ON THE ROAD: Back From Carrboro
I HOPE YOU'RE having a good Veterans Day weekend. I made a quick visit to North Carolina to see friends and meet up with Kyle and the Welsh band Super Furry Animals, who were performing at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, right down the road from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. More on Friday's SFA show in a bit.
NOTES FROM THE ROAD:
>> On my Friday afternoon train ride on Amtrak, the Carolinian No. 79 took me through the North Carolina cities of Rocky Mount, Wilson and Selma (where the slogan on the water tower next to the renovated 1924 train depot says it's a "Charming Place to Be").
>> The Carolinian has a Tar Heel State train host who boards in Rocky Mount and rides the rails going through train cars asking passengers if they had any questions about North Carolina, the Tar Heel State. I asked him when the train was supposed to arrive in Raleigh. He didn't know. The train arrived 30 minutes behind schedule. This got me thinking: Acela and Metroliner should have train hosts from different states. Sen. Joe Biden, the senior senator from Delaware, rides Amtrak enough between D.C. and Wilmington. He certainly could do that when he retires (unless of course he runs for the White House in 2008), answering all your questions about the Nemours Mansion and Gardens, credit card companies and outlet shopping. Imagine the possibilities of the train host pool from New Jersey ...
>> Q: Whose house in Raleigh boasts turquoise shutters? A: Former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms. Now you know.
>> Driving back from Raleigh with Kyle on Route 1 near Henderson, N.C., we drove by a church called The Church on Fire, where the sign outside said that "The wages of sin have never been reduced." Later, on I-95 we passed through Stafford County, Va., where on the boundary sign, it says that the county is "a certified business location." I thought that was an odd thing to have on a jurisdictional boundary sign. Maybe it's a really bland marketing slogan. Not sure. But if you Google "certified business location" and "stafford county virginia," a Perspectives.com "Republican.com & Conservative right" politics message board titled "I like Big Butts" will pop up. In a discussion about mullets, one poster talks about vandalizing a Stafford County "certified business location" sign back in the 1980s. Odd.
Super Furry Animals at Cat's Cradle
Nov. 11, 2005
According to Kyle's dispatch from SFA's show in Norfolk, Va., on Thursday, frontman Gruff Rhys and the entire crew dropped "Something 4 the Weekend," "Hello Sunshine", and "Frequency" after Tuesday's show at the 9:30 Club. For Cat's Cradle, "Something 4 the Weekend" stayed off, but "Hello Sunshine" and "Frequency" returned. There was solid set overall, though like the previous line up, it didn't pick up until the higher-energy stuff came up into the later half with "Calimero," "Juxtaposed With U," "Receptacle for the Respectable" and "Slow Life."
Of what the band has been pulling from its latest album, Love Kraft, for its live show, I've been liking "Zoom!," "Atomik Lust" and "Lazer Beam," all from the the space pop end of SFA's musical spectrum. When introducing "Ohio Heat," Rhys has said that it was inspired when SFA was in Austin, Texas, when someone's unattended cell phone went off and Rhys picked it up. On the display, the incoming call was from "Ohio Heat," whoever that is. Thus a song is born.
Listening to Love Craft is a bit odd at first since this is the first album where Rhys isn't doing the vast majority of the vocals. Keyboarder/main programmer Cian Ciaran's "Cabin Fever" is a gorgeous piece. I'd be interested to see what comes from him in the years to come since he's been "largely responsible for the long-lost SFA instrumental electronic album," according to the BBC's profile on Ciaran. "There was talk of it being released around the time of Mwng, but nothing has appeared under the group's name, at least." Ciaran is also responsible for "Slow Life," the closing track from Phantom Power (one of my favorites) that had been in the works for two years.
Ciaran's older brother, drummer Dafyudd Ieuan, made his songwriting introduction with "Atomik Lust" in Love Kraft. (Hanging out in the dressing room after the show, Daf insisted that as a journalist, I read up on works from Bill Hicks, the late comic, social critic and satirist ... "anything really" from Bill Hicks, Daf wrote in my notebook.)
The SFA tour bus pulled away from Cat's Cradle around 2:30 a.m. Welsh rock stars have better things to do, like head to tonight's show in Atlanta, than stick around with the likes of me, Kyle and Lauren in a North Carolina parking lot. The band's touring coach, although it supposedly fits 12 people, is a little cramped. Pity SFA, as they will be driving across the continent from Chicago to Vancouver later next week.
Also, the opening act, Canadian band Caribou (fka Manitoba), was really cool. I don't know too much about them, but hearing it made me think of Mogwai and Radiohead's Amnesiac. Awesome animation too.
>> "Love Craft, Super Furry Animals/Wales Music" [BBC]
>>"Cian Ciaran, Super Furry Animals/Wales Music" [BBC]
>>"Dayudd Ieuan, Super Furry Animals/Wales Music" [BBC]
>>"SFA 'Krafts' New Album" [NME]
>>"On the Road With the Super Furry Animals" [Information Leafblower]
Thanks to Lauren, Stephen, Nick and Kate for being my hosts in North Carolina.