Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Blank Range

On May 4, Blank Range and Two Gallants will be making their way to the Triangle for a Monday night performance at Cat's Cradle.  These rock bands are in the midst of a US tour that includes 28 different stops.

The members of Blank Range grew up in the Mid-West, mostly in and around the Chicago suburbs. For different reasons, they found themselves in Nashville a few short years ago. Blank Range's members were originally in two separate bands with only the chief songwriters as differing members. For both practical purposes and mutual respect, they decided to merge the two projects into one band with a unique catalog of inspiration, starting with Big Star and Wilco and ranging to jazz music and training.

With no money to get going, the four members recorded a scrappy 6 song EP, Phase II, in a tiny basement and copied it onto cassette for sale. The throwback format inspired a business of sorts - making cassette copies of projects by other Nashville bands to sell at their shows. With a tape-to-tape recorder, a lot of time on their hands, and a small mark-up, eventually the band was able to save enough to record a proper 7 inch with a true engineer, Eric McConnell, at his famed home studio. This is the same studio that Loretta Lynn and Jack White recorded Van Lear Rose.

For more information on Blank Range or Two Gallants, check out the show preview on the Cat's Cradle website.  The show is scheduled to start at 8:30 and doors will open one hour prior at 7:30.  Tickets are just $15 and are still available at

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

MerleFest Spotlight: The Black Lillies

With the 2015 MerleFest Music Festival starting tomorrow, The Triangle Beat would like to conclude our MerleFest Spotlights with yet another artist you should get to know at this year's festivities.  The Black Lillies, based out of Knoxville, TN., will be returning to the Wilkes Community College campus after making their festival debut in 2013.  Cruz Contreras and The Black Lillies originally got their start in 2007 with the release of their debut album, Whiskey Angels.  What was seemingly created as an opportunity for Cruz to hash out the realities of previous experiences, The Black Lillies have since embraced the opportunities that have been presented since Whiskey Angels.  Moving forward from their original album, The Black Lillies have managed to share their unique blend of folk/country music with many audiences across the country, highlighted by performing on some of the largest festival stages, such as Bonnaroo and South by Southwest.

The Triangle Beat was fortunate to catch a moment with lead singer, Cruz Contreras, as the band was in the process of recording and producing their newest album.  Check out what Cruz had to say about the band's anticipation of returning to MerleFest and the exciting things in the near future for the band:

The Triangle Beat: What has the current recording process been like for your upcoming album?

Cruz Contreras:  It has been a really great process for us this time around.  We have remained committed to doing this independently from the beginning and it is nice to know that we can be successful in making records the way we want them to be.  It has also been an opportunity for us to keep our fans in the know as we continue this process, whether it is through social media or blogs, we have a lot of people that are helping us maintain that connection to the people that support our music.  That is something we feel very passionate about as well.

The Triangle Beat: In regards to the new album, what was the main focus for this album and are there any differences from the previous albums that you've released?

Cruz Contreras: I would say there is definitely a progression of sound.  A common theme from previous albums would be that I wrote the songs on this album and Tricia and I are the lead vocalists still, so you'll still hear the same voices.  A major difference will be that we recorded the album live.  We recorded all 11 songs over 4 days in the House of Blues in Nashville, so I feel like we were able to capture live energy on this record that reflects who we are as a band and the energy you'd expect from one of our performances.  I feel like we have been able to take our time with the production and purpose for the album.  The time really allowed for us to make this record sound the way we wanted.

The Triangle Beat: When do you anticipate releasing that album?

Cruz Contreras:  We are going to release the new album in October, but if fans want to get their hands on the album a bit earlier then there are opportunities to do so through the Pledge Music campaign.

The Triangle Beat: As you mentioned, The Black Lillies are using a different approach to recording a record in that it is being funded through Pledge Music.  What made you decide to explore that opportunity for the newest record?

Cruz Contreras: It is interesting in the progression of more and more musicians using opportunities like Pledge Music and Kickstarter to fund their projects, but again I think that it provides an opportunity to include fans in the process.  We realize that there is a lot of follow through in getting to release a new album and that is a commitment that we have made all along in that we want our fans to play a role in what success we may have.

The Triangle Beat: In having played at MerleFest before, can you speak to the meaning of getting asked to play at this year's festival?

Cruz Contreras: The tradition of the festival, the Watson family with Doc and Merle, those are my roots.  I mean I grew up learning to play acoustic music and as an artist there was no one better to emulate as a musician than Doc Watson. In that regard, there isn't a festival that is a greater honor to play for me than MerleFest.

The Triangle Beat: You mentioned your musical roots, what influence does growing up in Tennessee have on the style of music that The Black Lillies make?

Cruz Contreras: The musical heritage of Tennessee has been a huge influence.  You know I've spent most of my life here, growing up in middle Tennessee and then going on to study music at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  If you think about all of the musical hubs from Nashville, to Memphis, to Knoxville, to Muscle Shoals, to Chattanooga and the different styles of music that the state represents, in that sense growing up in Tennessee has just been a huge blessing to the type of music we hope to create.

The Triangle Beat: In closing, I know that The Black Lillies have undergone some changes to the band lineup and for many folks at MerleFest it may be their first time hearing your music.  Who will be featured in the band this weekend?

Cruz Contreras:  The lineup will include myself and Trisha Brady in addition to our drummer Bowman Townshend.  Sam Quinn will be on bass, a Knoxville guy that is in the band, Everybody Fields.  On guitar will be Megan McCormick who plays for Jenny Lewis, and our pedal steal player will be Matt Smith out of Asheville, NC.  You'll also be able to see Matt play on Thursday with The Honeycutters.

Be sure to stick around on Sunday of MerleFest and include The Black Lillies as a part of your plans.  You can see The Black Lillies performing on the Americana stage from 2:00-2:45 PM on Sunday afternoon. Tickets for this year's MerleFest Music Festival are still available for purchase by visiting

MerleFest Spotlight: Mipso

You might have been fortunate to see one of their three shows in Chapel Hill and Raleigh last week, or perhaps even witness band members Joseph Terrell and Libby Rodenbaugh win the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest just a year ago at MerleFest.  Whether you've seen them recently or never at all, Mipso is a band that is certainly poised for big things at this year's MerleFest.  Joining Terrell and Rodenbaugh are band members Jacob Sharp and Wood Robinson, who together form the Chapel Hill based Americana/folk band.  In a short span of two years, the group has released their first album titled, Dark Holler Pop, and embarked on a six week journey that took them to the far distant lands of Portland, ME and San Francisco, CA.  In part due to their recent success, Mipso is now set to make their MerleFest debut later this week.

During their recent visit to Chapel Hill, Mipso members, Libby and Jacob, were kind enough to sit down with The Triangle Beat to discuss the incredible journey the band has experienced in recent months and the excitement for what is yet to come.  Check out what Mipso had to say:

The Triangle Beat: Being from the Triangle, I know that UNC played a role in bringing the group together, but more specifically how did the group piece itself together to form Mipso?

Jacob: It first began when I met Joseph and we discovered that we shared similar musical interest without any aspirations of playing together. From there, Joseph, Libby and I all individually explored our own musical interests away from here before eventually getting asked to play music one night for a fundraiser at a frat house; the genre they wanted was bluegrass.  It wasn't something Wood, Joseph, nor I had set out to focus on, but we enjoyed playing that night, and that provided us with the desire to get better.

The Triangle Beat: At what point, do you feel it became clear to the band that Mipso was going to be successful?

Libby: I think it was somewhat gradual and also very clear for the group.  It was gradual that the band realized that people were enjoying our music and coming out very consistently, but our plan seemed almost planned for us in that we all graduated around the same time.  It seemed possible at that point that with our success and with our similar situations, I think there was a collective understanding that this was probably the best time for us to try and make it as a band.

The Triangle Beat: What has it been like for Mipso as you've gained success and experience in these past two years?

Jacob: It has been unique to start out as a group of people that just enjoyed music and now two years into it we have gained so much knowledge about being a band and also an understanding of the approach to touring, to life on the road, and how to maintain perspective of what is our purpose for the band as well.

The Triangle Beat: What was it like on your most recent tour which featured a lot of new venues for Mipso?

Libby: Well there were a lot of stops on this tour that we have never played before so there were a lot of people that had never heard us.  I found the most fulfilling aspect about this tour was that we were able to win people over at each stop along the way.  It may be a couple that was sitting in the front of a room that could connect with our music and that can be just as rewarding as having a full room.

The Triangle Beat: What is it like for the band to be just one year removed from winning the songwriting contest to now actually performing at this year's MerleFest?

Jacob: We will be performing twice Friday afternoon and again at the Midnight Jam on Saturday night. It is especially exciting for us and we have found that everyone knows about MerleFest no matter where we play. As festivals go, it is the start of festival season for many bands and there are 80,000 people that will be there, so for us it is exciting to think that this is our first time getting to experience the festival.

Libby: It seemed like every stop of the tour we were being introduced as performers at this year's Merlefest and that name is so meaningful in a way that we could have ever even realized.  It is also exciting for us to get to see other acts perform that we enjoy such as, Hot Rize, New Country Rehab, and Cahalen Morrison and Eli West.  I think that is a great part about MerleFest in that we get to see some of our friends perform in addition to being selected to play at such a wonderful festival in our own state.

The Triangle Beat: I've heard that you've been working on a new album while touring.  What should we expect from your new music?

Jacob: We are working with Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange on our newest record.  This time around he is working solely as our producer.  Jerry Brown owns the studio that we are producing in and he is working as the engineer.  In comparison to Dark Holler Pop, the distinction in sound is our new album is more rooted in being a string band that is focused on old-timey rhythmic sound.

Libby: The reason we say that it is more old-time is that we had an entirely different mentality, focusing more on groove based songs and featuring more melodic rhythms from the various string instruments that we play.

Jacob: One other distinction is that Dark Holler Pop featured a lot of the great musicians from our community in the Triangle and our newest album is more focused on just us with some assistance from Andrew and also Josh Oliver, but it is definitely more Mipso focused than our previous album.

As MerleFest 2015 is edging ever so closely, be sure to add Mipso to your Friday afternoon lineup.  Mipso will be performing at the Walker Center on Friday at 12 Noon, on the Cabin Stage from 6:20 - 6:45 and again on Saturday in the always entertaining Midnight Jam.  Following their MerleFest performance, be on the lookout for more information on upcoming shows in the Triangle and the release of their highly anticipated album.  Tickets for MerleFest are still available and can be purchased for the entire weekend or single day passes by visiting We'll see you there!

Monday, April 20, 2015

MerleFest Spotlight: Scythian

Dance-inducing Celtic rock and American folk band, Scythian, will once again bring the party to MerleFest.  "Named after Ukrainian nomads, Scythian merges Irish, gypsy, and Americana with thunderous energy, technical zest, and soulful songwriting, beckoning crowds into a barn-dance rock concert experience."  Performing on four different stages at the festival, Scythian promises to deliver a different set on each stage.  In addition to watching their energetic and charismatic shows, Scythian will be available on Thursday at 8 and Friday at 6 for signing appearances.  

The attendees of MerleFest are in for a special treat because Scythian will be releasing their new album, Old Tin Can, which is a tribute to the band's roots.  As stated in a press release:

'Old Tin Can' is the companion album of 2014 release 'Jump at the Sun', which was funded entirely by Scythian fans. As a ‘thank you” for the generous funding of the album, Old Tin Can is Scythian’s tip of the cap to the tradition that inspired them. The album features Scythian’s take on favorite Celtic and Americana tunes that helped form their musical palette. Featuring stirring ballads made known by the likes of Doc Watson, the Carter Family and Christie Moore, spirited jigs, soulful waltzes and even a Ukrainian Kozak love song, Old Tin Can reveals the roots of the tree that is now Scythian. With one listen to this eclectic album one can one can trace the outlines of a show which transcends musical and ethnic boundaries.

Scythian will also be playing on May 28 as a part of WUNC's Music on the Lawn Series.  This event takes place at the American Tobacco District in Durham and is free to the public.   


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Michael Franti and Spearhead to Headline Band Together's Main Event

Spring is here and that means music and the largest charity concert in the Southeast! Band Together NC, a Triangle-based organization that uses live music as a platform for social change, has announced singer-songwriter-guitarist, filmmaker and humanitarian Michael Franti and his band, Spearhead, as its headlining band for this year’s Main Event. The concert will be held June 27 at Red Hat Amphitheater and will benefit Band Together’s partnership with StepUp Ministry.
With the multi-platinum success of his song "Say Hey (I Love You)" and the chart breaking 2010 release of The Sound Of Sunshine, Franti and his band guarantee a show that will be thought provoking as well as energetic. Franti and Spearhead know all about how the power of music can inspire, uplift and make people want to dance or cry, combining colossal dance beats, electronic effects and lyrical sincerity. A popular smash hit from the band’s 2013 album All People is “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like)” and another well-known single is “Say Hey (I Love You)” from 2008 album All Rebel Rockers. Altogether, Michael Franti and his band Spearhead have produced 21 single tracks and 10 studio albums.

Also appearing at the June 27 Main Event is the winner of the 2015 Last Band Standing, Fat Cheek Kat, who brings high-energy horn and guitar-driven funk with equal amounts of soul. Additional supporting acts will be announced in the coming weeks. 

This year Band Together’s Main Event is moving to Red Hat Amphitheater, located in downtown Raleigh, which has become a beacon for live entertainment in the Southeast.

This year, through community support, corporate and individual donations and our dedicated volunteers, Band Together and StepUp Ministry will partner to raise $2 million. Proceeds from the event will go towards sustaining StepUp Ministry Raleigh, establishing StepUp North Carolina (a parent organization), and starting StepUp Ministry in Durham, where the unemployment rate has surged to five percent. With this new location, StepUp will be able to expand and sustain its process in the Triangle.

Tickets will go on sale Friday, April 24 through E-tix. For ticket information or to learn more about Band Together and the event, visit, become a fan on Facebook, join their LinkedIn group or follow @bandtogethernc on Twitter. To learn more about our 2015 nonprofit partner visit, 

*Information courtesy of S&A Communications

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Music: Houndmouth Releases Little Neon Limelight

On April 30, Cat's Cradle will play host to the Rough Trade Records sensation Houndmouth.  In just a matter of three years, this New Albany, Indiana based band has been featured at about every major music festival in the United States and releases their newest album, Little Neon Limelight, in anticipation of another packed summer.

Since getting discovered at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Matt Myers, Katie Toupin, Zak Appleby, and Shane Cody have generated quite the buzz with their infectious sound.  While their first album, From the Hills Below the City, featured instant favorites like, "On the Road" and "Penitentiary," the band seems poised for even bigger things as their newest record builds on their unique chemistry and welcomes a maturation in sound and lyrical significance from previous work.

Check out the video from the premier track off the new album, "Sedona," and get your tickets today by visiting the Cat's Cradle website.  For more information regarding Houndmouth, visit and be sure to get a copy of Little Neon Limelight while you're at it.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

MerleFest Spotlight: David Mayfield Parade

In continuation of our artist spotlights for this year's MerleFest Music Festival, one artist that should be highlighted on your schedule is David Mayfield.  If you've seen David Mayfield perform with The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Jessica Lea Mayfield, or at Bonnaroo, you've caught the charisma, the heart, and the comedy, and it's likely you'll come back for more.

This singer-songwriter, band leader, and Grammy nominated producer stepped out of the sideman shadows with his 2011 album, The David Mayfield Parade. His follow-up album released in 2013, Good Man Down, was self released and funded with a surprising and successful Kickstarter campaign that more than doubled its initial goal of $18,000. On the heels of that success, Mayfield has partnered with Compass Records.  A label that Playboy Magazine calls "Nashville's hippest alternative label."  Mayfield's most recent album titled, Strangers, was released in the fall of 2014.

STRANGERS, Mayfield's first album with Compass, is a tour de force.  It stretches from the avant-garde to Mayfield's musical roots, which are buried deep in the bluegrass tradition from a childhood of touring with his family's band.  Tracks range from the Celtic-inspired opener "Caution," which features Mayfield's deft ability in orchestrating complex instrumentation, to "The Man I'm Trying to Be," a sharply honest song that is as dark as it is tender.  Mayfield is truly a wordsmith, forging the mundane into the evocative in each track. Most notably with "Ohio (It's Fake)," whose innovative lyrics are propelled from acoustic beginnings into a pure pop finish, Mayfield's trembling tenor rising above the grooving band.  With the release of Strangers, David Mayfield is clearly going places, fueled by a deadly combination of infectious energy and songwriting chops that only come around once in a blue moon.

David Mayfield will be performing on Sunday, April 26 of MerleFest, once on the Hillside stage at 11AM and again at 12:45 PM on the Americana stage.  Do not to miss what is certain to be one of the more entertaining performances of this year's festival.  MerleFest is held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC.  Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased on their website.

Monday, April 6, 2015

MerleFest Spotlight: Steep Canyon Rangers

The always anticipated MerleFest is quickly approaching.  The fest that was started in 1988 focuses on "music, moments, and memories" created through the best folk, Americana, and Bluegrass music around. In preparation, we'll be spotlighting some bands from the lineup.  If you're unable to attend the festival on April 23-26, be sure to catch these notable acts during their individual tours.  

Grammy and IBMA award winners, Steep Canyon Rangers will share their pickin' skills on Sunday on the Hillside Stage.  The group has been jammin' together for a dozen years now, gracing the stages of Carnegie Hall, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Cat's Cradle and the Orange Peel. They have also had the fortune of being joined by musician and comedian Steve Martin on numerous occasions. Their most recent collaboration is with Grammy-award winning Edie Brickell titled "Test of Time." Proceeds from this song will go to the Oskar Blues CAN'd Aid Foundation which focuses on giving back to the community. 

Steep Canyon Rangers are currently putting the finishing touches on their new studio album produced by Dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas. The new album will follow the "free wheeling and high-energy approach of their previous album, Tell the Ones I Love." Their high-energy records translate to energetic and interactive shows, combining the older traditions with modern appeal.

MerleFest is held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC.  Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased on their website. Visit for a day or stay for the weekend, but don't miss this foot-stompin' event.

*Information courtesy of Lotos Nile Media

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Mat Kearney's Just Kids Tour at The Ritz

The Raleigh venue formerly known as Disco Rodeo has undergone a name change and venue renovations thanks to the recent takeover by Live Nation.  Under the new management and facility upgrades, The Ritz has played host to several larger acts in recent months, most recently Mat Kearney and the Just Kid's Tour. With the assistance of opening acts, Judah and The Lion and Parachute, Kearney entertained the crowd with tracks from his newest album, Just Kids, in addition to popular tracks that have generated his following over the years like, "Hey Mama" and "Ships in the Night."  Check out The Triangle Beat's footage from The      Ritz and be head over to Mat Kearney's website for his new music and more.