Dial up the menu at Sticks and Stones Clay Oven Pizza in Greensboro, and one thing that leaps out is the title of every item on it. There's the "Rescue Blues" small plate of Rosemary garlic fries; the "Peaceful Valley" organic salad; the "Magnolia Mountain" pizza; and a kids menu titled "To Be Young..."
As to what these things have in common: They're all named after song titles by North Carolina native Ryan Adams.
"That came from a combination of the owner and one of the original chefs we had here," says Sandy Blocker, a cook at the restaurant. "They're big fans of Adams, it's just one of those things. People who know Adams' music get the titles, and the people who don't are oblivious."
Sticks and Stones has been open since April near the UNC-Greensboro campus. Blocker describes the restaurant as a coop-type place that uses as many organic and local ingredients as possible. And Adams songs aren't the only ones you'll hear there.
"We play a lot of world music in here, too," he says. "That's my doing. I teach African drumming at UNCG."
You may not know Cy Rawls by name; but if you've gone to very many local-band shows around here over the past 15 years, you probably know him by sight -- even though he's something of a mystery even to his friends. A person of enigmatic tastes, he loves Journey as well as Polvo. And while he's the most mild-mannered sweetheart you could ever hope to meet, locals still talk with awe about Rawls' star turn as a blood-spattered Glen Danzig at "The Great Cover-Up" back in 2000.
"How well can anybody really know Cy?" asks James Hepler (drummer for various cool bands) in a tone of mock solemnity. "I knew him by reputation before I ever actually met him, and I can't even remember when I did. Same as anybody else, I'd see him all over the place. He'd seem to appear and disappear magically and suddenly, then show up again hours or days later. Erie Choir was playing in Atlanta once, and there he was. He was on his way to New Orleans, so he stopped in on his way."
For the past month, however, Rawls has not been getting out to rock. Instead, he's been battling a malignant brain tumor. The prognosis is uncertain, but Rawls' friends have rallied to his cause with a heart-warming fervor that recalls the closing scene of a Frank Capra movie.
Compared to last year, when it scored two top-10 albums on the Billboard 200, Durham-based Merge Records has had a fairly quiet 2008. But this week, Merge registers its third-highest-ever chart placement with "Conor Oberst," the eponymously titled solo album by the Bright Eyes frontman who played in Carrboro last weekend. On first-week sales of 29,000 copies, the album debuts at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 (right behind "Kidz Bop 14").
Merge is also hosting its first-ever art exhibition on Friday, with artwork from Robert Pollard's book "Town of Mirrors" (Fantagraphics Books). It's at 6 p.m. Friday at Merge's building, 409 E. Chapel Hill St. in downtown Durham, during the monthly "Third Friday" arts/culture crawl; and yes, ex-Guided by Voices mastermind Pollard is supposed to attend.
So let's say you're at a live-music event, and the show reaches that moment -- ironic or not -- when raising a lit cigarette lighter would be called for. But you don't have a lighter because you don't smoke; and besides, the arena is a no-smoking facility. What to do?
Presenting the iLightr application, a virtual cigarette lighter for a smoke-free world. It's just 99 inflation-ravaged cents for your iPod or iPhone.
(Thanks to Patty for the tip.)
Behold the 14-song track list for volume three of "Have a Holly Raleigh Christmas," which has become one of the coolest recurrent projects in local music. This year's model has two repeat acts from years past; a couple of well-chosen former locals; and several intriguing stylistic wild cards including Rey Norteño (a local band that had a Latino-radio hit in 2006 with a song called "Raleigh") and steel drummer Tracy Thornton.
Killer Filler, "I Saw Three Ships On the First Noel"
Day Action Band, "Your Last Chidhood Christmas Eve"
Triangle Tuba Quartet, "Jolly Old St. Nicholas"
Jon Shain, "The Deep Freeze"
Brantley Family Band, "Morning Star"
Port Huron Statement," Feeling Like Christmas Again"
Regina Hexaphone, "Christmas Moon"
Rey Norteño, "De La Mano De Dios"
Nathan Oliver, "Oh, the Winter"
Don Dixon, "Winter's on the Run"
Joe Newberry, "On This Christmas Day"
Gray Young, "Christmas If You Want"
Terry Anderson/O.A.K. Team, "Eggnogorant"
Tracy Thornton, "Jingle Bells"
Click through for more.
You can start the countdown to the holidays right now, because tour dates for Trans-Siberian Orchestra are out. And the Triangle must be a particularly strong market for orchestrated heavy-metal Christmas music -- not only are we on the itinerary once again, but this year we get two shows. TSO is scheduled to play two shows (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.) at Raleigh's RBC Center on Saturday, Nov. 22. Check here for details on the fan-club pre-sale.
Shhhh...Don't tell anybody, keep it to yourself -- but there's a pretty cool shindig happening Sunday evening in the Boylan Heights district of downtown Raleigh. It's the annual Big Boylan Bash; at Dupont Circle Park, near Rebus Works just across the Boylan Avenue Bridge. You know, that street party the Connells played at last year.
It's even free. But if you come, please bring a potluck dish that can serve around 10 people. And look for me, I'll be there.
Friday night's Wilco concert in Cary began with a fine opening set by Bon Iver, the band led by former local Justin Vernon, rocking up the quiet and lovely songs from Bon Iver's gorgeous debut album. Onstage, Vernon didn't refer directly to his time living in the Triangle. But he did give a shout-out to an old pal here during the set-up to the one cover he played -- a Talk Talk song that Vernon said he was introduced to by his friend "Phil."
That was Phil Cook, who used to play with Vernon in DeYarmond Edison (and who is now one-third of Megafaun). I saw Cook in the crowd afterward; told him that I never would have pegged him for a fan of Talk Talk, an arty new-wave band known for chilly electronic atmospherics.
"Oh, dude, I love Talk Talk!" Cook enthused. "'Spirit of Eden,' what a great album!"
As for Friday's headliner, here's the review of Wilco's set -- fabulous as always.