Extended Play 2.07.07

by Jordan Green

When I was a year out of high school, a mere lad living in Kentucky, I woke up one day to hear a feature spot about the Squirrel Nut Zippers on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” Yes, in the early 1990s the Zippers, along with Superchunk and Southern Culture On The Skids - all bands with wildly varying sounds - put North Carolina music on the map.

The Squirrel Nut Zippers also spawned their share of copycat swing bands, and may be partially responsible for the resurgence of lounge music in the last decade. In my mind they fit in a frenetic tradition of stylish North Carolina roots music with the Blue Rags and the Avett Brothers. The band faded from view by the early double-oughts, so old fans will be delighted to know they’ve reunited. They’ve been hitting select cities in the Southeast in recent months. On Thursday they’ll be at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro. Worth the trip, I’d say.

Discerning audiophiles may recall that the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Katharine Whalen performed with Hobex last November at the Flying Anvil. Happily, the “hardest working soul band in the land” has found a new venue in Greensboro with the Blind Tiger on Friday. The officially release date for their new album, Enlightened Soul is Tuesday. It’s hot, y’all.

The same night, emo heroes Sullivan headline Greene Street, with Farewell, Monday In London, Mercy Mercedes and Nathan Lazzara doing opening honors.

Then Saturday a short trip down Interstate 85 lands you at Finley’s in High Point. It’s a hard-rock venue, and Eleven Standing Still should fit the bill. From a start “paying their dues in the bars of the south-side ATL ‘burbs to the top of the heap in the burgeoning and highly competitive Atlanta music scene,” ESS has emerged as a contender with an MTV appearance and time sharing stages with the likes of Rob Zombie.

Back in Greensboro on Feb. 11, Dark Star Orchestra returns to the Carolina Theatre. A Dark Star Orchestra show is a freakish experience, with the band recreating complete sets of Grateful Dead concerts and members uncannily mimicking their originators’ mannerisms, from the way rhythm guitar player Rob Eaton charges the microphone like Bob Weir to the vocalist Lisa Mackey’s reproduction of Donna Godchaux’s idiosyncratic wail.

And speaking of Bob Weir, the original Dead guitarist will be performing with his band RatDog at War Memorial Auditorium on March 24. As his press packet describes the band, RatDog “began as a laidback blues ensemble in 1996, but now in 2007 it has become a snarling rock band that has a fabulous jazz trio at its heart.”

Also in the rock and roll alumni category, Max Weinberg – once the percussive heartbeat of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and currently the house band leader for “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” – will be performing with the UNCG Jazz Ensemble at the Carolina Theatre on Feb. 24.

And finally, we imagine that Guilford College could use some comforting after the trauma and infamy of an alleged hate crime with polarizing political overtones. Arrah & the Ferns, a cuddly indie-rock trio from Indiana, may be just the thing. They’ll be on campus 24 hours before Valentine’s Day.