by Ryan Snyder

Upcoming shows you should check out


A list detailing the best of just about any record label’s catalog is going to be naturally subjective, but that’s just not going to be the case with downtown Durham indie rock impresario Merge Records. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, 69 Love Songs, Nixon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Copper Blue and basically the first three Arcade Fire albums are firmly planted in the indie rock canon as classics beyond reproach. For such a tiny little operation founded to release Superchunk albums, Merge Records, celebrating its 25th year in 2014, has turned itself into a pretty huge deal. The massive success of its prize horse the Arcade Fire considered, Merge has still mostly traded in cultural capital (Superchunk frontman and Merge co-founder Mac MacCaughan notes in a sweet new documentary that the label has probably sold fewer records combined in 25 years than a single Michael Jackson record). It is the benchmark for indie rock cachet, and that’s why the first three days of Merge 25 sold out almost immediately after the tickets went on sale.

The fourth and biggest night, the day-long Saturday, July 26 concert outside of the Cat’s Cradle, headlined by Neutral Milk Hotel (pause for a moment; drink in the fact you’re about to read about a concert ticket giveaway for Neutral Milk Hotel in 2014), is not, and YES! Weekly is giving away a pair of tickets. So how to win? Fire up the Twitter machine, follow @YESRyan and @MergeRecords, and tweet both of us a video (YouTube, Vimeo or whatever) of any Merge band, and you’re in. That’s it. Check out the full list of Merge 25 bands at and pick one, any one. Tweet. Win (possibly). The winner will be picked from a random drawing and announced at the top of the Extended Play space in the July 23 issue. Otherwise, tickets to Saturday’s 1 p.m. concert are $65 each to see Neutral Milk Hotel, Caribou, Teenage Fanclub, Bob Mould, the amazing Mikal Cronin, Ex Hex, the Love Language and the Vertical Scratchers.


The 31-year-old Pittsboro-via-Senegal griot Diali Keba Cissokho will tell you that he doesn’t just come from a centuries-old line of African kora masters; he comes from the kora itself. He instantly won over the esteemed DanceAfrica artistic director Charles Davis (known in most circles simply as Baba Chuck) with his broad, entrenched knowledge of ancient tunes from the West African lore. He’s jockeyed his mastery of that gourd-shaped resonator harp into an infectious fusion of Afrobeat, jazz and R&B with his group Kaira Ba, powered by the lightning-quick finger-style of John Westmoreland and carnivalesque polyrhythms. The band’s recent second album, The Great Peace, is essentially their eponymous release (being the English translation of “Kaira Ba”) and an assertion of the band as one of the great dance crossovers in Africana “” its songs are rangy and dynamic, with punchy horns and memorable hooks (even if they are sung in French and Mandika). Next Wednesday, July 23, however, there’s a rare opportunity to hear Cissokho’s music at its most organic when he performs solo at the Mosaic Festival: Tastes of Africa at the Downtown Greensboro Railyard. His songs retain the same playful verve in their stripped-down form “” they’re still completely danceable “” but with a broader range of sounds to explore, Cissokho often digs a little deeper into that repertoire that left Baba Chuck awestruck. Mosiac: Tastes of Africa kicks off at 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday with free admission.!