Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spoon, St. Vincent, Mastodon head up Hopscotch Festival

Raleigh's Hopscotch Festival, which takes place September 4, 5 and 6, revealed its initial lineup today. The 5th Annual Hopscotch Festival will feature Spoon and St. Vincent as headliners Friday with progressive Atlanta metal outfit Mastodon, NC's hard rock masters Valient Thorr, and Detroit's reignited punk trio Death heading up Saturday's bill.

Other acts include San Francisco folk-rock act Sun Kil Moon (featuring Red House Painters' Mark Kozelek), a solo set from current psych-folk favorites Phosphorescent, stoner kings High on Fire, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore (who will play his own set and join other acts as the festival's Improviser-in-Residence), British producer Jamie XX, indie jazz pop quartet iiii, Brooklyn psychedelic dance duo Prince Rama, Canadian DJ and producer Lunice, buzzing garage rockers Diarrhea Planet, veteran space rocker Nik Turner's Hawkwind, experimental soul dance outfit Ava Luna, Canadian punks White Lung, Mississippi synth-soul guru Dent May, and the first appearance from former Ween frontman man Aaron Freeman's new band Freeman (pictured). Freeman includes members of the triangle's Lost in the Trees, Megafaun, and the Foreign Exchange.

Read the 115 act lineup here.

Hopscotch's lineup consists of almost half NC-based acts including Charlotte rapper Deniro Farrar, reunited Chapel Hill rockers the White Octave, Asheville garage rock combo Reigning Sound, Raleigh's Lonnie Walker (who'll open for St. Vincent and Spoon Friday), Raleigh roots rock favorites American Aquarium, and Raleigh rock trio Young Cardinals. Another round of acts will be announced at a later date. The schedule will be released in June.

I'm particularly interested in the appearance of Death, the subject of the compelling documentary produced by Charlotte filmmaker Jeff Howllet. The Hackney brothers' punk trio predated punk in the `70s, but its work was never widely heard. It was only years after brother David's death that their music went viral and was actually released. Given renewed interest in their music brothers Dennis and Bobby Hackney reformed the group with a new guitarist and have been playing sporadic gigs for the last couple of years and recently put out a new album.

VIP tickets and 3-day passes, which include entry into all the clubs hosting acts as well as both headlining shows in Raleigh's City Plaza, are currently available here . Individual tickets for the City Plaza shows will be made available soon for $40 per night.

Hopscotch takes place at a series of venues in and around downtown Raleigh. For more information check out

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Local summer camp teaches girls to rock

The year I turned 13, my parents got me an electric bass for my birthday. My dad's friend - who played bass in Charlie McCoy's band on "Hee Haw" - taught me  "Paradise City," "Summertime Rolls," and "Glamour Boys," but I was destined to rock alone.

There were no other girls in my junior high who were interested. I'd occasionally pick up some Iron Maiden or Cure from boyfriends, but I was never that comfortable playing with them (I didn't realize that aside from death metal riffs, they too knew very little).

I was always jealous of the Donnas and female bands like them who found each other at an early age. What I wouldn't have given for a group of female peers who wanted to rock too. That's what Girls Rock Charlotte is offering in the form of a week-long summer camp.

Girls Rock Charlotte takes place June 23-27 at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Girls ages 10 to 16 will receive musical instruction (no experience necessary), form bands, write songs, and end the week with a concert. Between rocking they'll attend workshops on songwriting, DIY crafts (who else is going to make that wicked merch display?), media literacy, yoga, body confidence, women leaders, and zine making.

I think something like this would have made a huge difference for me. Sure, I was surrounded by music from my father's bluegrass musician friends to my boyfriends' death metal bands, but to see someone like yourself who you can relate to providing an example helps you see yourself in that same role. While PJ Harvey and Siouxsie Sioux were fabulous, I couldn't really see myself in them. It wasn't until I met my roommate after college that I even knew another girl who wanted to play music. Maybe with something like Girls Rock, I would've begun playing with other people earlier. Charlotte is actually very lucky to have several talented young women fronting bands now.

But it's not just about a rock n' roll future. Forming bands and writing together is a way to learn teamwork and cooperation while building the confidence in your own creativity to get up on stage and perform. The additional workshops also aid in building self-confidence and creating, instead of simply consuming, art.

The week-long camp, which lasts from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, is $325. Parents can register their kids and learn more about the program online here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This week's hot concerts

Friday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $19,
The Nashville duo is primed to blow up thanks to the infectious, electro-pop party single “Doses & Mimosas,” which simultaneously channels Timberlake’s soul, Kesha’s crassness, and edgy hip-hop attitude. Its debut album, “Year of the Caprese,” is due May 27 on Columbia Records. (Video contains some profanity). 

Amos Lee
Saturday  8 p.m., Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd., $49.90-$62.25,
The Philly singer-songwriter mines the South (he graduated from the University of SC) on “Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song” - which finds him shifting from raw near-bluegrass to classic country and radio-ready R&B ballads to all sorts of rootsy, atmospheric spots in between. That’s also reflected in recent live shows.

Desert Noises
Saturday  10 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $10-$12,
Utah's latest buzz band recently wrapped a slew of SXSW appearances that garnered praise from outlets like NPR. The hard working road band's buzz continues to build with the late March release of its latest album "27 Ways" - think a heavier (at times) Band of Horses with a keen sense of harmony and hooks.

Holly Golightly/Dexter Romweber Duo
Saturday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $10,
Given their separate histories with tastemaker Jack White - she appeared on the White Stripes’ “Elephant” while White has namedropped the NC guitarist and his old band Flat Duo Jets for years - it’s about time the Brit-garage rocker turned rural Georgia transplant joined the revered rockabilly vets. The latter duo celebrates the new disc “Images 13.”

Ben Taylor
Tuesday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $18-$20,
The handsomely scruffy singer-songwriter son of James Taylor and Carly Simon makes gentle, quiet folk-pop with a voice and delivery similar to his dad’s, but infuses it with his own humor and perspective. He’ll reveal new music from an upcoming album tentatively scheduled for August release.

Ben Sollee
Wednesday  7:30 p.m., Stage Door Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., $15,
From Ditch the Van bicycle tours to donating his performance guarantee to a WV community ravaged by fire to scoring a Charlotte ballet, the singer-songwriter and cellist makes stirring music that reflects the beauty and thoughtfulness evident in his everyday life.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Wednesday  9 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $16-$18,
Charlotte’s being treated to classic New Orleans’ brass for the second month in a row with another French Quarter institution’s return as the be-bop and funk-infused, 36-year-old DDBB, who - like neighbors the Preservation Hall Jazz Band - has spent recent years enjoying an ultra-cool resurgence and working with hip artists from disparate genres.

Thursday  9 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $15,
The 23-year-old electro-funk, sax-slinging producer (aka Grant Kwiecinski) spikes his original modern soul tracks and remixes (like his recent retooling of Lettuce’s “Slipping into Darkness”) with old school funk, jazz, and hip-hop for a fresh and exciting sounds that mines the best of old and new.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Former CLT rapper releases sunny new video

Former Charlotte resident Supastition - who moved to Atlanta in November - released a new video Tuesday. "Nothing Like It" is from the emcee's great "Honest Living EP." It's a sunny ode to doing well and things, in turn, going well. It's such a positive piece.

The track is refreshing with a simple, old school quality. It's also PG-enough for this adorable baby (and man, what a cute baby).

Can this please be the direction hip-hop is heading? That goes for Supastition's entire EP, which was inspired by his experience struggling to find a day job in his native-NC - hence the move to ATL.

You can read more about "Honest Living" here.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

You can take the girl out of WV...

Charlotte strikes me as a city that's welcoming to outsiders. Maybe that's why you meet so many transplants. My home state of West Virginia, on the other hand - while not necessarily unwelcoming - is rather suspicious of outsiders. Although I haven't lived there (aside from nine months while attending dog grooming school - yeah, you read that right - after college) in almost 20 years, that suspicion comes almost naturally to us.

That's why when I got a press release about Perez Hilton crowning NJ/NY songwriter/producer Skrizzly Adams as an artist to watch based on his lyric video for a tracked called "West Virginia," my WV meter spiked. I wasn't expecting John Denver. Hilton labels Adams' music "Bropop," which sounds like a recipe for frat boy mangling of hip-hop and country, but to my relief "West Virginia" is actually really good. It's more of a love song that doesn't really relate to the state or our reputation as the "most depressing state in the US" according to a recent ranking (which explains a lot about my high school years, actually). Adams' "West Virginia" is quite lovely and doesn't fall into any of the traps a term like "Bropop" implies. Watch the lyric video for "West Virginia" above.

Usually when outsiders target our state (which I still view as mine) the results are something like MTV's "Buckwild" or the tragically successful documentaries about "The Wild, Wonderful Whites of WV." My father discovered "The Dancing Outlaw" on PBS long before Jesco was a hot commodity. Dad had a friend that worked at the local PBS affiliate nab him a VHS copy after it premiered as part of a series on interesting West Virginians in 1991. He showed it to everyone. I, at 15, was horrified at how WV was portrayed. I equate the suspicion of outsiders to being bullied or unpopular in school. You get made fun of with jokes about inbreeding enough, you're likely not going to expect much from folks that are making them.

I realize being suspicious of outsiders is antiquated, but it's something that's come up quite recently as my husband investigates mountaintop removal in WV for a paper he's working on for class. It's a touchy subject. While opponents of the practice have been more than willing to discuss it, he's had trouble getting miners who have worked in the industry to call him back despite my ties to the state. These are family members and friends of friends, who won't even broach the controversial subject for what he is hoping will be a balanced piece.

Last weekend a friend from high school, who still lives there, and I spent almost six hours traveling back roads to photograph the ravaged sites where mountains have literally been blown up and mined for coal. Even worse than actually blowing up the land is the fact that this releases chemicals like arsenic and selenium into the streams where people in rural communities actually get their water. So in my county for instance, you have higher rates of cancer and birth defects than in areas without mountaintop removal sites. In one community in particular, six neighbors died of brain tumors. They ranged in age between 4 and 37. That is absolutely horrifying, but having left 20 years ago before mountaintop removal was common, I never knew much about it. When an anti-MTR group called Appalachian Voices approached us about it at Bonnaroo a few years ago, my initial reaction was suspicion although I signed up on their mailing list. Now I realize what a huge deal it is and one that my friends who live there seem pretty oblivious to because they reside in the city where the destruction isn't as apparent. Unless you're looking for these sites cruising through the mountains down I-77, you're not going to notice them.

This is much like the coalash situation facing NC right now.

What this excursion into the backwoods of WV made me realize is that I'm the outsider now. My friend was nervous about the rough terrain her CRV was taking on on muddy, unpaved roads with snow from the night before still melting on the fringes and no guardrails ("I'm glad I got that Xanax refilled," she muttered at one point). I was worried about security trucks posted at mine entrances. I kept my long lens camera in my lap as we passed on the way to the top of Kayford Mountain where Keeper of the Mountains has created a park that overlooks the biggest, bald site we found.

We never encountered any trouble, but my knee-jerk reaction of Skrizzly Adams' song helps me understand the born-in suspicion many West Virginians have of outsiders as well as a reminder to keep my own mind open. It's funny. When I tell people where I'm from, I expect some sort of weird reaction, comments about how poor the state is or how uneducated. But people usually remark on how beautiful the state is - those lush, green mountains towering above you. That is certainly the impression I'd like people to keep.

Note: As I was scheduling this to post Saturday morning I realized today is my father's birthday. On what would be his 67th birthday, it's fitting to write about his beloved home state, which he refused to leave - like so many WVians - despite the promise of better pay, better work, and a seemingly better life. I once worried about the environmental impact of spreading a portion of his ashes over the Greenbrier River. With all the pollution in the water there now, I realize that wasn't really a big deal. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

NC web series features live music, interviews

Tonight Western Carolina acoustic trio Red June is the featured artist on "The Lingua Musica Show" - a web series that features interviews and performances and tapes live before a studio audience at Arden, NC's Moonlight Mile studio.

While the Asheville area may be too far for most readers to travel, you can watch "Lingua Musica" on YouTube each month here. The tapings are invitation only since the space only holds about 50 people, but you can email to reserve a spot in the crowd for tonight (seats are still available) or for a future taping. It's free.

Friday Red June will discuss its upcoming album "Ancient Dreams" as well as perform new tunes. The album is out April 15. The next guest is Asheville songwriter Emily Easterly who'll perform Saturday, April 19.

"Lingua Musica" is the brainchild of host Joe Kendrick, a DJ at WNCW in Spindale who conducts the interviews (that's him interviewing Aaron Burdett in March). We profiled Kendrick, who has long conducted radio and web series to discuss different aspects of music and highlight particular artists - many of them regional. We profiled him in "The Observer" last February. You can read more about him here.

For more information on "Lingua Musica" click here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

This week's hot concerts

The Teetotallers
Friday  8 p.m., Great Aunt Stella Center, 926 Elizabeth Ave., $22.73,
Irish born fiddler Martin Hayes and guitarist John Doyle (Solas, Joan Baez), with Lunasa’s Kevin Crawford (who was born in England, but lives in Ireland now) form this all-star collective that hones in on the Clare County sound during one of the busy group’s rare US tours.

Chris Knight
Friday  9 p.m., Puckett’s, 2740 W. Sugar Creek Rd., $20,
The critically acclaimed, but commercially underrated singer-songwriter’s latest album “Little Victories” (a Top 10 favorite among “No Depression” readers in 2012), may still be too left of Nashville to score a major radio hit. But with literary skill and a knowing, blue collar delivery, Knight could charm the most mainstream country fan along with the Americana base.

Baby Baby
Friday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $5,
This Atlanta foursome celebrates the release of its debut album, “Big Boy Baller Club,” which was released this week. The group was formed in 2009 as an alternative to the city’s self-serious hip-hop, indie, and hardcore and comes off like a modern Beastie Boys-meets-Bad Brains - guitar punks with dance elements, catchy choruses and a sense of humor.

Debby Boone
Friday and Saturday  8 p.m., Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St., $26.50-$65.50,
She lit up radio and created an even softer side for AM pop in the late `70s with “You Light Up My Life,” but the 57-year-old Grammy winning singer plays up sass and fun on her “Swing This” tour - a tribute to `60s Vegas when her dad was headlining the Sands and Sahara.

Pierre Bensusan
Sunday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $20-$22,
World music loving critics and guitar geeks trip over themselves describing the technical prowess and emotional heft of the virtuoso fingerstyle guitarist’s live shows. The Frenchman celebrates a 40 year career with a three disc set and magazine covers all over Europe where such an intimate, one-night show is rare (so take advantage).

Miley Cyrus
Monday  7 p.m., Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St., $27.75-$106.95,
If you’re interested in pure spectacle, the former Hannah Montana’s got your number riding flying hot dogs and sliding down a giant tongue. While that’s certainly an attraction, luckily the scantily clad Disney grad can actually belt it out with the best of them. With Icona Pop.

Juicy J
Monday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory, $37.50, 
The Oscar winner is enjoying a hot solo career 23 years after co-founding Three 6 Mafia at age 16 thanks to work with younger rappers Wiz Khalifa and the Weeknd on his “Stay Trippy” album and a new pop fanbase courtesy of his spot on Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse.” He’s back with his fourth solo album on the “Never Sober” Tour.

Onward Etc.
Tuesday  8:30 p.m., Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave., $8-$10,
If you dig fiddle and banjo-infused beer-raising sing-alongs in the vein of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, but with equal footing in gravelly-voiced, rural singer-songwriter folk and the hard charging punk of Social Distortion, this migrant unit may be for you.

Todd Rundgren
Wednesday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $37,
“An Unpredictable Evening With…” is exactly what you get with the eccentric, adventurous classic psych-rock and AM pop legend who in recent months has covered Rebecca Black, Robert Johnson, Daft Punk and the Miracles as well as his own more predictable Utopia. But you never know if he’ll actually play his own biggest hit “Hello It’s Me.”