Krankies Winter 2010 Compilation a ‘friendcore’ pastiche

by Jon Kirby

My introduction to the idea of local music came in the form of 1993’s After These Messages: A Romp Through the Winston-Salem Music Scene. Barely a teenager, the compact disc was a point-of-purchase impulse buy, tossed into a bag of explicit rap albums and blank tapes at Winston- Salem’s historically inadequate Record Exchange. Boasting 11 bands — each performing one original and one television theme apiece — the collection showcased the oil/water dynamic of the town’s hardcore and college-rock communities. Hippie runoff from the Ziggy’s bandstand coagulated with compostable brackish from the punk-rock potlucks that Winston-Salem’s more distorted acts relied on. For impressionable music enthusiasts of either ilk, After These Messages was an important exercise in separating the live from the jive; a multiplechoice test in hot-or-not Winston acts, tastes depending.

In the intervening years, regional compilations have become commonplace amongst artistic towns as a means of generating awareness of the musicians that pepper any given city’s limits (WUAG alone has produced five such albums in as many years). Part pat on the back, part sonic brochure, the Winter 2010 Compilation presented by Krankies Coffee exhibits the musical abilities of a loose community of individuals who represent a generally rudderless, amorphous music scene which boasts no major venues and hosts few national acts, yet has a rich history of grassroots art movements and respectable, if unreliable, outputs.

The project was conceived during several timepassing conversations by Philip Pledger, a Camel City native, who upon graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in the spring of 2009, returned to his hometown, refusing to accept the laissez-faire attitude that had come to define the City of the Arts’ overwhelming yet underperforming talent pool. As a bright-eyed employee of Krankies — the site of much innovation as former squat-turned-hot spot the Werehouse — Pledger convinced his employer to co-sign for a small run of compact discs and screen-printed sleeves, and he would in turn corral the talent for a pending compilation. And how hard is it to get Winston musicians to cough up a final mix of a compilation-bound tunes by deadline?

“With a couple of people it was easy,” Pledger says, “but with a couple of people, it was like trying to collect taxes.”

Although most area musicians are resigned to playing bars, basements or simply in their bedrooms, their influences and resulting output have more in common than would be expected. Former citywide infatuations with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Bonnie “Prince” Billie and the Walkmen don’t go unnoticed. Also, people from Winston-Salem are apparently pretty sad, and overcast shadows darkened a bulk of the offerings. Some recordings showcase active forces in regional music like Jews and Catholics and Love Craft, while other songs were salvaged from unreleased studio scraps from defunct combos, like Golden Dawn’s starstudded “Moon.”

Yet other offerings still have served as a starter pistol for a rising crop of formerly unrealized acts. Since recording “Swells,” as Honey Rider, boyfriend and girlfriend combo Eric Swaim and Julianne Harper have played several shows in and around the Triad, and to great effect. I think they also bought a house and got engaged. I myself hadn’t thought seriously about coming out of musical retirement until Pledger declared my own emotional battle hymn, “Take Me Home,” fit for inclusion. My first show — the first in five years — is slated for March.

Despite an affinity for represented factions of foothills folk, redneck electronica and other genres that I just made up, my favorite musical movement has always been friendcore — sounds generated by people I like. Thusly, friendcore dominates the tracklisting of this 18-song index of our town’s most gifted. Whether or not I know every performer on the Krankies winter compilation is incidental; as residents of an undervalued city where cops outnumber residents two to one and it’s impossible to eat a decent meal after 10 p.m., we’re all in this together. These are our songs, and this is our compilation. I look forward to hearing more.