Photos by Lori Sky Twohy
Lost count of how many times I said Hallelujah this past weekend at the Carnavalito mini-festival held at Pisgah Brewery in Black Mountain; one time, as the grey clouds turned to orange fluffy teddy bears adding vibrant life and color to a dark, wet week, once as Dumstaphunk stole my hips, jerking them side to side as I flailed my arms and felt that funk nasty, once as the rain returned during Toubab’s first set grooving to latin lover beats and feelin’ sexy, once as I cozied a blanket tappin’ my toes to Donna and the Buffalo’s feel good country–twang-zydeco-rock and roll, and maybe twice as DJ Equal spun late night beats with live drummer Nikki Glaspie.
Ain’t nothing like an outdoor, midsummer music festival in Western NC especially in a naturally beautiful setting such as Pisgah. The outdoor stage looks to be carved into the scenery and the beer flows abundantly. They had massages, kids were splashing about in the magical brook trickling under a bridge(no trolls sadly), delicious foods were being served (potato chips dipped in caramel? what?!?!) It was a carnival where you didn’t feel dirty inside; there were no shitty useless prizes to win, sketchy rides, creepy clowns, or fat bearded ladies, but that’s okay, they can work on that for next years “Carnival-grande.” I was sad however, that Pisgah ran out of Buchi kombucha on tap… But this girl wanted strong beer, bangin beats and grass beneath her feet and that is what she got.
The first band I had the pleasure of seeing was Dumpstaphunk out of New Orleans started by Ivan Neville in 2003. If you have been enjoying them for a while then you don’t need me to remind you about how finger-lickin-good these guys are. But for those who are new to DF, take my advice and prepare to get booty snatched when you see them. Don’t fight it, let your tail feather ride that funky train. I wanted to do my chicken dance and bark like a dog at one point, but refrained for there were children around. They’re funny too; wearing big smiles most of the set and cracking jokes, you can tell these guys love what they do. Ivan Neville plays keyboards and his cousin, Ian Neville picks a sick Guitar. There is not one, but two badass bass players; Nick Daniels and Tony Hall and a beastly babe on drums, Nikki Glaspie. Quite frankly they are quality musicians with get-down energy urging you to release your inner funk.
Now with the crowd stirred up from Dumpsta, the hosts of Carnavalito, Asheville based dynamo group Toubab Krewe, came on stage, bringing the rain and sensual instrumentals. There is something about dancing in the rain that makes you feel so sexy, and with the Krewe caressing the crowd at the same time, there was a lot of love in the air. Of course there was mas booty shakin’, psychedelic salsa steppin’ and a totally unique fusion of sounds. And if I were to compare the set to food, it would be like a spicy African taco topped with grassy slaw and a side of sweet Latino jams. Okay, that sounds nasty, but there was a lot of flavor and instruments I had never seen before, such as the kora (21-string harp-lute), and a kamelengoni (12- string harp-lute) both played by Justin Perkins. The sounds coming from these beautiful instruments are twinkley and majestic, much like a harp, and makes TK’s sound that much more unusual. These boys have lived and studied in Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Mali picking up foreign sounds to bring back home with them. They went out with a bang. I remember a lot of lights flashing, being soaking wet and feeling totally revived.
After Toubab, the crowd made their way to the taproom to see DJ Equal and friends. I absolutely loved the progression from funk, to multicultural jam, to electronic with live percussion. DJ Equal was damn good, and when I realized it was Nikki Glaspie, the drummer from Dumpstaphunk bangin away, I was really impressed. Another super bonus to this dance party was we actually had elbow room. And if you got tired of dancing, you could go over and zone out at the fire pit! Friday night’s sequence of music and dancing was killer and I would put that night on my permanent week cycle in heaven. What? It was a good party!
Started off Saturday afternoon lying down on a blanket, smoking a rollie, trying to drink Pisgah pale ale, which is really hard to do by the way, and to my great amusement, silly things started occurring on stage. Not only did Carnavalito cater tunes for the adults, but they had a hip-hop or “kid-hop” group for the youngins. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is an upbeat family group wearing funny hats, who has seen quite a bit of success in 5 years. The group consists of Dad-23 Skidoo, Mom-Booty Sattva, and ten-year old daughter-MC Fireworks. They were good and made me want to do good things and not bully people. Now I know what you must be thinking, she must havebeen stoned to have enjoyed children’s rap, but I was not, I tell you!. I was hung-over rather and their poetry made me feel better about my self as they were positive lyrics with catchy melodies. And the kids loved it! If only they had some sort of fuzzy, fat mascot, then I would have been fully satisfied.
Saturday night was mellow, perhaps due to Donna the Buffalo’s performance, loads of folks being hung-over from the previous night or the lack of funk thereof. Donna the Buffalo, great band (they play well together) and performance, but as I mentioned earlier, I was straight chillin, tapping my toes all comfy-like on a blanket when they performed. They started out kinda country, then headed down to the bayou, a little reggae, some rock and roll and bam you have an eclectic band. No desire to chicken dance and I didn’t scrunch my face, but I enjoyed their tunes. Especially when the accordion made its debut sending zydeco chills down my spine. All of the sudden I wanted crawfish and grilled nutria while scoping for gators, but I’m not that magical of a person.
Tara Nevins has a great voice and is definitely an Americana mama! Does anyone else think she has a Stevie Nicks thing going on? Come to find out DTB has an incredible following that have raised tens of thousands of dollars for different charity organizations. There was even a mini jam cruise to the Caribbean where about 850 fans plus the band partied together. How awesome is that? I will definitely be keeping tabs on DTB due to their charm and easy listening vibe. You can find out more about their charities here: http://www.herdcharity.org
Toubab was scheduled to play two sets Saturday night and I’m sad to say I only caught the first. I missed the late night show also with Equal which is sad. I’m sure someone will write about it…eeek bad mojo I know. Any who…Toubab’s mood was a folky, bluegrass jam this go around. There was less sexiness, except for the bass player (cough cough), and it was slightly chaotic with people coming on and off stage, not knowing when to take a break, losing band members, switching instruments, issues with the sound-which I can imagine is hard for the sound guy to keep track of 15 people, but it didn’t bother me. Those funky African instruments were back and I was still trying to guess what they were when I noticed Rayna Gellert in the mix playing her fiddle adding a bluegrass flair. And then Tara Nevins came on stage to join the fiddle puddle. You know what they say, it’s always better to have two fiddlers than one. I just made that up but you know it’s true!
It’s pretty amazing to me, actually, how both nights had really organic progressions and themes. Friday was more of the get-down sexy party time thanks to starting it off right with funk and Saturday was the wholesome family, mellow, folk, traditional goodness. At least what I saw anyways, who knows what freaky shit happened while I was gone. It would be just my luck that trolls under the bridge came out to drink a beer and eat children, or if Dumpstaphunk came back for another round. I got to experience sophisticated, multicultural, eclectic music with fusions I’ve never heard before.
Toubab Krewe put together a hell of a show and I sense genuine passion for what they are doing. They have big hearts to boot. According to their website “TK will donate one dollar from every Carnavalito ticket purchased to Instruments for Africa, a not-for-profit organization that aims to empower underprivileged and at-risk youth in Mali through the preservation of traditional music and arts. TK and Instruments for Africa have launched a campaign to build the Krewe House, a music school project set to break ground in 2013.” Right on, boys! Pisgah, I’ll be back for beer, kombucha, music, mountains and fresh air and TK, well done my friends, well done. Look for Toubab Krewe at the Afro Roots Music Festival, in Miami, FL, July 21st.and Floyd Fest at the end of the month.