by Charles Marshall
Lead singer and songwriter, The Balsa Gliders (and partner at the law firm of Brooks Pierce)
Live music doesn’t come easy in the cold and dark of February. There are no Oak City Seven outdoor concerts beckoning downtowners from their offices, no Hopscotch day parties to stumble upon, and no gatherings on the outdoor porches of local bars to revel in the afterglow of a summer amphitheater show.
This is a month that challenges you to work for your live music fix. It usually entails miserably cold parking garages and ticket lines, and texts from friends who ultimately can’t bring themselves to join you. But the seasonable ales and camaraderie inside is worth the trip.
Here are some Triangle shows in February that I’m planning to brave the cold to see.
Shovels and Rope
Cat’s Cradle. Sat., Feb. 7
Every now and then a song stops you dead in your tracks the first time you hear it. Birmingham by the Charleston, S.C. duo Shovels and Rope is one of those songs. I’m a sucker for songs whose characters stomp through Southern towns, and Birmingham chronicles these travels with an authenticity and urgency that makes Wagon Wheel sound rather pedestrian. The duo plays its acoustic folk with a modern rock bent that evokes 5-piece ensemble. That trick is far easier to pull off when you’re playing electric guitar effects and drums like the White Stripes or Japandroids. It’s much harder when you’re playing jugband instruments.
Cat’s Cradle. Wed., Feb. 18
I’m probably more excited about this show than any other in February. Lucero is a genre-bending band from Memphis that scratches punk, honky-tonk and countrified rock, and it earned its stripes as a hard-working live band. The band’s bio boasts that 50 Lucero fans have 50 different favorite Lucero songs. Lucero has always struck me as an underdog band that continues to attract legions of devoted followers. Its latest release, Live from Atlanta, is a double-CD recorded over three nights that spans the band’s prolific career.
Wrinkle Neck Mules
Southland Ballroom. Sat., Feb. 21.
My friend invites me to see The Wrinkle Neck Mules with him whenever they come through town, and I’ve been snakebit each time (sort of like the way I contracted a nasty stomach bug both times Interpol came to Disco Rodeo in the early aughts). The Mules note that Don Imus once said they “don’t have what it takes,” so they appear to have a good time living out their rebuttal through their rollicking Americana. Southland has attracted a compelling slate of alt-country shows over the last year thanks, in large part, to Marianne Taylor, who is presenting this show.
Thurs., Feb. 26
Simpson was in town several months ago supporting Jason Isbell at DPAC, but I was stuck in a traffic jam in Washington D.C. A friend went so far as to suggest that Simpson might be “better than Isbell.” There would be no loser in that contest. Like Isbell, Simpson’s soulful acoustic ballads tackle rural American values and vices. His eclectic “metamodern” brand of outlaw country, sewn with traces of philosophy, has been called “as much Hawking as it is honky-tonk”. This show is sold out, so I’ll be texting local icon Chris Malarkey at Lincoln to see if he’s got any odd jobs I can do to barter my way in.
And if I can muster up the courage, I might test some songs at Deep South’s open mic (Tuesday and Wednesdays). You won’t find anyone in the music industry as generous and open-armed as Deep South’s Dave Rose. He makes even the most uptight businessman who visits his bar feel like a regular. And The Bar’s decor, peppered with song lyrics, letters from rock stars, and backstage passes looks like the kind of place my friend Trent and I would have dreamed up in high school. So, yes, if you’re looking for a place to test the waters with your own material – and be surrounded by good people – you’ll be right at home here. Just bundle up.