Revue Guide: Bands & Performers of CLTure Music Fest
ON SATURDAY, the inaugural CLTure Music Fest hits the Chop Shop, with several acts filling the event’s three stages. Like its contemporaries, the festival doesn’t stick to one genre, and the bands hail from cities around the country (with a few calling Charlotte “home”). In our Revue Guides, we try to put our city’s cultural offerings context, and this one is no different. This is a guide to several of the acts playing the festival. (You can check out their full line-up here.)
And here’s a bonus: Cameron Lee, the founder of CLTure and principal organizer of the festival, has joined us to give his own commentary on the festival’s acts. His perspectives are labeled “Cam’s Take” below. And each entry also sports a YouTube video, so you can hear the music for yourself. We start with the headlining act, Man Man.
The label “experimental” is thrown around all the time in music journalism, but with this rock outfit, you really get a sense of controlled chaos when they perform. The tunes move between subtle and tasteful bars to a cacophony of guitar, drums, and brass instruments. Singer Honus Honus also reflects this quality, with both punchy, clean verses and off-the-rails wailing. The result is thrilling, and those who have caught the band here in the past know they deserve repeat viewings.
Cam’s Take: One of the most enjoyable experimental bands I know. Man Man is from Philadelphia and put on a uniquely entertaining performance every time. They are Charlotte favorites, but haven’t played here in a couple years, so they were an ideal headliner for us. The members of Man Man are really fun guys, too.
Utah’s Desert Noises provides the cornerstone of many festivals: energetic indie rock with catchy choruses and the ability to get audiences moving. Also listen for a tinge of psychedelic and soul music. Whether you’re dancing or just nodding your head, staying still isn’t too much of an option.
Cam’s Take: I was introduced to this band about three years ago by Laurie Koster and was blown away by their performance at The Evening Muse. There were about ten people in the audience and Jesse Clasen’s Bear Romantic opened. I’ve seen the band go from having a couple hundred Facebook fans to playing Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, ACL and more. I caught them at Bonnaroo in 2014, and they crushed it. It’s really cool when extremely credible people introduce you to great music and give you the opportunity to be proud of something.
THE LOVE LANGUAGE
Merge’s The Love Language came out of the Raleigh music scene in the late 2000s, a young indie act with a polish of veteran rockers. Their records are balanced between lush, ensemble songs and sparse piano ballads. Frontman Stuart McLamb and the rest of the band received positive reviews for their latest LP, Ruby Red, in 2013.
Cam’s Take: One my favorite North Carolina bands on my favorite indie-rock label, Merge Records. The Love Language is a CLTure veteran as the band has now played three events for us. It seems like every time I am in Raleigh area, I run into Stu, the band’s lead singer: Whether it be at Hopscotch or The Cave in Chapel Hill. The band exemplifies the Raleigh indie rock scene.
Alt-Americana is one way to describe this Charleston, S.C., group. There’s an eerie vein that runs through the band’s songs, resting between gorgeous harmonies and a tight rhythm section. Justin Osborne’s voice, weathered and angst-ridden, shines in the rockier tunes on their self-titled release. This year’s Live from the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame was recorded in Osborne’s house, with special guests like Band of Horses singer Ben Bridwell joining the band.
Cam’s Take: Kelli Raulerson introduced me to SUSTO when she put them in her "CLTure Ten Best Albums of 2014.” Come to think of it, she also texted me the night she saw them at The Evening Muse. They are from Charleston and their tunes are effortless, working class, human songs about love, loss, pain, and good times. If there was one band right now that perfectly describes the South, to me it’s SUSTO. I listened to their whole album the first time all the way through without even noticing, which is usually a good sign.
Now here’s a change of pace. Asheville produced this electronic pop duo, powered by synths, drum machines, and live instruments. By day, their music is a worthwhile work companion made for headphones—soothing and motivating, depending on the track. Live, the tunes gain new life.
Cam’s Take: I was first introduced to RBTS WIN by CLTure videographer Brandon Weiner. They’ve been getting a lot of buzz in the Carolinas. The group represents a really cool movement of electronic-hip-hop, R&B/soul, similar to How To Dress Well, Blood Orange, and JMSN, among others. RBTS WIN’s lyrics and instrumentals paint very vivid images for me and the music soothes my soul on tough days. “Death Magic” is just the perfect song.
Representing Charlotte, Elevator Jay has garnered buzz in Southern rap. For the last decade, the performer has collaborated with fellow Charlotteans. His newest release, Sum’na Say, includes Rapper Shane (formerly Stranger Day), who also performs at CLTure Music Fest on Saturday.
Cam’s Take: He just released a new EP called Sum’na Say and I have not stopped listening to it since it came out a couple days ago. He’s got a really cool dialect that’s akin to Big Boi meshed with E40. It’s hard to define what Charlotte rap should sound like, but over the years, as I have seen his progression in my mind, it sounds like Elevator Jay. I am really excited about this new EP and the new opportunities it will bring.
Another hometown act that represents the ever-diverse Charlotte scene, Pullman Strike holds down country rock. Heartbreak, Southern storytelling, and a brutal sense of longing—it’s all there, with a Drive-By Truckers tinge in its production. Silver Lining, the band’s latest, was released earlier this year.
Cam’s Take: When most pop music fans think about country or Southern rock music, they automatically think of mainstream musicians like Luke Bryan or Toby Keith. When I think about country music or true southern/folk rock, I think about musicians like Sturgill Simpson, American American Aquarium, Shovels and Ropes, and Charlotte’s Pullman Strike. It’s easy going music with good instrumentation. The lyrics exemplify simple complexities and pain that go further than typical country music clichés.