Carolina In My Mind: Casual Curious, Andrew Weathers Ensemble, and Us and Us Only at the Hexagon Space, July 28
Lately itâ€™s occurred to me that I’ve caught a number of North Carolina bands coming through town playing shows with local acts. That in itself isnâ€™t remarkable, since theyâ€™re only a few states down the coast, but time and time again every band that hails from North Carolina turns out to be pretty great. So when I saw a bill combining both local and Carolinian acts at the Hexagon, it appeared like a good time to put the theory to the test: is every band from North Carolina awesome?
On the evidence gathered Wednesday night, the answer is still a resounding “yes.” A Greensboro duo called Casual Curious made that clear as soon as its set began with an arresting combination of programmed loops and live drums, keyboards, and vocals. The drummer, James Crosson, was a Bonham-esque marvel of force and groove, while frontman T. Lee Gunselman was the mad scientist operating all the other elements behind a bank of synths and equipment, all while singing big, irresistible hooks. To call what they did synth-pop, or electronica-tinged rock, or anything else so vague and unappealing would do a disservice to Casual Curiousâ€™ muscular, densely textured and inventively arranged songs. If thereâ€™s any justice, the world will start paying attention to this band, and soon.
On the local side, the first performer of the night was Us and Us Only, a solo act hailing from Westminster. A shy young guy with an acoustic guitar, he wasnâ€™t afraid to spotlight obsessions such as Twin Peaks (via a tattoo on his arm and a song called â€śFire Walk With Meâ€ť) and explain the autobiographical element to every other song. And while his thin singing voice, and the way heâ€™d nervously mutter â€ścoolâ€ť every time heâ€™d complete a song could get a little annoying, his short, unpredictable songs had a certain charm.
Another Greensboro band called the Andrew Weathers Ensemble played next, and proved to be another notch in North Carolinaâ€™s favor. Weathers plays guitar, with a laptop in front of him and pedals beneath his bare feet, using an array of odd effects for his spacey sound explorations. And on this night, his ensemble consisted of two saxophonists, who wrapped his guitar noise in a warm, sonorous blanket that made what mightâ€™ve been a strange or unwelcome bit of jazz improv in the middle of a rock show into a wholly different, pleasant experience. Even when they gradually built up to an ear-splitting crescendo toward the end, it felt completely earned in the context of the ensembleâ€™s set, a rare avant-garde instrumental with a satisfying narrative arc.