Michal Menert & The Pretty Fantastics Are Gonna Be Just That Oct 15

michal menert pf

In my preview piece for Eliot Lipp last week I teased a second Pretty Lights Music label artist coming to Asheville this month. Well, the time is nigh, electroheads! OG Pretty Lights rainbow brother Michal Menert brings his full band to New Mountain tomorrow, October 15.

By full band I mean the five other Pretty Fantastics, an abridged version of the 18-piece “Big Band” he’s played with selectively over the last few months. But six is still a bigger band than most, the drums, guitars, keys, and horns fleshing out Menert’s central beat-dropping. There’s no way it’s not gonna be good. Really good.

What’s even better is the album they’re supporting, released at the end of September, simply titled 1. I’m going to assume that means he plans to make more albums with this group, as he should. 1 still very much touts his signature electro-soul sound, but it’s a slight departure from the heavy hitters of previous works. There’s a soft psychedelia mixed with stuff you could imagine Andre 3000 demoing after smoking some really good hash. My favorite track, “If You Knew,” is a rework of the build-up and breakdown of 2011′s “Lost Pieces.” I loved it even before I heard the wildfire guitar solo ripping through the end. Ahhh, I miss guitar solos. Bring someone you can touch in the dark.

Russ Liquid supports.

I’ve been knocking back cold medicine for a couple days straight, so I’m done being human now so I can be alive at the show. No one give me drugs tomorrow, k thanks. Er…only if they’re really good.

Tickets: $12 advance // $15 door

Doors: 9:00pm

 

 

 

NEW RELEASE: Marley Carroll DJ Mix ‘Summer Turns Fall’

To celebrate the end of a long, gig-intensive summer, Marley Carroll released a new DJ mix yesterday. And aren’t we all so glad he did. Titled Summer Turns Fall, the 48 minute mix is a lesson in transition, from the sun-fueled funk house beats to chilly, weighted scratchwork that reflects these deepening nights.

It begins on the dance floor in my mind, KC and the Sunshine Band’s cover of “I Get Lifted” a damn good groove early on, which has served as a staple in the MC DJ set list all summer. But afterward I am somewhere else altogether.

As the beats swell up, strip down and rise again, Carroll creates a potent tension with his silvery sensitivity to the turntables. And then carefully, gracefully, he releases it, each track a lush new environment for the mind to explore. It’s like walking into another room on mushrooms. The imagination does not soar–it digs down and treks–from the bright, honey morning forest to the mysterious side of some wild island, where shadows speak and beams of full moonlight strike the scales of nightswimming fish like chimes.

Summer Turns Fall carves out an irresistible telling of the shift from poolside to fireside, without and within. Pairs nicely with cloud-watching, driving, or jaunty daydreaming in a doctor’s office.

Listen on SoundCloud here

Download from Bandcamp here

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

IMG_0625 resize

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.

FullSizeRender (6)

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.

FullSizeRender (5)

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.

 

IMG_0628

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.

IMG_0633 resize

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

katdog group resize

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)

in plain sight

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.

RBTS LOVE

Post-show with RBTS WIN and some Junior Astronomers

Post-show with RBTS WIN and some Junior Astronomers

Last Saturday was a particularly potent music night in Asheville. Holy Ghost Tent Revival was covering Beck’s 1999 album Midnite Vultures in its entirety at the Mothlight (fuck!) while Marley Carroll entertained the Christmas theme-loving drunks at the Holiday Liquor & Dance Luau Party. But amongst all this temptation I knew I was on the path to righteousness, for I was seeing RBTS WIN for the first time at Isis.

A simple stage set supported the black-clad trio, who don’t need mind-melting visuals or even color in their clothes to spread their message of universal love, peace, and good times. Imagine that, Asheville!

The rich, soulful quality of Worsham’s vocals matched with the tremendous electronic beatstorm conducted by Bolea and self-possession of guitarist Josh Chassner exemplifies the yin-yang symbiosis that makes this group shine. (I failed to mention Chassner in my preview piece. My folly! He’s awesome.)

Favorite moments:

1. Whatever Bolea did to make “Stay Wavy” go to 11

2. Drunk chicks up front trying to touch them (yay groupies)

3. “Death Magic” ALL OF IT ALWAYS

 

FullSizeRender (3)

Some new songz in there, y’all

I missed first act EmE by a hair, but the second band, Charlotte-based Junior Astronomers, was a lot of fun. The four-piece brought some solid Strokes-influenced indie rock to the party, something the AVL scene pretends to have forgotten about. I’ll speak more on them later when they invite me to a show of their own. You hear that, fellas?

And meanwhile…

FullSizeRender (2)

A new band tee deserves a trip to the Bywater

 

…I’m having a ball with my new RBTS WIN tank top. The cut is perfect! Ladies, git it!

 

 

RBTS WIN Likely to Win My Heart at Isis July 11

I first became aware of RBTS WIN through a remix of their original “Mountain Child.” That strong, pulsing melody, those silky, beckoning vocals swimming through an unmistakable Marley Carroll filter. Now, being of the mind that Carroll doesn’t remix shitty songs, I had to know who this RBTS WIN was. I went straight to their SoundCloud.

RBTS WIN is the sonic lovechild of Javier Bolea and Cliff B. Worsham, Miami and Asheville natives respectively, who in 2008 got together and soon found a groove that reflected both their shared musical interests as well as their distinctive origins.

Last year’s album release Palm Sunday is a celebration of Bolea’s beachy roots and Worsham’s mountainous ones. Where the two meet in the middle is a lush, electronic tide pool, heavily sampled and tweaked but always with a groovy nature base. They are seemingly just as likely to be inspired by an ocean wave or hornet’s nest as ’60s soul and urban beats.

Others have tried to genre-lize them, but with so many influences I’ll spare you that arbitrary attempt. The sensual, technicolor soundscape of such tracks as “Beach Child” and “Death Magic” are textured like a lucid dream, so stunningly real but impossible to pin down.

When BomBassic told me they’re working on their own “Death Magic” remix for their upcoming album, I quite nearly licked their beautiful faces. That song has been that good to me (while you’re at it check out Blue Sky Black Death’s take on it yum yum yum yum YUM).

Come out to Isis Restaurant & Music Hall this Saturday, July 11 to see and feel for yourself the emotionalism of RBTS WIN live. Junior Astronomers and AVL’s own EmE support.

Show // 9pm

$7 in advance // $10 at door

BomBassic Beat Life Birthday Lovins June 27

So, tomorrow’s my birthday. You’ve probably heard. But on top of that, my boys BomBassic are headlining at The Mothlight for another installment of Beat Life, brought to us by the Asheville Beat Tape Collective. Weeeee

Cpt Hyperdrive and Brucey B of BomBassic are on fire these days. I’ve been seeing them on the regular for nearly two years now, and in their last few shows in AVL alone there’s been an intangible shift in their presence, a sense of greater connectedness between themselves as well as the audience. Maybe it has something to do with their Kinnection experience last month (everyone came back all ONE LOVE and whatnot), or maybe it’s because they’re best friends and play music all the time and are and sinking into both their individual and combined crafts harder than ever. Whatever it is, they gellin. Love those guys.

JUST ANNOUNCED: BomBassic’s set will be amped up with a slew of special guests, including MCs Musashi Xero and Spitty the Sequel, Tin Foil Hat, and DJ Kutzu.

Get there early for sets by Samuel Paradise, Axnt, DJ Kutzu, and Vietnam Jerry. You ready for this? I dunno, watch out for me. I might get rowdy. But it’s my birthday so I do what I want.

10:00p-2:00a

$5 door//21+

Just Trying to Commission Peter Gabriel Remixes is All

peter gabrielI love Peter Gabriel. I listen to and think a lot about him. I just finished his biography Without Frontiers: The Life and Music of Peter Gabriel. What a brain-tickling babe.

For a couple years now I’ve been keeping my ear out for great PG remixes. Just found this dark, synthy version of “Mercy Street” by Virgin Magnetic Material via Soundcloud, which pleases me. I just don’t want to stop at his most well-known songs. I want to go deeper.

Of all his beautiful material, he’s got this song I can’t shake called “No Way Out” from his 2002 album Up. From first listen I envisioned this minimally powerful song remixed into a dance track. That guitar riff, that chorus! That’s all you need. Now I suppose this is what a DJ feels when s/he makes a remix. But I don’t do that. I do this.

I want one of you internet musicians to remix this song. Who’s up to the challenge? There’s a lot of Backstage Sass blog love in it for you. And probably hugs and kisses if you’re local.