North Carolina progressive metal outfit Between the Buried and Me's road from dirty underground rock clubs to The Fillmore Charlotte has been paved with persistence.
"We started at the bottom of the totem pole, playing Tremont's Casbah in front of like 50 or 75 people. Most of those were probably our friends," recalls guitarist Paul Waggoner, a Charlotte resident. "We just kept at it. We eventually moved on to the big room at Tremont, did a few shows at Amos', and somehow we're playing The Fillmore."
The decade-old group, whose current members live in Charlotte and Winston-Salem, plays the Live Nation venue at the N.C. Music Factory on Saturday night - and is playing similar venues elsewhere, a sign of its arrival nationwide.
"We're playing the House of Blues in Boston tonight, which holds 2,000," Waggoner said by phone last week. "Looking back, I never thought we would be headlining places like this or the Fillmore, especially playing heavy music that's not too palatable (to a wide audience)."
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Between the Buried and Me's genre-hopping opuses may not be mainstream, but they inspire a loyal audience.
"Beyond being heavy, with our band ... there's a certain musicality. There's a level of musicianship that's hard to find," Waggoner says. "For kids that are aspiring musicians and guitar players, they can listen to a band like us while they're learning how to play and hear the work that goes into our songs. From a musical standpoint, that's the attraction. Those fans tend to stick with you."
BTBAM's latest disc, "The Great Misdirect," is certainly a music nerd's dream - it's anything but simple. Customer reviews at Amazon and iTunes rarely fall below five stars. The six-track album clocks in at about 60 minutes and includes expansive theatrical pieces. Some are brutal and scream-filled; others feature acoustic instrumentation and Pink Floydian harmonies.
"That's a testament to our varied influences," explains Waggoner. "We don't have classical training, but we love all kinds of music - everything from classical to jazz to metal to rock. Classic rock is a big part of it, and progressive rock bands like Dream Theater, Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson. (It's) a conglomeration of styles that eventually leak their way into our songwriting.
"That's why our songs are like 15 minutes long. We cram all these influences in there. We're (also) not trying to write formulaic rock 'n' roll songs, but trying to write a song that's a journey through different genres and evokes different moods."
Although a fan of many styles, Waggoner says he doesn't take in much live music when he's home in Charlotte.
"I like to detach myself from that whole scene unless it's a band I really love. Just to go to a show and hang out is the most dreaded thing on earth for me, because it seems like we're in clubs every night," he says. "There's sort of an intangible quality of the comfort of being at home. I love North Carolina. I'll never live anywhere else."