Sonmi Suite and Doc Aquatic at Bele Chere

While it’s been a great weekend for live music, it’s also been a very hot weekend for live music. Especially outdoors at mid-day. But by the time local electronic band Sonmi Suite took the stage, there was a distinct change in the weather. Cloud cover and cool breezes replaced baking sun.

Half of Sonmi Suite makes up 2/3 (or so, depending on the lineup) of another local electronic band, Paper Tiger, and both share a penchant for atmospheric soundscapes. In fact, with Sonmi Suite on the Haywood stage, it was almost as if the band’s airy, cool washes of music were calling in the clouds and chasing away the heat.

With four sythesizers, two laptops and a music percussion computer, Sonmi Suite might seem an unlikely candidate for an outdoor venue, but in fact the band’s animate instrumentals were right at home in the open air. And the decent-sized crowd responded, dancing with increasing intensity as Sonmi Suite moved from laid-back openers to more forceful offerings.

Dave Mathes is an athletic drummer, driving a song with both arms and legs. He easily out-maneuvers the fabricated beats in each composition. Nigel Gilmer plays his bass up high on his chest, every note tight and focused. There’s a sense of great concentration and control in every musician on stage, and yet the music unfolds and evolves so organically it falls just shy of psychedelic.

All Sonmi Suite photos by Rich Orris

Also touching on psychedelic themes was local indie rock band Doc Aquatic, who performed on the Battery Park stage. I caught the end of their set, not recognizing them at first because 1) front man JC Hayes had cut his mop of hair and 2) the band band had tightened up its often loose-on-the-verge-of-free-form live sound.

“Lost at Sea” followed a harder song and its easy lilt spiked with touches of falsetto sounded fresh and breezy. “I don’t care any more” had a big, full sound, galloping from start to finish and ending crisply.

Doc Aquatic closed its set with “Summertime,” which could be their answer to Jane’s Addiction’s “Summertime Rolls.” Different sound, similar idea. It’s a tribute to theseason with sweeping melodies, building to an apex of guitars and drums. A perfect way to round out this year’s festival.

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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