U.S. Christmas, Salt the Wound: Three Stars
• Genre(s): Stoner/Space/Sludge Rock
• You’ll like it if: You need confrontational rock balanced with trippy forays into the unknown.
• Defining song: “Devil’s Flower” – Stuck somewhere between the visceral punch of Comets on Fire and the psychedelic pinnacles of early Pink Floyd, this song disturbs the brain while simultaneously offering a velvet pillow for comfort.
Lurking at the base of Old Fort Mountain resides U.S. Christmas, a band disparate from the Appalachian musical tradition that permeates the area. I first encountered this Marion-based quintet at Fred’s Speakeasy last May. Full of musical muscle, the group turned that little listening room into a jungle of fuzzy guitars, acid-spewing vocals and a Theremin that added a hint of spook to each sound. Their new album, Salt the Wound, is a continuation of those live excursions. It’s a great introduction to the band for those brave enough to withstand the assault. Fans of Sabbath, Hawkwind and the Butthole Surfers will especially enjoy this music. Instrumentals like “Norpo” summon images of dancing bongs, while “Death by Horses” will make the weak curl up in a ball begging for bubblegum pop.
Aaron Price and Open Mic at Stella’s every Tuesday: Three Stars
• Genre(s): Beats the hell out of me
• Be glad you stayed home if: You need a marquee name instead of the unknown landscape of open mics.
• Defining moment: When Jason from Boston (the last name never came to light) stepped to the stage. Equipped with an accordion and a batch of emo songs, Jason quickly made the room (in a combination of horror and fascination) go silent. While unsettling, Jason epitomized the spirit of open-mic — bravery is all that matters.
A sparsely attended bar can be the death knell for bands in some towns. But in Asheville, it sometimes means an undiscovered musical booty. Only three weeks old when I attended, Aaron Price’s open mic could soon be that treasure trove of talent.
At around nine, Price’s band (which varies weekly) started the proceedings with some experimental jazz. The beauty of not having an expectant crowd is that Price’s music had no stage fright — it freely traipsed around, confident in its own peculiarity. The spirits of Herbie, Miles and Ornette floated around in this freedom, and made me excited for the rest of the evening. Still, Price sets the bar quite high, and anyone who comes on after him probably has a minor quake in their shoes. On the flip side, the beauty of Price extending into the outer realms of expression will inspire those who follow him. Singer/songwriter Jimmy Wallace did a great Bob Dylan impression, and his original, “Get Down,” struck an impression with the attendees. The evening was bookended with Price’s band coming once again to center stage. Hopefully, more musicians will make their way to this Tuesday night free-for-all, and this little-known cache may soon have tons of plunderers.
[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]