Six fresh-faced lads calling themselves Mammoth Orange served up a tasty brew of jazz fusion and progressive rock to an enthusiastic audience of friends and curious onlookers at Vino's on Thursday night. The curious were made so by what is — for this rock-dominated music scene anyway — a rare sight: a group of young musicians making a serious go at complex instrumental music.
Jesse Bates, Whitman Bransford, Mikal Childers, Ryan Hitt and brothers Joshua and Judson Spillyards perform like a musical collective, alternating instrumental duties between songs and building clever, organic arrangements with an improvisational feel. Comparisons to '90s post-rock pioneers Tortoise and Don Caballero are inevitable, but where those bands push the noise envelope, Mammoth Orange stays true to the more traditional jazz motifs of the genre.
Next up was Chapel Hill's The Moaners, a disarmingly talented two-woman act that unleashed an Appalachian howl of swampy blues and foot-stomping punkabilly on a captivated crowd. Singer-guitarist Melissa Swingle and drummer Laura King conjured up a gargantuan amount of noise, testament to the strength of King's hard-driving, propulsive drumming and Swingle's mastery of slide guitar.
Little Rock's Big Boots delivered an impressive set of soaring guitar-driven rock — though the Vino's crowd had disappointingly diminished by the time it took the stage. Featuring former members of much-missed Sugar & the Raw, the band has made some line-up changes over the course of several months. Big Boots is currently a trio: Mason Mauldin (guitar, vocals), Mike Motley (drums) and Jonathan Trotter (bass). Mauldin's songwriting and vocals demonstrate a considerable gift and offer yet another example (as if we needed one) of the wealth of under-appreciated songwriters and musicians on the local scene. Recalling the sleepy, lilting vocals of Mark Lanegan with a touch of the reverb-heavy drone of My Morning Jacket, Maudlin's voice had its stand-out moments, although at times it was a bit hindered by a muddy audio mix. While Big Boots may still have some room to grow into its outsized ambitions (tried to avoid the lame footwear pun and failed), the band is proving to be a good fit for the indie rock scene.