By Caleb Calhoun

Batso, the new album by Brothrs (formerly Carolina Wray), out now

Rev and Lo Wray have been making music in these mountains for nearly 15 years now, but their debut release as Brothrs may be the most honest, straightforward music they’ve released to date.

Lo explains, “Carolina Wray was more mainstream. It felt weird to us, like literally the furthest thing we were comfortable with. So when we went out and made Batsto we were like, ‘yo, we don’t give a fuck. Let’s make exactly what we want to make.'”

That attitude is pretty clearly displayed from the first track to the last of this punky, sometimes angry, EP. It’s got a driving style that sounds like 90’s punk finally all grown up and lyrics that pull no punches. And it gives voice to a style of music not seen often on the Asheville scene.

“We were on the heels of doing some weird production deals and it’s just, basically, a lot of people like to put their beliefs up on Facebook, but we think songs are the most appropriate way to do that. Some of the songs vent. Some are mean, but we have never been that band before and want to be as true to ourselves as we can be,” Lo tells me.

The album, recorded in New Jersey near an abandoned mining town named Batsto, is more than just angry, though. It’s also a tribute, start to finish, to paying dues. Furthermore, even the anger that is expressed, specifically in songs like “We Lit That Bridge On Fire,” ends up being more about introspection and self-awareness than feeling directed at others.

“I love that quote by Lennon about ‘How Do You Sleep’,” Rev tells me, referencing a conversation Lennnon had with Bob Harris all the way back in 1975. “‘It’s not about Paul. It’s about me, you know. I’m really attacking myself.'”

Not that they’re scared to throw a punch at the music industry or the inflated egos that seem to go along with it. They just understand that sometimes what frustrates us the most in others are issues we have ourselves.

“When we talk about giving respect where its due we aren’t talking just about ourselves,” Lo delineates, “I mean look around. If someone is working harder than you they deserve more.”

With tons of opening gigs around town coming up, including a few double-headers (multiple shows, at multiple locations, on the same night) the odds are that there won’t be too many others outworking these Brothrs any time soon.

Xpand Fest is Saturday

What could be better than tons of local music all within walking distance and surrounded by street performers and artists? All of that for free is what, and that is what Xpand Fest gives to this community.

With six separate stages spread across the South Slope, and hosting more than 20 local bands and musicians, this is the premier family-friendly street festival in Asheville.

This is the second year of the event, and the festival lineup is even deeper this year than last. Featuring Window Cat, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Jane Kramer, Pink Mercury (Stephanie Morgan), The Paper Crowns, David Earl and the Plowshares, Siyah, Plankeye Peggy, Ashley Heath, Brie Capone, and more, this truly is a celebration of the creativity this town has to offer.

The brainchild of one of Asheville’s most respected industry professionals, Johanna Hagarty, this festival is making waves around the Southeast as other cities look to copy (and Hagarty looks to export) the formula for success.

Certainly planning and groundwork are important parts of making anything work, but the real secret to Xpand Fest’s popularity in just it’s second year is that it’s so darn fun. Puppeteers, belly dancers, swordsman and other acts roam the streets, craft beer is on tap, and friends and family have plenty of diversions to keep everyone interested and involved regardless of race or hobbies.

Then, when it’s all done and the kiddos get put to bed, it’s time for the after party with Freeway Revival, Evil Note Lab and Josh Blake side-project JBOT.

If you are into supporting local, or just like to have a good time, this is definitely the place to be Saturday afternoon, evening, and late-night.

Wilson Stern with special guest Caleb Calhoun at Vintage Kava on Saturday night

I’ve been looking for a good chance to write about Vintage Kava for a while anyway, so why not use the opportunity to shamelessly self-promote. Located in North Asheville out Reems Creek Road, Vintage Kava has elbowed its way into the art, music and poetry scenes in just a matter of months.

Nestled into a valley that seems much further from civilization than it actually is, Vintage is the perfect setting to have some kratom or kava tea and catch some local talent. Saturday night, Wilson Stern (former bassist for Hail Cassius Neptune) will be playing live from 9 p.m. to midnight and will be joined by yours truly during the last hour for a weird and wild improvisational performance.

If you’re looking for something a little more chilled out physically than walking around in the hot sun all day, but still want to be challenged by solid local music and poetry, then this just may be the place for you.

RBTS WIN album release at The Mothlight on Saturday

It only takes a few minutes of a live RBTS WIN performance to understand why they have such a cult following, not only locally, but worldwide. Their energy, tone, and heavy dose of analog synthesizers is really something you have to experience in person.

They also just happen to be genuine, sincere guys, something you can feel. Their new album, Sensitivity Kit, speaks to that in that the name is not ironic. They truly do want to encourage us to love and care about others, and they do it through some of the most impressively put-together music out there.

With more of a focus on the space between the notes and new techniques that they have developed themselves, it’s a safe bet that Sensitivity Kit will prove to be another success for this duo from right here in Asheville.

Caleb Calhoun studied writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and music at a plethora of clubs and bars across the southeast. He is the author and publisher of Rosman City Blues and currently resides outside of Asheville with his dog and best friend, Dr. Gonzo. You can reach him at Caleb.calhoun@gmail.com and/or Facebook.com/GonzoNC.

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