Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Five questions with The Beast! plus this week's cool shows

Deftly mixing hip hop and jazz, The Beast is one of the most musically adventurous and intelligent bands in the Triangle right now. They also have a deep need to give back to their community, having taught jazz education seminars at local high schools with the N.C. Jazz Repertory Orchestra. And it must be noted that MC Pierce Freelon is the son of local jazz great Nnenna Freelon, who will collaborate with the band once again on a "jazz an hip hop mix tape" to be released this fall. 

In the meantime you can check out the band during this Thursday's "Hip Hop vs. Rock" event with The Beast, Mosadi, Swaso and Freebase 808 at Broad Street Cafe. As you can see from the band's answers below, the event's not a contest as much as it is a musical discussion. "Who will win?" the band asks. You will if you go to this show. 

1. What's up with the Hip Hop vs. Rock show? It looks like all the bands have a little bit of both (and more!) in their sound, so is this really a "vs." situation?

You hit the nail on the head. All of the bands on our "Hip-Hop vs. Rock" bill have a healthy amount of hip-hop and soulful poetry in their music and an equal amount of adrenaline pumped, progressive indie/rock n’ roll as well. So the "vs." could be a reference to the duality that exists within each individual band. We each transcend traditional genre boundaries in some way. This show is aboutembracing Hip-Hop and Rock - as well as Soul, Jazz, Funk, Blues and all of the other "genres" that inspire us. 

The "vs." brand was really more of a marketing tool than anything else. It's likeAvatar. It's nice to have a big hollywood movie about environmentalism and respecting the rights of indigenous people, but it's much more marketable to play up "The Battle for Pandora". We're pandering to people's penchant for Darwinian-style battle royal competition between these mega-genres called Hip-Hop and Rock. Who will win? Pay $5 and find out on Thursday.

2. Where's the best place in the Triangle to watch the World Cup?

Steve Coffman our drummer says: “Tobacco Road in downtown Durham!  This is a new bar in those weird office buildings overlooking left field of the Durham Bulls stadium.  Although I am not usually a sports bar kind of guy, this spot had so much energy for the USA/England I watched on Saturday.  It was almost like a final four basketball crowd vibe.  There were numerous "USA!" chants, which I have to admit, usually make me feel uncomfortable, however the whole bar was so into it, I was screaming like a little girl.  Also, they have great beers and above-average pub fare. Go U S and A!”

3. The Beast has given music education seminars at local schools. Tell us about that, and why it's important to do so. 

Exposing young people to music, art, culture and extracurricular activities is important because it enriches their lives. Unfortunately, our school systems here in North Carolina are struggling with very little money and scrambling to make ends meet - so it's up to us, the people in the community, to fill that void. That's why we partner with dope organizations like SEEDs and Seesaw Studios and work with progressive schools like Durham Central Park School and Durham School of the Arts to bring jazz, hip-hop, music education and African American studies into the lives of the young people who make this city cool. Enriching these kids also enriches our collective lives as Durhamites and North Carolinians. If we nurture young, progressive, revolutionaries, they will carry the torch and keep our city alive, cutting edge, and vibrant. It's also our obligation, as privileged members of the community who got to go to college, to bring that knowledge back home to share it with our people. Lastly, it's about self-determination. When we were in high school, we would have loved to have taken a course on Hip-Hop, but didn’t get the opportunity. Now that we are in a position to create opportunities for others, we can't pass that up. We are writing, performing, creating and teaching what we love, and that passion compels us to find a way to share that joy with others. 

4. What's the best unknown, or little known, music act in the Triangle right now?

Keith Ganz and Kate McGarry are a husband and wife, guitar and vocal duo.  They just relocated to the Bull City (right around the corner from Steve) from New York to live the good ol' southern life.  They are world-class jazz musicians who have played with all of the big names in the jazz world and are settling down here to focus on their original music.   Looks like they have a show this Wednesday Duke Performances’ Music in the Garden series.  Everyone should check them out! 

5. Any chance you guys will perform on a Nnenna Freelon record?

There are a couple opportunities to catch a Nnenna Freelon/Beast collaboration. The first would be on our first EP, Belly, where Nnenna scats at the end of our sentimental ode to mothers, "Come Closer." The second would be on her recently-released album, Homefree which features a verse from Pierce on the re-arrangement of James Weldon Johnson's Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”  Actually, Steve’s drumkit was rented to the studio for Nnenna’s rhythm section to track on.  Does that make this song count as a Beast collaboration?  The third and most spectacular Beast/Nnenna collaboration is an upcoming project called Freedom Suite It's a jazz and Hip-Hop mixtape produced by The Beast and Nnenna hosted by 9th Wonder, which is coming out this fall.


Wow, this weekend there is just no shortage of great shows to see. In addition to the Hip Hop vs. Rock show on Thursday, there's also a Benefit to fight Multiple Sclerosis with a fabulous line up at Cat's Cradle. Mount Moriah and The Sundowners are among the bands scheduled on this bill. At Local 506, Static Minds and Richard Bacchus & the Luckiest Girls open for Dead Meadow. In Raleigh there's metal with Colossus at Tir na Nog, and the genre-bending (though mostly alt-country) Holy Ghost Tent Revival at Pour House.

For those who like it early and free, start off Friday evening at Sadlack's with The Spring Collection and Richard Bacchus & the Luckiest Girls. From there head down to Deep South for IWTDI, River City Ransom and Charlotte's Marco Pollo (about whom I know nothing about). 

Finally, looking forward a little bit, Bowerbirds will be at Duke Gardens next Wednesday.

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