The Key To Total World Domination

People are easily manipulated—if you can find their weaknesses. And there are plenty of weaknesses that we all share.

VH1 has been exploiting one of those weaknesses for years. Ever heard of I Love the 80s? (don’t everyone yell out at once, now.)

Well, a band in Durham, North Carolina (seriously folks—this place is on fire, musically) has the keys to totThe Midtown Dickens is for Lovahsal world domination.

The Midtown Dickens is an anti-folk duo made up of Catherine Edgerton and Kym Register. They’re a dynamic duo with a stage presence that will charm you out of your last dollar—so if you happen to wander by a free show where they ask for donations, watch out! (though come on, if you’re going to give away money, the Midtown Dickens is a good place to put it)

So why is it that they have what Pinky’s friend Brain never discovered? How are they going to take over the world when Brain couldn’t?

Just ask the band’s label (307 Knox Records) owner, Melissa Thomas. Thomas, a well known musician herself–will answer with a very pointed answer.

“Have you heard ‘Tetris’?” she’ll ask you.

If you have heard the song, you’ll know exactly what she’s talking about. For those of you who haven’t heard the song—you’d better check it out at the end of this blog. I will post it here and you’ll love the song. I promise. ‘Tetris’ is the perfect ode to the old-school Nintendo game. The lyrics are witty, the song is impossibly catchy and the harmonies are delightful. Once you’ve heard the song—and you only need to hear it once—you’ll have it stuck in your head forever. But believe me, you’ll love every minute of it.

Kym RoxxxxThe best thing about this song is that you don’t have to pull on your nostalgia to love it. My 10-year-old sister has never played the game, but she knows its reputation. When she heard the song, she loved it as much as I do. (I think it might’ve been lyrics like “I like playing Tetris in the shower/but sometimes it makes me cower” and “Though I like playing Tetris naked and nude…sometimes it makes me electrocuted—oh ouch.”

But of course, like all good bands, there’s more to the Midtown Dickens than ‘Tetris.’

In May of this year they released their first album on 307 Knox Records, “Oh, Yell.” The album is the perfect sonic picture of the Midtown Dickens. Throughout the album you see examples of the witty lyrics that characterize the Midtown Dickens as well as more serious songs which can’t help but to strike chords. The duo is unrelentingly humorous, thoughtful and poignant.

In addition to being brilliant lyricists, Edgerton and Register are talented musicians who excel at several different instruments. The Midtown Dickens is not a band that’s going to be happy with just the basic instruments: guitar, drums, bass.

Oh no.

 On a typical Midtown Dickens show you can expect them to pull out a variety of instruments—musical saws, ukuleles, banjos, trumpets and even chairs.

For a long time, the Midtown Dickens proved to be one of Durham’s well kept musical secrets. Their fans were small in number, but they were loyal—they made sure to be at the shows, be they in Durham, Chapel Hill or Raleigh. But by the “Oh, Yell” CD release party in May, it was clear the Midtown Dickens were no longer a secret. While the show featured the band, it also included several other local bands. Each band got a good number of folks from the audience, but it wasn’t till the Midtown Dickens came on that night when the entire audience assembled—about 170 in a space that not long before had seemed relatively big. Catherine Rocks out!

Though Edgerton and Register have known each other for over ten years, they didn’t start playing music seriously until about 2 years ago. From bonding over Janis Joplin, they’ve been learning how to play their own instruments and putting on shows that audience members won’t forget any time soon.

Shayne O’Neill, a musician from the local band Future Kings of Nowhere, has collaborated with the Midtown Dickens (he plays trumpet on “Airplane”) noted how their friendship comes out on stage

Because they are such good friends and because they are relaxed about letting their vulnerabilites and mistakes show when they are performing, the audience feels like they become a part of the “success” of the evening. Everyone is rooting for them to make it through their set, in the same way that people can get behind an underdog sports team.”

The best way to experience the Midtown Dickens is through their live show. In addition to playing their infectious music, they include the audience in their playful banter in between songs. Throughout the coming months the band will be playing throughout the south–mostly in North Carolina, but there are a few shows elsewhere-so check their myspace site for tour dates! and if you can’t see them any time soon, stop by 307 Knox Records and buy the album!


p.s.: All pics were taken by yours truly at the MtD CD release party back in May! 🙂


2 thoughts on “The Key To Total World Domination

  1. Shayne September 17, 2007 / 9:18 pm


    Thanks for writing about Midtown Dickens! This is a great article and it definitely does justice to how incredible their music and their personality is. I just wanted to clear up what I meant in the quote that you used from me. The way that it appears in your blog post makes it seem like I might think poorly of their musical ability. Nothing could be further from the truth! I think the confusion is partly because I choose a stupid metaphor (the underdog thing, which isn’t very accurate) and partly because the quote is taken out of the context of the rest of what was being said.
    I was trying to describe how they are amazing at breaking down the wall that usually exists between performers and the audience. Every band makes mistakes when they are on stage. Sometimes you’ll see a guitarist or a drummer look confused or grimace or scowl during a song when it happens. Some bands play it off like nothing went wrong and hope that no one will notice. MtD prefers to admit that mistakes happen and are an essential part of the beauty of life. So they laugh, and encourage the audience to laugh with them. And in doing so, they bring the audience into the performance.
    The downside of this open attitude towards vulnerability and mistakes is that it can cause people to label them as ‘cute’. Not only is that label unfair to Kym and Catherine, it completely misses the point of what they are doing. ‘Cute’ is a word for kittens and rainbows and babies. But these are strong, powerful women who are so secure with themselves and their own abilities as musicians, that they aren’t afraid to admit that everyone hits a wrong note occasionally. In the answer I gave to your question about audience response, I followed the sentence that you quoted above with this one: “But it is important that you don’t confuse their nonchalance on stage with how they feel about their music. Despite their manner, they are serious about their songs and are both incredibly talented musicians.”
    This is not at all a criticism of your article or what you wrote. I think you did an awesome job of describing some of the wonderful things about Midtown Dickens! But there have been several reviews that have focused on the ‘cuteness’ of the band, and I wanted to make sure that my words weren’t feeding into that misconception in any way. Thanks again for sharing their music with the rest of the world!

    – Shayne

  2. riotgrrrlrevolution September 17, 2007 / 11:49 pm

    Shayne–thanks for the comment! I definitely didn’t mean to portray them in the way that you mentioned–I thought pretty carefully about how I put in that sentence & what it might come across as. I know the MtD are often slighted as a “cute” band and not serious musicians, which is crazy, b/c they are so wonderfully talented and inspirational!
    hopefully I didn’t come across w/ too much of the ‘cute’ idea…b/c the midtown dickens are definitely more than cute!

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