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It’s okay’… I’m with the band

by Lauren Cartwright

When you work in the media, you quickly learn that everyone you meet has a friend in a band. And that they’re “really good.” And if you’d like to do a story on them, this friend of yours knows who to talk to. Blah blah blah.

That pretty much sums up what happened to me a few months ago. A friend from Raleigh calls me and says, “Hey, remember Tony that we worked with at Applebee’s?” I say yes, and the friend launches into how Tony is playing with this band Airiel Down that’s about ready to hit it big. So I sort of roll my eyes – ’cause we’re on the phone and I can make rude facial expressions without feeling too bad and because isn’t everyone’s band getting ready to hit it big? The conversation ended something like, “Keep me posted if they’re coming to Greensboro.”

So fast forward a few months, when I get an e-mail from an acquaintance, Taylor Traversari, whom I knew from the sign shop I worked at in Cary. He worked at Alltel Pavilion, would come to pick up the signs for the Pavilion and schooled me on the ways of getting into the VIP lounges without technically having a ticket. In his e-mail he tells me about his band coming to Greensboro that night and it ends up being the same band that Tony is a part of – Airiel Down.

It’s, like, fate or coincidence or something, right? So I ask for a CD to review so we can decide here at YES! Weekly if we’d like to write a story about them. Because free CDs in the newspaper office is sort of penance paid for all of those “friends’ bands” we have to hear about.

Here’s the background: Airiel Down has existed with different lineups since 2003; the current players seem to have the right mesh; Beaux Foy is the lead singer, rhythm guitarist, owner of the group’s record label, Autumn Rain Records, and has the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen outside of a television screen. With leading-man looks, a memorable singing voice and a built-in rock-star name to boot, he is the driving force behind the group.

Gordon Harris is on lead guitar. Curt Turner is on bass. Traversari is on drums. And Tony – my other connection to this group – joined them not too long ago as a road guitarist.

“The CD is so full of sound, we needed an extra guitar to duplicate that,” Traversari explained via cell phone on the road to Virginia for a Saturday night gig. He said that members have a specific job outside of their musical responsibilities. Traversari is in charge of marketing; others are in charge of street teaming, finances and booking. But I think Foy has the coolest job: driving the tour bus.

“It’s a twenty-four hour job. The business is almost as important as the music,” Travasari said.

I’m my own worst nightmare – I’m writing about how my friend’s in a band and how they’re trying to make it big. I’m not really a rocker chick, but I like their album, Visions, which was released in July. Rock fans in the office assure me that it’s a catchy CD. One co-worker walked in when I was listening to it and said I was “pretty hard-core today.” Although not all of it has a hard rock feel – some of the tracks on Visions almost have a hippie/alt-rock vibe. “Anthem” is a snowboarders’ manifesto and sounds like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” performed by Pantera. That track is a spoken account layered over heavy guitar riffs and short comic skits of a snowboarder’s cruel path in this world where traditional skiers are the majority. (Think Tommy Lee and Vince Neil on “Girls, Girls, Girls.”)

Their gigs are almost as diverse as their songs. Airiel Down played in Greensboro a few months ago, opening for .38 Special at the N Club. They’re scheduled for Sept. 30 at the Harley Davidson Festival in Raleigh. In October, they’re playing the pre-game show at Heinz Field for the Steelers/Chiefs match-up on a stage right outside of the main ticket gates. Traversari, a Pittsburgh native, says that it’s “a gig of a lifetime.” He said the band is even learning the “Steelers Polka” – which is an actual song. Google it. I did and it’s well worth the five minutes of your time.

Then in November Airiel Down comes back to Raleigh and plays at the Berkley Café – a place where I once got hit on by lesbian hippie chicks in one room and a free-styling rapper in the other room,’ an eclectic place so to speak. Traversari said that their show at the Café was a big hit a few weeks ago with a couple hundred fans in attendance.

But it’s not always rock-star status for the band – he said they’ve had some rough gigs, like the one in Florida where there were only about five people in the audience.

“We try to have the same energy, regardless of where we play,” Taylor said. “It’s not how many people; it’s how they respond.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Lauren at lauren@yesweekly.com.

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