Spider Bags, Paint Fumes, Flesh Wounds, Brainbows, Snake
Thursday, Jan. 26
La Salamandra, Durham

La Salamandra isn’t designed for hosting rock bands, and it shows. The unassuming taco shack on Hillsborough Rd. features a long, narrow floorplan, divided by an elevated bar and chest-high barricade. The stage, if you want to call it that, is little more than a nook set back into the middle of the room’s length, just large enough for a drummer and some amps and placed so that, last night, most of the crowd would be treated to a side-view of the five performing acts. The sound was problematic, too.

But none of that really hindered the benefit concert organized as a fundraiser to help alleviate the medical bills that local artist Dan Melchior and his wife, Letha Rodman Melchior, have been accruing since Letha’s cancer diagnosis more than a year ago. The show, despite the less-than-ideal setup, roared away.

Plagued by feedback from the PA, and inaudible backing vocals, for instance, Spider Bags started their headlining set at a disadvantage. Still, through the course of it, and especially in their more well-known songs—“Que Viva El Rocanroll,” “Teenage Eyes” and “Dog In The Snow”—the band managed a solid performance.
That handicap was exacerbated by their placement behind a double header of scrappy, relatively new bands. Charlotte’s Paint Fumes slobbered through a half-hour of addictive garage rock, sneaking flashes of 13th Floor Elevators psych-rock and Cramps surf into their set (which ended, naturally, with a busted Silvertone and a cymbal tossed off the drum kit). Flesh Wounds—the Chapel Hill trio of Last Year’s Men’s Montgomery Morris, The Moaners’ Laura King and The Future Kings of Nowhere’s Dan Kinney—offered a set of Oblivians-inspired garage favorably shaded with early-Jawbreaker melodies.

Brainbows’ post-punk rumble and Snake’s fluid twang-jam served as capable openers as the audience, which eventually spilled out onto La Salamandra’s large patio, filled the room. It’s easy—and probably unavoidable—to wonder if the show might’ve been better in a different venue with stage lighting and a better sound system, but that actually misses the point.

Craig Powell—the Durham promoter who often books shows at his nearby house, The Layabout—took the mic between sets to remind the gathered crowd why they were here, and why he’d organized this gig. Dan Melchior Und Das Menace, the band in which Letha Melchior Rodman plays with her husband, played both Powell’s 29th and 30th birthday parties, he said. This was about returning the favor, he said: “It’s the least we can do for them.”

Donate to Dan and Letha Melchior at melchiorfund.blogspot.com.