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Spreading the Word

Regional, local musicians help raise money, awareness for 4th annual breast cancer benefit

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Now in its 4th year, the Spread Your Wings breast cancer benefit remains one of Charlotte's premier musical benefits and Americana-based multi-act shows. While the show maintains some of the flying-by-the-seat-of-their-pants spontaneity of the first year, co-founders and producers Bob Graham and Missi Ivie (a breast cancer survivor) still yearn to increase the benefit's clout and prestige. In other words, this may be the last year SPY has this intimate of a setting and feel to it -- Graham says he is in final negotiations with a "large corporate sponsor," has held talks with both PBS and CMT (Country Music Television), and hopes to land a "big name" act if the first two elements come through. If all goes as planned, it may greatly increase the size and scope of future benefits. On that we'll have to wait, but for now the benefit remains much as it has over the previous three years. Local, regional and national acts will perform, the silent auction will include all sorts of swag, and the bands will more than likely add that element of live reckless abandon that makes an event like this memorable beyond just the worthy cause it serves. The first year featured Alejandro Escovedo doing an impromptu set with members of Lou Ford, Duane Jarvis and whoever else wandered on stage; last year Renelvis introduced headliners The Gourds, who seamlessly went into "Jailhouse Rock" in thanks when they hit the stage. What will develop this year? Creative Loafing looks at two of the acts playing...

The incidental roots of Tres Chicas
By Chris Parker

Accidents will happen, and serendipity is one of music's best friends. While some hide in their bedrooms nurturing rock & roll dreams, others fall into it unexpectedly only to wonder how it is they wound up living a life they'd never imagined or fantasized about. For Caitlin Cary and Lynn Blakey of Tres Chicas, music entered their lives like a cat burglar only to take up permanent residence. Both first experienced success as a passenger on another's rock train, and then, years later, fell together into a group -- Tres Chicas -- that has the potential to match the success they saw in their earlier bands.For violinist Caitlin Cary, her introduction to rock came through Whiskeytown, and an unexpected phone call.

"I was in graduate school at NC State," Cary recalls. "I must've told somebody in the (Creative Writing) program that I played, though I don't remember doing it, and I certainly wasn't playing at all, at the time. I was buried in the books but I just got a phone call, out of the blue from Ryan (Adams) saying "we started this band and we are interested in getting a fiddle player, would you like to come and play with us?'"

"I had been in a couple bands in college that were truly, just fun, just to have some outlet, but never had I been serious about it," Cary continues. "My perception of the whole Whiskeytown thing is so skewed because I never once thought, "oh this makes sense and I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing,' whereas every one else in the band had had a rock & roll fantasy forever and knew that they wanted to be in a band. Ryan certainly knew he wanted to be big. I had no concept for it really."

Ten years later, Cary is recognized not only for her sweet, wonderful fiddle playing which carries echoes of the Irish folk music her parents played when she was growing up, or even as the Emmy Lou Harris to Adams' Gram Parsons in Whiskeytown, but as a talented solo artist with two critically lauded full lengths to date.

For Blakey, the idea of being in a band tickled her, but she had barely even picked up a guitar when a friend suggested they start a band. After experiencing the DIY ethos of her home in DC and the early rumbling of the American punk underground at a bar near the UNC-Greensboro campus, where she attended college in the early eighties, starting a band with no experience didn't seem like a strange thing to do.

"I got a guitar and traded a six pack of beer with my neighbor to teach me some chords, and that's how I got into it. We had our first show a month later. We sucked, though not as bad as you might think. We had cool songs and harmonies, we just couldn't play very well. And then I started playing with Let's Active," says Blakey.

She had befriended a young guitarist named Mitch Easter and suddenly started touring with another act whose first albums would wind up being produced by Easter.

"Everybody was hanging out together so it just seemed kind of natural. And it was misleading playing with him so soon after starting to play because I got to go on tour. It wasn't super cushy, but I didn't have to do anything, it was just, "oh, I'm on tour,'" Blakey says with an exaggerated innocence, before delivering the punch line. "We were on tour with REM and played for a couple months across the country. It was very misleading."

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