Musical Year in Review
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THE 3RD ANNUAL JOHN COLTRANE INTERNATIONAL JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL, OAK HOLLOW PARK, AUG. 31
Forgot that Dave Koz ridiculousness: Al Jarreau’s cosmopolitan magic and Christian Scott’s declarative, often challenging assimilation of hip hop and indie rock dragged the Coltrane Fest into uncharted space in its third year. Despite its programming growth, another evolution might be in order after Durham’s Art of Cool Festival threw down the gauntlet with their inaugural 2014 lineup. That includes correctly spelling the headliners’ name on the LED board.
WINSTON-SALEM CENTENNIAL CONCERT, DOWNTOWN, MAY 10
You might have heard of a book that Stephen Dubner co-authored called Freakonomics. Jeffrey Dean Foster has his longawaited follow-up to Million Star Hotel on deck (and a really big show at Hanesbrands Theatre this New Year’s Eve). Jon Wurster does okay in a band called Superchunk, but now that “The Best Show” has been put to bed he can finally focus full-time on the “Track Jacket Chat” spinoff (we hope). They’ve all had good years, and not the least of their individual highlights was the reunion of the failed-to-launch Right Profile after 25 years for Winston-Salem’s 100-year retrospective.
At the time, it was the biggest deal among a plethora of the scene’s erstwhile, briefly resuscitated greats. Time and tragedy have since refocused that evening, however. It would be the last time that most would see Let’s Active founding bassist Faye Hunter on stage, as she would take her own life just weeks after helping Chris Stamey, Greg Humphries et al dive into the jangle pop lore that she helped to inscribe.
WAKESTOCK, DAVIS FIELD, MARCH 23
The ceiling can’t hold Macklemore and Ryan Lewis yada yada, but it did take a corps of about two dozen sheriff’s deputies, campus police and student volunteers to keep the way-turned-up Wake Forest student body from trampling a flimsy barricade standing between them and the purveyors of 2013’s most left-field hit. Credit to Macklemore, though: With a ratty fake fur coat on top of a camouflage jacket on top of a grey hoodie on top of a Penny Hardaway jersey, he lives how he spits it. WFU landed him on a private co-bill right at the height of his tolerability, but it was WAKEstock closer Kendrick Lamar “” whose set almost didn’t happen thanks to the insufferable crowd “” who would finish the year as the undeniable crown prince of hip hop.
R. KELLY, ZIGGY’S, JAN. 20
A lot of seeping old wounds were picked fresh when The Village Voice’s Jess Hopper published an interview with Jim DeRogatis, the man who broke that R. Kelly story 15 years ago, about the writer’s efforts to keep an honest discussion around the R&B star. This came after Kells’ headlining spots at a few of the hippest festivals this year awarded him strange cachet with white listeners, but before Bonnaroo and before Pitchfork, there was his infamous Ziggy’s “show.” By “show,” it was really Kells puffing on stogies and guzzling Cristal Ros straight from the bottle for 90 minutes, and several hundred people paid $25 to $35 to watch him do it. Folks got burned, and badly, but the Instagram shot of him and Justin Bieber just kicking it in a downtown Winston- Salem luxury suite later that night made it all worth it.
JANKA NABAY & THE BUBU GANG, MOSAIC FESTIVAL, JUNE 8
There’s no sound quite like the frenetic synth and drum chaos of Sierra Leone expat Janka Nabay, and his motoric energy was a direct challenge to the more than 4,000 who attended the 4 th annual Mosaic International Food and Music Festival to put down the bulgogi and dance “” 88 degree temps be darned.
ERYKAH BADU, WAR MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM, NOV. 1
The Triad’s best show of the year? That would be the one by Ms. Erykah Badu, a one-off gig in support of NC A&T’s homecoming festivities. Her incredible wee-hours DJ at the after party was a thing of legend in its own right, but having funk bass god Thundercat along as bandleader was the masterstroke in a show that just did not let up.
NAUGHTY BY NATURE, ZIGGY’S, MARCH 3
Even after 20 years, Naughty By Nature’s live shows still look exactly like their videos.
JUICY J, GREENE STREET CLUB, MAY 8
As if a factor of age and sheer ubiquity, Juicy J has become an unlikely mentor (and drinking buddy) for a horde of rappers more than a decade his junior. So it wasn’t surprising, though it certainly wasn’t expected, when he summoned his own mentor and big brother, Project Pat, from thin air for a quasi-reunion of classic Three 6 Mafia for a string of the Memphis collective’s oldest jams.
GATE CITY GETDOWN, THE FLATIRON, NOV. 16
“You remember those routines/That we used to make spiffy like Mr. Clean?” When most had given up on the Flatiron, an enclave of hip-hop heads gave it a proper send-off in its final weeks with slick routines of all [old?] funk 45s, hypnotic drum/keys/ turntables improv, homegrown b-boy styles, and one hella great Beaker chalk drawing.
SARAH SISKIND, HANESBRANDS THEATRE, JUNE 29
Bon Iver made Sarah Siskind’s sweet ballad “Lovin’s for Fools” into a harmonyladen staple of the band’s sets a few years ago, but even Justin Vernon’s tender adaptation couldn’t compare to the version Siskind offered at her Hanesbrands Theatre performance. Rarely does a screaming baby offer much in the way of harmony, but there’s little doubt that the preternatural musical talents of Siskind and her husband, Infamous Stringdusters bassist Travis Book, live on in her [their?] infant daughter Ruby.
THE INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS, THE BLIND TIGER, JAN. 10
The Stringdusters didn’t actually need baby phenom Ruby’s assistance in slaying a packed house at the Blind Tiger, but even their peerless harmonies could have used one more voice. If only she had been born then.
WILLIAM TYLER/WILDE BLOOD, PHUZZ PHEST, APRIL 4–6
One day, indie rock soiree Phuzz Phest will cease being Winston-Salem’s best kept secret and start being music hunter’s destination. For now, it’s not hard to appreciate being able to catch a vaunted guitarist like William Tyler play an intimate set, nor is it seeing a locally-sourced talent like Wilde Blood’s Haydee Thompson overcome a case of the nerves in spectacular fashion.
MOBB DEEP, GREENE STREET CLUB, AUG. 21
Like just about every rap group that’s stuck around for 20 years, Mobb Deep in 2013 was all about celebrating two decades of one of the many, many rap classics to arrive in 1993. Expect to see this blurb again next year, as they’ll spend 2014 rocking an entirely different record for its 20 th birthday.
FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE, GREENSBORO COLISEUM, NOV. 23
After Nelly blessed their hit “Cruisin'” with the year’s lamest rap verse since “Accidental Racist,” country upstarts Florida Georgia Line’s sold-out November gig was among the most attended shos in the Triad. It also marked the single biggest all-white audience to be simultaneously goaded into saying that most unspeakable word, all in the name of hip hop. It’s okay though, they do have that one black friend.
GEORGE STRAIT, GREENSBORO COLISEUM, MARCH 23
Maybe George Strait hanging up his guitar is to blame for the plague of the Florida Georgia Line. His farewell tour seemed awfully final, and someone has to fill those shoes.
JUSTIN MOORE, WHITE OAK AMPHITHEATRE, MAY 30
Justin Moore didn’t exactly come out and say he’s gunning for Howard Coble’s seat (especially since he’s not even eligible), but his xenophobic beer-swilling, flag-waving, gun-loving platform sure seems electable. !