‘Kaleidophrenic’ world music: Crystal Bright & the Silver Hands to perform at Eno Festival
The Festival for the Eno preserves land for the river, and the musical portion of the annual festival preserves and presents folk music traditions. At this year’s festival, Greensboro-based Crystal Bright & the Silver Hands will perform original songs that draw inspiration from multiple world traditions – flamenco, mariachi, cabaret, East European and more.
The performance will be Bright’s first at the Eno festival, but local music fans may have heard Bright & the Silver Hands at dates at The Cave in Chapel Hill, Motorco Garage Bar in Durham, or the Flowjo in Carrboro. The band has played the South by Southwest Festival, and will head to FloydFest in Virginia later in July. In 2010, Bright & the Silver Hands performed her song “Toy Hammer” in concert with the North Carolina Symphony.
Bright is a multiple instrumentalist and performance artist, with an undergraduate degree in anthropology and a master’s in ethnomusicology. She traveled to Spain and learned music and dance from flamenco artists, has played in mariachi bands, and absorbed music from numerous cultures. On her website, she also lists French musician Yann Tiersen, Bjork and PJ Harvey as influences and refers to the band’s sound as a “kaleidophrenic cabaret.”
She took piano lessons as a child, but she has taught herself most of the instruments she plays. She taught herself to play the bowed saw using a YouTube instruction video. She plays the accordion, which “I learned in a mariachi band, so I pretty much taught myself to play it,” Bright said in a phone interview. On a YouTube video of a performance at The Cave, she plays the adungu, a harp-like instrument from Uganda, then performs a solo on the bombo, a drum from Argentina. She also plays keyboards, writes lyrics, and sings.
On her website, she states that during her childhood a “little demon” told her she could not sing. “It took me a while to grow comfortable with my singing voice,” Bright said. “This is what I love, and I finally found a way to do it and I’m not going to stop now.”
In performance, the vocal lines often are extended, sometimes in a more elaborate way than on recordings or videos.
Listeners can be thankful Bright refused to listen to the demon. Her voice can soar with great athleticism, as in the videos to “Drowned Out” and “The Misplaced Zygote: Down the Wrong Chimney.” At other times, that voice is pleading and lyrical, as on “Toy Hammer,” and her accompaniment to the animated story “The Little Matchgirl.” Sometimes, as on the song “In December,” her voice blends with bowed saw to create an ethereal feel.
She credits guitarist Diego Diaz of Greensboro with inspiring her to start writing her own songs again. Diaz is one of the permanent members of Silver Hands. Other members who perform at various times are Seth Oldham (drums), Jeremy Denman (trumpet), and Robbie Link and Aaron Bond (bass). The lineup for the Eno had not yet been set, and it is possible she might add a mandolin to Thursday’s date. Performing is “always an adventure,” she said.
Crystal Bright & the Silver Hands have recorded two collections – a self-titled work in 2010 and “Muses and Bones” in 2012. The band started working on new songs after the release of “Muses and Bones,” but extensive touring has precluded working on a new recording, which she hopes to remedy this year.
Bright also is trained in drama, and has presented “Bones and Lilies,” a collaboration with Carrboro’s Flowjo Family Circus, and another collaboration with sculptor Grey Pascal at Wilmington’s Acme Art Studios. Bright said she plans to do another performance art piece before the end of 2013.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Crystal Bright & the Silver Hands
WHEN: Thursday, 3 p.m.
WHERE: Meadow Stage, West Point on the Eno city park
ADMISSION: This concert is part of the Festival for the Eno. For ticket details, visit www.enoriver.org or call 919-620-9099 ext. 203