ConvergeNC showcases array of Southern sounds

Mar. 27, 2014 @ 10:21 AM

Chapel Hill band Clockwork Kids plays electric guitar rock that some have called “psychedelic,” and in another time might have been called “progressive.” Élève, or UNC student Joao Ritter, composes intricate pieces for acoustic guitar that are intriguingly inventive, even hypnotic. Vocal harmonies are central to the sound of Mipso, who write songs in the bluegrass tradition.

The common thread among these musicians is their Southern-ness. All work in the South, and their sound reflects some aspect of traditional and modern Southern music. They and other bands will perform at the second ConvergeNC Southern Music Festival beginning Thursday in Chapel Hill.  
Organizers bill ConvergeNC as “an annual celebration of roots and new directions in Southern music.” It is a collaboration of UNC’s Center for Study of the American South, Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation, the Orange County Arts Commission, and other public agencies and local businesses.
UNC students Libby Rodenbough and Gabe Chess organized last year’s inaugural festival. “I think the idea initially was we wanted to celebrate local music and bring some of it closer to the UNC campus,” Rodenbough said. Soon, the festival “developed into a quest to get people thinking about Southern music.”
Students at UNC have put together this year’s lineup, with lots of advice from professors and concert presenters, Rodenbough said. “This community is full of people who know about music and have great ideas about Southern music,” she said. This year’s festival “is a testament to local knowledge” and passion for music.
Rodenbough, a senior, also plays violin and recently began playing with Chapel Hill-based Mipso. When she graduates, she plans to stay here and play with Mipso, and continue to be connected with the festival.
Mipso will headline the festival with an April 4 concert at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro.
Clockwork Kids will open the festival April 3 with a 7 p.m. concert at Morehead Planetarium. Élève will open for the band.
Clockwork Kids are Chris Petto (guitar and keyboard), Jeff DeLuca (guitar and vocals), Justin Ellis (bass and lead vocals), Patrick Carney (guitar, bass, and vocals), and Dylan Abolafia (drums). At Morehead, they will be celebrating the release of their first full-length album “Rememory” (ticketholders will get a copy of the CD, and the online download will go public). All are former and current UNC students. 
Clockwork’s previous EP was Ellis’ senior project in audio and video production. For “Rememory,” the band raised money through Kickstarter and decided to record in a formal studio setting. “We decided we had pretty much done what we could do with our own resources,” Ellis said. They decided to hire “somebody objective to make our new record sound the best that it can,” he said. That person was recording engineer and co-producer Thom Canova of Overdub Lane in Durham. 
Radiohead, The Smiths, and R.E.M. are among the musical influences on Clockwork Kids’ sound, Ellis said. 
When ConvergeNC organizers heard about the band’s release concert at Morehead, they contacted Clockwork and asked them to be part of the festival, Ellis said. Organizers also suggested they put Élève on the program.
In addition to a CD and music, audiences at Thursday’s opener also will see a light show designed specifically for “Rememory.” Ellis refers to the light show as more of a “space display show,” patterned after the planetarium’s shows. They gave their new recording to Morehead educator Nick Eakes, who is designing the show based on their sound.
Rodenbough wants festival visitors to have fun, and to open their ears. “I hope that people come to the festival and are surprised by what they hear,” she said. “I hope they discover a new artist, or start thinking about an artist they have known in a new way.”

Here’s a brief rundown of festival events.
-- Thursday. Clockwork Kids will perform with a light show at Morehead Planetarium.  Élève will open. Tickets are $10, available at Doors open at 7 p.m.
-- April 4. Mipso will headline at the Cat’s Cradle, with the Punch Brothers’ Chris Eldridge supporting. Tickets are $12 presale, $10 day of the show and available at Doors open at 8 p.m., with the show at 9 p.m. Later that night, ConvergeNC will present a North Carolina hip-hop showcase in the Cat’s Cradle Back Room.
-- April 5. Singer Alice Gerrard and Hiss Golden Messenger’s Mike Taylor will discuss authenticity in Southern Music at UNC’s Gerrard Hall (160 East Cameron Ave.) with Bernie Herman moderating. Doors open at 12:30 p.m., discussion begins at 1 p.m.  Beginning at 3:30 p.m., ConvergeNC will present the following artists at UNC’s Bell Tower Amphitheater (250 Bell Tower Road): Floating Action, Rome Fortune, Ryan Gustafson, Dark Water Rising, T0w3rs, Ghostt Bllonde, and Myrna and Claudia Lopez Bascunan. All April 5 events are free and open to the public, with free parking at the Bell Tower Power Deck (off South Road, immediately west of the campus Bell Tower).


WHAT: Second ConvergeNC Southern Music Festival

WHEN: Events begin Thursday and continue through April 5
WHERE: Morehead Planetarium, Cat’s Cradle, Bell Tower Amphitheatre at UNC
ADMISSION: All April 5 events are free; others require tickets. For full information, visit