Mainey-act: Cerberus Shoal raises goosebumps

I've never been to the state of Maine. The closest I've ever gotten to that state is through the novels of Stephen King. I'm not sure if he still does this, but early in his career all his stories were centered in or around the town of Castle Rock. Now, of the half dozen novels and two dozen short stories of King's I've read, there's one thing I've taken from them: Maine is a strange place. Even if the stories are fiction, for that state to inspire such tales means there must be a strange juju sealed in the permafrost.

When the Thanksgiving holiday weekend rolled in, Charlottesville might as well have been Maine as far as temperature was concerned. Wednesday the cold started creeping, and by Saturday I was ready to fly south. During frigid times like these, I like to find somewhere warm and cozy to hang out.

Saturday I could think of no better place than the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. Aside from the cushioned couches and various heart-warming tea selections, the Twisted Branch is famous for its eclectic live music selection. You could bet that whenever an out-of-town band comes through their doors, they're probably a little left of center. At least this has been my experience. Saturday night, November 25, was no exception.

The band, Cerberus Shoal, was billed as a six-piece orchestra that "brings an eclectic mix of spoken word, accordion and abstract electronics." Sounded good enough.

I made my way to the merchandise table where the band sold copies of their disks. Word has it they've been around for nearly a decade, and the impressive catalogue of indie releases laid out in front of me was proof of their productive output.

Obviously someone liked these guys if they were able to continually release this much music. The guy at the merch table told me the group was from Maine. Immediately scenes from King's eerie Secret Window and The Long Walk popped into my head.

When the group started up, my assumptions about Maine were confirmed. Cerberus Shoal was perhaps even freakier than the novels. The group started with an a cappella verse that all six members chanted ominously in unison. I checked the floor– okay, no pentagram.

"I think we're safe for now," I whispered to a friend standing next to me who seemed equally confused– and interested.

The band worked its way into an ambient cacophony of dissonance and verse bordering on jumbled folk and experimental electronic noise. The drummer hit the cymbals at just the right moments to scare me to the point that I almost wet my pants.

Then came more vocals, the majority of which were sung by a hippie-looking chick playing an accordion at the back of the stage. I could barely make out her words through the percussion and guitar, but when I could, she seemed to be singing a warning to the audience. By this point, it could have just been the paranoia kicking in. I half expected a hell-spawn to come out of the floor any minute and suck an innocent bystander into the depths of Hades.

Cerberus continued to play, and no demons appeared. There were a few glimpses of sanity in their songwriting when they played a semi-accessible rockish tune in the middle of the set. To their credit, they did have a few catchy bass lines and melodies scattered throughout the course of the evening.

But I left feeling a bit out of whack and a little weirded out. One thing's for sure: strange things come from Maine.