Thursday, January 31, 2013

Snug festival focuses on solo performers Saturday

The electronic music age has given musicians tools like laptops and looping pedals so that being a one man band no longer means just strumming an acoustic guitar and singing into a microphone - although that still works too. It's still pretty impressive to see one person multitask on stage and it's an economical solution for the artists.

Saturday, February 2, Snug Harbor in Plaza-Midwood focuses on such solo acts as it celebrates another loner - the Groundhog - with "Me Myself & I Solo Festival: Celebrating the Solo Performer."

The concept was conceived by two solo artists, Lee Grutman of outrageous puppet-rock act (for lack of a better term - he combines dance music and stuffed animals) Your Fuzzy Friends and Robert Childers, who has done time in so many Charlotte bands (including 2013 Wolves and Overmountain Men) that I lost count years ago.

Both will perform solo along with Andy the Doorbum, Bo White, Human Pippi Armstrong, and Brandaddy Longlegs. What's more, the price of admission reflects the loner-theme as well. It's $1. 9 p.m.

This week's hot concerts

Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires
8 p.m. Friday, February 1, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $7-$9.
Parts Stones, Skynyrd, Stooges, and vintage soul, this blatantly Southern soul-punk outfit is busting out of Birmingham with its debut album, “There’s a Bomb in Gilead.". Charlotte’s Temperance League, Hectorina, and Modern Primitives make for a solid bill.

A Silent Film
8 p.m. Friday, February 1, The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $10.50.
Before relocating to Arizona the Coldplay-esque Oxford, England combo had a modest hit with the single “You Will Leave a Mark.” Its new album, “Sand & Snow,” traces its discovery of America, while its music is being discovered through American ads, TV, and SiriusXM.

Travis Tritt
8 p.m. Friday, February 1, Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St. $34.50-$54.50.
The country vet, who appears in the upcoming film “Brother’s Keeper” (out in April), revisits the solo acoustic format of his successful 2011 tour. He'll reveal the stories behind his songs and audiences can hear them in their raw, pre-recorded and polished state.

Carrie Rodriguez
8 p.m. Saturday, February 2, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $12-$15.
The Texas fiddler-turned-singer-songwriter continues to stretch stylistically on her new album, “Give Me All You Got" - which features standout tracks like the bluesy-rock “I Cry For Love" - but she doesn't skimp on her trademark twang and acoustic instrumentation.

The Midnight Ghost Train
8 p.m. Saturday, February 2, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $7-$9.
With rude, thick riffs this psychedelic Heartland outfit’s new album, “Buffalo,” stomps in with the rumbling of the thundering herd from which it takes its names. Topped with growling vocals and bluesy riffs, the disc is as heavy as it is catchy - like Clutch at its most distorted and rumbly.

Wallace Coleman
10 p.m. Saturday, February 2, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $15.
After retiring from his bakery job at the age of 51, the longtime blues hobbyist and his mean harmonica launched an award winning music career as a member of Robert Jr. Lockwood’s band and then in the late `90s as a band leader himself that has taken him around the world on tour. Nearing 80, he maintains a sporadic performing schedule.

Meow Meow
7:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, February 4-7, Stage Door Theater, Corner of 5th and College Streets. $30.
This Australian actress/singer won the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival prize in 2011 for turning cabaret topsy-turvy with an outrageous act with global appeal that draws on many eras and locales from chansons (lyric-driven French songs) and 1930’s Shanghai show tunes to `80s new wave and modern alt-rock.

Lindi Ortega
8 p.m. Tuesday, February 5, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $10.
This country honey, who appeared on ABC’s “Nashville” and toured with Social Distortion, is a throwback to vintage honky-tonk. Her "Cigarettes & Truckstops" made "Spin Magazine's" Top country albums of 2012, drawing on the barren desert and the Man in Black despite her Canadian roots. 

Flogging Molly
7 p.m. Thursday, February 7, The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $37.
This Irish-American act - on it's annual pre-St. Patty's Day Green 17 Tour - has carved out its place as one of the best live touring bands out there with its combination of rollicking pub-punk, heart-on-sleeve storytelling, and bouncing mix of traditional Celtic and rock instrumentation. 

Soul Asylum
8 p.m. Thursday, February 7, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $25.
In October guitarist Dan Murphy left the group leaving frontman Dave Pirner its lone founding member. Still, 2012's "Delayed Reaction" stands as its best recording since the `90s and deserves a solid listen.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Two doses of Zappa in six days

It's funny (or not funny at all if you're a promoter) how things work out. Last summer there were two Billy Joel tributes scheduled in Charlotte for the same night. Later this month two a cappella groups (Pentatonix and Straight No Chaser) play two separate Charlotte venues on the very same night. While these are undoubtedly totally different shows, given the similarities I'd imagine there's no way to avoid splitting the audience. If it's timed just right sometimes you can take in both (which works out well if you're paying a sitter), but then you're paying admission to both too.

That won't be a problem for Frank Zappa fans this week when two Zappa tributes play Charlotte. Thursday, January 31, Detroit's Ugly Radio Rebellion plays the music of Frank Zappa for what I'm hearing will be a three-hour show (no opening act) at Amos' Southend. Admission is a mere $6 in advance, $8 day of show.

Next Tuesday, February 5, Zappa's son Dweezil (pictured above) brings his Zappa Plays Zappa tour back to Neighborhood Theatre. Tickets for that show are $28 to $30. So you can see both concerts for under $40.

I've seen Zappa Plays Zappa and interviewed Dweezil Zappa in 2008. He oozed enthusiasm about a project that makes him (and fans) feel close to his deceased father. His show uses video so audiences get the added treat of watching father and son playing together. While I'd love for him to play his own lone hit "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama" (a ridiculous piece of late `80s pop culture trivia - my best friend had the cassette), Zappa Plays Zappa is a really sweet gesture for those of us that look for ways to feel close to our deceased loved ones. In a way it's for the same reason people go watch tributes to acts that we can no longer see live (the excellent Michael Jackson Who's Bad tribute draw really well in the wake of the King of Pop's passing, for instance).

While I haven't witnessed Ugly Radio Rebellion's set before, the trio has been recreating Zappa's catalog for over a decade, so it should have plenty of experience churning out marathon sets. Both acts certainly share a love of Zappa's music. It's not like stumbling over three chords at a sports bar. A lot more preparation has to go into recreating his complex tunes.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

This week's hot concerts

The Shack Band
10 p.m. Friday, January 25, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $7. 704-376-1446.
Myers Park grad Andrew Gillespie co-founded this quirky jam rock act while at Virginia Tech. Now based in Richmond, the foursome is becoming a staple on the festival circuit with its infectious energy, Southern organ and guitar-fueled sing-alongs, and bright harmonies. It’s paired with local reggae-roots party band Of Good Nature.

Shannon Whitworth
8 p.m. Saturday, January 26, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $12-$14. 704-376-3737.
Whether bridging country, soul, and blues as a solo artist or doing a sultry and jazzy classic duo album with Barrett Smith, Whitworth’s dreamy alto channels artists like Rita Coolidge and Carly Simon with the more contemporary drawl of a Southern steeped country singer. 

The Marshall Tucker Band
8 p.m. Saturday, January 26, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $25-$35. 704-358-9298.
Possibly the first commercial outfit to completely blur the line between pop and country - touring with classic rock peers while charting country singles - Spartanburg’s favorite sons are long led by vocalist and sole founding member Doug Gray who lost his original bandmates to retirement and death. He and his longtime current band crank out staples like “Fire on the Mountain,” “Heard It In a Love Song”  and “Can’t You See.”

8:30 p.m. Saturday, January 26, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $12-$14.
Neither burning out or fading away, Charleston’s Crowfield is calling it quits after a banner year, three albums in six years, and being named their hometown’s band of the year. This marks the group’s second to last show and its first at Visulite after selling out the Evening Muse twice. 

The Weeks/Junior Astronomers
8:30 p.m. Sunday, January 27, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $8-$10.
Call it the future sounds of the South - Charlotte’s own Junior Astronomers team with Jackson, Mississippi’s the Weeks who signed with Kings of Leon’s Serpent and Snakes label. A debut is due in April, but the latter’s preliminary EP suggests literate lyrics, a Southern sound, and vocals that bridge an edgier Counting Crows with early KOL and Springsteen.

Amy Ray/Heather McEntire
8 p.m. Tuesday, January 29, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $15.
The Indigo Girl works out new material in an intimate solo/acoustic format with sometime collaborator McEntire (of the buzz-worthy Chapel Hill trio Mount Moriah). Both play solo sets following Hiss Golden Messenger as well as back each other up. 

Jeff Mangum
8 p.m. Thursday, January 31, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $31.
If you were a fan of late `90s lo-fi indie-rock then the return of the once elusive Neutral Milk Hotel frontman/songwriter is a must-see. Weirder than Wilco with fascinatingly curious lyrics, but still anchored enough in tradition to remain accessible his Athens-based group’s 1998 record “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” has escalated in popularity since its release 15 years ago making many a critic’s best of lists.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, January 31, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St. $19.50-$29.50. 704-372-1000.
Band lead Seamus Egan uses his great great Uncle’s tumultuous experience immigrating to the US in the early 1900s for lyrical fodder on this Celtic act’s tenth album, “Shamrock City,” making the new material in his band’s set rich in personal connection, juicy details, and historical perspective. 

Charleston folk-pop group plays final CLT show

There are always questions when a local or regional band that seems - from the outside - to be on the cusp of some sort of success calls it quits. Seeing bands I really dig call it quits when they have such potential has made me a little, we'll call it fan-shy. My favorite Charlotte band broke up a couple years ago and it still smarts. Whenever I see those musicians out, I give them a hug and think about the missed opportunities.

Charleston’s Crowfield is calling it quits with three shows. The first is at The Handlebar in Greenville Friday. The second is at Charlotte’s Visulite Saturday, January 25. It makes its final bow in Charleston March 15.
The group gave the industry a worthy shot and outlived better known bands with six years and three albums - all produced by Rick Beato who has worked with NeedtoBreathe, Trey Anastasio, and Shinedown. It was named Charleston’s best band by "City Paper" in 2012, has toured extensiveley, and was selected to have its entire catalog shopped to CBS’ music supervisor through a contest that pitted them against hundreds of other acts
From the outside it looks like a terrible time to throw in the towel, but according to frontman Tyler Meacham the split is amicable. 

“There isn't any juicy drama. All of us in the band are still as good of friends. I can only speak for myself - but personally I think what I wanted out of music has just changed since I started the band. The goal then was to get in front of as many people as I can with my music, get on the biggest stages, and live in a tour bus playing music I'm infinitely proud of,” he wrote in an email. “Now, I think it is, more simply, to make, release and perform music I'm infinitely proud of. I don't have that need to take over the world with my music, so to speak.

 “There's a lot of sacrifice that goes along with a pursuit as grand as taking over the world with mid-tempo folky rock songs. I think I also came to the understanding that you never 'make it' or 'fail' in this business.  Failing would have been to never move from Indiana to Charleston to at least give it a try. In that sense, I'm beyond proud of what we did in Crowfield - the places we went, the naive fearlessness in which we operated in the early days, and the whole thrill of seeing people connect to our music,” continues Meacham, who married in 2012 and plans to keep making music without touring to the extent that he did with the band. Of going solo, he adds: “I feel like I got to play with some of the best musicians out there - those being the other guys in Crowfield.  I can honestly say I was the least talented person in that band. So, I wouldn't hesitate to call them to help me out. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

NKOTB, 98 Degrees, Boys II Men coming to arena

New Kids on the Block announced this morning on "The View" that the veteran boy band will launch "The Package" summer headlining tour following the April 2 release of its new album "10." The tour stops at Time Warner Cable Arena June 19. What's more the tour includes special guests 98 Degrees - on its first tour in 12 years - and Grammy winners Boyz II Men. All three groups performed a cappella on "The View."

Tickets for the June 19 concert go on sale February 2 at,, Ticketmaster outlets, Walmart stores, and the arena box office. You can also call 1-800-745-3000. American Express cardholders can purchase presale tickets starting Friday, January 25.

After splitting in 1994, NKOTB reformed in 2008 to much fanfare. It performed at TWC Arena with a little known Lady Gaga as its opening act in October 2008.

Fellow boy band 98 Degrees may not be quite the household name NKOTB is, but the multi-platinum selling group includes actor/reality star Nick Lachey and his "Dancing with the Stars'" Season 2 champ brother Drew Lachey (I'm hoping the group will include Nick's solo hit "What Left of Me" in its set). The group had its share of hit singles between 1997 and 2001.

Boyz II Men, who have visited Charlotte on occasion in recent years, is the most commercially successful R&B group of all time. The vocal quartet scored a string of number one ballads in the `90s - some of which set records for length of time at No. 1. It also collected four Grammy awards. It now tours as a trio.

A complete list of concert dates can be found here.

Review: Christopher Cross, Neighborhood Theatre

Christopher Cross’ concert at Neighborhood Theatre Sunday night was unlike any show I’ve seen in that the audience may or may not have been witnessing a public wooing. What the singer-songwriter said was his first Charlotte show (although one reader emailed to say he thought he saw him play Ovens in the `80s) was a very open, intimate set that even managed to tug the heartstrings of the friend I brought with me who wasn’t even born when Cross had his biggest Grammy and Oscar winning hits.

She was drawn in not only by the music but by the love story that some of us in the audience fantasized was picking up after 30 or so years. From the stage Cross was very open about the former girlfriend who inspired his second hit album “Another Page” being in the audience. Midway through his nearly hour and a half set he introduced a song he wrote for the “love of my life” that he left off that particular album because it was too personal. Things felt very personal and real through that portion of the show. Through “Talking in My Sleep” and “Think of Laura” (which was written about that girlfriend’s deceased best friend) it felt like he was singing just for her. It could’ve been a scene from a movie. “Laura” was particularly moving. Cross got choked up and it’s such a beautiful song. He certainly wasn’t the only one.

Aside from the imagined (or not) movie scale romance (although I decided I’m glad my husband doesn’t write lyrics because I find the idea of him serenading me pretty embarrassing), Cross and his five-piece band were a bunch of seasoned pros.

They opened the show with “Never Be the Same” from his smash self-titled debut - the one that garnered all those Grammys. He joked about a long career and nine albums - many of which are out of print and only available at "garage sales and flea markets" - before introducing his band.

He touched on his latest album, “Doctor Faith” with “Hey Kid” and “Dreamers,” but most of the material was culled from those first two hit albums which are likely what most fans are familiar with. He also played his ode to Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” character Liz Lemon ("Lemon's Theme" which you can watch on YouTube). He mentioned that Fey told him that it was no coincidence the guy her character married earlier this season shared Cross' name.

Cross was backed by a drummer and percussionist, bassist Chazz Frichtel (who spent years working with Michael McDonald), and two keyboardists - one of which doubled as a mean sax soloist. Cross provided the only guitar (which is pretty refreshing when you consider bands that travel with so many guitars playing at once they all mush together). He's a subtle player who can whip out a solo with ease.

“Walking in Avalon,” the title track to his 1998 album, straddled the line between adult pop and smooth jazz beginning with a rippling bass solo and featuring percussion and sax solos. Cross mentioned the sexy song, which tells of an affair with a free spirit, was banned at radio. I'm not sure if it was his mention of doing mushrooms or his inferred profanity (he says “mmm…” but we all knew what luck rhymed with), that served as its death knell at radio, but it - along with “Kid” - was a highlight of the later era material. 

Things truly escalated for “Sailing.” The shakers and rain maker and the full band treatment helped recreate the beachy feel of the original recording (which undoubtedly helped coin the term "yacht rock") and Cross’ voice hasn’t faltered with time. He still hits the high notes. 

“Best That You Can Do (Arthur's Theme)” and “Ride Like the Wind” (with Frichtel handling McDonald’s backing vocals superbly) ended the regular set with most of the crowd on its feet. The group returned for “Say You’ll Be Mine” - the opening track of that 1979 smash. Cross ended the evening by stepping off the bus outside the theater to take pictures and sign autographs for fans.

It was a really sweet and special show from the stories he told to his connection with his now Charlotte-based ex to the fans we met in the audience sharing their stories of what his music meant to them.

With no opener we were out of the Neighborhood Theatre by 9:30 and at Amos’ in time to see Hot Water Music - a post-punk band from my post-college days who have returned with a great new album. The polar opposite of Cross, but two good shows in one night perfectly timed. You can't beat that. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Band of Horses adds second show at Fillmore

Band of Horses is extending its stay in Charlotte in  May. The Fillmore announced Friday that the Carolina roots rock favorites would be adding a second date to its May 10th concert at the NC Music Factory venue. Tickets for an additional May 11 concert went on sale this morning at 10 a.m. Click here for tickets, which are $37.50. 

An additional date was added given how well tickets for the first show were selling. Band of Horses was last in Charlotte opening for My Morning Jacket at The Fillmore's neighboring Time Warner Cable Outdoor Amphitheatre in August, 2012. The group played The Fillmore in August 2011 after its tour with fellow Southern rockers Kings of Leon came to an abrupt halt when the headliner cancelled the remainder of the tour. Instead of allowing fans to be completely bummed, Band of Horses (pictured above in 2011) quickly scheduled a headlining show at The Fillmore and it turned out to be a very special much more intimate show for BOH fans.  

This marks the first time The Fillmore has scheduled a two-night engagement. So if you don't get enough Horses the first night, you can make it a double. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

This week's hot concerts

Paul Thorn
8 p.m. Friday, January 18, Don Gibson Theater, 318 S. Washington St. Shelby, $26.
Leave it to acclaimed bluesy songwriter to do the unexpected - releasing an album of mostly obscure covers (Buckingham/Nicks, Foy Vance, Buddy and Julie Miller) for his latest release, “What the Hell Is Going On Here?” in order to “get away from himself” for a while.

Christopher Cross
7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 20, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $32-$50. 704-358-9298.
The Oscar and Grammy winning singer-songwriter behind “Ride Like the Wind” and “Sailing” is considered the captain of Yacht Rock - late `70s/early `80s soft rock and AM pop - and this marks (according to Cross) his first Charlotte concert in 35 years.

Hot Water Music
7 p.m. Sunday, January 20, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $17-$20.
The blue collar Florida punk band took eight years to make a new record and it paid off. With its fast-paced collision of Springsteenian songwriting and Bad Religion’s furor, “Exister” is the group’s most commercially successful album and is adding new, younger fans to its audience.

Bryan Adams
8 p.m. Monday, January 21, Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St. $39.50-$79.50.
The Canadian rocker returns for a solo acoustic theater performance, which seems a fitting venue for songs like “Heaven” and “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You.” But like his 1997 “Unplugged” record, it should be interesting to hear rockers like “Summer of `69,” “Cuts Like a Knife” and “Run To You” in that intimate, stripped down setting.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 22, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St. $64.50-$99.50. 704-372-1000.
Not to be mistaken for a low-key acoustic duo show, the `80s rock queen is now sharing the marquee with her husband/guitarist Giraldo who’s always been an integral part of her band. It promises (in the dark - wink) to be an intimate, still rocking, full band show.

Ryan Montbleau Band
9 p.m. Wednesday, January 23, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $10. 704-376-1446.
The old school soul singer in this old soul really comes to life on 2012’s “For Higher” - the product of a star studded two-day New Orleans’ recording session that took place immediately following Jazz Fest 2011 and boasted Ivan Neville, George Porter, Jr. and Anders Osborne.

Geoff Koch
8 p.m. Thursday, January 24, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $8. 704-376-3737.
The Nashville by way of St. Louise songwriter’s tracks worm their way into your psyche as he rides the line between Americana and gentle indie-pop. His skills recently won him a Chevy van to tour in and an upcoming spot on ABC’s “Nashville.” 

Review: Bloc Party makes its Charlotte debut

When my first thought upon entering a room is “Siouxsie Sioux,” then chances are I’m going to like your band. That was the case when I walked in during IO Echo’s set Tuesday opening for London’s Bloc Party at The Fillmore. 
It wasn’t just singer Ioanna Gika’s shiny plastic kimono, the Asian-inspired screens that flanked the drummer, the low light and long hair that formed a sort of veil around her head, or the way she carried herself stretching in unusual poses on stage. It was the sonic marriage of atmospheric indie rock and Asian touches that echoed Siouxsie and the Banshees pairing of Eastern and Western. Although the setup was traditional - four-piece rock band - I think the other instruments including bass, keys, and (according to their press materials) Japanese koto and Chinese violin were piped in from a laptop. The echoing guitars, laptop, and Gika's voice - wearing a sweatshirt so `80s that I imagined it had an Esprit label - added depth and atmosphere. The foursome (Gika and Leopold Ross are the core members) ripped through songs that boasted Cure-like rhythms, Gika’s swooping vocals, sonic washes and fluttering guitars, but also juxtaposing choruses that were simple enough to easily put to memory. My husband said it reminded him of the Duke Spirit crossed with Elefant.
Bloc Party took the stage well after IO Echo left it to the trigger-like beat of the recent single “Octopus.” From “Trojan Horse” to “Hunting for Witches” (which always reminds me of the "Scrabble" TV game show) and “Kettling” my foot never stopped tapping and my head didn’t stop bobbing. But you could tell from singer Kele Okereke’s comments that he felt the Charlotte crowd was a bit reserved. Following another newer tune (“Real Talk”) the crowd finally erupted for older tracks “Song for Clay (Disappear Here),” “Banquet,” and “Blue Light.”
Okereke’s delight at winning over the crowd with “Banquet” was evident in his smile.
“You got me so excited I was tuning for the wrong song,” he laughed before “Blue Light.”

The sound wasn’t perfect, but it was interesting. It was refreshing to hear natural sounding vocals. Okereke’s voice wasn’t bathed in cover-up. It was raw and real. He’s a good singer, so he doesn’t need it, but his voice and the dry snare were in stark contrast to Russell Lissack’s effects-heavy guitar work. Some of the sounds the seemingly quiet and reserved guitarist makes come out of his instrument are truly impressive.
The crowd responded warmly to the new song “Children of the Future” and “Leaf Skeleton,” which Okereke said was left off 2012’s “Four” (it can be found as a bonus track). But it all seemed to whiz by with the group ending the regular set with less than an hour on stage with “So He Begins to Lie."
They hit on six more songs during the encore, but I greedily could’ve stood more including tracks from “Four” even if (as the guy behind us told his date before the show) it was rated one of the most disappointing albums of the year by Pitchfork readers. I disagree. That record will have you pedaling fast at the gym - pretty much like all Bloc Party records.
Tuesday marked Bloc Party’s first Charlotte concert since gaining notoriety outside the UK in 2005. Drummer Matt Tong recalled midway through the set that it was scheduled to play with Panic at the Disco here years ago, but had to pull out of that tour. Although I wish I'd seen them in Winston-Salem at the height of their stateside chart success following 2007’s “Weekend in the City,” the intimacy of The Fillmore at half capacity with only two levels open is preferable to a larger crowd. You can lose that feeling of being a part of the show and simply seeing a show when things get too separated. This show - full, yet still intimate enough - was just right. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

This week's hot concerts

Lucy Kaplansky
8 p.m. Friday, January 11, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $17-$19. 704-376-3737.
The acclaimed folk singer-songwriter took an unusual career path. An early peer of Shawn Colvin and Suzanne Vega, she left music for clinical psychology until she was drawn back in the early 1990s. She released her seventh album, “Reunion,” in September.

Max Baca and Los Texmaniacs
8 p.m. Friday, January 11, Don Gibson Theater, 318 S. Washingston St., Shelby. $21.
This Grammy winning group captures the sound of South Texas’ Conjunto - a style marked by accordion and the twelve string Mexican guitar, the bajo sexton - mixing classic waltzes, boleros, ballads, polka, and Western swing in tribute to cities like Laredo, Corpus Christi, and El Paso.

The Old Ceremony
10 p.m. Friday, January 11, Double Door 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $12. 704-376-1446.
There’s a thread of waltzing old `50s and `60s rock n’ roll combined with songwriting chops on this orchestral indie-rock-meets-gypsy-folk-flavored band’s fifth album “Fairytales and Other Forms of Suicide,” which should draw greater attention to the Chapel Hill outfit.

Joe Buck Yourself
10 p.m., Friday, January 11, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5.
With his unfurled Mohawk he looks like a survivor of late `70s street punk or a horror movie extra (he actually made his name playing with alt-country leaning artists Legendary Shack Shakers and Hank III). Solo, he falls somewhere between growling punk and chugging rockabilly-flavored country.

Bloc Party
8 p.m. Tuesday, January 15, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $33.
The London foursome - who stormed the UK charts in 2005 - returned in 2012 after a two-year hiatus with the new album, “Four,” which rages and rolls with its signature electro-dance-meets-guitar-rock while still covering new ground.

Tea Leaf Green
8 p.m. Thursday, January 17, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $15.
Like peers My Morning Jacket and moe, this prolific and diverse San Francisco outfit expands on the old idea of a jam band by channeling the BeeGee’s, Southern rock, the Grateful Dead, and a funky carnival barker from one track to the next.  

A Troop Of Echoes
8 p.m. Thursday, January 17, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $5-$8.
Ready for original? This Rhode Island instrumental outfit unites mathy guitar rock and lyrical saxophone in a cinematic, experimental marriage that works quite well - as if an indie rock band got a job scoring Showtime’s “Homeland.”

Gina Sicilia
9 p.m. Thursday, January 17, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $10.
The Pennsylvania-based blues singer has a deep, lived-in alto that sounds years beyond her twenties and is capable of tackling blues, R&B, and Americana. She wrapped up an campaign this week to fund her upcoming fourth album.

Monday, January 7, 2013

NC act among those on new Martin/Brickell collab

Comedic actor turned Grammy winning bluegrass band leader Steve Martin and folk-rock singer Edie Brickell will release "Love Has Come For You" on April 23. The 13-track collaboration features rootsy tunes that highlight Brickell's vocals and lyrics and Martin's subtle banjo picking.

"Love Has Come For You" also features Western North Carolina's Steep Canyon Rangers, who have served as Martin's band on tour and on the Grammy nominated album "Rare Bird Alert." "Love Has Come For You" also features appearances by jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding, veteran studio guitarist Waddy Wachtel, and Nickel Creek's Sean and Sara Watkins.

"The banjo can be so evocative when it's used sparingly, and that was in the back of my mind as we were writing," the actor states. "It's the way I've longed to play and hear the banjo, rather than it being present at every moment. In these songs, the point is to tell the story and get out."

Brickell, who took time away from music in the mid to late `90s to have three children with husband/folk legend Paul Simon, has reignited her music career over the last decade releasing albums with the Gaddabouts, the Heavy Circles, and regrouping the New Bohemians for 2006's "Stranger Things."

"Love Has Come For You" will be released by Rounder Records. The duo (pictured above) will be announcing tour dates later this year.

(Photo courtesy of Steve Martin's Facebook page)

A$AP Rocky sets solid release date

Buzzing hip-hop artist A$AP Rocky's debut major label full-length studio album, "Love.Long.A$AP," has had its release date pushed back multiple times since summer. But it looks like January 15 is the real deal. Promotional copies were sent out today and the album is available for pre-order.

In November when The Observer interviewed A$AP Rocky prior to his concert at The Fillmore, he mentioned that the anxiously awaited album had already been completed. Meaning it could come out any time. He and his record label were just watching his buzz build thanks to an appearance with Rihanna at MTV's Video Music Awards in September and his hits "Goldie" and "F*****' Problems" with Drake, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar (2012's other new hip-hop golden boy). That little nugget of info - that he was no longer still tweaking the album or collecting name collaborators thanks to his growing popularity - was picked up by a string of hip-hop publications, including rap Bible "The Source."

The 12-track "Long.Live.A$AP" features a slew of guests including Santigold, Big K.R.I.T., and Yelawolf while the deluxe version features four additional tracks, including one with Florence and the Machine's Florence Welch. His co-producers include Danger Mouse, Skrillex, Hit-Boy, Rico Love, Jim Jonsin, and Clams Casino. Both versions as well as vinyl will be available on his new official merch store.

A$AP Rocky will spend a portion of 2013 on the road with Rihanna as a special guest on the singer's "Diamonds World Tour." He's scheduled to appear at dates March 8 through May 5. The closest one to Charlotte is in Atlanta, April 22.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

NC's Church just misses Top 10 tours of 2012

It's always nice to see North Carolinians doing well and Granite Falls native Eric Church has had a very good year. In addition to his recent Grammy nominations for the track "Springsteen" (he's up for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song), Church's "Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour" was named 11th best selling tour of the year in Pollstar's Worldwide Ticket Sales Chart with 765,000 tickets sold. This puts him in the company of Springsteen himself (who came in second to Madonna) as well as Coldplay, Roger Waters, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, Cirque du Soliel, Metallica and Dave Matthews Band. Only Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney's Brothers of the Sun tour and Jason Aldean ranked higher among country artists.

The CMA winner, who was also the only country artist mentioned in "The New York Times'" best concerts of 2012 list, called his inclusion "incredible."

"I distinctively remember playing for eight people just over two years ago in a club in Texas," he said in a statement from his publicist.

He can expect his ranking to rise next year since he's joining Chesney's "No Shoes Nation" for its stadium dates. If you missed Church on tour - he played Time Warner Cable Arena in November - you'll be able to get a taste when he releases a live album later this year.

(Photo credit Jim Sutter)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Catching up with the Sammies tonight at Tremont

After a busy run during the mid to late `00s, Charlotte-based band the Sammies have been fairly quiet until recently. The group plays Tremont Music Hall tonight, January 4, with Pullman Strike and Motel Glory. Its the foursome's second local concert in less than a month.

The group released an album for Charlotte's now defunct MorRisen Records in 2006. There were rumblings of more to follow with the song "Coming Out Wild" appearing on the soundtrack for the 2006 Jessica Simpson/Dane Cook film "Employee of the Month." Then MoRisen disappeared when owner Chuck Morrison relocated to Columbia to be closer to his kids. He recently celebrated the label's tenth anniversary with the Sammies and other former acts.

Although the group still played sporadically (adding the Talk bassist C.R. Rollyson after that first album), I began to wonder with the demise of MoRisen if Charlotte had seen the last of the Sammies just as it was really hitting its stride.

Not so, reports Frank Backgammon (aka singer Will) via email. He moved to Asheville, got married, had a baby, and was busy focusing on other things in life as were the band's other members. A few months ago he moved back to Charlotte. The group is currently working on new songs that it began recording at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville last year. He says a new record should be completed "sooner than later."

That's good news. The Sammies definitely had some great songs in its repertoire and with six years in life experience and songwriting and production under its belt, it will be interesting to see what the band has come up with.

You can get an idea tonight at Tremont (400 W. Tremont Ave.) at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7 at the door.

This week's hot concerts

Pullman Strike
9 p.m. Friday, January 4, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $7.
While this Charlotte band is heavily anchored in rootsy country - thanks to pedal steel and a helping of twang - like Drive-By Truckers it’s a Southern rock band at heart that sometimes hits on the driving force of early Pretenders. With the Sammies and Motel Glory.

Dr. Ralph Stanley
8 p.m. Saturday, January 5, Don Gibson Theater, 318 S. Washington St., Shelby. $39.50.
Old time and bluegrass lost Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson this year, so it’s great to see this bluegrass luminary on stage pickin’ banjo at age 85. His music was most recently featured in Nick Cave’s film “Lawless.”

Run Forever/State Lines
8 p.m. Saturday, January 5, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5.
These two indie bands (the former a Pittsburgh trio, the latter Brooklyn-based) make raw, unpolished punk with ample angst and recordings that serve to remind listeners what records by bands like Lifetime, Rainer Maria, and others sounded like before mall punk was mainstream.  

Carolina Gator Gumbo/Jackomo
8:30 p.m. Saturday, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $8. 704-376-1446.
Charlotte’s Carolina Gator Gumbo has cooked up Creole and Cajun music since the early ’90s, while Asheville-based Jackomo is a newer Cajun country combo. Both have long traveled to learn the Louisiana tradition from its masters.

Tyler Hilton/Teddy Geiger/Ryan Cabrera
8 p.m. Tuesday, January 8, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $12-$15.
It’s three singer-songwriters with TV and film backgrounds: Hilton was on WB/CW hit “One Tree Hill” and in the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line”; Geiger in the film comedy “The Rocker”; and Cabrera on reality shows like MTV’s “The Hills.”

Math the Band                                                                
8 p.m. Wednesday, January 9, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $5.
The enthusiastic and quirky electro-punk duo approaches Game Boy rock with the speed of death metal and the peppiness of pop-punk, using analog synthesizers, vintage drum machines, and yes, 8-bit video game systems.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sixth Annual Stout Pull at Coyote Joe's Tuesday

Each year WSOC 103.7 and Coyote Joe's bring together a handful of country artists and songwriters to share the stage and raise money for Loaves & Fishes at what's known as the Stout Pull. The sixth annual Stout Pull, which takes place Tuesday, January 8, pairs Stained's Aaron Lewis (who has made the hop from brooding rock to country with the gold-selling single "Country Boy") with country veteran Gary Allan and leading hick-hop artist Colt Ford.

While country fans are often used to seeing their favorite artists fronting huge bands with flashy production, the Stout Pulls are a bit more intimate. Colt Ford for instance, is known for bridging country, rock and rap, as a go-to collaborator (of Jamey Johnson and Jake Owen) and for his party-starting persona, but he's also a songwriter whose tracks have been covered by artists like Jason Aldean. The Stout Pull gives audiences a chance to see he, Lewis, and Allan in more of a folk songwriter in-the-round setting full of stories and (you can bet) plenty of personality.

What's more tickets are only $5 and are available here. Tuesday's show starts at 9 p.m.