By Caleb Calhoun
Ashvegas is offering a pair of companion pieces covering two shows that both take place Friday night. Emma’s Lounge and Dr. Bacon will be playing at Altamont Theater, while Window Cat and Dynamo (Nashville) will be playing at Isis Music Hall. Click here for the sister story.
Everything must begin somewhere. For Window Cat, a prog-jazz band from Asheville, that somewhere happened to be Frazier’s Bar on Merrimon Avenue. Rob Rigsby had been looking for the right people to create music with, and a buddy of his thought he knew just the right guy.
“A friend named Alex was like, ‘I know this guy Brennan (Dugan)’ and so I waited around maybe 30 minutes for him to show up,” Rigsby begins. “It was like a job interview. ‘How long have you been playing, what kind of gear do you use etc.?’
“He contacted me, I guess about a week later, and was like, ‘I know this guy Tyler (Long) who is a great singer and plays the keys. We all got together and I have an audio engineering degree, and so does Tyler, and we sat down and just immediately started tracking.”
As the band continued to grow, they began to look for other musicians to fill it out. It took a little time to find the right drummer, but as the band blossomed to seven members, it all ended up happening the same way. Someone knew someone who, it turned out, was exactly who they were looking for.
“It was like a series of events,” Rigsby explains. “Synchronicity. Everything for a reason.”
The lineup was firm by last March and they began playing anywhere they could. They released their first EP on July 4th at Ben’s Tune-Up and have steadily made a name for themselves around town. They will be releasing a single from their new album, which will be out mid-April, at the show this weekend.
Rigsby is humble about it all. “We couldn’t be where we’re at if it wasn’t for everyone helping us along the way. JP and Pauly from Empire Strikes Brass were really helpful getting us shows, Mikey Spice from The Fritz, Gregory Scott.”
Still, all the promotion and love in the world can’t make a band sound good. Their hard work is paying off, earning them an opportunity to share the stage at Isis Music Hall with Dynamo. From Nashville, Dynamo is one of the hottest neo-funk, soul, jazz bands on the scene. Rigsby’s admiration is evident when we talk about the bill.
“I saw them one night at The OneStop maybe 6 or 7 months ago,” he tells me. “I was really tired that night but I went anyway and was just blown away by how good they were. I was listening to them like non-stop for two months.”
That happens to be a familiar story. The music of Dynamo is so perfectly described by their name. Dynamic. Powerful. Sometimes overwhelming, sometimes soothing but always on point.
The band, which came together in 2013 features, like Window Cat, a majority of musicians with music degrees. The first album from this nine-piece band, “Live from Ocean Way,” was actually a school project.
Keyboardist Ryan Connors explains: “The first album was my masters thesis for school (Belmont University) and that set the tone for where we wanted to go as we started touring.”
They hit the road, playing everywhere from NY to MS, steadily building a solid following up and down the east coast. One of their most frequent stops recently has been Asheville. In October they were here to open for TAUK at New Mountain and in December they shared the stage at Asheville Music Hall with The Nth Power, a show that was one of my top-five shows for the year.
“2016 was a great year for us in Asheville,” Connors gushes. “We played All Go West Festival at Isis and opened for Orgone. We have really just been going there on a regular basis which is pretty awesome. It’s such a beautiful city. Great food. Great beer.”
As Dynamo has progressed, so has their sound. Their earlier music was split pretty evenly between songs that featured vocals and songs that did not. Now, the emergence of Dain Ussery as their full-time vocalist has led them to a more vocal heavy style. Their new album, “Celina,” which is due out May 6, features vocals on every track.
“This new record that we are about to release has eight tracks on it and all of them have vocals. Background vocals are more a part of the record as well,” Connors tells me. “Having toured so long with Dain, we have seen a really good reaction and we believe this is the direction of what people want to hear.”
Odds are, if you are into soulful melodies, jazzy beats, and funky grooves, it will be. Paired with Window Cat, this bill promises to offer a sexy, groovy evening and to have everyone’s hips loose from the opening notes to the final encore.
Dynamo and Window Cat play Friday at 9pm at Isis Music Hall. The show is $7 in advance and $10 D.O.S.
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.