North Carolina Newspapers

    6The Daily Tar HeelTuesday, September 26, 1989
Local band Dillon Fence
The college radio scene in Chapel
Hill enigmatic names, young faces,
simple chords and underground lyrics.
How can a band distinguish itself from
the pack?
"Sometimes I think we need Elvis to
come back and join Dillon Fence," said
Kent Alphin, one of Dillon Fence's two
The members of Dillon Fence, not
including Elvis, are Alphin; Greg
Humphreys, lead singer and guitarist;
bass player Chris Goode; and Trent
Pitts on drums. Humphreys is a senior
at UNC and Alphin is a 1989 graduate.
The band was formed two and a half
years ago. "We started opening up for
other acts at fraternity parties, and then
we got to know Keith at the Cat's
Cradle," said Alphin. "He really helped
us out."
Alphin described how the group
chose the name Dillon Fence. "We
started talking about how a lot of our
Juilliard Quartet opens season
If Sunday night's concert of the
nationally acclaimed Juilliard String
Quartet is any indication of what is to
come, the Raleigh Chamber Music
Guild's 1989-90 season will be an over
whelming success.
As the opening performance of the
season, Sunday night's concert in Ste
wart Theatre at N.C. State University
was nothing short of amazing.
The four performers, Robert Mann,
Joel Smirnoff, Samuel Rhodes and Joel
Krosnick, demonstrated such talent for
listening to each other while perform
ing that they continuously achieved a
beautifully balanced quartet sound at
any dynamic level, whether playing
classical or contemporary music.
The performers opened with Felix
Energy, musical maturity highlight Michael W. Smith concert
The colored lights came up on his
zebra-striped suit, the black and cream
colored horizontal stripes of the over
sized jacket clearly delineated on the
dimly lit, foggy stage as Michael W.
Smith made his way down a ramp with
the words of his first song ringing out:
"I'll help you find your way."
As part of his i 2 ( eye) tour this fall,
Smith performed at UNC's Memorial
Hall Sunday night to an audience who '
enthusiastically received his Christian
rock message the inherent value and
importance of being one's true self.
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Band Profile
relatives got married in Dillon, the
closest town in South Carolina to the
North Carolina border. We kind of
wanted to keep the Southern rock tradi
tion with the name, not be (something
like) the Eclectic Test Tube Babies."
Rehearsals and concerts are differ
ent dynamics for the group. "When we
rehearse, we usually work on new songs.
Our old songs, we play so much, we
don't go over them that much,"
Humphreys said.
"What rehearsals?" Alphin said. "We
never practice."
Interaction between group members
during a concert is an important part of
the band's shows, Alphin said. "We're
real silly. I'm more reserved than they
Gretchen Davis
Mendelssohn's Quartet No. 2 in A
minor, Opus 13. From the quiet but
purposeful beginning of the first move
ment it was apparent that first violinist
Robert Mann was "in charge." The
other performers looked to him for
changes in tempo, followed his lead
when he used rubato and watched him
for all entrances and cutoffs.
Between the movements of the
Mendelssohn there was complete si
lence all attention remained riveted
on the stage. The quartet's playing
Helen Jones
Unlike his efforts to concentrate
primarily on rock and roll with the
1986-87 The Big Picture tour, Smith's
present focus is on writing and per
forming the whole range of music he
cares about, from hard-driving rock to
mellow ballads and keyboard instru
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are. I spend most of my time laughing
at Chris. He's a Tasmanian bass player.
Greg's the smoothie. We're very dif
ferent on stage. We try to give each
other mean looks if we screw up."
Although the band has started play
ing engagements other than fraternity
parties, Alphin said the crowds at those
parties could be positive. "A lot of the
time the crowd is less inhibited to throw
a beer on stage," he said.
"We really feed off the crowd,"
Humphreys said. "If there's a good
energetic crowd, we really put our
selves into it. If it's a pathetic group we
get pretty lackadaisical."
The two agreed the band's best show
was opening for the Connells at the
Raleigh Civic Center. "Basically, be
cause it wis a bunch of screaming teen
agers thinking we were some band from
California signed on a major label, and
we somehow got the same idea in our
head," Alphin said, explaining why he
demanded intense concentration, be
cause the audience knew if it didn't pay
close attention, it would miss some
thing important and wonderful. The
music was played with such obvious
care and study that every measure was
a significant contribution to the overall
The dynamic range was exquisite in
all movements of the Romantic Men
delssohn. The pianissimo phrases were
so gentle and delicate, but still so clear
and vibrant, that it was tempting to
crane forward or even sit up on the
stage just to be closer to it. Every cli
max and crescendo was treated as
though it were the final breathtaking
cadence. The performers also played
with impressive rhythmic precision in
Smith's freedom to express himself
in many ways, regardless of what's hot
in mainstream rock, showed Sunday
night in his relaxed attitude toward the
audience, as well as in the selections he
played and sang.
Still primarily a "music man" who
lets his songs speak for themselves,
Smith made a pronounced effort to
describe what has been happening in
his life during the past few years. The
music from his most recent album, i 2
(eye), shows an .added maturity and a
more autobiographical picture than
many career
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chose that performance as the band's
best. "We thought we were hot shot
rock V roll stars for a night."
Audiences don't always act so en
thusiastically, or even predictably,
Humphreys said. "One time we were
playing at a club, and a very drunk army
guy, enlisted man, was screaming at us
to play the (expletive) Clash for about
an hour and shaking his fist in our faces.
He finally passed out on the stage and
threw up."
The band doesn't have a unified
"look" for concerts; each member
dresses in his own style. "Chris, he's
definitely the heavy metal member of
the band. He comes clad in leather,
boots, cigarettes, and long hair. Greg
and Trent are the cool fraternity image
the Duck Heads and a cool T-shirt.
I wear plain jeans, a T-shirt, and my
Pumas," Alphin said.
. But being in a band isn't all games
and glory, Humphreys said. "We're
with outstanding performance
their bowing as well as their pizzicato.
The Mendelssohn ended as quietly and
serenely as it began, leaving the audi
ence disappointed the piece had to end
but satisfied because it had done so
The concert continued with Stefan
Wolpe's Quartet, in two movements,
written for and dedicated to the Juil
liard String Quartet. The music proved
the quartet' s versatility. The techniques
used to obtain the desired effect (such
as swooping slides between pitches)
were decidedly un-classical. The piece
is characterized by kinetic movement
all the way through, and it aggressively
holds the audience's attention by its
sheer intensity. Sunday night's version
ended with a single, independent note
previous music illustrated by the tal
ented 31 -year-old keyboardist, song
writer and singer.
He sang for two hours to a crowd of
about 1,500, which was dominated by
college and high school students, and
he played most of the songs from i 2
(eye) and The Big Picture as well as a
few old favorites from his previous
Concert highlights included a spir
ited rendition of "Secret Ambition" that
ignited the crowd after a set of mellow
tunes. The song describes the threat
Jesus posed to the authorities of his day
and their confusion over his purpose.
Also on the fast-moving side, "Old
Enough to Know" caused an explosion
of dancing in the aisles, and "Live and
Learn" continued the fireworks. Judg
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with 'bent pop'
putting out an EP ourselves on our own
record label. But it's just been really
hard, because we've been having to
save all our money. And it's hard to get
a sense of organization, to keep your
sense of determination about the rec
ord, and to keep from getting demoral
ized." Dillon Fence members say it's hard
to pigeonhole their music. "I'd defi
nitely say we have a pop muse,"
Humphreys said. "We're in love with
the really good hooks you hum in your
head. We try to add our own touch to
everything we do. One reviewer called
it 'bent pop' and I really like that."
Alphin agreed. "It's pop. It's funk.
It's funk pop. That's exactly what it is.
We've got a real clean sound."
The band has varied musical influ
ences, including Elvis Costello, Jimmy
Hendrix, Led Zepplin, R.E.M. and the
Alphin reflected on the group's
held strikingly by the violist.
After the intermission, the perform
ance was continued with Beethoven's
Quartet in A minor, Opus 132. This five
movement quartet was the centerpiece
of the concert, demonstrating beyond
any doubt why the Juilliard String
Quartet has a reputation of matchless
Beethoven interpretation and perform
ance. The first movement started haunt
ingly with a sustained cello note and
soon grew into a full sound which
seemed produced by many more than
just four instruments. There was less a
sense of Mann being the "director" in
this piece; all the musicians seemed
equally in control but still amazingly
together. The harmonies and the tuning
ing by their grins and energy, Smith
and his band clearly were having a
good time, and the audience ran with it.
On a more mellow note, Smith and
lead guitarist William Owsley ended
"Leesha," a haunting melody written
out of Smith's grief over the death of a
teenage neighbor in an automobile
accident, with a unique keyboard and
guitar duet. The two instruments
blended the melodic line and comple
mented each other unexpectedly well.
In his introduction to "The Last
Letter," Smith described a letter he
received from a young man named John,
who was about to commit suicide when
hearing the song stopped him. In a
moving gesture, Smith told the crowd,
"I dedicate this song to any other Johns
in the audience tonight."
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songwriting, and he picked "Why" as
the band's best song. "It's about love
and cars and alcohol," he said.
Humphreys chose "Preppy Dead
head" as the worst song. "It was just a
jokey, campy satiric song of rich frat
people nothing meant to last. And
now, when we play a fraternity, I'll see
a fraternity, freshly-scrubbed guy with
a tie-dye on asking us to play that song,
and I wish I hadn't written it, because it
makes them feel they have a legitimate
The band has very definite goals,
Humphreys said. "Hopefully, an EP in
the second week of October. We're
doing a double release with Satellite
Boyfriend and we'll be mailing them
out to college radio, selling them in the
The group's long term goal is to get
signed by a record label, he said. "We
would enjoy being able to make a living
playing our music."
were deftly handled throughout all the
movements characteristically Juil
liard and characteristically Beethoven.
The middle movements were full of
varied dynamic ranges, tempo and
mood, but it was neither overdone nor
mechanically carried out. The crescen
dos and de crescendos were played
with glorious feeling, and the piece
built up to the climactic fifth movement
steadily and with increasing intensity.
The final movement was of a com
pletely different character: a dancing
melody with exquisite ornamentation.
The performers handled this transition
beautifully and continued on to end the
performance with all the triumph and
grace expected from Beethoven's
In "Thy Word " a song written by
Smith and recorded by Amy Grant,
Smith quoted several verses from Psalm
139 during a keyboard interlude to
amplify his theme of the individual's
worth in God's eyes. Instead of preach
ing at the audience, he spoke eye to eye
to them about his own experiences and
involved the crowd by asking it to join
in singing the last refrain.
The band members played well to
gether, and their energy and excitement
added a great deal to the performance.
Keyboardist Mark Heimermann, who
sported a Carolina Tar Heel T-shirt,
and guitarist Owsley were especially
enthusiastic. Guy Moscoso, on alto and
soprano sax and flute, turned in notable
solos on "Hand of Providence," "On
the Other Side" and "Live and Learn."
Renee Garcia, the background vo
calist, was also featured in a three-song
set in the middle of the performance.
She showed a talent for exciting the
crowd, which the opening act, Marga
ret Becker, seemed to lack. Becker
played six songs, primarily from her
new album Immigrant's Daughter.
The show's chief flaw was the 25
minutes needed to set up Smith's key
boards and other equipment after Becker
finished, evidence that all the kinks
were not yet worked out on this third
stop of a 40-city tour.
But Smith's outstanding perform
ance overshadowed the lull created by
the wait after the opening act. His
confidence, ability to communicate with
the audience and newfound musical
maturity combined to create a concert
with unmistakable depth and meaning.
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