Schooner and The Kingsbury Manx

Pinhook, Durham

Jan. 30, 2009

Downtown Durham welcomes The Pinhook with open arms, and for good reason. Sure, the club provides a new watering hole for the Bull City, but it also aspires to become a legitimate music venue hosting performances on the regular. The spot’s run by a cadre of folks who actively participate in the scene they want to support. And, by setting up a stage flanked by speakers and a proper DJ booth, they’ve set themselves up for eventual success.

Though Friday’s double-bill of The Kingsbury Manx and Schooner wasn’t Pinhook’s first rock show, it was another test of the bar’s abilities to host bands, especially those who appear with their own built-in, local fans. Both The Kingsbury Manx and Schooner were unveiling new material, too, performing a little self-evaluation of their own.

It was chilly outside, so The Pinhook’s non-smoking status had people scurrying out for brief draws on cigarettes on the sidewalk. Inside, audience members crammed into the space in front of the stage or out front with the furniture. Through the back window, just over the stage, those in the first few rows could see the illuminated Lucky Strike smokestack and the new flickering ‘Old Bull” sign. Durham, all right.

The Kingsbury Manx played songs from its forthcoming fifth album, Ascenseur Ouvert!, starting off with a mix of acoustic guitars and organ. (To hear one of these songs, “Crest,” see the music player to your right.) Though a great fit for their musicall hushed lyrics, with the pace of a rocking-chair daydreamthe set-up didn’t allow the intricacies of each songor for that matter, the lyrics of new onesto shine through. The Pinhook’s P.A. seemed to be working as hard as it was physically able without overloading, but the incessant hum of conversationfrom the front row on backmade it hard for the band to get its subtle points across. Still, The Manx appeared unfazed, its members even grinning at one other. And they sounded as together as ever, harmonies sticking together like old friends. When the band switched instruments and went electric for the final songs, the music finally rose above the talking din. People sang along to their favorites.

When Schooner came on, Reid Johnson cordially said hello and announced his band would also play a lot of new tunes. Minus a busted guitar pedal, which caused a bit of feedback during one early number, Schooner sounded confident with each song, old or new. The fresh tunes moved with more dynamics than Schooner’s old material, and Johnson and sister Katherine held vocal duties well throughout a strong set. Reid even kicked the floor proudly on a few rockers, nailing home their points. It’s exciting to watch a band offer fresh stuff that tests previous limits. No acoustic guitars in sight, the band beat any outside noise far offstage.

While The Pinhook may be growing gradually into a live music venue, shows like this are an exciting happening in downtown Durham. (Ed.’s note: DPAC gigs not included, though it is a pretty room. Let’s hope Aaron Lewis understands.) Let’s hope this is only the beginning.