Woody Durham Feature and Tennis and the Mennonites

A while back, when this music magazine was actually supposed to go somewhere, I wrote an album review for a local Chapel Hill band called Tennis and the Mennonites. (I tried to find a link for it but apparently I never put it online. Oops.) I wasn't real nice to the album, but I thought it showed a lot of promise. I was reading it today and decided to give the album another listen. It's surprising how much my music taste has changed in just the last year. The first song, which I thought was recorded terribly when I first heard it, seemed to me this time around to be an endearing lo-fi ballad. I really like the album a lot more and was able to get past the production value that bothered me the first time and get to the talent that's really there. Anyway, I feel like it's worth a listen if you have the time. The album is called Quilt Noise and you can find it on Ruckus.com.

Also, here's the long awaited (haha...) interview feature I wrote about Woody Durham. I think it's pretty well done, and I hope it's halfway tolerable for you.


The Biggest Tar Heel Fan
By Corey Inscoe

“It’s a great time to be a Tar Heel, and it’s going to get better.”

Looking at the legendary “Voice of the Tar Heels” lounging comfortably in his chair, wearing a pink shirt and tie with a big, flashy 2001 Peach Bowl Championship ring on his right hand, you might think he felt obligated to say that.

After listening to UNC’s radio play-by-play announcer, Woody Durham, talk excitedly about Carolina football, basketball and baseball to a group of journalism students for an hour, you know that it’s from the heart. He’s not just the voice of the Tar Heels on the field; he’s the voice of every Tar Heel fan.

Durham grew up an avid sports fan in Albemarle, N.C., where he was a “165-pound pulling guard” on the high school football team, and the Friday night match-up was the highlight of the week. The whole town, it seemed, would show up to the games, packing the tiny stadium. Despite his love for playing, he knew he wasn’t “big enough or good enough to play on the next level.”

He was also a born and bred Tar Heel. After returning home from World War II, his father would take him to UNC football games. It is hard to miss the longing in his voice when he talks about those Saturday afternoons spent with his father in Chapel Hill: “When I was a little guy coming here with my dad, we used to park down on what is Navy field, where the football team practices, or we parked on the intramural fields. People parked on the sidewalks. Nobody had a problem with that.”

So it was only natural that when he graduated high school he spent his next four years at UNC-Chapel Hill earning his AB degree in radio television and motion pictures. But Durham never really thought of being the radio play-by-play guy for his alma mater. “Doing Carolina games on the radio was never on my radar. My goal was to be in television. I wanted to be the voice of ACC football and ACC basketball.”

But right now it’s hard to get him to talk about his personal life. He wants to talk football. If it were February or March, basketball would likely be the focus of the conversation, but right now he cares about first year football coach Butch Davis and this young team.

As the conversation moves to the upcoming home football game against the University of Miami, the intense and detailed research and planning that Durham does before each game becomes obvious.

“For the Miami game, we’ll go on the air at 11:00, so I’ll be in the stadium by 9 or 9:15 because I like to be in my comfort zone” noted Durham, “and if I’m late getting there, then I’m hurrying to set everything up, all my spotters boards and everything like that, and you never really feel like you’re in control: you’re out of sync.”

This is just the conclusion of a hectic seven-day work week that involves multiple radio shows, meetings with the coaches, visiting practice, and a full day spent “preparing stat cards, depth charts, everything like that.”

Maybe this is what prompts fans to “turn down the sound” on the television and listen to Durham’s radio broadcast while watching the game: “A lot of Carolina fans treat this like it’s their confession of loyalty to Carolina. I can’t tell you the number of people that come up to me and say, ‘Woody, I just want to tell you that whenever the Tar Heels are on television I turn the sound down and listen to the radio.’”

He spends more time with the players and coaches and develops a personal relationship with them over the season, giving him, and the listeners, an inside look at how the program is run and allowing him more access to the team than the television broadcasters.

“The television guys, they have no way of knowing a lot of the personal anecdotes or personal information about the players or the coaches,” said Durham. “That’s what [the fans] like to get from us.”

Durham says that he also adds that personal touch by imagining “a person driving down the road in a car by himself or herself listening to the game, and I’m doing the game for that person.”

“That person has no ability to see a TV monitor,” explained Durham. “So I ask our guys in the booth, if they’re showing a replay on the monitor, to talk about the play, but don’t tell anybody that you’re watching the play on a monitor. Talk about it as if ‘this is what I saw.’”

This method seems to be working. Former UNC basketball star Phil Ford once said that “if you listen to Woody Durham, he makes you think you’re actually seeing the game. You can see the game through the radio.”

It helps that Durham always had a natural gift for talking on the radio. “It was a comfortable feeling doing the broadcasting…during the audition, the first commercial…I immediately felt comfortable when I read it,” he said about his high school broadcasting audition. “I mean, it was so natural.”

It does not take long to understand how Durham has made his living by talking. Each question posed in the interview is met with a verbose explanation, usually full of anecdotes and spontaneous tangents. Being on the other side of the interview does not seem to bother him either. As he slouches in the chair at the front of the room, he seems perfectly comfortable talking about himself and whatever else the assembled students ask him about, even antagonizing the quieter students: “How about somebody over here? Nobody over here on this row has had a single question.”

Regardless of what question is asked, the conversation trickles back to football or basketball, and it’s easy to see why. He is as excited about the “Butch Davis era” as all the students and fans. He is looking forward to the possible upset of Miami on Saturday. He is really just a huge fan, and he was lucky enough to turn his love for Carolina athletics into a career.

Inevitably, the conversation turns to Durham’s retirement. What will he do when he is done with the radio? The answer seems too obvious.

“I want to stay in Chapel Hill. I want to go to the games. I want to second-guess the coaches, berate the officials, stuff like that. Be a fan. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to tailgate. I’d like to do that again.”




Across the Universe

It was cute. A little forced at times, but cute.

I just got back from seeing the much anticipated (for me) Across the Universe, also known as the Beatles musical. I'll give them this much: it was a ballsy move, and they just about pulled it off. They did make me enjoy some different versions of classic Beatles songs, and that was my biggest worry. I was just waiting for them to butcher and tear apart everything I loved about Beatles' songs. And, with the exception of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," which was absolutely horrendous, they succeeded in putting a pleasing spin on great songs.

As for the storyline...eh. It was good, but nothing really new. It was cute. I hate to keep coming back to that word, but it's all I can think of. I put it in the same boat as Garden State: it's a beautiful movie that can make me laugh and be entertaining, but is not brilliant. It's just good, and cute.

There are some great visual elements in the movie, especially the (I guess) drug-induced scenes with crazy coloration and wacky over-sized characters and naked Asian girls painted white and dancing on water (yes, that really was a scene).

The movie did a good job of putting the music into a cultural context. It made you think about what was going on while the Beatles were recording and what may have influenced their art. It also made you think about different meanings for the songs, especially with "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" being used as a military recruitment anthem.

Where the movie lost me is with the over-emphasized references to the Beatles. Rather than just using the songs as a musical, they incorporated the Beatles into everything in the movie. Here are the character names (of the ones that I remember): Jude, Lucy, Prudence, Sadie (who was, in fact, sexy), Maxwell (who was seen with a silver hammer in one scene), Dr. Robert, Rita and Mr. Kite. There were also scenes that seemed forced, as if they decided they wanted to use the song and made sure that they got it in there somewhere, somehow. There is one scene where Prudence locks herself in a closet because she's depressed (god only knows why, she was the most underdeveloped character I have ever seen) and the rest of the characters start singing "Dear Prudence": "Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play. Dear Prudence, meet the brand new day." I was just waiting for Sgt. Pepper and Eleanor Rigby to jump out of a Yellow Submarine.

And I just have to mention that both Joe Cocker and Bono make appearances in this movie. I don't know how I noticed them since they are basically hidden behind some crazy costumes, but it was cool nonetheless.

I don't want to bash this movie too much because it was, again, cute. It's got me listening to the Beatles again, and I guess that's what they wanted in a way. But I can't help to think what the Fab Four think about this movie. I'm sure Paul couldn't give two shits, he's detached himself so much from that era it's ridiculous. George would just shake his head and look the other way. Ringo wouldn't know what to do with himself. And John...well he would hate it. If John were still around, this movie never would have happened.

I'm still trying to decide if that would be a good thing or a bad thing...




Dogma, Sirens and Carolina Football Pt. 2

Let's see...what in the world to talk about.

Let's just say it's been an interesting week or two. I'm not going to go into detail right now, but just trust me.

I don't know if I've ever actually seen the movie Dogma all the way through before today. That may sound weird, but it's one of those movies that I always catch the end of on Comedy Central, but never actually see the whole thing. Thanks to the magic of DVR and the Encore channel, I finally watched it today. Classic movie. One of the best commentaries on modern organized religion. It doesn't wholly bash religion, just the way it's usually practiced and how it's moved away from its core beliefs. Other than that, it's just freakin' funny. Any movie with Jay and Silent Bob, Chris Rock and Alanis Morissette playing God is bound to be a classic. Although I love it, I don't think it cracks the top 10 on my list of best movies, so that is still intact.

Speaking of religious commentary, I just reread Kurt Vonnegut's best book (in my opinion), "Sirens of Titan." It's such a rich story that makes you think and has a depth that requires multiple readings. I don't want to spew about it too much and give away the story to those who haven't read it, but his explanation of the meaning of life is priceless. The characters are brilliantly crafted, especially the pitifully empty Boaz and the human-like robot Salo. It's a quick and enjoyable read and one of the best books ever written.

We beat Miami! Of course, it's not as exciting as the last second field goal win that we got a few years ago over the 'Canes, but given the youth in this team and all the uncertainty around the real talent of the players, it was great to see them put together a fairly solid game against a good school, even if Miami is having a less-than-stellar year. The first half of that game was the best football I have seen a UNC team play since I've been at school here. It may be the best I've seen period. They were tenacious, swarming and confident as they ran into the locker room with a 27 point lead. Of course, they almost pulled a classic Carolina move and gave it away in the second half (allowing Miami to score 20 unanswered points in the early part of the third quarter), but they held strong and got a strong win.

Next week they face a hard challenge against a talented South Carolina team, but, with the way they played this past weekend, I think they could give the Gamecocks a run for their money. I'm not saying to expect a UNC win (even though it would make the town of Chapel Hill go absolutely nuts), but expect a much more confident and, thus, talented team take the field this Saturday. Either way, America will always know who the real "Carolina" is.

I think that's all I've got for now, other than to comment on the fact that I started this thing as a music blog and haven't really talked about music in a while. Maybe I'll change that soon. Then of course, maybe I won't. Only time will tell...


Because I Am a Nerd...

I can fully appreciate this video because I know how hard we worked in my high school band and we weren't half that clean. Much respect for those kids. This could rival a good Corps show any day.