Trinumeral Music and Arts Festival :: 08.08.08 – 08.10.08 :: Deerfields Amphitheatre :: Horse Shoe, NC
“I honestly think Deerfields is one of the most magical and beautiful places that I have ever been”, acknowledged Trinumeral co-organizer Par Neiburger. “We chose this location for Trinumeral because of how simply awestruck we were and still are with the whole place.”
“The evolution [of Trinumeral] has been several years in the making,” continues Neiburger. “My best friend Grant Howl and I went to New World School of the Arts together in Miami, Florida. We began to notice the separation of different art forms for exhibitions and events. Visual arts were being relegated to galleries and music to concert venues. Our idea was to create an event that bridged the gap and brought several different forms of artistic expression to one gathering. We began Trinumeral in Miami on January 1, 2001 [01-01-01] and it has been held each subsequent year on the date in which the day, month and year align in an auspicious numeric sameness. Our inspiration came from Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, multimedia events that were the original breakthrough shows for The Velvet Underground.”
Moving from the parking lot to the concert grounds fans were greeted at the gate by Victor “Sandman” Leong. Originally from North Carolina, Sandman spent more than a decade creating sandcastles reaching larger than life proportions in Miami Beach, FL. When I arrived onsite, Leong was going to work on a gigantic Trinumeral themed sand structure at the base of the lake near the Deerfield’s entrance. By the time his masterpiece was finished, candles lined the inside of the body so that the structure was illuminated for nighttime exhibition. Leong’s workspace was also a huge hit with all the small children in attendance. With nearly twenty tons of sand being hauled onto the Trinumeral site, some kids even took part in instructional classes with Leong’s assistant, where they gained insight into the different techniques of sand sculpting.
While the arts played a big part in the weekend, Trinumeral was heavy on the music which took place on the Ba Stage (Main), Huit Stage (Pond) and Ocho Stage (Plateau).
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band (Ba Stage)
GZA (Ba Stage)
Friday’s festivities really didn’t seem to kick into high gear until a hip-hop titan took the stage in the form of Gary Grice, better known throughout the entertainment industry as GZA or The Genius. Grice is a founding member of the groundbreaking hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan. Drawing on material from several of his own solo releases, GZA had the Trinumeral crowd singing along as he switched back and forth between album material and impromptu freestyling. While some people may have found this booking a bit out of the ordinary for the weekend’s lineup, it was clear the majority of the attendees enjoyed themselves.
“I grew up on Wu-Tang Clan and was freaking out the whole time,” said Neiburger. From an audience standpoint, GZA was a bit out of his element, but seemed right at home, casually sitting on the edge of the stage and joking with the crowd when he flubbed lyrics. At one point during his set, the pit in front of the stage was so full of media reps that the MC just couldn’t help himself from asking, “I see we have some Panasonic’s in the house tonight. Some Canon’s and some Sony’s. You get enough video yet?”
Galactic (Ba Stage)
There has been considerable back and forth between fans about MCs touring with Galactic since their release From The Corner To The Block hit the market last year. Gaining national interest and boasting a strong supporting cast of MCs, the band was ready to hit the road in support of their ambitious project. Anyone who thought these artists would only sit in during release parties and novelty events were definitely mistaken. If you don’t prefer to see these types of collaborations every night, you may consider going to fewer Galactic shows and appreciate these gigs for their unique approach. I think people should support them for trying to branch out creatively, and welcome the likes of Lyrics Born, Chali 2na, Boots Riley and Mr. Lif to the stage. Galactic and guest Boots Riley commanded the stage from the outset. I’m always impressed by the consistency of their shows as they continue to reinvent themselves over and over again. And it would be a disservice if I didn’t highlight Galactic’s continued support for non-profits and their commitment to giving back to the community of New Orleans.
Dr. Fameus (Ocho Stage)
Pnuma Live P.A. (Huit Stage)
Alex Botwin, Lane Shaw and Ben Hazelgrove have come a long way since vaulting out of the Memphis music scene with their ambitious project, Pnuma Trio. I was first exposed to their electro/hip-hop in Asheville a couple years ago and at the time they reminded me of a younger New Deal. I was surprised by their raw talent and felt that big things would start to come their way with proper management. A move out west, a new album and many shows later, the band is coming into their own and gaining many endorsements among their peers in the electronic music stratosphere.
At Trinumeral, the audience was treated to an abridged version of the lineup with Botwin and Shaw showcasing their talents as Pnuma Live P.A. The music is a mixture of original Botwin produced tracks sprinkled with the occasional remixed Pnuma track and a sampling of the duo’s favorite producers. A full range of styles are incorporated into their set including drum and bass, down-tempo and electronica, while remaining firmly rooted in hip-hop. The P.A. sets have allowed Botwin to road test some of his newest material before infusing it into the trio’s repertoire while at the same time showcasing some of the band’s current musical interests in a unique and dynamic setting. I was impressed not only by Botwin’s creative mash-ups and Shaw’s technical dexterity, but also by the excitement they generated from the overflowing crowd. After seeing the pair perform again, it’s not hard to grasp why they drew such a tremendous audience. Without a doubt, Pnuma P.A. was one of the standout electronic performances of the weekend.
EOTO (Ba Stage)
Conspirator (Ba Stage)
If you were one of the fortunate people to stay up late enough for Conspirator’s early Saturday morning set you weren’t let down. Donning a slimmed down lineup, Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner shook off the cobwebs and eased onto the stage. After a few opening comments, the duo went to work on an 80-minute showcase of top-notch electronic music. Conspirator minus one Omen didn’t lose any gas as Magner stepped up the goods and set a tremendous pace while Brownstein held down the low end. The duo played a handful of Conspirator staples to welcome the early morning crowd but one could sense they were antsy to begin parading out their special guests.
Afromotive (Ba Stage)
Afromotive is another group making some noise in the Southeast over the past year. They play the Asheville area frequently, and the Afrobeat upstart’s performance Saturday afternoon was chock full of extras including aerial artistry and memorable collaborations. Ex-Ashevillian Laura Reed and Debrissa from Deep Pocket sat in for a cover of Deee-Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart.”
“The songs we did with our special guests were great” remarked Afromotive bassist Ryan Reardon. “Laura and Debrissa were tremendous! We don’t perform many cover songs but a lot of people seemed to dig it. It was a lot of fun.”
Also during the set, right in tune with the message of the festival, were a couple of the Asheville Aerial Artists taking center stage around the band. They hung high in the sky above Afromotive, twirling and improvising along with the music, while deep in the pit Ishmael was putting together a graffiti masterpiece.
“We always like to give the crowd something new and sometimes unexpected,” said Reardon. “I knew the Trinumeral concept was big on collaborations between different art forms so it seemed like the perfect fit. The song we performed with them, ‘You Already Said That,’ really hits and has this great vamp! It was nice to be able to stretch out the song and let Renee and Candice do their thing. It definitely enhanced our set.”
Kaki King (Ba Stage)
Many people stood enamored with their talents, while others closed their eyes and swayed to the music. It wasn’t one of the rowdiest performances of the weekend but it certainly grabbed the attention of many new admirers. “I thought the crowd response was good,” said Brantigan. “Usually these festivals are based around dancing, and I think that our set was a welcomed break for people just to look around and enjoy their surroundings. The festival grounds were beautiful in and of themselves. Hopefully we set a backdrop for people to really be engrossed by the moment and where they were spending it.”
The duo performed some improvised material from King’s side project, Day Sleeper, before King emphatically closed out the set with a solo rendition of “Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers” from her third album, Until We Felt Red. Saturday afternoon was overcast, but the queen of acoustic guitar combined fret-taps with slap bass techniques to blow away an unsuspecting crowd.
Midnite (Ba Stage)
Stephanie’s Id (Ocho Stage)
I have lived in Asheville for around four years and one of the first groups I heard about in town was Stephanie’s Id. A lot of people around Western North Carolina refer to them as an indie-pop band, but they have a habit of bending genre labels. For the most part, they are led by the duo of Chuck Lichtenberger (keyboards) and Stephanie Morgan (vocals). They are a pretty cool pair because they embrace playing rock clubs with a five or six piece but are also completely at home performing duet-style at a small bistro or art gallery. Versatile enough to charm you with jazz standards and tough enough to pull off moody art rock, diversity is the name of the game with this group.
Lotus (Ba Stage)
Rain finally exploded on Saturday night at the very beginning of Lotus’ set. The only significant precipitation of the three-day festival fell at a rapid pace, sending many concertgoers diving under trees and bailing for vendor tents. One brilliant fan brought a PE Parachute (similar to ones you’d use during physical education in elementary school) and was able to help shield about two dozen people from the passing storm.
Lotus was a definite highlight for many in attendance, and I was impressed with their significant tech and equipment upgrades over the past two years. All those purchases really shined through with the opening combination of “Bellwether” > “Suitcases” and “Sandwiches.” A seamless transition between those two songs really displayed how tight this band has gotten. I was only able to catch a small amount of their timeslot, but after a long break I made it back for the end of their performance. Fan favorite “Tip of the Tongue” and a set closing “Jump Off” demonstrated why these guys are becoming a stronger regional draw.
Particle (Ba Stage)
Telepath (Ocho Stage)
Telepath is another band formerly from Asheville, but now calls Philadelphia home. With still a long way to go, this down-beat and ambient trio packed in a passionate tent full of people with an impromptu set on the Ocho Stage. The band wasn’t originally slated to perform on the plateau but ended up getting penciled in late night, treating a gracious audience to a solid set of dub and ambience.
SeepeopleS (Ba Stage)
SeepeopleS ripped through about ten songs spanning their past couple releases including “Butchers,” “Apocalypse Cow” and “Makes It Go,” a new song that was very well received. Ending the evening on a high note, SeepeopleS busted a thunderous rendition of Radiohead’s “National Anthem” with Will Bradford belting out the ending lyrics with authority. It was one of the better Radiohead covers I’ve seen on the festival circuit, so huge props to Peter Keys (keyboards), Dan Ingenthron (bass) and Tim Haney (drums).
Some Honorable Mentions
My Subversive Media (Ba Stage)
Matt McDonald pulled triple duty over the weekend sitting in with Lotus, SeepeopleS and he performed a solo electronic set under his new acronym, My Subversive Media.
Roots of Creation (Ocho Stage)
I awoke Sunday morning to a band named Roots of Creation playing the Ocho Stage at around 5:00 a.m. I only heard a few songs in passing but their blend of improvised rock and reggae grabbed my interest.
Asheville Horns (Ba Stage)
The Asheville Horns had their chance to shine on the main stage, making a well-timed guest appearance during Galactic’s headlining set on Friday night.
“A lot of the visual artists are friends and people we have collaborated with for years” explained Neiburger. “Bhakti Baxter and Tao Rey were founding members of The House, an alternative gallery space that has been credited with being one of the foundational exhibition venues that began the Miami art scene and attracted the attention of Art Basel. Bhakti is now represented internationally by The Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery, one of the best galleries in Paris. TM sisters, Jay Hines, Ricky Rayns and Jason Hedges were all a part of this original art movement in Miami in which I was involved, while artists such as Lebo and Kris D have painted live with some of the biggest names in the music festival scene.”
For the better part of a decade David LeBatard (aka Lebo) has been involved in live performance painting. The current art director for Langerado Music Festival cut his teeth alongside The Spam Allstars during warehouse parties in Miami. Lebo has gone on to paint with headline acts such as The Beastie Boys, Bela Fleck, Burning Spear and Thievery Corporation. A permanent fixture of the festival circuit, Lebo could be found in the pit each day at Trinumeral whipping through several signature pieces.
This guy was quite an interesting study over the course of the weekend. During the first day of the festival, a little bit before GZA took the stage, Ishmael (as he refers to himself) threw up a large canvas and began painting a gorilla. The artist has devoted his art to spreading the message of the book Ishmael written by Daniel Quinn. The image of the “telepathic” gorilla corresponds to a central character in the story that is crucial to the overall message. Live painting is a fairly new occurrence for Ishmael but he has been a pioneer of the graffiti discipline for quite awhile. I watched him over the course of a few pieces he was working on at Trinumeral and his graffiti artwork was eye opening.
Since his first painting gig in November 2007, Garfield has worked alongside Zilla, Lotus, Bassnectar, The Everyone Orchestra and The New Deal. This guy was super intense and completely focused on his work the entire weekend. Aside from my lack of technical knowledge, I saw a lot of visual similarities in Garfield and Kris D’s art. Both work very close to the canvas and have a unique way of incorporating vivid patterns into their projects. Garfield may not have whipped off as many finished pieces as some of the other artists, but his attention to detail consistently raised the quality bar.
I met these guys about halfway through the weekend. At the time they seemed quite exasperated, but they always seemed to hit their stride down in the pit area around the main stage. Founded in Philadelphia in the Fall of 2006, Vort and Cank started an abstract consulting firm called Vorcan. With more than 250 events under their belt in the U.S. and across Europe, the duo began painting live music of all genres throughout Philadelphia and New York City. Vort and Cank recently accomplished another tremendous feat by painting 50 different works in 50 different U.S. states over the course of 50 days.
John Hairston, Jr.
All I have to say is “hip-hop-robo-socio-Saturday morning-comic book-pop-surrealism.” Comic book fans would really dig what this guy was working on all weekend.
Other Artistic Endeavors Asheville Aerial Arts
This is another regional group from Asheville that seems to pop up at many festivals around the area. The cool thing about Unifire is their dedication to combining theatrical performance with fire arts from across the world. I’ve seen other dance troupes perform at larger festivals with a much more involved production, but Unifire is a rare treat for those looking for a local alternative.
World Hoop Day
The hula-hoops began to come out in full force starting around 7 p.m. on Friday, as dozens of attendees, young and old, made their way over to the main concert grounds for an hour of freestyle hooping. Slowly gaining steam over a couple hours, World Hoop Day was led by movement specialist Melanie “melmacpink” MacNeil of www.ashevillehoops.com. While more dedicated fans tried to one up each other with inventive techniques and varying styles, other participants were merely happy to be out in the open concert field taking in the beautiful natural environment.
Conclusion In the end what you got from Trinumeral was an ambitious, if at times unorganized, fusion of music and the arts. With more consultation and support I have no doubt Trinumeral will turn into an even larger gathering over the next few years. If they continue to bring in the same caliber of visual artists they had this year much of the great music will also fall into place. I was proud to see so many Asheville music groups (Stephanie’s Id, Strut, Afromotive, SeepeopleS, GFE, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band) go head to head with larger draws and come out on top in their own backyard. And Deerfields itself should be touted as a premium festival experience for those who are looking for a smaller scale concert in a meditative environment.
JamBase | North Carolina
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