on a Fender Strat and a Les Paul, respectively. They ripped through most of the material found on Stockholm Syndrome’s debut album, plus some other choice selections from Joseph’s impressive cache of original material. His “Chainsaw City,” a gruelingly nasty older tune, provided not just the evening’s high point, but also its most telling detail: The night’s apex came wrapped in a song that has nothing to do with Stockholm Syndrome.

Play one set instead of two. Stockholm’s first batch of songs wasn’t all that great anyway, as evidenced by a noticeable drop in crowd size after halftime. Now, with only one set to pay for, the audience is fast approaching a more acceptable financial sacrifice for Stockholm Syndrome.

In the sprawling world of rock ‘n’ roll, the side-project band remains a tricky beast at best. And while Stockholm Syndrome scores a bit better than most of its ilk, I wouldn’t recommend that its respective members quit their day jobs anytime soon.

Score: On the sports/hobbies scale, Stockholm Syndrome rates a golf — an overpriced but worthy pastime with its fair share of semi-famous players.

[Asheville-based music writer Stuart Gaines, a contributing editor at An Honest Tune, can be reached at youknowthiscity@yahoo.com.]

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