Fifteen ago The Balsa Gliders stopped listening to indie rock and started playing it.

The Gliders are a loose collective of North Carolinians who formed friendships in Chapel Hill during the 1990s. Their spirited live shows recall some of the anthemic indie rock from the ‘90s that made the Triangle famous. The melodies echo local bands from Let’s Active to Portastatic to even Archers of Loaf.

Now based in Raleigh, Charlotte, D.C. and various other places The Balsa Gliders write and perform alongside an assortment of decidedly “non-indie” day jobs. Bassist Greg Jones is an Episcopal rector with fondness for Motown and Zeppelin. Ben Davis and Charles Marshall are media lawyers who trade Guided By Voices tabs over lunch. Mike Ferguson is a surgeon who loves Propellerhead tools. Chuck Price works at a big bank and admits to liking Better than Ezra. Russ Tisinger has some sort of PhD. They tour in a mini-van.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A very cool review of our show at Southland Ballroom this past Saturday by Jordan Rogers (of Can see the full review here.
There’s something to be said for putting on a good show. I will try to prove that in the following stanzas. Like The Balsa Gliders’ songs, each chapter will be energetic but short. This is a collection of thoughts and reflections from that particular night, not necessarily the band itself, and, like The Balsa Gliders, it will not be in any chronological order.
The band obviously connects with the crowd. Everything feels like it’s in the right place.

This is a list of a few items on stage:
One Boss Chromatic Tuner pedal.
One pint of an amber beer, half drank.
A pair of shoes, sans feet.
One Fender Strat (non-hipster).
Several purses, from the crowd.
An opened 12oz bottle of beer (next to the purses).

These items were scattered about. None seemed particularly in the wrong or right spot. The band members kept their beers no more than a few inches from where the female showgoers laid their purses; like they're at one of the musicians houses — everyone is friends.
The tuner pedal seemed particularly askew. It's roughly halfway in-between the drummer and mic stand for the main vocalist. Its placement seemed to say “Maybe we’ll stay in tune. Maybe we won’t. Fuck you if you care.” It’s great. It’s that type of show, and the type of show everyone came to see: just good times.

It's hard to describe what you're listening too. It's music. Good music. It’s like Cake hung out with Billie Joe Armstrong in high school but lost the fake British accent and took some tips from Weezer along the way. I’m sure there’s a beach in the story somewhere. It’s that kind of music: laidback but with a verve beneath the surface.
At some point the audience is told there will be a “Widespread” moment. They aren't lied to.

The lyrics do what they’re supposed to. There were lines about Virginia Commonwealth basketball; lyrics about AP reporters; salad dressings were mentioned. It makes sense. Because it doesn’t have to. But it works.

The band improvises at will. The vocalist Charles Marshall steps to the mic like Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage, controls the tempo, calls audibles if he needs to. They speak openly about each song on stage; discuss options. These are business meetings on the fly. It seems like each verse and note is up for interpretation. You get the feeling they’ve never played a song the same way twice — life’s too short.

There’s a band member who has to be called back to the stage. He’d left for a draft beer. It’s the drummer, who’s retrieved his beverage of choice and returned. I slowly realize it’s the guy who invited me to cover the show. I see this as a good omen.
I’d never specifically been asked by name to cover a show. I’ve written for the media outlets that are asked, and I’m sent by them, but I've never been directly invited. I’m flattered. My only goal is to use “I” as little as possible in the review. I hope I can but I probably won't.
It’s a malleable sound. The audience is using it as they please. Some dance. Some curl up in booths — chillin’. Some drink and remember good times. Some do all of the above. The music works with all of them, it’s versatile.
The crowd uses the band, but, the band is using the crowd too. It’s understood. No one minds.

When I entered the venue, a nice young lady at the desk hooked me up with my press pass. Not being anywhere near a remembering frame of mind, I'd forgotten her name by the end of the show and a few beers. I wanted to make sure I remembered in case of a return — she had been nice and gave me some good directions. Walking out, I asked the doorman if he knew her name.
"She's nineteen," he responded.
Yeah, I could tell she was young, but do you know her name?"
"I'm sure it's something," he said.
I agreed and went about my night.

The audience is informed they’re about to hear a brand new song. This is not because it’s being played for the first time live, but because it’s literally only three weeks old. It might not even be finished yet. It’s going to be fun.

The show ends. The crowd lingers for drinks. They trickle out slowly. There’s no reason to hold on too long — they’ll be back. So will the band.