Unwinding Yarn: Sextet Plays at Year's Final First Friday Event
Weekend nights at bars and coffee houses are almost always introduced with a band.
The two are becoming synonymous, whether by law of association or because the night tends to confront the same subjects of the songs - the new girl next door and old grudges.
And the band Yarn has the same motivation for playing shows as their fans have for attending. They thrive on music just as much as they do the beer pong and bonfires afterward.
"That's half of my love of the road," Blake Christiana, Yarn's lead singer and song-writer, says. "We've got what feels like family in tons of cities across America."
Yarn will be playing on First Friday, Oct. 5, from 7 to 10 p.m. in the open lot next to the Sunrise Theater, 250 NW Broad St., Southern Pines. Opening for Yarn will be the local group Dirt Road Senate.
Food from the Sly Fox will be available on-site for purchase.
The Brooklyn-born sextet Yarn is composed of Christiana (vocals, guitar), Trevor MacArthur (vocals, guitar), Andrew Hendryx (mandolin, harmonica), Rod Hohl (electric guitar), Rick Bugel (bass) and Robert Bonhomme (drums).
Slapped on their five albums since their 2007 beginnings is an easy alternative country label. But they are not disciples of one style and they have no sermon.
"I don't want them (the listeners) to hear anything in particular," Christiana says. "It's just what comes out. We do a lot of improv, and I know people dig that at the live shows. But I'm not really sure what people have latched onto. If I knew what it was, maybe I could channel it."
Paradoxically, this lack of formula has become its own formula, and plopped every album to the top of the music charts.
As a sub-genre of country, Yarn is a denizen band of the movement, disgusted by saccharine and tinny modern country music. Their relation to ancient country is most evident in their gritty refusal to laze in the mainstream.
"We're out of date on purpose," Christiana says. "And nowadays, everybody and their mother can make a record. But I think it's good for the business. Most people just take what they're fed on the radio, but there's a lot more out there. You might have to sift through all the s-, but you'll find what you're looking for if it's been done."
Yarn members say they have been inspired by Earl Scruggs and Jerry Garcia. They have been compared to the 1990s alternative country bands like Old 97's and Whiskeytown.
Their song "Abilene" sells the indie genre with a cowbell; the bluegrass genre by the way members trade leads. Their CMT.com feature, "Annie," is done with beachy rock.
This year, their music was featured on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" show.
"They are playing good music and living the American dream," she said of the band. "We think Yarn is going to make it big."
That American dream, the idea that success is available to anyone with bootstraps, has lurched Yarn from two years of Monday night jams at Kenny's Castaway Club in New York's Greenwich Village to touring 200 days out of this year.
"At the Castaway Club, I met Andrew, our mandolin player, and really dug his kind of experimental jazz and rock, so I said, 'Let's jam together," Christiana says. "I had been writing all of these songs after my other band ended, so we would just work them out in front of a live audience. We settled on a bass player, a drummer and our guitarists, and it just went from there."
That year, 2007, their self-titled debut album peaked at No. 14 on the AMA and R&R Radio Charts, and ranked No. 79 on the AMA's Top 100 Albums of the year. Their 2008 follow-up, "Empty Pockets," spent months in the Top 5 on the AMA chart and was given eight first-round 2009 Grammy nominations. Their third release, "Come On In," held the No. 25 record on the top 100 Americana chart of 2010.
Their latest album, "Almost Home," was funded, in part, by their fans through Kickstarter.
Music is borderless, Christiana says, but so is the need for it.
"Driving around the country, we've got friends everywhere now," Christiana says. "We've this condition where, I hate to say it, nobody's really happy. Outside everyone's got these really great lives, but inside we're all twisted up. Me, I'm writing this s-- down as my therapy and I think people get something from that."
What they "get" is alliance, like in Yarn's protest song "The Contender," with the line, "We got bio-terror safety kits being sold in convenience stores."
They get the craving for home, like in "Time Burns On," where "I gotta get back to my Brooklyn flat where the nights don't know my name and the forecast calls for rain."
They get the guttural acknowledgments of "the light in my heart was left on and now it's gone," from the song "I'm Down."
But occasionally, listeners get "I love the way you fall asleep by nine on a burnin' Saturday night," from the song "I Love the Way."
Nothing spectacular, Christiana says, "just daily life and the struggles."
First Friday events run from 5 to 8:30 p.m.
For more information about the group, visit yarnmusic.net.
Katherine Smith is a former intern at The Pilot.
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