Thursday, June 30, 2011

Marshall Park hosts hip-hop/R&B lineup Saturday

The inaugural Hip-Hop & R&B in the Park festival takes place Saturday, July 2 from noon to 6 p.m. at Marshall Park (800 East 3rd St.). With Charlotte and NC-based performers Sunshine Anderson, Elu, Ida Divine, Nadia Sade', J Hut, Olivia, Royal Tee, S Dub , and Grammer performing. This looks like a great way to sample some of the city's rising hip-hop and R&B. DJ Chuck T will host the event and Stretch-O-Matic will provide music.

The event includes free food and beverages and children's activities.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jill Scott to headline Summer Block Party

Grammy winning soul singer and actress Jill Scott will headline the Budweiser Superfest Summer Block Party at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre August 24. Also performing are Charlotte's own Anthony Hamilton and Minneapolis' Mint Condition (Carolinians recently saw both acts opening for Prince in March). Hamilton also appears on Scott's recent single "So In Love." DJ Jazzy Jeff will provide music during the show and Doug E. Fresh will serve as host.

The same lineup hits Raleigh's Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion August 23. Tickets for both dates go on sale Saturday, July 9 at 10 a.m. at

Mountain music festival announces 2011 lineup

The 4th Annual Music on the Mountaintop Festival announced its lineup this week. The two-day festival, which takes place August 26 and 27 at Grandfather Campgrounds in Foscoe, NC outside of Boone this year, includes performances by a bevy of regional and national bluegrass, jam, funk, and acoustic acts.

Artists include Sam Bush, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Acoustic Syndicate, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, Frontier Ruckus, Town Mountain, Do It to Julia, Naked Gods, the Mantras, the New Familiars, the Lazybirds, the Native Sway, Bafoodus, Simplified, Uncle Mountain and Secret B-Sides. Bush (pictured at Merlefest 2011) has headlined the festival since its 2008 inception. More acts will be announced shortly.

Discounted early bird tickets are now available at for $35 for single day passes and $70 for two day passes. Camping passes are also available. Those are $12 for primitive camping and $15 for standard camping.

The new location, which is 10 miles from Boone, offers potable water throughout, public restrooms, bathhouses, a public store and over 200 shaded campsites. In addition to music the festival promotes ecological and environmental awareness working closely with Mountain Alliance and Appalachian Voices.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Latin rock acts heading to Charlotte

Grammy winning Mexican alternative rockers Molotov, who draw equally from hip-hop and punk rock, are heading back to Charlotte. The musically versatile group, who I think of as a sort of Spanish language Beastie Boys, is set to play The Fillmore September 21. Tickets go on sale Friday, July 8. (The above video is old, by the way, but I included it because its my favorite Molotov track).

Molotov isn't the only Latin artist heading our way. Mexican rock act Zoe plays The Neighborhood Theatre August 21. French-born world music artist Manu Chao (who sometimes sings in Spanish) plays The Fillmore September 7.

The Latin American Coalition also announced its lineup for The 21st Annual Latin American Festival Monday. The lineup includes Colombia's Aterciopelados, Grammy winners Xperimento (who blend Merengue, ska, Kuduru and jazz), New York-based Jose Conde (who combines the singer-songwriter genre with a funky Afro-Cuban ensemble), and New York's Gersey Nicolas (playing Bachata from the Dominican Republic), as well as Charlotte's own Los Tarascos de Michoacan and Fusion Latina.

From what I remember about Aterciopelados, their inclusion on the bill is quite a coup. La Rua, a local Latin rock band that broke up several years ago, use to play some of its songs in concert and the crowds would go wild. The reaction to the real thing will undoubtedly be even better.

The Latin American Festival takes place at South Park's Symphony Park Sunday, Oct. 9 from noon until 7 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 9 to 12, and free for younger children and Mint Museum members. For more information:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weird Al releases new album, parodies Gaga

Just a few months after Lady Gaga released her "Born this Way" video, Weird Al Yankovic follows it with the spot on "Perform This Way" video. Its funny that Yankovic remains relevant long after some of the pop stars he's parodied. And just when you forget about him, there he is with another unexpected track like "Amish Paradise" or "White & Nerdy."

The Gaga parody isn't that unexpected, of course. Anyone that wears a meat dress can expect to be the butt of a few jokes. The video is really well done. Check out "Peform This Way" here. "Entertainment Weekly" also spoke to Al earlier this week about the track and his new album "Alpocalypse," which is out this week. He also takes on Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, and Miley Cyrus. I'm particularly curious about his take on T.I.'s "Whatever You Like."

This week's hot concerts

Jazz Fest

8:30 p.m. Friday, Fillmore, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, both venues located at 1000 Seaboard St. $50.50-$66 Friday, $43.35-$72.40 Saturday.

The second annual Uptown Jazz Fest includes performances by Michael Franks, Marcus Johnson, Shableek, and Uncommon Jazz Friday and Gerald Albright, Jeff Lorber Fusion, and George Duke, Marcus Miller and David Sanborn performing as DMS Saturday.

Morris Day & the Time

8 p.m. Saturday, June 25, Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St. $34.50-$64.50. 704-372-1000.

Prince reminded fans of his cohort’s funk-pop playing the Time’s “Cool” at recent concerts. Day and his group remain nothing less with a catalog that includes “Jungle Love,” “The Bird,” “Jerk Out” and more.

Sugar Ray

8 p.m. Saturday, June 25, The Pavilion at EpiCentre, 210 E. Trade St. $20-$25.

TV hunk Mark McGrath reunites with the Southern California band that kickstarted his career with “Fly” and “When It’s Over.” The group brings a its sunny pop to the EpiCentre rooftop stage.

Jennifer Holliday

8 p.m. Saturday, June 25, Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., $36-$58. 704-372-1000.

The Tony winning original Dream Girl, who recently released her first new album in 17 years, joins the Charlotte Symphony during this fundraiser for the United Negro College Fund.

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra

10:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $10-$12. 704-376-3737.

After years as a beachside staple the steel pan is the centerpiece of this classically-trained band leader that’s making waves in world music and jam circle. With fellow Ashevillean Stephanie’s Id.

PJ Morton

6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 26, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $15-$20.

Best known as a producer and for his work with Maroon 5, this singer/writer/producer makes his own blend of R&B and pop with a smooth sound and a unique jazzy catch to his voice that recalls Lenny Kravitz crossed with Terence Trent D’Arby at times.


7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $10-$12.

This rap duo hit hard in the early `90s with the influential quick lyrical style and childlike wordplay of “They Want EFX” and “Mic Checka” (and is credited with the “iggity” craze). It aims to remind fans of its influence on the road.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Charlotte Phish show draws attention to underground singer-songwriter

Apparently Phish's Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon attended the David Mayfield Parade show at Evening Muse in Charlotte last Thursday. I was sitting in the third row and didn't notice them. I did notice Mayfield tweeted the above photo of Gordon and Anastasio wearing his silhouette t-shirts last weekend. They wore them on stage at the Charlotte show Friday and mentioned their NoDa outing at Friday's Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre show. Phish even used Mayfield's image during the set humorously declaring him their "Icculus." If you don't know what that means follow the links below.

Mayfield's website recounts his unlikely brush with "fame" here. Jambase reviews the Phish show here. And there's a fuzzy YouTube clip from the Charlotte show here. Now I wish I'd picked up one of these t-shirts.

Review: Def Leppard and Heart at Verizon

For some the Def Leppard/Heart concert at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre was like revisiting its youth, while younger fans that have discovered both bands through TV, classic rock radio, and video games like “Guitar Hero” were seeing them for the first time. The songs may have been a few decades old, but the performances weren’t at all tired.

Heart opened its set with “Cook with Fire,” the opening track off its 1978 album “Dog & Butterfly.” Ann Wilson stalked the stage in head-to-toe black with a flute in hand before zipping through a rare flute solo. Guitarist Nancy Wilson noted that the group would be playing lots of music from the `80s. It bounded through “Never,” “What About Love,” “These Dreams,” and “Alone” before ending the set in the `70s with “Magic Man,” “Crazy On You,” “Barracuda,” and an encore of Led Zeppelin’s “What is and What Will Never Be.”

Ann and Nancy Wilson (61 and 57, respectively, pictured below) looked younger and healthier than most rockers their age.

Nancy Wilson glides across the stage like a gazelle fluidly bouncing and kicking just like she did on MTV in the `80s. While some singers lose range with age, Ann Wilson’s voice remains amazing as exhibited best during the quiet “Alone.” “American Idol” should recruit her as a guest instructor.

Def Leppard bounded on stage with its latest single “Undefeated.” Ready-made for a sports commercial with footage of Michael Jordan, its deeper meaning was revealed through flashes of newspaper clippings about the band’s hardest years (drummer Rick Allen’s car wreck, guitarist Steve Clark’s death). One even declared it the “most unlucky (sic) band in the world.” But it proved itself not so unlucky. Few bands of its era still fill outdoor amphitheatres, but its audience enthusiastically followed it through “Let’s Get Rocked” all the way to the finale of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”

I can’t remember an entire audience so uninhibitedly animated as it was during “Sugar.” Between those and an encore of “Rock of Ages” it hit on “Animal,” “Foolin’,” and “Hysteria.” I could’ve done without its cover of “Rock On” (a hit for David Essex in 1974 and soap star Michael Damian in 1989) in exchange for another original. Joe Elliott, like many aging vocalists, occasionally struggled with higher notes (“Love Bites” was played a step down from the original), but strong backing vocals from his band mates made up for it. All but Allen gathered at stage front for an acoustic portion that included “2 Steps Behind” and “Bringing on the Heartbreak.”

The British five-piece seemed to revel in playing tracks like “Armageddon It.” Guitarist Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen (pictured above) were all smiles, with the latter seeming playfully cocky winking at the crowd. Both appeared to be in great shape. At 53, Collen, a longtime vegetarian according to “People Magazine,” was ripped enough to audition for the next “Transporter” movie (his trainer Muay Thai champion Jean Carrillo was best man at his 2010 wedding).

Both bands played about the same number of songs, but neither played every single hit of its career. I think the audience would’ve happily stuck around for more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Up and coming rock band at Snug Harbor tonight

Eastern Conference Champions play Snug Harbor Wednesday, June 22. I've been enjoying its new album "Speak-ahh" since it was released in April. The Pennsylvania-bred, Los Angeles-based group makes entertaining and thoughtful videos like the one above and the video for its song "The Box"(think The Alan Parson Project's "Don't Answer Me" meets "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"). Both are from its 2007 debut "Ameritown," but you can watch newer clips here.

You may already be familiar with the group's music. It had a track ("A Million Miles an Hour") on the "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" soundtrack, opened for Neon Trees at The Fillmore in May, and its song "Patience" was used in an NBA ad featuring Michael Jordan recently.

The Snug Harbor show also features Ultralush and Dead Rabbits. 9 p.m., $5.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Athens, Georgia music festival kicks off Wednesday.

Athens, Georgia is such a cute town you really don’t need an excuse to visit, but this week the college town gives you a good reason to with Athfest. Athfest, the annual arts and music festival begins Wednesday with films (including hometown heroes Drive-By Truckers: the Go-Go Boots Episodes) and a comedy showcase. Now in its 15th year, Athfest features a lot of homegrown live music on three outdoor stages and at area clubs and venues like The 40 Watt Club and Go Bar as well as children’s activities at KIDSFest, a juried artisan market, film screenings, comedy, dance, and awards.

Live music, which emphasizes acts from Athens and the surrounding area, gets underway Friday and the schedule is vast. Friday’s acts include Futurebirds, Centro-Matic, Thomas Hardy of Dead Confederate, the Corduroy Road, the Orkids, Twin Tiger, Gringo Star and Modern Skirts. Saturday’s line-up includes the 30th anniversary of Guadalcanal Diary, Chickasaw Mudd Puppies, Nappy Roots, the Knockouts, Dodd Ferrelle, Five Eight, Love Tractor, Ken Wil Morton, and Bloodkin. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Col. Bruce Hampton and the Pharoah Gummitt, and the Kevn Kinney Band help close out the festival on Sunday.

All outdoor shows are all ages and free. Wristbands are required for entrance to venues participating in Friday and Saturday’s club crawl. Those will also get you discounted admission to LaughFest, the 2011 Flagpole Athens Music Awards, Sprockets Film Festival and Cine` Athfest films. Wristbands are $15-$20 and are available at or at club entrances Friday and Saturday. For more info on the overall event watch the video below:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Member of two area bands releases solo debut, plays Muse Friday

Charlotte-based musician Philip Hamrick recently released his solo debut, "The Ceiling." He plays Evening Muse's 8 p.m. show Friday, June 17 with Ian Thomas. But if you knew Hamrick from his work in acoustic trio Not a Sparrow or the roosty pop duo Miles Apart, which also featured his wife Rachel, then "The Ceiling" might come as a surprise. The 11-track collection is a rocking affair that touches on the urgency and charm of the Replacements while honing in on something a little more current.

There are shades of other artists like Ryan Adams and Canada's Sam Roberts, but none are present enough to make a clear comparison. That's not a bad thing. The Asheboro native's album is big on meaty pop hooks, raspy vocals, enough distortion to keep the guitars heavy, and slower moments that hint at his past work. His bio describes him as a "recovering folk singer." The term is amusing, but accurate.

Tickets for the show are $8 to $10.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

This week's hot concerts

Ed Kowalczyk

6 p.m. Friday, June 17, NC Music Factory, 935 N. Graham St. $5.

The Music Factory ends its Friday Live series with the frontman from `90s alt-rockers Live who will likely revisit hits like “I Alone,” “Lightning Crashes,” and early singles like 1991’s “Pain Lies on the Riverside.”

Owl City

7 p.m. Friday, June 17, Fillmore, 1000 Seaboard St. $35.25.

This one-man basement project turned hit making band behind 2009’s “Fireflies” finds mastermind Adam Young (whose voice bears an uncanny resemblance to Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard’s) back on the road in support of his new whimsical electronic pop album “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”

Rock the Park

Saturday, June 18, Carowinds, 14523 Carowinds Blvd. $53.29-$112.29.

Christian rock artists Jeremy Camp, Family Force 5, Tenth Avenue North, Skillet, Manic Drive, and Anthem Lights make up the lineup at one of Carowinds’ semi-annual Christian music festivals.

Chatham County Line

7 p.m. Saturday, June 18, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $12-$22. 704-358-9298.

Singer-songwriter Dave Wilson, who grew up in Charlotte, fronts this triangle area new grass outfit that’s really stretched and grown out of its bluegrass beginnings to become an eclectic new acoustic force without leaving tradition behind.

Delfeayo Marsalis

7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 19, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St., $25-$35. 704-372-1000.

Wynton and Branford’s little brother (who is not so little in his forties) is a revered trombonist in his own right who re-imagines Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorne’s Shakespeare-inspired work “Such Sweet Thunder” for a modern audience on his latest album and tour.

Dick Dale

6:30 p.m. Monday, June 20, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $15.

The 74-year-old surf guitar legend behind classics like “Misirlou” heads up a classic surf and rockabilly bill with guitarist Laramie Dean and Charlotte’s own Belmont Playboys and Aqualads.

Nicole Atkins

8 p.m. Monday, June 20, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $10-$12.

The UNC-Charlotte grad (who hails from Jersey) returns to town after a triumphant performance at this year’s Bonnaroo in support of her lovely latest album, “Mondo Amore.” With local songwriter Stephen Warwick.

Def Leppard/Heart

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $32-$149.50.

Two `70s and `80s rock powerhouses return. Decades into its careers both continue to deliver monster live performances with Leppard still playing like a well-oiled machine and Ann and Nancy Wilson showing little age.

Review: Bonnaroo 2011 Part 2

After having a few days to absorb all I saw at Bonnaroo I think my favorite performances were the Arcade Fire as I mentioned in part 1 and Swedish pop singer Robyn’s show on Sunday (Eminem might come in third for sheer showmanship and the ability to blast through hit after hit without a lull while playing for practically the entire festival population).

When people asked who I was most excited to see at Bonnaroo this year I would, without hesitation, reply “Robyn!” (pictured above) to typically blank stares. Aside from 1997's Top 3 singles “Show Me Love” and “Do You Know (What It Takes)" and club singles “Cobrastyle” and “Handle Me," which charted in 2008, Robyn hasn’t made much noise in the states. In the last year she’s enjoyed a slightly higher profile thanks to the fantastic “Body Talk” album - my favorite album of 2010. She sang a snippet of her single “Dancing on My Own” at The 2010 MTV Video Music Awards (and it’s been in my head ever since) and in January “Entertainment Weekly” declared her “Totally Amazing” and asked “Why isn’t she a superstar?”

I’m hoping maybe her road to superstardom will be a little shorter after Sunday’s performance, which “Billboard” declared the best of the entire festival. The magazine posted some of Sunday’s set on YouTube (Warning: profanity on the second track). You can feel the love from the crowd. I too was bouncing and singing along behind the sound board. Robyn said it was the best crowd she and her band, who are currently touring the US opening for Katy Perry, have had here.

She and the aforementioned Nicole Atkins were the highlights of my day. The Strokes played practically everything I wanted to hear, but I felt it deserved a spot on the main stage or at least better sound or volume. All I was getting through the chatty crowd was bass and occasional vocals until I moved farther back where “Whatever Happened?” (probably my favorites Strokes’ song) was competing with my favorite Explosions in the Sky song “The Birth and the Death of the Day.” Explosions, the instrumental Austin-based outfit best known for its "Friday Night Lights'" soundtrack work, sounded incredible as always.

Despite having seen Robert Plant (pictured above with Patty Griffin) in Charlotte in February my husband gushed about his favorite show of the weekend long after Plant and his Band of Joy left the stage (his favorite set the last time we attended was Plant with Alison Krauss). He was extremely impressed by band members Buddy Miller and Darrell Scott, who are great artists in their own right.

Given the number of acts playing at one time there are always some you’re sorry to miss. We saw some of G. Love, Ryan Bingham, Junip, Apache Relay, and Neon Trees (who soldiered through losing its P.A. during one song with the crowd urging them on by clapping the beat along with the minimal sound wafting out of the monitors on stage). We heard Widespread Panic’s entire marathon set from afar. My friend Lisa hasn't stopped talking about Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens, a Daptone Records (Sharon Jones’ label) group that played early in the day. It was probably her favorite artist of the weekend and one she’d never even heard of before (her vote for worst was Best Coast). For all the groups we heard and saw I wouldn’t say anyone was bad, although despite giving Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub a try both on record and now live I’m still not a fan.

Other thoughts:

The food – Plenty of it including vegetarian samosas, wood-fired pizza that’s actually worth the $9, gourmet food trucks, and fried Oreos (an improvement in my book). When it comes to food Bonnaroo has it over the other festivals I’ve been to.

The merch – Again, plenty of it. I could spend a fortune at the art print and poster tent (we bought Star Wars prints for our boys), the clothes and handmade goods are cute, and the drum building experience was something I would’ve never thought I’d do, but made me miss making art.

The dust – Back when we attended in 2006 and 2008 water spewing trucks would drive around when it got too dusty, but that wasn’t the case this year. The view outside several tents was obstructed by a cloud of dust.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recommended - David Mayfield at Muse Thursday

I missed singer-songwriter David Mayfield's set at Bonnaroo last Thursday. We were still driving when he hit the stage that night, but luckily he's back in Charlotte this Thursday, June 16 at The Evening Muse (3227 N. Davidson St.). His December show at The Muse was among my top 10 concerts of 2010.

I first encountered Mayfield playing bass for his sister Jessica Lea at Visulite. He wasn't nearly as animated as he is when headlining his own shows, but he still oozed personality perching his big upright bass on his feet during an extended psychedelic folk breakdown. At Bonnaroo he joined Jessica Lea and Mumford & Sons during their sets. But its solo or with his band The Parade where he really shines.

I don't want to give too much away, but his is not your typical folk or Americana show. There's little navel gazing and while some of his songs are fairly serious and romantic in nature he brings the fun and the funny. He breaks down the performer/audience wall with a wink, a booty shake and banter that mocks standard singer-songwriter cliches. My friend, who was completely unfamiliar with him when we went to the show in December, tweeted her devotion to him after the show. I'm initiating another potential convert tomorrow.

The music is good too. His latest album, which features friends Scott and Seth Avett, is one of my favorite releases of the year.

Mayfield plays at 10:30 p.m. Thursday. $12-$14.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Influential Charlotte hardcore band reunites for two shows

Defunct Christian hardcore band Hopesfall, who called it quits in 2008, announced recently that most of its original lineup will reunite for two shows. The group (pictured above a decade ago), which includes guitarist Joshua Brigham, vocalist Doug Venable, guitarist Ryan Parrish, drummer Adam Morgan, and bassist Pat Aldrich (who replaced original member Chris Kincaid on the band's second release) will perform Friday, August 5 at Ziggy's in Winston-Salem and Saturday, August 6 at Amos' Southend in Charlotte. Hopesfall will headline the second show with Harvard opening.

Drummer Adam Morgan says the reunion shows were prompted by the reunion of friends Codeseven, who regroups for its own hometown show August 5 in Winston-Salem. "They approached us. They haven't been a band for a while either and were our tour mates and buddies for a long time," Morgan explains.

Morgan stresses that Hopesfall will only be playing the work that the bulk of this lineup created together - its first album "The Frailty of Words" and its followup EP "No Wings to Speak Of."

"There were three albums after those two. I don’t want kids paying money and expecting to see songs that they remember from those records," he says.

When it debuted in 1998 it seemed like Hopesfall was popular from the get go at home. Certainly by the time "No Wings to Speak Of" was released in 2001 I'd already heard a lot about its local drawing power. It repeated that popularity elsewhere staying on the road much of the year, touring overseas and on Warped Tour. It went through several lineup changes, including a controversial final touring lineup that briefly included no original members. Brigham remained with the band the longest.

Whatever its configuration Hopesfall was important to many kids, not only in Charlotte but worldwide. I noticed other Christian hardcore acts following in its foot steps here at home and am sure its impact was felt elsewhere. One fan is flying in from New Zealand for the shows.

Morgan, who has already been playing music with Brigham again, is curious to see how the reunion goes. Before its first practice he says: "This lineup hasn’t played together as a whole in ten years."

Monday, June 13, 2011

UNCC grad turns in fantastic Bonnaroo set

I've seen New Jersey native and UNC-Charlotte graduate Nicole Atkins perform before and I like her a lot, but she absolutely blew me away Sunday playing an early afternoon set with her band the Black Sea in the sweltering Bonnaroo heat.

The sound was clear and Atkins' voice was astounding. As we approached the tent my husband noted the Stevie Nicks-like quality in her voice during her Can cover (and how cool is she to cover Can? I believe its called "Vitamin C" and her version is available as the B-side on the "Vultures" 7 inch). Later her torch-y belting of a show stopping waltz with Ben Sollee guesting on cello reminded me of the power of a Patsy Cline or Dusty Springfield. I got chills. Her's was one of my favorite performances of the day.

Atkins, who remains quite connected to Charlotte and always seems to stop here on tour, will bring those killer pipes to The Milestone Monday, June 20 at 8 p.m. Stephen Warwick and Small Talk Industries also play. Tickets are $10-$12.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: Bonnaroo 2011 Part 1

Heading out to Bonnaroo for the first time since 2008 I was a little worried that after having two kids I’d have outgrown the huge festival experience. Would the hassle of heat, crowds, dust, and standing on my feet for hours outweigh the fun of endless live music?

I’m happy to say two days in that the answer is no. Watching Eminem Saturday night with the biggest crowd I’ve seen since Radiohead played here in 2006 I decided that I’m enjoying this Bonnaroo more than I have any other. Where else can you simultaneously hear Alison Krauss singing sweetly on one stage while Chiddy Bang blasts through its hit “The Opposite of Adults” all while drawing Yo Gabba Gabba figures on a drum for your two-year-old? That was my afternoon.

I also got to see some of my favorite artists, both past and current, within a few hours of each other starting with Jessica Lea Mayfield (pictured above). She sang depressing and sometimes sexy songs in her not quite Southern (she’s from Ohio) drawl flanked by a guitarist wearing a red leather Michael Jackson “Beat It” style vest who played psychedelic electric guitar over her intimate folk songs. Later California veteran punk band NOFX, an unlikely booking for the more jam-leaning Bonnaroo, joked about its fellow acts (“There are two kinds of bands: Bands that try to write good songs and jam bands.” cracked Fat Mike) between pummeling through political fare and fan favorites like “Bob” and its slowed down ska version of Rancid’s “Radio” (“There’s a band with integrity,” noted Fat Mike. “They’ll never play Bonnaroo”).

Justin Townes Earle (pictured above), singer-songwriter Steve Earle’s son, could’ve easily made a career recycling songs similar to his father’s, but reminds me more of someone like Gillian Welch. Watching him weave between old time, vintage blues, and folk in a pork pie hat and plaid suit jacket I felt like I was watching someone from another era. He was funny too, wiping his brow with a bandana – “Ya’ll are crazier than hell comin’ here,” he said in his Tennessee drawl. And he’s kind of right. There are always moments that remind me why I continue to come to these kinds of events. The sense of camaraderie looking back over the field and seeing tens of thousands of people singing along with the “ohh, ohh, ohh, ooh, ooh” intro to the Arcade Fire’s encore of “Wake Up” gave me goose bumps. Moments like that is what the experience of a festival this size is all about.

Friday’s Best Performances

The Arcade Fire were amazing, yet humble. Singer/multi-instrumentalist Regine Chassagne has really come into her own as a performer. She twirled streamers and danced cutely to the songs she sang lead on when not playing drums, keys, or accordion. But really there isn’t a weak leak in this band.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. Potter is just an unbelievable live performer. I think the leggy blonde could take pretty much anyone in a shimmy/sing-off.

My Morning Jacket. Its first headlining set served as a homecoming and Jim James and the boys are a live force. Bonus points for playing my favorite, “Highly Suspicious.”

Best Crowds –

Dance duo Matt & Kim and 2010 it-band Florence & the Machine both attracted enough fans to not only fill a shed, but attract crowds over a hundred feet away. I felt like both should’ve gotten to play a larger stage. That’s one thing about Bonnaroo, even the lesser known acts playing small tents attract a good crowd.

Best Surprises –

Phosphorescent, atmospheric but rootsy with a bit of a Peter Gabriel quality at times, just set a great mood.

Graveyard – This Swedish hard rock outfit won a rare encore on a tiny stage.

!!! – This oddly named dance outfit (along with Chiddy Bang and Matt & Kim) made me think how some of the best new live performers are electronic dance acts.

Flavor Savers - The silliest, most entertaining surprise (pictured) performed in scant bird/feather costumes and played humorous synth-rock with titles like "Let's Do it Naughty."

Friday, June 10, 2011

This week's hot concerts

Tiempo Libre

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 10 and 11, Stage Door Theater, corner of 5th and College streets. $20-$25. 704-372-1000.

Mixing American influences with Afro-Cuban traditions, the group is the world's leading Cuban timba ambassadors performing on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" and recording with artists like James Galway, Joshua Bell, and Placido Domingo.

River City Extension

10 p.m. Saturday, June 11, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $ 10-$12.

This rootsy New Jersey outfit’s big orchestral everything-and-the-kitchen-sink instrumentation and male/female vocals is reminiscent of the Arcade Fire crossed with the bounce and down home energy of the Avett Brothers. I can see fans of Josh Ritter and Devotchka digging this as well.

JD Souther

6:30 p.m. Monday, June 13, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St. $25-$27.50. 704-372-1000.

This quiet singer-songwriter is best known for his work with the Eagles (“New Kid in Town,” “Heartache Tonight”) and Linda Rondstadt. His new album “Natural History” is only his second record in 25 years, but gets him out of the studio and on tour with Jill Andrews (who released her first full-length album, “The Mirror,” this week).

Twin Sister

9 p.m. Monday, June 13, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $8-$10.

This Long Island combo’s experimental pop music runs from delicate and dreamy to sparse and strange electronic landscapes with elements of folk and chilly dance music mingling under ethereal vocals.

Over the Rhine

7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $18-$22. 704-358-9200.

The Ohio husband and wife team worked with Grammy winning producer Joe Henry on its new album “The Long Surrender,” which captures the duo’s balance of vintage Americana and grown up pop music that are both grand and intimate.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings announce Charlotte show

Singer-songwriters Gillian Welch and David Rawlings will follow the June 28 release of its long (and I do mean long) awaited new album, "The Harrow & The Harvest" with a string of concerts including several in the Carolinas. The folk duo will play Knight Theater on August 20. Welch and Rawlings, who are always downright amazing live in my experience, will also play the following Carolina shows.

Wed Aug-03 Raleigh, NC North Carolina Museum of Art

Thu Aug-04 Winston-Salem, NC Ziggy's

Fri Aug-05 Asheville, NC The Orange Peel

Sat Aug-20 Charlotte, NC Knight Theater at Levine Cent. for the Arts

Sun Aug-21 Greenville, SC Peace Center Concert Hall

Sat Aug-27 Wilmington, NC Winoca Festival - Battleship Park

Sun Aug-28 Charleston, SC Charleston Music Hall

Local rockers release free song, prep upcoming rock opera

Dylan Gilbert has already proven a prolific songwriter and band leader with five albums under his belt. Still in his early twenties Gilbert, along with his indie rock outfit the Over Easy Breakfast Machine (pictured above), is prepping a rock opera scheduled for release in September.

Even the description sounds ambitious and kinda wacky. In short, it's a rock opera based on the life of an ex-astronaut who joins a group of eccentric explorers on a quest to find the entrance to heaven.

Gilbert already released a free track that serves as a prologue to the project. You can check it out or download it here. Upon reading about Gilbert's ambitious project I emailed him to get more info. "It was time to go in a new direction," Gilbert explained, adding that many of the songs are long suites with multiple parts. "(The storyline) was a way of detaching myself from the project, but its ended up being the most personal album I've made because there's no fear. The lyrics are being spoken by another person so it gives me the opportunity to spill my guts."

Gilbert and the Over Easy Breakfast Machine open for Those Darlins Thursday, June 9 at Tremont and play again at Evening Muse on June 24. Gilbert is accepting donations for the project through a Kickstart campaign here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beloved stoner/metal band's reunion tour heading to Asheville

Yesterday my husband got the text message he'd been waiting on since the Kyuss Lives! reunion was announced a while back. Kyuss Lives! (as the band is calling its Josh Homme-free reunion tour) would be heading to Asheville in September. Today the band's publicist confirmed the news. After selling out venues all over Europe, Kyuss Lives makes its way to The Orange Peel September 25, 2011.

Vocalist John Garcia, drummer Brant Bjork, and guitarist Josh Homme formed Kyuss in high school in 1989. The group, which included a few different bassists including Nick Oliveri, made five records and broke up in 1995 just as its dark, thick riffs (and Garcia's soulful vocals) were finding a wider audience thanks to MTV. The group is considered legendary to a lot of hard rock fans and is quite influential.

Homme continued on the path to MTV, and in turn fame, with Queens of the Stone Age (who put on quite an excellent show celebrating the re-release of its own influential self-titled record at The Orange Peel in March). The other members have continued in music as well (my husband and his friends/band have traveled to Atlanta, Asheville and elsewhere to see all three play separately so it will be nice to have them all in one place).

Kyuss Lives was prompted by Garcia's successful "Garcia plays Kyuss" solo tour of Europe last year where Bjork and Oliveri joined him on stage at Hellfest France. Bruno Fevery, the guitarist that joined Garcia on that tour, takes on the guitar role for the US tour as well.

The North American tour begins in Toronto September 16 and ends in Pomona, California on October 8. Monstro will open the Asheville show.

TV on the Radio announces Charlotte date

TV on the Radio, who lost bassist Gerard Smith to lung cancer in April, announced today that it will return to Charlotte in September. The critically acclaimed group will play The Fillmore September 12, 2011. Broken Social Scene is scheduled to open.

TV on the Radio had been touring without Smith who was taking time off from the band to undergo treatment. He died April 20. The band cancelled five dates following his death.

The adventurous genre-splicing Brooklyn band has received stellar reviews for its live show. It's latest album is "Nine Types of Light."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mini Review: ZZ Top at TWC Uptown Amphitheatre

After opening for Tom Petty last fall, ZZ Top returned to Charlotte Thursday for a solo set at Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre. The veteran band didn't mess around. It hit the stage promptly at 8 without a warm up act and had played its last notes by 9:35.

In between it hit on expected spots - slow bluesy numbers that showcased Billy Gibbons' guitar chops, its signature choreography, Southern boogie rockers, and its biggest `80s hits "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man," and "Legs," which ended the regular set.

The show was similar to the one it played at the Petty concert in September. Gibbons and Dusty Hill again wore matching bedazzled jackets, paid tribute to Jimi Hendrix (with "Hey Joe"), and received a "blues hat" from a lingerie clad beauty. Gibbons revisited his one-handed solo (played with his fretting hand alone) during "I Need You Tonight." Hill got to show off his rippling bass licks and brought a bit of soulful Southern fire to songs like "Party on the Patio" and "Tush" while beardless drummer Frank Beard got to bash some of the interesting percussion that made up his elaborate drum kit. But even the showier tricks were subtle and always fit the song.

It stuck to much of the same material as last time - "Got Me Under Pressure," "Waiting for the Bus," "Jesus Just Left Chicago," "Just Got Paid," "Cheap Sunglasses," the "Eliminator" singles, and encores of "La Grange" and "Tush." But the lengthier set also allowed for a few more blues workouts as well as "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide," and the aforementioned "Party" (fitting considering there actually is a patio at the venue).

Despite the spot-on performance there were several empty seats. Maybe folks already saw them with Petty, opted for another Thursday show or were put off by ticket prices which topped out at $106 for the best seats (over a $1 a minute). On the other side of that ZZ Top got the job done (and done well) without asking its audience to sit around and sacrifice the entire night. It could've worked in a few more songs. As a child of the `80s I wouldn't have minded hearing singles like "TV Dinners," "Velcro Fly" or "Sleeping Bag" (my classic rock loving husband makes fun of me for those requests, but I really loved the latter).

(Thanks to my friend Lauren, who totally dug the show, for the above photos).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This week's hot concerts

Last week was so rich with live music there were a few that fell late in the week and were left off the list, so I've included a few that take place today, June 3, on this week's list.

ZZ Top

8 p.m. Thursday, June 3, Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 Seaboard St. $34-$106.25.

After opening for Tom Petty last September the classic Texas boogie trio is back (led by my favorite “Bones’” dad Billy Gibbons – sorry Ryan O’Neal) as a headliner promising a scorching set of `70s guitar rock, `80s MTV hits and biting blues.

Steel Pulse

8 p.m. Thursday, June 3, Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. $23-$25.

The veteran reggae band that rose to prominence alongside its countrymen of the late `70s British punk movement remain a vital touring act 36 years into its history with founding vocalist/songwriter David Hinds still at the helm.

Janiva Magness

10:30 p.m. Thursday, June 3, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $15-$17. 704-376-3737.

The second female to receive the Blues Music Awards B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award (in 2009) delivers her signature raspy, soulful vocals and feisty delivery on her latest album “The Devil is an Angel Too.” (She was also one of the last artists to tour with Charlotte’s own queen of blues Robin Rogers in Norway last summer and cover Rogers’ “The Plan” in the above video.)


9 p.m. Saturday, June 4, Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon. $22-$25.

The latest disc from the Wu-Tang family, “Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang,” finds the influential Chef still a subtle vocalist with meaty, yet restrained rhymes that often bridge classic Asian themes and modern studio trickery.

Brian McGee - Southwind from Live & Breathing on Vimeo.

Brian McGee

9 p.m. Saturday, June 4 , Common Market, 2007 Commonwealth Ave. Free. 704-332-7782.

The product of Pennsylvania punk bands has absorbed the rural South living in Asheville where he makes raw, acoustic tunes indicative of his adopted surroundings. With PJ Bond, Neil Mauney, and standup comedian the Elder Statesmen.

Ryan Bingham

7 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. $20-$23.

On his latest T-Bone Burnett produced album, “Junky Star,” the Oscar winning singer-songwriter (for his contribution to “Crazy Heart”) doesn’t let the promise of Nashville fame alter his gravely vocals, raw production, and dirty, twangy guitar.

Those Darlins

8 p.m. Thursday, June 9, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $8-$10.

These Nashville honeys (and male drummer) mix down home roots music with girl group charm, punk attitude and humor on songs like “Be Your Bro,” “Bumd” and “Fatty Needs a Fix” from its impressive and fun second album “Screws Get Loose.”

Plain Jane Automobile/The Catch Fire

7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 9, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $5-$7. 704-358-9200.

Up and coming opener PJA is a great live rock unit out of Florida promoting its new disc “Your Tomorrow” (for fans of U2, Ours). The Catch Fire features Mike Mitschele (Jolene, Alternative Champs) and singer-songwriter Jon Lindsay. Sandwiched between these two is Florida’s the Colourslide and Onna.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Moogfest reveals lineup for Halloween weekend festival in Asheville

Moogfest, which held its inaugural festival to honor Bob Moog (the inventor of the Moog synthesizer who called Asheville home) announced the lineup for its second annual festival today. Headliner Flaming Lips seem to be frequenting North Carolina in 2011. Having just played Charlotte in May, the Lips will headline Hopscotch Fest in Raleigh in September and return to the Carolinas for Moogfest in October.

The rest of the exciting Moogfest lineup includes several artists that don't frequent the Carolinas (and a few that do) including Tangerine Dream, Passion Pit, Suicide, Ghostland Observatory, STS9, M83, Crystal Castles, Chromeo, Battles, Umphrey's McGee, Little Dragon and others. View the entire list here.

The three day festival will feature over 60 bands at venues such as Asheville Civic Center, Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, and The Orange Peel. It will also host exhibitions, workshops, art installations, and talks.