Friday, December 30, 2011

This week's hot concerts

Overmountain Men
8 p.m. Friday, December 30, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $6-$9.
The Americana outfit led by revered songwriter David Childers heads up this NYE warm-up show. Get there early to catch the Funky Geezer (aka retiree Woody Williams), a true character and comedic throwback to early country-western.

The Hot Gates
10 p.m. Friday, Decmeber 30, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $7. 704-333-9799.
Jason Scavone’s new band, who recently released its debut album “Ride It Out,” headlines a bill that includes rising Charlotte trio Side By Side and Charleston’s Heyrocco.

Best New Year’s Eve Party Ever
8 p.m. Saturday, December 31, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $7-$9.
The West side venue boasts a bevy of performers including female blood(!) wrestlers Gore Gore Luchadores, and musical acts Hectagons!, Mr. Invisible, One Another, Emotron, and Hungry Girl.

Hello Handshake/the Spiveys
9 p.m. Saturday, December 31, Sanctuary, 507 E. 36th St. Free.
Expect Hello Handshake to ring in the New Year with an interactive, Flaming Lips-inspired set, while the Spiveys (former members of the Stellas) continue to churn out infectious pop-rock gems. With opening acoustic sets from Evergone and Matt Rea.

Widespread Panic
9 p.m. Saturday, December 31, Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St. $74.30-$79.40.
The only remaining concert of the nine dates left before the Athens’ jam veteran’s 2012 hiatus with tickets still available. Expect another marathon set with the horn section that helped punch up the band’s Bonnaroo set earlier this year.

Bubonik Funk
10:30 p.m. Saturday, December 31, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $10-$12. 704-376-3737.
Though it supposedly slowed down this year, the jam-funk outfit continued to pad its resume opening for Jonny Lang and Zach Deputy and playing the DrumStrong festival. It rings in 2012 with Public Speakers.

Hoverboard/Marry Me Joanna
8 p.m. Wednesday, January 4, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $6-$9.
A Charlotte combo whose post-punk juggles pop hooks and raw heaviness. Its track “Needafix” recalls bands like Boy Sets Fire and Lifetime and reveals plenty of potential. Columbia’s Marry Me Joanna veers toward poppier punk territory with radio ready hooks.

Monday, December 26, 2011

More of my favorite releases of 2011 - another top 10 list

As records are released during the year my husband and I occasionally mention which ones will make our “year end lists.” I tend to choose those that spent the most time in my car cd player or clocked the most plays on my iPod (although if that were completely true “Yo Gabba Gabba Music is Awesome Volume 3” would be number one). Here are my ten favorites of the year. Records by Wild Flag, Eastern Conference Champions, Miranda Lambert, Klaxons and Jessica Lea Mayfield are honorable mentions and many on my list of local releases are right up there too. Of course, you’re always late to the party on some. I just got Lykke Li’s “Wounded Rhymes” and suspect, although we’ve only spun it twice, that it might become a fast favorite.
Lists are fun, but they’re subjective. Feel free to let us know what made your 2011 bests in the comments section.
Van Hunt “What Were You Hoping For” - An exciting marriage of funk, garage rock, and soul described to me rather fittingly by the soul singer-songwriter as “concrete steps that lead up to these atonal clouds and in those clouds there’s this metal spaceship that’s sticking out at certain points in the clouds” - this release was at once futuristic and retro like the merger of Sly Stone, Lenny Kravitz, and Prince back when his output was delightfully weird yet still big on the charts.
Lydia Loveless “Indestructible Machine” - This young sassy Ohio singer-songwriter vocally sounds like a twangier, more upbeat Neko Case. She writes funny, sometimes heart tugging songs about drinking and making the wrong decisions while struggling to improve. She’s back in Charlotte at the Double Door February 2 with Scott Biram.
Phantogram “Nightlife” - Electronic indie-rock that’s not the least bit cold. It’s dreamy and dark with interesting beats and the alternating male and female vocals as if the Cocteau Twins collaborated with M83 or Milemarker (if anyone remembers that band, who I also adored). This is one of those discs that sits in the car for days spinning over and over, but at six songs it’s just too short.
My Morning Jacket “Circuital” - Every once in a while an album captures a pocket of time. I first heard the songs from “Circuital” while trudging across the grass at Bonnaroo and listening to the album takes me back to our first post-second baby (working) vacation. I can imagine the blue lights from the stage and feel the air getting cool. Plus, it’s just a consistent album from a band I seem to like more and more with each record.
The Knux “Eraser” - Not since Outkast has a hip-hop duo blurred the lines between rap, punk, pop, soul, and garage rock we all as these New Orleans-raised brothers. With growling guitars and electronic beats, it reminds me of early `80s MTV when genres weren’t as defined yet remains a contemporary peer of acts like Kid Cudi (who guests on one song) and Lupe Fiasco.
Mates of State “Mountaintops” - Though I’ve followed this keyboard and drums duo for a decade and have always found plenty of songs I like on their releases, “Mountaintops” pushes what I liked about them a step further. The production softens all its sharp edges, which adds to the musical marrieds’ overall appeal. Not technically easy listening (it’s still rock), but it’s the easiest listen all year.
Dum Dum Girls “Only in Dreams” and “He Gets Me High” EP - I can’t choose between the EP released earlier this year and the full-length album released this fall. Knowing that band leader Dee Dee Penny lost her mother to cancer between writing these records gives the songs on “Dreams” added weight. But the hook-laden calm before the storm of “High” is delicious in its pop brilliance. Still, the full album’s deep, personal meaning is hard to match.
Foo Fighters “Wasting Light” - Seeing this band live reaffirms the strength of its albums and its show at Time Warner Cable Arena in November reminded me of how consistent “Wasting Light” is. I’m never longing to just hear the *old hits. It’s a consistent rock record from start to finish and I like that they do straight ahead guitar rock at a time when most everything is a conglomeration of styles.
Anthrax “Worship Music” - Joey Belladonna returned and the thrash veterans enjoyed a much heralded comeback, which included a killer performance at The Fillmore. The production (recorded partly in analog and not compressed to death) sets the bar high as Anthrax accomplishes the unthinkable by releasing a career defining album thirty years into its run. The group’s tour with Death Angel and Testament stops at The Orange Peel in Asheville January 30.
Coldplay “Mylo Xyloto” - Although I liked its first single “Yellow,” it took years and seeing them live for Coldplay to really grow on me (I especially like drummer Will Champion’s inventive playing and personality). I’ve enjoy each release better than the last and although this is a rather different album for the British rock giants, it’s oddly enough easily my favorite. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fishbone documentary gets broadcast premier, DVD release date

"Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone," a documentary about the the legendary Los Angeles' funk outfit, will make its national broadcast premier Monday January 22. It will kick off public television's Afro-Pop documentary series (check local listings). The documentary will be released exclusively on iTunes February 1 to coincide with Black History Month. A special 25th anniversary DVD release will follow February 22.

The film chronicles the group's history and vocalist Angelo Moore and bassist Norwood Fisher's struggle and need to keep the band afloat. It is narrated by Laurence Fishburne and features interviews with Gwen Stefani, Ice-T, Branford Marsalis, Flea, Questlove, Perry Farrell, Tim Robbins, George Clinton and others.

The documentary has been screening around the country this fall with post screening Q&As with the filmmakers in most spots. You can find out more about it here. Fishbone played Tremont Music Hall in November. It deserved a better crowd, but maybe this documentary will signal renewed interest in the band.

This week's hot concerts

The Catch Fire
8 p.m. Friday, December 23, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $7-$10. 704-358-9200.
A band of local music all stars (solo artist Jon Lindsay with members of Alternative Champs, Jolene, Bellglide, and Laburnum) celebrate the release of its debut album, “Rumor Mill.” If you dig Lindsay or the Champs, imagine a serious pop marriage of the two.
9 p.m. Friday, December 23, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $10-$15. 704-358-9298.
The veteran American drum n’ bass DJ spins into NoDa to get the holidays hopping early with a floor pounding dub set. Will Love, Tony Dubz, and Dan Wall also perform.
Blue Dogs/the Connells
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 28, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $18-$22/$30 VIP. 704-358-9298.
Longtime favorites from other parts of the Carolinas, the Blue Dogs (Charleston) lean more toward roots and Americana while the Connells (Raleigh) mine the late `80s/early `90s jangle pop college rock sound that birthed them.
The Air Station
8 p.m. Wednesday, December 28, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $7-$9. 704-376-3737.
Andrew X (formerly of Hot Vegas) leads this impressive local pop-rock outfit who marry charging rock, Edge-like guitar riffing, soaring vocals, and big uplifting pop hooks that might attract fans of Lovedrug or the Fray.
Hardcore Lounge
 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 28, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $8. 704-376-1446.
The Johnson brothers’ long-running combo introduces its new guitarist as it prepares for the February release of a remix album as well as its next full-length. With Aqualads.
Carrie Rodriguez
8 p.m. Thursday, December 29, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $12-$14. 704-376-3737.
The Americana songstress whose latest project is a collection of country duets with Romantica’s Ben Kyle teams up with another of that band’s members - Austin transplant Luke Jacobs - for this singer-songwriter tour.
Matrimony/Public Radio
8 p.m. Thursday, December 29, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $10-$12. 704-358-9200.
Both led by married couples, the acclaimed Matrimony deliver delicate indie-folk like a rootsier Arcade Fire with elements of girl group, gospel and soul while the Mark Mathis-led Public Radio trades in bounding and infectious arena-ready pop-rock anthems.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My favorite local releases of 2011

`Tis the season for year-end lists. Critics far and wide - from Amazon to the posters on my husband’s favorite message board ( - post their favorite releases of the year around this time.  In the past I treated our annual gift guide as a sort of “best of” list that at times included local recommendations, but I believe this marks my first local Top 10 list. It’s not intended as a complete overview or to slight anyone (since not every band sends us its releases). These are just my personal favorites - the ones that contain songs that continue to get stuck in my head as the New Year approaches. (Many of these releases are available at local record stores like Lunchbox and Manifest as well as digitally).
The Lights, Fluorescent “The Lights, Fluorescent” - I really couldn’t ask for anything more than a posthumous collection by my all-time favorite Charlotte band. Sure, I’d dreamed about a big studio production/label release that could capture its intricate arrangements, dynamic songwriting, and live energy, but this time capsule when combined with its other EPs serves as a great reminder of its all too short run.

Cement Stars “Form and Temper” - Both a throwback to the shoegazing fuzz-pop of My Bloody Valentine and a modern take on dreamy electronic rock, the Olson brothers and company capture cinematic longing within catchy hooks like few others.
South 85 “Too Much Town” - Between Kathy Noonan’s songwriting and Tracy Wyatt’s fire this female-fronted South Carolina combo boasts an entire catalog of strong and heartbreaking tales from the female perspective that should be in rotation on country radio.
Scapegoat “I Am Alien” - Having matured from an adolescent hardcore band (literally, its singer was 12 when it started), this long running unit continues to top itself with busily complex arrangements, catchy, jerky hooks, palpable angst, and meticulous production that’s in line with most anything coming out of Hollywood major labels.
Sugar Glyder “Lovers at Light Speed” - Also produced by Scapegoat’s Kit Walters, the hard working Sugar Glyder make grand, infectious pop-rock anthems that surf the same arena-ready waves as Muse or Coldplay while remaining consistent record after record.
The Hot Gates “Ride It Out” - As leader of the Noises 10 Jason Scavone worked with well-known pop producers and flirted with label deals, but I find that on his own he released some of the best, most diverse work of his still young career on “Ride It Out.”
The Catch Fire “Rumor Mill” - A late entry that was just released earlier this month, this collaboration between music veteran Mike Mitschele (Jolene, the Alternative Champs) and well established singer-songwriter Jon Lindsay has quickly grown on me. It combines all the things I like about Mitschele’s work in the Champs and Lindsay’s blissful, classic pop sound topped with harmonies and lyrical curiosities.
Temperance League “Freedom From Evil Spirits” - Sold as two singles (but given to me on one disc so I consider it more of an EP), the Charlotte garage rock quintet’s output included infectious and raw modern protest songs like “No Jobs/More War” (which my kid digs) and “Ain’t Nobody Listening.” Perfect shout-a-longs.
Grown Up Avenger Stuff “Disagreements with Gravity” - Technically released locally in late 2010, Spectra Records put this out nationally in August. The arrangements are a testament to creativity and invention while remaining accessible. Deirdre Kroener’s riot-grrrl referencing voice scales tall buildings as it should to duly represent this band name.
Lucky 5 “La Resistance” - A group that’s evolved into one of the city’s best and busiest live bands, the songs on its debut while still raw and rocking reveal great soul and funk chops. A comparison is hard to pin down. One track will blend elements of Prince and the Police, while others reference Stevie Wonder, Dave Matthews Band, `70’s A&M pop, late `80s hard rock, and modern pop. But it’s a fresh recipe that combines its influences seamlessly.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Experimental Charlotte outfit celebrates release with triple set bill

Charlotte's Great Architect, an improvisation-geared sextet that got its start in 2009, will celebrate the release of its new 7 inch record Thursday, December 22, at The Milestone (3400 Tuckaseegee Rd.). (Yep, that's a vinyl 45 like we use to fill our jukebox with growing up - and what a fantastic idea that would be to fill it not with my sister's Fat Boys' singles or my Prince and Blondie records, but actual current vinyl). The kinnikinnik Records' release features two tracks - "Mission: ALOHA" and "5 to the 6." It will be limited to 300 physical copies and is available for download.

Brent Bagwell, the group's saxophonist/clarinet player, sent me a link to the tracks last week and I find myself returning to listen to them frequently. You can do so here. In his email Bagwell called them "uncharacteristically backbeat-driven and coherent...a little love letter to David Shire and his `70s film score comrades, maybe?" I think that connection to `70s cinema is why I dig them so much. Shire is a composer best known for his scores for "Saturday Night Fever" (for which he won two Grammys), "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3," "All the President's Men," and "2010." Not to mention "Short Circuit" and the theme from "Alice" (the sitcom!).

To commemorate the release the band is playing three sets at the Milestone and only charging $5. That amount includes a copy of the record. The first set will be a trimmed down configuration in the venue's bar area with two full band sets to follow in the main room. Great Architect (pictured above, photo by M. Baum) will perform material from all four of its kinnikinnik releases. Show at 8 p.m. For more details check out

Friday, December 16, 2011

This week's hot concerts

Temperance League
9:30 p.m. Friday, December 17, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $7. 704-333-9799.
With a cast of seasoned local music vets backing tireless showman Bruce Hazel, the garage rock unit powers through a set of punchy, raw rock songs. It's paired with Raleigh’s hip-hop/funk-rock collaboration Shirlette and the Dynamite Brothers and Nashville’s Dirt Heavy.
Acoustic Syndicate
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, December 16 and 17, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $15-$17. 704-358-9200.
The western North Carolina newgrass institution carries on this holiday tradition with back-to-back concerts that have been packing fans into the Elizabeth venue for a pre-Christmas jam frenzy for over a decade.

Greyhounds - What's On Your Mind from shimmer-ready on Vimeo.
The Greyhounds
9 p.m. Saturday, December 17, The Saloon, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $10.
Two members of J.J. Grey’s Mofro break off with their own take on soulful blues hopping from smoother, contemporary electric blues (think Mofro) to dirtier raw, rocking blues (more akin to G. Love-meets-Blues Explosion).
Aqualads and Friends
10:30 p.m. Saturday, December 17, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $15-$35. 704-376-3737.
Members of the Chalkies, the Houstons, Snagglepuss as well as Benji Hughes and Bruce Hazel are among the guests joining the surf rock outfit for the release of its guest-laden Christmas album and to honor musician Rodney Lanier, who died last week. The show and album were originally intended as a benefit for Lanier. (Tickets are only available in advance).
9 p.m. Saturday, December 17, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $10. 704-376-1446.
The Brooklyn-based rocking country sextet throws a “Yarn Ball” to benefit Toys 4 Tots. The group urges fans to donate an unwrapped/unused toy at the annual event in exchange for a copy of its cd.

Luis Enrique
8 p.m. Sunday, December 18, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $16.50.
Nicaragua’s “Prince of Salsa,” who’s had a prolific Latin Grammy award winning career since he first emerged in the eighties, makes a rare stateside club appearance to benefit Charlotte’s Latin American Chamber of Commerce.
Great Architect
8 p.m. Thursday, December 22, The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd$5-$7.
The Charlotte avant garde jazz combo will perform three sets - one in its “micro formation” (clarinet, no amps, and different percussion) and two with full band - in celebration of its cinema-inspired new 7 inch release. If you dig the weirder side of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, check it out. (Record included with admission). 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Local memorial for musician Rodney Lanier set for Sunday

Charlotte musician Rodney Lanier, who died Friday December 9, will be honored Sunday, December 18, with a memorial service at The Chop Shop in NoDa (399 E. 35th St. behind Cabo Fish Taco). A funeral was held Monday in his hometown of Advance.

Sunday's memorial will take place between 4 and 6 p.m. with a reception to follow at Evening Muse, where he worked. A New Orleans-style procession will lead from one venue to the other around 6 p.m.

Chop Shop is donating $1 of all liquor drinks sold to the Rodney Lanier Trust. Bartenders are donating a portion of their tips as well. Cash only.

For details check here.

Lanier died suddenly after being diagnosed with cancer in September. He was a member of Jolene, Sea of Cortez, and many other Charlotte bands and a fixture on the local music scene.

Since Lanier worked at the Muse he encountered bands from all over. Below is a really amazing tribute written by Eliot Bronson, formerly of Atlanta band the Brilliant Inventions who played the Muse fairly often.

Raleigh band with Charlotte ties plays Visulite tonight

Our youth is often the time period that most informs our musical tastes as adults. And the Balsa Glider’s sound is indicative of the alternative rock and jangle pop styles that surfaced in Southern college towns in the `80s and `90s as alt-rock was beginning to really grab hold of the mainstream. While Chapel Hill (where the band members met) was gathering indie cred for bands like Archers of Loaf and Superchunk, the members of Balsa Gliders were collecting professional degrees. Its members are all grown up now. Their day jobs include banker, lawyer, doctor, and Episcopal priest. But those years spent absorbing the Southeastern sounds of R.E.M. and Let’s Active certainly color its brand of rock nearly twenty years later.

A lot of bands of that era come to mind when I listen to its new EP “Photographic Friends.” The matter-of-fact vocal delivery with a slight whine reminds me of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore or Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus crossed with Son Volt’s Jay Farrar, but without the slacker quality of those voices. The material ranges from bright, hopping jangle pop to more introspective.

You get a sense of nostalgia from the lyrics too - maybe some of the characters the group sings about are inspired by those from its past? The lyrics are like clever little puzzles hidden beneath bouncy pop songs that the listener can piece together with multiple listens. They aren’t necessarily cloaked in mystery, but include colorful details that flesh out their subjects. “Cable Came to Kinston” is pretty obvious, but that’s why I like it. There are also subtle musical touches as well such as the keys (which get a zippy solo) and backing “oohs” of the opening track “Cooleemee Girl” or the fluttery guitar picking as “Man the Mountain” builds to a close.

Producer Greg Elkins who has worked with Whiskeytown, Chris Stamey, and Birds of Avalon adds to the raw authenticity of the record.

The Raleigh-based sextet keeps two feet firmly planted in Charlotte (those of drummer Chuck Price) and the band’s main songwriter and vocalist Charles Marshall grew up in Charlotte and has family here. What’s becoming its annual winter show at Visulite Theatre is sort of a homecoming. The group, who got its start in DC, is back in Charlotte Thursday, December 15 at the Visulite with Yates Dew. Tickets are $10. Show starts at 8:45 p.m. 704-358-9200;

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Christmas EP from Charlotte band leader/singer-songwriter

Charlotte's Jon Lindsay recently released a digital Christmas EP, "Could It Be Christmas." The lead track is a little pop gem with its Americana roots proudly showing. It makes me picture him in an `80s style video wearing a scarf and one of those puffy frost free jackets from Old Navy happily singing it as he treads through snow-covered city streets maybe in Amsterdam or Boston (since snow in Charlotte is so rare).

The second track, "Castles in France," is more melancholy with big, rich harmonies that sort of sing the holidays. The last one, "Partner," is quirkier and upbeat. They certainly aren't traditional holiday songs, but that's what I like about them. You don't necessarily feel like you can only listen to them once a year. As he says, "It's not your grandma's Christmas music."

You can hear them all and download the EP for $5 here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Charlotte loses beloved local musician

Charlotte's music community took a huge hit Friday when local musician Rodney Lanier died suddenly after a short battle with cancer. Lanier was a member of Jolene, Sea of Cortez, and played with numerous other bands over the years including Hard Times Family, gogo Pilot, Lodestar, Eleventeen, and Virginia Reel. He worked at Evening Muse in NoDa. News of his illness was met with an outpouring of support from the community. A show Sea of Cortez booked at Chop Shop in October quickly exploded into an all-star benefit that included a Jolene reunion and drew over 600 people throughout a very cold, rainy Halloween weekend night. The footage above is from that event and although the sound's not the best, you can see Rodney (in the trucker hat) on stage. That event alone raised $12,000.

I didn't know Rodney well, but he was one of those people you instantly liked and enjoyed seeing out. He always smiled and said hello and sometimes chatted a bit. In my mind I thought of him as Rodneybear - one of the many nicknames friends bestowed on him - because he was so sweet and likeable. I honestly don't know anyone that didn't like him - as evidenced by his Oso Grande benefit in October looking like a reunion of almost everyone I've ever met in the music scene in Charlotte.

Facebook and Twitter have been abuzz with his passing since yesterday. I've received texts and calls from friends sharing their concern and devastation. "Shuffle Magazine's" John Schacht posted a personal piece about Rodney this morning with some lovely photos by Daniel Coston. You can read it here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Edition reunion to hit Greensboro

New Edition's 30th anniversary reunion tour featuring all six members - Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell, Ralph Tresvant, Ronnie DeVoe and Johnny Gill - will make a stop at Greensboro Coliseum February 17. Tickets go on sale Friday, December 16 at 11 a.m. at

My sister and I were excited to see the group's last reunion tour when it came through Cricket Arena (now Bojangles Coliseum) in 2007. But, from our seats at least, the sound was so bad some of the songs were nearly unrecognizable. If not the worst sounding show I've ever seen, it was definitely Top 5. It was one of the few times I actually wanted my money back. So while I'm initially stoked at the prospect of a do-over, I'm still a little apprehensive about a repeat experience.

What is great about a New Edition show is it encompasses hits from five different artists. You've got the original group's "Mr. Telephone Man," "Cool It Now," and "If It Isn't Love" as well as material from Brown, Bel Biv DeVoe, Mr. "Sensitivity" Tresvant, and Gill (who sang one of my very favorite guilty pleasures "Rub You the Right Way"). The press release promises them all, which is nearly enough to make me forget getting burned last time and hope for the best in February.

'Tis the season for benefit concerts

The holiday season is rich with giving and that means numerous benefit concerts are taking place this month. Tonight beachy Carolina Southern rock combo Jim Quick & the Coastline Band (pictured above) plays a benefit concert for Autism Speaks at Neighborhood Theatre. 7 p.m. $10-$12.

Across town Beards Because holds its annual fundraising finale party at Amos' Southend. The show, which features local artists Grown Up Avenger Stuff, Evelynn Rose, and the Spiveys, marks the end of the organization's growth period - men growing their facial hair to raise money for domestic violence awareness. Since 2007 its raised over $150,000 for women's shelters across four states. Admission is $15. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday Snug Harbor will be collecting "keep warm" items for Occupy Charlotte during its Keep Occupy Warm fundraiser. The lineup includes Dallas, Trixie Zenyon, and Beth Ann Phetamine, as well as Miami/Dice, Hungry Girl, and One Another. 8:30 p.m. $5.

There are more benefit concerts to come next weekend with a Punk Rock Holiday Canned Food Drive at Tremont Friday, December 16. Admission is $6 but you get $2 off if you bring five or more canned items. 8 p.m.

The Aqualads also headline a benefit for local musician Rodney Lanier (Jolene, Sea of Cortez) who is being treated for cancer. That takes place Saturday the 17th at Evening Muse. The local instrumental surf group also recorded a holiday album with local guest vocalists. They'll celebrate its release as well. Proceeds from the sale of that album will also go to Lanier's trust. 10:30 p.m. $15.

This week's hot concerts

Jazz Funk Xmas Jam

8 p.m. Friday, December 9, Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St. $10.

Charlotte fusion ensemble Groove 8 heads up a unique holiday concert featuring rap, soul, funk, and jazz from hip-hop artists Yogo Pelli and Phive, saxophonist Adrian Crutchfield (of Anthony Hamilton’s band), and soul rockers Lucky Five.

Nora Jane Struthers

8 p.m., Friday, December 9, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $10-$12. 704-376-3737.

There’s something sinister and bookish under the sweet vocals, crisp, restrained instrumentation, and literary lyrics of this up and coming new grass-tinged folk singer who's a former high school English teacher (check out the twisted murder ballad in the above video).

The Fray

8 p.m. Friday, December 9, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $37.50.

The piano-pop hit makers who opened the Fillmore’s neighboring amphitheater two summers ago returns for the WKNX Kissmas concert (interestingly tickets are also nearly half what some seats were at the outdoor show).

Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion

7:30 p.m. Sunday, December 11, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $10-$12. 704-358-9298.

She’s folk music royalty (her grandpa was Woody and dad is Arlo) and he was part of `90s Chapel Hill alt-rock outfit Queen Sarah Saturday. Today, they’re a dreamy folk-rock duo returning to his Carolina roots for the holidays.

Rachael Yamagata

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 13, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $17-$20. 704-358-9200.

A favorite of TV music directors who place her adult contemporary songs on shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” she divides her hushed, breathy alto between innocent and sultry over intimate piano pop or, at one point, a wicked channeling of the Eurythmics and Concrete Blonde (listen above).

Mr. Gnome

9 p.m. Wednesday, December 14, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $7.

This married Cleveland duo create dynamics-driven, experimental art rock that recently caught the attention of “Rolling Stone” who called its third album, “Madness in Miniature,” “Rust Belt scrappy and dreamily explosive.”

Chatham County Line

7 p.m. Thursday, December 15, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $15/$30 VIP. 704-358-9298.

The Chapel Hill act delivers two sets – one of its traditional acoustic bluegrass and a second electric set that’ll serve as a reunion for guest drummer Zeke Hutchins who also reunites with the aforementioned fellow Queen Sarah Saturday alumni Johnny Irion who opens the show.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More 2012 concert announcements this week

The 2012 Charlotte concert schedule is shaping up. It was announced earlier this week that Grammy winning duo the Black Keys (pictured above) will headline Bojangles Coliseum on March 24. The group released its latest album, "El Camino," Tuesday. British rockers the Arctic Monkeys will open the show. Tickets go on sale Saturday, December 10, at 10 a.m.

LiveNation also announced this week that Childish Gambino (aka actor Donald Glover of "Community") will spend St. Patrick's Day at The Fillmore. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m.
Tickets for both shows are available at and or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

Tickets for 11-year-old classical music sensation Jackie Evancho's concert with the symphony at Time Warner Cable Arena June 6 go on sale Monday.

Elsewhere Amos' announced Rehab's return to the Southend venue February 3. Rising rock quartet Hot Chelle Rae makes its Amos' debut April 10. Tickets for those shows are available at

Blumenthal Performing Arts Center's recent concert announcements include George Benson at Knight Theater March 25, the Moody Blues back at Belk Theater March 26, Mavis Staples at McGlohon Theatre March 30, and the Darrell Scott Band at McGlohon April 1. Tickets for Benson's show are already on sale. Tickets for the other concerts go on sale to the public Saturday, December 16.

Tremont Music Hall also announced recently that metal monsters Children of Bodom's 15th Anniversary Tour will stop there January 28. Tickets available at

Charlotte Music Awards holds its 5th annual awards ceremony Thursday

The 5th Annual Charlotte Music Awards' Red Carpet Affair takes place Thursday, December 8, at Halton Arena on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College (1206 Elizabeth Ave). The awards show not only represents the Charlotte area, but includes musical acts from throughout the Carolinas.

Winners from a series of genre-specific showcases that took place throughout 2011 will perform. Those include Asheville's Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band (pictured left), bluegrass/Americana showcase winner the Toneblazers, country showcase winner Jeff Luckadoo & Southern Wave, From a Seed (winner of the "Women in Rock" showcase), Lifegiver (winner of the Christian music showcase), Charlotte-based R&B singer J. Chozen (pictured below), urban hip hop showcase winner Carlimo Da Don, All My Rowdy Friends, the Mary Selvidge Band (winner of the "Women in Country Showcase"), and Winston-Salem's Stephen Freeman, winner of the tribute artist showcase who performs as the King of Rock n' Roll.

Harriet Coffey and Dwight Moody will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards. Presenters include several local and regional radio and TV personalities.

The ceremony starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 or $50 for the ceremony and VIP reception. For more information go to

Friday, December 2, 2011

Review: Trans-Siberian Orchestra at TWC Arena

Trans-Siberian Orchestra rang in the holiday season with its merry marriage of hair metal guitar licks, over-the-top arena rock, classical bombast, and holiday cheer Thursday at Time Warner Cable Arena. Musically it might be described as Queen making a fantasy-themed holiday album for “The Highlander” series with a string section and chorus, but the elaborate, sophisticated production is so much more than that on stage.

The first hour-plus portion was threaded with a Christmas narrative from TSO’S 1996 album “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” about a lonely soul whose perspective on the holiday changes after meeting a wise old man in a bar on Christmas Eve. The arrangements interspersed originals with traditional carols such as “Silent Night” and “O’ Come All Ye Faithful” as well as music from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker,” which served as a highlight. An original R&B ballad belted by Erica Jerry morphed into “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” While the gentle violins from “The Nutcracker Suite” later tiptoed into a heavy, bounding version which featured quick guitar licks that could’ve been lifted from a number of hard rock classics.

While the classical bent of the show made it more of a quiet sit-down affair without a steady stream of people heading for the bar, there was plenty arena rock grandeur. The crowd wooed and whistled at guitarist Joel Hoekstra, a lanky Sebastian Bach-looking player with long blonde waves, as he shredded on his Les Paul at the foot of the stage.

For many Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s concerts are a holiday tradition. The audience certainly had its favorite performers in band leader/guitarist Chris Caffery (who wore a Bobcats’ jersey with his name on it during the break) and vocalist James Lewis whose lead on songs like “Ornament” added a touch of gruff biker-cool. The crowd also seemed familiar with vocalist Ronny Munroe who appeared as a costumed homeless man with the voice of a European Neil Diamond during “Old City Bar.”

While the diverse cast of lead vocalists, animated violinist Roddy Chong (who led a 7-piece violin section made up of local musicians), and narration from Bryan Hicks made for plenty going on, the production was actually the real star. At one point tiny bubbles fell slowly creating realistic falling snow that evaporated as it landed on the crowd.

The light rig and drum kit were massive. Part of the light rig extended halfway into the audience, featured screens that hovered over the floor seats, and lowered to form a catwalk over the crowd where the musicians and dancer/singers could perform from platforms.

The production only escalated after the holiday portion of the show when the band performed songs from its 2009 double album “Night Castle” and 2000’s “Beethoven’s Last Night.”

“You want to see this stage come alive?” asked Caffery between sets. Alive meant transforming the backdrop, screens, and light rig into a mechanical fire breathing dragon. While that sounds preposterous, it was actually very cool and well done, with eyes and teeth appearing on screens as the three light rigs opened and closed while fire shot from the dragon’s “mouth.” If Grammy’s were given for production this seems like a clear winner.

The female singers from the choir formed a dance team for the second half as well. The women used their hair as another limb, swinging it back and forth in whiplash-inducing sync. Considering the hair-dancing and headbanging a more fitting name might be Tran-Sibhairian Orchestra.

Although there wasn’t anything as impressive as the dragon, the onslaught or pyro and fireworks continued through “Beethoven’s 5th” and a finale that wound its way back to the holiday theme with the mashup of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells" - signature TSO.

The concert is over-the-top from beginning to end, cheesy and sort of delightfully self-aware of that factor. But I found at some point even those who are apprehensive (like myself) to the general ridiculousness of combining such equally grand yet seemingly disparate elements in a non-traditional holiday show eventually succumb. Within the context of the show (at least by the third or fourth song), it no longer seems so ridiculous.

This week's hot concerts


8 p.m. Friday, December 2, Amos' Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. Sold Out.

For WEND 106.5's annual Not So Acoustic Xmas, the station presents "an evening with" the quirky alt-rock band who will perform two sets (no openers).

The Chelsea Daggers

10 p.m. Friday, December 2, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5. 704-333-9799.

This stirringly original local trio melds heavy, bluesy stoner rock with haunting Yeah Yeah Yeahs-like vocal invention, but the eclectic outfit can burst into a poppy `80s-inspired chorus, sixties rockabilly throwback or experimental cabaret. With the Malamondos and Foe Hammer.

Carolina Chocolate Drops

7 p.m. Saturday, December 3, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $20-$23. 704-358-9298.

Having gone from a youthful string band born out of the Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University to Grammy winners, the trio returns for its semi-annual winter performance - its first in Charlotte with its new lineup.

Eddie Money

8 p.m. Tuesday, December 6, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $39.50.

After his performance during Speedstreet last Spring, the man of many hits is back to ring in the holiday season with fellow classic `70s and `80s rock vocalists Mickey Thomas from Starship and Lou Gramm from Foreigner.

George Porter, Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners

9 p.m. Thursday, December 8, Double Door Inn, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $12. 704-376-1446.

At 63, the influential veteran Meters’ and Funky Meters’ bassist leads this New Orleans’ outfit with a loose improvisational feel that seamlessly fuses his roots in funk, R&B, jazz, and rock. With Donna Hopkins.

American Babies

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

Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Tom Hamilton (formerly of Brother’s Past) makes inspired Americana that’s anchored in sparse folk but flirts with pop charm on songs like the sing-songy, whimsical “Swimming at Night” and the bluesy road song “Dance All Night.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

From MMMBop to MMMHop, Hanson brewing up its own beer?

According to Entertainment Weekly's Pop Watch Column, Hanson is turning its best known 1997 hit "MMMBop" into a liquid. The group announced at a concert at Oxford University this week that it was launching a signature brand of India Pale Ale in 2012.
Hanson may seem like an unlikely group to launch an alcoholic beverage. With all three brothers married with children (eight between them), the rather wholesome group isn't known for its partying ways or for throwing back brews on stage. But youngest brother Zac Hanson confirms the news through the band's publicist.

"Yes a branded Hanson IPA beer concept is in the works under the moniker 'MmmHops.' We're glad to see a bit of buzz around the idea, which has been brewing for some time," he says.

You can read more about "MMMHops" here. Hanson, who played Amos' Southend in October, embarks on a Canadian tour in late January.