Show Review: Monarchs, Anna Rose Beck, Jordan & the Sphinx, 9/29/11 at the Cave in Chapel Hill, NC
The Cave, Chapel Hill
Sept 29, 2011
As I walked down the middle of the dark and gritty ally that serves the seedy rear entrances to the four-hundred block of Franklin Street diners and pubs, I noted the mild weather. “Could have brought a jacket tonight.” I thought. The heat had finally begun to lower the flag of Summer. It’s foot soldiers just days before had gathered in force at every corner of Chapel Hill. Humid, cloaked in vapor, and standing steadfast, they peered over the tops of the tin covered flat roofed buildings skirting the length of Franklin Street and glared down upon the oppressed who traveled in groups from bar to bar quietly protesting the occupation with cut-offs and tank-tops. On this night however, the soldiers of the heat were in retreat and their grasp loosened. A soft breeze rustled the first fallen leaves across cool pavement under my feet was I walked. The streets were soon to be reclaimed and those who diligently maintained life and culture performing during the hottest of days on sweaty out door stages and sticky narrow rock clubs now celebrated out loud with smiles and new found energy. My night was spent with such folk, at The Cave in Chapel Hill where alt country songstress Anna Rose Beck gave redux of her July performance at a sweltering Nightlight and soulful Southern Rock young sons Jordan & the Sphinx emerged from shelter to pick up their smoldering guitars and perform a controlled burn on stage.
Jordan & the Sphinx embody blue collar rock and roll. This is a husband and wife fronted band and together they work hours which I doubt either have, or will ever, count. For seven days a week they punch out late from work only to wearily pick up guitars and punch out rock and roll even later. Playing shows, hosting shows, running sound at shows, going to shows… no matter how tired, they earn their life back after dark and revel with its creatures. At front, Jordan Dupree is a vastly underrated entity. The only thing better than the sweetly formed crunch of distortion from his Peavy tube amp is his deft and skilled maneuvers on his vintage six string. Thursday night’s set however, was a stripped down acoustic and percussion performance. Jordan on the guitar, Robert Cantrell slapping the cajón, and Adrienne Christina was shaking a tambourine, laying down Motown-esque R&B harmonies, and for one killer moment….ripping hearts out with a harmonica. The sparse arrangements gave Jordan & the Sphinx opportunity to showcase their best instrument; Jordan. He is vocally set, no need to change a thing. Gravelly yet piercingly clear, commanding range yet happy staying close to home. His louds are soft and his softs are emotional. He is an eyes closed singer…its being drawn from within.
Up second was Anna Rose Beck who is both fun and mysterious to watch. Her arrival to the gigging circuit of the alt country Americana scenes Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh, NC was hastey. Her transition from a senior at Duke having just picked up guitar and plucking it sparingly at open mic, too head lining her own cd release party was the course of a short year and a half, time which consistently moved her forwarded and has resulted thus far in creation of a well known and appreciated brand. There is mystery to observe in Anna Rose Beck’s lyrics also. Born in the twilight years of the decadent eighties, her cheeks still glow with girlish youth under the lights of the stage, but her lyrics sing of experiences matured well beyond her years. Mysterious also in her confidence. So comfortable in her approach to a microphone and so underscoring with her hushy middle soprano intensity that you will seek explanation for how one so fair can reach so far.
With youth in one hand and car keys in the other her approach to what ever is next is being sought with just as much fervor. West to Ashville, east to Greenville, and points as far south as Georga have been recent drives for solo appearances. Midway through the set Anna also made mention that she was flying out to Austin in the A.M.
Speaking of the devil…Thursday’s eye opening headliner, Monarchs, is on tour out of Austin and breezed through with a fresh and exciting indie rock-a-billy meets vintage swing mash up sound that I fancied is probably what’s cool in Austin right now…and if so then they are probably the band which made it that way. Monarchs is fronted by the magnetic Celeste Griffin, a working man’s Jenny Lewis…just as talented but likely will work harder just to proove her salt in smaller clubs. This is not to say that Monarchs are a poor man’s Rilo Kiley however, if they finish out this tour with the same dazzle and spark displayed Thursday night, then they could be moving onto that block…might be moving into that house.
This is how the streets were taken back from the Summer heat Thursday night. We emerged from The Cave to a vacant chill and walked freely through the darkness up Franklin Street to find the day’s last toast. Victory was celebrated at The Station and the mercury was still dropping as we drifted homeward well after last call. –Carrboro Ninja