Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill February 23, 2022
Y R T O BIG
S L L E S
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson made hateful comments about LGBTQ people— and raked in the cash BY LEIGH TAUSS AND GEOFF WEST, P. 12
Raleigh W Durham W Chapel Hill VOL. 39 NO. 8
"I'm realizing how much of a little social creature I am," says Kristian Matsson of The Tallest Man on Earth, on his recent move to the Triangle, p. 16 PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA
A look at the legacies of the Triangle's twin pillars Chuck Davis and André Leon Talley. BY THOMASI MCDONALD
Black homeowners still experience the effects of racist housing policies. BY JASMINE GALLUP
10 Duke Energy is working to replace a bad batch of purple lights, but people seem to like them. BY BRIAN ROSENZWEIG 11
Will this be the year that North Carolina lawmakers expand Medicaid? BY ANNE BLYTHE
Lt. Governor Mark Robinson had his best fundraising numbers in the days after a video of him calling queer people "filth" went viral. BY LEIGH TAUSS
ARTS & CULTURE 15 New albums by Quetico and Superchunk issue an invitation to take a long drive and crank the radio up. BY BRIAN HOWE AND JORDAN LAWRENCE 16 Swedish-singer songwriter Kristian Matsson talks birdwatching, moving to the Triangle, and plans for a new album. BY NICK MCGREGOR 18
The leitmotif of drummer Harrison Haynes's art and life, in two or three dimensions. BY BRIAN HOWE
20 A new evening-length musical work by the group Flutronix translates Chapel Hill activism into music. BY BYRON WOODS
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3 15 Minutes
COVER Illustration by Jon Fuller
WE M A DE THIS PUBLIS H ER S Wake County
MaryAnn Kearns Durham/Orange/ Chatham Counties
John Hurld EDITOR I AL Editor in Chief Jane Porter Managing Editor Geoff West
February 23, 2022
Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards
Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods
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A D V E RTI S I N G
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Contributors Madeline Crone, Grant Golden, Spencer Griffith, Lucas Hubbard, Brian Howe, Lewis Kendall, Kyesha Jennings, Glenn McDonald, Gabi Mendick, Anna Mudd, Dan Ruccia, Rachel Simon, Harris Wheless
Wake County MaryAnn Kearns
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BACK TA L K
Last week for the web, Sarah Edwards wrote about employees at a Raleigh Starbucks filing for a union election. The store is one of 87 stores in 25 states to file a petition to join Workers United. Our readers had some dueling takes on their efforts.
“Not that CEO Kevin Johnson cares, but I’ve sent him my notice that this Starbucks devotee won’t be buying their coffee again unless/ until unionization is a fair option for all of its workers,” wrote reader SUSAN POCHAPSKY in an email. “It’s going to be rough, but no rougher than it would be if they went out of business. Starbucks isn’t a partnership, it’s a benevolent dictatorship—which means that the benevolence can melt away at a whim.” “Guess we don’t go to Starbucks anymore! Unions suck and are typical of left wing radical socialism,” emailed reader ROBIN DEAN. “So tell everyone you know to dump Starbucks forever!! “Gonna cash in my account today and dump the App on my phone. It was a good run, but not anymore. “Perhaps the Freedom Truckers in America and Canada can blockade all starbucks and not allow any customers in or out! Peacefully, of course, as only radical left wing terrorist like BLM and Antifa use violence and crime to make their point.” The conversation continued over on Facebook: “YES YES YES YES!!!” wrote commenter KATHERINE JOHNSON. “If these people need any help, just let me know! UA 421 Plumbers and Pipefitters union member here and we love this!!! The south needs workers rights and our senators sure aren’t giving it to us.” “So many past efforts, I hope it wins out,” wrote commenter ALLEN KENNEDY. Commenter PAT TRICK has the spiciest take of them all: “Real coffee drinkers don’t drink that sugary crap from that racist Organization. FU Starbucks.” We’ll be following this story closely.
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15 MINUTES Aretina Hamilton, 46
What do you want to do as Raleigh’s new director of equity and inclusion?
Raleigh director of equity and inclusion
Add empathy and feeling into the work. DEI is a big buzzword, especially in the past couple years. But for me, it’s not just a buzzword— it’s really about empathy and compassion. In addition to our commitments and the positions we have, some of the best, best work we can do is one-on-one conversations.
BY JASMINE GALLUP email@example.com
What kind of work did you do before you came to city government? I’m originally from Louisville, Kentucky. I have a master’s in urban planning from University of Delaware and a PhD in geography from the University of Kentucky and a BA from Kentucky State. When I began graduate school in Delaware, I was focused heavily on community development and housing inequality. A lot of the work I did while working at the NC Housing Finance Agency informed the work I was doing there. We were looking at issues like gentrification and housing insecurity. That led me into a more academic terrain when I went to University of Kentucky … looking at the origins of the urban crisis, which was connected to many of the racial zoning laws in the 1800s and 1900s. As geographers, we look at points and lines, but my work specifically is about the idea of belonging, that people are looking for places to feel and call home.
What did you do at Brandeis University? I was the director of DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] programming, education, training, and development, where I was leading the conversations around inequality. One of the things I was working on at Brandeis is ensuring we really have an inclusive model in dealing with inequity. That we are talking about racial inequity, anti-Blackness and anti-Semitism, transphobia, homophobia, classism, we’re talking about mental health. We live in a city that has multiple different communities, and most communities overlap. So how do we help them feel safe?
The work that we’re doing is looking internal but also external. That means really being involved with the community members. There are people who have been historically marginalized and excluded [from this work], and we’re trying to bring them into the conversations, learn from them. Inclusion isn’t just a one-off, a conversation we had in response to something. It means we’re always curating and cultivating belonging.
What’s on the top of your to-do list? Building partnerships between everyday citizens and the municipality. I think it’s easy to look at people in government as being people on top of a hill, not having connections. So our plan is to have more dialogue, conversations. We’re also focused on how we can deliver services that can ensure equity is embedded in everything. The council and the mayor are extremely passionate about ensuring the work I’m leading is not just off in the corner. I’m having conversations with housing and planning, with the police department, the fire department. W INDYweek.com
February 23, 2022
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February 23, 2022
North Carolina is facing unprecedented threats to public education; it’s time to protect our most vulnerable students. BY MILLICENT ROGERS firstname.lastname@example.org
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Time to Take a Stand
oday, in certain North Carolina counties, the Proud Boys and their allies are actively attacking the institution of public education. Conservatives in our General Assembly are calling for the banning of books that are honest about our nation’s complex racial history. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Robinson is looking for ways to punish teachers for being culturally responsive. It’s clear, now is the time for us to take a stand to protect our most vulnerable students. I remember times when I was a Durham Public Schools student that I wished teachers were better able to support me and my peers. In 1998, I walked into my eighth-grade science lab with the rest of my classmates. For most, it was business as usual. For me, it was a step into a day that I expected to provide a sense of normalcy over the tumultuous events of the night before. We filed to our seats and prepared for the day’s labs, the smell of burning permeated the room left over from the class before us. Our energetic, sincere, white second-year teacher addressed me just as I sat on the barstool. She held up the newspaper and said: “Millicent, is this your dad in today’s paper?” The tears that formed in my eyes that day twenty-four years ago are coming to the surface as I write this. I hadn’t even told my friends (my boyfriend at the time knew because his dad was one of the responding officers), but the news of my father killing a man in self-defense at our home was not yet public knowledge. When the teacher abruptly confronted me in such a humiliating, public way, I didn’t respond well. I was a 14-yearold girl that was embarrassed that her loving father had been arrested. I didn’t fully understand yet the circumstances of the events from the night before and behaved poorly. I threw the stool that I had just been sitting on across the room.
“Pretending that removing a few bad apples will ‘fix’ our public schools is short sighted.” As I reflect on this experience, I feel intensely that no child should have to experience such a traumatizing event. It’s tempting to think that removing the teacher would “fix” the problem and ensure that no other child ever has to be the victim of such harmful, insensitive words or such public shaming. But even had an administrator walked into the room, escorted that teacher out, and made sure she never came back again, I still would have returned again and again to a school that was not equipped to provide a trauma-informed response to me and other students. There is no doubt that there are some poor teachers in DPS who are not willing to do the work required to make school a safe place for all students—even as most DPS educators are deeply committed to equity and trauma-informed approaches. Of course, I fully support Durham Public Schools in utilizing the Code of Conduct and other measures to hold them accountable and, if needed, remove them from their positions. But pretending that removing a few bad apples will “fix” our public schools for Black and brown children is short-sighted. It ignores years of underfunding by the state and county; a dearth of nurses,
school counselors, and social workers; and unequally resourced neighborhood schools. Here’s what I wish would have happened on that awful day: I wish the teacher had been trained and educated well about creating a trauma-informed classroom. I wish she had spoken to me privately, expressing her sorrow and asking me how she could help. When she observed signs of distress, I wish that she had sent me to a counselor—with room on her schedule—to really process my grief and shock. I wish I’d been shown support, kindness, and acceptance, not only that day but for the rest of the school year. For these things to occur, we have to invest in our educators, as well as our students. We have to give them a chance to have the energy and resources—cultural, psychological, and otherwise— to take good care of their students, and themselves. If elected to the Board of Education, I will work tirelessly with my fellow board members and county commissioners to create a humane, sustainable system that teaches and supports educators so they can respond to all students with respect. I will fight for all schools to have enough support staff so students can receive the counseling and support they need. I will be a voice for students and family who are experiencing unimaginable hardship. It’s easy to think we can make change by removing a few racist educators, when really we need to do more to break systemic barriers. We can and must do better for our students, and knocking a few bricks off the wall of white supremacy isn’t enough. We must completely dismantle the systems of oppression barring our Black and brown students from achieving the peace and prosperity they deserve. W The writer is a candidate for Durham Board of Education, Consolidated District B.
Twin Titans A look at the legacies of Chuck Davis and André Leon Talley BY THOMASI MCDONALD email@example.com
harles “Baba Chuck” Davis, who died in 2017 at the age of 80, was a colussus in the world of modern dance. André Leon Talley, a trailblazing fashion icon dubbed a “pharaoh of fabulosity” by a colleague, died last month at the age of 73. Seemingly larger than life in both stature and personality, Davis and Talley were the Triangle’s twin titans. Born nearly a decade apart, there’s no public record or private recollections that Davis and Talley were acquainted with one another. Still, they shared a number of commonalities. They both graduated from all-Black high schools during the civil rights era: Davis matriculated from Raleigh’s J.W. Ligon High in 1955, one year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawed segregation in the nation’s public schools. Talley graduated from Durham’s Hillside High School in 1966, one year after Malcolm X was murdered and two years before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Both attended historically Black colleges. Davis enrolled at Howard University, where he studied Latin dance and took classes in ballet, jazz, and tap. Talley walked across the street from his high school’s former location on Fayetteville Street and enrolled at NC Central University, where he earned a degree in French. “Both of them were artists, but in different mediums,” Minnie Forte-Brown, a lifelong Durham resident and former school board member who knew both Davis and Talley, told the INDY. “They were both bilingual,” she adds. “André was fluent in French, and Chuck knew African languages.” At the height of their careers, both men cast global shadows. Davis’s research
took him to many West African countries, where he would learn the choreography and rhythms of traditional dance forms to share with communities across the United States. Talley later earned a graduate degree in French from Brown University. His fluency in the language undoubtedly served him well after he became the first African American to serve as creative director of Vogue magazine, the fashion industry’s bible, and was in the front row of the world’s most influential fashion events.
efore their deaths, both Davis and Talley were honored with Legacy Awards from Hillside High School’s Department of Drama. Wendell Tabb, Hillside’s drama department director, well remembers both men and the similarities, as well as the differences, in their seemingly bigger-than-life personalities. “Chuck Davis was always willing to help anyone, regardless of their background,” Tabb says. “André, when he talked to our kids, told them to always be prepared because no one in the fashion industry was going to give you anything. You had to work and prove yourself.” Tabb thinks for a few seconds and then adds: “André Leon Talley reminded you of no one but André Leon Talley.” Tabb says when Davis wanted his students’ attention, he would clap his bands and beckon them over with a graceful wave. Talley, in contrast, would drum his fingers on a desk like an impatient potentate before asking, “Where’s my drink?” “Mr. Tabb, what time should my tea arrive? Make sure it’s warm, not hot. It should not burn my lips.”
Baba Chuck Davis
PHOTO COURTESY OF NORMADIEN & NGOMA WOOLBRIGHT
Both men stood well over six feet tall and cast a formidable, regal presence that belied their humble, working-class beginnings. Davis was a graceful, disarmingly charming man. He loved wearing African robes that flowed in synchronicity with his physical movements, certainly when he danced, and even when he walked or merely gestured. Talley, too, was a sweeping, majestic man often seen in luxurious capes, caftans, and gloves while making “grand pronouncements” in “design studios from New York to Paris—Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Diane von Furstenberg, Karl Lagerfeld,” according to a Vogue obituary. And although neither man made it a front-and-center issue of his identity, Davis and Talley were both gay. Forte-Brown, a high school classmate of Talley’s, said his being gay “was no big thing.” “He was accepted like everybody else,” she explains. “It was just who he was. There were gay people in my community. It wasn’t an anomaly, and it wasn’t like it is today with people talking about gay rights. It wasn’t like that. We were groomed to respect differences.” Normadien Woolbright, a retired dancer and arts administrator, first met Davis in 1971 when she was in high school. She describes Davis as “asexual.” “He was very, very private,” Woolbright told the INDY. “People would ask me [if
he was gay]. I would tell them, ‘He’s married to the arts,’ and that’s how I left it.”
avis and Talley each had their own unique way of dealing with racism. In 2015, Davis told me that in the 1960s, while dancing with the Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji, he learned an enduring lesson about the absurdity of racism and the beauty of the human spirit. The dance troupe, he explained, had performed in Texas, and Davis, who also was their advance man, was traveling on a Trailways bus with the drums to their next performance. The bus stopped at a store in Macon, Georgia, and Davis went inside for a pack of Nabs and a bottle of milk. “I had a weakness for Nabs and milk,” said Davis, who sauntered up to the store counter and asked for the treat. The lady behind the counter told him in a slow Southern twang, “I can sell you chocolate milk, but I can’t sell you no white milk.” Davis walked back to the bus, a sound akin to a vacuum whirring inside his head. He was sitting, staring out the window, when an older woman who had witnessed the exchange walked over. “She looked like Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies,” Davis said. “She gave me a bottle of milk and two packs of Nabs and she said, ‘Young man, everybody is not a INDYweek.com
February 23, 2022
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February 23, 2022
fool.’ That helped me to form the philosophy that we needed peace and blessings for the earth.” In the fastidious and often persnickety world of high fashion, Talley at times confronted a brand of racism rife with stereotypes in an industry that was for the first time encountering a Black man in a position of authority. “You don’t make a lot of noise,” Talley explained in the 2017 documentary about his life, The Gospel According to André. You don’t scream, ‘I’m Black and I’m proud.’ You just do it, and it somehow impacts the culture.” But Talley was an anomaly, a big, Black gay man who was raised in the segregated South, calling the shots in the then overwhelmingly white, elitist world of high fashion. “They used to call me ‘Queen Kong,’” he says matter of factly in the documentary. “I was like an ape. King Kong, Queen Kong. They were saying I was a gay ape, Queen Kong.”
club revue. Young Davis eventually joined a dance trio that wore what he described as “costumes cut so low, what it didn’t show, it pointed at.” Two years before he died, Davis was named one of America’s 100 “irreplaceable dance treasures” by the Dance Heritage Coalition. Seven years ago, I noted that it is almost impossible to overestimate Davis’s influence in the world of dance, both internationally and in the Triangle. Davis had no biological children, but those who know him say he has well over 150 children who have gone on to make their mark in the world of dance. He and members of his company, the African American Dance Ensemble, introduced the African dance and drum tradition to adults from all walks of life and to thousands of schoolchildren, who grew up and still remember the company’s motto, “Peace, love, and respect for everybody,” and Davis’s enduring reminder, “The only time I look down on somebody is when I am helping them up.” The story of Talley’s upbringing has been recently chronicled in many of the nation’s top newspapers and magazines. He was born on October 16, 1948, in Washington, DC. His parents were Alma and William Carroll Talley, but he was raised by his grandmother Bennie Frances Davis, who worked as a maid at Duke University. Forte-Brown said she first met Talley when they were students at Hillside High. “He was living in the West End,” she says. “I’m not saying we were close, but everyone knew André. He was over six feet tall and he dressed differently from everyone else. He wore white shirts and ascots. Nobody was wearing ascots.” Forte-Brown says Talley was never flamboyant, and described him as a quiet presence. “You just knew he had a presence when he walked into a room,” she explains. “His speech was impeccable. He spoke perfect English. That’s who he was. I don’t ever remember seeing him in jeans, or dungarees, is what we used to call them.”
“I was carrying on because I was cute. I had a waist of about 30 [inches], and I just loved to dance.”
harles Rudolph Davis was born on New Year’s Day in 1937 and grew up in Raleigh. His birth mother died when he was still a child, and his father Tony, a laborer, married Annie, a domestic worker. “His dad said he needed to find someone to take care of Little Chuckie,” Woolbright says. “Dad married Miss Annie.” After graduating from Ligon, Davis enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as a hospital corpsman at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. While off-duty on weekends, he would visit the Dunbar Hotel in Washington, DC, the city’s leading elite Black hotel during segregation. It was at the Dunbar that Davis first listened to the live Afro-Cuban mambo and salsa music that were all the rage. For Davis, it was love at first dance. “I was carrying on because I was cute,” Davis told me back in 2015. “I had a waist of about 30 [inches], and I just loved to dance.” Davis still had no formal dance training, but he had a boundless enthusiasm, heart, and most of all, guts. He caught the eye of the hotel’s booking manager and was asked to join its night
The Durham County Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board will begin accepting applications on March 1, 2022 for its FY 2022 grant program. All 501 (c)(3) community based non-proﬁt agencies and educational institutions with programs that address alcohol abuse education and prevention within Durham County are eligible to apply. The Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center (Drug Treatment Court) is also eligible to apply. André Leon Talley
PHOTO COURTESY OF WENDELL TABB
In his documentary, Talley recalls walking over to Duke to purchase copies of Vogue magazine. He would often share the latest editions of the magazine with a classmate, Doris Howard, who was one of the best-dressed students on campus. “We were both into Vogue magazine,” Howard, who now lives in Washington, DC, recalls. “We would sit in the cafeteria at school and go through them.” Talley asked Howard, who was a junior, to be his date at his senior prom. “André loved women who dressed well,” Howard explains. “He knew I would be fashionably dressed.” Howard says they did not take pictures and she can’t remember what she wore. “I think it was a long green dress and a coat,” she says. “That was over 50 years ago!” In his 2003 memoir, ALT, Talley says that now-retired Hillside High English instructor Wanda Garrett was his favorite teacher. Garrett told the INDY that she would tease him about that assertion and remind him that his favorite teacher was his French teacher, Cynthia Pearson Smith. “He told me, ‘I ought to know who my favorite teachers were,’” she says. Talley was in the 11th grade when he took Garrett’s English, Speech, and Drama class.
“He was a good student,” Garrett says while chuckling. “He liked to keep something going. Also, he enjoyed being himself. He had a sense of humor and sometimes it might be slightly esoteric. In other words, you had to have a higher intellect to appreciate it.” Garrett says Talley stayed in touch with her. He called every few months and while in Paris would send fashion magazines that were written in French. Talley mailed the magazines to Garrett’s neighbor, his former French teacher, Smith. “He did not think that I knew enough French [to read them], and he was right,” Garrett says with another warm chuckle. Garrett says that Talley was “like a string bean” when he was a student at Hillside. “He was so slender. He grew exponentially.” She also notes that his weight led him to Duke, where he participated in a diet program. Garrett says she thinks that Talley’s issue with being overweight was a factor in his death. “I’m sure it had quite a bit to do with it,” she says. Garrett says she spoke with Talley two days before he died. “We talked about donuts,” she says. “He loved donuts. I’m not as slender as I was and we talked about how we needed to gather the willpower. I still have time, but he didn’t.” W
Applications must be submitted online using our ZoomGrants application process no later than midnight on April 30, 2022. All applications will be assessed to determine which applicants best meet the eligibility and performance criteria outlined in the Durham County ABC grant program guidelines. Grant funding decisions will be determined by the Durham County ABC Board. Grant recipients will be notiﬁed by June 15, 2022 of their selection. To submit an application this year, applicants will need to create a ZoomGrants account or use an existing account, if applicable. Information about the ZoomGrants application process and the grant program guidelines can be found at https://durhamabc.com/grant-program/. Interested organizations are strongly encouraged to attend the Information Meeting which will be held virtually via Zoom Meetings on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at 11:00 am. Please email us at email@example.com to RSVP and to access the virtual meeting information. For questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 23, 2022
Durham Durham neighborhoods 1937 mortgage risk ratings, per federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation; average sales prices, per Durham Neighborhood Compass RESIDENTIAL SECURITY MAP DESIGN BY JASMINE GALLUP
researchers. Stripped of factors like crime rates, school quality, and building age, that’s how much an average home in a majority-Black neighborhood is undervalued compared to an identical home in an identical all-white neighborhood. Statewide, only about 47 percent of Black families own their home, compared to 75 percent of white families, according to the NC Housing Finance Agency.
What is redlining?
Mapping Inequality Historic redlining and discriminatory polices have had lasting effects on Black homeowners in Durham and the Triangle. BY JASMINE GALLUP email@example.com
n a quiet street in southeast Durham, an old, one-story home goes for about $220,000. Two miles away, in the Forest Hills neighborhood, a similar home was sold in 2019 for nearly triple that, $625,000. Today, it’s worth almost a million dollars. There’s one big difference between these two neighborhoods. On Ridgeway Avenue, in the Plum Street area, about 83 percent of residents are Black. On Wilshire Drive, in Forest Hills, the majority of homeowners (78.5 percent) are white. Just move a historic, four-bedroom home in southeast Durham a couple of miles west, to a white neighborhood, and all of a sudden it’s worth 96 percent more. “If you look at our built environment, you can see a lot of disparity when it comes to access to quality housing, access to homeownership, access to locally based goods and services, access to reliable transportation,” says Thomas Barrie, professor of architecture at NC State University and director of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Initiative. 8
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“When you start to look at that whole picture, you quickly recognize how policy leads to those inequalities. And policies are typically created by the powerful.”
The American Dream The long-lasting gap in home value has had a profound effect on Black families. Often, the most valuable thing a family owns is their home. As a home’s value increases over the years, homeowners can use the money they save to send children to college, start a small business, or invest in other moneymaking opportunities. Without a home, building wealth is much harder. Excess income goes to cover rent hikes or moving expenses. Over the years, it builds up, until we get to today, when the typical white family has almost 10 times the wealth of a typical Black family, according to the Brookings Institute. Racism alone accounts for a $48,000 difference in home values, according to a 2018 study by Brookings
The segregation and divide in home value and ownership that exists in Durham—and most other major cities— dates back to the 1930s. Following the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal gave millions of Americans the chance to buy a home, building wealth for generations to come. Those opportunities, however, mostly went to white families, as lenders denied loans and federal financial aid to Black Americans. The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, established in 1933, rated neighborhoods by risk. Green neighborhoods were safe for mortgage lending, and people living there were able to get a loan backed by the federal government. Red neighborhoods, on the other hand, were deemed too risky for loans, and without federal support, banks wouldn’t lend to those living there. Maps from the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation show these ratings boiled down to the racial makeup of a community. Even one Black family living in an area could make it a “declining” neighborhood, in the words of the administrators at the time. Descriptions of these areas are shocking to modern ears. “This was formerly a good white residential street,” one administrator wrote about the Plum Street/St. Theresa neighborhoods. “But negroes are gradually taking up the area.”
Excluisve Zoning Today, attitudes toward these communities haven’t changed much. Several community-ranking websites rank Plum Street as one of the worst neighborhoods in Durham based on crime rate and other factors. The average home value is about $80,000. Residents living below the poverty level number about 27 percent. A nearby elementary school, C.C. Spaulding, is the worst-performing in the county. Fast-food and convenience stores far outnumber grocery stores, increasing food insecurity. There are no homes within a quarter mile of a health clinic
arounds, with either implicit or explicit intentions [to segregate]. So now instead of exclusionary laws, we have exclusionary zoning. In both cases, they limit the access of people to quality housing, as well as the other benefits of higher-wealth areas: schools, services, transportation.” Zoning laws may no longer be explicitly racist, but many suburban homeowners can still be heard railing against proposed changes to their neighborhood. Hearings at city council meetings often become heated as people protest that building more affordable homes in historically single-family communities will “change the character” of their neighborhood. These income-based exclusions often have the effect of excluding Black families from suburban neighborhoods, thanks to the nation’s checkered past. “Smaller units on smaller lot sizes, which consequently will be more affordable, are effectively made illegal,” Barrie says. “So the social and economic mobility of our fellow citizens is then truncated.”
or pharmacy. Violent crimes per square mile are 20 times higher than the countywide rate. What many don’t realize, though, is that the quality of the neighborhood isn’t a reflection on its residents, but on the racist practices dating back decades. “It’s so, so important to understand history. The history of housing disparity and racist housing policies in this country, they’re pretty accessible,” says Barrie. “That’s important when we’re looking to the government … to shape policy, to do the greatest good for the greatest number.” In the early 20th century, “redlining” and segregation created a historic lack of investment in Black areas. Later, Barrie says, private homeowners associations used “deed restrictions and covenants that prohibited whites from selling homes to Blacks.” After the Fair Housing Act was passed in the 1960s, however, many officials began using exclusionary zoning laws in the same way, to marginalize Black communities. The Fair Housing Act was aimed at eliminating racist housing policies, Barrie says. “But it did not reform zoning,” he adds. “Cities were basically able to do work-
Some cities are making progress in equalizing zoning laws, according to Barrie. Durham’s efforts to increase the availability of “missing middle” housing helps make homes affordable for all. The city council is setting aside 2¢ of the property tax rate each year for affordable housing initiatives. That, along with a $95 million bond, funds a five-year plan to increase affordable housing. Durham City Council member Jillian Johnson says the funding is helping build new affordable housing, renovate and preserve existing housing, support the city’s homelessness system, and support homeownership opportunities, and that the Durham Housing Authority is a major partner to the city. The DHA is redeveloping its downtown public housing and adding affordable and market-rate housing. “Unfortunately, people of color are disproportionately housing-cost burdened and more likely to face housing instability and homelessness than white residents,” Johnson says. “Lack of affordable housing is a core racial equity issue.” Like in Durham, Raleigh’s recent zoning changes can also have a long-term impact— upzoning areas to allow town houses and apartment complexes to be built. “It’s really land use reform,” Barrie says. “If you create a wide diversity of housing, the hope is that you’ll create a housing landscape that is ultimately more diverse too.” W INDYweek.com
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The Triangle Duke Energy’s purple streetlights PHOTO BY SHO HATAKEYAMA, COURTESY OF 9TH STREET JOURNAL
Purple Haze Duke Energy’s repair process for discolored bulbs depends on people identifying purple streetlights from a recent bad batch from an LED manufacturer. But what if residents want to keep them? BY BRIAN ROSENZWEIG firstname.lastname@example.org
ometime in late 2020 or early 2021, people started noticing strange, bluish-purple streetlights cropping up all over the East Coast. The Triangle was no exception; purple lights have been spotted everywhere from Franklin Street in Chapel Hill to the six-lane Triangle Expressway. Multiple theories were floated to explain their existence: the colors are to reduce light pollution, they’re there to help wildlife, the purple hue makes it harder for intravenous drug users to find their veins. In fact, they’re just the result of faulty bulbs. Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, says the purple lights across North Carolina—and the several other East Coast states Duke Energy serves—are the result of a “bad batch” of LED streetlights from a certain manufacturing partner. Brooks says the purple light is caused by the wearing off of a yellow-laminate coating on the exteriors of the light bulbs—which is responsible for turning the bluish-purple hues white. Brooks notes that the lights 10
February 23, 2022
weren’t installed as purple, and that the change happens gradually over time. “In some cases, one light may be purple now, and then based on when the other light near it was installed, [the other light] may turn purple later,” Brooks says. “Otherwise, the light works fine. The light function hasn’t changed.” Brooks says that in central and western North Carolina, the purple lights make up less than 1 percent of nearly a million lights operated by Duke Energy, and just over 1 percent of LED bulbs. Still, despite providing bright (albeit perhaps distracting) light to streets, Brooks says Duke Energy is still eager to replace the defective bulbs, and that the company could use everyone’s help to identify them. “We are also asking the public to help Duke Energy identify these lights so that we can replace them more quickly,” Duke Energy said in a written statement. “If you see a light that is purple or not performing properly, please report it using our online streetlight repair tool or by calling our customer service center.”
Because of the variable nature of when the lights turn, alongside the fact that Duke Energy doesn’t know the specific locations of the defective “batches,” the company is encouraging people who are still seeing purple streetlights to use an online mapping tool to identify and request repairs. The site displays a map of Duke Energy–owned streetlights, shows past work orders, and allows people to put in specific requests for “discoloration” in bulbs. There’s just one hitch to this method: some people like the purple lights. Stephen Conrad, a resident of Old North Durham, says that he prefers the purple lights “any day” to the strong, white light of functional LED bulbs. “Please don’t report these lights,” Conrad says. “This is a nice middle ground.” Conrad is not alone. Ken Ray, another Durham resident, says the purple lights are a nice change not only from the white LED lights but from the orange color of older sodium-vapor streetlights. Plus, they remind him of His Royal Badness. “When I see that purple light, I think about Prince shining down from heaven,” Ray says. Conrad says he feels the same way. “I refer to them as the Purple Rain lights,” he says. Beyond Prince, there are other reasons people like the lights. A Twitter user noted they were “fantastic” for selfies. One Reddit user said they make them feel more relaxed; another said they like the “otherworldly” vibe. Regardless of the reason, these defective bulbs have a bit of a fan base. Still, it’s likely that eventually most, if not all, purple bulbs will be replaced. Brooks says once a repair is ordered, the process of replacing the laminate only takes a few days. Given that the bulbs are still on a limited manufacturer warranty, Duke Energy is eager to get them fixed before repairs start incurring additional costs. In addition to the online reporting process, Brooks says Duke Energy scouts streets at night to identify and repair discolored bulbs. While, unfortunately for purple light enthusiasts, there’s no official way to request that Duke Energy does not repair a discolored bulb, Brooks says he and his team have noticed, and been surprised by, the positive reception to the purple bulbs. Despite being a total accident, it’s at least got some folks at Duke Energy thinking in new ways. “It does raise the question; we’re always looking for new offerings for our customers, but no, as of right now, there are no custom purple LEDs,” Brooks says. “But I’m a Wolfpack grad, so it would be interesting to see Hillsborough Street bathed in all red.” W
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Healthy Choices State lawmakers formed a new committee to study the impact Medicaid expansion could have on health issues in the state. Could it finally happen this year? BY ANNE BLYTHE email@example.com
he state legislative building, designed by architect Edward Durell Stone almost 60 years ago, has a maze of hallways where lawmakers often buttonhole each other for private discussions about contentious public issues. Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) is one of those lawmakers who has been taken aside recently to discuss the pros and cons of expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. “One of the hallway conversations always comes around to, ‘Well, so-and-so state has had all kinds of financial problems because they expanded Medicaid’ … so I really want to understand what has been the experience in other states as far as balancing their budgets, the impact on their operating funds and pressure it puts on their operating funds because they expanded,” Lambeth said Friday at the first meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Access to Healthcare and Medicaid Expansion. While lawmakers from both parties have talked about ways to expand health care access for a while, there seems to be more momentum behind the joint house and senate committee, whose charge grew from budget negotiations last year with Democratic governor Roy Cooper, an expansion advocate. The new panel of lawmakers met for the first time on Friday to probe how to provide health care coverage to some 500,000 low-income adults who could have access to Medicaid if North Carolina joined 38 other states and expanded the program as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has allowed since 2013. Through much of the past decade, Medicaid expansion has been a thorny topic that has divided Democrats, who support it, and Republicans, who have resisted adding more North Carolinians to the subsidized government health insurance program. More recently, some Republicans including senate
leader Phil Berger (R–30th District) have warmed up to the idea, recognizing a need to close the insurance gap in the state. The NC legislative building
Dispelling misinformation The federal government subsidizes 90 percent of the cost for adults enrolled through the ACA expansion. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides additional financial incentive for the 12 states that have yet to approve expansion, allowing them to temporarily draw down additional federal funds. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) estimates North Carolina could get an additional $1.5 billion to $2 billion in federal funding. Kate Blackman, NCSL health director, and Emily Blanford, NCSL program principal, presented a report to the legislators on Friday with specifics on North Carolina and an overview of what other states have done. Lambeth told Blanford about another hallway conversation he’s had, one that many Republicans have echoed as they explained their financial worries about expanding Medicaid. They worry the federal government will shift the fiscal burden to the state by decreasing its percentage of funding either abruptly or over time. “The second part of that financial piece— you know, hallway conversations—is ‘Well, you know they started at 100 percent, that rate dropped to 90. What prevents them from going down to 70 or 60 or 50, and pull the rug out from under us and put more pressure on our state budget because all of a sudden now we’ve done it? It’s hard to take away a benefit, and we’re just going to have to pay more because you know, they kind of pulled that rug out from under us on that 90 percent,’” Lambeth said. “What does the law say about the 90 percent, and how would that percent be changed?”
PHOTO BY TAYLOR KNOPF
The federal government’s commitment to providing states with 90 percent of the expansion cost is written into the Social Security Act, Blanford responded, so it would take an act of Congress to change the law. Lambeth explained after the meeting that he was trying to get answers throughout the two-and-a-half-hour discussion to dispel misinformation he’d heard from legislators who often stopped him in the corridors because they knew he was cochair of the new committee.
Chilly caucus Though some longtime critics of expansion have warmed to the idea during the coronavirus pandemic, such as the powerful leader of the senate, there still are staunch opponents, especially in the state house. “We’re not lukewarm in the house,” Lambeth told reporters after the meeting. “It is still rather chilly. It is a heavy lift to convince our house caucus that this is the right direction to go. Now is it impossible? No. I wouldn’t be here if I thought it was impossible.” The committee touched on a wide range of health care topics Friday. The lawmakers discussed how to rein in the surprise medical bills that insured people get after inadvertently receiving care from an out-of-network provider they did not choose. They also discussed the shortage of nurses and other health care providers already hampering the state and how to help struggling rural hospitals and expand care access in those areas. The next meeting of the Medicaid expansion committee is set for March 1.
“The health care session” The coronavirus pandemic has exposed underfunded health care systems and a lack of convenient access to quality care for numerous North Carolinians, many who live in some of the more rural districts represented by Republicans. Lambeth said he expected the committee to spend months fact-finding and creating recommendations for what he called a “North Carolina plan” that could be ready in August or September and perhaps put to a full General Assembly vote by October. That could be a politically charged vote before the November elections. That plan might expand Medicaid or subsidized coverage to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians without specifically calling it “Medicaid expansion.” “I can sort of view this as the health care session,” Lambeth said. Senator Kevin Corbin (R–50th District), a committee member, is interested in exploring an array of programs that he has heard other states have used. “The view from 130,000 feet is we have a large number of uninsured people,” he told reporters after the meeting. “We need to get those people insured. How to do that is the question.” “Medicaid expansion” used to be a bad word in some corridors of the legislative building, he said. “I think it has been, but I think it’s not so much anymore,” Corbin said. W This story was originally published by North Carolina Health News, an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit, statewide news organization dedicated to covering all things health care in North Carolina. INDYweek.com
February 23, 2022
NC Lt. Governor Mark Robinson
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Lt. Governor Mark Robinson had his two best fundraising days immediately after a video of him calling transgenderism and homosexuality “filth” went viral. BY LEIGH TAUSS AND GEOFF WEST firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
February 23, 2022
ILLUSTRATION BY JON FULLER
ast summer, Lt. Governor Mark Robinson stood on a wooden podium behind a red, white, and blue flower garland on the stage at the Asbury Baptist Church in Seagrove. There, he proclaimed that educating children on topics like transgenderism and homosexuality is abuse. Robinson delivered the remarks like a preacher, his booming voice rising to the growing applause in the audience as his hands gesticulated sharply, cutting through the air. “There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth,” Robinson said. “And yes, I called it filth. And if you don’t like that I called it filth, come see me, and I’ll explain it to you.” While the comments were recorded in June, the outrage didn’t come until October, when advocacy group Right Wing Watch tweeted the video. It went viral and the story went national, spurring countless articles and think pieces condemning Robinson’s comments and casting yet another humiliating spotlight on North Carolina politics. But as the clicks came in, so did donations to Robinson’s campaign committee, Friends of Mark Robinson; Robinson is widely expected to run for governor of North Carolina in 2024. An INDY Week analysis reveals that on October 8, the day after national outlets picked up the story, Robinson received the largest number of contributions up to that point. Up until then, he averaged 76 donations per day; that day, the number of donations increased six-fold. Fox News aired the story on October 10, and Robinson pulled in 561 donations on October 13. He set a fundraising record to the tune of $48,256 the next day. One-sixth of all the donations Robinson received during the last six months of 2021 came during those seven days. “Bigotry sells,” says Blair Reeves, executive director of Carolina Forward, a progressive advocacy group. “Mark Robinson is a bigot, full stop—everyone knows that; it’s not something anyone’s mistaken about—and he is proud about it.” Baiting liberals into outrage has become too common a formula for catapulting right-wing figureheads into the national spotlight. According to Robinson’s campaign finance reports, his donors include Raleigh developer John Kane and
Contributions to Robinson’s Campaign Per Month
*An incomplete list of asinine things Mark Robinson has said: “There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth. And yes, I called it filth.” the CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling Co., J. Frank Harrison III. Both gave Robinson the maximum allowed contribution—$5,600. Meanwhile, Larry Barbour, president and CEO of North State Bank, donated $2,500 to Robinson. None of the three responded to the INDY’s request for comment on the matter. Robinson’s team didn’t respond to our phone call, either. Perhaps not everyone who donated to Robinson that week, the best fundraising week of the entire campaign year, gave money precisely because they heard his “filth” comment and supported it. But not very many people asked for the money back; that week, Robinson’s campaign issued reimbursements to just three individuals, totaling $270. Since July, just 28 people have received refunds. It’s unclear whether any requested their money back or donated more than the maximum contribution limit ($5,600), making Robinson’s campaign legally obligated to refund them. Controversy spurring an influx in donations is nothing new, says Democratic campaign strategist Maggie Barlow, who worked on statewide campaigns including Cheri Beasley’s successful run for chief justice on the state Supreme Court. “Anything that riles people up to no matter what always helps with grassroots small-dollar donations, and candidates always like to have that kind of support,” Barlow says. “It gets more people interested in the campaign.” But it’s a strategy that’s ultimately bad for business. Barlow recalled the backlash from the business community following the passage of North Carolina’s controversial bathroom bill House Bill 2.
“Lt. Governor Mark Robinson is attacking North Carolinians who are customers, clients, tourists,” Barlow says. Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, an advocacy group fighting for fair elections and campaign finance reform, says Robinson’s team isn’t blind to the fact the lieutenant governor’s penchant for inflammatory comments is a moneymaker. “I think what we are seeing speaks to just the toxic world we are in,” Phillips told the INDY. “It’s a game, and for people who respond, the donors, whether they responded right afterward—they know him, they know his views and to invest, that’s something that’s fair to question.” “There are some folks who will invest in both sides, and they really don’t care about what kinds of positions people have and what kind of visions they are espousing,” Phillips continued. “It’s a stain on our democracy. Big-money politics stinks.” Common Cause is one of the plaintiffs in the state’s ongoing legal battle over gerrymandering. Phillips says his organization would never advocate for a law that would prevent people from donating to the person of their choosing or punish politicians that engage in hateful rhetoric like Robinson does routinely. Still, the fact that hate speech was an effective financial boon for Robinson, who is notorious for saying asinine things (see sidebar), is a discouraging, albeit unsurprising, reality. “The people who fan those flames, and the people who respond, they are complicit,” Phillips said. “And until we can actually push reforms though, this [rhetoric] is becoming increasingly par for the course.” W
Straight people are “superior” to gays. Gay people are “what the cows leave behind,” “maggots,” and “flies.” Senator Raphael Warnock has the wisdom of “a crack-addicted mugger in the final stages of syphilitic insanity.” “So since we’re taking about canceling ‘student debt’ I’ve got some ‘parent debt’ to cancel too. You know, stuff like a mortgage and auto loans.” On COVID restrictions: “The Constitution restricts THE GOVERNMENT from illegally quartering soldiers in my house. It doesn’t say a thing about how many guests I can have over for Thanksgiving.” On past and present presidents: “If we still had the ‘mean Tweets’ we’d probably still have the workers, jobs, and gas. #jobkillerjoe #nogogojuicejoe” “The looming pandemic I’m most worried about is SOCIALISM.” “Democrats BOOED God.” “Two plus Two Don’t Equal Transgender.”
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February 23, 2022
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Two for the Road New local releases by Quetico and Superchunk inspire long drives with throwback FM radio cranked all the way up. BY BRIAN HOWE AND JORDAN LAWRENCE email@example.com
QUETICO: KNOW YOU ARE HHHH [Self-released; Wednesday, Feb. 2]
For most families, producing one tall, lanky drummer with polyrhythms in his hands and a sort of cosmic irony in his eyes would be plenty. But the facts show that the Westerlunds of Wisconsin have issued at least two. Brothers Joe (Megafaun, Mandolin Orange) and Yan (Canine Heart Sounds, Bowerbirds), who once shared what must have been a very rackety room, have thoroughly infiltrated the Triangle’s indie bands over the last 13 years. They’ve also both emerged—and diverged—as composer-bandleaders. Joe’s music feels ancient, mystical, and fluid, whereas Yan’s, as Quetico, is retro, worldly, and pertly shaped. His first album, Man Alone, was mostly a solo project that established Quetico’s eccentric crossroads of elaborately metered jazz, pitter-pattering techno, and glossy pop finishing. But on his new record, Know You Are, Yan is joined by Tim Sullivan and Bowerbirds’ Mark Paulson, among others, suffusing his percussion and electronic pads with fragrant woodwinds and synths. The songs are lush but run so clear that their challenging time signatures often hardly even register—they’re more special sauce than the main course, this time.
If Know You Are can be said to be any one thing, it’s a voyage through the grooviest, most sensuous parts of throwback FM radio. There are strains of symphonic 1970s soul (especially on the outstanding “Putnam Heights”), svelte ’80s R&B, and progressive soft rock. Canine Heart Sounds’ “Worship Team” is reworked as gospel-tinged electro-pop; “Awanas” makes minimalist sax ostinatos swoon; Sade would crush “Keith.” The melodies form a bright, engaging carapace over the intricate gear work, and there is much you would linger on if it came up in a weekend block on Foxy 107, the lunchtime jazz program on WNCU 90.7, or the bridge of a Toto song on G105. —Brian Howe SUPERCHUNK: WILD LONELINESS HHHH [Merge Records; Friday, Feb. 25]
I keep hopping in my car to listen to Wild Loneliness. It’s an odd reaction to what is an unusually restrained record for Superchunk. The Chapel Hill indie-rock luminaries open and close with lush and thoughtful ballads. Each song is girded by acoustic rhythm guitar, skewing closer to the pop end of the pop-punk spectrum.
More nervy, cutting, and quintessentially Superchunk records like 1991’s endlessly propulsive On the Mouth or 2018’s righteously pissed-off What a Time to Be Alive are more obvious pairings for rolled-down windows and open roads. But like that last, most recent Superchunk album, which responded with brutally entertaining venom to “the scum, the shame, the fucking lies” of Donald Trump’s presidency, Wild Loneliness is supremely suited for its moment. The new outing seeks both connection and release as it takes stock of a world that feels increasingly isolating and despondent. The band responds with songs that find hope in reaching out, carried by arrangements that are airy and reassuring but still plenty impellent. They make me want to get out and drive. To go do things again. Recording separately during the pandemic, Superchunk smartly used that as an opportunity to bring in remote talent to contribute. The additions are beautiful but off-kilter, enhancing the album’s pursuit of balance in an unbalanced time. Enchanting saxophone shimmers from Wye Oak’s Andy Stack layer at attractively odd angles atop the steady jangle of the title track. It’s a nice fit for a song, written mid-pandemic, that reflects upon the unease of seclusion—“Take a lap, take a hike,” Mac McCaughan sings, “Shake the spiders loose / Any way you like.” Kelly Pratt (David Byrne, Beirut) adds giddy horns to the acoustic-rock tumble of “Highly Suspect.” It’s a fine mirror for McCaughan’s narrator, who hides his feelings and becomes disconnected—“You’ve been highly suspect / Of my cheerful affect / And you, you were right / It’s a construct.” Owen Pallett’s gauzy strings bring an appropriately scrappy nobility to “City of the Dead,” where, despite Halloween floods and wild winds whipping, Mac McCaughan declares, “But I’ll still make the coffee / And we still make the beds / And the kids are scarred but smarter.” The variety of additional vocalists—Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell—don’t make as distinct an impact, but do provide cathartic camaraderie. Some of the best songs are elevated by Superchunk’s excellent chemistry, despite the distanced recording. Jon Wurster and Laura Ballance’s lithe and commanding rhythms bring certainty to offset McCaughan’s clever self-deprecating on climate change alarm bell “Endless Summer”—“I’m a broken record / I’m a year-round bummer / But I’m not ready / For an endless summer.” On the closing “If You’re Not Dark,” Jim Wilbur weaves guitar lines that balance arena-sized melancholy and wiry anxiety, as McCaughan rises patiently from fragility to certainty, building to a chorus ready-made for 2022, and life in general—“If you’re not dark / At least in some little part / What are you on? / And can we get some?” Superchunk has never been better—or better for its time. —Jordan Lawrence W INDYweek.com
February 23, 2022
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THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH
The Haw River Ballroom, Saxapahaw | February 26, 8 pm, $35 | hawriverballroom.com
Nesting Place Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson plants his Tallest Man on Earth flag in the Triangle. BY NICK MCGREGOR firstname.lastname@example.org
’m watching a hawk right now,” says Kristian Matsson, the Swedish singer-songwriter better known as The Tallest Man on the Earth. It’s a Friday morning and, on a phone call with INDY Week, Matsson is eagerly telling the story of his recent move to the Triangle, all while birdwatching from his home on the outskirts of Durham. “I’m fascinated by all the raptors you have here,” he says. “Back home in Sweden, you see a hawk once in a while and it’s like, ‘Wow!’ Here, it’s all the time.” A confluence of factors led Matsson to North Carolina: His new relationship with old friends running the local artist management company The Glow, for one. The creative lightning he remembers bottling on a friend’s Raleigh lawn, back in 2011, when he was riding an initial wave of international fame and retreated here to write “Little River.” And the new album he’s written and is now recording at Betty’s, Nick Sanborn and Amelia Meath’s secluded Chapel Hill studio. To sweeten the Tar Heel deal, Matsson kicks off his Songs of Hope tour—his first North American swing in two years, with multiple sold-out dates in major markets like Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles—at Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw on February 26. “It’s kind of like a hometown show in a lovely way,” he says. After keeping an apartment in New York City for six years, the pandemic shifted Matsson’s priorities. “I needed to help my parents, so I thought I would go home to Sweden for two months,” he remembers. “Then I was locked out of the U.S. for 18 months. I got rid of my New York apartment, and now, I’m slowly making [North Carolina] my place in America. I love it. I have all my 16
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gear here for touring and recording. When I got here, the songs just started to flow out of me. There must be something about this place.” It’s a rare admission of contentment for Matsson, a famously hyperactive and nomadic singer-songwriter. He’s revered by critics for his intricate fingerstyle guitar and dreamlike narratives spun across five studio albums and four EPs, and fans are equally enamored by his emotional intensity and energetic live presence. Prowling the stage and jumping over amps, his head and neck bop along with frenetically picked rhythms while he croons and howls in a high-pitched, full-throated rasp often compared to that of Bob Dylan. Matsson’s openhearted vulnerability and prismatic voice stand in stark contrast to Dylan’s icy inscrutability, though. The Tallest Man on Earth’s 2015 album, Dark Bird Is Home, dug into the prickly subject of divorce, while 2019’s I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. pitched swirling, Springsteen-esque scaffolding around some of Matsson’s most personal songs (see the haunting triptych of “I’m a Stranger Now,” “Waiting for My Ghost,” and “I’ll Be a Sky”). Buried just below the surface of all that heartbreak lies an ongoing fascination with nature—particularly of the avian persuasion. Past EP titles include Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird (2010) and When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground (2018), while the cover of 2012 album There’s No Leaving Now depicts geese mid-takeoff. “I’m kind of a hummingbird as a person,” Matsson laughs. “During the pandemic, when touring was taken away, I was at home in a beautiful place in Sweden. But I was in my house all the time. That didn’t make me necessarily calm. Weirdly, it’s the
Kristian Matsson PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA moving around—meeting other people and being in the world—that makes me calm. I used to think that I was an introvert who needed time alone. I’m realizing now how much of a little social creature I am.” That newfound extroversion extends to Matsson’s new material, which was written expressly with collaboration in mind—a big difference from his dedicated do-it-allalone past. He does keep thematic discussions of the songs close to the vest, though, cryptically hinting that he’ll reveal more in a future interview (“Let’s do this again after the album is done to see how the whole thing panned out”). “I’ve written these songs with the thought that they might change when
people come into the room and add to them,” he says. “I am way more open now to invite others in. In the past, I’ve been very self-conscious about showing my work, or never thinking I was really good.” So does The Tallest Man on Earth suffer from a Scandinavian strain of tall poppy syndrome, the Australian cultural phenomenon that dissuades people from standing out? Matsson answers with an emphatic yes. “In Sweden, we’re not supposed to be really proud of what we accomplish,” he says. “We do a lot of things in the dark and won’t present them until they’re immaculate. But I’ve let that go. That’s part of my attraction to America. It’s not
“I’m slowly making [North Carolina] my place in America ...When I got here, the songs just started to flow out of me. There must be something about this place.” the stereotype of you being brash and loud and cocky, because that’s not what I see. But it’s a little more … you dare to do things here.” Matsson talks affectionately of the local friends whose daring artistry he admires: Brad and Phil Cook, who introduced him to Sanborn and Meath; Phil Moore of Bowerbirds (“one of my all-time favorite bands”); Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes (“The album she released during the pandemic saved me from a lot of dark times”); and Mountain Man’s Meath, Molly Sarlé, and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig (the latter’s Daughter of Swords solo project will open for Matsson on his first 12 U.S. dates). Then, he spends a few breathless minutes expressing “deep feelings of love” for his “traveling circus” of a road crew; bashfully reflecting on the vulnerable cheekiness of his social media presence (describing his genre as “sad pony music,” appending an old press photo with the updated caption “What were you so scared of, little buddy? Losing your guitar pick? Your ghost costume not believable enough? Just play your songs”); and decisively discarding “the vanities that I had before the pandemic.” Like what? “Like saying, ‘I don’t want to play that venue because the PA is bad,’” he laughs. “Now, it’s like, ‘Give me a stage!’” Exhaling, he laughs and apologizes for his enthusiasm. “Well,” he says, “I’m inspired by my friends. The warm breezes here are magical to me. For the first time in a long time, I’m having a lot of fun. I feel myself relaxing into the weird wackiness and emotional outbursts that music can bring.” W INDYweek.com
February 23, 2022
FLAT AFFECT CLOSING RECEPTION
Friday, Feb. 25, 6-9 p.m. | Lump, Raleigh | lumpprojects.org
The Cymbalist Movement The leitmotif of drummer Harrison Haynes’s art and life in two or three dimensions BY BRIAN HOWE email@example.com
he New Yorker’s Peter Schjeldahl once described how the photorealist painter Vija Celmins spent five years on a “not quite pointless” sculpture project: casting small stones in bronze, painting the casts to minutely resemble the originals, and then displaying them side by side. “No mere trompe-l’oeil stunt, the work seemed haunted by a fact of difference that the artist’s skill had pounded down to an almost subliminal wisp,” Schjeldahl wrote. The longtime artist but first-time solo curator Harrison Haynes outlines a similarly equivocal space—between real and fake, flat and volumetric, photographic and sculptural—in the group exhibit Flat Affect, which has been at Lump in Raleigh for a month and closes Sunday after a reception with Haynes Friday afternoon. Small works by nine artists, including locals like Attic 506’s Amanda Barr and out-of-towners like Manhattan’s Jared Buckhiester, are arranged on tables as if in a very tidy garage sale. They all relate to Haynes’s quest to turn photographs into freestanding objects that trick the eye from some angles and reveal their artifice from others. “It had to be work that played with two and three dimensions,” Haynes says over video chat. “I was also interested in this objet d’art thing, where it’s sculpture of a manageable size, with a domestic aspect—a thing you live with that can move from a bedside table to a mantel.” Haynes earned a bachelor’s degree in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design and a master’s in photography in an MFA program hosted at Bard College, and his work has been shown in North Carolina museums like the Nasher and the Weatherspoon. When he wasn’t studying or making art, he was drumming for the 18
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smart-kid punk bands Hellbender and Les Savy Fav. It was at interdisciplinary Bard in 2011 that the boundary between these compartments in his life began to erode. “I’ve never been comfortable with making portraits of people,” he says. “I’m worried the person is uncomfortable or that what I make won’t be flattering. When my subject matter was inanimate objects, it opened things way up for me.” He naturally gravitated to the cymbal as his primary subject. He had plenty of them around. They were beautiful and reflective but also had utility, rich with both personal and cultural memory. He spent years experimenting with what a photo might be if it were draped on a structure or drooping from a wall—“funny Claes Oldenburg–type things,” he says. These attempts accreted into his own deceptively simple contribution to Flat Affect, “Ecstatic Cymbal.” On top, it looks like a cymbal mounted on a plain wooden base. Only the blank underside gives away that it’s really a UV inkjet print on an aluminum composite material, which took extensive time, thought, and the labor of fabricators and vector-cutters to create. Object or subject, cymbal or symbol, one thing is unequivocal: it’s the leitmotif ringing through Haynes’s life.
rowing up in Durham and Chatham County in the 1980s, Haynes’s first musical loves were whatever his parents played. In his fifth-grade school picture, he sports an Elvis Costello pin from Chapel Hill’s The Record Bar, a Franklin Street landmark that—though this is almost too depressing to contemplate—is now a Cold Stone Creamery. Haynes’s father is an illustrator and animator who worked at UNC-Chapel Hill.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SUBJECT
He had all kinds of art books around, not to mention underground comix magazines like Heavy Metal, which inspired his son’s love of drawing. He also had drums, which is partly why Haynes chose them in the scramble for his first middle-school band. “Also, my friends were a little more alpha than me,” he says, blinking thoughtfully through large glasses. Indeed, from his mild manner and fastidious appearance, you wouldn’t necessarily picture Haynes going to see a chaotic art-punk band, let alone playing in one. At Chapel Hill High School in the midnineties, he formed Hellbender with two childhood friends. Wells Tower was his classmate; Al Burian, a couple of years older, was already at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Over the next few years, they released several albums and EPs of melodically slashing punk songs, which were distinguished by diaristic, literary lyrics and the syncopated drumming style Haynes was developing. In our more genre-relaxed times, we’d probably just call Hellbender post-hardcore and leave it at that. But then, like it or not, they were emo, the most incoherent genre humanity has conceived. In the eighties, it was an insult you’d shout at hardcore punk bands whose music was too melodic and sensitive. In the nineties, it
was a divisive underground variant defined by the likes of Jawbreaker and Sunny Day Real Estate. In the 2000s, it was a corporate pop genre that gave us My Chemical Romance and sent sales of eyeliner and flat irons through the roof. Hellbender came along in the middle, when emo was something you either loved or hated but under no circumstances confessed to playing, Haynes included. “I resisted it,” he says. “It always seemed derogatory.” But if he knew what his band wasn’t, that didn’t mean he knew what it was. A self-described “lazy music fan,” Haynes was mostly oblivious to modern music. Burian was the slightly older authority on all things DIY, with a sheaf of zines and a Rolodex of basement promoters; Tower was a more active connoisseur. Haynes learned from them and the bands they toured with. He was a punk drummer who didn’t like punk drumming and was more immersed in hip-hop. “I had to relearn what punk was all about,” he remembers. “The first drummer I was ever blown away by was Reed Mullin of Corrosion of Conformity, who we’d go see in Raleigh. But super-fast punk drumming, it didn’t touch me.” As for the indie ferment in Chapel Hill, “when I went to RISD, people would be like, dude, Chapel Hill, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf! I was
only vaguely aware of that through Al and Wells, but I got super into Archers later.” Hellbender kept touring in the summers after Haynes went to RISD, and they all lived together in Portland for a year. They were winding down when they moved back to Chapel Hill around 1997. Burian moved on to Milemarker, a synth-punk band straddling Chapel Hill and Chicago; Tower eventually became an acclaimed writer; and Haynes joined Les Savy Fav, an iconic art-punk band that rose from house parties to major festivals. Though built from several strong instrumental voices, it centered on the charismatic vocalist Tim Harrington, whose performances resembled a wild-eyed Pentateuchal prophet gone to seed. “Tim always belies assumptions about what he’s like,” Haynes says. “He’s super gentle, sweet, moral, and caring, with a lot of eccentricities and exuberance. [The Jesus Lizard’s] David Yow is a huge influence, but he’s not David Yow. We always used to call him PG GG Allin.” When original drummer Pat Mahoney joined James Murphy’s embryonic LCD Soundsystem, leaving Les Savy Fav behind, they had already released their first record and demoed their second. They called Haynes, whom they knew from their early days at RISD, and in 1999, he fled the Piedmont countryside for the Knights of Columbus Hall in Brooklyn where they lived. He remembers dancing at Murphy’s first DJ nights at The Slipper Room and Plantain, near the start of those charmed years when the racket coming out of cheap, sketchy Williamsburg lofts (Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) spread into a nationwide dance-punk craze. Haynes had to learn his friend’s parts quickly before playing a show with Modest Mouse. He was inspired by the mutant disco style of their drummer, Jeremiah Green, when Les Savy Fav recorded The Cat and the Cobra soon afterward. But again, he wasn’t really up on the classic UK punk and New York no-wave bands—Gang of Four, Wire, ESG, Liquid Liquid—that formed the moment’s historical context. “I heard Les Savy Fav before those bands, and then I was like, oh, so that’s what it is,” he says. Les Savy Fav still performs occasionally, but Haynes is in some ways back where he began: living in Chapel Hill with free time, in his first year off after nine teaching photography at Durham Academy Upper School, and playing music with childhood friends. This time, though, the friends are Nora Rogers and Jenny Waters, the band is Object Hours, and Haynes is a full-time artist with a family of his own, making the cymbal a full circle indeed. W
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February 23, 2022
Flutronix | Carolina Performing Arts | CURRENT Artspace + Studio | Friday, Feb. 25–Saturday, Feb. 26, 8 p.m., $20 | carolinaperformingarts.com
Movement Music With Discourse, Nathalie Joachim and Allison Loggins-Hull translate Chapel Hill community activism into song. BY BYRON WOODS email@example.com
fter an eight-count on a snare drum, a driving bass line propels five musicians through an energetic march in a section of Discourse, the new evening-length work by the musical group Flutronix. That’s when the vocals kick in. But instead of some generic love-song lyrics, we listen as seasoned local activist Yvette Mathews breaks some tough truths down about affordable housing in the area. “Chapel Hill is a trip, y’all, it really is,” the venerable office and community organizer at the Community Empowerment Fund chuckles. “So they’ve got this land. They’ve got 164 acres of land that’s been sitting here for 30 years, that they own it, and refuse to build something affordable on it,” Mathews muses as syncopated handclaps push the music forward. “Why? Because it’s in this neighborhood of people who look like us that they don’t want in it.” Homegrown community activism that you can dance to? That’s one part of the work whose world premiere this weekend comes after a two-year delay from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nathalie Joachim and Allison Loggins-Hull, the musicians and composers who comprise the pop-art flute duo at the core of the new work, initially came to Chapel Hill in 2018 to begin a multiyear residency. The goal of the residency was to create a work grounded in local narratives in response to the growing cultural divisions that emerged during the Trump era. To create the work—now named Discourse, and which runs two nights this week at CURRENT Artspace + Studio—Joachim and Loggins-Hull met, broke bread with, and listened to the stories of people from a number of communities across the region, including octogenarians from Carrboro and Chapel Hill’s Northside, Pine Knolls, and Tin Top communities, middle school students at Durham’s Global Scholars Academy, and members of the indigenous Lumbee Tribe. “We kind of have this intergenerational approach to storytelling,” Loggins-Hull says. The duo also delved into the audio archives of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Southern Oral History Program, where they encountered an interview with Willie Blue, 20
February 23, 2022
Nathalie Joachim and Allison Loggins-Hull
PHOTO COURTESY OF CAROLINA PERFORMING ARTS
a veteran who worked in the civil rights movement after returning from World War II. “Each of these were conversations premised on close listening, no matter who they were,” says Amanda Graham, the associate director of engagement at Carolina Performing Arts, which commissioned the new work. “The project was meant to break down this monolithic understanding of what a community is,” Graham says. The resulting 10-song cycle is “meant to really focus on individual stories as a way of conveying the spirit of a place.” “You see more of the human being when you’re hearing from his mouth, ‘This is how I felt, this is what encouraged and what hurt me; these are my passions, and this is what I think is right,’” Loggins-Hull says. “It shows that there is so much power in the individual story.” In the process, the composers discovered that it’s easier to enter and empathize with the challenges communities face through the stories of the people living there. “It doesn’t just seem like, ‘Well, that just happened over there.’ This is a real person that this is happening to. It just feels more real,” Loggins-Hull says. As they worked with the narratives they encountered, the composers repeatedly found that the stories themselves pointed in specific musical directions. Blue’s interview dealt with the Freedom Schools movement, which provided free, alternative schooling for students in the 1960s when public education systems in the South drastically underfunded Black schools or shortchanged the curricula they taught. At one point in the interview, the composers were struck by the way Blue referred to Black Americans: “We are constitutional people. The constitution made us.” Blue’s words are inserted verbatim into the work. “We literally sampled it straight from the interview,”
Loggins-Hull says. “The movement, the pacing of the music throughout the piece—all of that is very much informed by the story, by his speech, by the way it’s told, and by the energy of the story.” At Global Scholars Academy, the musicians faced the challenge of giving students their first music class ever. “We said, ‘There’s no way we’re going to go in there and be like, ‘This is a quarter note,’” Loggins-Hull recalls. With no musical instruments, the duo had the students engage in body percussion, as they shared stories about their day-to-day lives at home, in their community, and at school. One student told a story about an FBI agent coming to his house. “He recounted this whole experience where the police are pounding on the door, so that alone creates this sonic imagery,” Loggins-Hull says. “It feels high-paced like your blood pressure is rising.” The music that emerges, driven by the students’ rhythms, dramatically underscores the story. According to Graham, Discourse is not only a collection of stories from communities but a meditation on the relationship between activism and citizenship. She notes that the sequences above, and the Lumbee anthem, “Proud to Be a Lumbee,” also covered in the work, call us to consider “what it means to take action as a citizen and how that can be encapsulated in somebody’s life story.” “All of these are ways of moving people,” Graham says. “There is a participatory component to Discourse. It’s a way of calling an audience into action, by sharing all of these calls from all of these different communities.” “We just tried to receive what people were willing to give us and be very respectful of their sharing their stories,” Loggins-Hull concludes. “We’ve tried to honor their stories and bolster the work they’re doing in the community.” W
Please check with local venues for their health and safety protocols.
Nasher curator Lauren Haynes and painter Mario Moore will present a gallery talk on Tuesday, March 1.
art Close Looks Conversational Tour—Hale Woodruff’s “Landscape (Mississippi, Soil Erosion)” Wed, Feb. 23, 1:30 p.m. Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill. First Stirrings Feb. 23-Mar. 20, various times. Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, Hillsborough. Gallery Talk—Helen Frankenthaler: Un Poco Más (A Little More) Thurs, Feb. 24, 7 p.m. The Nasher, Durham. Gallery Talk—Meg Stein Thurs, Feb. 24, 6 p.m. The Nasher, Durham.
stage Hadestown $35+. Feb. 22-27, various times. DPAC, Durham. Yoga Play by Dipika Guha $20. Feb. 23-Mar. 13, various times. PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NASHER MUSEUM OF ART
WXYC Presents Stir the Embers: A Punk Rock & New Wave Revival Dance Party $5. Sat, Feb. 26, 9 p.m. Cat’s Cradle Back Room, Carrboro.
Samia performs at Cat’s Cradle on Wednesday, February 23.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
Samia $15. Wed, Feb. 23, 8 p.m. Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro.
Aminé: The Best Tour Ever Tour $33. Sun, Feb. 27, 8 p.m. The Ritz, Raleigh.
Queer Country Night Wed, Feb. 23, 8 p.m. The Pinhook, Durham.
Radical Healing and Decoloniality: Museums in Transition Thurs, Feb. 24, 5 p.m. Online; presented by the Ackland Art Museum. Ackland FAM: Woodruff’s Landscapes Sun, Feb. 27, 1 p.m. Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill.
Gallery Talk— Cornell Watson Sun, Feb. 27, 2 p.m. The Nasher, Durham. Humber Lecture— Art + Technology: Curators, Conservators, and Coders on Some Medieval Bolognese Panels Sun, Feb. 27, 2 p.m. NCMA, Raleigh.
Gallery Talk— Senior Curator Lauren Haynes with Detroit-based Painter Mario Moore Tues, Mar. 1, 12 p.m. The Nasher, Durham.
Russian Ballet Theatre presents Swan Lake $45+. Thurs, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m. The Carolina Theatre, Durham. Flutronix: Discourse $20. Feb. 25-26, 8 p.m. CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio, Chapel Hill. Eddie B’s Teachers Only Comedy Tour SOLD OUT. Sat, Feb. 26, 8 p.m. Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Raleigh.
Neptune’s Comedy Presents: Mike Mello, Ben Malone, Devon Roberts $10+. Sat, Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m. The Pour House Music Hall, Raleigh. TEDxDuke 2022— LIMINAL: Between the Lines $10. Sat, Feb. 26, 11 a.m. Page Auditorium at Duke University, Durham. Dancing with the Stars Live Tour 2022 $57. Sun, Feb. 27, 8 p.m. Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Raleigh.
Agent Orange $15. Thurs, Feb. 24, 7 p.m. Motorco Music Hall, Durham. Duke University Wind Symphony: On This Bright Morning Thurs, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m. Baldwin Auditorium at Duke University, Durham. Footrocket / Kir / Treee City / Calapse $10. Thurs, Feb. 24, 9 p.m. The Pinhook, Durham.
screen Ackland Film Forum: The Big Boss Thurs, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m. Varsity Theatre, Chapel Hill. Nevermore Film Festival $10+. Feb. 25-27, various times. The Carolina Theatre, Durham. Ailey $5 (members, youth 7–18, college students), $7 (nonmembers). Sat, Feb. 26, 2 p.m. NCMA, Raleigh.
Colbie Caillat: Coco 15th Anniversary Tour $50. Mon, Feb. 28, 8 p.m. The Carolina Theatre, Durham.
Marcus King $40+. Thurs, Feb. 24, 8 p.m. The Ritz, Raleigh. The Vegabonds $13+. Thurs, Feb. 24, 8 p.m. Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro. Avail / Hot Water Music SOLD OUT. Fri, Feb. 25, 8 p.m. Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro. Eighth Blackbird, David Lang, and Anne Bogart: Composition as Explanation $35 (general), $10 (Duke students). Feb. 25-26, various times. Rubenstein Arts Center, Durham.
Chris Lane $32+. Fri, Feb. 25, 8 p.m. The Ritz, Raleigh. Jon Ward Beyle $10. Fri, Feb. 25, 8 p.m. Cat’s Cradle Back Room, Carrboro. Keontae Raheem / 2DOPE.TY / KAREFREE $20+. Fri, Feb. 25, 8 p.m. The Pinhook, Durham. Mallarme Chamber Players: Bach and Forward $10+. Fri, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m. Durham Arts Council, Durham. Maylynn CosbyMartin Fri, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m. The Oak House, Durham. Bantaba 2022! Sat, Feb. 26, 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. NCMA, Raleigh.
Sammy Rae & The Friends $20. Mon, Feb. 28, 8 p.m. Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro.
David Finckel, Cello & Wu Han, Piano $35 (general), $10 (Duke students). Sat, Feb. 26, 8 p.m. Baldwin Auditorium at Duke University, Durham.
Andmoreagain Presents: Small Black $15. Tues, Mar. 1, 9 p.m. The Pinhook, Durham.
DUU Small Town Records Presents: 15th Anniversary Gala Sat, Feb. 26, 6 p.m. Motorco Music Hall, Durham. Hippocampus with Special Guests $60+. Sat. Feb. 26, 7 p.m. The Ritz, Raleigh.
Bob Mould Solo Electric: Distortion and Blue Hearts! $24. Tues, Mar. 1, 8 p.m. The ArtsCenter, Carrboro. David Bromberg Quintet $26. Tues, Mar. 1, 8 p.m. Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro. Elle King: Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home) Tour 2022 $40. Tues, Mar. 1, 8 p.m. The Carolina Theatre, Durham.
Mattiel / John Roseboro $15. Sat, Feb. 26, 8 p.m. The Pinhook, Durham. Superchunk $20. Sat, Feb. 26, 9 p.m. Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro. SYNERGYSM: A Night of Collective Artistry $10. Sat, Feb. 26, 7 p.m. Playground Studios, Durham.
Eric Nam: There & Back Again World Tour $26+. Tues, Mar. 1, 7:30 p.m. The Ritz, Raleigh.
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February 23, 2022
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There is really only one rule to Sudoku: Fill in the game board so that the numbers 1 through 9 occur exactly once in each row, column, and 3x3 box. The numbers can appear in any order and diagonals are not considered. Your initial game board will consist of several numbers that are already placed. Those numbers cannot be changed. Your goal is to fill in the empty squares following the simple rule above.
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February 23, 2022
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February 23, 2022