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Eddiefest 2017: Inaugural Eddiefest sets the pace for those that follow

Eddiefest 2017
Kings Barcade
Raleigh, NC
May 28, 2017

Chris Hendricks short testimony on stage at Kings helped to confirm why a benefit concert for suicide awareness and prevention is so important. The Raleigh area musician and co-founder of Perfectly Afflicted expressed the organization’s goal to help teens understand through music and motivational speaking that they are worthy of love and to learn to value themselves. He said that the program travels to schools to teach individuals to allow themselves to feel sadness but encourages them to build the audacity to feel hope in the sense of despair. Perfectly Afflicted is a non-profit with a goal of changing lives through the value of connection. Jeff Lawson is co-owner and partners with Chris to achieve this goal. He set up an informational booth at Kings to provide material and answer questions about the organization’s mission. Perfectly Afflicted’s motto: “There’s Only One You.”

Between sets Barry Bryant, former Director of (and current board member) of HopeLine - a crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline, shared his message. HopeLine offers a free, caring and confidential phone center that often connects callers to resources within the community. The Call Center is staffed with volunteers who receive 40 full hours of specialized training in suicide and mental health counseling. HopeLine is dedicated to listening and lending an ear in the event of a crisis. Barry also set up an informational booth in Kings to provide benefit attendees the opportunity to learn about the mission and goals of HopeLine.

Seven bands descended on Kings for a day of remembering drummer Eddie Watkins, a Triangle area musician who played drums in several local bands for many years. Eddie took his own life in April of 2016. The concert was held in his memory and also as a means to raise money for suicide awareness and prevention. Perfectly Afflicted and HopeLine were to receive proceeds from the fundraising that took place at Eddiefest 2017. The benefit was well planned and executed and it is the belief of both those who coordinated and attended the event that if it reached one person in crisis, it was well worth the effort.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then music is in the ear of the listener. What I feel or take from it differs from what others may feel or take. What an artist is expressing is certainly important, but music becomes most significant through the response of the receiver. I write my reviews through aural lenses.

The first band to take the stage was Bruxes. Bruxes is an intense six piece band that formed in 2016. The band refers to its music as “tummy hurt” and I could sure feel the rumble! Feeling the agitation that is churning in Bruxes sound makes it all the better. Rachel Hirsh plays guitar and is a powerhouse on lead vocals. John Booker mans the guitar. Curtis Armstead plays keyboards. Danny Johnson plays steel guitar. Aslan Freeman is on bass, while Griffin Wade tackles the drums. This high energy band was a great choice to get the party started; their music bolstered the crowd’s enthusiasm. Rachel Hirsh shared with the audience that many of their songs dealt with some form of mental health issues. The tunes went as follows:

Origin Unknown
Room Spins
I See You and I Know
Boys Will Be Boys
O Big, Bad

Durham based supergroup Stranger In The Valley Of The Kings is a six piece band and the second band to grace the stage. SITVAK is the last band that Eddie Watkins performed with and totally instrumental. Their sound is dreamy and ethereal and takes the listener on an interesting journey. To label their sound into any specific genre takes away the allure of their music. It has an air of mystery about it and I want to say its one part exploratory and another part experimental. Analyzing it further takes away its appeal. Listeners really dug the violin and vibraphone which made for such an innovative and welcome turn away from blasé. (It is interesting to note that every drummer who played on the stage at Eddiefest had the pleasure of playing on Eddie’s 1962 vintage Gretsch drum kit. The sound quality of these drums was pretty remarkable.) This time around with Stranger, Eddie’s own son Ned Watkins proudly sat behind the kit and bravely took over the seat his father once held. SITVAK is:

David Jernigan on guitar
Sara Moore on violin
Brendan Love on bass
Ned Watkins on drums
Steve Carter on vibraphone

The set flowed through the following songs:

Sea To Nowhere
Mad Albrecht
Spanish Mare

Blue Green Gods took the stage in the number three spot. Blue Green Gods is Christie Eames on drums and Todd Goss on guitar and vocals. Very underground and indie, Blue Green Gods material is bold and brazen and reaches out to the beyond. It seeks to abduct you from any comfort zone you might be hiding in. Blue Green Gods hail from Chapel Hill, NC and became a force in 1988. A little bit Nine Inch Nails hangs out with early Alice Cooper is my personal take on this band’s sound, but I’m just about certain that’s probably not their intent! Listening without looking, you would swear there were more than two folks bringing the heat onstage. The pair performed the following songs below:

Crawl Out of My Skin
Would You Lay With me (In a Field of Stone) (David Allen Coe)

Three Torches played the number four spot. This six member outfit formed in 1997 and is based out of Durham, NC. Three Torches played five impressive tunes. Having the keyboards is such a vital component of this band. Three Torches music has sometimes been referred to as junkyard jazz. It surely had the punky feel of garage rock and soulful jazz that seemed to meet in a head on collision. All of the musicians were spot on, and the upright bass and violin complemented one another well with the lap steel heavily bringing in the groove. Solidly strong drumming and lead guitar made the band illuminate as well as they gave us:

Boiler Room
All There Ever Is
Twenty Years

Three Torches is:

Steve Carter once again on drums
Sims Berkley on lap steel
Sean Murphy on vocals and guitar
Roland Ottewell on keys
Dave lines on bass
Sara Moore once again on violin

Unfortunately I could not stay to experience the entire lineup but did get to see Yung Polvo. Yung Polvo is Ned Watkins doing his very personal thing. As the audience was curiously anticipating his performance, Ned straight up warned parents with small children that “It’s gettin’ ready to get ugly.” This is my first time with this style of music, so I’m new to the genre that enlists mixing hip hop or digital music, so forgive me if I fall short with complete accuracy. Let’s forget labels and just be honest. It did my heart good to see Ned get up there and rap freely and with no restraint. He seemed to put a lot of heart in the songs and it was a really touching segment of Eddiefest to see him perform. At 17, going on stage before an audience who has gathered to remember your father is no doubt emotional and a daunting task at best. Kudos to him for the confidence and courage he displayed in his set. Turns out sometimes “getting ugly” can be a beautiful thing, and in this case it was. These are the songs that Ned got down and dirty with:

Rag and Bone
Black Wraith
Kill the Plug
Fast Canoe (no dry eyes in the audience)

Both the bands Pipe and Knowne Ghost also played Eddiefest 2017 and I’m sure did a stand up job. Hats off to them for playing the show. All seven bands should be commended for their contributions and participation in raising funds for Perfectly Afflicted and Hopeline NC in memory of Eddie Watkins. I'd like to thank them all for their generosity. The music of these bands was so NOT mainstream as to feel fresh and alive! Finally!

Thank you goes out to Kings who hosted this memorable event. Love goes out to Amy, Adrienne, David, Ned and Lucie and all of Eddie’s nuclear and musical family and friends.

Gratitude is also extended to the following persons who generously donated art in many forms for the Silent Art Auction:

Barry Bryant, Tanya Sue Todd, Steven Miller, Craig Dixon, Brian Waltsby, Karen Rushatz, David Cheshire, Jane Birchfield, Sandra Bryson, Melanie Lee and Eddie Fantos.

I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of such a worthy cause in memory of Eddie. I am saddened that I never got to meet him, but thankful that I get an idea of who he was by listening to the music he loved.