Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: Bubonik Funk "Zabooki"

Bubonik Funk’s third release “Zabooki” begins with a typical blues lick, but the direction and scope grows from there. When the fourth track “Mung Beans” bursts from the speakers with vocalist Dylan Ellett declaring “Life isn’t fair!” like the extroverted offspring of Anthony Keidis and David Lee Roth, the group really hits its stride. Ellett approaches the half rapped vocals like a blues singer while guitarist Stefan Kallandar provides playful notes that are just as engaging as the lyrics about origami birds and a cane-playing bum that fancies himself a member of ZZ Top. It escalates into a fun guitar workout even adding some bouncy, subtle horns to the track's close.

Since the Charlotte jam-funk quartet’s first EP, “OTB,” in 2008 the band’s arrangements and vocals have become more refined. Ellett’s low raspy vocals and interplay with Kallandar is more seamless. The direction isn’t always obvious. Take “Organized Crime.” It swells into a soulful funk with a nice layer of backing vocals, while “Mystic Feeney” grows from a hypnotic intro that’s fairly serious and sympathetic to its subject into a wild blues-funk romp about mental instability and hallucination. The dynamics drive it back and forth between those two extremes. That approach works well considering its subject matter.

“Baby Equipment,” which closes the album, is another highlight. With its synthed-up bop-bop-bop-bop verses it’s easy to imagine it on classic rock radio (although it varies between `70s and `80s in feel). But it would also fit on modern rock radio today. And while guitar solos can often sound stuck-on last minute and extravagant (more for the player than the song), “Baby Equipment” includes one of the most fitting solos in recent memory. It begins with an irresistibly classic feel then swerves into a psychedelic funk frenzy of wah wah and distortion aided noodling.

As usual the lyrics are quirky and interesting. I can’t tell if the vocals are a more prominent part of the mix on this record, but the lyrics certainly draw listeners in. Some are direct such as “This’ll Be the Day” - a hopeful tale of romantic chase - and “Mystic Feeney,” which riffs on mental illness. Others, like “Organized Crime,” are more mysterious (“My trophy wife bites”, huh?).

The songs sound less improvisational and more intentional, possibly because some of them were written through email exchanges while its members were off at college. Bubonik Funk didn't seem absent from the Charlotte music scene because it’s gigged fairly regularly, but in actuality tonight’s show at Evening Muse marks its first in four years as a truly Charlotte-based band. In that time Kallander has studied music at Berklee in Boston while Ellett (who also plays keys) was at Eastern Carolina University studying film. Meanwhile the rhythm section of Daniel Allison (drums) and Nick McOwen (bass) remained in town.

The band celebrates the release of “Zabooki” tonight, June 29, at Evening Muse at 10:30 p.m. with Vagabond Swing. Admission is $5 to $7. 704-376-3737;

Thursday, June 28, 2012

This week's hot concerts

Chiddy Bang
8 p.m. Friday, June 29, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $15/$50 VIP (includes Meet and Greet & photo opp).
The hip-hop duo headlines Kiss 95.1’s Summer Jam displaying its knack for splicing childlike hooks into irresistibly fun hits like “Mind Your Manners” and “Opposite of Adults.” Australian DJ Havana Brown (“We Run the Night”) also performs.

Bubonik Funk
10:30 p.m. Friday, June 29, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $5. 704-376-3737.
The bluesy jam band celebrates the release of its new album, “Zabooki,” which seems to find the Charlotte act focusing more closely on its lyrics and vocals amid veering between funky atmospherics and fun and quirky rock workouts.

S.O. Stereo/Local Traumatic
8 p.m. Saturday, June 30, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $8. 704-377-6874.
Long one to watch, this Charlotte quartet continues to evolve as a formidable pop-rock unit whose work has appeared on Showtime's "Shameless" and "The Vampire Diaries" (where its frontman was even hypnotized into backing one of the main characters onstage). Its paired with young female fronted up and comer the Local Traumatic.

Groove 8
10 p.m. Saturday, June 30, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $7. 704-376-1446.
Before embarking on its annual West Coast tour this Charlotte jazz-funk institution (members hail from Audioform and The X-Periment) celebrates the release of its latest album, which delivers everything from Latin jazz to funky R&B to cinematic retro flavor while featuring vocals for the first time.

Fresh Music Festival
7 p.m. Sunday, July 1. Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St. $52-$90.10.
Doug E. Fresh hosts this hip-hop and R&B flashback, which includes native sons K-Ci (recently seen on stage and in the crowd at May’s New Edition concert) and JoJo, Keith Sweat, SWV, and Guy.

Hellbound Glory
8 p.m. Sunday, July 1, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $8.
The Reno outfit makes modern outlaw country that’s far removed from today’s glossy Nashville. Instead its songs of drinking and hard living resonate with lived-in grittiness, gruff vocals, and lines like “I’m spittin’ blood but still running my mouth.”

7 p.m. Tuesday, July 3. Time Warner Cable Arena. $38.45-$116.60.
The British rock band create a revival-like atmosphere that's cemented its as a pop force. Swedish dance pop’s Robyn creates a spectacle with irresistible songs, space age fashion risks and wacky dancing.

Foxy Shazam
7 p.m. Tuesday, July 3. Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $10.65.
As an opening act, this live force usually steals the show. As a headliner the over-the-top, Queen-like glam throwback spins positive arena-ready anthems with all of its members oozing charisma and character on stage. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chocolate Drops drop into Mint Wednesday

Grammy winning trio the Carolina Chocolate Drops return to their home state Wednesday for a performance at The Mint Museum Uptown as part of the opening reception for "Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial." Dial - a renowned African-American artist from Alabama who is now in his eighties - will also be on hand as the museum's special guest of honor. The string band's music is a fitting companion for Dial's work because both draw on similar eras of Southern African-American traditions.

Tickets for the reception and concert range from $50 for members to $75 for non-members. The reception begins at 6 p.m. The Mint Museum Uptown is part of Levine Center for the Arts on S. Tryon St. You can find tickets here.

The Chocolate Drops' latest album, "Leaving Eden," was released in February.

Avetts set release date

The Avett Brothers announced today that it will release its anxiously awaited new album "The Carpenter" on September 11. The band posted the following message on Facebook this morning: 

"Today we are excited to announce that on the eleventh of September, we will release our 6th full length album, THE CARPENTER. The second song on the record, 'Live and Die' is available today NPR Music for anyone who would like to hear it. A continued thanks to all those who support us in our artistic pursuits and our ongoing travels. See you soon... -THE AVETT BROTHERS"

The Concord band, who plays the Vancouver International Jazz Festival today, performed the song "Murder in the City" last Thursday on "Conan." Readers may remember Conan O'Brien gave the band its first national late night talk show debut a few years back when he was still on NBC. You can watch the clip above. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Sinners & Saints "Stupid Little Songs"

There’s something about Charlotte singer-songwriter Perry Fowler that makes you want to root for him. Maybe it’s the natural charm he carries with him no matter if he’s waiting tables, in the audience enthusiastically watching his Charlotte music peers, or on stage both solo and with  Sinners & Saints (his band with Mark Baran). His demeanor is genial, never forced. The “Stupid Little Songs” on the new five track Sinners & Saints EP are no different. The group delivers countrified tales of love with twangy harmonies and rootsy instrumentation - harmonica, fiddle, etc. Those instruments blend well, but are still allowed room to breathe on songs like “Million Dollars” where you can hear strings plucked, a fiddle weeping, and the calculated strum of the guitar. It’s the kind of song you can imagine quieting a crowd at The Thirsty Beaver on a Sunday afternoon.

“Stupid Little Songs” is deeply Southern, but contemporary. Fowler’s phrasing on “I Don’t Want to Work” for instance reminds me of critically acclaimed Americana darling Jessica Lea Mayfield (who is from Ohio, so not exactly Southern), but delivered briskly. The song then whisks into a lovely harmonized refrain of “I don’t want to go to work/All I want to do is stay in bed with you” - a simple sentiment that succinctly captures that feeling of falling in love at the beginning of a relationship, talking into the wee hours, wanting to spend every minute together and making yourselves late for work. Anyone that’s fallen in love in that manner should relate to it.

That outlook carries into the next track “Have It All,” which is equally catching. The sentiment - “Seems like we’re all either searching for something or someone/Sometimes we settle for anything or anyone/What’s say we take the fall...we had those feeling whenever we was young and unafraid to have it all” - is more mature and reflective, as if looking back on a time when the romantic risks of the opening track were the norm. It could actually be interpreted as a critique on relationships, getting older, or even the way some consumers accept whatever’s easiest (mainstream radio, reality TV) and closest to access as they get older instead of seeking out quality in entertainment. That may be reading too much into it, but I like it when a song works on several different levels and allows the listener to come to a conclusion - and more than one at that.

“I’m No Good” is more of a downhome boot stomper and probably a bit less resonant than some of the more emotionally-anchored tracks. But as a faster, upbeat track it could be one of the strongest live.

The harmonies and instrumentation recall early Avett Brothers. “Stupid Little Songs” is marked by the same raw, rugged feel and harmonies that blend well without the singers’ voices all mashing together. You can hear the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens. Those qualities are most notable on the final track “The Odds."  Its matter-of-fact delivery of lines like “Don’t forget where you came from…we must all overcome” also remind me of those Avetts’ lines that inspire massive crowds to sing along often loudly overtaking the band.

Sinners & Saints play Snug Harbor Friday with Black Iron Gathering and Antique Animals. 9 p.m. $5. 704-333-9799; (Photo courtesy of the band's site at

Friday, June 22, 2012

Con meets club culture at Chop Shop Saturday

In the past few years I’ve grown to enjoy pop culture conventions. It wasn’t something that was even on my radar a decade ago, but since my first in 2003 I’ve been to Wizard World Philadelphia, a “Buffy” con in Knoxville, and comic book and horror conventions.

It all started when actor James Marsters (who played Spike on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”) made his first appearance at DragonCon in Atlanta. He’s become a regular guest at the Labor Day weekend convention, which my husband and I have also set an annual marker for on our calendars. This year I’ll take my best friend from high school to her first Con. Last year I added Eliza Dushku to my collection of Buffy autographs. This year I’ll add Rose McGowan’s sig to the “Death Proof” poster Rosario Dawson signed at HeroesCon a few years ago.

HeroesCon, which is taking place at The Charlotte Convention Center this weekend, has become another permanent “X” on our calendar and, unlike DragonCon, it’s close and family friendly enough that we can bring our children along. 

There’s plenty of late night adult entertainment for the comic book set during HeroesCon though, including a new offsite entry from NoDa’s Chop Shop. The NoDa venue/bar celebrates HeroesCon’s 30th Anniversary with the folks behind the White Trash theme parties. The Con-themed/geek culture concert and party features the rocking house band Iron Cordoba (no strangers to costumes themselves) with hip-hop artists Aswell (of Mr. Invisible), Shadow, 10:Teal, and Wolly Vinyl as well as alien bellydance from Naima Sultana, freak show stunts from Ms. Collette and Billy ½, and makeup and airbrushing from the Get Dead Crew. DJ Grandbastard will spin as well.

Prizes, food, games, and dance competitions are also on the menu. Cosplay is also encouraged. And a video game character dance-off is also mentioned on the website if that helps you narrow your costume choices. Doors open at 8 p.m. and it’s free. 

Iron Maiden opens tour with long awaited return

Influential theatrical metal veteran Iron Maiden kicked off its Maiden England World Tour at Charlotte’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Thursday. The opening night show marked the British band’s first Queen City concert in nearly 25 years as frontman Bruce Dickinson (pictured above) noted following “2 Minutes to Midnight” four songs into its set.

“Last time we were here it was 1988. I’ve become a daddy three times since,” said the 53-year-old who added that the last Charlotte show was actually August 9, 1988. Dickinson said the audience held a few thousand more people this time as Thursday’s crowd swelled around 14,000. 
The crowd response was that of fans that had been waiting over two decades (and in some cases their entire lives). The reaction to “The Trooper,” which featured Dickinson wearing a red and white military jacket and waving the Union Jack, was arguably unparalleled throughout the night. “Run To the Hills” had heads banging and bodies thrashing in nearly equal measure with the band’s mascot Eddie in giant form twice the height of the band members bounding across the stage in Colonial military attire (above).

Though it wasn’t a song-for-song recap, the show closely mirrored 1988’s “Seventh Son of a Seventh Tour” (which was released on VHS under the name “Maiden England”) down to the opening track “Moonchild” and the arctic stage that placed the members on a giant floating iceberg with drummer Nicko McBrain imbedded in the center of the glacier. 

Following the hit "Can I Play with Madness," the crowd roared as footage of the cult `60s TV show “The Prisoner” flashed on screens to introduce the song of the same name, which the band reportedly hasn’t performed live in decades.  

Up to this point the sound was muddy with little definition, but it began to improve during “Afraid to Kill Strangers.” Friends on the lawn agreed. But opening night technical bugs are to be expected (yes Maiden has been rehearsing here all week, but not cushioned by 14,000 bodies). Founder Steve Harris’ (pictured above) bass cut through everything. If you’re going to have bass licks rising to the top of the mix Harris’ are the ones you want. Miming most of the lyrics, Harris with his waist-length brown waves and tall frame stalked the stage emitting crisp, elastic notes.

The only other bug was with pyrotechnics that didn’t trigger on the first try when Dickinson was “raising” flames during “Phantom of the Opera.” He just shrugged it off with a laugh.

Age hasn’t affected Dickinson who pounced and ran across the stage athletically, jumping through the air at one point. Vocally he remains one of the strongest in metal. What was different from 1988 was his attire. Now with close cropped hair, he wore a sleeveless black t-shirt beneath a vest that looked like it was made of actual thick fishing rope (not fishnet) and brown pants laced up the sides.

Guitarist Adrian Smith astounded with his solo on “Wasted Years.” Songs like it, “Phantom,” “The Clairvoyant” and “Fear of the Dark” with signature twin guitars and changing tempos and dynamics reminded me what a huge influence Iron Maiden has had on contemporary hardcore and metal bands that regularly juxtapose intricate picking and theatrical classically-influenced passages with wailing layered guitars and charging heaviness.

The theatrics included plenty of Eddie who hovered over the band in different forms - always a part of the changing backdrops in costumed stilt-walker form during “Run to the Hills” (another obvious crowd favorite) and as a huge red-eyed Buddha-like statue resurrected from the original `88 tour that rose during “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.” A goat-headed god stood to one side of the stage with its head hanging during “Number of the Beast” and an evil organist appeared during “Seventh Son,” but the creepiest prop award goes to the creature that was squirming in giant Eddie’s hand during the final song “Iron Maiden.”

Eddie wasn’t the only 12-foot tall figure on stage Thursday. Alice Cooper’s opening set included his own towering Frankenstein. While openers are often relegated to performing for a small portion of the crowd, Cooper (pictured on podium below) and his five-piece band performed during daylight for a packed house receiving the most enthusiastic response for an opening act that I’ve witnessed since the Black Keys played Verizon with Kings of Leon in 2010.

While not quite as long or theatrical as his 2010 co-headlining set with Rob Zombie, Cooper’s set was even better thanks to his timeless charisma and the addition of guitarist Orianthi (well-known as part of Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” lineup). Despite the fake blood slashed across her lips and neck (a reference to her role on the new song “Bite Your Head Off”), Orianthi appeared less road-worn with her bright blonde hair and sparkling leggings than the typical leather-clad rock guys that make up Cooper’s band. But she shredded like she’s been touring almost as long as her new boss. Her contribution was most notable on “Poison,” which was elevated by the high backing vocals that appear on the original recording. Hits like it, “I’m Eighteen" (pictured below), “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “School’s Out” were equaled in energy by a couple of lesser known tracks.

Cooper didn’t shy away from theatrics either - spearing a photographer (not a real one, mind you) with a microphone stand and getting beheaded with his infamous guillotine. He ended the set wearing a #18 Panthers jersey and a studded top hot that would dwarf Slash’s with “School’s Out,” during which the band briefly referenced Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.”

Charlotte was definitely treated on both counts although it’s hard to compete with an opening night concert that Carolinians have waited over twenty years for.

The “Maiden England Tour” hits Atlanta Saturday and Boston Tuesday. 

This week's hot concerts

Under the Stars Charlotte Uptown Jazz Fest
7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 22 and 23. Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $45.35-$72.50.
In its third year the two-night smooth jazz festival features Pieces of a Dream, Innertwyned, and Soul of Summer with Jonathan Butler, Maysa, and Warren Hill Friday and Boney James and Incognito featuring Maysa and Joey Sommerville Saturday.

Earth Wind & Fire
8 p.m. Friday, Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd. $51.30-$105.20.
Coming off its 40th Anniversary tour in 2011, Philip Bailey and Verdine White lead the funk and jazz-pop staple in a theater setting that promises to be more intimate than the outdoor amphitheater concerts it’s done with Chicago in recent years.

Tim Barry
8 p.m. Saturday, June 23, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $10-$12.
The former Avail frontman, who led a catalog of charged working class anthems as singer for the Richmond punk band, brings that same blue collar storytelling aesthetic to his country tinged songs.

Tony Furtado
8 p.m. Saturday, June 23, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $10-$12. 704-376-3737.
Alternating between intricate finger picking and tasteful slide work, this acclaimed string player subtly weaves his dexterous guitar and banjo skills into country and blues-tinged acoustic songs that stand on their own even without flashy soloing.

8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 23, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $12. 704-358-9298.
While Charlotte waits for the recent Columbia Records signee’s major label debut (which the band starts working on in July), this family band exhibits just what all the fuss is about with its joyful mix of Americana and Celtic and roots rock. With Ancient Cities.

White Lung
8 p.m. Sunday, June 24, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $7-$9.
Under a layer of noisy breakneck punk, this Vancouver-based female dominated quartet combines a `70s garage punk feel with smart hooks, busily frantic guitar workouts reminiscent of post-hardcore bands from the `90s and beyond, and wall scaling Deborah Harry vocals spliced with that of more obscure defunct female punk bands like the Red Aunts or Free Verse.

Porter Robinson
8 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $25-$28. 704-358-9298.
Since opening for Skrillex, who signed Robinson to his label last summer after discovering him on YouTube, this still teenage Chapel Hill DJ has risen in the EDM world with mentors like Tiesto and a #1 iTunes Dance Track, “Language.” 

Lost in the Trees
8 p.m. Thursday, June 28, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $10-$12. 704-358-9200.
Classically-trained songwriter Ari Picker and his coed Chapel Hill-based band explore a wealth of emotion surrounding his mother’s suicide, while paying tribute to her with an experimental and beautiful orchestral folk record that surprisingly doesn’t fall into despair.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Antiseen frontman is statuesque

In 2009 when bobblehead creators Aggronautix unveiled its G.G. Allin figure I forwarded the announcement to Antiseen guitarist Joe Young (the Charlotte band was friends with and recorded with Allin). My email read: "Now we need Antiseen figures!"

Three years later at least one member of the band is being immortalized in polyresin. Antiseen frontman Jeff Clayton joins fellow punk rock legends Allin, the Descendents' Milo Aukerman, the Circle Jerks' Keith Morris, Jello Biafra and Wendy O. Williams (among others) as a "Throbblehead." The difference is it's not Clayton's blood covered head (a reference to cutting his forehead open on stage with broken beer bottles) that moves, it's his barb wire bat wielding arm that does the throbbling. 

The 7-inch figure, which retails for $19.95, is limited to 500 and pre-orders are being taken now here. Shipping is scheduled for September (although as a toy collector myself, I know figure production can get pushed back so take that into consideration if it's September and you're waiting for your's to arrive). Versions of Allin, Auckerman, and Mojo Nixon have already sold out. Other "Throbbleheads" include Andrew W.K., Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis (complete with flowing white hair), Dwarves, and Roky Erickson. 

You can read all about Clayton's pint size version here

Antiseen recently released "New Blood," a collection of singles from 2008-2011. The cd release is limited to 1000. It's also available on orange vinyl. The vinyl version is limited to 500 and each is hand numbered. The group celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. I anticipate another blowout bill filled with plenty of friends (both fans and other bands) flying in to share in the festivities and the prop-filled, pro-wrestling style antics that Antiseen's stage shows are known for. Keep a look out for info on that in 2013. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Apple, Isaak, Buckingham announced

Friday Blumenthal Performing Arts announced that crooner Chris Isaak will perform an intimate concert at McGlohon Theatre September 10. Isaak, whose latest album is a collection of classic covers, has played Asheville and Greenville, South Carolina in recent years but not Charlotte. I've seen him work a gymnasium in Anderson, South Carolina like it was the Hollywood Bowl and play the much posher Peace Center more recently and am continually blown away by his ageless performance. Pre-sale tickets to his Beyond the Sun Tour are now on sale. Public sale starts Friday, June 22 at 10 a.m. Call 704-372-1000 or log on to

Elsewhere The Fillmore announced today that long absent singer-songwriter Fiona Apple will make her Charlotte return September 26 at the NC Music Factory venue. Apple, who appears on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" tonight, has been receiving stellar reviews for recent live shows. At one time she had a reputation as a shaky performer, but it appears she's matured since her days of repeatedly apologizing to the crowd like she did at Grady Cole Center in her early twenties (she was great when she guested with Nickel Creek at Ovens a few years back). "The Idler Wheel..." - Apple's first album in seven years - is out tomorrow, June 19. Tickets also go on sale Friday, June 22 at 10 a.m. Tickets are available at the Fillmore box office,, Ticketmaster outlets, select Walmart stores, or by calling 1-800-745-3000. 

Before those two must-sees, Neighborhood Theatre welcomes another rock legend in Lindsey Buckingham, who will perform a rare solo "evening with" concert there Tuesday, July 31. Buckingham's latest solo album, "Seeds We Sow," was released in September. Tickets for that show go on sale tomorrow, June 19 at 11 a.m. at 704-358-9298 or at

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This week's hot concerts

G. Love & Special Sauce
8 p.m. Friday, June 15, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $25.
Whether charming frat boys, jam fans, festival audiences or hip-hop heads with his unique hybrid of blues, roots, and hip-hop, Love and his band rarely disappoints live. Of note - his latest release “Fixin’ To Die” was produced by Concord’s Avett Brothers. 
Drivin’ n’ Cryin’
8 p.m. Friday, June 15, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave, $12.
Following its first release since 2009 (the new EP “Songs from the Laundromat” which covers everything from blue collar anthems to country to jangly guitar and heaver rock) the Southern road dog behind early `90s hits “Fly Me Courageous” and “Build a Fire” return. During a regional trek.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band
9 p.m. Friday, June 15, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $18. 704-358-9200.
Thirty-five years into its career the New Orleans brass legends keep upping its profile in the mainstream with appearances on HBO’s “Treme,” tours with Widespread Panic and Black Crowes, and recording with Norah Jones and Elvis Costello. It continues to push stylistic boundaries on its own new record “Twenty Dozen.”
Beatles Tribute
7 p.m. Saturday, June 16, Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St. $12-$20. 704-372-1000.
John Tosco’s annual concert honors the Fab Four with renditions from artists like Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, Mark Crozer & the Rels, Reeve Coobs, the Joe Davis Band, Shana Blake, Steve Stoekel, Donna Duncan and others.
Vince Gill/Sarah Jarosz
7 p.m. Sunday, June 17, Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St. $49.50-$69.50. 704-372-1000.
The Grammy winning country musician returns to sounds he cut his teeth on in bands like Bluegrass Alliance and Boone Creek (with Ricky Skaggs) with a special evening of bluegrass that includes up and coming roots music instrumentalist and singer Sarah Jarosz.  
The Bodeans
7 p.m. Sunday, June 17, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St. $24.50-$32.50. 704-372-1000.
Following the departure of co-founder Sam Llanas, frontman Kurt Neumann (who sounds like a rootsy Anthony Keidis) recharged his near-30-year-old band (best known for 1996’s “Closer to Free”) by tackling heady, personal subjects on the new disc, “American Made,” which was released Tuesday.
7 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, Bojangles’ Coliseum 2700 E. Independence Blvd. $34.40.
The next generation of Motown’s Gordys aren’t kidding about bringing the party rock. Along with its own goofy and colorful show, LMFAO stacks the deck with tour mates Natalia Kills, Eva Simons, Sidney Samson, Far East Movement, and the Quest Crew.
Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper
7 p.m. Thursday, June 21, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $25-$85.
The British metal legends kick off its “Maiden England” World Tour with a rare Charlotte show. The production and set are expected to mirror 1988’s “Seventh Son of the Seventh Son” tour, which was recorded for the “Maiden England” concert video. Fellow hard rock royalty Alice Cooper opens the show with his signature theatrical set. 
Chris Cook
9 p.m. Thursday, June 21, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $7. 704-376-1446.
The Belmont raised singer-songwriter, who spends much of his time regularly gigging in Key West and touring in Europe annually, is a writer’s writer with literate songs and soulful singing that drift between blues and roots music and flirts with bluegrass and jazz on his latest record, “Remembering.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I Am Music Fest to debut with Arie in August

Charlotte-based concert and events promoter Michael Kitchen announced Tuesday that The Sol Kitchen will host its first music festival at Blumenthal Performing Arts' Belk Theater on Friday, August 10. Grammy winning artist India Arie will headline the inaugural I Am Music Fest with Mint Condition. Other acts will be announced over the coming weeks.

Kitchen says he's starting small - with just a handful of artists given that its Sol Kitchen's first festival. He chose Arie because of her widespread appeal. It marks her first Charlotte appearance in three years.

Kitchen has been bringing cutting edge live soul, R&B, jazz, and hip-hop to town for most of the last decade. He was behind Chuck Brown's annual CIAA gigs. He's brought well known acts like Common, Questlove, Talib Kweli, Esperanza Spalding, Will Downing, Musiq Soulchild, El DeBarge, and Eric Benet to town as well as booking great on-the-rise artists like Alice Smith, Rahsaan Patterson, PJ Morton, Anthony David, Van Hunt, and Vivian Green. Those names alone indicate a promising lineup for I Am Music Fest '12.

Tickets for I Am Music are on sale here or by calling 704-372-1000.

The Killers set rare club date in Asheville

The Orange Peel announced today that Vegas pop-rock band the Killers will make a rare club appearance at the downtown Asheville venue Thursday, July 19 en route to its headlining performance at the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware July 21 and 22.

The Killers have technically only been on hiatus since 2010, but it's last album was 2008's "Day & Age." That was followed by frontman Brandon Flowers' 2010 solo effort "Flamingo." The Killers spent the last year working on the upcoming album, "Battle Born." You can read "Rolling Stone's" recent article on it here. The band made headlines in April when touring and studio saxophonist Tommy Marth committed suicide.

Tickets, which will undoubtedly sell out fast, go on sale Friday, June 15, at noon. There are some stipulations. Read about those here. The Asheville show wasn't even included on the band's website at press time.

This isn't the first high profile show that the revamped Asheville venue - a former roller rink, soul club, and auto parts warehouse - has scored since reopening in October 2002. Smashing Pumpkins did a nine-night run there in 2007. Bob Dylan played there in April 2004 and the Beastie Boys also made a rare club appearance there in 2009.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rascal Flatts sets Carolina return

Award winning country trio Rascal Flatts announced two North Carolina dates today. It brings its Changed Tour to Charlotte's Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Thursday, August 9 and to Raleigh's Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion Friday, August 10.

Little Big Town, Eli Young Band - Rascal Flatts' labelmates on Big Machine Records, and up and coming group Eden's Edge will open the show.

Tickets for the Carolina dates go on sale to the public Friday, June 15 at 10 a.m. Fan club presale starts Tuesday, June 12. Click here for more information about how to join.

Tickets will be available at, through Ticketmaster, at the venues' Hardee's Thickburger box offices, at select Walmart stores, and by calling 1-800-745-3000. The Changed Tour kicks off Friday, June 15 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Snug Harbor hosts experimental jazz improv Mondays in June

Charlotte-based avant garde jazz group the Eastern Seaboard host Monday nights at Snug Harbor this month. Each Monday in June begins with duo set by the group followed (most nights) by a special guest joining them on stage. This past Monday it was Andy Thewlis. Monday, June 11 band members Brent Bagwell (reeds) and drummer Seth Nanaa will be joined by Ron Brendle on bass. Cellist Ben Kennedy will join them for a trio set June 25.

The group won't perform with a guest June 18. Instead Bo White will play a solo set with Baltimore's Ami Dang and Bagwell's other band Great Architect closing out the show.

Other performers include Blossoms on June 11 and Joint Damage, who will close out the June 25 show.

Snug Harbor has recently introduced residencies like this one. Unlike the Double Door's Thursday residencies from a few years ago, these focus on local artists. In addition to Eastern Seaboard's Monday night stint June also finds surf outfit the Aqualads playing the Plaza-Midwood venue every Wednesday.

Friday, June 8, 2012

British transplant releases album with Charlotte-based band, books string of upcoming shows

Charlotte has been pretty short on British-influenced pop music - Brit-pop if you will - especially since the demise of shoegazer influenced bands like Bellglide, First Night on Earth, and Laburnum, who all referenced the `80s and `90s in some way. Coincidentally a couple members of those bands - guitarist Taylor Short and bassist Wes Grasty - have found an actual Brit to back as part of the Rels (with drummer Donnie Merritt - pictured right with Grasty, Crozer, and Short from left to right). Band leader Mark Crozer isn’t simply a Charlotte transplant. He’s a former guitarist for veteran Scottish alternative rock band the Jesus & Mary Chain. He fell in love with an American during JAMC’s 2007 reunion tour, married had a child, and relocated to Charlotte.

Crozer brings a winking “Doctor Who” reference to the band’s name and a batch of mostly sunny songs that flit between a more accessible version of his old band mates (imagine JAMC without the cloud of distortion) and Beatles-esque pop. By the way a Rel is the Dalek unit of measurement for time on the long running British sci-fi series. A Dalek is probably Who’s most widely recognized enemy - in case you were wondering. (I’ll stop there. Is my geek showing?)

In April, Crozer released his self-titled album. The album actually doesn't feature the Charlotte-based players who make up his live band, who he met after finishing the album.

It begins with “War Drum” - a sort of a declaration. There’s even a touch of Southern garage rock in the guitar line. “I Need a Vaccination” is a zippy punk-tinged number. Another favorite, “Killed By Karma,” begins with a Cure-like intro (the bassline reminds me of “Inbetween Days”). You can hear that familiar Jesus & Mary Chain guitar tone ringing out especially during the solo. That sound informs “Sunshine” as well. But these songs are much poppier (even prettier) unless your reference point to JAMC begins and ends with its 1994 hit collaboration with Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval “Sometimes Always.”

There’s a lot more than Crozer’s former employers in his sound. There is pretty Moody Blues/Byrds-like singing. Things get downright chipper on “Sunshine” and the bopping “Brand New World.”  “You are a Light” is a sunny acoustic love song. “Just Another Day” bounces merrily. With the vocal melodies and high harmonies songs like those reference the Rels’ Beatles side. In fact songs “Light” and “Day” sound a lot like what Charlotte’s own Beatles-influenced pop veterans the Spongetones have been releasing in recent years (a more modern take on its Beatles’ influence).

More-often-than-not the Rels tread in more recent retro territory too. I particularly like “Put Those `80s Records On.” The title alone is an attention-getter. “Let’s Go to the Moon” reminds me of a happier Echo & the Bunnymen because of the guitar parts that bookend the verses.  The bridge captures the same kind of angst as the Psychedelic Furs at its best. It’s pretty magical.

 “Waiting for June” may be the most unusual track on the album. It builds on pensive strings, piano, and near whispered vocals. It reminds me of a trippy, psychedelic soundtrack that would suit “Belle du Jour” if it were remade for today or maybe serve a shot of Austin Powers discovering his latest bell bottom bombshell strutting into the room and shaking her hair in slow motion. 

The melody of “Deep Carolina” bops along innocently then swells into a dark, psychedelic guitar solo. “What a Fool I’ve Been” begins with jangly strumming and melancholy apologetic vocals. Things get darker as the albums nears its close. A James Bond-like guitar and tension-filled piano give way to a slightly brighter (thanks to Crozer’s vocals) chorus on “A Good Heart.” The final track, "Bristol Hum," closes the record on a dark, dance-y note with a beat that would be at home in one of Blondie’s disco tracks although it’s the most modern song on the album. “Bristol Hum” contains yet another interesting bridge too. I’ve always been a sucker for a killer bridge and the Rels do them well.

The Rels have a string of shows lined up in June. The group plays the Thirsty Beaver in Plaza-Midwood Saturday, June 9 with Overmountain Men at 9 p.m. Free. It is also part of the Charlotte Shakespeare Festival at The Green Uptown on Saturday, June 15. Its set starts at 7:15 p.m. Free.

It plays the Mount Holly Farmer’s Market (130 S. Main St.) Saturday, June 16, at the un-rock n’ roll hour of 9:30 a.m. before heading to the annual Beatles Tribute at Knight Theater at 7 p.m. where it will perform “If I Needed Someone.” That last one is not a free show, but it’s an incredibly popular local tribute to the Fab Four - more on that next week. Over 20 acts. Tickets are $20. 704-372-1000.

The Rels have also been added to the June 22 bill at Snug Harbor with Temperance League, Wylie Hunter & the Cazadores and Darth Hipster & the Star Destroyer. Admission is $5. 

Find Crozer online here or here.  Larry Toppman also interview Crozer in December. You can read that story here

Thursday, June 7, 2012

This week's hot concerts

The Carpenter Ants
8 p.m. Friday, June 8, Rodi, 245 W. Garrison Blvd. Free.
This WV institution (at 25 years together) fuses rootsy country, soul, gospel, funk, and rock. It brings that sound to its latest Don Dixon-produced album “Uncles and Ants.” NPR listeners may be familiar with guitarist Michael Lipton from his role as house guitarist on “Mountain Stage.”

Dan Sartain
8 p.m. Friday, June 8, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $10-$12.
Calling his new album “Too Tough to Live” “a tribute to when punk was real,” the indie singer/troubadour speeds through 13 tracks of delightfully subversive garage punk in 20 minutes (with the help of the Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin). With Temperance League and Baby Shaker.

Bad Veins
9 p.m. Friday, June 8, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $8.
On its sophomore album, “This Mess We Made,” the Ohio duo creates quirky, groovy indie-rock that’s downright sunny with its big (prerecorded) orchestral arrangements and bleeping synthesizers mingling on the dancefloor.

Gov’t Mule/Dr. John
7 p.m. Saturday, June 9, Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $32-$45.35.
The Asheville born (and sometimes Allman Brothers’) guitarist and his veteran blues rock trio headline, but it’s a opening set by the New Orleans legend - riding high on his recent Dan Auerbach-produced rock crossover album “Locked Down,” that’s the rare treat.

Of Montreal/Chappo
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $15/$30 VIP. 704-358-9298.
The former is an Athens art-rock outfit who continues to push musical boundaries on its latest mix of hooks and pop experimentation, while the latter is a funky Brooklyn buzz band thanks to an iPod Touch commercial that took its song “Come Home” to millions.

Against Me!
7 p.m. Thursday, June 14, Amos’ Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. $13-$16.
Frontman Tom Gabel became rock’s first openly transgender artist in May. With songs like “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” on its set list and Gabel now living as Laura Jane Grace at the helm, the veteran Florida punk band - never one to shy away from addressing social concerns in its lyrics - begins a new chapter.

Cast Iron Filter
7 p.m. Thursday, June 14, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $15. 704-358-9200
This Davidson iron-grass outfit was not only a favorite locally during its late `90s/early `00s run but toured nationally making a name for itself in jam and roots music circles. After a  lengthy hiatus it returns for a string of summer reunion shows.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 14, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $8-$10.
After a national Spring tour, the Charlotte metalcore outfit returns home long enough to finally celebrate the release of its progressive new album “Son of Perdition” (which was released in March) before heading to the East and Midwest with King Conquer and on to Canada with 3 Inches of Blood. 

The Offspring headlines Weenie Roast lineup

WEND 106.5 The End completed the lineup announcement for its resurrected End of Summer Weenie Roast festival Thursday. Weenie Roast '12 takes place Saturday, September 16 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. 

The Offspring share co-headlining duties with recently resurrected cross continental alternative rock band Garbage, who released its first album in seven years in late May. Other acts include Flogging Molly, Evans Blue. Our Lady Peace, Charlotte's Paper Tongues, Anberlin, Coheed & Cambria, Eve 6, and Switchfoot. Local act Drop D, which includes WEND's on-air personality DZL, will also perform. Other locals may be added to the bill. 

Several of the festival's acts have a history with the station or have been fixtures on the air practically since it debuted. Coincidentally WEND's End of Summer Weenie Roast and Garbage bowed out around the same time. The alt-rock band went on indefinite hiatus after 2005's "Bleed Like Me." The End hosted what was assumed would be it's "last weenie" on September 11, 2005 with headliner Three Doors Down as well as Shinedown, Alter Bridge, and 30 Seconds to Mars. Garbage released its debut album in 1995 - the same year of the inaugural Weenie Roast.

Check for updated information. Tickets go on sale Friday June 15 at 10am at, the Hardee’s Thickburger box office at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Ticketmaster or charge by phone 800-745-3000.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

106.5 The End to resurrect Weenie Roast?

Click on the home page of WEND 106.5 The End and there's a banner ad announcing Weenie Roast `12. The station will be announcing the lineup this week. Recently resurrected cross continental alternative rock band Garbage, who released its first album in seven years in late May, is listed as one of the festival's headliners. The other artist posted Monday was Evans Blue. Our Lady Peace, Charlotte's Paper Tongues, Anberlin, Coheed & Cambria, and Switchfoot have since been added to the bill.

The concert is set for September 16 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.

Coincidentally WEND's End of Summer Weenie Roast and Garbage bowed out around the same time. The alt-rock band went on indefinite hiatus after 2005's "Bleed Like Me." The End hosted what was assumed would be it's "last weenie" on September 11, 2005 with headliner Three Doors Down as well as Shinedown, Alter Bridge, and 30 Seconds to Mars. Garbage released its debut album in 1995 - the same year of the inaugural Weenie Roast.

Updates about the September 16 lineup and ticket information will be posted as it becomes available.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Church's "Blood, Sweat & Beers" sets Carolina return

Grammy-nominated country music hit-maker and Granite Falls, NC-native Eric Church brings his "Blood, Sweat, & Beers" Tour to his home state in November. He headlines Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte November 28.

The fall tour caps a banner year for Church. His album "Chief" debuted at #1 on both the Country and Billboard 200 charts in July 2011. In January the album's second single, "Drink in My Hand" marked Church's first #1 hit. Its third single, "Springsteen," recently cracked the Hot 100 - signaling his crossover status. Over 25 dates on his recent headlining tour have sold out. Oh, and there was that Grammy nomination for Best Country Album (it went to Lady Antebellum).

He and his wife Katherine also welcomed their first child, Boone McCoy, in October 2011.

Church's fall tour begins in Amherst, Mass. in mid-September and runs through mid-December. Special guests Justin Moore and Kip Moore (no relation) will open the tour, which also stops at Columbia's Colonial Life Arena November 30.

Church, 35, grew up in Granite Falls near Hickory and graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in marketing. In addition to his biggest country hits "Drink in My Hand" and "Springsteen," his Top 20 country singles include "Two Pink Lines," "Homeboy," "Love Your Love the Most," "Smoke a Little Smoke" and "Guys Like Me."

Tickets for many of his early fall shows go on sale June 8, but an on-sale date for Charlotte's concert has not yet been announced. Keep an eye on for updated sale dates. Church plays Buffalo, New York tonight and has US dates booked throughout the summer.