Triad bands to watch in 2018
By: Jon Epstein
One of the things I most looked forward to when agreeing to write a “bands to watch” feature was the opportunity it provides me to stray from my usual comfort zone and see what was brewing around town. Despite being in the shadows of the larger metro areas of Charlotte to the South and the Triangle to the East; the Piedmont Triad has a richly diverse music community and continues to produce some of our State’s finest popular music. It didn’t take me long to realize that to really do the music community justice (of which I am a part both as a writer and as an active participant) that I had gotten myself in deep. It seemed that pretty much everywhere I looked there were bands and artists sincerely committed to their art. Instead of there being a single music scene in the Triad, there is a ridiculous amount of scenes, which are isolated from all the others. I don’t have an explanation for that, but I’m fully expecting a trip down the rabbit hole as I try to unravel it in future columns.
The music scene of the Triad has traditionally found itself focused in three broad genres: Americana (an extension of the folk-rock movement of the 1970s with an emphasis on traditional acoustic instrumentation), The Blues (with an emphasis on nostalgia and all things “vintage”), and what has been called “Jangle Pop” (which is an odd, but in very obvious ways, a hybrid of the first two genres) and is most often associated with R.E.M. Their early career was largely shaped through their work with local Triad producer Mitch Easter who produced and recorded the band’s debut, Chronic Town, and with fellow producer Don Dixon on the band’s second and third albums Murmur and Reckoning.
This isn’t to say that the Triad music scene is confined to these genres. It is anything but that, and melodic metal band, Raimee is proof. Raimee was originally formed in Boone during the early years of the decade before relocating to Greensboro after the two founding members Rei Haycraft and Brandon Mullin graduated from Appalachian State University. Since forming, the band has released one full-length album, After All This Time and one “shared” album with the since-disbanded Charlotte-based Reconnaissance titled Of Roses and Ravens. With a sound that is reminiscent but not derivative of Coheed and Cambria and Evanescence. Relying largely on the strength of Haycraft’s vocals, the band’s sophomore album, which is now in production, is sure to be one of this year’s most anticipated releases in the heavy metal community.
For those who have been paying attention, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the audience for rock ‘n’ roll is no longer confined to teenagers and young adults. As generations age, they carry their musical tastes with them. For the generation that came of age in the latter part of the 20thcentury, the rock ‘n’ roll torch is being expertly carried by The Luxuriant Sedans. Drawing on its members’ vast experience in the Triad as the most iconic combo, the Luxuriant Sedans are the area’s most formidable rock ‘n’ roll band. Grounded by the rock-solid rhythm section of Ed Bumgardner (Fast Annie, The Allisons, Liquorhouse Soul Revue) and Drummer Bob Tarlton (Kingfish, The Promise Breakers), The Luxuriant Sedans serve up a blues-rock gumbo that is equal parts garage rock and British blues-rock that is reminiscent of classic J. Geils. Propelled by the fierce blues harp chops of vocalist Mike “Wezo” Wesolowski (Blues World Order), and bookended by the formidable guitar work of Rob Slater (Peter May and the Rough Band) and Gino Grandinetti (The Allisons), The Luxuriant Sedans are two albums in on what is proving to be one gritty, take-no-prisoners ride. But it is in a live performance context that they truly shine. Any chance to see this band perform is well worth the effort.
One of the pleasures of being a music critic is the thrill of finding excellence in some of the most unexpected places, hence the inclusion of B.G. Bristow and the Rhythm Demons in this overview. While it appears that band leader and principal songwriter Brent Bristow, who is also the owner of Salem Music, did not knowingly do so, Road Trip the debut album from his band, is one of the finest examples of traditional Outlaw Country that I have encountered in quite some time. Centered on Bristow’s stripped-down guitar playing and lilting vocals, this album is supported by the talents of multi-instrumentalist and sound engineer Geoff Weber and a cast of musicians that is a veritable local who’s who of traditional Americana. Road Trip is not so much a blast from the past as it is a nod to tradition with an eye toward the future.
While this article began with the observation that the Triad music scene is more readily understood as a collection of autonomous scenes, the efforts of the Friday Night Music Club over the past year in Winston-Salem has done much to integrate those diverse scenes into an actual community. Spearheaded by the multi-talented, and in the running for hardest-working man in show business crown Doug Davis (The Plaids, The Vagabond Saints Society) and Karon McKinney (Karon Click and the Hot Licks).
The Friday Night Music Club is a monthly music event held at various venues around Forsyth County that brings together a broad assortment of local musicians, representing a diverse collection of genres, to perform one-off shows while working with other musicians that they would not have the opportunity to create with under normal circumstances. These shows revolve around a specific theme and have proven to be among the most-attended local music events in the area. Most importantly, the Friday Night Music Club has become an incubator for new musical projects across genres and has provided an extensive network of local talent from which other musicians can draw inspiration and bands can find new members. These events are also always connected to philanthropic efforts as fundraisers for a wide range of local nonprofit organizations, and it is very difficult to find fault with their efforts.
This short list represents a drop in the bucket of musical talent in the Triad. Over the course of the year, future columns will highlight other area musicians and bands worth watching. By keeping a finger on the pulse of the local music scene, hopefully, it will help draw more attention to the wide variety of superb talent in our region. The result is that for this writer, it is not so much a job as it is an adventure. Let’s do this.
*Editor’s note: If you have any suggestions of local bands that you’d like to see YES! Weekly cover or local bands that you think are worth-watching, email Jon Epstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jon Epstein is a writer, artist, and musician living in Winston-Salem.