Words by Chris Gaspar
Terrapin Jamfest :: 01.21.06 :: Orange Peel :: Asheville, NC
I was recently presented with two options for a great night of music, but financial factors provided the swing vote for my ultimate location. On a night that saw Bela Fleck tickets reach as high as forty and fifty dollars for his super group The Flecktones, a few blocks away provided an eclectic mix of acts for the low price of ten dollars. That's what I love about Asheville - there are endless options for live music every week and at the height of the city's busy season, the infusion of performances rockets at a staggering pace. On this particular night, I visited my favorite local venue, The Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club. The last time I stepped through their doors, moe. dropped one of the hottest sets I had seen in town all year, ranking up there alongside Wilco's Thomas Wolfe show and The Arcade Fire's Orange Peel visit. Entering its second year in existence, The Terrapin Jamfest is proudly presented by one of Georgia's finest beers along with Hittin' the Note magazine. The current tour supplied a healthy lineup of acts featuring Southeast regional stalwarts Moonshine Still, a revamped fusion of Snake Oil Medicine Show and Acoustic Syndicate dubbed CX-1, and the intense presence of fast rising indie rockers SeepeopleS.
If you have not had a chance to attend a SeepeopleS performance, I highly suggest keeping your eyes open for their Spring Tour schedule. They embody a great sense of musicianship, have tremendous chops in the support section (bass and drums), and bring to the table a diverse spectrum of material. Their live show is an intense fusion of pop, rock, dubwise, and electronic music. Their hard rock edge is strikingly similar to the disbanded European juggernaut The Verve, but with an electronic infusion resembling the French duo AIR. To round out this dose of loud groove-rock, they deliver sensible pop tunes a la The Samples and can push the limits when they load in the patches, crank up the samplers, and deliver some extremely danceable "rocktronica."
The set times could easily have been inverted as there was equal respect and anticipation for all the acts on the evening's bill. SeepeopleS drew the opening slot and set the bar ridiculously high for the following acts. The band opened with their most schizophrenic and aggressive song, "Here We Go." This composition is a perfect example of one extreme within their repertoire. Bass-heavy with booming drums, the middle section is dusted over with a spacey electronic dub jam which surges into a frenetic finish. This song featured a brief guest sit-in by Moonshine Still keyboard player Trippe Wright, who added timely electronics to cap off the first song of the night. After an intense opening, "Don't Panic" - a new song penned by Will Bradford for their next release Apocalypse Cow - emerged from the rubble. Quickly becoming a favorite within their fan base, the song has an eerie sense of emergency and is a by-product of Bradford's obsession with the end of civilization. It is a decent segue tune clocking in at around three minutes, and it set the table for "Butchers." This tune finds the band transformed into a politically-conscious, tweaked-out trance act, combining slick lyrics with a large helping of break-beats and a prowling bass line. After a brief switch-up of instruments, Bradford announced that they would debut a new Apocalypse Cow song titled "My Friends" for the hometown show. While the energy of this new track was impressive, the transitioning in the beginning has to be cleaned up a bit in order to make this one a keeper. Reminiscent of early nineties rock & roll, one fan in attendance said the song made him want to run home, throw on a flannel shirt, and start bobbing his head to the beat. Band manager Victoria Karol pegged the song as the "Neil Jam Special" or "Pearl Young Delight" in reference to Pearl Jam and Neil Young's collaboration on "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World."
Will Bradford :: SeepeopleS :: 01.21 by Gaspar
The sounds of pop-rock turned into folk and country as Andy Pond of CX-1 augmented SeepeopleS, taking over duties on banjo for "Can't Turn Back the Clock." This song gave the crowd a much-needed breather and saw Bradford break out his new acoustic/electric guitar. Pond added a nice solo to this mellow flowing tune and helped display the softer side of SeepeopleS. A staple of their live shows, "It's Not So Fun" (otherwise known as "Rocker") saw the band jump back into their indie-rock boots and deliver a solid rendition of this tightly composed anthem. The last song on SeepeopleS' first album, "Out Here On Our Own," closed out the set and featured the most memorable collaboration of the night. Clocking in at around ten minutes, this song displays the band's advanced grasp of song structure and knowledge of odd time signatures. The diverse musicianship of bassist Dan Ingenthron and drummer Tim Haney help keep this song afloat while it builds and builds to a fever pitch. About seven minutes into the song, Moonshine Still guitarist David Shore emerged from the green room to deliver a blistering solo that reached an astounding stadium rock peak. Tremendous interplay between Ingenthron and Shore made this song the top collaboration of the evening.
Ingenthron (SeepeopleS) & Pond (CX-1)
01.21 by Gaspar
After an energizing set by SeepeopleS, CX-1 vaulted onto the stage and hit the ground running. The project is a fusion of two Southeastern acoustic music mainstays: Snake Oil Medicine Show (SOMS) and Acoustic Syndicate. With each group having recently disbanded, several of the remaining members wanted to continue the journey and teamed up to create their self-proclaimed "modern fusion music." The progressive roots power quartet features familiar faces such as Andy and George Pond as well as Billy Seawall from SOMS and the lone Syndicate survivor, bassist/composer Jay Sanders. The group brings a sound that is a conglomeration of past projects but has evolved further and expanded into new musical boundaries. Their material is a mixture of world beat, reggae, rock, and Americana complemented by a healthy infusion of SOMS' creative bluegrasstafari. With the new group fully intact, they have begun exploring acoustic electronica that they say will "take you on a journey through vast soundscapes and music adventures." When I spoke with Sanders, he felt the set really started to take off when they busted out "The Epic of Medium Proportion," a George Pond original. This high-energy tune with a super tight groove was immediately met with a positive response from the crowd and became a stepping stone for a set full of collaborations. First up on the carousel was Bradford from SeepeopleS lending some of his dub styling on the Reuben Brooks masterpiece "Lonely Man." "Freedom" gave Sanders an opportunity to get back to his roots and strap on a guitar. Known widely throughout the Southeast for his bass duties in Acoustic Syndicate and his work with the Snake Oil crew, Sanders got a moment to reflect on the electric guitar for this politically-motivated song. Emphasizing the dangers of war from a soldier's perspective, the tribute was written for Jeremy Saunders's (saxophonist - Acoustic Syndicate) brother, who is stationed with the National Guard in Iraq. Andy Pond's country rock song "Tell Me So" brought another augmentation to CX-1 as Harris Gardner (Woodwork Roadshow) and Scott Baston (Moonshine Still) took over duties on mandolin and guitar, respectively, for the rest of the set.
Jay Sanders (CX-1) :: 01.21 by Gaspar
For old school Snake Oil fans, "Wax-Covered Fuzz ball" has been brilliantly reworked into a danceable New Orleans-esque funk number. Reggae tune "Is It True" stretched to more than ten minutes as the collaborators began to pour on stage. With Baston and Gardener already in the fold, both Bradford and Wright came out for overtime on the keyboards while Bill Jarrett of Moonshine Still made an appearance on percussion. Their last song of the night saw them up the ante with "Flash Groove." Stretching longer than fifteen minutes, this song jumped to creative explorations and added two new guests in Ingenthron and Shore. After reflecting on the show, Sanders noted that this song may have been his personal highlight from the Terrapin Jamfest tour.
Gardner & Bradford (SeepeopleS) :: 01.21 by Gaspar
After two sets of collaborative music, Georgia favorite Moonshine Still was last to grace the stage. I had only seen them two other times at smaller venues in Asheville, but the size of the rooms in which they perform is hardly an indication of their talent. They are a very tight band with a remarkably deep repertoire, which has been growing for nearly a decade along with a dedicated regional fan base. MsS also travels with a tremendous array of light and sound equipment not normally found accompanying a band on their level. The group has evolved quickly this past year, leaving a large portion of their older material on the back burner in order to delve into their newest compositions. I was impressed by the group's cohesion from past show experiences, and there was a real positive response as soon as they came on stage. Early notables included "Gholson's Ghost" and "Mine Eyes," while "Barely Alive" saw an appearance by Sanders on upright bass playing a section normally reserved for percussion. The variation proved a solid venture, and thus continued the theme of constant collaborations between all the groups on the bill. "Long Walk" was met with tremendous enthusiasm, and the third "Seeperson" Haney emerged from backstage to lend some percussion to "Drive Thru Town."
Scott Baston (MsS) :: 01.21 by Gaspar
Michael Smalley, lighting director for Moonshine Still, noted of Haney's playing ability, "Tim is such a tight and precise drummer; he can really boost the pulse of a show. This song is already a rocker, and Tim really brought it home. The four-night run was amazing, such a diverse bill. You really got the best of everything. SeepeopleS is so innovative and exciting to see in a live setting. We in Moonshine are really huge fans of their music, and touring with them, we learned how great they are as people. I think that's why the sit-ins at the Orange Peel were so important, because it was an exchange of ideas that each band has and how they explore them differently. CX-1 really turned it up and went to new places, and I think it was the collaborations that helped them get there."
David Shore (MsS) :: 01.21 by Gaspar
The second half of Moonshine's set saw another appearance by Gardner, who added great energy on mandolin for "Cancer of the Answer" and "Cajun Draw." Andy Pond provided yet another highlight as he brought out his banjo one last time and helped take "Pyramid" to uncharted territory. Overall, it was a special night in Asheville, and I cannot recall the last time I took in a performance with so many energizing collaborations.
Looking back on the show, the ticket price could have definitely been higher for such a great evening of music. Many worthy causes and people in need of assistance benefit from this tour. It is of major importance for communities to support musicians who are performing to assist worthy beneficiaries. I didn't have any expectations going into the show, but the diversity of the lineup, bevy of collaborations, and charitable focus of the event made it a more than worthwhile cause to support.
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