Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mini Review: Matisyahu and Trevor Hall at Amos'

When I saw Matisyahu play Bonnaroo in 2008 he urged the audience to go forth and make babies. He and his band were fantastic, but I was a bit put off by his suggestion that it was my religious responsibility to reproduce. However, three years and two kids later I think he may have had fertility powers beaming out at the audience that day. Tuesday at Amos' there was little banter and no talk of increasing the population, just the reggae rapper/rocker backed by Broo
klyn's tight, versatile Dub Trio seamlessly blending genres for a diverse and rocking set.

Hilton Head native Trevor Hall, a friend and sometime collaborator of Matisyahu, opened the show. Hall has a good following in Charlotte having sold out the Double Door Inn a few times before and fans gathered at the front section singing along with songs like "The Lime Tree" from 2009's self-titled album. At one point his father joined him on stage to sing and dance. Backed by a three-piece band and looking ever the surfer/beach type with barefeet, long blond dreads and skinny white pants, Hall delivered hopeful lyrics that roll quickly off the tongue like the seasoned (even at 24) reggae singer he is. I like that Hall's songs aren't strict reggae. Like his self-titled record, his just released followup "Everything Everytime Everywhere" is a mix of soul, folk, blues, pop and reggae that can appeal to fans of different styles. I think his songs have widespread enough appeal to crossover to a VH1 audience and fans of acts like Coldplay or John Mayer.

The same versatility can be applied to Matisyahu. While he definitely has a distinct sound all his own his songs drift from ska and reggae and hip-hop to ripping rock anthems with pop hooks. The stylistic convergences allow the songs to breathe and change on stage often within one track. There was belly shaking bass, dance club ready synth-driven hip-hop, distorted meaty guitar riffs, trippy electronics, and plenty of ska and reggae riffing. The Dub Trio is excellent, easily transforming from a dub reggae unit to a funk-rock or hip-hop combo. During a few extended jams the guitar delivered Explosions in the Sky-worthy atmospherics and the synt
hesizers were equally creative whether sending out videogame style bleeps or mimicking one of those hollow toy tubes that make otherworldly "whooonnnngs."

Toward the end of his set Matisyahu eyed the light rig hanging above him, backed up to the drum riser, his tall lanky frame in wide take off stance. He hesitated long enough to give the audience warning, then took a dive from the stage, climbing to a standing position above the crowd (pictured above). As he climbed back to the stage he raced by four little boys who were watching from the wings. He stopped long enough to high five them - their faces lit up, but that wasn't the end of their big night.

As the set ended shortly after that, the smaller of Matis' two young sons, who had been watching the show from the side (another son was born in April), grinned, took his father's hand and led him off stage. Matis returned with Hall for an encore that paired beat boxing and acoustic guitar (pictured above). He and his band then launched into "One Day" inviting fans on stage to dance, including those four boys at the side of the stage. With those kids, his own children perched on Hall and his stage tech's shoulders, and fans rushing up from the front, the stage suddenly became a family-friendly packed dance party.

It was a fun set full of sharp musicianship and I'm sure it gave those kids something to talk about at school today.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Downtown Gastonia to feature music festival this weekend

The inaugural Gaston County Homegrown Music Festival will be held at The Rotary Centennial Pavilion (111 N. South St.) in downtown Gastonia Saturday, September 3. The festival's lineup focuses on local and regional acts with connections to Gaston County.

The all day festival includes performances from Eyes of the Elders (pictured above), the VKC Band, Friendz, the Backstreet Band on Franklin, Fiftywatt Freight Train, Southern Experience Band, Sweatin' Bullets, Black Image, Blind Manifest, Matt Smith, the Rando Makarow Band, Jeff Gates, Soultriii, John Allen, Jake Haldenvang Trio, Boone Organ Trio, Ben Gatlin, Pinnacle, Brent Cates Band, Caleb Davis, 74 Southbound, Nasty Habit, Dazey Jane, Fused Echo, Fire Fire, Lost Souls Traveling Show, Voodoo Soup, Pullman Strike, Barnyard, Crawfish, and Glory Daze.

The event kicks off at 11 a.m. and runs until 10 p.m. For more information

Thursday, August 25, 2011

This week's hot concerts

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals

8 p.m. Friday, August 26, Fillmore, 1000 Seaboard St. $29.40.

Last seen rallying the Avett Brothers’ crowd in April, jam rock’s answer to Tina Turner shimmies into town with her soaring vocals, striking charisma, and crack blues-rock band , which is known for powerhouse live shows.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation

9 p.m. Friday, August 27, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $12-$15.

The genre-splicing former Dirty Dozen Brass Band trombonist fronts this raucous funk engine with his horn riffs and solos, street dancing, and MC-style crowd-hyping call and response vocals.

Bands for Cora

5:30 p.m. Saturday, August 27, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $10. 704-333-9799.

Local music allstars turn out to help raise funds for a child of one of their own – the Situationals’ Candice Tucker whose 2-year-old daughter, Cora, is currently being treated for cancer. The line-up includes the Aqualads, Jon Lindsay, South 85, Hardcore Lounge, Garrigan, Old Milwaukee, and the Situationals.

Kid Rock/Sheryl Crow

7 p.m. Saturday, August 27, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $42-$98.05.

The "Picture” duo, who have enough hits to fill a few set lists between them, will undoubtedly revisit their smoking duets as well as her folk-rock pop and his wily convergence of hip-hop, Southern rock, metal and country.

Steve Nieve Band

8 p.m. Saturday, August 27, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $12-$14. 704-376-3737.

Seems like the Imposter was just laying down squawking retro keys on Elvis Costello gems like “Radio Radio” at Belk Theater, but the film score composer and solo artist returns for an intimate solo performance a month and a half later.

Inked Magazine Tour

6:30 p.m. Monday, August 29, Fillmore, 1000 Seaboard St. $17.50.

The Damned Things - the allstar twin guitar-led collaboration between Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano, Fall Out Boy’s Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley, and Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley and Josh Newton headline this tatted tour. Southern metal’s Maylene & the Sons of Disaster and Fair to Midland open the show.

Matisyahu/Trevor Hall

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 30, Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. $25-$30.

If you like your modern reggae with a fresh dose of hip-hop delivery, pop hooks, and folk rock songwriting check out Matisyahu and Hilton Head-raised singer-songwriter Hall, who just released the new album “Everything, Everytime, Everywhere.”

Former founder of Atlanta's Ultrababyfat goes solo at Muse

I've always been interested in female artists and all girl bands. I didn’t realize it until it was pointed out to me by my dad when I was a child that I gravitated toward Stevie Nicks, Blondie, and Madonna. That’s not unusual, I’m sure lots of little girls did. But once he mentioned it, I kind of embraced my interest in female musicians (not to say I don’t like male artists – Steve Earle, the National, Rancid, Interpol, Prince, and the Smiths are all men). The nineties were a particularly rich time for female musicians with women leading alt-rock bands like Belly, Throwing Muses, the Breeders, and Babes in Toyland and the punky riot grrrl movement that gave way to Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney. That was just in the US. Britain housed lesser known favorites like Sleeper and Echobelly.

There were a few predominantly girl groups rocking the Southeast back then. Ultrababyfat out of Atlanta (which did count a guy in its ranks) was a favorite of mine. A decade later Shonali Bhowmik, one of its founders, is touring as a solo artist. She plays Evening Muse (3227 N. Davidson St.) with Alex Kastanas tonight, August 25.
Bhowmik, who now serves as leader for indie rock outfit Tigers and Monkeys and is based in New York, recently released her solo debut, “100 Oaks Revival.” She says the record was inspired by her hometown of Nashville with blues and country tendencies, but if you were a fan of Ultrababyfat there’s still plenty familiar about it. It begins with the haunting minor chords of “All Her Things Come Easily” and turns a bit bluesy on “Hold My Place.” “Star Treatment” bounces along like one of the Avett Brothers’ piano-driven tracks and Bhowmik’s Southerness and the old playful girl group feel emerges. “Alligator’s Tale” rides a sort of Jack White riff. “What’s the Standstill” comes closest to the pop charm of Ultrababyfat. It features her former musical partner Michelle Dubois on backing vocals. Bhowmik’s raspy voice and touch of twang in her accent remains the defining thread. 

Bhowmik is also part of another girl group - the New York-based comedy collective Variety Shac with Heather Lawless, Chelsea Peretti, and Andrea Rosen. Its made short films with Fred Armisen and Ed Helms. 

The show is at 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $6-$8. 704-376-3737.

Review: Jill Scott & Anthony Hamilton at Verizon

Grammy winning singer/actress Jill Scott brought her Budweiser Superfest Summer Block Party to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Wednesday. The lineup included Charlotte native and resident Anthony Hamilton, Minneapolis-based R&B group Mint Condition, DJ Jazzy Jeff and host Doug E. Fresh.

Mint Condition warmed up the crowd, although many music fans were still filing in the gate while the opening act was on stage. During set changeovers Fresh served as emcee while Jeff cut through snippets of `80s pop, hip-hop and R&B jams. The excellent team transformed what’s normally downtime into a must-see segment. It’s too bad they can’t work every concert. It played into the block party vibe, although I imagine a true block party might be better staged downtown or even at Symphony Park.

Jazzy Jeff ran through hits by Bobby Brown, Bel Biv Devoe, and hip-hop classics like “The Breaks” as Fresh provided comic relief by breaking into dated dances associated with the tracks. Fresh also touched on his own rap and beatbox career and closed the set with his amusing take on “Teach Me How to Dougie” which he changed to “Doug E” (adding "I am Doug E!").

The concert marked Hamilton’s third Charlotte show this year after headlining at CIAA and opening for Prince in March. If a Grammy winning soul singer is going to call Charlotte home, Hamilton is a great ambassador. He’s a classic, but fun throwback with a lot of personality who doesn’t sound like his contemporaries. He also appeared humble and shared the spotlight with his band, especially the trio of animated backup singers that oozed charisma throughout the show.

His brownstone-like backdrop added to the block party vibe. Dressed in white with bright red high tops, his set relied heavily on his last album “The Point of It All” with tracks like “Cool.” When his 10-piece band launched into the title track almost every woman in my vicinity sprang to her feet and chorused “That’s my song!” Older tracks like “Charlene” and the Prince-like falsetto that capped his set were met with similar swooning. But it was the gospel tinged “Prayin’ for You/Superman” that served as the pinnacle of his set. It began as a rhythmic, tambourine-driven boot stomper and gradually rose into a full band revival bringing the audience to its feet. Hamilton ran through the crowd and danced like Michael Jackson’s loose limbed scarecrow from “The Wiz” - an arm dance that was part Hindu goddess/part breakdancing worm and later his wide jelly leg pounces across the stage (I find what I call “crazy dancing” with original moves quite endearing – it made me take a second look at Natalie Merchant in her 10,000 Maniacs’ days, Michael Stipe, and Mary Chapin Carpenter in her “Down at the Twist & Shout” video as a kid).

Following the most efficient, entertaining set change I’ve ever witnessed (with much of Scott’s band’s equipment rolled in on one long riser and Fresh and Jeff’s roof-raising set), the headliner made her way to the mic in a sparkling, short dark blue dress and heels (pictured at her DC concert above). Following the openers “Shame,” “Gimme,” and the scat-like spoken word of “Quick” she traded her heeled boots for baby blue high tops and invited Doug E. Fresh on stage to beatbox as she launched into Slick Rick’s “La di da di.” The surprise track ignited the crowd. Scott proved a formidable emcee and the nod to Fresh’s history added to the party vibe. He wasn’t the only guest. Following 2007’s “Hate On Me” and the 2001 hit “The Way,” Hamilton returned, this time in glasses and head to toe black, for the warm duet of their current hit “So In Love.”

After the darker “Le Boom Vent Suite” Scott delved into the jazzier portion of the show aided by electric upright bass, horns, bongos and congas. This section included the spoken word of “Womanifesto” and the song “Rolling Hills,” which closes her latest album “The Light of the Sun.” Bopping horns and a conga solo helped transition the direction back toward soul for her hit “A Long Walk” and a medley of ballads that included “Cross My Mind.”

In the years since Scott, who has lost 63 pounds over the past two, co-headlined Queen Latifah’s Sugar Water Festival at Verizon in 2005, she’s evolved from stately earth mother to sassy diva. I remember her set back then being fairly chill with her usually stationed at the microphone draped in layers of fabric. Six years later she carries herself with a confidence and style that better matches her voice. She’s gone from singer to entertainer. The show was filled with engaging performances, although the sound could’ve been clearer. Subtle flourishes and dynamics so pronounced on record can get lost in the mix of loud 10 and 11-piece bands. But the vocals were always spot-on. With this accomplished cast there was really no question that they would be.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Outlaw dances into Amos' Thursday

When I was 15 my father discovered the "Dancing Outlaw" on local public TV. He was so entertained by the documentary about tap dancer and Elvis impersonator, Jesco White, that he had my mom get a VHS copy of the film from a friend at the station. He then screened it for just about anyone that walked into his house. See, White's story was part of West Virginia Public Television's "Different Drummer" series and if there's two things dad loved it was WV and any weird, colorful characters deemed "different." I have seen the movie more times than I can count (and few times by choice).

Twenty years later, my dad is long gone, but despite his hard living, Jesco is still around. He performs Thursday at Amos' Southend (1423 S. Tryon St.) at 8:30 p.m.

The original movie is kind of a wild and crazy story about one of the poorest families in my home state of West Virginia and its butane-huffing favorite son. It's funny, it's sad (White talks a lot about his deceased father), and a bit disturbing. In the years since, White's become somewhat of a white trash celebrity. Yes, West Virginia has Jennifer Garner, "Super Size Me's" Morgan Spurlock, True Blood's Sam Trammell, and Jesco White. He appeared on "Roseanne" and his trip to Hollywood was documented in a 1999 sequel. Friend Hank Williams III, whose grandfather actually died in the backseat of a car only a couple of hours from where the Whites live, paid tribute to the fabled family in song. In 2010 the producers of "Jackass" made another film about "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia." It aired on premium cable channels this summer.

I always felt like most people watch the Whites for the humor. And this family can find humor in the worst situations. But the film produced by Johnny Knoxville and company focuses on the family's harsh reality and touches on the reasons why murder, drugs, adultery, jail and the like is a big part of its life. Jesco actually seems pretty well adjusted in his old age compared to some of the relatives the movie centers around. There's still some craziness - one couple is married in what appears to be a convenience store.

When the subject of Jesco comes up I am quick to tell people that he is not typical of West Virginia. That these are not my people. But in a way they are. I am simultaneously embarrassed by and defensive of them. When I watch "The Wild and Wonderful Whites..." I have empathy for some of these characters - especially the children that are growing up there. Some of my dad's friends were White-like. Some of the scenes are filmed only five minutes from the house where I grew up. I watch it and wonder why I left and why so many others don't have that choice.

Don't get me wrong. I prefer the mountains, the weather, and the small town safety there. I love having a state park where I can get lost in the woods 15 minutes from my house. But because of the economy, job opportunities, and honestly, a lack of touring bands, I never considered staying. The most recent film partly blames geographical isolation for the Whites' carefree and careless lifestyle, but the success of these movies has enabled Jesco White and occasionally sister Mamie, who is scheduled to accompany him at Amos' Thursday, to get out, see at least part of the world, and make somewhat of a living.

I'm not sure what the crowd should expect Thursday. There is certainly potential for it to be a train wreck, but the same can be said for the Britney Spears' show that same night. White, who performed at The Milestone last year (I was busy having a baby so I missed it), is said to dance, drink, and cover a few songs. Maybe his sister will get up and bellow "Coal Miner's Daughter" like she does in the film. Whatever the case, you can be they'll be spreading a little Boone County wherever they go.

Tickets are $15-$18 available at

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mini Review: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings at Knight Theater

There are some performers that I can watch over and over again and there are others that, if I’ve seen them a few times before, then that’s enough. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, who performed at Knight Theater Saturday, are one of the former.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen them, but I could watch them every weekend for a year. Their shows are simple – just the two of them, two acoustic guitars, a banjo, a harmonica, and a couple of mics. She stands kind of crooked, tapping her cowboy boot. He stands tall and straight often bouncing on his toes. The sound is pure and beautiful and makes you realize just how spare good music can be compared to the layers and layers of production, instruments, and (sometimes computer-aided) backing vocals that listeners have become accustomed to today. That’s not to say I don’t love some cheesy, overproduced pop music too. But what Gillian Welch and David Rawlings do is truly economical in economically hard times. They travel in a car with equipment they can probably carry in one load.

Watching them also almost transports me to another era, a simpler time when this type of performance was the norm. At some point in the show I always find myself thinking about what my grandmother might have looked like in the fifties and of those "haunted theater" episodes of TV series where flashbacks show a band playing on stage decades ago. It's so quiet and the harmonies are so pristine. The songs aren’t complete throwbacks (I probably wouldn't dig them as much if they were), but there’s something vintage about the entire act. It helps that the couple’s usually vintage instruments and dress – this time a denim sundress for her and a fitted blazer and white cowboy hat for him – could come from anywhere in time in the past 60 years. (Note - the photo above isn't from last night, but she was wearing the same dress).

The duo started its show with “Tear My Stillhouse Down” from the 1996 debut album, “Revival.” “Scarlet Town,” which opens the long awaited new album, “The Harrow & The Harvest,” followed. “The Way It Goes” and “My First Lover” weren’t far behind. A few requests were raised to which Welch said that they’d once done an all requests show and found that all the good stuff was played first and then they were left with 45 minutes to fill. Those usual suspects – upbeat songs like “Red Clay Halo” (which concluded the first set), “Elvis Presley Blues,” and “I Want to Sing that Rock n’ Roll” - all made the cut of course. Those aren’t my personal favorites, but they get the crowd going. For some reason it’s the dark depressing ones that I long to hear.

We got some of those too, especially during the second half which featured new songs “Down Along the Dixie Line,” “Hard Times” and “Tennessee” (the one where I zoned out and stepped back in time). “Six White Horses” (also from the new album) was a highlight. They performed it at one microphone with Welch slapping her legs to the rhythm and clogging for a portion of the song. It made for an instant crowd favorite. Rawlings led “Ruby” from his David Rawlings Machine record. “(Time) The Revelator,” what I consider the pinnacle of any Welch/Rawlings set, was next. It’s one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums and it contains my favorite guitar solo. I’m not much for solos, but Rawlings’ flat picking always astounds me and its somehow always fitting and restrained. I enjoy how that particular solo evolves. It was killer as always. “That’s the Way the Whole Thing Ends” fittingly ended the regular set.

The place erupted for an encore. We were treated to two. The first included “Look at Miss Ohio” (one of the requests from earlier) and “I’ll Fly Away,” which had the crowd, appropriately reserved up to that point, clapping and singing along. The second encore consisted of two covers (both coincidentally done by Johnny Cash). Those were Neil Young’s “Pocahontas” and a joyous version of “Jackson.”

The reception was warm. It’s been eight years since their last album. In that time they’ve played Neighborhood Theatre, opened for Norah Jones at Ovens, and played Asheville and nearby Merlefest, but there was just a special buzz and anticipation about this show.

Friday, August 19, 2011

This week's hot concerts

South 85

8 p.m. Friday, August 19, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $10. 704-358-9298.

The SC group celebrates the release of its sophomore album “Too Much Town,” which was produced by former Blackheart/Steve Earle guitarist Eric “Roscoe” Ambel and features the poignant writing of Kathy Noonan and vocals of Tracy Wyatt, a kind of modern day Loretta Lynn-meets-Gretchen Wilson.

Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs

7 p.m. Saturday, August 20, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St. $25-$35. 704-372-1000.

The 73-year-old Lancaster, SC native, who penned his first hits as a teenager, continues to perform famous doo-wop classics like “Stay” (familiar to “Dirty Dancing” fans) with his longtime group.

Gillian Welch

8 p.m. Saturday, August 20, Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St. $30. 704-372-1000.

After eight years and a release by her stellar musical partner David Rawlings, the timeless Americana songstress returned recently with “The Harrow & the Harvest.” The duo performs stunning and simple acoustic shows that will make you forget what era it is.


7 p.m. Sunday, August 21, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $20-$25. 704-358-9298.

This Spanish language alt-rock outfit was influenced by the `90s Brit-pop movement and alternates between Beatles-like rock and dark, crisp bass-driven atmospheric pop that sounds like its Mexico’s answer to the Cure.

My Morning Jacket

7:30 p.m. Sunday, August 21, Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 Seaboard St. $34-$55.35.

The long awaited Charlotte appearance of the acclaimed Kentucky rock band promises moving rock that fidgets between atmospheric Southern rock, country, blues and soul, buoyed by opening act Neko Case, who boasts killer vocals.

Vanity Theft/Sick of Sarah/Hunter Valentine

8 p.m. Monday, August 22, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $8-$12.

These all female bands rock like Midwest versions of the Donnas (with synthesizers) and Tegan and Sara, respectively, with Canada’s Hunter Valentine veering closer to the rough and tumble garage punk of the Distillers.

Jill Scott’s Summer Block Party

7 p.m. Wednesday, August 24, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $25.75-$152.75.

Coming off their hit VH1 Soul staple “So In Love," Scott and Charlotte’s Anthony Hamilton head up a sweet adult R&B bill that includes Minneapolis vets Mint Condition, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Doug E. Fresh.

Shonali Bowhmik

10:30 p.m. Thursday, August 25, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $6-$8. 704-376-3737.

As co-founder of Atlanta’s Ultrababyfat, this NYC-based singer-songwriter made hook-laden power-pop. She recently released her first solo album, “100 Oaks Revival,” which begins with haunting folk but still hits on charming pop amidst its country and blues leanings. With Alex Kastanas.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Between 2 Rivers Festival highlights local and regional artists Saturday

The Between 2 Rivers Music Festival takes place in Belmont Saturday, August 20, boasting 10 bands in 10 hours. The festival, which benefits The Wounded Warrior Project and Gaston Hospice, kicks off at noon and features performances by Jeff Luckadoo, the Wiggle Wagons, David Childers, Pullman Strike (pictured above), Truckstop Preachers, Man's Ear, the Piedmont Boys, Harvest, and Jackson Taylor & the Sinners.

Tickets are $10. The festival will be held at The String Bean Market and Deli (106 N. Main St.) in Bemont's historic district. Learn more about the bands and the event here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

South 85 celebrates sophomore cd Friday at Visulite

South 85 celebrates the release of its new album “Too Much Town” Friday at Visulite (1615 Elizabeth Ave.). The band, who divides its time between upstate South Carolina and Charlotte has made a big impression on the regional music scene with its combination of smart country songwriting and vocalist Tracy Wyatt’s hell raising stage presence. That hard charging persona was most evident on the humorous live favorite “DUI” (which appeared as a live track on its debut "El Camino"). While that track is memorable, it was only one facet of South 85’s capabilities.

Its new album “Too Much Town,” showcases the subtler side of the five-piece. It’s a bit more refined than the band’s debut (which had some incredible tracks as well) in part thanks to the production of Eric “Roscoe” Ambel who was an early member of Joan Jett’s Blackhearts as well as guitarist in Steve Earle’s Dukes.

South 85 is country at its core, but oftentimes melancholy mid-tempo tracks paint the duo of Wyatt and chief songwriter/guitarist Kathy Noonan as kind of a country Heart. There’s a bit of Fleetwood Mac to the melodies. Bluegrass instrumentation sticks closer to old time honky-tonk elsewhere. “Barstool,” which closes the disc, is a classic speakeasy tune that sounds culled from another era.

“Too Much Town” also shows the band’s growth. Wyatt’s voice has grown softer and maybe more controlled. I must admit I miss some of the fire and sexiness of the first record, but “Too Much Town” seems like it will be more marketable in Nashville where I think South 85 deserves a shot. That’s not to say that old sass is absent. The opening track “What About You” is a classic drinking song with perfect lines like “Nothing ‘bout you makes me want to stay sober.” “River,” which showcases guitarist Mike Bader’s blues chops and songwriting, is a boot stomper about Southern living with a meaty guitar lead. “Take Me on a Ride” is more in the mode of an `80s rock song – like Rosanne Cash-meets-Quarterflash with haunting bass driven verses. “Mama’s .45” is a dark heavier Southern rock track about a pistol packing woman on the run. On the flipside “Carson City” is Noonan at her heartbreaking best.

As for that bid at Nashville, South 85 may not be as slick as most of what makes it on country radio, but the songwriting and arrangements are already there. If Nashville doesn’t adopt it, I’d love to hear the group’s songs covered by some of country’s big names in turn throwing some cash, publicity, and appreciation its way.

“Too Much Town” is available at Band Camp and CD Baby. Friday’s show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and John Howie of Two Dollar Pistols opens the show. 704-358-9200;;

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fiasco, Tempah among recent concert announcements

Lupe Fiasco (pictured above) will play Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre September 23 with special guest Tinie Tempah. Tickets go on sale Friday at The duo will play Raleigh Amphitheatre on September 18.

Other recent concert announcements include Toby Keith, NC's Eric Church, and JT Hodges at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre October 7; NC's J. Cole at The Fillmore October 13; and Gym Class Heroes and the Dirty Heads playing The Fillmore October 18. Tickets for those shows also go on sale Friday, August 19.

Baby bumps abound in new Chromeo video

Canadian electronic duo, Chromeo, is one of several acts scheduled to play Asheville's Moogfest over Halloween weekend. Other acts at the three-day electronic music festival include TV on the Radio, Flaming Lips, Crystal Castles, M83, St. Vincent, Suicide, Tangerine Dream, Moby, Passion Pit, Umphrey's McGee, STS9, and a ton of others as well as Brian Eno's "77 Million Paintings" presentation.

Today Chromeo revealed what might be in-store for the ladies at its upcoming live shows - funky R&B so smooth it has the power to impregnate. The hilarious clip for the new single "When the Night Falls" plays like a ridiculous yet stylized action short. The song features Solange, Beyonce's little sis, singing the hook and as the beauty at the bar.

Chromeo's next closest date is September 22 in Atlanta. For more on Chromeo -; for more on Moogfest -

Thursday, August 11, 2011

This week's hot concerts

Si Kahn

7:30 p.m. Friday, August 12, Great Aunt Stella Center, 926 Elizabeth Ave. Donations accepted.

The veteran folk singer-songwriter and activist, whose songs often focus on stories of the poor working class, calls Charlotte home. He kicks off Charlotte Folk Society’s 30th Gathering season with a rare hometown concert.

Graveyard Boulevard

8 p.m. Friday, August 12, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $7.

Abby Normal, formerly of Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13, continues to pilot the long running Charlotte rock combo (think old school punk, garage, and metal spiked with hauntings, horror, and humor). It celebrates its fourth album release with Greevace, Fat Tortoise Butcher, and the Body Bags.

Joan of Arc

8 p.m. Saturday, August 13, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $10-$12.

Tim Kinsella’s (Cap’n Jazz) prolific, influential, and sometimes stylistically contrary Chicago-based indie-rock combo makes its way to the Queen City as part of the four-night Recess Fest.


1 p.m. Tuesday, August 16, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion St. $62.85-$116.80.

The first traveling electronic music festival of its kind promises to be the sweatiest of dance parties with three stages featuring Kaskade, DJ Shadow, Pretty Lights, Steve Aoki, Steve Lawler, Rusko, the Crystal Method, LA Riots, the Disco Biscuits, Jessie and the Toy Boys, Chuckie, Holy Ghost!, Booka Shade, Nero, Le Castle Vania, Mode Selektor, Data Romance, Datsik, Afrobeta, the Eye, White Shadow, Darius Syrossian, Leon, Riotgear, Nervo, Marshall Barnes, and Figo.

Patrick Stump

7 p.m. Tuesday, August 16, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $18-$20.

The Fall Out Boy vocalist has hinted at his fondness for hip-hop and soul with FOB. He makes his polished soul-pop intensions clear on “Soul Punk,” his debut solo album due out in October.

Off With Their Heads

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 16, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $10-$14.

The well named Minnesota band mines traditional punk territory lacing anthems with gruff vocals, catchy hooks, a sense of longing, and nods to `60s girl group melodies sometimes recalling Face to Face, Bad Religion or the Ramones.

Hymn For Her

8 p.m. Thursday, August 18, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $8-$10. 704-376-3737.

This nomadic couple lives, records, and tours in a 1961 Airstream with baby and dog in tow, sharing minimalist indie-folk and atypical acoustic roots tunes and coupling homey vintage instruments with unusual effects.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Recess Fest #3 splashes into summer Thursday

Local musicians Zachary Reader and Casey Malone started Recess Fest in 2010 to combine live independent music with the playfulness of an elementary school field day. The multi-day, multi-venue, multi-neighborhood festival emphasizes local music and includes performances by 30 bands, DJs, and artists. Recess Fest #3 (following a second version last winter) kicks off Thursday, August 11.

Activities throughout the weekend stress cool summer fun. Concert goers are encouraged to pack swimwear, super soakers, and water balloons. There will be a dunk tank during the cookout at Snug Harbor and double dutch, four square, a slip n' slide, and hopscotch at locations throughout the fest.

The eclectic musical lineup features everything from folk to noise to avant garde jazz to Latin and indie-rock with various points in between. That's part of the focus, besides summer fun - exposing audiences to acts to new music.

Thursday's lineup includes Andy the Doorbum, Human Pippi Armstrong, and D.C.'s Hume at Plaza Midwood's Common Market (2007 Commonwealth Ave.) followed by Maryland's Dope Body with No Power, Nail Biter, and Joint Damage at the West side's Sewercide Mansion.

Friday's schedule includes music from Homewrecker, Moons, and Georgia's Bird Names at Fuel Pizza (1501 Central Ave.) as well as Pizzageddon - a pizza eating contest. Neighborhood Theatre (511 E. 36th St.) will host local favorites Yardwork, Super Ape, Bakalao Stars, Junior Astronomers (pictured above) with Illinois' Jason Ajemian & The High Life following a short film showcase by The Light Factory at 8 p.m. The evening ends at Nu Faizon with Slamming Door Orchestra, Calabi Yau, and Athens' Bubbly Mommy Gun.

Saturday afternoon kicks off with Richard Parker, Calormen, Mon Frere, and Young and in the Way at Snug Harbor (1228 Gordon St.) with Gore Gore Luchadores wrestling on the back patio. Southend’s Black Sheep (1504 Camden Rd.) hosts an Etch-a-Sketch art show with Post All Bills and the Dirty Drummer while Secret Hospital, Paint Fumes, and 2013 Wolves play at Lunchbox Records (1419-A Central Ave.). The Milestone (3400 Tuckaseegee Rd) closes things down with Chicago's Joan of Arc, Blossoms (featuring the fest founders), Moenda, and Implodes.

NoDa's Chop Shop (599 E. 35th St.) will host the weekend wrap party on Sunday with Oddczar and Weekenders.

The schedule is staggered so you could seemingly take in a little or a lot at each venue. Prices for individual shows vary. For instance the Snug show is $6, the Neighborhood show is $10. $20 weekend passes are available along with the full schedule at Passes also available at Lunchbox Records and Pura Vida Worldly Art. Locations for Sewercide Mansion and Nu Faizon will be revealed at other events during the weekend.

Chris Brown to play Verizon in October

R&B singer Chris Brown announced today that he'll kick off his F.A.M.E. North American tour in Toronto September 12. The tour brings him to Charlotte's Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre October 8. T-Pain, Kelly Rowland, and Tyga will also appear.

Brown is in the midst of quite a comeback following 2009's domestic violence case and his "Good Morning America" outburst in March. The controversy hasn't hurt his sales. He's charted numerous recent singles including "Deuces," "No BS," "Look at Me Now," "Yeah 3X" and "She Ain't You" (currently climbing Billboard's Hot 100). He won five BET awards. He released the mix tape, "Boy in Detention," last week and he's writing for increasingly frequent collaborator Justin Bieber's next record. He'll also perform on MTV's Video Music Awards August, 28.

"Billboard Magazine" also reported that his appearance on The Today Show's summer concert series drew the largest turnout ever for the show - 18,000 fans.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mini Review: Hopesfall's Charlotte reunion and farewell

Charlotte-based hardcore band, Hopesfall, reunited for two shows this weekend - opening Ziggy's new location in Winston-Salem Friday and then taking a final bow in its hometown Saturday at Amos'. The group consisted of four of five original members and bassist Pat Aldrich who joined early on. I never saw this early version of the band (I lived elsewhere during much of its run), but Saturday's farewell show made me wish I had.

What I do remember is hearing about Hopesfall, who formed in 1998, almost from the time they started playing venues. Its rare for a local band to make so much noise and draw so well while still so new. The band eventually took that buzz to a national and international level, touring the US and Europe and releasing a string of albums that were critically acclaimed for seamlessly balancing intricate arrangements, heaviness, and melody. That's what impressed me so much Saturday was the juxtaposition of aggressive, screaming vocals and shifting rhythms against this longingly beautiful wall of guitars.

The other thing that really hit me was that Hopesfall made this mature music so early in its career. The group played mostly material culled from its first two releases "The Frailty of Words" and "No Wings to Speak Of" with former bassist/guitarist Chad Waldrup joining in for a track off the next disc in its catalog, "The Satellite Years." The quality of the material explained why the band was so popular initially. It must have clicked from the start. That seems rare. Plenty of bands work years toward that combination of chemistry, writing/arranging, and stage presence.

It had been ten years since this lineup (which included guitarists Ryan Parrish and Joshua Brigham and drummer Adam Morgan) performed together, but they were completely animated. Aldrich could easily work the crowd into steady rhythmic claps (I've seen artists at the arena have trouble igniting such enthusiastic participation). Vocalist Doug Venable appeared to be running on adrenaline. The crowd, which included smiling friends shouting along at side stage, was just as intense.

It was bittersweet when the group launched into its telling last song "The End of an Era." There were smiles and warmth, but no plans to move forward. Its era ended long ago, but as Morgan summed up later: "This was the closure we needed."
Thanks to photographer Matthew Benham for the photos. I also took a shot of the setlist.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mini Review: Band of Horses at Fillmore

Kings of Leon may have cancelled its US tour, including a date at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Friday, but anyone who planned on heading up to see opening act Band of Horses, instead got a much more intimate full set from the Charleston-based band at The Fillmore. The band’s guitarist, Asheville’s Tyler Ramsey, opened the show with a brief folk set, his voice and plucky acoustic guitar nicely cutting through the buzz of chit chat and anticipation.

Band of Horses hit the stage promptly at 9:59. It opened with the slow waltz of “For Annabelle” before breaking into the big driving beat of “NW Apt.” (just like on its latest album “Infinite Arms”). “The Great Salt Lake” and “Is There a Ghost” followed. Columbia native Ryan Monroe’s keys hummed beneath the guitar picking and psychedelic effects. Frontman and founder Ben Bridwell’s reverb-drenched vocals floated over songs (like those mentioned above) that were at once haunting, anthemic, and uplifting.

The whole vibe was one of joy. Bridwell noted that the group had family and friends in attendance. A few of their parents were watching from the second level. All parents seem to think their kid’s art is genius, but I can only imagine what a kick it is to see a couple thousand people completely rapt by your child’s creation.

Bridwell, another SC native, dubbed the thrown together, last minute tour, which included Wednesday in Ft. Lauderdale and shows in Philly and NYC this coming week, as "The Weirdest Tour Ever Tour." Before playing a new old-style Southern rock tune that he said probably won't make the next record, he noted: "One good thing that did come out of this is we'll probably be making that record a lot sooner."

Considering the circumstances it was hard not to think about how different the original show would've been. Bridwell suggested the outdoor show might've been cancelled because of Friday's torrential rains and flooding. I've seen Kings of Leon several times and some of those shows were really good, but I never felt the same warmth as I did from the BoH show. Musically while KoL's Southern rock has morphed into U2-influenced arena rock in recent years (not exactly a bad thing though I sometimes miss the frantic incomprehensible lyrics of "Aha Shake Heartbreak"), BoH still hovers in that distinctively Southern atmosphere down to the bare trees of its backdrop. It certainly has its own sound where descriptions like psychedelic, atmospheric and hypnotic come to mind.

The KoL dates certainly would've put BoH in front of larger crowds, giving it the chance to convert new fans. Its a shame it didn't work out. But the surprise headlining date seemed like a treat for both the band and its fans.

There are some fantastic photos as well as the entire set list on the band's website.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This week's hot concerts

Beres Hammond & Wayne Wonder

8:30 p.m. Friday, August 5, Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. $28.50-$35.

Two generations of reggae-rooted fusion artists - Hammond, 55, bridges lovers rock with a voice fit for classic soul, while Wonder, 39, has ventured into hip-hop & R&B on tracks like his 2003 hit “No Letting Go.”

Snarky Puppy/Lucy Woodward

11 p.m. Friday, August 5, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $10-$12. 704-376-3737.

This big Brooklyn-by-way-of-Texas jazz orchestra jams with a giant spoonful of fluid funk, while special guest Woodward plays a sultry, sassy jazz singer with vintage flair on her third album, 2010’s “Hooked.”

The Air Station

8 p.m. Friday, August 5, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave, $7-$10.

Headed up by solo artist Andrew X this Charlotte outfit picks up where his last band Hot Vegas left off – spiraling Edge-like guitar lines, uplifting anthems, and Jimmy Eat World-style pop with grand group vocals.

Band of Horses

9 p.m. Friday, August 5, Fillmore, 1000 Seaboard St. $33.

The Charleston-based psychedelic Southern folk-rockers were scheduled to open Kings of Leon's cancelled show Friday. Instead it will headline a smaller, more intimate venue.

Hopesfall Reunion

7 p.m. Saturday, August 6, Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. $10.

Members of the popular Christian hardcore act’s early lineup (with four of five original members) reunite for two shows. It will revisit its first two releases “No Wings to Speak Of” and “The Frailty of Words.” Harvard opens.

Goo Goo Dolls/Michelle Branch

7 p.m. Tuesday, August 9, Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 Seaboard St. $32-$73.90.

The `90s pop machine behind hits like “Name” and “Iris” celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010. Branch, back in the pop game after a Grammy nominated foray into country with the Wreckers, is readying her next solo album for a September release.

Charlie Daniels Band

6 p.m. Thursday, August 11, Old Time Amphitheatre, Black and Hampton streets, Rock Hill. $35-$45.

The veteran country singer-songwriter, outspoken conservative and famed fiddler brings the patriotism and storytelling that’s often colored his work to his latest digital singles “Iraq Blues” and “Let ‘Em Win or Bring ‘Em Home.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bands of Horses to play Fillmore Friday

Kings of Leon may have cancelled Friday's show and the remainder of its US tour, but scheduled opening act Band of Horses will still make the trip to Charlotte. The Charleston-based Southern rockers announced late Tuesday that it will still play Charlotte Friday, August 5. Instead of Verizon Wireless Pavilion with KOL, it will headline The Fillmore. Tickets for the show go on sale Thursday, August 4 at 10 a.m. at, the Fillmore box office, or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

The group posted plans to try to make up some of the missed KOL shows starting with Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday and Charlotte, Friday. It released the following statement on its website:

"First off, we're sorry for the lag on updating everyone. We're thrilled by all the support...and have been working behind the scenes to do everything we can to come see you. Unfortunately, we won't be able to hit up all of the places we'd planned on visiting with Kings of Leon. But!!! We're happy to announce that we're going to play SOME SHOWS!!! We're working on adding more and will have another update very soon...P.S. We're hoping to provide a special treat to the fans coming out to these new dates. Stay tuned and thank you."

South Carolina native Ben Bridwell (formerly of Carissa's Wierd) formed Band of Horses in Seattle in 2004. The critically acclaimed band's third and latest album, 2010's "Infinite Arms," hit Billboard's #7 spot upon release and went to #2 on the Rock album chart. The group sold out The Neighborhood Theatre in June 2009.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Jayhawks announce new album, Charlotte show

Revered Americana act the Jayhawks recently announced an upcoming new album, "Mockingbird Time," the first to feature co-founders Gary Louris and Mark Olson since 1995's "Tomorrow the Green Grass." The album is set for release September 20 with the band embarking on a national tour. It's currently touring Europe, but starts the American leg September 15 in Minnesota. The tour brings the Jayhawks to McGlohon Theatre October 29 following stops in Asheville and Durham, October 25 and 26, respectively.

The Jayhawks emerged from Minnesota's eclectic mid-`80's music scene - the same city that produced disparate artists like the Replacements, Prince, Soul Asylum, and Babes in Toyland. They enjoyed a successful run filled with critical acclaim and devoted fans even after Olson's abrupt departure in 1995. Louris and Olson remained estranged until a few years ago. Olson revealed in a 2008 interview with The Observer that they were working together again. They've since toured together (playing Evening Muse locally) and in 2009 released the "Ready for the Flood" album. With much of the Jayhawks' catalog having been reissued recently, another go with the band seemed inevitable.

Tickets for the McGlohon show go on sale Friday, August 5. Prices start at $25. North Carolina singer-songwriter Tift Merritt will open the show.

Kings of Leon cancels tour

Following an onstage meltdown Friday in Dallas, Kings of Leon announced this afternoon that it is cancelling the rest of its North American Tour including Friday's concert at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. According to "Billboard" the news follows last Friday's performance when "frontman Caleb Followill (pictured) walked offstage after claiming he was too hot to perform, and the band subsequently postponed its show in Houston scheduled for the following night."

LiveNation released the following statement Monday afternoon: "We are so sorry to say Kings of Leon are canceling their entire US tour due to Caleb Followill suffering from vocal issues and exhaustion. The band is devastated, but in order to give their fans the shows they deserve, they need to take this break. Unfortunately, the US dates cannot be rescheduled due to the band's international tour schedule. Tickets purchased online or via phones will be automatically refunded. Tickets purchased at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre box office or at Ticketmaster outlets, will be refunded at point of purchase starting Wednesday August 3."

The group was scheduled to play Tampa Tuesday. This announcement comes just a week into its summer tour. A documentary about the group "Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon" is scheduled to premier on Showtime August 21.

Review: Sade and John Legend at TWC Arena

"It’s taken 25 years to get here Charlotte,” Sade said after opening her set Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena with the Grammy winning 2010 single “Soldier of Love.” “Tonight we’ll make up for the lost days and years.” And boy did she. The Nigerian-born beauty, who looks nowhere near her 52 years, sang over twenty songs in two hours hitting on several tracks from 2010’s comeback album “Soldier of Love” as well as her biggest hits.

She and her band may be best remembered for earlier hits like 1985’s “Sweetest Taboo” and “Smooth Operator,” but there was never the sense that that’s the only thing the crowd was waiting on. Sure those songs were met with their share of excitement, but so were album tracks like “Is It a Crime” and “Jezebel” (both from 1985’s “Promise”). She floated from the loungey jazz of “Skin” to the sultry world feel of “Love is Stronger than Pride” to the pop-funk of “Paradise” to the dark, meaty world music of “Love is Found” (from the new double disc “Ultimate Collection”). Like “Soldier,” the latter hinted at hip-hop with her playful vocals.

The crowd included Lenny Kravitz, reportedly in town to film “The Hunger Games.” He drew eyes and cell phone cameras to the middle of the arena during the between act set change. The set for Sade was a blank stage that could morph to suit each song. The animated film noir scene that introduced “Smooth Operator” was particularly well done with its vivid cityscape and train running across the screen. At other times classic red drapes flanked the stage.

Changes in production were as subtle as Sade’s ability to drift between R&B, jazz, pop, and world music. She joined her backup singers for the simple and short “All About Our Love” as scenes of the group on tour rolled on the screen. She returned to them for a bit of booty shaking on “Paradise.”

She started the show dressed in black singing “Your Love Is King” and “Kiss of Life.” She wore the same severe ponytail and hoop earrings as she did as an unlikely MTV star in the `80s. During “Bring Me Home” she and the band performed behind a cheesecloth-like screen with projections rolling in front of and behind them. This ghostly effect was repeated later when she emerged in a sparkling white evening gown, hair down, for the final portion of the show (pictured above) that included “Morning Bird,” “King of Sorrow,” “Sweetest Taboo” and “No Ordinary Love.” The latter was another crowd favorite elevated by its punchy guitars.

The combination of skilled, but subtle musicianship (even showy solos were tasteful), seamless production, and Sade’s demeanor and voice created a timeless class act.

John Legend warmed up the crowd similarly. Songs like “P.D.A.” were sexy, but never raunchy. He opened with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” juggling piano ballads with Motown-style soul throughout the set. He serenaded one lady (Nikki Waddell) on stage with “Slow Dance” before sending her off with a rose. She swooned as did the crowd later for “This Time” and “Everybody Knows” (both from 2008's "Evolver").

Legend was given ample time, which was appropriate considering the Grammy winner’s status as a hit maker in his own right and his history in Charlotte. It was nice to see him playing one of the city’s largest venues after playing Amos’ Southend in its pre-renovation days and more recently Ovens Auditorium. He explained that his bassist fell ill right before the show forcing the nine-piece band to go on without part of its rhythm section. Before launching into the one-two punch finale of “So High” (from his first album) and “Greenlight” he joked: “I don’t want reviewers saying, ‘What’s wrong with John Legend’s band?'”