Black Friday weekend rundown
Cover photo: Time Sawyer photo by Jake Rothwell
The Thanksgiving weekend has a lot of things. There’s epic eating, epic shopping, and epic efforts to get out on the town. Floods of people return home for the weekend, people who have taken jobs in other regions, gone off to college, relocated, or just haven’t been back in town for ages. Most are eager to reconnect with friends they haven’t seen in a while. Falling as it does on a Thursday, Thanksgiving always means a long weekend for most people. There’s something, too, about the start of the whole turbo-charged gift-giving season and commerce-on-steroids that can make some of us seek solace or escape in other types of consumption. And it generally means an extended amount of multigenerational face-to-face time, inviting discussions about the state of one’s life, the state of the world, politics and pop culture. Let’s face it, the whole thing can get pretty old fast. Siblings, nieces and nephews, the crush of the extended family — it’s not for everybody. And after a protracted meal, heroic pie intake, cleaning up and possibly a round of celebratory drinks, one is generally ready to take a break from their kin and reconnect with friends. To reconvene with those in less fraught settings where the conversation is necessarily constrained by volume levels that are a little more boisterous. For live music, Thanksgiving is probably one of the best weekends of the whole year. New Year’s Eve has the element of enforced good cheer, which makes some of the more contrary-minded among us decide to do the opposite of what’s expected and just stay home to avoid the crush. But at Thanksgiving, all the old gang is in town, and people are generally ready for a good time. If you find yourself looking to get out of the house, there are a number of solid live-music events happening in the region over the weekend.
Nov. 27: Night Sweats – Flat Iron, Greensboro
Even before all of the holiday eating kicks into effect, you may find yourself in need of some cathartic punk-rock release. Greensboro hardcore-punks Night Sweats will be on hand to blast away some of your bad feelings, channeling your ill will about, say, the fact that white nationalists seem to hold positions of power in the White House, or about the way that many of us live with crushing debt while the mega-rich seem to have engineered a system that protects their wealth and exploits our labor. The band just released the EP We Exist To Resist, a title which might suggest a perspective that’s locked into opposition, defined by its antithetical relationship to the dominant paradigm. Sure, there are limits to that approach, but sometimes one needs to narrow their options simply to fight the power. Fans of the Canadian band Fucked Up will appreciate what this band is doing, applying plenty of bellowing rage and hurtling menace. “Alt-Right-Delete,” of the new release, pretty much sounds like a wrecking ball moving to the beat of slow triplets as it rips into the texture of song. If you’re feeling like you want to smash capitalism, this could be your holiday jam.
Nov. 27: Time Sawyer – Wise Man Brewing, Winston-Salem
The North Carolina-based quintet Time Sawyer play Americana. There’s plenty of folk and roots in there, but also a lot of twang, with occasional jittery Telecaster and pedal steel coloring in between the lines. There are close vocal harmonies with spare lines plucked on a banjo, adding more of a somber atmosphere than any type of driving rhythmic force. The strings play interesting roles in the songs, sometimes popping up with extra force and zip; other times adding a touch of moodiness to these songs about love, loneliness, damage, hard-luck stories, heartache and nostalgia. One can hear hints of Hiss Golden Messenger and even Fleetwood Mac on the band’s new album, Mountain Howdy.
Nov 27: Billy Creason and the Dam-Fi-No Band – Earl’s, Winston-Salem
Kernersville’s Billy Creason and his Dam-Fi-No Band play country in the venerable Randy Travis tradition, singing songs about his grandpa, about the lessons learned from an older and seemingly more solid generation. Country is often about figuring out how to be a man, and Creason’s songs touch on those themes. And, in true country fashion, Creason and his crew know how to shift gears into singing tunes about grabbing a few beers, sliding into Skynyrd-tinged terrain on songs such as “Good Time Weekend.” Hell-raising, hunting-season, and NASCAR all get celebrated in Creason’s song “Redneck DNA.”
Nov. 29: Beau James – Gann Fest, Greensboro
Greensboro-based singer-songwriter Beau James is a tireless storyteller, grabbing details for songs from his observations in his daily life, and hammering them into narratives about sin, suffering, heartache, small-town romance, and learning how to soldier on in the face of mighty obstacles. James stays busy writing, whether he’s out playing solo, fronting a more brawny rock band, or collaborating with others on music for T.V. He’s a versatile guy. James can suggest the tender and introspective folk-tinged world of Mumford & Sons, with songs that chug along with just enough oomph for a rock crowd, and enough vulnerable sensitivity to keep you listening.
Nov. 29: Natural Wonder – Blind Tiger, Greensboro
Natural Wonder, fronted by Gabriel Bello, is a band that pays tribute to the genius of Stevie Wonder, complete with funky keyboards, a sturdy horn section, back-up vocals and rubbery bass lines. That should be enough to capture your attention. Wonder is a towering figure of American song, having emerged from the Motown machine, he went on to craft some of the most astounding albums of the 1970s. He made innovative use of analog synthesizers in the service of funk and soul, writing songs that paid homage to previous giants of American music (“Sir Duke”), to songs that managed to turn the plight of inner-city poverty (“Living For the City”) into anthems of optimism and inspiration. Like Duke Ellington, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, the Beatles or Hank Williams, a listener (or a tribute act) could spend a lifetime delving into Wonder’s catalog. If you’re looking for a way to feel joy and hope in dark times, the music of Stevie Wonder is a reasonable place to turn.
Nov. 29: Seth Walker – Carolina Theatre, Greensboro
In a way, Seth Walker is just another one of those throngs of people coming home for the holiday this Thanksgiving. The main difference is that he’ll be spending part of his festive weekend on stage, which is his other home. Walker grew up near Greensboro and has family in the area. He’s since left the area, and has lived in New Orleans, Nashville and Austin; cities rich with musical heritage, much of which Walker has soaked up, giving his music a swampy, bluesy, rootsy feel. Earlier this year, Walker released a new record, Are You Open?
John Adamian lives in Winston-Salem, and his writing has appeared in Wired, The Believer, Relix, Arthur, Modern Farmer, the Hartford Courant and numerous other publications.