On December 4, 2014 Hip-Hop enthusiast took to the front doors of The Pinhook on Main Street in the heart of downtown Durham; an area saturated with history and a magnet for art culture. Why they gathered? The Beast’s EP release party. They willingly fronted their cover charge knowing the reward that would come in the form of wholesome talent. The popular acts to take stage were SkyBlew, Drake Murphy and The Beast. Each band brought a high level of energy that had been reciprocated from a crowd of eager fans, shouting back their lyrics during call and response cues from the lead band members.
First to take stage was SkyBlew, who warmed up the atmosphere with the accompaniment of two talented instrumentalist, Donald, also known as Algo-Rhythmic, on the saxophone; and Christian, who goes by Sublime Cloud, on the Keys and Synths. Collectively, the band is known as Digi Destined. Skyblew and his crew performed a few numbers off of his latest album “SkyBlew’s UnModern Life”. One very notable song was, The Ballad of Pigeon Man feat. D&D Sluggers (produced by Sublime Cloud). Blew faithfully chanted what seemed like an affirmation to the crowd, ‘fly towards the sun’. It sent the message to keep our eyes on what is light and genuine in this life in spite of the challenges we face. Extracted from “Journey‘s in First Person” was Neflibata (meaning cloud walker) the crowd shouted back willingly, the word ‘Neflibata’ and remained engaged while SkyBlew executed his verbal prowess across the strong instrumental backing up of his band members. Digi Destined was a well placed opening performing act that served as a satisfying appetizer for the crowd who came to feast on indie greatness. SkyBlew‘s music can be found on: SkyBlew1.bandcamp.com
Second of the third acts to come to stage was an extremely talented act by the name of Drake Murphy. Drake, an alternative rock/pop artist, musician and producer, had come not only with his guitar, trumpet and vocals in tote, but had been backed by an impressive band. With him came Elvin McCollum on bass, Mario Adkins on drums, Clay Singletary on guitar, Antonio Barns on Keyboards, and Tony Streeter enhancing the mix with background vocals. This was the most down to earth band I had ever met. Their genuine musical chemistry had been felt on stage and shared with the audience. The band performed with such an incredible and generous energy that upon closing their set, they were asked to perform another number, in which the band obliged. The act shared music from their debut album, “Feel Better” while promoting an up and coming album, name to later be released. The crowd went wild upon hearing tunes like ‘Cali Girl‘ and Drake’s popular single ‘Simple Things‘ along with other great tunes featured on the CD project (which is available on iTunes and on DrakeMurphy.com ) .
Had the final act been any other band, I would have been worried, as Drake Murphy was a hard act to follow. Pun very much intended. It would require a beast of a band to follow up the energy and keep the momentum high. And that is exactly what proceeded after. “The Beast” is a Hip Hop quartet based out of North Carolina with such a distinctive sound and presence that upon seeing a performance, will remain unforgettable. Fronting the band is the lead Pierce Freelon, complimenting the quartet is jazz composer Eric Hirsh, Stephen Coffman and Pete Kimosh. The event held at the Pinhook had been centered around this band’s EP release “Stories” (produced by Drake Murphy). Playing into the album name, Freelon greeted the crowd with his story book of lyrics while engaging the audience in a high energy performance.
Not a living body in the venue remained seated or silent for any of the songs, especially while yelling back to the band “Get Yo’ Hands Out My Pocket!” Freelon mastered crowd control as he stood confidently in front of the crowd, empty pockets swaying with the music. Of all the awesome, thought provoking songs The Beast performed, my favorite of them all was ‘Possess Me‘. Maybe it had been due the lead animating the song with his gyrating on the hook, but the song lyrics had been well delivered and depicted by the lead and musicians. Not to go unnoticed was ‘Brooklyn‘ a touching song the band created to express the conflict so many Carolina artist feel about remaining in the area to establish the culture, or to take flight in pursuit of broader horizons for their musical dreams. Another impressive portion of the night included the band lead and musicians free-styling a song with an original sample from ‘On My Way‘ made popular by Rusted Root. Stories is available on TheBeastMusic.com for download. This band truly deserves every dollar and more of the support they receive from every fan that has the pleasure of hearing them play live.
Overall review, this was a well structured show and awfully impressive for three indie bands to come together and stage the event so well. It makes me excited to see the talent that is emerging out of the North Carolina area. I am confident that if we continue in this trend, recognition for the area will come faster than we know it.
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