On Pop of the World Studios presents Breadfoot Release show

Photo courtesy of sophia lucente/The carolinian

Photo courtesy of sophia lucente/The carolinian

Sophia Lucente
   Staff Writer

On Thursday, Sept. 10, On Pop of the World Studios in Greensboro hosted an evening of Americana in celebration of the esteemed artist Breadfoot’s album release, “Salvatella.” The gathering was small but intimate, and showcased the power and the beauty of what continues to characterize the genre.

On Pop of the World was founded in Feb. of 2011 by Backlot Collective, an assortment of music collectors, creators and supporters whose roots run deep in the Gate City. Since their formation, they have operated solely through word-of-mouth communication and worked with a multitude of local musicians including Matty Sheets and the Blockheads, Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands, Taylor Bays and the Laser Rays and Holy Ghost Tent Revival. Their building, which formally served as retail and restaurant space, is located on a quiet lot in the Glenwood neighborhood. One enters via its backyard, enclosed in a rickety chain link fence and filled with workable junk, some of which has been combined to form off-the-wall pieces of art.

Inside, the space is part musical sanctuary, part creative enigma featuring scattered remnants of personality and reminiscent of the scrapbooked décor of Elsewhere Collective. Keyboard instruments (a shining black upright, a Thomas organ, a 15-key toy piano) line the walls, and art (sleeping ceramic faces, glossy scenes painted on mirrors, LIFE magazine cutouts, a dangling pink-haired troll doll) works wonders on the viewer’s imagination.

Breadfoot is Stephen Meyers, born in Cleveland, OH in 1963. He was the son of a computer programmer, a man whose profession had the family relocate to Maryland and Michigan before the young Meyers graduated from high school. A traveling spirit remained with him in the years that followed; he went to Florida for a time before returning to Maryland, remaining in vigorous pursuit of various musical projects.

In Tampa, his group was the Moon Cows, an Americana-influenced rock ‘n’ roll getup. Although they played the area frequently and wrote some originals, Meyers found the group’s drive to be lacking; they eventually disbanded.

“I was pushing,” he explained. “I was seeing all these bands we were playing with coming through town, and I was pushing, saying, ‘We need to make a record, we need to get a van…let’s go out on the road.’ I think I got a little too pushy. They told me something like, ‘You don’t need to want it so hard.’”

That’s when he returned to Maryland, where he made a demo entitled “The Dayglow Tadpoles,” named to pay tribute to the assortment of friends he enlisted to play on its tracks. He then had the opportunity to move to New York, where he lived for 14 years, working in home restoration and in kitchens, all the while keeping up with his music. In 2007 he moved into an old millhouse in Bynum, North Carolina where he sought a life that was “greener and quieter” and allowed better time for the man and his guitar. The abode is just down the road, Meyers said, from the well-known “critter artist” Clyde Jones.

Before 2014, two Breadfoot records had been released: “Funhouse,” a raw, solo acoustic production born out of blues and bluegrass traditions; and “Tea With Leo,” featuring the violinist Anna Phoebe whom Meyers met at the 12 Bar Club in London.

“This one,” he said, referring to “Salvatella,” “was a major effort. It’s sketches and ideas that I carried with me from back when I lived in New York. It needed to involve other musicians. It needed to have other colors and sounds and textures. What I was yearning for was the exchange.”

Listening to Meyers speak is like thumbing through a verbal photo album; he works through memories in a pseudo-chronological order, recalling specific emotions and impulses with fondness, clarity and sincerity. He appeared Thursday dressed in brown leather boots, a white collared shirt and vibrant blue overalls that complemented his tall, lean stature.

Opening the evening was local duo Magpie Thief, comprised of guitarist and percussionist Matty Sheets and banjo player Emily Stewart. They took to the stage, a designated corner of the room shrouded by padded, flowery wall segments, and with soft-spoken voices beckoned listeners from the smoked-filled patio and an adjoining sitting room. Sheets provided a near punk-rock sensibility in his tone, while Stewart’s voice glided over top, indescribably velveteen in quality. Their unassuming demeanors fused with their simple, walking string melodies made for a perfect, calming start to the evening.

Following them were friends of Breadfoot, Tildon Krautz. The group’s genre is self-identifying “anti-rational rabbit-folk,” which they describe as being “folk based themes heading in several irrational directions” or “whatever Tildon Krautz plays.”

A three-piece string group comprising of guitar, mandolin and an oddly small and circular upright bass, Krautz draws influence from American bluegrass, jazz and traditional French folk. Their album artwork proclaims their music is “created specifically for fans of…Gillian Welch, Celine Dion, The Village People and Harry Potter.” At their core is husband-wife duo Gregg Weiss and Gabi Swiatkowska, the latter of whom boasts an angelic foreign accent as she croons and plays bass. Having spent much of their career in France, their brand of folk carries a completely different connotation than that of Magpie Thief or Breadfoot; however all three carry beautifully American and diverse qualities, and their meeting at On Pop of the World suggested something quite diverse about the city of Greensboro.

There was nothing hurried about the unveiling of “Salvatella.” Just after one o’clock in the morning, Meyers ambled to the front of the room armed with his guitar and a swath of smiling musicians, including Stewart on her banjo. They performed the new album from start to finish, somewhat wearily but with heart.

“I’m looking to satisfy myself and to challenge myself [with my records],” Meyers said, “but also turn other people on to the idea. You know, as far as what their definition of Americana might be, being derivative of other at forms…I think a lot of what is real popular currently is not as adventurous. It’s not taking as many chances. I think my albums will hopefully show people what I feel is Americana.”

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Reviews, Visual & Performance

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