Melodies and raspy voices floated through the streets of Carrboro on Sunday. The hum of people chattering excitedly accompanied the music as everyone eagerly walked to see the next big performance.
The Carrboro Music Festival was held for the 20th time this weekend. The amount of pure talent felt on the streets and in the venues was at the caliber of shimmering brilliance. Young, old or canine, the masses came out to support the bands and singer-songwriters dotted around 29 different locations along Weaver, Rosemary and Main streets in downtown Carrboro.
This was my first time attending any type of music festival and the town of Carrboro welcomed me with open arms. I saw three performances at The Station, located on the Main Street side of the train tracks. The bar was like a hybrid of an old saloon and underground garage band practice space — not to mention the actual caboose that was parked outside the place.
The stage was surrounded by different band and festival posters, literally encasing each performer in a bubble of music and performance. I’ve never been to the bar without someone on stage, but I feel like it may seem a bit empty without a presence standing on the raised wood flooring. I thoroughly enjoyed the overall energy of the establishment and felt like I could relax knowing there’s good music to listen to and a cozy little nook to sit in.
The first band that I saw perform was Honey Magpie, and when I say I went into a nice, comfy zen-like state, I’m not lying. The voices of this indie/folk band probably could have lulled me to sleep if I hadn’t been so bewitched by their lyrics. The sound reminded me a bit of the song "Emmylou" by the indie folk band First Aid Kit. The band consists of Rachael Hurwitz (guitar, piano), Pippa Hoover (cello), Kati Moore (violin) and Joe Ristaino (drums, mandolin). Hurwitz’s, Hoover’s and Moore’s voices blended beautifully as they sang through their set.
“It’s really hard to find a show where people are just totally paying attention,” Hurwitz said. “I felt like at this show people were just super attentive and that was really nice.”
The band also gave advice to young artists wishing to break into the music scene.
“The music scene in Carrboro and Durham is very supportive.” Hurwitz said. “Going out to shows, doing open mics is a good way to go.”
Honey Magpie is going on tour to promote their debut album. They’ll be performing in Carrboro at Steele String Brewery on Oct. 8. The band is going as far west as Knoxville, Tenn.
The next band that performed was called Joe Romeo & the Juliets, and of course I was totally pleased with the reference to Shakespeare. Joe Romeo, a singer and guitarist, started out the set with a resounding “Hello friends!” and once again I felt the community of Carrboro welcoming me in with open arms and musically inclined hearts.
Romeo handles vocals and guitar. Mandy Mears sings and plays the keyboard and ukulele. Sarah Landis plays on bass, and Clay Anderson is on drums. I absolutely loved this group’s sound. As soon as the group began their set, I felt the bass vibrating in my chest with the first strums of the guitar. I couldn’t pinpoint just one genre as it felt like one big combination of rock, indie, alternative rock and a little bit of '70s rock.
“The (festival is the) best of Carrboro,” Romeo said. “Carrboro in its purest essence.”
For new bands just starting out, Anderson offered some advice for new musicians.
“Go see all the other shows,” Anderson said. “Just get out there.”
Along with singing and playing guitar, Romeo co-owns, manages and teaches at Let There Be Rock, a music school in Durham. Some of the teen bands performed at the Carrboro music festival and will also play at Chapel Hill High School on Nov. 4.
The next band that performed made me feel like like I was transported to a punk rock concert in the '90s. This neighborhood band (literally they live on the same block), The Outboards, brought excitement, jokes and a huge crowd to The Station.
The band’s sound itself reminded me a lot of Blink-182. The had a really boppy vibe about them, but it was also electric, with intricate and difficult guitar solos and punny lyrics. With Adam Brinson on vocals and guitar, Eric Haugen on lead guitar, Michael Hayes on bass and Clay Boyer on drums, the band had a fantastic stage presence. Adults and kids alike were dancing around in the limited space because there were so many people packed into the bar.
Brinson would start each song off with a little forewarning of sorts by making a comment or two about what the song would be like. My personal favorites were “The next song is a riddle — who ever gets it gets a… high five.” As well as “Who likes dogs? Good. This song is about a dog.”
The last band I saw performed at the Cat’s Cradle. I’d like to start by saying I’ve never been inside the Cat’s Cradle before, but when I first stepped foot inside the building, I automatically knew I was going to be in for some good music.
I saw Brendan Rice & The Hired Guns, and they did not disappoint. After rocking out at The Station, this band really made me take a minute to collect my thoughts and become calm. I love Bon Iver, and the style of lyrics and sound reminded me of his work. Brendan Rice had a deep rasp to his voice — very Caleb Followill-esque — that gave each word he said a deep drawl and seemingly double meaning. The audience at the Cradle swayed in time to the music as couples danced and kids jumped around. Overall their set was incredible, and I’d definitely recommend them if you’re looking for a good chill out song.
See you next autumn, Carrboro!
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