Melanaster Band, Open Windows, & Do It To Julia!!!!!

by lydiasee

Melanaster Band :

As the genre-bending in the music scene continually produces more hybrid categorical terms to assign to any given musician, the term “singer-songwriter”  now seems pale by comparison. Enter Marley Carroll, a singer-songwriter, skilled DJ, pianist, percussionist, and composer, who, over the course of several years, wrote, performed, recorded, and produced Melanaster, his debut album, which is about as genre-crossing as a single album can get. Released independently in 2007, Melanaster was the culmination of years of songwriting and arranging, and each song contains a web of intersecting tracks, produced so that Carroll avoids the possibility of overwhelming the listener with sound, while deftly avoiding over-production.

After releasing his album, Carroll began to assemble various incarnations of the Melanaster Band, and since his move to Asheville over a year ago, has been allowing serendipity and musical compatibility to arrange the current Melanaster Band line-up. Comprised of Billy Cardine (dobro), Barrett Smith (guitar), Ryan Lassiter (drums), Jake Wolf (bass) and Marley Carroll (keyboards, vocals, percussion), the Melanaster Band dominated the stage during their first appearance in Asheville, as openers for Sonmi Suite, at the Emerald Lounge. This fortuitous mixture of extremely talented musicians create depth, grit, and energetic perspective, which extends from the Melanaster songs to the new Melanaster Band tracks written since their formation in Asheville.

Opening the set, “For North Carolina,” began soft and delicate, but built quickly, with Cardine’s dobro adding a welcome earthiness and Lassiter’s drumming strong yet yielding to Carroll’s percussive keys and deliberate vocals: “Carry me and see I’m just a child/ I’ve severed my lines and fallen 3,000 miles/ won’t call today and ask if my hair has grown long/ the sharp sound of life ringing all along, ringing all along.” Though Carroll does not appear a commanding front-man, his understanding of songwriting from both academic and intimate viewpoints invites the listener in, as during “Parhelic Circle,” which inspired more movement from the surprisingly shoe-gaze-swaying crowd. With it’s heavy rhythm lines and cascading chorus: “I am an island drifting out where no-one can see/ you are the canary, singing down where no-one can hear/ everything will change, the day I am late/ two miles down you are the canary, underground,” the song carries an immense weight live. Though the overall stylistic choices remain true to Carroll’s well-orchestrated compositions while playing songs from Melanaster, including the two aforementioned songs, as well as “Highway Hearts” and “the End,” each member of the Melanaster Band adds the right amount of their own style into the mix.

A selection of  newer songs were featured during the set, “Bird Hand” (a dark, Radiohead meets Broken Social Scene song with layered harmonics and a velvety-smooth bass-line), “Eric” (echoing Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Calexico), and “Valencia,” which opens with a killer line: “where I live they water the concrete until it grows and covers everything/ the only dirt you see is cracks in the pavement/ between the squares/ the past beneath my feet.” During “Speed Reader,”an upbeat, rhythmically driven song, the potential of the band as a songwriting unit was shown, as Smith’s driving guitar work and Wolf’s strong bass-line set an energetic precedent which the rest of the band readily matched.

Representing a varied mix of newer and album tracks, with a few covers thrown in (Beck’s “Golden Age” and Radiohead’s “Kid A”) for breadth, the Melanaster Band’s first performance was met with an extraordinary response. The band will most definitely be playing in Asheville again in the very near future, though dates are yet to be determined. Keep an eye on www.marleycarroll.com for more information on the band and future shows.

Open Windows opens doors

When a musician wants to move from a city which does not foster their musical aspirations, the decision usually lies between several major music cities: Austin, Nashville, Memphis, New York, Portland, and a smattering of others. Somewhere, somehow, Asheville has been added to that desirable musical melting-pot list, and

bands like Open Windows, from Orlando, have found a welcome and supportive community here.

Open Windows finished their album, Lanterns, in Orlando, and were looking to make a move to a place where they could move forward in their endeavors. Since arriving in Asheville a mere three months ago, the group has played a selection of live shows and hooked up with some of our city’s more popular groups quite serendipitously. A chance vacancy at the Root Bar yielded a surprise first Asheville show, a relationship with the Hookah Bar was forged through regular open mic visits, and most recently, a headlining gig at BoBo’s has become the icing on the first layer of a potentially massive cake.

The bands show at BoBo gallery featured another recent Orlando import, Amy White, a longtime friend of the band and all around solid musician. White opened the show, and then returned at set-break, offering two short sets of breakout originals, inventive and startling covers (Elliot Smith, Blind Willie Johnson, Modest Mouse, Led Zeppelin), and a few beautiful duets with Zaq Suarez, vocalist and bassist of Open Windows.

Open Windows’ sets were ripe with songs from Lanterns, played articulately, but with a deeper resonance and panache than on the record. “Mockingbird,” was a highlight of

the songs from Lanterns, a crisp and soulful song with haunting vocals from Suarez and a tight percussion line from Ben Woodward, an exceptional drummer with an absorbent style that allows him to fully cater to his bandmates. “You are the Cure,” identified by the band as “sort of our epic song,” featuring Steve Brett’s rich and sonorant vocals and Michael Wheaton’s intense guitar work, was a climactic end to the first set, while the second set was comprised of a few album tracks, like the upbeat, twangy, rock heavy “Sandcastles of the Hermit Crab Kings,” and several new songs, written after their arrival in North Carolina.

The new arrangements Open Windows played during their second set show immense progress in their recent development as a band, and you can hear the eclectic Asheville influence in subtle ways, like in “Misty Mountain Tops,” a multi-layered instrumental, and  “Into the Ground” an atonal harmonic jam. An encore of a jazzy, drum&bass style song with a strong rhythm line finished off the succinct yet varied show, a survey of what has been and what is to come from this dynamic band.

The men of Open Windows share a calculated exchange, their connection while playing together is unavoidable, and the intimacy their music offers carries an almost voyeuristic weight, like opening a door to find something private and alluring. What Suarez, Woodward, Wheaton, and Brett have brought with them from Florida is a fine display of musicianship, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, the crack in the door, the open window.


This will be my first LIVE Do It To Julia experience, I love their music and I’m psyched. Since I don’t have a review or shot of them, here’s Alex, the drummer for Do It To Julia standing in the Blue Spiral Gallery during Gabriel Schaffer‘s show.  xo!

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