Heather Benson

Heather Benson is a lifestyle, sports, and entertainment writer for the Niner Times and from Raleigh, North Carolina. She is an English major and a journalism minor. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, and watching seasons at a time of Netflix shows.

UNCC Choral Carols in Gardens

The UNC Charlotte Music Department hosted a holiday choral concert in the Botanical Gardens Thursday afternoon, and it got everyone who attended in the holiday spirit. Men and women joined together to watch the school’s choral group sing in harmony under the garden’s gazebo.

The songs sung were composed in many different places around the world and during multiple time periods, such as 14th century Spain and 18th century Austria. Though presented in languages not known by everyone there, the holiday cheer and religious meaning was easily translated by the audience through feeling and melody.

The songs were simply beautiful. The voices of the choral students not only harmonized with each other, but blended with the natural sounds that the location provided. The gazebo sat on the edge of a trickling creek and the brush of the leaves touching the ground added to the ambiance. With the mix of the Christmas music and the cold chill in the air, it was easy to imagine the ground littered with snow.

Though snow wasn’t there to make the occasion even more holiday themed, the choral group made up for it in their attire. Dressed in red, green, gold and white, the group was able to increase the holiday feeling before even opening their mouths. In addition, hot cider was offered to every guest by their host, making it impossible to be a Scrooge while watching this holiday concert.

The choral group’s care for one another showed in each song they sang. By smiling, laughing and having fun during and after each song, they encouraged the audience to have a good time as well.

Though most of their songs were unknown to the audience, they ended their hour long concert with four well-known classics: “Silent Night,” “Deck the Halls,” “Joy to the World” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” With those familiar songs playing in their heads, audience members left with smiles on their faces and cravings for candy canes.

TV REVIEW: ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’

WARNING: This article will be filled with spoilers as well as personal and 100% biased opinions on said spoilers.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.

Nostalgia alert! “Gilmore Girls” is back people and it’s back with full force. Last week, Netflix released “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” which picks up ten years after the last season of the original series. The four, 90-minute episodes each take place during a specific season throughout a year’s time, hence the title, and each is jam-packed with plot. Everyone in Stars Hollow somehow remained hilarious, sentimental and adorable in the ten years since we saw them last.

Fans began their journey with the Gilmore Girls back in 2000, when the story centered around a young single mom of a 16-year-old. Single mom, Lorelai, had some serious mommy/daddy issues since instead of the society-approved socialite that they wanted her to be, she became a teen mom rebellion who moved out at 16.

Fast forward to when the show ended in 2007: Lorelai finally put an end to the love triangle debacle and chose Luke after a failed (and forced) marriage with Christopher, her daughter Rory’s father and the first love of her life. Rory graduated from Yale, turned down a marriage proposal from Logan Richie-Rich Huntzberger and left Stars Hollow to join the press trail of Barack Obama. As for the relationship between Lorelai and her parents, which was a central issue throughout the series, things ended on a hopeful note when Lorelai agreed to still attend Friday night dinners with her parents even after Rory left. Many fans at that time felt cheated with the ending of the series. Amy Sherman-Palladino and her director husband Daniel left the show before the last season. Because of that, many fans felt that the last season didn’t measure up to the ones before it and didn’t have the ending that Sherman-Palladino had in mind when she created the show. Sherman-Palladino herself admitted that she had four specific words in mind for how she wanted the show to close and “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” was finally her chance to do that.

Now that we’re all caught up to the year 2007, I think it’s finally time to talk about the recent revival. Grab yourself some strong coffee, order something fattening (I suggest pizza, because how could you go wrong?) and snuggle up for a nice long read, Rory Gilmore style.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.

We start in winter and guess what? I smell snow. They begin the show with flashbacks of dialogue from the past series playing over a black screen with the starting credits. We then hear the familiar music as the camera pans over the town we know to be Stars Hollow. I must admit, it was enough to bring tears to my eyes. As a fan for so long, I awaited this revival with gut-wrenching anticipation and excitement for a resolution that I, like many others, felt cheated out of nine years ago. Writers set the scene immediately in the first episode on where our characters are now, as well as where they have been in the past ten years. The episode sets up our three Gilmore women, Emily, Lorelai and Rory, all at different points of their lives and all struggling pretty hard. Rory, a 32-year-old journalist in a world with less and less print media, is struggling to find her life path. Meanwhile, Lorelai is feeling her mortality and lack of goals. After nine strong years with Luke (ah, finally…), she still has no ring on her finger (uh, seriously?). Emily over in Hartford seems to be having a crisis of her own. With the recent death of her 50-year husband Richard, previously played by the late great Edward Herrmann, Emily is feeling lost in her grief while her relationship with her daughter Lorelai has never been worse.

“Gilmore Girls” talk fast and their plots move just as quick. The writers, which are the writers that created “Gilmore Girls” all those years ago, stayed true to the original tone of the show. “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” gave fans the same feelings of relatability, love and familiarity while also creating the need for answers to questions they didn’t even know they had.

Overall, I thought the revival of “Gilmore Girls” was great. I laughed, I cried, I screamed. I enjoyed how seamless it was to the “Gilmore Girls” that I remembered. It was like slipping into an old, comfy pair of jeans that I didn’t think were going to fit because I hadn’t worn them since 2007, but they mysteriously fit perfectly and I felt both confident and suspicious, because I knew that it’s more than likely only a one time thing. Yup, I felt all of that… And then some.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.

I had some things that I really loved and some things that absolutely left me enraged. First, let’s talk about Kirk for a second. His storyline in the original series was small, but always brought the humor and, let’s be honest, the weirdness. But to quote Rory Gilmore on this one, “I was bred in weirdness,” so I always appreciated it. I adore Kirk. His storyline in the revival was probably the most satisfying for me. We see all the best aspects of Kirk that we saw in the series: his dancing, his singing, his filmmaking, his crazy ideas and “inventions.” However, the best Kirk moment in the four episode revival, and maybe the entire series, is at the end of the last episode. He turned Luke and Lorelai’s last minute wedding (can it be last minute if it’s been ten years?) into a magical “Alice in Wonderland” love extravaganza. For all that Kirk has gone through since fans met him in season one, it was nice to see him finally happy and appreciated.

Everyone else’s storylines were not that simple however and boy, do I wish they were. Let’s go through the Gilmore Girls in order of most to least satisfying, shall we?

When we see Emily Gilmore in winter, she is still grieving her husband Richard’s passing. Her grief seems to have consumed her, taking over her life, her relationships, her personality and her wardrobe. Although her relationship has remained unchanged with her precious Rory and that’s nice to see, it was disappointing to find out that her relationship with her own daughter, Lorelai, has the same bitter, grudge-filled quality that it had in the first season of the original series and it may have actually gotten worse in the time gap. Although I could never imagine Lorelai and Emily having the best friend relationship that Lorelai has with Rory, I would have hoped that their relationship would have improved a little more in the 16 years since we met these characters in 2000.

In these episodes, we see Emily Gilmore completely broken and because she was a forever strong, stone traditionalist, it was hard to see as a fan but completely understandable and effective. Without Richard, Emily wasn’t truly Emily. Somehow, she still doesn’t get the love or support she needs from Lorelai, making the situation even more sad. It was nice to see the pair together at Richard’s funeral (before Lorelai ruins it) and together at therapy. However, I would have liked to see a little more progress in their relationship. My favorite moment between the pair, and one of my favorite moments from the entire revival, was when Lorelai went to California to “do Wild” and called Emily to retell her favorite moment with her father. It was touching, heartfelt, genuine and of course I cried. But other than a “thank you, Lorelai,” nothing is really said by Emily. I understand that much is said in the subtext, but I would have liked a little more than just “thank you.” I also felt there was a lot of potential in their therapy sessions, that that could have been a great place for some clarity between the both of them, that Lorelai would begin to recognize her selfishness, but that didn’t happen. In the end, it was nice to see Emily happy and slowly beginning to grow out of her grief. I think the writers handled the death of Richard and thereby the death of Edward Herrmann, really beautifully. I couldn’t have imagined it any better. However, I would have liked to have seen some emotional resolution between Emily and Lorelai.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.

Speaking of Lorelai, her story arc seemed a little cheated. When I finished season seven, the last season of “Gilmore Girls,” I was pretty angry that Lorelai and Luke ended up together at the last possible moment, making the audience miss out on their potential (probable) wedding. So, when I saw that they still weren’t married and that that was a huge plot point in the revival, I thought “surely, they can’t do this to me again.” Guess what. They did. Remember when I said that there were things that had me enraged? This is definitely one of them. The fact that so many people weren’t there to see them get married… Let’s go through the list: number one, Emily. Seriously? Seriously? She has now missed out on both of her daughter’s weddings. Liz. TJ. Jess. Sookie. Miss Patty. The whole town should have been there. The audience should have been there. They imply that they’ll have a second, unofficial wedding for that reason, but I waited so long to see them get married and that miniature one they had with music playing over the dialogue just didn’t cut it.

Also, I understood that Lorelai was going through her mid-life crisis, but what was with the 20 minute hiking trip? I liked the conclusion of that trip, what she learned about herself and the loss of her father, but I don’t understand why that trip took up so much time in the last episode. That time spent on the Wild reference could have been used for other things (like maybe a wedding that I had been waiting for for ten years). A part of me thinks that those scenes were just used to plug in Lauren Graham’s ex-co-stars from “Parenthood.” Either way, I’m happy with the conversation between Lorelai and her mother that it leads to, as well as the speech that Luke gives Lorelai when he thinks she’s leaving him (seriously, how sweet was that?!), but the time leading up to those things was wasted considering there wasn’t a lot of time spent post-emotional speeches.

Luke and Lorelai’s relationship was something that made me feel like no time had passed between now and the end of the series. Their characters and their dialogue was like jumping into a time warp. I was pleased to see that Lorelai hadn’t changed Luke at all. He was still delightfully stubborn and didn’t put up with any Gilmore sass. I also liked seeing Luke able to fully step into the father role with Rory. It always felt, whether Lorelai was with him or not, that Luke was the father figure in Rory’s life in the series since Christopher wasn’t always around. So, it was nice to see him fully embrace that role, the role he always truly deserved.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.

As far as Rory, her storyline was by far the least satisfying for me. First of all, I felt Rory was extremely different to the person she was when the show ended. She seemed a lot more selfish than she used to be and almost a little mean. Not to mention, she’s having an affair with Logan Huntzberger, who is engaged and treats her like the ultimate side chick. Since when is Rory Gilmore happy with being a mistress?

That brings me to the conclusion of the show. Because of the feverish anticipation for the last four words that the writers created, fans had many different opinions and emotions when they finally heard the big finale.

“Mom,” Rory said.


“I’m pregnant.”

*Cut to credits as the familiar theme song plays, leaving fans on the very edge of a cliff, hanging and most likely crying.*

It is pretty obvious that the father of Rory’s baby is Logan after their night of adventure with the Life and Death Brigade. (How great was that by the way? Who wouldn’t want to play golf on top of Doose’s Market?) Although, there is the tiniest chance that the father is her one night stand, the Wookiee, because why even include that if it’s not important? However, the likelihood is that it’s Logan’s. So, here’s my theory: they have set up Lorelai’s life story all over again, except Rory is an adult. Logan Huntzberger is Rory’s Christopher, the rich, never quite right for her, father of her child. Jess, the beautiful, perfect Jess, is her Luke, the true love of her life, always there to steer her in the right direction and tell her exactly what she needs to hear. If that’s the case, then it makes my tiny heart happy to know that she ends up with Jess, since I was without a doubt a Jess girl from the very beginning. However, I fear that if the “Gilmore Girls” team continue this, which they probably will since the reaction and paycheck from this revival was so great, that in an attempt to make Rory’s story different to her mother’s, she won’t end up with Jess. And if that happens, what’s the point? Everyone knows that Jess is the one for Rory. He’s everything that we love about Luke, plus he reads.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Television/Netflix.

I watched the revival of “Gilmore Girls” to see two things that I thought should have been included in the last season. I wanted to see the big wedding between Luke and Lorelai with the entire town there, with a touching moment between her and her mother and with the happy ending that writers built towards in the entirety of the series. And secondly, I wanted to see Rory with Jess. I wanted to see her admit to herself, to Jess and to the audience that it was always supposed to be him. I wanted a real “Notebook” moment because that’s what the characters deserved. Rory deserved to be happy with someone who really knew and understood every part of her, who always loved her for who she was. It was obvious in the series that their relationship was never really over, that she was always going to be the love of his life and we saw that continued ten years later in the revival when he sets her back on the right track (again) and stares at her longingly through the window. The fact that both of the things that I was looking for when watching “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” were not shown, but instead just alluded to, left me furious. It ended with the same lack of resolution as the series did ten years ago, which was extremely unsatisfying to say the least. I felt like Paris Geller when she kicked that bathroom door.

However, to say I love “Gilmore Girls” is an understatement. It is only because Amy Sherman-Palladino is so talented in creating realistic characters and captivating storylines that I am so passionate about this show and where it’s going. “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” fulfilled its destiny in calling to all “Gilmore Girl” fans and saying that their story is never over. I’m sure a new year with the “Gilmore Girls” will appear in our Netflix queues soon enough, and when it does I’m sure I will be just as passionately irritated at my investment with beautifully written fictional characters.

Los Angeles Comedians Gain New Fans In Charlotte

Students filed into Cone after hours Friday, Nov. 11, at their chance to see two great comedians from Los Angeles. Daphnique Springs and Barry Brewer came to UNC Charlotte to share some laughs and give some advice to the college students at an event entitled “Friday Night Live.”

Springs was the first to take the stage. Her approach to comedy was sassy and smart, a nice way to open the night. Her topics of discussion ranged from dating to race to sex, which kept the attention of her audience.

Photo by Chimena Ihebuzor.

Her set was very interactive. She often played off of people in the audience, choosing those who weren’t paying attention, the few texters in the crowd, or the uptight members who sat with their arms crossed to pick on. Even they had a hard time not laughing.

The main topic of her set seemed to be romance. Dating and sex were things she wanted to discuss. This gained the approval of her audience, many exclaiming a “yes, girl!” every once and awhile to show their enthusiasm.

After Springs, Barry Brewer was up. Straight from Hollywood, Brewer is definitely a new entertainer to watch. His style was conversational, making him seem friendly and approachable.

His set revolved mostly around his life as a father while living in Los Angeles. Though the majority of the crowd was childless, he made his jokes relatable by making them realistic.

Photo by Heather Benson
Photo by Heather Benson

While most comics say that their jokes aren’t jokes at all but real life events, some still remain unbelievable, making you question if in fact they’re telling the truth. Brewer’s stories played like a movie in the minds of the audience, making them not only believable but extremely entertaining.

Though the pair was there to entertain, they both also made sure to take the time to talk about more serious topics. Because the election was still so fresh, it seemed that it was on everyone’s minds. Brewer took the time to mention that.

He talked about the election briefly and the riots that followed shortly after. Without giving his own personal opinion, he spoke to the audience about the importance of unity throughout the United States, no matter what race, religion, sexual orientation, or political party.

“You and I,” he said to a man sitting in the second row. “We are more alike than we are different.”

At the very end of the night, he mentioned the topic again reminding the college students sitting in front of him that they are our country’s future.

The combination of comedy, advice, and the small venue led to an intimate show and one that led to laughs as well as reflection.

Standing With Standing Rock

Photo by Heather Benson

The performance of Larry Yazzie was promoted to students at UNC Charlotte as a Native American Dance concert, but it was so much more. Yazzie and manager/performer Christal Moose teamed together to take their audience on a musical and spiritual journey.

Before Moose introduced Yazzie, she took the time to tell her audience a little bit about their reservation culture and the issues that Native American people face every day, including the recent controversy at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the Dakotas. She then sang a song in which she expressed her gratefulness towards water and dedicated it to the Native American tribe at Standing Rock and the controversy itself. Her tone was meaningful, somber, and she held the rooms attention in her voice.

Photo by Heather Benson

When Larry Yazzie took the stage next, that attention didn’t waver. Throughout the show, the tone was meaningful. Yazzie began, after also speaking about Standing Rock and Native American culture, with a flute song. Like Moose, Yazzie dedicated his song to the tribes affected by the Dakota Pipeline Controversy. The song was beautiful. The slow, captivating tones of the flute transported the audience to their reservation. The room filled with a powerful mood. It was clear to the audience how much this performance meant to Yazzie and Moose.

Yazzie then dominated the stage with a dance. The beat of the drum pulsated throughout the room and through Yazzie as he danced. He was adorned in eagle wings, which seemed most appropriate when he “flew” in small circles around the stage. The performance was powerfully symbolic and after the dance concluded, Christal Moose took the stage again to tell the audience just how symbolic it was.

When a member of the audience asked her about the storytelling aspect of their culture and how that is included in their everyday lives, Moose replied, “Every day becomes our history; every day becomes a story.” She further explained that the dances they do, the songs they sing, every part of their life means something. Their songs and dances are prayers to their creator. She explained to the audience that the Native American people live very grateful lives. They don’t succumb to bitterness or anger at the past, but instead look at their history as a culture as powerful.

Moose then opened the eyes of many audience members by telling them that at the time of first contact, when Europeans came to North America, there were around 98 million Native Americans living in North America. However, because of disease and warfare, Native Americans are less than 1% of the United States population today. She said this is what makes the controversy at Standing Rock so huge, and why her and Yazzie feel it’s important to travel and educate people on Native American culture.

After answering questions from the audience, Moose and Yazzie encouraged everyone to get in a circle where Yazzie taught everyone in the room a Native American dance. Yazzie pointed out that the people in that circle were of different races, ethnicities, religions, and creeds, but came together in that moment to connect in dance. It was the perfect way to end a meaningful and touching performance by Larry Yazzie and Christal Moose.

Flow Tribe Leave Their Charlotte Audience Smiling

The Double Door Inn is a fun dive bar on a dark uptown Charlotte street. It’s small but filled to the brim with character and the friendliness of the people inside it. It’s a place that obviously has its regulars but welcomes newcomers with open arms. That’s exactly what they did with New Orleans band, Flow Tribe, last Friday night.

Photo by Heather Benson
Photo by Heather Benson

That night, the bar began to fill and the drinks began to flow as the band took the stage. Immediately, the band’s upbeat energy spread throughout the room. Their physical look included bright green parachute pants and the greatest cheetah print suit jacket/tie combination. Without them even playing a note, the crowd was excited for what was to come. When the band began their first song, the audience was pleasantly surprised by their unique funk rock sound. The room couldn’t help but smile.

Sometimes at concerts, there are moments when it’s obvious to the audience that the band is performing out of obligation, that the show they’re watching is something the band does every night and have no excitement for anymore. That fact changes the mood and energy of the performance, making the room almost stiff. That was not the case for Flow Tribe.

The reason their concert at the Double Door Inn was such a success, why the audience couldn’t help but smile and get invested in their songs, why the atmosphere they created was so fun, was because it was obvious that the band themselves were having the time of their lives. With each song they played, their love and appreciation for music shone through, intoxicating them and the audience with them. Though the venue was small, it was filled with the band’s personality and charisma.

Their songs were upbeat and catchy, making it impossible to sit still. Everyone in the bar, from the band to the audience to the bartenders, were dancing and swaying to the addictive beat of the drums and the twang of the guitar. Though the guitar, drums, bass, harmonica and vocals were the stars, Flow Tribe proved unique when they included a trumpet and metallic washboard. It was as if they brought New Orleans’ entire supply of funk, soul and creativity with them to Charlotte and put it on display with every song they played.

Photo by Heather Benson
Photo by Heather Benson

Not only were they musically talented, but their funny personalities and kindness to their audience members made Flow Tribe overall wonderful to watch. With this impeccable first impression, they gained brand new Charlotte fans that night.

For more information on the band, visit FlowTribe.com.
To contribute to their new album “BOSS,” produced by Mannie Fresh, check out their campaign on Kickstarter.

Eli Young Band Owns Coyote Joe’s Stage

Photo by Heather Benson

The lighting was dim and the beer was flowing at Coyote Joe’s last Friday night, Oct. 7, as the guests anticipated for the Eli Young Band to take the stage.

The night began as the house band brought the crowd to their feet. Men and women adorned in cowboy boots met on the dance floor to spend their time waiting on the Eli Young Band by dancing. They didn’t have long to wait, however. As the dance floor filled and people pressed against the stage, the band came out full of energy and ready to perform.

They did not disappoint. Their live sound was pure and genuine while their energy was positive and high. The audience swayed together as their songs ranged from slow to fast. No matter what, the crowd seemed to always know the words of the song they chose to play.

Excitement only grew as they began playing their newest single, “Saltwater Gospel,” from their upcoming album. The screens behind them filled with videos of ocean water and salty sand. The song transported the country themed Charlotte night club, Coyote Joe’s, onto a sunny tropical beach.

The crowd waited in anticipation for the band to play the fan’s favorite song, “Crazy Girl.” When James Young, the lead guitarist, played that first chord, the room filled with cheers. Everyone in the bar knew every word of the song, creating a unity between the audience and the band.

As they finished their set, the band said their goodbye’s, but the audience was not ready for the night to end. It wasn’t long after the band had walked offstage when the crowd began chanting, “Encore! Encore! Encore!”

The band returned to the stage, smiling and equally happy that the night wasn’t over. They played their last couple songs and officially ended the night by introducing each member of the band and thanking the crowd. They ran off of the stage to the loud sound of cheering from the very pleased audience.
For more information on the Eli Young Band, tour dates, and more, visit EliYoungBand.com.

ALBUM REVIEW: ’22, A Million’ – Bon Iver

Album art courtesy of the artist/Jagjaguwar.
Album art courtesy of the artist/Jagjaguwar.

Bon Iver’s first album in five years could be described as strange, experimental and reflective. The American indie-folk band is led by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon. With each song on the new album, “22, A Million,” Vernon does something different, original and thought provoking. The songs on “22, A Million” replace the old acoustic instruments that we know well from Bon Iver’s past work, such as their debut album released in 2007, “For Emma, Forever Ago,” with new electronic sounds.

“22, A Million” at times is very difficult. Without coherent instrumentals, it’s easy to get lost without a simple melody to follow along with. However, it seems that that may have been the artist’s point. With each album Bon Iver puts out, Vernon seems to be trying to experiment with something different. For this album, it’s clear that he wanted to focus on the unusual.

Although unusual in sound, there’s comfort in the fact that Bon Iver’s new songs each tell a relatable story. Each talk of heartbreak, loss and how to move on through difficult times, which makes the album personal and intimate. The stories make it easy to get past the strangeness, or to embrace the strangeness. Many of the songs ask a question of some sort. For example, the first song on the album, entitled “22 (OVER SOON),” questions the idea of the ending of something that has become comforting and usual. The song begins with the lyrics, “It might be over soon. Where you gonna look for confirmation?”

This theme of every song proposing a question instills the idea that Vernon may be questioning everything he’s ever known, which would inspire this new experimental sound and style. Overall, the album seems to question life’s meaning. On “715 – CREEKS,” Vernon writes “Oh, then how we gonna cry? Cause it once might not mean something.”

In 2009, Bon Iver released a song entitled “Woods.” “Woods” has no instruments, but instead is around five minutes of Auto-Tuned singing from Vernon. This song gained attention from many, including Kanye West who professed a deep admiration for both the song and the artist. This album has many of the same vibes that appear in the song “Woods.” Likewise, the album shares many sounds and ideologies that appear in Kanye West’s music, such as the questioning of life as we know it and society.

“22, A Million” only has ten songs and totals at 34 minutes, which is relatively short. However, the album is packed with originality and meaning. As mentioned before, the album begins with “22 (OVER SOON),” then moves on to songs “10 d E A T h b R E a s T,” “715 CREEKS” and “33 GOD,” which takes on themes such as love, violence and life’s meaning. The album’s center songs are “29 #Strafford APTS” and “666” which focus on heartbreak and life after losing a dreamlike love. The songs “21 MOON WATER,” “8 (circle)” and “45,” question forgiveness, anger and truth. The album concludes with “00000 Million,” which has the most lyrics of any song on the album and arguably the most meaning. This song, in many ways, summarizes the themes, questions and motifs that the songs before it brought up, as well as questions if he’s ever going to move on from them. The song is a haunting end to a meaningful album.

On “22, A Million,” listeners will hear a style that can be compared to Kanye West or Frank Ocean. Once used to the odd and eccentric electronic sounds, the audience will find meaning and story in every song as well as questions that they themselves might not know the answer to. Vernon was successful in creating a Bon Iver album that is both meaningful and strange.

Rating: 3.5/5

Go Download: “715 – CREEKS,” “10 Death Breast,” “00000 Million”

Related Artists: Volcano Choir, Iron & Wine, Kanye West

Record Label: Jagjaguwar, 4AD

Witt Lowry Rocks the Neighborhood Theatre

The line into the Neighborhood Theatre in North Davidson ran for blocks Friday, Sept. 16th. As the men and women entered the theatre one by one, the air was filled with excitement and anticipation of the night to come. Inside, the bartenders were cleaning glasses, the vendors were hanging shirts to sell and the musicians were preparing to rock the stage.

One of these musicians was Witt Lowry, a rapper from Connecticut whose real name is Mark Richard Jr. He performs with his executive producer Dan Haynes. The pair met in high school, but began working together later after they both gained experience performing separately. Together, the pair began recording songs and initially got their first buzz from a single called “Wake Up” off of an album later released entitled “Kindest Regards.” Although they got some offers from labels for record deals, the pair decided to turn them down and stay independent.

“We felt at the time that we could progress with our own style and drive as opposed to the more structured formula of a record label,” said Haynes. “Our main recording and music creation happens in our bedrooms, not big multi-million dollar studios. I think there’s a unique beauty to that.”

According to Haynes, one of the reasons for their success without a label has been the change in the way people listen to music.

“SoundCloud, YouTube and internet radios have been the main driver of the music as of late,” said Haynes. “Our fans have also been huge for spreading the music.”

As the heat of the theatre increased and the bass of the opening act, Daye Jack, shook the floor, the energy of those fans grew higher. That is when Witt Lowry and Dan Haynes took the stage. The crowd roared as their set began.

“We spent an unreal amount of time perfecting our setlist and it feels great to execute it to a packed house like we did in North Carolina,” said Haynes.

The set was fast paced and the crowd was invigorated by each song. The songs were personal, making it easy for the room to get caught up with emotion and feeling. Both Haynes and Lowry interacted with the crowd during and in between each song.

“To see people go from talking to friends or texting or getting a drink at the bar to staring and jumping and feeding off of our energy in the first few minutes never gets old,” said Haynes.

Although their performance concluded, the show wasn’t over. The energy in the room reached its peak as Watsky, a rapper from California, concluded the night.

After the show, the artists took the time to thank their fans, to sign their merchandise and of course, to take countless selfies.

“A genuine fan base has always been extremely important to us,” said Haynes. He also said they “strive to have a personal connection with as many people as possible.”

When asked if the pair had any advice for the UNCC student who is struggling to find their passion in college, they said, “pursue something you love. Even if you don’t succeed, it beats failing at something you can’t stand. If you’re struggling finding that calling, you’re in the perfect spot to try everything under the sun. Study abroad, join clubs, dabble in everything you can while you have the resources and ability to do so. Once you find that niche, run with it, put the time in and don’t let anything slow you down!”

For more information on Witt Lowry, search for them on all social media sites where you will find tour dates, music, and more!

James Young tells us what life is like in the Eli Young Band

Photo courtesy of the Eli Young Band.
Photo courtesy of the Eli Young Band.

Before the Eli Young Band come to Charlotte on October 7 at Coyote Joe’s, James Young, the lead guitarist, took the time to talk to the Niner Times about life on tour, their upcoming album and some advice for the UNCC student.

I’m a big fan, so I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me this morning. How’s the tour going?

No problem. It’s going really good! Ya know, it seems like we’re always on tour. We’re having a lot of fun playing new songs and we’re on the cusp of a new record, hopefully by the beginning of next year. So, yeah, it’s been fun trying out new stuff and seeing how the crowd reacts.

Do you all have a favorite song to perform?

I think right now it would be “Saltwater Gospel,” our single currently out. It’s just a lot of fun! It’s fun to see people start to hear it on the radio and sing it back to you. I would say any song, ya know, where the crowd is singing louder than you, those are always our favorites to play. “Crazy Girl” and “Breaks Your Heart,” those are always fun to play.

What made you decide to choose “Saltwater Gospel” as the single from your upcoming album?

That was one of the first songs we recorded and we just kept coming back around to it when it came time to choose a single. We fell in love with the song from the get go and once we laid it down we knew we had something special. We had always wanted a beach song, but we didn’t want the typical Spring Break, kind of party beach song. We wanted something that was special. We’re all huge fans of the ocean and beach. You kind of get that spiritual, removal from the world, feeling. You feel a little smaller when standing next to the big ocean. So, that’s what the sentiment of the song was all about.

I really enjoy that song and one of the things I enjoy most about it is the lyrics.

Thank you!

What’s the writing process like for you guys?

Ya know, we write differently every song. We did a lot of writing for this record on the back of a tour bus. We don’t have much time at home anymore with families and kiddos, so we try and do a lot of our writing on the road, whether it’s all four of us, two of us, or we might have some of our song writer buddies come out with us on the road as well. So, it’s always kind of something different.

How did you treat your upcoming album compared to those in the past? Did you want to do anything particularly different with those songs?

We wanted to just go in, crank up the amps and just see what happened. We didn’t have the label hovering over us saying you need to do this or you need to do that. They said, “just go in there and record. Choose the songs y’all feel strongly about and the ones you want to cut.” So, we just went in there and tracked like we did back in the day. We had a lot of fun making this record.

Well, I’m really excited to hear it. I’ve heard you guys say in previous interviews that performing live is one of your biggest priorities. When creating and recording new stuff, do you try and keep that live sound in mind?

It is! Especially with this record, we wanted some up-tempo rock and roll to push the show along. So, yeah, you do keep that live show in the back of your mind every time you’re recording a song. You get done with it or you hear it in the studio and the first thing you think is, “man, this is going to be fun to play live.”

Have you had any particularly favorite moments on the tour so far?

It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve done a lot of smaller clubs on this tour. It’s fun to get back out there and do a whole 90 minutes to ourselves where we can go out there and play our music. We were opening for about three or four years on the road. We got to open for Chesney, Darius Rucker, Dierks, Rascal Flatts and a bunch of others. That was a blast, but you don’t always get your whole set list. So, it’s been fun playing some old songs and we’re able to experiment and try out new songs as well.

Awesome! I know you guys met in college and I write for a college newspaper here in Charlotte, North Carolina. Do you guys remember your first show and if you do, how much has changed since then? What’s the biggest difference?

[Laughs] A lot more gear! No, uh, probably our first show was in college. We all graduated from the University of North Texas. So, it would have either have been on campus somewhere or there was a little bar in Denton that I think we conned the owner into letting us play for, I think, beer or something like that. Yeah, I remember there were just some palettes in the corner that we just set our gear up on and we went for it. We didn’t know what we were doing at the time [Laughs]. You’re just running your own P.A. and just trying to figure it out. Being from Texas, that really helped us hone our craft and cut our teeth. There’s just so many places to play and a real appreciation for live music. There’s places to play everywhere. That really helped our career.

Well, I think you guys got kind of lucky as well because you found your passion in life so early. What would you say to students at UNCC, or wherever, who are struggling to find that passion in life or their career path? Do you have any advice?

Ya know, it’s just all about trying different stuff. You might as well fail doing something you love than be unhappy with whatever you choose. It’s all about, as cliché as it sounds, being in the right place at the right time. We just stumbled upon this, being musicians, but we still worked our tails off everyday. This was before social media had really kicked off, back in the day, so we were out fliering cars, just spreading the word any way we could. It’s just a lot of hard work, in the music business or any business you take. There’s many ways that it can come about, especially now with YouTube and social media. But, there’s no wrong way to go for a path. You just pick the path that suits you and you just barrel down and do it.

Tickets for the Eli Young Band tour are available now. For more information on the band and their projects, check out EliYoungBand.com.

Foodie Friday: Ninety’s Ice Cream and Sandwiches

Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches have come to Charlotte and everyone is falling in love with them! Ninety’s Ice Cream and Sandwiches, located right near UNC Charlotte’s Campus, began selling these desserts about two weeks ago. However, when a Facebook post took them viral, I knew I had to try them for myself.

I decided on the S’mores flavor. “It’s a customer favorite,” the employees told me, and I can see why. A large scoop of chocolate ice cream is squished between two giant graham cracker flavored macarons. As if that’s not enough, the sandwich is then rolled in graham cracker crumbs and mini-marshmallows and topped with chocolate syrup. I couldn’t get enough! The smooth, cold ice cream paired with the chewy cookie was like heaven in my mouth. I was especially impressed that each flavor that makes a s’more was represented. In each bite I could equally taste chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker. It was delicious.

However, S’mores is not the only flavor they have. Other popular choices include Cookies and Cream, Cookie Dough, Red Velvet, Biscoff Cookie Butter, Birthday Cake, and Strawberry Nutella, all of which made my mouth water just looking at them.

As a perfect sunny day snack, I recommend Ninety’s Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches as a must have if you’re in the Charlotte area. They sell out fast, so make sure you get them while you can! You don’t want to miss out on these sweet treats.

Photo By Heather Benson
Photo By Heather Benson