As the evening turned into night, people drifted to Neighborhood Theatre like toddlers toward an iPad. The night held great promise, with a much-anticipated visit from Asheville-based Travers Brothership, one of those bands that, upon reading their description, you have to see to believe.
But first, Charlotte’s own Featherpocket took the stage, seething with strings and the restless optimism of young people. The vocals (delivered by guitar-wielding Jason Cline) were raspy with the disillusionment of realizing that getting what you want doesn’t come as easily as getting the good ball at recess or the last supermarket rotisserie chicken. Jason’s vocals had a bite to them, like the PBR he was slugging between songs. This is the sort of bite that can blend in just as easily with a loud, grungy sound as with the quieter (but no less animated), Americana that was unfolding before my ears. Featherpocket inspired the youngsters grouped in front of the stage to hop and bound in a pattern of movement that would result in a faceplant (and possibly blood), were a Yankee like me to attempt it. The strings – two guitars of varying voltage (Jason and Spencer Bloodworth), one bass (Cameron Gersh), and one banjo (Clint Lemonds) – came together like the perfect sandwich, four ingredients in perfect harmony. Featherpocket creates the sound of the mountains, towering rocks populated by trees, visited freely by breeze. See them if you can; they’ll make you feel at home.
As the room became more and more crowded with spectators of all ages, hungry for something intangibly funky, Travers Brothership (minus the horns) took the stage to deliver their goods. And boy, did they deliver. From the beginning, Kyle Travers’s powerful vocals seemed to supply the energy for the funk that the band generated. Josh Clark plucked at the bass like the big lug of a character in a cartoon whose features you love to see. Kyle’s twin Eric sat at the drums, shirt unbuttoned so his belly button could breathe. A democratic band of creatives, Kyle, Josh, and Eric took turns providing the vocals for songs each had written. This is a band with some very expensive equipment and the impressive versatility to stun and delight crowds in any permutation.
Kyle’s guitar solos were the stuff that dreams are made of. What’s more, he mouthed the notes. (What fun!) He is one of those musicians with so much power, he lets the guitar play him, coaxing the secrets out its little red body (he actually had two, one Stratocaster, one SG model). When Josh took over, the rest of the world melted away. He sang with all the emotion that bassists are usually too shy to communicate with anything other than their four, heavy strings. And what a range! He hit the highs like the salsas at La Unica make my nose run. To make an understatement, Josh has a whole lot of soul coursing through his veins, which he can fly like a kite whenever he wishes.
Kyle played through the bands originals and covers – notably including Hendrix’s “Catfish Blues” – as if he were alone, punctuating and adding an amusing mystique by flipping his wayfarers over his eyes for crucial portions of digital (in the finger sense) magic. When he jumped on the keys, taking over for Ian McIsaac (who bounced over to percussion) I got the sense that I was watching a creative genius of the ilk of Justin Timberlake. I strongly suspect that everything Kyle touches turns to gold. Be careful if you ever shake his hand.
It occurred to me that venues graced by the Travers Brothership ought to keep oxygen tanks, simply because of Josh’s bass solos. The man plays wildly, yet with the absolute precision of a Japanese video game. This guy understands how to bend sound, time, and strings. His vocals brought names like Pendergrass and Vandross to mind.
The Travers Brothership is like a Shepard tone: always going up, up, up, as they continue playing on, on, on. What the audience witnessed at Neighborhood Theatre last night included moments of psychedelia, the sort of mind bending, guitar bending magic that Phish was after, but with more direction. These guys demonstrate the good music the comes out of the Southeast. But somehow, calling it “good music” does not feel like enough. They’re playing Georgia shows in Athens and Thunderbolt on April 8th and 15th, respectively. I can’t wait to see them again.
[Editors Note: Special thanks to Matt Way for providing photos from other Travers Brothership performances]
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