This band is for lovers. Based in the bohemian stronghold of Asheville, North Carolina, the Secret B-Sides produce a fresh sound, rooted in the classic feel of Soul music, updated with the modern sensibilities of Hip-Hop. The concept of the band is simple. It’s about three things: 1) flying saucers, 2) dinosaurs, and 3) love. Fully equipped with these three essentials, the B-Sides are here on the planet, ready to help the people of Earth get together, feel a little sexy, and have some good, clean fun--to the sounds of drums, bass, keys, and guitar, finished with vinyl-smooth vocals. Since conception, the Secret B-Sides have opened in direct support for Lee Fields & the Expressions, Soulive, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, SPAM Allstars, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, and more, including a very special performance as the backing band for Gift of Gab (from Blackalicious). The B-Sides will continue winning the hearts and minds of Earthlings, by fusing the musical tastes of multiple generations, together, in one sound. How would the Secret B-Sides sound in your part of the space-time continuum?
Robin Tolleson - Drums & harmony vocals
Shayne Heather - Fender bass
Jeff K'norr - Keys & harmony vocals
Juan Holladay - Guitar & Vocals
Easy Magic (Groosion Records / 2013)
Flowers & Chocolate (Groosion Records / 2011)
Live on the Mothership (Groosion Records / 2009 )
lost EPisodes (EP / self-published / 2008)
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The opening to “Thin Blue” hinges on a perfectly executed bait and switch. Smooth guitar, soft cymba...The opening to “Thin Blue” hinges on a perfectly executed bait and switch. Smooth guitar, soft cymbal splashes, and far-off coos back Juan Holladay, leader and singer for Asheville’s Secret B-Sides, who deploys his delicately piercing pipes in service of what initially seems like the kind of politely probing refrain common in modern soul: “Blue Eyes, are you cool, true?/ Do I trust you to do right?/ Though these thin blue lines/ Seem like thin blue lies.”
The verses, which relate an upsetting true story with suave precision, transform the song into something far more complex. One June evening in 2011, Holladay was passing out fliers on his way to a show at the Asheville Music Hall. He began chatting with a guy whose friend was in a heated exchange with a police officer. He says he handed off his flier and started to leave, but the officer interpreted the situation differently, using what Holladay felt was excessive force in arresting him for causing a public disturbance.
“Everyone agrees I resisted his treatment,” Holladay recounts, adopting a rhythmic flow halfway between singing and rapping. “Had to keep my face from kissing the pavement/ No accountability/ Low professionality/ The crowd surrounded, chanting police brutality.” It’s a tale related with charming melodies and an unflinching sense of righteousness, and it makes the vague distrust expressed in the opening chorus cut deeper with every repetition.
“The way that officer treated me, it really made me aware that that happens to people in our community, that people are treated in a way that is questionable,” he says of the song’s intentions. “I have a little girl. She’s 2 right now, and I don’t want her to have that interaction with a police officer ever. So I feel like in my own way, I want to help change the culture in our city and with our police force and stuff. That’s something that just really hit me extremely hard, like physically, emotionally, spiritually, in every way.”
“Thin Blue” is by far the thorniest song in the B-Sides’ catalog, but it's also indicative of Holladay’s overall approach. After recording an EP with a band of students at Warren Wilson College, from which he had recently graduated, his B-Sides slowly evolved as he met different players around town and cobbled together consistent backing. Solidifying about four years ago, the group’s diverse but smoothly distilled sound draws from funk and soul, rap and R&B, repurposing them in service of themes that are more mature than those pursued by many of the band’s modern peers.
Dissatisfied with the hyper-sexualized nature of much of today’s hip-hop and R&B, Holladay wants his music to deal in positive and powerful messages. For the most part, Easy Magic, the B-Sides’ second LP, accomplishes this mission, reveling in modern soul that doesn’t forsake sensuality in pursuit of music with a genuine sense of purpose.
“I wanted to have R&B sounds that aren’t over-sexualized,” he explains. “There’s a lot of power in hip-hop, and there’s a lot of power in R&B. And I feel like a lot of people are turned away from it because it’s over-sexualized. There is a social mission directed at younger people. If kids are going to think something is cool, then I want there to be a good message in it. So there’s a little bit of that. And I feel like older people appreciate that message.”
Expanded from a similarly titled stop-gap EP released last year, Easy Magic isn’t afraid to pair its muscular grooves with equally weighty issues.
Take “Boys & Girls,” which further explores Holladay’s position that many rappers and singers set a bad example for younger listeners: “Why do these little boys and girls say/ They want to be pimps and hoes someday/ But when they grow up, the pimps and hoes say/ They want to be little boys and girls again?” he asks over patiently plodding bass and guitar before the band indulges in an adventurous, almost Funkadelic bridge. Like most of Easy Magic, it’s a song that is both fun and expressive, getting its point across while maintaining a sense of joyous experimentation.
“I feel like the real thing that makes the music and the energy of the music, the vibe of the music really work is the relationships between the musicians,” Holladay says. “Not just musical, but the actual relationships. So I felt like it was my job, first and foremost, to cultivate really healthy relationships with the people I’m playing music with. The sound that we want would come out of that.”— Jordan Lawrence is music editor at Shuffle Magazine and a contributing writer at The Independent.
Best of WNC 2012: 1st place Local Soul Band
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Earlier this year, The Secret B-Sides released a new full-length, Easy Magic. That album shows that ...Earlier this year, The Secret B-Sides released a new full-length, Easy Magic. That album shows that the B-Sides decadent, soulful Flowers &amp; Chocolate was no mere one-off. Easy Magic beings more deep grooves, retro cool and space-age romance. Probably why the B-Sides were picked to open for Arrested Development at the Orange Peel. — A.M.
Best of WNC 2011: 1st place Local Soul Band and Local R&B Band
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We all knew about the Secret B-Sides way back when. The band has been quietly gaining momentum for y...We all knew about the Secret B-Sides way back when. The band has been quietly gaining momentum for years, and it's not like frontman Juan Holladay is hard on the eyes and ears. But when the local old-school-meets-new-school soul/funk/R&B outfit dropped sophomore album Flowers & Chocolate earlier this year, those sultry, sweaty, swaggering sounds hit just the right note. Add to that an ambitious show schedule, lots of local festival appearances, a wrench-tight live show and a crazy-brilliant accompanying cosmology involving dinosaurs, flying saucers and a mystical land of flowers, and you begin to understand why the Secret B-Sides are the current reigning kings of soul. — A.M.
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In their studio debut, Flowers & Chocolate, Asheville quartet The Secret B-Sides brings soulful horn...In their studio debut, Flowers & Chocolate, Asheville quartet The Secret B-Sides brings soulful horn and woodwind harmonies, saucy hip-hop drum breaks, consonant baselines, and spacey keyboard effects into orbit around the dulcet voice of singer-songwriter Juan Holladay, whose light, flirtatious lyrics ooze authentic tenderness. While the B-Sides’ ethereal charm will appeal to devotees of funk, soul, and classic R&B, Flowers & Chocolate has something for fans of hip-hop, too, with local lyricists Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and Preach Jacobs contributing rap vocals on “Rap ‘n’ Roll” and “On to You.” From nostalgic, summery songs like “That ’60s Show” to propulsive dance grooves like “Ergonomics,” the B-Sides’ impassioned but mellow mix is best enjoyed with a bottle of wine.
CD Reviews: The Secret B-Sides Flowers & Chocolate
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Claiming to be interested in three things – love, dinosaurs and flying saucers — The Secret B-Sides ...Claiming to be interested in three things – love, dinosaurs and flying saucers — The Secret B-Sides seem to enjoy cultivating an image as off-beat and eclectic as their music. Part R&B, part hip-hop, and extremely funky, The Secret B-Sides are back on the scene with Flowers & Chocolate, a sexy, sultry and smooth homage to love (as well as an homage to making love). With a heapin' helpin' of old-school soul, some great wordsmithing, and an upbeat vibe that never falters (even on the down-tempo tunes), Flowers & Chocolate is nothing if not a huge amount of fun. It's a fantastic follow-up to Live On The Mother Ship, and it's fun to see the musical growth in these guys, a very talented group of musicians who work very well together as a single unit. The proverbial icing on the cake (no doubt chocolate) is the variety of guest musicians who grace it with their own unique talents. With collaborators such as Chach, Agent 23, The Southern Silk Duo, Sidney Barnes and Preach Jacobs, The Secret B-Sides have created a diverse collection of tunes that stand solidly as one single, funk-tastic piece of work. And with nicely arranged, hugely danceable songs and an eager, devil-may-care musical sensibility, I like where these guys are heading.
Crowd Pleasers: Secret B-Sides offers up a fail-proof mix with new release Flowers and Chocolate
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There's a lot happening on the soon-to-be-released album, Flowers and Chocolate, the sophomore effor...There's a lot happening on the soon-to-be-released album, Flowers and Chocolate, the sophomore effort by local band Secret B-Sides. There are synthesizers and horns, party noises and samples, guest artists and hip-hop verse — and, like a slinky backbone through it all, the blithe and soulful lyrics of Juan Holladay.
There's also a lot going on behind the scenes. If Holladay, quiet and agreeable, seems an unlikely band leader, think again. In front of the mic he possesses an insouciant magnetism. "The band seems to draw people — both fans and collaborators," says drummer Robin Tolleson.
Tolleson attributes some of the draw to Holladay's playfulness. B-Sides songs are known for pairing danceable R&B grooves with references to dinosaurs and flying saucers. And then there's the release party for Flowers, where fans are invited to wear footie pajamas. If they do, they get a free copy of the CD.
“It's about doing things that pull you out of your mind and not taking yourself too seriously," says Holladay. "Footie pajamas have always been part of the mythology."
The "mythology" relates both to Holladay's own spirituality and his high-school introduction to gospel music. It's also about more recent lessons learned from romance and heartbreak.
Dinosaurs are prehistoric, but in Holladay's vision, the ancient lizards board a futuristic space ship that brings them into a parallel universe where they never face extinction. Instead of vanishing, they develop their brains over millennia so they become a much more enlightened species than their relatively young human counterparts.
Holladay also sees dinosaurs and flying saucers as a metaphor for the B-Sides’ sound: "We're taking types of music that are a little bit older and trying to fuse them with stuff that's really hip," he says.
Local hip-hop artists lend rhymes to various tracks — Chach is featured on "That '60s Show" and "On to You," Agent 23 is on "Rap n Roll" (Holladay also performs his first-ever recorded rap on the song) and frequent B-Sides contributor Preach Jacobs lends his voice to "Ergonomics."
Lithe hip-hop melds seamlessly with brassy horns and woodwinds (Jason Moore, Sean Smith, Ben Hovey, John Furnas, Pauly Juhl and Robert Gonzales), Melissa Hyman’s cello meets vocal contributors The Southern Silk Duo, Marley Carroll's scratches share sonic space with Shayne Heather's sinuous, old-school bass lines.
The new album builds on Holladay's mythology, this time tapping into his own story. "Flowers come up a lot for me," he says. His mother is from the Yaqui tribe, a Native American tribe whose cosmology includes a number of different worlds, among them a heavenly flower world. Holladay himself is perhaps more closely aligned with chocolate — he used to work at the Chocolate Fetish and often performs at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge (where, last month, he held a preview listening party for the album).
"The point is, if flowers are about enlightenment, chocolate is about temptation," says Holladay. "This record is about tempting people into enlightenment."
Which is not to say that Flowers isn't rife with enticement. There are plenty of baby-makers, but the suggestive "Intercourse" (a spoken-word interlude by the Southern Silk Duo), the driving "Ergonomics" (with its hand claps and crowd noise and the lead-in line, "Your body's so ergonomic, just like that, all I'm doing is holding on it"), and sultry, Marvin Gaye-inspired "Date." But unlike Gaye's call for sexual healing, Holladay's song says, "You don't have to take your clothes off on the first date ... you don't have to take your clothes off on the 599th date."
That same sense of evolution comes across in the horn-fueled "Liberate" (which touches on both feminism and the progression of soul music — and works in the word "dino-mation") and "That ‘60s Show." The latter is a bit of an opus, using feel-good funk and soul to talk about how anti-war and civil rights ideals of the 1960s are still relevant and necessary today.
Flowers has been a work-in-progess for almost three years now. Tolleson says the projects "started the day Jeff Knorr joined the band." Knorr is both a keyboardist and an engineer at Collapseable Studios where, in his free time, he's recorded the album. But even though some time has passed since the earliest tracks (many of those played by drummer Tolleson) were laid down in the studio, and even though the B-Sides have been performing many of the songs live, the release of Flowers is sure to bring a few surprises.
As Tolleson says, “This band is poised to do something.”
Gift of Gab not so fab; Secret B-Sides bring heat to the ‘Shroom
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Last night at Mellow Mushroom, Gift of Gab didn’t do justice to his often well-deserved name or repu...Last night at Mellow Mushroom, Gift of Gab didn’t do justice to his often well-deserved name or reputation. Instead of high-powered hip-hop eloquence, the emcee delivered barely intelligible blather over iPod instrumentals.
Best known as half of the indie hip-hop super duo, Blackalicious, Gab came out dressed more like an accountant than rap star, and worked the stage like it was an office as much as an outlet for ecstatic expression.
Instead of flashy clothes and dance moves, his worthy goal was to let his sometimes astounding lyricism carry the show. But the problem, as is often the case with live hip-hop, was that his rapid-pace delivery, combined with a slightly distorted mic, made it impossible to understand most of the lyrics. Still, the sold-out crowd came to get down, and early Blackalicious hits such as “Deception,” “Sky is Falling” and “Make You Feel that Way” had peeps singing along and dancing on tables.
They were more than amply warmed up by a great opening set of soul-powered R&B and hip-hop from Asheville’s own Secret B-Sides. A range of local emcees joined smooth-swooning frontman Juan Holiday on the stage, including Chach, Foul Mouth Jerk and Adam Strange. The B-Sides’ sexy, laid-back grooves built a perfect foundation for the rappers, who on this night, proved tighter and more passionate than the evening’s much better known headliner.
Love, Dinosaurs, and Spaceships
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It was kind of a watershed moment for Juan Holladay. Having just smashed his beloved acoustic guitar...It was kind of a watershed moment for Juan Holladay. Having just smashed his beloved acoustic guitar over a large rock, the option was certainly there to give up music altogether. Or, he could find a new muse and continue.
Ironically, the woman that had just broken his heart also gave him some advice. "She's like, 'I'm breaking up with you, and you need to do this. You need to make an album that's R&B music, and it needs to be all about dinosaurs and flying saucers,'" Holladay recalls. "So I basically said, 'Okay.'"
Three years later, Holladay is releasing the CD, Live On The Mothership, with his Asheville-based soul band, The Secret B-Sides. And yes, it's all about love, dinosaurs and spaceships. "Up until then, I had been very stoic in pursuing what was right and good, but without being very humorous or playful about it. That was a big missing link. I latched onto that because it was playful, kind of childlike, and I went with it. The combination of low and high elements, the unification and balance of all different vibrations — that also resonated. That experience encouraged me to breathe deeper, live a little bit brighter, seek joy, and spread it as much as possible in the most real way that I could."
Holladay was born in Tucson, Arizona. His mom is Hiaki (Pascua Yaqui tribe of Arizona) and he refers to his dad as "a Euro-American pioneer mutt" (ancestors with ties to the Mayflower, also among the first to venture west with the Mormons). His father played "message" music by Bob Marley and Santana around the house, and encouraged creative thinking. But it wasn't until Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and the mid-90s indie rock explosion that Holladay grew out his hair, began wearing flannel shirts, and taught himself to play guitar.
During periods of home-schooling, Holladay slanted his schedule towards learning Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes and trolling for chords on the classical guitar his mom bought for him. "I was excited to play what sounded like jazz. Even though I knew I wasn't playing jazz, I knew if these chords were cool enough I could kind of fake it."
His dad took him to meet longtime Osmond Family guitarist Rich Dixon in Salt Lake City. After hearing Juan play, Dixon reportedly advised against guitar lessons for fear they might adversely affect the style the boy had begun to develop on his own.
After graduating from Verde Valley College Prep in Sedona, AZ, Holladay received a scholarship to Warren Wilson College. He knew nothing about Asheville before moving to Western North Carolina. "I wanted to go as far away from home as possible, just to get that vantage point, and it turned out to be a really good place for me," he says. "Asheville has been nourishing. At every level there are good places to play, and it's all accessible if you really want it — if you're saying your prayers and everything lines up."
Holladay now plays a futuristic-looking, bodyless, Yamaha SLG100 electric guitar, a nylon-stringed instrument that delivers warm and funky tones to which he adds wah wah and digital delay effects. It's the perfect sound to frame his songs, which are reminiscent of the old school soul of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, and the modern R&B of British funkster Jamiroquai. Holladay first remembers hearing Mayfield and Gaye in bits of songs sampled by Kanye West, Mos Def, and other hip hop producers. "I was exposed to an interpretation and a vision of Marvin Gaye that was a lot darker, sexier and modern. And then I went back and got What's Goin' On on vinyl, and listened to it endlessly."
Entering the Asheville music scene, Holladay met bassist Shayne Heather at Altamont Studios, and recorded an EP there, lost EPisodes. Juan asked yours truly to play drums for his lost EPisodes EP release party at The Mothership in Asheville, and those tracks, recorded by Daniel Minton, wound up becoming the B-Sides' second release. Live On The Mothership features funky tracks like "Liberate" and "Re-arranged" flanking sexy ballads like "Date" and "Hide & Seek," tunes to flex the floorboards like "Ergonomics" and "Going Up," and socially conscious rap like "That '60s Show."
As Holladay explains it, "I think the recording is a series of portraits of the Asheville underground scene, in one of its most unabashed moments. The vibe was so strong. It was a good strong performance, combined with an overwhelming vibe...it just kind of felt like there was no other place in the world to be at that moment, no other band and no other crowd. It was happening there. Some kind of really good energy was definitely at that party. So we want to invoke that at BoBo Gallery on January 10 as well."
Holladay refers to his band, The Secret B-Sides, as "soldiers of love. They're seasoned working musicians who also like to have fun, and just know what the music should sound like...a good mixture of business and pleasure and straight up fun. We've seen some amazing energy at BoBo, people pouring off the streets to dance and have a really good time," he says. "BoBo Gallery is kind of where it all started for the B-Sides, so I'm really proud to bring it back there."
SoundTrack:Psst! It’s The Secret B-Sides
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Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back from the ‘70s and ‘80s, but Asheville’s own The Secret ...Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back from the ‘70s and ‘80s, but Asheville’s own The Secret B-Sides are bringing it back from much further—roughly 65 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth. At a recent show on Hannah Flanagan’s patio, front man Juan Holladay sang the praises of the prehistoric reptiles as much as he did of human women, bringing a sense of fun absurdity to the band’s neo-soul explorations.
They set a flirtatious mood from the start, opening the show with “Playa Play Her,” a standout Holladay original that, as on many of his songs, features his voice sounding like Love Below-era Andre 3000.
The set really got popping when the song “Nearest Star” inspired a group of drunken middle-aged woman to hit the dance floor. A waiter soon became the focus of their booty train, earning cheers from onlookers on the sidewalk and deck above and enlivening the dinner crowd, who until that point seemed more interested in their nachos then in the space funk being played.
Unfazed, the band kicked off its second set with a series of party jams as if they were playing a packed club. Holladay led the charge, digging into his wah pedal and ultra-stylized nylon string guitar like a younger Lenny Kravitz. Letting the spirit of the psychedelic funk chords take control, he delivered the unapologetically cheesy line, “They say that dinosaurs are out of style, but ohh, girl, I’ve been watching you for a while” with enough panache to make Jamiroquai proud.
Keyboardist Jeff Knorr helped keep the extended jams interesting, lending tasteful Rhodes and organ accompaniments to Holladay’s cooing. A producer/engineer at Collapseable Studios and a recent addition to the group, Knorr successfully worked melodic double duty all night long, filling spaces usually reserved for regular saxophone player Caleb Sherrod. Rounding out the group was the solid rhythm section of Robin Tolleson on drums and Shayne Heather on bass.
Late into the set, Holladay and company were joined by local artist and rapper, G-Frost, who spit sharp-witted freestyles about everything from badgers and skyscrapers to the current financial woes facing Wall Street. With the dinner crowd all cleared out, their lyrical back and forth led the younger folks who had taken over the dance floor to new levels of revelry (including the woman who had been studiously reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States).
Look for the band to integrate more hip-hop into their sound in the near future, with local DJ/producer Brett Rock doing a remix of the group’s Lost Episodes EP, and collaborations in the works with local rapper Chach. They’re also putting the final touches on a new album, Live at the Mothership.
The Secret B-Sides return to Hannah Flanagan’s on Oct. 3. They play the Emerald Lounge on Oct. 4.
Listening Party: Stephanie’s Id, BrieJon and Secret B-Sides
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Closing out this week’s playlist, we have local soul, R&B and jazz group the Secret B-Sides. Mixing ...Closing out this week’s playlist, we have local soul, R&B and jazz group the Secret B-Sides. Mixing equal parts smooth soundcraft and smart songwriting, there’s a lot to enjoy in the Secret B-Sides music. There’s a certain intellectual fun in lyrics like “The way that I play ain’t a zero-sum game; my pleasure ain’t your pain, my loss ain’t your gain.” It’s also hard not to crack a smile when — in reading their bio — you run across lines like “It’s a band about three things, 1) love, 2) dinosaurs, and 3) flying saucers. Fully equipped with these three essentials the Secret B-Sides are here on the planet, ready to help the people of Earth get together, feel a little sexy, and have some good, clean fun to the sound of drums and electric bass, as well as nylon-stringed guitar, finished with a vinyl-smooth vocal.” We suggest starting with “The Flame.”
Not-so secret B-Sides
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I think local neo-soul quartet The Secret B-Sides take their name a little too seriously, playing se...I think local neo-soul quartet The Secret B-Sides take their name a little too seriously, playing seldom and when they do play it’s an unpublicized show in a tiny venue. There were rumors over the summer that the group had parted ways, citing travel plans, changes in living arrangements and other issues that plague artistic twenty-somethings.
Luckily, those rumors seem to be unfounded as the group has not one but two upcoming shows listed on their MySpace page. The soonest: This Saturday, Sept. 1 at Bobo Gallery (22 Lexington Ave., 254-3426). The following week they’re slated to play Eaties Cereal Bar (48 Commerce St., 505-1851).
The Secret B-Sides are Dan Rousseau on trumpet, Woody on bass, Caleb Sherrod playing saxophone, and Juan Holladay on guitar and vocals. Their sound is vintage ‘70s smooth jazz and soul, really more old-school than neo, but there’s also a twist of post-modern sci-fi that renders their sound if not wholly new, at least not derivative.
Check out this group (do it quick before they go underground again): The Secret B-Sides shouldn’t remain a secret.
Smart Bets: The Secret B-Sides and ArtOfficial
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Local soul/funk/hip-hop outfit The Secret B-Sides headlines the One Stop stage on Thursday, Aug. 4, ...Local soul/funk/hip-hop outfit The Secret B-Sides headlines the One Stop stage on Thursday, Aug. 4, performing its brand of "flower-powered-future-soul for your earholes." They're joined on the bill by ArtOfficial, an underground hip-hop act from Miami. According to ArtOfficial's website, their "setup alone beckons the question, 'What does a live band with two emcees sound like?' Well, imagine Soulive with a harder edge or The Roots, but jazzier, and wildly spontaneous." Showtime is 10 p.m., $5. ashevillemusichall.com.
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When Juan Holladay walked away from the Pritchard Park drum circle the evening of June 3, he had no ...When Juan Holladay walked away from the Pritchard Park drum circle the evening of June 3, he had no idea he was about to be arrested — much less that the ensuing events would launch an internal police investigation. Here’s the Asheville resident’s account of what happened:
Holladay, a guitarist and singer for local band the Secret B-Sides, was handing out fliers for his show at MoDaddy’s later that night. Walking past the Urban Trail station on Patton Avenue honoring Elizabeth Blackwell, he saw several Asheville police officers talking to someone.
“It didn’t seem that serious; they didn’t have the sidewalk blocked off,” Holladay recalls. “I handed a flier to a young man that looked like he was a friend to the guy [who] was being talked to. The officers seemed relaxed. I handed him a flier and walked away. An officer blocked my way and asked if I saw what was going on. He asked if I knew them, pointing back to three young men.”
According to Holladay, he said he didn’t know them, and then the officer grabbed his wrist “and held it in a way that communicated to me that I was in big trouble.
“I felt this had already escalated way beyond what was necessary,” Holladay explains. “I thought I should let him know. I said, ‘Sir, you don’t need to be so agro.’ I meant to say ‘aggressive,’ but I was nervous. I hoped [the officer] would see me being calm and the situation would de-escalate. He then said ‘OK’ and twisted my arm around behind my back, with enough force to shock me.”
The officer started yelling for Holladay to get on the ground, something he claims was difficult, given his position.
“It should have been an easy process: I was cooperating as well as I could, but I was in shock and afraid,” Holladay says. At that point, he felt multiple officers restrain him.
“They kept yelling at me to get on the ground — it felt like there was one on each limb — but I kept telling them I didn’t have any control over my person at that point,” he says. “I think they were panicked. People had gathered around and were shouting ‘police brutality’ and ‘excessive force.’ The situation got out of control really fast.”
Other officers moved to get the crowd back, as another “started choking me from behind” using his bicep, Holladay claims. “It got tighter and tighter. I thought he was trying to choke me unconscious. He was pumped up on adrenaline. I worried he would snap my neck. I called out to him, told him. He stopped trying; I have a skinny neck.”
At that point, Officer Leslie Torgow put a can of pepper spray to his face and asked him to comply. Then, Holladay says, the other officers relaxed enough that he could get on the ground. “I was grateful for [Torgow’s] presence. She took charge of the situation, made a plan [that] gave me a chance to comply without other officers interfering. Except for her, the other officers never gave me a chance to cooperate.”
Among the passers-by that night was Asheville resident Rick Fornoff. “I assumed the APD had captured some armed and dangerous drug dealer, just by the way they were acting. There was a lot of physical activity going on. There were a lot of police cars there,” Fornoff reports.
“The crowd was upset with what was going on; somebody was being tackled.” Having worked with Holladay as a volunteer at the TEDxAsheville conference, Fornoff says he was surprised when he saw who the officers were restraining. “He can’t weigh more than 130 pounds, and he’s a gentle soul.”
Holladay, who works part time as a preschool teacher, was charged with resisting public officers and creating a public disturbance. He was released from the Buncombe County Jail later that night on a promise to appear in court. He says he had a bloodied chin, some bruises and was sore for about a week, but he met his band in the jail waiting room and still played his show afterward. He didn’t seek medical treatment.
A reasonable manner
There’s no incident report concerning the arrest, but in response to media queries, Lt. Wally Welch said the officers were in the process of arresting three people for putting stickers on city power poles. Here’s the official account he released:
“Mr. Holladay stepped into the middle of my investigation and interfered,” Officer Daniel Britt reports. “[Officer Willie] Carswell told him to leave, and Holladay said. ‘Fuck you: I don’t have to.’ Carswell told him he was under arrest, and then Holladay resisted.
“A large crowd gathered, and [Holladay] was taken into custody and transported by Britt and Carswell. From my perspective, the officers did their duty in a reasonable manner,” Welch wrote. “It should also be noted that Mr. Holladay has never been to the department to file a complaint about his treatment.”
Holladay denies having cursed the officers when they approached him, or that they asked him to leave before restraining him. He says he cursed while being choked, exclaiming, “You’re going to break my fucking neck!” And when he was lifted off the ground, he maintains, he told them, “‘You’re playing tug of war with me like a fucking rag doll.’ I didn’t directly curse at any officers.”
According to the APD’s guidelines, “Officers may only use the force necessary to carry out a legal purpose.”
When asked what specific actions Holladay took that interfered with Britt and Carswell’s investigation, which officer restrained him first, how they did it and how he resisted, Welch replied, “I would love to provide some clarity for you on this, but I’ve since been advised that this has turned into an internal investigation and am not allowed further comment.”
Holladay admits that he hasn’t filed a formal complaint. Instead, he approached City Council member Cecil Bothwell via Facebook and made a public call on his Facebook page asking witnesses in the crowd to come forward. Bothwell confirmed having asked City Manager Gary Jackson to look into the matter. At the city manager’s request, the department launched an investigation: Holladay says he later received a call from Jackson’s office about meeting with an Internal Affairs officer.
Holladay’s court date is Sept. 13.
One-hundred fifty (150) solid minutes of original, flower-powered-future-soul:
Rap 'n' Roll
That '60s Show
Step to Me
Are You Music?
S.O.L. (Soldier of Love)
Playa Play Her
Mother Earth '08
On to You
The Band . . .
Hide & Seek
Sing Me to Heaven
Many Times Before
Plus thirty (30) minutes of select cover material, including:
Washington We're Watching You, by the Staple Singers
Funky President (People It's Bad), by James Brown
The Last Time, by Gnarles Barkley
In Those Jeans, by Ginuwine
I Wanna Get Next to You, by Rose Royce
What Is This, by Scar
PDF RiderThe Secret B-Sides Rider
There are no upcoming dates at this time.