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Music is a big tent at the circus

The Rinaldi Flying Circus is a family band that’ll make you a part of the family; Originally from New Jersey, Stacey moved to North Carolina to attend grad school at Winston-Salem State, then got Joe to apply to UNC-G. Rob moved down once he finished high school, establishing their MO: “We wait until a family member is so down and depressed that they have nothing else to live for, then say, hey, come down here to Greensboro and join the band.” They’ve changed their line-up over the last few years, as Aaron Cummings held down the drums for a couple years and Mike Rinaldi carried the bass before leaving to pursue a career as a comedian. The current lineup is Tom, Joe, Rob, and Stacey—Rinaldis all.

The first time I heard Stacey, I thought I was listening to Patsy Cline—her voice bursts its way into the consciousness, drags you down the twisted backroads of memory, love, and heartbreak, before perching you, trembling, at the edge of a cliff and— just barely—grabbing you again before you fall off. Their musical roots are in warm 50s jazz and hard-edged rock’n’roll, and they keep it interesting by swinging from the sly acoustic runs in “Postcards” to the drily sensual riffs in “Sophisticated Baby.”

Triad veterans, they’ve played the Blind Tiger, Ziggy’s, the Crown, gone on a fall tour up the east coast for gigs in DC, New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia with their two-year-old firstborn album, Old Hat, and are currently working on crowdfunding their second album. “It’s going to be a lot more rock’n’roll,” says Joe, and Stacey agrees: “Take the first album, strip out all the hope, and you’ve got it.” Their songs already sound like the soundtrack to a 50s thriller or drama, and Joe said that they’re going for a film noir with this new album.

Besides the musical chops, their songwriting glitters, too, with lines like “I want to curl up next to you in a hangnail moon.” Being in a family band has its challenges, but they’ve made it work. “We have twenty-something years of you’vealways-said-this working against us, but it’s made us be more patient with each other. It’s made us better people,” Rob said. Old Hat was good, the live versions of their new tracks are promising, and they are all getting ready to make the transition from juggling music with full-time jobs to jumping full-time into music at the end of this year. Watch out for them when they do.

I first met Tony Bones and Scarecrow of Viva Le Vox at Common Grounds’ neighborhood open mic. They were tattooed like maps, and Tony’s hair stuck in a twisted spear-point from under his kepi while they watched a couple local teenagers finish their classic rock covers. They took the stage with a guitar and a beat-up old bass, and Tony set up a cylindrical contraption that looked vaguely like a harmonica holder wrapped in duct tape. Most of the room was entranced as the duo set up—perhaps by the purple rhinestones studding the back of Tony’s vest—then exploded into a frenzy as they started playing what I can only describe as kazoo-driven gypsy punk.

Musically, they’re what would happen if the Trans-Siberian Orchestra went acoustic—there can be several movements to a song, then certain motifs are repeated across different songs on the album, with musical influences ranging from jazz, blues and gypsy to punk—all woven together with the kazoo making its insistent appearance and disappearance. Tony owes the sounds he makes to his brother, and credits Scott Joplin and the Ramones both as major influences. About his songwriting, he said it’s a patience game:

“I write the music, then wait for the words to reveal themselves. I’m a voodoo priest.” James, a songwriter in his own right, has a similarly eclectic range of influences that he arranges into wicked bass lines. If it doesn’t seem to fit a genre, they’re okay with that, too: “Everyone in the band has been someone who didn’t quite fit anywhere else.”

They have a sharp edge to their look, and a sharp edge to their words, too, but that’s from life. Luv Hungry was written as a New Orleans funeral dirge for Tony’s dying brother, and their mission is to give a voice to the oppressed: Viva Le Vox means “Long live the voice.” “Overparanoid Overprivileged Blues” rages with the chorus, “Give me your distractions, baby, I don’t care/ Heads in the sand, hands in the air/I want a reaction, not a vacant stare/ Your firstworld problems ain’t going nowhere.”

They’re not clean, and they like it that—they’ve played bars and clubs across America and Europe, and they had a weekly show at a Florida laundromat until the shows got rowdy enough to catch the attention of authorities. But they’re not just for the misbehaving: James said he knew they were doing something right when they “saw people making whoopee in the bushes at our show, then got stopped a couple days later by a 50-year-old lady at the grocery store asking when we were playing next.” !

WANNA go?

The Rinaldi Flying Circus (Unplugged!) and Viva Le Vox will be playing at Gibb’s Hundred Brewing (117 W. Lewis St. in Downtown Greensboro) at 6 p.m. on Sunday as part of the Small Batch Songwriter Series.

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