The numbers are in, and staffers at N.C. State’s student-run radio station, WKNC 88.1, estimate that they raised $1,500 for the station at last weekend’s fourth annual Double Barrel Benefit. Both nights of the benefit, which started in 2003 to help fund the station’s upgrade to a 25,000-watt broadcasting tower, sold out in advance.
The reasons were strong: Raleigh trio Megafaun blurred folk and free improvisation before The Old Ceremonyin all of its sweaty-brow, nine-piece gloryturned the place into a pop factory. The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers appeared in Bu Hanan all-star edition, with The Physics of Meaning’s Daniel Hart on guitar and violin and David Karsten Daniels on bass and guitar joining usual band members Perry Wright, Joshua Snyder and Alex Lazara. The band reached back to its first EP, Psalterie, and ahead to one unreleased song, “The Last Moments of Mary Stuart,” the most aggressive piece in the PTOADS catalogue. The Mountain Goats followed that with their own new sort of loudness. Backed by Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster, John Darnielle and Peter Hughes sounded re-energized, delivering old favorites (and the rare “The House That Dripped Blood”) and songs from Get Lonely with new gusto. Darnielle even broke an acoustic string early. He had to play the electric guitar for most of the night. For years, you’ve likely heard that one of Darnielle’s loves is heavy metal. Friday, with him howling and moving against Wurster’s backbeat, it was a little easier to understand.
Future Islands threw an opening dance party on Saturday, and Tiger Bear Wolf turned up the volume. But most people were there to see Annuals, the Raleigh sextet whose debut, Be He Me, was released by New York’s Ace Fu in October. The road seems to have made Annuals’ grandiosity a bit more direct, reducing their emphasis on the sometimes-problematic textures and frills of Be He Me. The guitars were up, the drums were hot and Adam Baker came up just short of screaming his way through most of his to-the-wind choruses. Still, despite their energy, Annuals play the kind of sets that are interesting only given a familiarity with the songs.
As expected, most of the crowd headed for the door after Annuals’ set, missing The Nein and eschewing any unfamiliar territory. That’s too bad, as it meant nine-tenths of the estimated 500 people who attended the Double Barrel over two nights forewent its most challenging and invigorated set. Playing only material from their second LP, Luxury, The Nein fed on their own nerves, Chuck Johnson spreading circuits of noise against Finn Cohen’s thick-tongued paranoia and Robert Biggers’ maniacal Motorik drumming. The crowd’s exodus is a worthy lesson for WKNC, a station that crafted its own renaissance five years ago but seems to have stalled somewhere near CMJ-charted normalcy. Go ahead, push the envelope a little: The kids can handle it, even if they’re not sure of it themselves. Grayson Currin