I must admit, after all my time in Charlotte frequenting the music scene, I had never taken the opportunity to visit The Evening Muse. It’s not that I wasn’t interested, they have had plenty of shows worthy of attendance, it just hadn’t happened. However, my interests peaked several months ago when Jeff Hahne, music editor of Creative Loafing, began adding some of my favorite bands to his “Off the Record” series. Off the Record, if you are not familiar, is an all acoustic, on stage interview series led by Jeff. It provides the stripped down attributes of acoustic, as we are most attuned to with MTV’s Unplugged, along with the back-stories of songs comparable to VH1’s Behind the Music. Although I missed his Andy the Doorbum and David Childers set a little while back, I made it my priority to be there for Pig Mountain and 25 Minutes to Go Acoustic sets this past Wednesday.
I was very intrigued to see what Pig Mountain’s sludgy stoner metal would sound like in acoustic form as well as the answers to their questions. They are some pretty quiet yet not so serious guys- to where when they open their mouth, they shock you with their humor and rawness because you weren’t really expecting them to say anything at all. I was as well intrigued by everything that would come with 25 Minutes to Go Acoustic’s set, which would more than likely be filled with family time, musical bliss and Jonathan’s humor.
Upon entering The Evening Muse, I immediately enjoyed their set-up. With seating and an off-beat relaxed setting, I understood what Jeff Hahne meant when he called it a “coffee shop vibe.” The staff were friendly and overall, it just seemed mellow. I enjoyed the atmosphere quite a bit.
It was awhile before Pig Mountain took the stage and when they did, you could immediately tell that those boys were out of their comfort zone. In complete spotlight, sitting down with an acoustic guitar and being asked questions by the music editor of Creative Loafing is not necessarily something Pig Mountain is used to. At the beginning of their set, just before they played “Barn Burner,” Jeff came on stage and asked them, “Is there anything that you would like to say about this song?” “It rules,” Doob responded before delving deep into a place that sludge seldom frequents. Acoustic sludge is something worth recognizing. And I have to tell you, these boys have definitely got the capability to keep it heavy despite the lack of electricity. It almost reminded me of Alice in Chains Unplugged as the deep notes came bellowing from the holes of the hollow instruments they were playing.
“This is 100% uncharted territory,” Doob told Jeff before he asked him the origins of their next song, Bealzbugy. Doob explained that the song got its name from their friend, Brandon Hill, and they stuck the title to their first fast song. The heaviness continued and led into the next question regarding their inspiration behind playing to which Doob responded, “We just like to get fucked up and play heavy music.” They then frolicked into their next song, “Meatwagon,” continuing the enchanting sounds of their music stripped down but still heavy. The following little ditty for our listening pleasure was my personal favorite, “Missing Persons Report.” The band dedicated the song to their friend Brooks of the band Grass, who they toured with last spring. Brooks had added another verse to the song, which is long forgotten by the band but remembered in spirit. The progression that followed was something noteworthy, pounding and brutally beautiful.
Before their last song, Jeff asked the boys whether they would consider doing something like this again in the future. “Sooner or later, there will be a cold day in hell,” Doob responded then blushed while explaining the title of their next song, “666 Astronomical Units of Pussy and Ass.” All in all, it was a treat to see Pig Mountain in such rare form. It was neat to hear their responses to Jeff’s questions and a great experience overall.
Next up was the 25 Minutes to Go Family Band, 25 Minutes to Go Acoustic. They call it the family band because it isn’t just the normal four-piece consisting of Trey (drums), AJ (guitar), Kyle (bass and vocals) and Jonathan (guitar and vocals). When they play acoustic, they add some family to the mix: Buck Boswell on banjo, Ian Stroupe on auto harp, Geoff White on fiddle and Stephanie Hughes on vocals. I was almost worried that they wouldn’t all fit on the tiny Evening Muse stage.
Leaving her daughter, Nora, to the care of her Grandfather in the front row, Stephanie Hughes joined the boys on stage, gracing them with her voice for their opening song, “Another Year.” As always, it is a beautiful compliment to hear her voice alongside Jonathan’s and on top of the acoustic tiramisu that the family band provides.
Unfortunately, it was difficult for me to hear any of the interview throughout 25 Minutes to Go Acoustic’s set. People behind me were consistently talking as soon as the music stopped, leaving me giving dirty looks that did no good to the cause. It was really frustrating because overall, that is what I came for. I did want to hear their music, however, I wanted to hear the questions and answers quite a bit more.
Regardless, their next jam was a KP Soloman song, “Amen” which led directly into “Sunshine Graveyard” with no breaks. Both were nicely executed and as lovely as ever with Geoff’s fiddle providing the perfect addition to it all.
Although I couldn’t hear most of the questions and answers, I heard one particular circumstance in which Jonathan passed a question off to Ian, who at that moment was paying absolutely no mind to what was being said. “Huh?” he responded and laughter flowed throughout the venue.
Off the Record, a set on Flickr.
One question I could hear was in regards to their song, “It’s Go Time.” Jeff asked Jonathan if the song was about a break-up citing the line, “I gave you the best of me.” Jonathan then explained that it was about a break-up of sorts but not a romantic one. The song revolves around their former guitar player, Zane, leaving the band during the midst of recording a new record. “It was about the lack of commitment,” Jonathan claimed. They then went into a perfectly executed rendition of the song with a little for clarity for those of us who had always wondered exactly what it was about.
“Hopefully we’ll win a CMA for this,” Jonathan joked in between songs. Punk rock turned ear-pleasing country is an interesting thing to witness and I’d like to think that if the CMAs actually meant something nowadays, they would.
Their next song, “Keep that Skoal” was probably my favorite out of the entire set. Typically a song sung between Jonathan and Kyle, is as on their record, this night it was done by Jonathan and Stephanie. Stephanie had lovely solos that touched the heart and the lyrics seemed more fitting between husband and wife rather than friends. It was nice to see them truly duet together, especially while their two-year-old daughter is in the audience in awe of their performance.
With two songs left, I still couldn’t hear a word that was coming from the on stage interview. I was increasingly irritated by the moment but calmed myself and took a breath, figuring I would eventually have the opportunity to ask Jonathan personally what the hell was going on up there. Apparently Jeff had asked, “Is there anything you want to say about this?” Buck then grabbed the microphone and went on a rant about his grandpappies being in the wars, to which Kyle took over and explained the real meaning of the song revolving around soldiers just being a number. All that commotion on stage makes much more sense now that I know approximately what was being said. I’m sure if I could’ve heard what was happening in the moment, it would have been much more hilarious.
Their last song, “You’ll Regret the Day You Met Me” involved the exit of all members of the band sans Kyle and Jonathan. Their voices intertwined around one another and provided a nice finale for their set. Jonathan than thanked everyone for coming out, giving a special shout-out to his daughter in the audience, stating that it was her first time seeing her daddy play the guitar on stage. He may be a punk rocker at heart, but he melts at the sight of that little girl, displaying his true, affectionate nature.
Witnessing this showcase of talent was a privilege and I certainly wish I could’ve heard everything that was happening up on stage when the 25 Minutes to Go Acoustic interview was going down. However, regardless of that frustration, it was a great show and Off the Record is an intriguing series, something we needed in Charlotte in order to see the bare, nitty-gritty attributes of some of our local musical talents.