WE Fest • May 26-30
May 27: Glow in the Dark Scars,
My Wonderful Machine and
Entropy Ensemble • $5
Soapbox Laundro Lounge
255 N. Front Street
For 15 years, Wilmington has hosted its largest independent music festival in May, touting over 100 bands of all genres playing over five days. Founded from musician and all-around excellent dude Kenyata Sullivan, its popularity excels from existing outside of the norm. Nope, there aren’t massive headlining acts or major beer and media sponsors. What thrives in the Elks Temple Building from May 26 through the 30 is pure camaraderie between musicians and music-lovers. It’s truly all about sound and, yes, vision.
Whereas Sullivan once organized the brunt of the festival, inviting people he knew to join the stages or calling for entries from musicians who wanted to be a part of it, today it has evolved into something more communal. Going into its third year, WE Fest is like a curating festival, wherein local magazines, encore included, and businesses have been asked to host various stages. Art openings have been added, as well as art vendors selling their goods. Film screenings are on the bill, as is comedy and poetry readings. It all takes place downtown at the Soapbox Laundro Lounge and Nutt Street Comedy Room, with a small admission fee allowing exposure to a plethora of creativity.
encore’s premier showcase takes place Friday night, May 27, and boasts the talent of two local opening acts: a veteran group that has stamped our town with immense indie-rock philosophy, Glow in the Dark Scars, and a newbie whose ambient sounds generate electric, haunting riffs, My Wonderful Machine. Entropy Ensemble, out of Charleston, SC, headlines the event and showcases the stripped and intrumentally re-invented sounds of Radiohead, featuring classical tonalities and edgy refinement.
encore sat down with all three bands to find out more about their undertakings, goals and, most importantly, love for music.
GLOW IN THE DARK SCARS
At the helm of this quirky rock outfit is Fred Champion. Aside from having a name everyone in town wishes was their own, Champion is Wilmington’s treasured music maestro, who folks look up to as a founding father and constant supporter of Wilmington’s rock scene. His talent on guitar, drums and vocals, and even behind the instruments as a producer and promoter keeps Wilmington forever indebted to him.
For 16 years GITDS has lavished Wilmington music lovers with sweet, simple melodies, ridden with angst and insecurities, love and hope, and all awkwardness in between. They’ve had an influx of members traverse in and out of the group; yet its one mainstay always has been Champion.
“You must be some sort of asshole if you can’t keep band mates!” Champion jokes. “Do you really believe those same old stories: ‘I’m moving away’ or ‘I just have a lot going on right now!’”
Today, GITDS is a duo: Champion on guitar and Kevin Moran on drums. Though their dynamic is limited, it isn’t without passion, as they continue “using the Pixies’ formula of quiet/loud/quiet” throughout most songs. Even if their focus is a little scattered between games of Wii bowling and watching spaghetti Westerns or Hitchcock horrors, they continue focusing on producing at least one new song a month.
Revered among many musicians, Glow in the Dark Scars witnessed its first tribute album, “Phosphorescent Knife Wounds,” come to fruition last Christmas. Musicians who have worked with or simply befriended Champion covered tracks like “Live Like That” by Ivan Howard of The Rosebuds or “Speak Breezy” by Sean Thomas Gerard of Onward, Soldiers.
“I have to say, I have listened to [the album] many times over,” Champion admits, “and it is awesome! But it’s gotta hurt a little to have your friends take your straw and spin it into gold.”
Ever humble, Champion’s musical genius shines in understated ways. From playing with whispered hushes, wonky tonalities and lo-fi dreaminess, the outcome is a tickle of loveliness on the senses.
Coming upon a year of closing down CD Alley, his beloved record shop, Champion has found ways to bide his time by working in the film and TV-production business. “But I often get side tracked with Internetting and time-wasting activities, like bike riding, wine drinking, and skirt chasing,” he says. He’s also trying to get crooner and Charlottean Benji Hughes back onto a Wilmington stage to perform. Locally, Champion’s a massive supporter of music, hailing bands who are making strides to showcase original, thought-provoking rock.
“I like Fractal Farm, Ponchos and My Wonderful Machine because I like indie rock and music that is a little challenging,” he states emphatically. “Ordinary fucking people and bands—I can’t stand them.”
Glow in the Dark Scars can be heard at www.glowinthedarkscars.bandcamp.com. A few videos are also posted on YouTube. GITDS perform May 27 at 9 p.m. on the third floor of the Soapbox.
MY WONDERFUL MACHINE
She likes surfing, and dislikes how she can’t communicate and talk with animals; he designs and sews their performance outfits and dislikes faulty band equipment. If they had their way, My Wonderful Machine’s ambient rock would be aired on their favorite show, “The Soup,” daily.
“We were very happy they plugged the band and exposed us to more people,” Hopey Henderson of MWM says, referring to her stint on “The Soup” last month. “I believe we are the first band they have ever really plugged—pretty cool.”
After returning from L.A. where Joel McHale honored her a Soup Award for her lousy waitressing skills on the locally filmed “One Tree Hill,” she and her boyfriend/bandmate Jamin Belmont have been plugging away at expanding their catalog of music. They released “Caught Between a Clock and a Dream” at the beginning of 2011, and have seen an increase in sales every quarter since. They’re also setting their sights on a sophomore release on 11/11/2011.
“The new stuff gives me goosebumps and I love it,” Henderson says. “We have Jamin’s brother, Justin, joining in . . . [he] is an awesome musician, and it is so cool seeing where he takes our songs on bass.”
My Wonderful Machine have also been embarking on a side country project, something held dear to their hearts. After all, classic country—specifically a shared love for Loretta Lynn—brought Henderson and Belmont together. Belmont’s previous bands, The J. Miners and Doly Toro, explored Americana sounds, which carries throughout My Wonderful Machine today. When paired with electric tweets and blips, in the midst of harmonic catatonia, the outcome truly crosses genres of sound from Western to mod to psychedelic experimentation.
“Music is what we know, what we want to do, and what we love,” Henderson says. “Hopefully, [our music] is a breath of fresh air during a time when most music being heard is made by false idols and just, blah. We are just enjoying where our life takes us. The inspiration is working on making real-deal music and real-deal love.”
The couple have a magnate energy swirling with artistic appreciation. Each have visual arts in their back pockets, as Henderson dallies in photography, and Belmont restores cars from the ‘30s and ‘50s. Music, however, is their core, something they have no desire to have a redo on.
“Life is short and unscripted,” Henderson says, “and we are just enjoying each other’s company and making a soundtrack to our lives.”
Only one thing could make it better, according to Belmont. “I would like to see a Bojangles that has bands play.”
Continuing to perform locally, including a June 11 gig at Satellite with bluegrass royalty the Barnraisers, My Wonderful Machine will first shine onstage at WE Fest. Their languid melodies and layered timbres will captivate audiences. Hypnotic appeal doesn’t get better than this.
My Wonderful Machine can be heard at www.mywonderfulmachine.bandcamp.com, on iTunes and at Gravity Records, where their CD “Caught Between a Clock and a Dream” can be purchased. They’ll play at 10 p.m. on May 27.
If Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood had their way with Leopold Mozart, Mauro Giuliani and Frédéric Chopin, Entropy Ensemble would be born.
Joining WE Fest for the first time and playing Wilmington for only the second, Entropy Ensemble will showcase the restylings and instrumental interpretations of one of the world’s most renowned experimental rock groups, Radiohead. They’ll bring awe-inspiring musicality to the forefront of popular songs like “Reckoner,” “Paranoid Android” and “Idioteque.”
Comprised of College of Charleston music graduates, including Andrew Walker (keyboardist), Lonnie Root (cello), Ben Wells (double bass) and Stuart White (percussion), along with renowned violinist Javier Orman, “The Radiohead Project” began after Walker put on a few experimental concerts in 2007. Since, it has evolved into a force of instrumental prowess, sweeping up music lovers by the ears and transfixing them on the stripped-down refinement of Britain’s hottest act since the Beatles. Make no mistake about it: This is not any ol’ tribute band.
“Based off of the overwhelming amount of feedback from audiences, we are anything but,” Walker clarifies. “I like to think that we go far and beyond the typical ‘cover’ approach. We manage to create performances that blur the lines between genres and different styles of music. It is not a conscience effort we make when we approach music; rather, I believe it is an indirect result of the unique combination of musicians that make up this group.”
Entropy Ensemble are as much classically in tune as dynamically engorged in the fundamentals of rock. They break down songs like “House of Cards” with the most reverent appeal and trance-inducing homage. Anyone who loves Radiohead or anyone who has never heard of them can appreciate what Entropy Ensemble does to the music—they even have the capacity to transform non-Radiohead believers into fans.
“At first, it was about transcribing the songs almost verbatim as to be true to the recording,” Walker explains of the group’s process. “Over time we have drifted away from being strictly note-for-note and have taken certain liberties to make the songs our own. It has been inspiring and exciting to see and hear how the group has evolved through the music of Radiohead. Every musician brings something unique to the table; Radiohead has just been the canvas that has brought us all together.”
With the Bristish rockers’ prolific songbook presenting EE a challenge in dismantling the elaborate compositions, Walker admits they take their time to pay due respect to the music. For instance, Radiohead’s 2011 album, “King of Limbs,” is still being digested and in the very early stages of reproduction.
“We hear new things in recordings that we have listened to, arranged and performed time and time again,” Walker says. “I am starting to believe that it is near impossible to hear everything that’s in [Radiohead’s] music. That’s one of the beautiful things about this project: The complexity of their music keeps us coming back for more.”
The popularity of Entropy Ensemble continuously grows. Their alma mater asked them to play the “20th Anniversary Celebration for the School of the Arts” in 2010. Walker devised a multi-media performance called “Between the Lines,” involving visual and performance art presented by College of Charleston students. Renowned pianist and NPR radio host of “From the Top,” Christopher O’Riley, played with the band, and rearranged “Let Down” and “Bullet Proof” solo.
Entropy Ensemble have also played with Grammy and Tony award-winning artist Duncan Sheik, as well as Grammy nominated artist Skylar Grey. Bringing audiences to their feet from New York to L.A., the group of musicians have only one more band of whom to capture the attention.
“To my knowledge, Radiohead still don’t know who we are,” Walker notes humbly. “I kind of feel like it’s only a matter of time. Naturally, we are both eager and nervous to hear their feedback.”
Choosing between the likes of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, one can’t exist without the other according to the band. “They stay true to what they are passionate about,” Walker says, “a philosophy that we have adopted and do our best to maintain.”
OTHER WE FEST ACTS:
Aside from checking out the encore stage on Friday night ($5 gets entry onto all floors), here are a few more bands we suggest catching during the five-day soirée.
Saturday, May 28th:
3 p.m., ground floor, $1
She has a powerfully deep-rooted soulful voice, and evokes earnest storytelling and aggressive piano magic. Recently, she won 2011 Carolina Superstar in Loris, S.C.
Minus the Bear
3 p.m., ground floor, $1
Something uncanny rings likable about this pop-rock outfit. Their riffs are tied to synthesizers and the smooth, easy vocals of Jake Snider. Seattle’s Minus the Bear were founded in 2001 and are touring in support of their latest EP, “Hold Me Down.”
Sunday, May 29th:
10:30 p.m., upstairs, $12/adv or $14/day of
Stuart McLamb is the indie darling of Wilmington. His band the Love Language lived here for a bit in 2009, playing all over town and gaining footing for their fascinating self-titled debut. After signing to Merge Records, releasing their beloved sophomore record, “Libraries,” they managed to score an opening gig for 2011 Grammy award winners, Arcade Fire. And, yes, they’ll be bringing their multi-harmonic, symphonic parade to Soapbox Sunday night.
Monday, May 30th:
1 a.m., lounge, $1
Local band D&D Sluggers are unlike anothe in town—maybe in the region. These fellas take geek rock to all-new levels. They play a microKORG from a Nintendo DS, hence “chip rock,” and bust out post-millennial hip-hop, dance and rock, courtesy of its two members, Soultron and Hyphen.