Turn it Up, Turn Me On: Whiskeytown — Turn Around

This is a new segment I’m starting called “Turn it Up, Turn Me On” in which I share a song or album that’s just really doin’ it for me right now (that’s pretty much what this blog is made up of anyway, but now it’s called a “segment” so it’s official). The band/artist could be from anywhere at any time, so it may not have anything to do with anything other than it’s currently tickling my happy bones. I need something to do in between stalking local bands.

And the first edition of this segment goes to Whiskeytown’s “Turn Around” from their 1997 album Strangers Almanac (among some of the best things to come out of 1997). Actually that whole album has been turning me on like crazy all over again lately, but this song in particular kicks my heart into my stomach every time I hear it. Maybe it’s because somebody was listening to a lot of The Cure when they wrote this. Or hell, just hit me with a minor chord first thing and my clothes melt right off.

For those who don’t know, Whiskeytown is the North Carolina-bred band Ryan Adams fronted before launching his crazy beautiful solo career. Yes, the Ryan Adams who’s such big news right now for covering that Taylor Swift album. The same Ryan Adams who made some metal records after making his bones like this and then married Mandy Moore for a minute. Ya just never know with that cat.

Anyway, I’m going to stop there because now I have this awful thought in my head that he’s gonna marry Taylor Swift next.

“Looks For Less” Blogger Fashion Challenge: Some Romper Saved My Life Tonight

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Photos by Lydia Vilt

My mission, and of course I chose to accept it, was to create an outfit from any combination of stores at the Asheville Outlets for $100 or less and then shake my blog thing about it. Oh hello, some kinda dream come true. Let’s jam.

I knew immediately what kind of look I would go for: a sassy concert ensemble (duh!) with enough versatility to adjust to the impending weather changes. What I didn’t realize when narrowing my focus was that I was perhaps up against an even greater challenge; I had cornered myself into a relatively small market at the outlets, that of chic nighttime attire for a woman about town. But I remained optimistic because with so many fresh shows coming up this fall, there really is no other type of gear on my mind right now. I basically work, play, eat, and sleep in band t-shirts, so I’m all set on other fashion fronts.

Now, there are a few things I take into serious consideration when shopping for concert wear: a striking aesthetic presence as well as comfort. This is key. There’s nothing worse than being at, say, an electronic show and cursing the shoes you’re stuck in or constantly adjusting a skirt that rides up. It ain’t attractive and you’ll miss a good show! Furthermore, I tend toward classic styles and try to tune out most trends, as I know by now what shapes and materials flatter my body and what nonsense simply does not.

I started in Express. An instinctive animal mind takes over when I enter a boutique; I am suddenly on the hunt. Instead of just seeing the displays, I’m feeling them, sniffing out what I may not know I’m even after. After 20 minutes or so of fondling racks of bedazzled tanks, peplum tops and pencil skirts, their small section of clubwear found me. And there it was: a chiffon romper in classic black, 30% off.

The crazy thing about this moment is that I have honestly never owned a romper or jumpsuit before. It is a rare one-piece that fits both halves of my body, but this was my rare gem: a strapless top with grip lining and side zipper to keep me squeezed in, shorts that fall to just the right length, and a pretty piece of extra material that cascades down the center and over one leg. And the fact that it’s black means the possibilities for accessorizing are endless. Silver, gold, turquoise, wood: you can literally do anything to this thing but throw up on it and it’ll be fabulous. Bam.

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I knew my next piece would have to be shoes in order to determine what style jacket and jewelry I would go for. I headed to Rack Room Shoes, where they’re doing a buy one get the second pair half off sale. After a quick run-through, I found just one pair I would possibly buy (I am very picky). They were blingin’ black and gold peep toe platform stilettos, and while I am in desperate need of a new pair of major heels, they still weren’t quite right. My toes pinched on both sides, my heel popped ever so slightly out with each step, and I knew those issues would only get worse with wear. That’s when, out of nowhere, I saw the real winners.

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Black peep toe wedges with a summery, psychedelic heel design and ballerina wrap-around strap = YES. But it’s what’s inside the shoe that counts, so I strapped myself in and took ‘em for a spin around the store. Three times. Any pinching, slip-n-sliding or heel wobbling, and I would have dropped them like a one night stand. But the heavens opened up, and a wave of warm euphoria fell over me. They belonged to me. I even took them dancing downtown Saturday night, and I didn’t trip once.

The romper and shoes make a complete outfit on their own, but when it’s nearing the end of summer and we’re dealing with shorts and wedge sandals here, a girl needs options for the weather. This is where jackets and/or scarves come in. I’m a big fan of pashminas (big scarves), the many variations of draping and wrapping perfect for these chilly nights.



Rainbow pashmina by local festival vendor, Turnip the Beets

A light three-quarter sleeved jacket would look great with this, too. Color and pattern options are, again, limitless. I happened to snag a classic black (faux) leather jacket at Forever 21. Maybe it’s trendy all over again, but I’ve never had one, and I don’t believe it ever really has gone out of style. Whatever flips your skirt, I say.

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Forever 21 black bomber jacket + power teal tights. Rock ‘n roll, baby.

Let us not forget those bare legs! Throw some tights or leggings on under those shorts, and you’ll be killin’ it. Color accenting in a primarily black outfit is one of my favorite things in life.

The necklace I selected is the only unfortunate part of the story. Jewelry is hard enough to buy, especially costume jewelry with its endlessly stimulating selections of colored beads and chain types. Shoppers become junkies at the displays, sweat beading on our foreheads, hearts palpitating at the slightest hint of some other bitch crowding us out as we try to possibly choose one or two pieces. I want them all. I NEED them all. If I wear this one I could be a ‘30s movie star, this one an African queen! This mentality is not unique to me, and it’s not an accident. Fashion marketing is a brilliant thing, really. Scary, but brilliant.

I finally chose an uncluttered silver Y-chain with two turquoise beads from Maurice’s. It was more expensive than those of the other shops I visited, and I assumed that factor combined with its simplicity would reduce the risk of breakage. But I was wrong. Six hours after my purchase, the bottom link up and fell off. I was driving. Come. On. For now, I’m going to chalk this up to a bad batch, return it (or exchange it for a stack of bangles), and play with the necklaces I’ve already got and can count on. No harm done; I can pair anything with my new romper.

Asheville Outlets pro tip: If you are 95% in love with an article of clothing but are still a little unsure how it will look and feel outside the store, tour other stores and try it on in different dressing rooms. I tried the romper on everywhere I went after buying it and paired it with a variety of jackets under a variety of lighting situations. If you still like it, that piece is for you. If you don’t, jump ship and return it. It’s okay to admit when something just doesn’t work; you’ll be grateful you held onto the money in order to let the right thing in.

What I Spent:

Express, black chiffon romper: $29.95

Rack Room Shoes, black peep toe wedges: $26.74

Forever 21, black bomber jacket: $22.47

Maurice’s, silver Y-necklace: $17.12


Total: $96.28

Asheville’s First Ever Fashion Week: This is Why We Can Totally Have Nice Things

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Meeoww! KatDog Couture represent! Photo by Pete Zamplas

The music is booming, the soundsystem in The Millroom pleasingly righteous. But I’m not here for a gig or to have drinks with some hot drummer I just met. It’s Asheville’s nascent Fashion Week, four days of runway shows representing a select group of local couturiers. If ya didn’t know it, I like clothes, too.

The term “Asheville fashion” could bring to mind any number of things: hippie clothes, for one, from the incense-scented Deadhead threads found in the touristy import shops to the truly skilled leather- and lace work held down by the fine foxes of Royal Peasantry. For all the slick professionals who can afford $100 blouses, the Lexington Ave boutiques got you, but most of that stuff isn’t designed or manufactured locally (Royal Peasantry excluded!). And then of course there’s that amusing upcycled thing, but let’s not pretend that it’s particularly wearable to most of us.

It is clear upon entering the venue Friday night that the sponsor of the events, Gage Models and Talent, isn’t messing around. Based in Knoxville (with potential plans to expand to Asheville), the established and respected talent agency represents a high artistic caliber, a concept that the cultural infrastructure of Asheville doesn’t yet totally support. In other words, they’ve got money. You won’t find any pants made out of garbage bags here.

And yet Gage doesn’t appear to be riding on waves of pretension or superfluous glamour. The runway set-up is unique yet practical, built into a zig-zag so it crosses aesthetically from one corner of the venue to another. A projection screen displaying the designers’ logos rightly serves as the backdrop. Every seat in the house is filled, the DJ’s bass thuds with anticipation. Most of the photographers are posted up at the end of the runway, their flashes peppering the room.

I am thankful to the gods of time and space when KatDog Couture is announced shortly after I arrive (I’d only missed half of Diamond Brand’s power-outdoor collection). KatDog designer Kati Foster has been on my radar recently, photos of her uniquely Asheville-inspired designs tickling my Facebook feed all year. This all thanks to my friend Aubrey Huntley, who has been one of her key models of feminine badassery for months. I’m stoked to see her walk this collection tonight.

I would rock that little white number so hard. Photo by Pete Zamplas

Foster shows over 25 pieces, a thrilling ride through her current inspiration. Picture it: strapless mini dresses act as the base layer, embellished with an exciting variety of draped, cinched and side-slit skirts, hoods, and capes. From tulle-wrapped, clubby ballerina looks to earth-toned festy forest fairies, the collection is made to be extremely versatile, for wherever you want to look fly and feel comfortable. Most could reasonably be worn for three days straight at a music festival, others would be happy as conversation pieces over low-key drinks on Haywood. There are at least a couple I’d try to seduce you in. If Little Red Riding Hood lived in Montford and her hobbies included sexy acid-fuelled cemetery adventures, her closet would be filled with KatDog. I just want all the dresses. THEY HAVE ALL THE THINGS!

After the show, Aubrey introduces me to Kati (whose humble nature I suspect is overwhelmed by my new sense of fashion groupiedom) and another young designer, Tasha Lief, whose showcase I unfortunately missed on Thursday. Twenty-one-year-old Miss Tasha studies design in Paris like a boss and is probably my favorite new person. I meet some other models and ask barrel-loads of annoying questions, but it’s fascinating to be in a different artistic arena for a change, the exchanges of admiration and of course juicy gossip not unlike that of the music industry.

The week’s finale event takes place Saturday at the Renaissance Hotel. It’s an all-day thing starting at 3pm, but I, typically, don’t make it until 8:30 for the final walk. I see new material from House of Fabrics, Scott McFarland, Southern Charm, Charles Josef, and Angela Kim. Tonight I find model-watching to be the most fun, the range of body types, skin tones, hairstyles and number of tattoos appropriately representative of Asheville people.

There are some models though that look absolutely miserable up there. There’s a difference between a serious runway look and “I can’t stand this and am going to kill every single one of you.” Don’t even get me started on the walks! Ladies, I say this because I love you. If you really are going to pursue modeling you must practice wearing high heels more often. This rough shuffle in reasonable stilettos is awkward and unfair to both you and the shoes. At the same time there is knockout talent up there, and it’s refreshing to see it shine in a city with such relaxed fashion & beauty standards.

I hear later on that a bunch of models didn’t even show up (classy), and the backstage area for a time succumbed to chaos, designers plucking models from other designers, clothes and attitudes flying everywhere. Classic! Mad props to the models who walked two or three times in the same collection and the designers who made it fuckin’ work. You are fierce.

At the end of our first ever Fashion Week, “Asheville fashion” brings to mind new images for me: from swimsuit to bridal, well-crafted, cutting-edge, comfortable attire that reflects and delights the wide range of lifestyles rocking this collective land, sans the pompous price tag. Sock it to me, baby.

In Plain Sight Brings the House Down (to One World Brewing)

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Photo via mountainx.com (2012)

I turn down the hideaway alley to find a line of prospective patrons waiting outside the venue. I’ve never encountered a line here before. I ask the guy ahead of me if they’re at capacity or if this is just a smoker’s circle.

“Yes, we are waiting,” he says in a subtle lilt. Buttoned up and tucked in, I surmise he’s not from around here.

“Guess it’s a busy night,” I say. “In Plain Sight is playing.” He offers a blank stare.

“Local house DJs.”

“Oh! We are from Ukraine. House music is in our blood.” I take this as a good sign for the night.

As I light up a cigarette for the wait, my Ukrainian friends and I are joined by this fetching girl in a ‘90s throwback flower print mini dress. The doorman informs her we are at capacity, news to which she looks genuinely disturbed. Hey honey, it shouldn’t take long, we’re all cool here. It’s when he asks if she is actually one of the band member’s girlfriends, who does have a spot on the list, that she is visibly relieved.

There it is.

“Yeah, they said you would be showing up. I’ve been holding a place for you, love.” Door guy continues to cajole her as he swings the metal door open, to the rest of us adding “the perks of being a musician’s girlfriend!” I remain silent but am tickled inside. Yeah, the perks are sexy, but it hits me how the flip side of being intimately involved with a professional musician is a little less glamorous: rigorous practice and touring schedules, knowing when to give a creative opinion and when to shut the fuck up, frustration, jealousy, intermittent neglect. A relationship of this nature requires an ironclad emotional intelligence, and there should be full-on training for it. Bless you, baby girl in the pretty dress.

The irony of this situation is that for the first time in ages I did not bother securing my own guest list spot since I wasn’t sure if I would in fact make it, and the show was free anyway. But tonight I’m totally cool hanging on the other side of it again. I have plenty of cigarettes.

Set in the underground, speakeasy-style, One World Brewing turns up for In Plain Sight. DJs Lucas Ledford, Ezekiel and Nomad in the Dark make up the trio, who switch off on the tables every 20 minutes or so to keep the pulsing rhythm continuously flowing by way of their individual talents. It’s extra satisfying to finally be in front of In Plain Sight, as I tell you what: I’d been mistaking them for some other group I don’t dig for, like, two years. Can you imagine! It was only at a Moog event in June that I realized who they actually are: bringers of straight up, down ‘n dirty house + techno in a local music scene seriously lacking in it. Where the fuck have I been?

The DJ tables are set up against the brewing room, the eerie green glow from which is the only light in this dark corner. The dance party is in full swing, a typical mix of Asheville types bumping and grooving together. I don’t speak to anyone on the floor, though I’m glad they’re all here; in a sea of bodies I am going into forgotten conversation with my own. My heart declares itself upon the foundation of the strong, repetitive, unembellished beat; I close my eyes and blazing visions of color bleed from my core like spilled ink. Streams of fevered sweat are rolling sub rosa down my chest, under the thin layer of my shirt. I can’t tell which beat is the kick and which is my heart.

Halfway through the set, Nomad in the Dark (aka Ephraim Dean) steps out from behind the tables to greet me. “Are you Backstage Sass?” He must have recognized me by the RBTS WIN tank I’ve (seriously) been rocking for two weeks.

“That’s me,” I confirm, my face aglow, my eyes wide. He might think I’m on drugs. I’d might as well be. He thanks me for coming out and further extends his appreciation for my role in the music community, what with my being an outspoken super fan and all. As if my heart wasn’t warm enough right now.

These guys are clearly a friendly bunch. Their popularity is palpable; it seems almost everyone on the dance floor at one time or another steps behind the speakers to talk to them, except me. In Plain Sight, indeed: the kind of group who is fully here, available to and merging so naturally with their audience.

Which leads me to believe we’ll be meeting again. Watch out, fellas, you’ve got my impassioned ass for a fan now too.

Missed IPS this time around? Catch them August 14th at the New Mountain SOL Bar.