INDY Week 11.18.20

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Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill November 18, 2020


Lost Era of

Indie Rock

The story of local music between alt-rock and the internet in 20 forgotten classics from Y2K BY BRIAN HOWE, P. 19


November 18, 2020

Raleigh W Durham W Chapel Hill VOL. 37 NO. 43



Nida Allam makes history as the first Muslim woman elected to public office in North Carolina. BY THOMASI MCDONALD

10 What's up with the empty seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council? BY SARA PEQUEÑO


Deborah Ross's election to Congress was inevitable. BY MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

FEATURE 19 Twenty forgotten local classics from Y2K.


ARTS & CULTURE 23 Local restauranters fight back against the insurance-industrial complex. BY ADAM SOBSEY

25 Pianist Chris Pattishall on five of his influences.


26 An epic Greek poem becomes a multimedia production. 27

Durham photographer Kennedi Carter's star is rising.



THE REGULARS 4 Voices 5 15 Minutes

6 Quickbait 12 PHOTOVOICE

COVER Design by Jon Fuller


Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño


Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods

Interim Editor in Chief Leigh Tauss Interim A+C Editor Sarah Edwards Interim News Editor Eric Ginsburg Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald

Voices Columnists T. Greg Doucette, Chika Gujarathi, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Courtney Napier, Barry Saunders, Jonathan Weiler

Contributors Will Atkinson, Paul Blest, Jameela F. Dallis, Michaela Dwyer, Spencer Griffith, Laura Jaramillo, Kyesha Jennings, Drew Millard, Glenn McDonald, Josephine McRobbie, Neil Morris, James Michael Nichols, Marta Nuñez Pouzols, Bryan C. Reed, Dan Ruccia, David Ford Smith, Michael Venutolo-Mantovani, Chris Vitiello, Ryan Vu



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November 18, 2020




Last week, Eric Ginsburg wrote about how local Republican leaders reacted to Donald Trump’s delusional meltdown after he lost the election to Joe


Biden. Some appeared eager

Two Minds On parenting during a pandemic BY CHIKA GUJARATHI

to go down with their Liar in Chief. Readers responded: “One last grift on the way out,” wrote Facebook user JIM LEVIS. “They know they’ve lost. They just want to undermine the new administration while bilking their donors.” “This veteran doesn’t find that very patriotic on their part, and it doesn’t make me feel patriotic; [it] makes me feel a fool, like I was lied to,” responded ROBIN CUBBON. We also learned that WUNC’s The State of Things would be discontinuing broadcast after more than two decades on air following the retirement of host Frank Stasio. “I was in a very stressful job some years back,” wrote DANA VAUGHN. “At lunch, I would drive to a nearby park, sit in my car, eat lunch, and listen to The State of Things. Seriously helped me relax, keep my sanity, and lower my stress. Great show that will be missed.” “I am so disappointed to hear this,” wrote PATRICIA GOODEN. “Please consider a similarly formatted, NC-focused replacement to WUNC programming. Also, perhaps it can be a rally to attract some new supporters and sustainers.” “As a long time supporter of North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC as a sustainer, I am disappointed that this program that really puts NC issues and guests in the front will be replaced by a national show,” wrote RENEE STRNAD. “The Takeaway is mostly national politics—so the mix of politics with local spin and local stories will be really missed.”


his year, between politics and the pandemic, my emotional pendulum has swung in such far extremes that I feel like I no longer know myself. The other day, I glanced at my almost-consistent daily journal entries this year since March, and what it revealed was this: I’ve either had really positive days or really bad ones. The middle—the in-between, the so-so, the uneventful— seems to be entirely missing. It’s not that “the center cannot hold”—it simply doesn’t seem to exist. My highs and lows show up most consistently in the kind of mother I have become. I have faint memories of being a really chill, loving, “let’s skip naptime and craft instead” kind of mom. Actually, I have no memories of that—faint or otherwise—but I know that person existed, because I have a million pictures on my phone that pop up like clockwork every day reminding me of how much fun I used to have with my kids when they were all in their respective schools and daycare. Lecturing my seven and five-year-old on the importance of education, and telling them about children in other countries begging and cleaning instead of going to school, has emerged as yet another favorite activity of mine. I just have to dare them to look away from their Google Classroom for a second, you know. The other day, I found myself telling my three-yearold to please stop touching me. It was 8:00 p.m., and I had had enough of being around three energetic, happy, and eager kids who for some reason haven’t gotten sick of me yet. I would think that 60 seconds of someone leaving me alone would have been plenty to recalibrate my sanity. Alas, there was no chance of that. I have also started taking immense pleasure in vacuuming. There is something soothing in a loud noise drowning out everything else around me—not to mention the nice clean pattern left behind on the carpet,

“It’s not that the center cannot hold— it simply doesn’t seem to exist.” which lets me know everything will be okay. Please, don’t let me make you believe that it’s all crummy times around here, because I do have some good news to share with you: I am pregnant. Baby Gujarathi is due in January 2021, making the final count four kids versus two adults. Because not being able to drink alcohol was the last challenge I needed to overcome this year. Alright. Okay. So did you laugh at least once while reading this? Because really, that would make it all worth it for me! In all sincerity, though, I hope that when the going gets hard—as it does often for me these days—you find a way to channel the chaos into laughs. I’ve never been so good at embracing my shortcomings and waking up every day knowing that I will try my best to give my family, myself, and this world all the kindness, patience, and positivity I can muster. And while it does feel like we’re holding it all together with a Q-tip and a used piece of tape, let’s just remember that children have fickle memories and that these could be the good ol’ days in the making. Voices is made possible by contributions to the INDY Press Club. Join today at

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November 18, 2020

CHIKA GUJARATHI is a Raleigh-based writer and author of the Hello Namaste! children’s books. Her work can be found on her blog, at Comment on this column at

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Jackie Moran, 32


Co-Founder of Wonderpuff

I always wanted to create a product that attracts people all around and that symbolizes fun and joy, and connection. Around eight years ago, I stumbled on cotton candy. I was a volunteer at a nonprofit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. No one wanted to use this cotton candy machine for this event, because it was too intimidating. I started using it, and it was so much fun. I did some extensive research later on and found out that cotton candy is becoming, like, a very popular staple. There’s so many people all over the world that have cotton candy businesses that vary in different ways. We did our own research, because I wanted to know how we could do it here in the Triangle. It was lots of trial and error. It’s true what they say: Especially when you’re in business, time really does teach you so much, because how we operate now is completely different than how we were operating in the beginning. We have so much knowledge now—not only about operating a business sustainably, but also we know a lot about sugar. And that’s really cool.

So what makes a good cotton candy flavor? We always treat it like a problem that we need to solve, especially when it comes to our candy flavors. We have had over 40 flavors over a span of three years. But we don’t want to overwhelm our consumers with all those flavors; that makes it seem manufactured, and it loses the quality and the specialness of each flavor. Each flavor is very important to us and extremely intentional. We don’t have an original kind of candy flavor, like blue raspberry or cherry—the original kind of candy that you would see at carnivals and fairs.

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Walk me through how you and your husband settled on cotton candy as your medium. What makes cotton candy so special?

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We try to make it like food science—almost like pairing it with food and drinks. We have our staple flavors that we’ve had since the beginning and that we have throughout the year: mango and salted caramel and lavender, which I love so much. We switch it up every season, and we match our flavors with the weather, or how people are feeling. We are going to be switching our menu this week for the first time this year. We have a lot of fall/winter flavors. We are going to have a pumpkin spice. I don’t want to say it all, but we have lots of Christmas and holiday flavors that we’re gonna be launching.

Do you happen to have a personal favorite flavor? When you’re in the candy business, you don’t really eat your product. I already consumed so much cotton candy in the beginning that I actually don’t consume it at all anymore. But we recently came out with a candy corn flavor for Halloween, and it was like a one-time thing. We were giving away free candy for Halloween, and I wanted it to be unique and special. We had this candy corn flavor with hints of warm vanilla in it, and it was so good. It didn’t taste like actual candy corn, you know, but that was a favorite. When we started Wonderpuff, we didn’t have a lot of money. We just completed our Kickstarter this week, and we will be getting $20,000 going straight to Wonderpuff. We are both so excited, because for the first time in our business, we can operate it the way we want to. We are opening our storefront soon, and I want it to be like a Willy Wonka factory with lots of pink and glitter and loud music. I can’t wait for the community to see what we’re going to be building soon. W Find more information at

November 18, 2020



Praise Yeezus A lot of people actually voted for Kanye BY LEIGH TAUSS


very year, North Carolina election boards publish a list of write-in candidates on ballots received. Statewide, 13,194 North Carolinians voted for someone other than Joe Biden or Donald Trump for president. While write-in candidates rarely make a difference (this year, they represented only 0.24 percent of the 5.5 million ballots cast), they often say a lot about who we are as a nation. They're also freaking hilarious. Out of thousands of written-in candidates, only one, Jade Simmons, submitted the required 500-signature petition necessary to make the official count by the state Board of Elections. Here at the INDY, we believe no vote is too small to count. So we crunched the numbers using data available from Wake County (Orange and Durham county did have this data available at the time of publication) to bring you the most popular write-in candidates this year. ” W

13,194 write-in candidates for president statewide

0.24% of the 5.5 million ballots cast as of Monday, November 16

Top 10 Vote-Getters 172

Kanye West


Brian T. Carroll


Bernie Sanders


Mitt Romney


Tulsi Gabbard

Jesus Christ


Andrew Yang


Michael R. Pence

Ben Sasse

John Kasich

53 51 46

Top 10 Most Hilarious 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.


[Expletive] (2) Coothieman (1) Deez Nuts (1) Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (10) Leaving It to the Lord (1) Baby Yoda (1) Cthulhu (1) Me Because They Both Suck! (1) Bag of Tarantulas (1) Ric Flair (1)

Percentage of the vote Kanye West received among the top 10 write-in candidates vote

(in no particular order)

Honorable Mentions: • Mickey Mouse, God, and Anthony Fauci each received 14 votes • Former Presidents, including Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and The Ghost of FDR • Two people wrote in “Ranked Choice Voting” • Donald J. Trump, whose name atop the ballot four folks somehow missed.

Source: Wake County Board of Elections


November 18, 2020



Breaking Barriers Nida Allam makes history as the first Muslim woman elected to public office in North Carolina BY THOMASI MCDONALD


n an election month filled with delayed results, frivolous lawsuits, a recount, and baseless claims of voter fraud, the race for the Durham County Board of Commissioners proved decidedly uncontentious. That’s because the outcome was all but sealed in the primary back in March. In deep-blue Durham County, North Carolina, the five Democratic candidates on the ballot all ran unopposed in the general election this month. When they’re sworn in in December, newcomers Nimasheena Burns and Nida Allam will join incumbents Wendy Jacobs, Heidi Carter, and Brenda Howerton. Their victories mean that Durham County will have an all-female board of commissioners for the first time in the commission’s 139-year-old history. Voters also made history by electing Allam, who is the first Muslim woman to hold elected office in the state of North Carolina. Allam’s political career was born out of tragedy in 2015, when her best friend Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; her sister, Razan, 19; and Yusor’s husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, were shot to death by neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks inside of their condo in Chapel Hill. Authorities later claimed they could not find sufficient evidence to prosecute the triple murder as a hate crime, though Hicks had expressed bitter animus toward Muslims in social media posts. “I was a bridesmaid in her wedding in December,” Allam recently told Cardinal & Pine, referring to Yusor. “And then, in February, she was gone.” Allam, a Triangle native, is the daughter of immigrant parents and a graduate of North Carolina State University. Previously, she worked as a political director for the Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and as an organizing director for Cheri Beasley, the incumbent N.C. Supreme Court chief justice who is in the throes of a remarkably tight race with conservative challenger Paul Newby. As she prepared to begin her historic tenure, Allam spoke with the INDY about what brought her to this moment and how she plans to govern.


INDY: How and why did you get involved in politics, and what made you decide to run for office? NIDA ALLAM: Deah, Yusor, and Razan exemplify what it means to be a proud Muslim American. They lived their entire lives looking to serve not only our Muslim community but communities across the country and even globally. When they were taken from us in the Chapel Hill shooting, their parents asked all of their friends to not let their legacy die—to continue to remember the three of them and cherish them in our work. It was their parents’ strength and love that pushed me to look for ways to defeat the hate that took my friends, to make sure no other family or community would have to live through the pain we endured. It was soon after their passing that the 2016 presidential campaigns were gearing up, and I was drawn to Senator [Bernie] Sanders for the way that he spoke about people that were different from him. He never “othered” the Muslim community; he never spoke about us with the stereotypes and tropes that we often hear from mainstream news and politicians. He spoke of a message of social justice, economic justice, and racial justice for all human beings, and how all of us can build a movement together. At this point, he was still polling only at two percent nationally, but I knew that campaign and message [were] vital for our country.

I decided to run for office because I had been working behind the scenes in progressive movement and voter mobilization organizations. I saw during that work the need for progressive candidates to step up to carry forward the message of our values and policy. I also saw a need for a change in how we discuss politics and how we organize. As a voter and constituent, I have always wanted to see more emphasis from elected officials [on engaging] with community members while they are in office—just as much as they did while running. Because the conversation shouldn’t end once you’re in office. With your historic election, can you speak to the values you bring to the table and how that might help underrepresented communities? The values that I was raised with as a Muslim, the values that Deah, Yusor, and Razan were raised with—to be proud of where we came from, and to take care of our neighbors, and to live in service of others. It is narrated that our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “None among you is a true believer unless he loves for others what he loves for himself.” As a public servant, it is my duty and obligation to not take my privileges for granted, and that I must use what I have been blessed with to serve the people around me, and

November 18, 2020


to build for them to have the same opportunities if not more than I have. Breaking barriers and being the first doesn’t stop there; it is about reaching that point and bringing people along with you to break all the barriers so we can have a truly representative government. Did you ever consider moving away from the Triangle? What keeps you here?


WE LIKE THE music better OVER HERE.

Durham has long been where I wanted to live. My family moved to North Carolina when I was five years old, and I was raised right on the border of Raleigh/Durham, in Brier Creek. My parents did everything they could to build a life where my sisters and I would be able to strive and live our own American dreams. We went to magnet schools and would commute 30 minutes to near downtown Raleigh, with predominantly white classmates from elementary to high school. Up until eighth grade, I didn’t wear the hijab full-time, and it was very evident when I did begin to wear the hijab how my classmates’ perception of me changed instantaneously. It took some time, but I did end up finding a home in a friend group in high school that was very diverse—not just in race/ethnicity, but also in talents and aspirations. As I began to grow in early adulthood and [to consider] what life I wanted to build for myself and my future family—a prominent aspect would be the experiences I want my kids to have, and to protect them from being “othered,” as I was at such a young age. Durham is where I saw—and still see—that to be possible. I see a diverse and vibrant community, just like my small, close-knit friend group in high school. Durham was where we accept folks for who they are and welcome them with open arms. While you were campaigning, you said that economic inequality was the most pressing issue facing Durham. You also said that local governments can enact bolder policies. How will you address these issues as a commissioner?


November 18, 2020

Two of these policies include raising the wages for Durham Public Schools classified staff to a minimum of $15 an hour and enacting more robust property tax assistance programs, which other municipalities in North Carolina have done with the advice of the University of North Carolina School of Government. We can’t have public sector employees in

Durham County who aren’t making a living wage. Most of these individuals are Black women; many are mothers of children. They deserve and need a living wage. We also need to address the evictions crisis and to create more affordable housing opportunities. Finally, we must invest deeply in Durham Public Schools and [Durham Technical Community College] so that our county residents have every opportunity to develop a love of learning, while also developing their analytic minds and skill sets that will permit them to find meaningful and well-compensated work. All of these questions of economic justice are also questions of racial justice. You’ve talked about the significance of gentrification and displacement in the past. How do you plan to address these issues?

Again, a robust property tax assistance program is crucial to permit lower-income homeowners to stay in their family homes, rather than being pushed out. Many Black families have been in their homes in Durham’s neighborhoods for generations, and the pressures of gentrification and higher taxes are pushing them out in favor of flippers. The property tax program that passed this year does not go far enough to relieve the burden on these homeowners. This needs to be a huge priority, so that folks who want to stay in their homes have every opportunity to do so. The implementation of the affordable housing bond is also going to be important to make sure that it is really creating opportunities for working-class residents to stay in the city’s central neighborhoods. Fair transit access and fair wages are also elements of this work, so that our residents can get good jobs and can pay their bills. You’ve said the city needs to collaborate with unions. Do you think the public and private sectors are receptive to unions, or will unions drive new and even existing employers elsewhere?

Durham is a vibrant, beautiful, and diverse city with so much to offer in terms of culture, music, art, food, technology, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University. The list of benefits of this place goes on and on. People all over the world want to come to live and work here. Capital will continue to flow toward Durham. I support organized labor. Unions gave us the weekend, the 40-hour workweek, and protections against child labor. The Fight for $15; the Durham Association of

Educators; [UE Local 150, the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union]; and the National Domestic Workers Alliance are all examples of organized labor groups in Durham that really center social justice concerns. I think that the people of Durham want to both work at and support institutions that are receptive to unions and dignity in the workplace. If a company cannot satisfy [those] minimal criteria, I believe the people of Durham would rather not have that company in their community— not for employment or patronage. As a democratically elected representative, it is also my responsibility to make sure that my constituents are safe and healthy, and that their voices are heard. This means ensuring that residents of Durham County are employed by companies that treat them with dignity and pay a living wage, at the very least. I believe the Durham community wants to pursue equity and justice in more direct and impactful ways, but in order to do that, policymakers such as myself must create pathways to guide community members towards.

residents, including immigrants, who have chosen to move here for the opportunities and to enjoy the welcoming and inclusive culture. I think the key is to build bridges among all Durham residents, of all races, and to make sure that we center policy that keeps long-term residents in their family homes, substantially slows evictions, and creates opportunities for homeownership for working-class families. We can’t define a Durham identity in exclusive terms; we have to be inclusive of all. After the election, some moderate Democrats have argued that progressive demands thwarted a “blue wave.” What do you make of that?

I don’t think that the moderate Democrats’ assertion on this point is well-founded. We saw incredible energy and turnout for some of the most progressive candidates in Congress this year. We saw Georgia flip blue, truly from the efforts of grassroots organizers of color centering issues of racial justice. Unfortunately, we also saw that there are a great number of people in this country who are willing to support a white supremacist in the White House. Democrats won by an average of 80 percent in Durham in this year’s presidential election. Durham voters have been providing a blue wave for a long time, and I want to ride that wave to enact bold policy. In order to win future elections, Democrats have to provide proof of concept for the values we stand for, which necessitates bold action centered on worker’s rights and dignity for all.

You have voiced support for a property tax relief program that would reduce the financial burden for homeowners with limited resources. You explain that such a program is important to help Durham maintain its identity. What is the “Durham identity,” and how will maintaining it slow the process of gentrification?

Durham has a multi-faceted identity. We have individuals who have lived in Durham their whole lives, as well as newer

The Durham community has organized around criminal justice reform for a long time, and as a representative for those dedicated community members, it is my responsibility to ensure that criminal justice policies reflect what the community has clearly demanded. I am hopeful that the [Community Safety and Wellness Taskforce] can identify evidence-based programs to meaningfully address poverty, mental illness, and alienation, so that we have less of a need for armed police—and a stronger, healthier community for all of Durham. The city and county are still struggling with the impact of the coronavirus. Tax revenues are down, and small businesses are struggling. What steps do you think will help Durham recover from the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic?

We need to pour resources into Durham Public Schools. Strong schools make strong communities. I am proud that Durham Public Schools did go virtual for schooling to keep families, educators, and school staff safe from COVID-19. Coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, we have an opportunity to reimagine schooling and really center democratic decision-making, the community schools model, language access, social and emotional learning, and deprioritizing standardized tests. Austerity budgets are not going to help us recover from this pandemic. I think capital improvements for public schools through a bond referendum give us an opportunity to create jobs, as well as improve the physical places where our children learn. W









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Chapel Hill Chapel Hill Town Council in 2019 PHOTO COURTESY OF TOWN OF CHAPEL HILL

Is This Seat Taken? An empty chair on the Chapel Hill Town Council is a sign of possible long-term changes BY SARA PEQUEÑO


n a pre-pandemic world, the empty seat would be noticeable. At Chapel Hill Town Council meetings, there would be a hole, a place where a nameplate should go. In a pre-pandemic world, there would be nine members of the Chapel Hill Town Council (including the mayor), instead of eight. And there were, until January, when former council member Rachel Schaevitz announced that she and her family were moving to New Zealand. As the INDY reported after Schaevitz’s departure, the town’s bylaws say someone should be appointed to fulfill her term, which was supposed to end in 2021. The council received applications for the position at the end of March, again in accordance with the city bylaws. Yet today, more than 10 months after Schaevitz announced that she was leaving, the seat is still empty. 10

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It is the longest the council has ever gone with a vacancy on the council, according to Town Clerk Sabrina Oliver. In an October 7 meeting, Mayor Pam Hemminger addressed the vacancy. She also brought up an idea from the town council retreat last winter. “We are still interested in taking up this matter, but because of COVID, because of the situation, because of the national elections, we wanted to wait until there was a time when we could have members of the public be more involved in this,” Hemminger said in the October meeting. “It’s a bigger community conversation, and the council had also expressed their interest in the conversation first about whether we were considering reducing the number of council members from nine to seven.”

Changing town council size is uncommon, but so is the large size of Chapel Hill’s; Durham City Council has seven members, and Raleigh City Council has eight. Similar-sized college towns tend to have smaller councils; Boone, North Carolina has six council members, and Charlottesville, Virginia has five. Nine-person councils are more common in mid-size cities like Greensboro, N.C. and Richmond, V.A. While other, larger councils may only have a fraction of at-large members, every member of Chapel Hill’s Town Council is at-large—meaning that all nine members are speaking for the whole town, rather than a particular ward or district. “Often, everybody wants to say something so that residents know where we stand on things, or we can explain why we’re voting the way we are, or so we can add to the conversation,” council member Jess Anderson says of the current meetings. “So our meetings ended up being incredibly long, which is not great for getting people to run for council, because it becomes a really onerous job; but it’s also not great for the public, and for transparency.” The town council, formerly called the “Board of Aldermen,” was expanded in 1975 in a package that included changing the mayoral term to four years instead of two, setting a term limit for the mayor, and giving the mayor voting power. Gerry Cohen, a former council member who studied law at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says he remembers reasoning that the board should be expanded to ensure diversity. As a current member of the Wake County Board of Elections, he didn’t want to take a position on the matter, but he added that the Chapel Hill council has consistently had a Black member and that several students have served on the council. When Mayor Hemminger and the council began looking into the issue, they didn’t find much to back the claim that a bigger board means a broader outlook—especially in a town like Chapel Hill, where opinion tends to be pretty homogenous. She says they also failed to find sources that said a bigger council meant more minority council members. For Hemminger, Anderson, and other council members, it’s important that the community have the chance for a robust conversation once things are a bit more “normal”—especially since the current configuration of eight members hasn’t led to any issues. “One would think we would have had a problem if there’s an even number, but we haven’t,” Hemminger says. “I’m sure we could, but we haven’t seen that yet. We’ve had some split votes, but it’s not been four-to-four.” So for now, that vacant seat will sit empty a little longer. W


Chosen One Wake’s congressional seat was decided months ago by a new map BY MICHAELA TOWFIGHI


onths before there were candidates and fundraisers and the omnipresent yard signs, the North Carolina General Assembly decided the outcome of the Second Congressional District race. A Democrat would win. To comply with a court ruling, the Republican leaders of the legislature agreed that the Second Congressional District would be their surrendered soldier. Incumbent Republican George Holding knew this when he announced he would not seek reelection. Democrat Deborah Ross knew it when she launched her campaign for the seat in December 2019. And Alan Swain surely knew it when agreed to take a bullet for the GOP, running as the party nominee in a race that was inevitably doomed. No matter how many “Swain for Congress” signs were planted in yards and medians around the Wake County district, he could not defeat his greatest enemy: the newly redrawn map.

“Holding’s announcement certainly shed light on the realization that running in this district would be an uphill battle,” Swain said in an email to The 9th Street Journal. The (almost final) tally: 311,887 for Ross, to 172,544 for Swain. Ross, a civil rights lawyer and longtime state lawmaker, nearly doubled her opponent’s vote total. (Libertarian Jeff Matemu received almost 11,000 votes—not nearly enough to make up the difference.) The map got more friendly for Ross because it was reconfigured to solely encompass Wake County, with lots of Democratic voters in Raleigh and Cary. A similar process unfolded in North Carolina’s new Sixth Congressional District, where voters in Greensboro and Winston-Salem easily elected Democrat Kathy Manning by an almost identical margin to Ross. Like Holding, the District Six Representative Mark Walker, a Republican, also opted not to run again after redistricting last year.

That’s politics in the age of gerrymandering. Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, a nonpartisan group that promotes transparency in government and opposes gerrymandering, says lawmakers can’t resist the temptation to help themselves. Those who are in power—currently the GOP in North Carolina’s state legislature—want to ensure they maintain that power, he said. The Republicans’ strategy for the maps is to concentrate Democrats into as few seats as possible, according to Phillips. “The doctrine is lose big and win small when you have the power to draw the maps,” Phillips said. “And so you’ll pack as many Democratic voters into as few districts as you can.” This played to Ross’s advantage. In 2018, Wake County elected U.S. Representative David Price with over 70 percent of the vote. Ross won by similar margins this election, claiming victory with about 63 percent of the vote. For Swain, the new map signaled defeat. For Ross, it meant opportunity. After a failed U.S. Senate run against incumbent Richard Burr in 2016, Ross still wanted to represent North Carolina in Washington. But she needed an opening. “I wasn’t going to run against David Price,” she told The 9th Street Journal in an interview. “But when they redrew the maps, I was in a different congressional district.” As a resident of Raleigh, the redrawn maps moved her out of Price’s district. “The biggest factor was, new seat, no Democrat,” she said. Mapmakers will also make or break Ross’s chances for reelection. With 2020 Census data, the maps will be reconfigured yet again, with population growth likely adding a 14th seat for North Carolina. And with that comes the temptation for more gerrymandering. By successfully maintaining control of the North Carolina state House and Senate in this election, Republicans will once again be in the driver’s seat. W This article is published in collaboration with The 9th Street Journal at Duke University.

November 18, 2020



November 18, 2020

This Is What Democracy Looks Like WORDS + PHOTOGRAPHY BY JADE WILSON

Team Democracy, a collective of organizations across North Carolina, held another event at Raleigh’s Halifax Mall on Saturday, November 14. Celebrating the collective power of the people and their commitment to holding political leaders accountable, attendees sang chants, danced, and marched to the Governor’s Mansion. They also listened to speakers, including Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II. W

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rt o p sup al loc •




gift guide

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shop local •

NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF ART Gift of Membership box set | pricing varies

MELISSA DESIGNER JEWELRY Handmade jewelry: Shop website for prices

Make 2021 the year of possibilities - give the gift of NCMA membership with this special welcome gift box and exclusive notecard set. Gift membership includes a host of benefits, including free first-time exhibition visits, advance ticket purchasing opportunities, exclusive events, and Store discounts.

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November 18, 2020



H O L I D A Y gift guide

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Tees $28 | Hats $20 | Drinkware $12 Bull City native and owner of Hometown Apparel designs Durham apparel and lifestyle goods for Durhamites ages 0-100+. New and limited edition apparel will be available through the holidays. Find us online or at our brick and mortar store. 738 9th Street, Durham, NC 27705 | Tuesday-Sunday 12:30pm-6:00pm @HometownDurham |


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Two more opportunities: November 25 and December 2! Contact your ad rep or for more details 18

November 18, 2020



Lost Era of

Indie Rock

The story of local music between alt-rock and the internet in 20 forgotten classics from Y2K BY BRIAN HOWE


n the saga of local music, the turn of the millennium was not a major stanza. It was a transitional, nebulous time. The national attention lavished on Chapel Hill indie rock in the nineties— from mainstream breakouts like Squirrel Nut Zippers and Ben Folds Five to underground legends like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf—had fizzled. Napster had started to trouble the music industry, but the internet had yet to develop the commercial and documentary infrastructure we know today. As a result, many of the most popular local bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s are all but forgotten. They seem adrift in time and culture, marooned on some vague island between the well-mapped continents of Gen X and Millennials. Gen Y2K, if you will. Scantly documented by the major press and predating Myspace, it left little to no trace online, though there’s some good INDY coverage (shout out to Angie Carlson) if you can find it after 20 years of metadata-shedding website migrations. If the golden age of science-fiction, as the famed quip has it, is 12, then the golden age of indie rock is 21. I happen to be a vague citizen of Generation Y2K. I plunged into the Chapel Hill/Carrboro indie scene in the year 2000 for a simple reason: I turned old enough to drink in the smoky nightclubs where it lived. To reconstruct that time through 20 local albums that turned 20 in 2020, I aided my Miller High Life-clouded memory by digging up my earliest writings, from a zine called ‘Sup and a vanquished INDY competitor called The Spectator, which I diligently clipped at the start of what turned out to be my career. I also bugged musicians to hear some albums I—and maybe they—hadn’t heard in years, and I consulted some local music journo pals (trucker-hat tip to David Menconi and Grayson Haver Currin). I exercised some personal prerogatives. I allowed albums that came out in 1999 or 2001, but, with a mind toward restoring the

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record, I omitted eligible groups that made their primary impact in the nineties, or as long legacies. Hence, you’ll find none of the aforementioned indie-rock bigshots, or Corrosion of Conformity, or Jennyanykind, or The Connells, or Southern Culture on the Skids, or any number of other heartless exclusions. And I decided against trying to shoehorn in the few surviving local records that aren’t in some way under the indie rock umbrella. It’s depressing to look back on how white and heteronormative my horizons were then, but it’s also heartening to realize how different this list would look if it were about 2010, let alone 2020. But if I’m not including Shaw University-bred hip-hop group Lords of the Underground or Justus League’s Cesar Comanche, both of whose impact came a bit too early, I’m also going to skip MC Paul Barman, even though his 2000 EP, It’s Very Stimulating, was produced by Prince Paul and has the dubious distinction of setting the nerd-rap mold. So come with me to Y2K, a slice of recorded time lost somewhere between stories. As notable for what it lacked as for what it had, it still produced bands that meant the world to the young adults whose lives they scored. Its musicians still seed today’s terrain, and its best moments stand the test of time.

Caitlin Cary: Waltzie

[Yep Roc Records; 2000] Members: Caitlin Cary, Mike Daly, others As the millennium turned, the Raleigh alt-country bands that had surged in the nineties were splintering into solo projects. If this list were amoral, it would have to include Ryan Adams’s solo debut, Heartbreaker, but after his history of alleged sexual misconduct and manipulation was revealed last year, who needs him? Especially when his former Whiskeytown bandmate, Caitlin Cary, also released her outstanding debut EP in 2000. On Waltzie, produced by the omnipresent Chris Stamey, Cary threads her gorgeous voice and fiddle through limpid ballads that, the title of the below suggested track aside, need no apologies. She remains active in music and visual art circles today. Suggested track: “Sorry”


November 18, 2020

Cold Sides: Cold Sides

[Moment Before Impact Records; 2001] Members: Robert Biggers, Zeke Graves, David Nahm, Eric Cope In the heyday of The White Octave (more on them later), drummer Robert Biggers also played guitar in a lesser-known band that was like the shadow cast by the bigger act’s light. Instead of anthemic emo, Cold Sides played sparse, chilly post-punk in the Mission of Burma manner, not unlike the music Biggers and The White Octave’s Finn Cohen would later rivet down in The Nein. Cold Sides’ out-of-print debut is a study in subdued anxiety; the music chants and moans, and unexpected lyricism keeps glinting in the guitars. Its members later fanned out through projects like Le Weekend, Audubon Park, and Ezekiel Graves. Suggested track: “Plague”

The Comas: A Def Needle in Tomorrow

[Yep Roc Records; 2000] Members: Andy Herod, Nicole Gehweiler, Margaret White, John Harrison The Comas were probably most popular circa Conductor in 2004. It came with an albumlength video starring Michelle Williams, who was filming Dawson’s Creek in Wilmington and dating Comas singer Andy Herod, and it got an 8.0 on Pitchfork (from me, with much embarrassing handwringing about the state of indie rock). But they were never more perfect than on this second record. Their cloudy, creamy, country-tinged dreampop—with violin by Regina Hexaphone alum Margaret White, a strong female vocal presence, and a drummer toying with a sampler—stood out from the masculine rock energy that still pervaded Chapel Hill. Plus, they just wrote great songs. “Tiger in a Tower” is the ringer, but “PA Mac” is my favorite local deep cut ever. John Harrison (North Elementary, jphono1) is still a benevolent fixture on the scene. Suggested track: “Tiger in a Tower”

Fin Fang Foom: Texture, Structure, and the Condition of Moods

The Kingsbury Manx: The Kingsbury Manx

In the late nineties, Jacksonville natives Fin Fang Foom led a mini-migration from Florida that funded the Chapel Hill music scene through the aughts and beyond. They released three LPs and were a staple on local stages, opening and headlining. In 2003, their best record, With the Gift Comes the Curse, was yet to come, but Texture was a strong showcase for the stormy, sweeping postrock that earned devotion at home and in Europe. These days, drummer Mike Glass has gone full-on metal with Bitter Resolve. Guitarist Mike Triplett plays art-rock with dance-scene staple Ginger Wagg in Dove Legs. And as for bassist, singer, and occasional flutist Eddie Sanchez? Eddie’s a local landmark, from his widespread bassing (Nora Rogers’s Solar Halos, H.C. McEntire’s Bellafea, The Love Language) to his post behind the bar at deep-townie hideout Northside District, which he co-owns. Suggested track: “Dead Ringer”

In a town full of one-of-a-kind bands, The Kingsbury Manx were extra one of a kind, and they secured permanent cult-favorite status with this timeless debut. Released by former Thrill Jockey employee Howard Greynolds, it earned the Chapel Hillians indie cred as far away as British tastemaker NME, but their reputation stands on an uncanny sound I recently described as “postmodern prewar Americana,” a description that best fits the unforgettable “Pageant Square.” Other wide, warm arrangements suggest Pink Floyd or Simon & Garfunkel, the sepia landscapes shot through with prismatic colors. The tunes are as rare as the texture—the “sweet autumn leaves” of “Piss Diary” have never stopped swirling in my head. Suggested track: “Pageant Square”

[Lovitt Records; 2001] Members: Eddie Sanchez, Mike Triplett, Mike Glass

Idyll Swords: II

[Communion Label; 2000] Members: Dave Brylawski, Grant Tennille, Chuck Johnson Polvo, whose twisty dissonance defined the timbre of math-rock, was one of the most unique Chapel Hill bands of the nineties. Their latent interest in the droning strings of Asian and Middle Eastern music came to the fore when Polvo’s Dave Brylawski joined two other guitarists to explore global acoustic folk as Idyll Swords. Mostly experimental and instrumental, II also featured the pastoral pop of “Lake Palace” among the field recordings and dancing strings. Brylawski and Grant Tennille went on to rock out in Black Taj, and Polvo had an acclaimed second act in the 2010s. Chuck Johnson, a veteran of post-rockers Spatula, later built a national following for his fingerstyle guitar and electronically processed pedal steel. Suggested track: “Lake Palace”

[Overcoat Recordings; 2000] Members: Ryan Richardson, Scott Myers, Bill Taylor, Kenneth Stephenson

Malt Swagger: The Lost Pilot [Selfreleased; 2000] Members: Steve Carter, Mark Cunningham, Dave Jernigan, Meredith Jones, Andy Magowan, Roland Ottwell You’ll have to take my word on Malt Swagger. The Lost Pilot, their sole record, is out of print and offline. Only two YouTube videos filmed at Chapel Hill’s The Cave mark their quixotic moment. They’re still Durham’s only vibraphone-centered jazz-noir combo with shades of Tom Waits and David Lynch. Their pedigree ran backward—guitarist Dave Jernigan had been in What Peggy Wants with Squirrel Nut Zipper Tom Maxwell—and forward; bassist Andy Magowan became a prominent Durham restauranteur behind spots like Geer Street Garden. I have no idea what became of Steve Carter. Last I saw him, he was trying to get his huge vibraphone upstairs at Boxer’s Ringside, a great club that passed too quickly through a different West Main Street than we know now. He might be walled up in a stairwell. Suggested track: Those Cave videos, unless you buy the one used CD on Discogs for $10.

The Mayflies USA: The Pity List

[Yep Roc Records; 2000] Members: Matt McMichaels, Adam O’Falt Myers, lon Price, Matt Long, David Liesegang

After the nationd bands, al press largely lost a one of interest in new Chaprmanent el Hill bands, The timeless Mayflies USA were a ill Jockey buzzy holdout whose t earned borderline breakout far away in 1999, Summerbut their town, drew praise from SPIN and The Village ny sound Voice. The next year, The Pity List seemed to dern pre- get less attention, though it had the same hat best chewy hooks and fuzzy power-pop appeal. Square.” Their musical debt to Big Star would be s suggest repaid when frontman Matt McMichaels and nkel, the producer Chris Stamey joined forces with with pris- some R.E.M. associates for an Alex Chilton re as the memorial project, Big Star’s Third. Like Helleaves” of bender’s Wells Tower before him, Mayflies d swirling bassist Adam O’Fallon Price later landed the leap from indie rocker to author; he won an Square” Edgar Award for his mystery novel The Hotel Neversink earlier this year. Suggested track: “Thinking Out Loud” [Self-

nningMilemarker: Frigid Forms Sell es, Andy [Lovitt Records; 2000] Members: Al Burian, Dave Laney, Roby Newton, Ben Davis, Sean Husick on Malt le record, Speaking of Helltwo You- bender—one of the Hill’s The best, least-rememt. They’re bered of the ninecentered ties bands (think: of Tom Jawbreaker crossed pedigree with Pavement)— Jernigan Tower wasn’t their nts with only member to find later success. Harrison well—and Haynes, also a visual artist, drummed nern became vous disco for art-punk legends Les Savy Fav. uranteur And Al Burian, who published canonical zine Garden. I Burn Collector, formed Milemarker with Ben teve Car- Davis—whose Bats & Mice released a great ng to get little debut EP in 2000—and Dave Laney. t Boxer’s On this pivotal album, they added singer and ssed too lightshow artist Roby Newton and flipped est Main the ratio of their electronic-tinged emocore might be (that’s emo plus hardcore). Their dark, guitar-slashed electro-pop was right on time ve videos, for the dance-punk revival that brought us n Discogs The Faint and The Rapture, jittering with punk anti-consumerism and peak-Radiohead technoparanoia. “Cryogenic Sleep” is great, but the most memorable song finds Newton singing an incredibly silly refrain with incredible conviction: “Turn on the microwave and— defrost the woooooorld!” Suggested track: “Signal Froze”

Kenny Roby: Mercury’s Blues

[RiceBox Records; 2000] Members: Kenny Roby, Steve Grothmann, Ray Duffey, Rob Farris, Dave Wright, Rich Avery, Caitlin Cary, Scott Miller 6 String Drag were Raleigh rockers with enough alt-country cred to be co-produced by Steve Earle for a Warner Brothers sublabel, though the result, 1997’s High Hat, turned out to be their final album until a low-key reunion several years ago. Like Caitlin Cary—who appears on Mercury’s Blues, among several other Whiskeytownies, Backsliders, and Countdown Quartet-ers—former Dragster Kenny Roby embraced old-fashioned pop simplicity for his first solo turn, becoming a weary but wry raconteur, like Elvis Costello doing Randy Newman. Below the mellow, yearning grooves and wised-up but wondering lyrics, you can faintly hear the distinct snap of vestigial punk roots. Suggested track: “Book of Time”

Sankofa: Five Elements

[Self-released; 1999] Members: Stefan Greenlee, Mark Wells, Matt Brandau, DJ Pez, Apple Juice Kid If people think G Yamazawa coined a certain nickname in his 2017 Durham anthem “North Cack,” that’s just because they don’t remember Sankofa, who dropped “North Kack” in 1999. UNC’s answer to The Roots, the group mixed conscious rhymes, battle raps, and turntable cuts with a punchy live soul and boom-bap band, and they appealed to otherwise rap-averse Cat’s Cradle indie rock crowds. You can only find their two CDs used, but “North Kack” is online, and it still really hits home. The hook would remix great with its famed counterpart. Drummer Stephen “Apple Juice Kid” Levitin went on to help Pierce Freelon form the Beat Making Lab and earn production credits for Mos Def and Camp Lo. And hey—who remembers Tyfu Dynasty, the Wu-Tang-style rap group that shared Sankofa stages and had a record called Spinfinity? I think it was on storied Chapel Hill indie label Mammoth Records, and I really want to hear it again. Suggested track: “North Kack”

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Shallow Be Thy Name: 2000, 2001 [Self-released; 2000/2001] Members: Clark Blomquist, Caroline Johnson

The Florida influx that included Fin Fang Foom and Maria Albani (Schooner, Organos) also brought Clark Blomquist and Caroline Johnson to Chapel Hill from St. Petersberg. They set up shop as quirky indie-poppers in Shallow Be Thy Name. Drawing on dreampop and sixties psychedelia, they self-released three elaborately packaged CD-Rs in 2000 and 2001, which are now collected on the Bandcamp page for Waumiss, a subsequent project. The music is fresh and ingenuously off-kilter—ephemeral, but deceptively so. Blomquist is still a steadfast player on the indie scene, and a new version of Shallow song “These Are the Ones” (which featured Shark Quest’s Laird Dixon on guitar) recently appeared on his fine country album as C. Albert Blomquist. Suggested track: “An Eager Hand”

Shark Quest: Man on Stilts

[Merge Records; 2000] Members: Chris Eubank, Chuck Johnson, Groves Willer, Kevin Dixon, Laird Dixon, Ben Felton, Sara Bell, Scott Goolsby Think of Shark Quest as a sort of swingin’ clubhouse where the odder balls of the nineties scene regrouped to play groovy movie-soundtrack music to their hearts’ content. It included Regina Hexaphone’s Sara Bell; Zen Frisbee brothers Kevin and Laird Dixon (the latter, by the way, painted the Elizabeth Cotten mural at the Cradle); Chuck Johnson, already noted via Idyll Swords; and Groves Willer, who’d been in Evil Wiener with theremin-slinger Billy Sugarfix. Ben Felton later joined Durham dance-punk band Jett Rink, who’d be smashing this list if it were set a few years later. Man on Stilts is the best document of Shark Quest’s crazy quilt of surf rock, bluegrass, bossa nova, and whatever else crossed their skilled hands and madcap minds. Suggested track: “Chicken Strings”


November 18, 2020

Sorry About Dresden: The Mayor Will Abdicate

Strunken White: Lighting a Dark North

Sorry About Dresden played the brawniest wimprock around, and when I first got into the Chapel Hill scene, they were my favorite local band. That was partly because of their affiliation with the Midwestern emo I loved—by 2001, SAD (note the acronym) was signed to Omaha beacon Saddle Creek, and one member, the late Matt Oberst, was Bright Eyes’ brother. Their dyspeptic sparkle and churn was rife with sneaky melodies and sticky hooks, filling an Archers of Loafshaped hole, and their hoarse 1999 debut was my Icky Mettle. Their self-deprecating snark was so pervasive it seeped onto their Wikipedia page. (“Lyrics tend to be melancholy or about weather.”) They sounded like they were wearing glasses, but might also break your glasses. I missed their January reunion show, but I hear bassist Matt Tomich still jumps super high. Frontman Eric Roehrig now leads the more-laidback Erie Choir. Suggested track: “King of Hobbies”

Speaking of Matt Tomich, he produced the swan song of Strunken White, a Durham band that disbanded before they could buy drinks at the clubs they roiled. The Daily Tar Heel covered their sold-out final show, in 2001, at the sorely missed Carrboro venue Go! Studios’ Room 4, which was owned by Cat’s Cradle manager Derek Powers. (Today, Belltree purveys fancy cocktails where the PBR once flowed.) Strunken White—yep, a pun on the American English usage manual—straddled the line between herky-jerky math-rock and soaring post-hardcore, but they did it with surprising spritzes of winsome melody. They sounded like Versus but with an approximate but enthusiastic command of shifty time signatures, from the stormy skies of “Voyeur’s Illusion” to the slippery-sweet tangles of “Playroom.” Suggested track: “Playroom”

[Route 14 Records; 1999] Members: Eric Roehrig, Matt Oberst, Matt Tomich, James Hepler

Starpoint Electric: Bad Directions

[Plastique Recording Company; 1999] Members: Ted Boyer, Clay Boyer, Steve Galloway, Cameron Weeks Starpoint Electric opened for Archers on their final tour—at least until the latter band reformed a decade later. They sounded like the headliners, but with a lot of the feedback and panic pared away, revealing foursquare rock songs with the occasional winning inflection of country, as on “Bitter Happiness.” Their sole EP, Bad Directions, was produced by John Morand (Cracker, Sparklehorse) and sounds like it could have made a dent on alt-rock radio, perhaps between The Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom” and Seven Mary Three’s “Cumbersome,” had it been released a few years earlier. Buzzy then but forgotten now, the album can still be found in a forgotten corner of YouTube. Suggested track: “Bitter Happiness”

[Route 14 Records; 2000] Members: Nagendra Jayanty, Noah Howard, John Booker, Jonathan Stickley

Trailer Bride: Whine de Lune

[Bloodshot Records; 1999] Members: Melissa Swingle, Scott Goolsby, Daryl White, Brad Goolsby For the fossil record: Before Flesh Wounds, titanic Carrboro drummer Laura King played in garage-punk duo The Moaners with Melissa Swingle. Before The Moaners, Swingle fronted alt-country band Trailer Bride, who were signed to the influential Bloodshot Records. To draw a distinction with their cowpunk contemporaries, they brought a more rootsy than rocky atmosphere to their Southern gothic tales of sin with a grin. Whine de Lune, right in the bullseye of their five-album discography, showcases their swampy blues and bluegrass ballad-picking, deceptively laidback but taut with the terrors of old-time Southern religion. Suggested track: “Felt Like a Sin”

Transportation: Transportation EP [Demonbeach Records; 2001] Members: Ben Dunlap, Stephen Murtaugh, Robert Scruggs

When I think of Transportation, I think of places: Go!, where genial manager Ben Dunlap was practically my second landlord, and Hell, where bartender Stephen Murtaugh made me endless vodka tonics. Tucked under Rosemary Street (it later became Chapel Hill Underground), that infernal red basement was the ultimate scenester dive bar—the undisputed place to be after

a Cradle or Cave or Local 506 show, at least until Orange County Social Club came along. Dunlap and Murtaugh’s power trio with Robert Scruggs released its first EP on Raleigh’s brief but productive Demonbeach label. While it might not be the most characteristic of their muscled jangle rock, “Lady Moon,” with its aching vocal performance, is the most memorable remnant of this approachable live-scene staple. Suggested track: “Lady Moon”

The White Octave: Style No. 6312

[Deep Elm Records; 2000] Members: Stephen Pedersen, Lincoln Hancock, Robert Biggers

Another Midwestern import, The White Octave featured Steve Pedersen from Omaha emocore hotties Cursive and were signed to Deep Elm Records, then in the thick of the influential series The Emo Diaries. I keep saying “emo”—don’t think of the glossy pop version that flat-ironed the mainstream later in the 2000s, but the ragged, yelping rock that indie bands have been reviving since its decline. The White Octave did it like their lives depended on it, which was the way it was done. They probably got better when they added Finn Cohen for their second, final record, but this debut has an elemental purity that’s hard to top. They played an epic final show at Go!, which not only caused jaded hipsters to uncross their arms, but even made them crowd-surf. Suggested track: “Appeals for Insertion”

Work Clothes: Work Clothes EP

[Self-released; 2000] Members: Jenny Waters, Lee Waters

In December 2000, Jenny and Lee Waters burned 25 CDs of their silvery dream-folk songs to give people as Christmas gifts, and it was one of the sweetest local bonbons ever—the only thing that really scratched the same soft itch as The Comas. Exceedingly simple yet rich with intimacy, Work Clothes’ self-titled debut was later expanded with three more songs and officially released by Hypno-Vista, the label started by Ron Liberti (of Chapel Hill punk heroes Pipe) and Groves Willer. I hadn’t heard it in probably 15 years, but recently I had the nostalgic pleasure of unwrapping the plastic from its jewel case. I was startled by how deeply and instantly the melody of “Turn Your AC on High” came back to me, like something important I hadn’t forgotten but didn’t remember. Suggested track: “Turn Your AC on High” W

FOOD & DR I NK Matt Kelly in front of Saint James Seafood, one of his restaurants PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

Knives Out A court victory gave local restaurateurs a glimmer of hope—and set a national precedent. But their insurance company is fighting back. BY ADAM SOBSEY


hen the COVID-19 pandemic struck, insurance brokers warned restaurant clients against trying to file for coverage in the event of a shutdown. Insurers had preemptively and categorically refused to consider claims. Early last month, though, a Superior Court judge ruled that Cincinnati Insurance Company, one of the largest property insurers in the country, was liable for coverage in a lawsuit brought collectively by sixteen restaurants. The decision hit home for two reasons. One was that the restaurants are here in the Triangle. They include the Matt Kelly and Giorgios Bakatsias portfolio: Mateo Tapas, Saint James Seafood, Vin Rouge, and more than a dozen others “who use our resources and make management decisions together on a regular basis,” Kelly told the INDY. The other reason: among over 1,000 similar suits brought nationwide during the pandemic, this is the first that any plaintiff has won; strictly speaking, it is “the first judgment in the coun-

try that is nonprocedural and finds that coverage should be provided,” says Gagan Gupta from Hillsborough-based Paynter Law, the lead attorney on the case. The victory, he adds, “will hopefully be precedent for North Carolina and for states around the country.” The key to Gupta’s successful litigation was his focus not on the virus itself—specific coverage for which insurers might more easily contest—but on Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Orders that mandated closures. Gupta zeroed in on the policy language’s inclusion of two terms: “damage” and “loss.” If the contractual phrase “direct physical damage” was reasonably understood as a structural alteration to property, Gupta argued, “direct physical loss” must mean something different. District 14A Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson agreed, finding that “‘direct physical loss’ describes the scenario where business owners and their employees, customers, vendors, suppliers, and

others lose the full range of rights and advantages of using or accessing their business property. This was precisely the loss caused by the Government Orders.” Ironically, those orders came just weeks after Saint James Seafood had finally reopened, following a nearly ten-month closure caused by the deadly Brightleaf Square gas leak explosion in 2019. Kelly was thus no stranger to his insurance policy. But parsing its application to the pandemic was “beyond anything we thought we would ever understand.” “It was an emotional moment,” Bakatsias says, remembering meeting with his ownership group in March to assess the emergency. Livelihoods and careers were at stake. “How are small, independent restaurants going to [find] the resources and skillset to fight in a situation where we shouldn’t [have to] be fighting at all?” Kelly wondered. As it happened, Gupta and his fiancée, Erika Larson, had planned to hold their wedding reception at Vin Rouge, which is co-owned by Kelly and Bakatsias, on Labor Day weekend. With that in doubt, “I thought maybe there was a way I could help out,” Gupta says. He offered to look over Kelly’s policy, as he had done for many small local businesses during the spring, aiming to attract clients for litigation. (The INDY reported on Gupta’s efforts in April.) When he looked at Kelly’s plan, he says it was clear that coverage should be provided. “Gagan was very articulate and confident,” Kelly says. “He gave us real hope. That’s why I said, ‘Let’s put some time into it and see if we can get some traction.’” “They took a risk and dedicated quite a bit of their team’s resources and effort” to the lawsuit, Gupta says. More will be required. Last week, Cincinnati Insurance Company formally appealed Judge Hudson’s ruling, citing a letter from North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey that reasoned that business interruption insurance had not been designed for a pandemic and that this type of loss could “cripple” the insurance industry. Concerningly, the November elections also saw every contested state appellate and supreme court seat flip Republican— unfavorable results that “appeared to validate the politically motivated decision of

Republican lawmakers in recent years to change all judicial races from nonpartisan to partisan,” according to NC Policy Watch. (The close race between incumbent Democratic Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Republican challenger Paul Newby remains undecided as of Tuesday, with Beasley calling for a recount.) “We’re definitely pushing a boulder up a hill,” Gupta acknowledges. He’s ready for a potentially protracted legal battle. Meanwhile, there are more immediate concerns— like the weather. “Winter is coming,” Kelly worries. “Outdoor seating is what gets people to our places right now. A month or so ago, a big cold front moved in for a couple weeks. It gave us a real dose of reality.” Bakatsias is older and more philosophical. Still, he admits, “I could paint a rosy picture, but it wouldn’t be true. People are closing while we’re having this conversation. People are selling things off so they can get by.” Their restaurants never stopped paying full-time salaries to managers and chefs— “We needed them to be on the frontlines for us,” Bakatsias says—even after federal Paycheck Protection Program funds ran out. “I’m looking at bankruptcy,” Kelly, who is still recovering from losses resulting from Saint James Seafood’s long closure, says. “The money we’re losing is not imaginary money.” To-go business has only slowed, not stopped, the bleeding. Ditto Durham’s autumn weekend Streetery, which feels festive but isn’t sustaining or sustainable. (It ends in mid-December.) And indoor dining rooms are still limited to half-capacity. The Executive Orders, however necessary, continue to cause losses. Just because restaurants are open doesn’t mean they’re making money. Appetizing local Instagram feeds that tag the likes of the Streetery project the high life and spirits of the hospitality business. But, Kelly says, “We’re not in the realm of hospitality right now.” Instead, they’ve ventured into the murkier realm of the law, where they’re fighting not only for themselves but on behalf of all restaurants. It might not be a stretch to say they’re fighting for all of us who dine in them, too. W

November 18, 2020


sponsored content

On behalf of all of us in Orange County, North Carolina, including the towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough, we welcome you to our communities this holiday season. It is during this time of year that our tree-rich campus remains golden, soft beneath a carpet of falling leaves. Our neighborhoods and the farms that surround us seem to glow orange and red and yellow and purple and ochre. Our poplars and maples and oaks, some here long before any of us were, stand tall against the sharp blue of the Carolina sky. It reminds us why Orange County was chosen as the site for the nation’s first public university. Beauty does not distract us; it sustains us. Elizabeth Cotton Mural by SP Murray

Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau

In Carrboro, students are jogging through the streets, playing disc golf, and strolling past the mill houses. They smile, they wave. You might hear the occasional Go Heels ! A beautiful sentiment, made more beautiful in the chilling air. Even during this pandemic, which we do not take lightly around here, our creative community has found a way to dot the streets with illustrations, new murals, and paintings reminding folks that all are welcome here. On Saturdays both the Carrboro and Chapel Hill Farmer’s markets are brimming with residents who, masks donned, buy their seasonal produce and flowers. Squash soup, apple pie, charred Brussels sprouts, eggplant, and pork chops – they are still to be found in our restaurants, which are open for outdoor and limited indoor seating as well. Sitting outside on an autumn evening, with someone you love, the stars like the crystals in a snow globe glowing above you – what beats that?

Lobby Tree 12 days of Christmas - The Carolina Inn

On a country drive, 10 miles down the way to Hillsborough, the Riverwalk is a glorious procession of life – couples, families, and the solitary travelers slowly walking through the browning leaves, the air as cool as the other side of the pillow, feeling the distant warmth of the sun. And in Hillsborough, locals and visitors can hardly contain their excitement at the grand reopening of the Colonial Inn. We want visitors here all year round – they are always invited – but now, especially now, this is where they should be, just to experience this brilliant season, to be with family and friends.

Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau

Sitting Room – Carolina Inn


November 18, 2020

The Graduate Hotel - Steve Freihon

Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, NC



Saturday, Nov. 21, 8 p.m. | $10 |

Chris Pattishall


an upright piano in a white dress; there’s a birdcage next to the piano. There’s something so strong and defiant and resilient in her expression. Mary Lou, for me, is a constant guiding light. I’m not a particularly superstitious person, but she feels like someone whose presence has been around me for a long time. I see playing part of her Zodiac Suite as an effort to raise awareness of her brilliance as a performer and composer. A lot of times people mention her almost like a side note, saying, “Oh yeah, she was a composer. She also was an educator.” I used to think that was dismissive—a short pause before moving on to Coleman Hawkins or whatever. But the thing is, there’s a profound understatement in a sentence like that, because she was an incredible performer and educator. She was so committed to community and developing talent and supporting people around her. She did that all through her life before she got to Duke, and she did it at Duke, too.



“Vuyo Sotashe”

Chris Pattishall The pianist and Durham native on his influences BY DAN RUCCIA


ianist Chris Pattishall’s debut as a bandleader at Duke Performances was originally envisioned as a sweeping affair. The Durham native and rising figure in the New York jazz scene would spend a year-long residency giving performances and collaborating with students from Duke University and Jordan High School, which he attended. When the pandemic made in-person performances impossible, Duke Performances shifted its season online, commissioning high-quality films from artists who normally would have performed in-person. He took this as an opportunity to create a film that draws upon his many musical (and extra-musical) inspirations, with visual elements (shot by Nick Hughes)

that are suffused with close shots and dynamic moods. The program includes selections from Mary Lou Williams’ Zodiac Suite, a movement of William Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony, and an assortment of songs with South African singer Vuyo Sotashe that push well beyond the standards. Ahead of the performance, which premieres this Saturday—the penultimate show of Duke Performance’s fall season—Pattishall discussed the themes of the performance. “Mary Lou Williams” There’s a photograph of her imprinted into my mind: She’s leaning back against

I first met Vuyo probably in like 2013. He was getting his master’s at William Paterson University on a Fulbright. I had also gone there, and David Dempsey, the head of the program, very enthusiastically said, “You’ve got to hear this guy sing.” Vuyo has one of the most perfect instruments I’ve ever heard. His voice is incredible. His technique is unbelievable. He is in control of the instrument, and it’s just beautiful and resonant. His phrasing and his imagination are incredible. “Jorge Luis Borges” He is kind of the archetype for me—the combination of the most meticulous detail and brilliant use of the language to evoke metaphor, allusion, historical reference. His command of the language allowed him to create such a dense web in such a brief amount of space. And to contrast that with these unbelievably imaginative ways of rendering the universe—of thinking about time, space, and self and how we know ourselves, really grappling with so much information and doing it with this dry humor and this sardonic, quirky wit. I’m always aiming for something like that.

“Film” I spent a lot of time this year, in particular, studying Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith. That was one of my COVID projects: transcribing cues of theirs and stuff. I had done a handful of live streaming things at the beginning of COVID, and I knew that at least in March, April, and May, so many of them were so pathetic in terms of production value. If I’m going to do this, I want the things that I’ve gathered from all the films I’ve watched and all the books I’ve read and all my other interests to really feed into this. And not just have a flat document with a compelling performance, but also a compelling document where hypothetically you could mute the volume and hopefully still be compelled to watch, you know? “Recontextualizing standards” We start the film with “I’ll Never Be the Same.” I was listening to this incredible recording of Art Tatum called In Private, which has this incredible version of that song where he feels especially free and improvisational. I used to play it in all these kind of cute fashions. I went and listened to Billie Holiday with Teddy Wilson, and I was on the edge of tears. I don’t know if it’s a dark joke, but I think “I’ll never be the same” is a thing that all of us can say in 2020 at this point. Everybody is dealing with a completely new reality. It’s not really a song about love lost anymore. It’s a song about the stages of grieving that we’ve all had to go through. The emotional pinnacle of the whole show, for me, is “They Say I Look Like God” by Dave and Iola Brubeck, sung by Louis Armstrong. I think the piece speaks to this summer and everything that we watched happen with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. All of its potency is delivered in the form of a question. There’s something about that that is very powerful, because I think if you try to shout somebody down and tell them that they’re wrong, you’re probably gonna encounter some resistance. There’s something about the Socratic method of just asking a question in such a way that you reveal the cruelty in the question. W

November 18, 2020




N.C. State University’s University Theatre |


Heroic Feat An epic Greek poem becomes a sprawling multimedia production BY BYRON WOODS


omewhere in the production process for Argo, a multimedia take on the epic Greek poem The Argonautika by NC State’s University Theatre, visual artist Darby Madewell realized just how meta the unlikely project had become. Reflecting on how the story’s adventurous central character, Jason, is no longer the same person by the end of his journey, Madewell says, “That was true of everyone who touched this project. It was so much out of everyone’s comfort zone; we were like our own little band of Argonauts, developing as we went.” On one level, theater is always close-knit; somewhere, even in a pandemic, a small troupe of stage artists is always taking on the world. When putting on a production, a company will invariably encounter a host of unexpected wrinkles that threaten their endeavor—before coming up with one more move to save the show. By nearly any measure, director Rachel Klem’s current retelling of the ancient Hellenic myth, which is available now on Youtube, is itself a tale of dramatic roadblocks— and extreme artistic countermeasures in response. 26

November 18, 2020

Putting Jason’s epic expeditions on stage was never going to be easy. Broadway playwright and director Mary Zimmerman’s version—the follow-up to her Tony Award-winning Metamorphoses, which local audiences saw at PlayMakers Repertory—runs nearly three hours. When Klem initially selected that work for NC State’s mainstage season this year, its intense set design and costuming demands were set to pose a challenge as great as last year’s titanic production of Ragtime. “I wanted to work with scenic designer Jayme Mellema on something spectacular, like we did on Around the World in 80 Days,” Klem says. Then, the coronavirus hit. First the university’s spring productions, and then its popular summer TheatreFEST and 2020-21 season were all scrapped. In their wake, a theater program no longer able to produce live theater had to come up with other ways to teach and pursue its art form. Klem tapped local playwright, podcaster, and audio drama producer Tamara Kissane to collaborate on a new hour-long audio adaptation of The Argonautika. “It was like this big stone plinth that we just kept chopping away

at until we found the shape of what it was,” Klem says. Over marathon recording sessions, audio engineer Kevin Wright could only record two actors at a time due to social distancing restrictions. “We wound up with hundreds of little audio clips,” Wright says. “Editing them was like stacking matches.” But when Klem approached Mellema and costume designer and creative director Laura Parker for storyboards for a visual component for the project, she learned her concept was still too large to execute. “Then I thought, what if we just sort of crowdsourced the idea: get a bunch of visual artists to storyboard it so that lots of people were working on the thing, and not just two,” Klem says. When a call went out to present and former theater students, over twenty responded, including artists from England and India. That outpouring of creative contribution, in turn, posed a new problem for the evolving project. Normally, seven to eight people convene to manage a show’s production elements. “On this project, production manager David Jensen and I were liaisoning each week with twenty to twenty-two student artists,” Parker says. “It was a massive organizational challenge. But as the cohort of visual artists were granted license to pursue their individual visions of the places Jason traveled, Argo turned into a prismatic collection of takes on an ancient text. “Each new scene is a different world and a different visual experience,” Parker observes. “As we pass from scene to scene, we see new things, through different lenses and different perspectives.” After artists Sun Gupta and Louis Bailey bring anime influences to a song of the Argonauts, Lydia Wonderly and Ariel Penland maneuver paper puppets against the pages of an old-fashioned pop-up book. Line drawings animate the evocative black and white photos in one of Darby Madewell’s sequences, before Kanice Granson-Holloway’s innovative animations are projected onto the sails of a 3D model of a ship. Nicole Hiemenz’s rough, zine-influenced ink drawings evoke an edgy graphic novel. Reagan Santillian’s detailed pen-and-ink work, meanwhile, probes the internal conflicts that plague cunning King Aeëtes and his enigmatic daughter Medea. In a later Granson-Holloway sequence, projected colored oils and water in motion on a glass dish evoke the psychedelic liquid light shows of the 1960s. “They all kept putting me in check,” Klem says. “I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, this is really mature work coming out of these young people.’” For the director, Argo ultimately echoes the present moment. “We use epic stories to try and find ourselves in our own journey,” Klem says. “We’re all in this period where we don’t know what to expect from day to day and we don’t know where we’re going. We’re in the middle of a trial: We have to face our battles as they come without knowing what the end result is going to be, and heal the people who need to be healed. We’re the Argonauts.” W


Shooting Star Durham’s Kennedi Carter on her dreams, influences, and photographing Beyoncé BY JAMEELA F. DALLIS


he photographer Kennedi Carter is soaring, thriving, arriving. One of Durham’s own by way of Dallas, Texas, Carter has had a momentous year. 2020 marked the opening of Flexing/New Realm, her first solo museum exhibition, at the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh, along with Vanity Fair publishing her iconic portrait of “The Squad,” the four women of color recently reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives. To cap it off, British Vogue recently unveiled its sleek December 2020 issue, which features a 20-page photo shoot and three covers Carter shot

of the one and only Beyoncé. At 21, she’s the magazine’s youngest cover photographer ever. Recently, Carter sat down with the INDY to talk about this year, working with Beyoncé, and her artistic influences and vision. Chief among those influences: the artists Carrie Mae Weems, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Frida Kahlo. Weems—American, Black, female—is a multidisciplinary artist perhaps best known for The Kitchen Table Series (1990), which combines 20 photographs and 14 text panels to provide an intimate view into one woman’s life. Arte-

misia Gentileschi, a seventeenth-century Italian painter, rape survivor, and protofeminist, was painting professionally by age 15. Her paintings, which include Judith Slaying Holofernes (1614-1620) and Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (1638-1639), center female agency. Meanwhile, Frida Kahlo, the 20th-century Mexican painter known for her surreal, provocative self-portraits and radical political art, is someone whose complexity inspires Carter. She praises Kahlo’s visual storytelling—the way threads connect—and how adept she was at incorporating motifs that critics are still unpacking. She appreciates how Kahlo “plays with the masculine as well as the femme, and turns on its head how womanhood should look or be portrayed.” We see Carter exploring these themes, while centering Blackness, in her own body of work—especially in recent series like East Durham Love and Godchild. “[Kahlo] found this way of expressing herself in her work that feels very her,” Carter says. “It’s one of those things where you see her work and immediately, you know. That’s something I want as well.” When she was a child, Carter’s parents encouraged her to explore interests ranging from ice skating to learning how to play the piano. But once she began studying photography in high school, her world shifted. In just a few years since, Carter’s career has ascended into history-making with her group shows and solo museum exhibits. For the British Vogue shoot, as the magazine reports, the superstar requested to be photographed by a woman of color. Together with editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, Beyoncé chose Carter, another Southern Black woman. Before Carter, there were Irving Penn and David Bailey, who shot the covers at the ages of 26 and 23; then, in 2018, 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell, who became the first Black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover, with his portrait of Beyoncé. When asked how she feels about being the youngest Vogue cover photographer and working with Beyoncé—and doing all of this while being a Black woman who is living through a pandemic in the South during a period of national social justice uprisings—Carter pauses. “It feels really surreal,” she says. “Some days it feels like it didn’t really happen. Maybe it will get real once I get the physical copy.”

Carter has listened to Destiny’s Child since she was three years old. She says she was initially nervous to meet her longtime idol, but quickly realized that “Beyoncé’s human, too.” “[She] is really nice, open to direction, and open to getting whatever ideas that we have accomplished,” Carter says. The photoshoot stretched over two long days in August between a studio and a location in the Hamptons. Although Carter loves shooting on her Mamiya RZ67 with Kodak Portra 400 film, this photoshoot was digital. She worked with Kwasi Fordjour, co-director of Beyoncé’s 2020 visual album Black Is King, on site, while Enninful styled the shoot via Zoom. The energy, Carter says, was “come and get it done.” Carter’s shooting philosophy privileges gesture and the organic. Striking a balance between making a subject largerthan-life and not-too-posed takes skill, and the resulting photos, which Enninful and British Vogue have released on Instagram over the past few weeks, are evidence of that skill. Whether she’s lying on a plush mauve carpet wearing a chartreuse Adidas x Ivy Park catsuit; squatting in a black, strong-shoulder Alexander McQueen blazer with red accents; or glancing over her shoulder in a lipstick-red, backless Christopher John Rogers gown, Beyoncé’s gaze conveys agency, confidence, and a touch of je ne sais quoi. The collection feels instantly iconic. Carter’s developing voice finds her in artistic conversation with photographers Deana Lawson and LaToya Ruby Frazier and painters Barkley L. Hendricks and Titus Kaphar—all of whom are known for their beautiful, poignant, and provocative portraits of Black people, Black history, and Black life. Where does Carter go from here? What does she want? “I’m not sure,” she says, “Maybe freedom. So I have room to evolve and test things out and be able to afford living and making what I want to make.” Echoing her earlier observations of Kahlo, Carter says that her motivation is to create work that “ages well.” She wants it to be remembered, timeless. Most of all, she says, “I’m trying to make work that I’ll be proud and excited to look back on.” W

November 18, 2020


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November 18, 2020


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November 18, 2020