Thursday, August 21, 2014

This week's hot concerts

Kate Tucker & the Sons of Sweden
Friday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $10-$15,
With likeminded peers, this dreamy rock outfit is changing the sound of Nashville with a multimedia Kickstarter campaign for its new album “The Shape the Color the Feel” and a sound that’s Interpol-meets-Sundays or Cardigans with shoegazer guitars so fluid they sound like they’re underwater. With Christy Snow.

The Fresh Beat Band
Saturday  3 p.m., Carowinds Palladium, 14523 Carowinds Blvd., $44.07-$60.02,
Preschool parents could do worse than this peppy fictional band from the Nick Jr. series that’s built on positive pop music and hits on everything from country-western to Bollywood to hip-hop - the latter thanks in part to the group’s comedic secret weapon Twist (actor Jon Beavers, who shows up in the “Gotham” pilot).

Beat ALS Fundraiser
Saturday  4:30 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $10-$12,
When organizer Christine Strzepek’s music fan mother Elaine Goslee died from ALS in 2013, her daughter created this annual event to raise and awareness for the cause. Acts include Trial By Fire (the Journey tribute), Ghost Pilot, Beyond the Fade, Butterfly Corpse, Fiftywatt Freight Train, Sidewalk Picasso, Fuse Band, Small Talk Assassin and Dust ‘n D Attic. Food trucks will be on hand.

Avery Sunshine/Kindred the Family Soul
Saturday  8 p.m., McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St., $32.50-$39.50,  
There’s something refreshing yet familiar about soul singer Avery Sunshine, whose  sophomore album recalls classic soul greats and `80s R&B with a touch of jazz. The Atlanta duo (with guitarist/vocalist Big Dane Johnson) joins another equally accomplished pair in married duo Kindred.

Lil Debbie
Tuesday  9 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $12-$15,
The polarizing California rapper best known for her work with Kreayshawn in the female trio White Girl Mob and later with Houston rapper RiFF RaFF is clocking YouTube hits into the millions for her minimalist hip-hop while claiming to the press that Miley stole her schtick.

Jews & Catholics
Sunday  9 p.m., The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd., $5-$7,  
If you’re hungry for the golden age of alt-rock (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur, Jr.) this Winston-Salem trio, who makes its Charlotte debut with new drummer Jay King, stirs up fuzzy, dissonant, unpredictable indie-rock that’s not afraid of a hook. Expect new material from next year’s 10th anniversary release. With Spirit System and Dinner Rabbits.

Blossoms/Andy the Doorbum
Wednesday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., Free,
The Charlotte indie-rock quartet, which sounds like a melancholy dream pop outfit filtered through a wall of aluminum mesh - beautiful, but uncomfortable -  finishes out its month-long residency with Charlotte’s own performance art guru, whose unprecedented June album release show made jaws drop. With the MoBros and DJ Cody.

Alien Ant Farm
Thursday  7:30 p.m., Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St., $15-$18,  
Best known for tongue-in-cheek videos and 2001’s refreshing spin on Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” the California quartet returns with the ANTarchy in the USA tour and a long-awaited, new PledgeMusic-funded album, “Always and Forever,” arriving later this year. 

Yonder Mountain String Band
Thursday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $28.94,  
Even if fans of the Colorado, progressive bluegrass combo aren’t in Charlotte to witness the improvisational noodling and nimble picking, they can stream the band’s set at the Fillmore as part of LiveNation and Yahoo’s streaming concert series - one of 365 aired on Yahoo Screen’s LiveNation Channel this year.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Motley Crue lights up PNC during first Carolinas' stop

There was blood, balloons, bubbles, babies, and a beheading - and that was before Motley Crue ever hit the stage during its PNC Music Pavilion stop Tuesday. The Crue, who signed a contract agreeing that this global tour would be its last, had more than a few new tricks up its studded leather sleeve. 

I've seen great Motley Crue shows (2005's Carnival of Sins Tour) and I've walked away from Crue shows disappointed (2008's Crue Fest). I was not disappointed Tuesday. The group was high energy pounding through a hit-heavy set with the aid of some of the most deafening, dynamic pyrotechnics to ever heat a stage. 
While rock legend Alice Cooper (above) relied on the aforementioned classic dead baby dolls and blood spatter as well as a towering monster ("Feed My Frankenstein"), a maniacal nurse (played by his wife Sheryl for "Ballad of Dwight Fry"), and that trusty guillotine, Motley Crue upgraded its 2014 show with an astounding amount of pyro, backup singers well versed in exotic dance, and a flame thrower strapped to Nikki Sixx's bass during "Shout at the Devil." The production was like another member. There was the gentle rain of sparks during "Without You," that insane flamethrower bass, and giant sprays of fire and alternating gusts of smoke that looked and sounded a lot like fire extinguisher spray (without the foam) used liberally. 

Newish Crue still had fans singing along during the opener of 2008's "Saints of Los Angeles." Covers of "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" and "Anarchy in the UK" went over as well as most of the band's originals and the guys seem to have fun playing them. 

Sixx took an uncharacteristic break from head banging and body builder poses to share Motley Crue's origin story. We all read "The Dirt," but a refresher was a fitting segue for a final tour. I was particularly interested in the music he and Tommy Lee bonded over during that first meeting. Punks may have spat at the notion of hair metal, but bands like the Crue and Guns n' Roses were as big on the Sex Pistols and Ramones' as they were Aerosmith and T-Rex.

At age 63 (and a decade older than all but Sixx, 55), guitarist Mick Mars' health has long been an issue. His illness (a debilitating form of arthritis in his spine and pelvis) and 2004 hip replacement certainly don't slow down his fingers. He seemed at ease though hunched and thin, working the stage in Frankenstein platforms. His guitar solo, which followed Lee's hip-hop and dance flavored drum solo (more on that), was a mix of haunted house psychedelics, fleet-fingered fret work, and noisy distortion. I wished I could have heard it more clearly. 

Clarity wasn't high on the priority list for either band - at least not close to the stage where distorted instruments and voices competed with each other. Lee later tweeted that it was the quietest show of the tour ("What happened? Did it sound bad?...too sweaty?" he asked). He obviously didn't hear the guy behind me screaming his name.

Vince Neil's signature cat-like wail did cut through much of the clutter. Although Neil still swipes at phrases and sometimes misses lines all together, his range was better than I remembered. Sure there were a few backing tracks beefing up the high part on "Girls Girls Girls" as well as the female singer/dancers, but he didn't rely on them. 

Lee didn't quite outdo himself with a rig he called the Cobra, which operates like a slower amusement park ride where his lighted drum set rotates as it is elevated on a rig that stretches in an arch above the stage. In an arena the rig extends into a rollercoaster of sorts that reaches toward the back balcony, but in a shed-style amphitheater it stops at the edge of the stage (see photo below). His samples-driven solo did speak of how far genres have blurred since his first spinning, airborne drum rig from the 1987 video for "Wild Side."
There's been a lot of speculation about the Crue's real reasons for calling it quits after this tour - from Mars' health to the members' dislike for one another - but the show didn't feel like four guys cringing through clenched teeth as they pointed out how fabulous the others are. They seemed to be enjoying it as "Kickstart My Heart" drew the show to a close with a possibly unprecedented display of pyrotechnics. It sounded like a war zone and I'm sure several fans walked away a little deafer.
If you missed Tuesday's show or want to experience it all over again, The Final Tour, which will stretch well into 2015, will stop in nearby Greensboro and Greenville, SC in October with Cooper (pictured above) and his band in tow. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

This week's hot concerts

Juice Newton
Friday  8 p.m., Don Gibson Theater, 318 Washington St., Shelby, $26.50,
In 1981 Juice Newton erased the line between pop and country with the Top 10 hits “Angel of the Morning” and “Queens of Hearts.” She charted and was nominated for Grammys in both genres (eventually winning in country for her 1982 Brenda Lee cover). After a quiet `90s the 62-year-old redhead returned still straddling pop and country.

JD Wilkes & the Dirt Daubers
Friday  9 p.m., Puckett’s Farm Equipment, 2740 W. Sugar Creek Rd., $8-$25,
The Legendary Shack Shaker teams with upright bass playing wife Jessica, whose husky growl is a fitting counterpoint to his rockabilly soul style in this bluesy guitar-driven quartet that bridges Southern Culture, Memphis soul, and gritty electric blues that’s catchy enough for Black Keys’ fans.

Hillsong Worship
Saturday  7 p.m., Bojangles’ Coliseum, 2700 E. Independence Blvd., $35.23-$50.73,
The Australian Christian music and worship giant puts on an elaborate arena spectacle of song and praise that’s on par with large scale pop tours. Named for its latest album, the 14-city No Other Name Tour features some of the performers, church leaders, and musicians that appear on the church’s recordings.

Amigo/Dear Blanca/Susto
Saturday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $5,
If you think you know South Carolina, check out Sequoya Prep School’s Justin Osbourne heading up Susto with songs he crafted in Cuba and Charleston; Columbia’s Dear Blanca who make laid back indie rock on its Bo White-produced album “Pobrecito;” and locals Amigo, whose hook-writing, guitar slinging frontman hails from Clover.

The Ataris
Monday  9 p.m., The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd., $10,
The classic line-up of the `90s/early `00s pop-punk band regroups after a 10 year hiatus to perform their million selling album “So Long, Astoria” (best remembered for its version of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer”) in its entirety - at the Milestone for ten bucks, which seems like a bizarrely good deal.

Motley Crue/Alice Cooper
Tuesday  7 p.m., PNC Music Pavilion, 707  Pavilion Blvd., $25-$143.50,
The Crue says it’s retiring after an uneven last decade during which they’ve been very very good or very bad. Set lists indicate a fitting 20-plus song sendoff predictably big on hits and  obligatory solos. Even at age 66 rock stalwart Cooper doesn’t disappoint with a consistent catalog and theatrical stage (horror) show.

3 Doors Down
Tuesday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $52,
After lineup changes that included bassist Todd Harrell’s dismissal due to vehicular manslaughter charges, the headlining, hit-making Mississippians push reset with an intimate acoustic club tour that includes aforementioned hits and covers of Garth Brooks and Metallica.

Old Crow Medicine Show/Shovels & Rope
Thursday  7:30 p.m., Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $38-$58.85,
The newgrass cats responsible for turning a smidge of a Bob Dylan song into the modern standard “Wagon Wheel,” are back with the energizing new album “Remedy” (and another Dylan collaboration). The septet is paired with the pride of SC - fast climbing husband and wife Americana duo Shovels & Rope.

Mikaela Davis
Thursday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $6-$8,
If you’re looking for something you haven’t seen before the Rochester-based harpist and singer-songwriter drew attention on YouTube for gorgeous harp covers, but, although she’s capable of classical interpretations, her Martha Wainwright-meets-the-Sundays lilt and instrument of choice makes for unique indie-pop.

Miranda Lambert to play Belk Bowl FanFest

Award winning country music artist Miranda Lambert will be the featured performer as part of this year's 13th Annual Belk Bowl, Tuesday December 30 at Bank of America Stadium.

It looks like the yearly match-up between the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference will be the only time Charlotte fans can catch Lambert live in 2014 without traveling. She plays Raleigh's Walnut Creek Amphitheatre on Thursday.

The Grammy award winner, who has also carries the title of Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association female vocalist of the year (five and four years running, respectively), will be a part of the free FanFest leading up to the game. The fan event begins at noon with Lambert's performance scheduled for 4 p.m. outside Bank of America Stadium on Mint and Stonewall. Kick-off is at 6:30 p.m.

"Miranda Lambert is a tremendous addition to this year's Belk Bowl Fan Fest," said Jon Pollack, Belk's executive vice president of sales promotion, marketing and eCommerce.

"She is an icon of Modern. Southern. Fashion, and is the perfect artist to help us celebrate the first year of our SEC/ACC football match up," Pollack added echoing the Charlotte-based department store's recent Modern. Southern. Style. campaign adopted for the store's 125th Anniversary. "We are thrilled she is joining us."

Tickets for Belk Bowl go on sale in October at Ticketmaster outlets and through participating schools. For more information go to

(Photo by Randee St. Nicholas, PRNewsFoto/Belk Inc.)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Influential Charlotte club owner, Jeff Lowery, dies

Charlotte lost a leading member of its musical community this week when Jeff Lowery died.
Lowery, 55, who operated Jeff’s Bucket Shop on Montford Road, was essential to Charlotte’s musical growth during the late 1980s and early `90s. He co-owned and operated the Pterodactyl Club and 13-13, The Milestone Club for a time and Milestone Records on Central Avenue.
In recent years he published the Amps 11 local and regional music ’zine.
During their run at The Milestone between 1986 and 1989 he and business partner Tim Blong brought bands like Bad Brains, Southern Culture on the Skids, Flaming Lips, Alex Chilton, and Melissa Etheridge to town and Charlotteans still talk about the shows they booked at the Pterodactyl and 13-13. 
“Jeff really was a visionary and ahead of his time, particularly with the 13-13, which hosted a slew of top-notch alternative rock bands well before the genre exploded and those bands graduated to the arenas and amphitheaters,” says writer Kathleen Johnson, who covered the scene for The Observer in the 1990s.
Blong's records show Jane's Addiction and Iggy Pop, the Ramones, Alice in Chains, Danzig, Sonic Youth, the Replacements, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, and Widespread Panic - punk legends, alternative rock bands who were peaking early on, and others that would go on to headline arenas. 
“Jeff also booked local and regional bands as openers for big shows and gave them their own gigs, which also really helped nurture the city’s original music scene. Those two clubs had a big cultural impact on the town,” adds Johnson.
“He was an idea person and got a lot of things going in Charlotte when little else was happening here,” said photographer Daniel Coston.
Friend Kenny Campbell Sorrento said: “He was always surrounded by the best of the best in Charlotte. His DJs were the best. His bartenders were the best. His drink specials were groundbreaking and the girls around him were strangely attractive.
“He was also simplistic in his vision. He simply knew that the basics, if they were the best, would make his bar patrons happy, and they did. It never mattered to Jeff if you were straight, gay, young, old or anything in between or on the side. His smile went out to anyone and everyone. He could smile through any disaster while chaos surrounded him.”
Friend Dean Mandrapilias praises Lowery as a smooth operator when it came to business. “His attitude toward people and business remained the same. It was always smiles,” says Mandrapilias.
After the Pterodactyl closed he went on to co-found and run other bars and clubs including the short-lived spot Dammit Janet, Hungry Duck and Jeff’s Bucket Shop.
“In the days since his passing,” says DJ Matt Bolick, “I have found it amazing the number of people his worked touched here in Charlotte and surrounding cities.”

A vigil is planned for Wednesday at the site of the Pterodactyl, Freedom Drive and Morehead Street. That’s across from Pinky’s Westside Grill, beside The Burger Company. Afterward, there will be a service at Amos’ Southend, which will include DJs and live music.
On Facebook, type in “Jeff Lowery Memory Page.”

(Photo: Observer archives).

With Soundgarden and NIN, the `90s were alive and well at PNC Thursday

In 1995 you couldn't drive to Harris-Teeter without spotting an NIN sticker on the back glass of someone's car. Nearly two decades later that enthusiasm for `90s alternative rock extended to PNC Music Pavilion where Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden shared the bill Thursday.

Soundgarden looked back with the bulk of its material culled from 1991's "Badmotorfinger" and 1994's "Superunknown," which celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year with an elaborate reissue.

It felt a bit like Lollapalooza 1992 with Soundgarden taking the stage before night fall although its members all look a bit older and (aside from singer Chris Cornell) thicker these days. Following the openers "Searching with My Good Eye Closed" and "Spoonman," Cornell noted that this was the group's first time to Charlotte since reuniting. Soundgarden had been scheduled to play Carolina Rebellion in May 2013, but the show was rained out.

"It's good to see you, finally," he said.

It was good to see Soundgarden too. With some bands there’s a suspicion that the group is reuniting for the paycheck, but with Soundgarden there’s really no reason they shouldn't be a band. The audience is there - meeting "Gun's" stoner-y grooves and the familiar refrain of "Outshined" with raised fists and loud voices. At 50 Chris Cornell also didn't need backing tracks to aid him in reaching the high parts on "Black Hole Sun" or "Jesus Christ Pose."

"I know we are getting to

the South for two reasons," he said after "My Wave." "The crowds are better and the humidity (messes) with my hair and makes me look like a brunette Carrot Top."

The rest of the band was spot-on in their roles. Ben Shepherd was the least predictable kicking at an amp early on and sending his bass flying over the stack of amps at the end of the show. Guitarist Kim Thayil was a laid back and stoic presence representative of the less than flashy grunge era. He stood stage right giving the fretboard a workout during "Rusty Cage" but without posing, sticking out his tongue, or reveling in any sort of cheese.

He was last to leave the stage after stirring the feedback on his guitar with his back to the crowd following 1988's psych-metal closer "Beyond the Wheel." He simply popped the lid on his drink and raised the can to the crowd as the fuzz rang out.

Whereas Soundgarden looked back with few bells and whistles in its production, Nine Inch Nails balanced material from 2013's "Hesitation Marks" with older tracks while looking back in a different way - employing production that was innovative and old school.

Instead of relying on technology, which is so much a part of NIN's sound, Trent Reznor and company mixed a futuristic light show with actual moving set pieces controlled by the crew on stage - like an extremely high-tech stage play with shadowy figures wheeling screens in and out of view.

During the opening track "Copy of A" he and his band reflected shadows on white screens behind them that were eventually wheeled around the stage creating depth and a canvas for more lights and projections.

The members performed with only synthesizers and guitar for the first few songs before the screens parted and wild-maned drummer Ilan Rubin began pounding a large set that gave older material needed bite.

"Disappointed" (pictured above) provided the visual highlight of the show. During it six screens and a series of moving black and white rectangle projections created an awe-inducing 3D visual backdrop. It was by far the coolest point of the show.

Other unusual uses of crew members included one following Reznor closely while shining a yellow light straight into his face during "Piggy." Reznor's face was projected onto the screens during the opening of “Closer" as a roadie filmed him behind the screens on stage. 

The momentum lulled a bit with NIN demonstrating its range from dramatic ballad ("Find My Way") to industrial DJ set ("The Great Destroyer") to the metallic "Eraser," but he group won the crowd’s attention back with "Wish" and "The Hand That Feeds."

Although "Head Like a Hole" lacked a bit of the punch of the original recording (the bass didn’t kick on the intro like you’d expect it to), the encore of "Hurt" was, as always, the show stopper. Reznor’s vocals, usually masked by a coat of distortion, rang out during the chorus aided by a crowd that for once didn’t overpower and by a sound engineer who obviously knows which faders to ride. 

By closing the show with the ballad, Nine Inch Nails demonstrated its similarity to Soundgarden (other than being co-giants of an era). At its core, `90s rock is still (mostly) more about the music than the show.   

Thursday, August 7, 2014

This week's hot concerts

Wayne Henderson & Clay Lunsford
Friday 7:30 p.m., Great Aunt Stella Center, 926 Elizabeth Ave., Free,
This pair of guitar virtuosos take different approaches to thumb-style picking, which is reflected in their duo album “Thumb to Thumb: The Museum Recordings.” Although known for launching music festivals and building a guitar for Eric Clapton (Henderson), it’s the picking that should be witnessed.

Peter Murphy
Friday  8 p.m., Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave., $25/$100 VIP,
After wowing fans with 2013’s solo tour of Bauhaus songs, Murphy returns with “Lion” - a collaboration with producer Youth (Killing Joke, the Verve) that’s bracingly catchy, dark and deep. It should please both fans of Bauhaus and Marilyn Manson’s less metallic side and proves aging rockers can still make vital music.

Hooray For Earth
Friday 8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $10-$12,
This NYC indie rock band led by songwriter Noel Heroux comes into its own on the new album, “Racy,” which echoes the classic 4AD label’s sound with heavy shoegazer, dream pop, and Brit-pop shout outs. Co-producer Chris Coady could be a big factor. He’s worked with Future Islands and Beach House and there are similarities here too.

Booker T. Jones
Saturday  8 p.m., McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St., $34.50-$64.50,
The heavily decorated (Rn’R Hall of Fame, Grammy Lifetime Achievement) Hammond B3 master and soul legend won two recent Grammys for records with the Roots and Drive-By Truckers. Now the leader of the MGs is back with another guest heavy turn on the album “Sound the Alarm.”

The Toadies
Friday  9 p.m., Amos’, 1423. S. Tryon St., $17-$20,
The Texas alt-rock band road 1994’s “Rubberneck” up the charts as grunge peaked. Having broken up in 2001 and reunited in 2008 with two well received newer albums, it celebrates the breakthrough album’s 20th anniversary on tour. With Austin’s Black Pistol Fire, who make garage blues like early Black Keys and White Stripes.

Black Milk
Friday 10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $10,
The nimble tongued Detroit emcee delivers a solo beats set of busy, bold, intelligent alternative hip-hop. A look at his eclectic list of recent collaborators - the Roots’ Black Thought, Jack White, and Robert Glasper - should give you an idea how vibrant and soulful his old school-fueled hip-hop is.

God Save the Queen City Festival
Saturday  3 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $15-$20,
With Jeff the Brotherhood, Apache Relay, Jonny Fritz, Natural Child, Clear Plastic Masks, and Promise Land Sound, Nashville is as well represented as Charlotte at the fourth annual indie Americana and rock festival. The taste making fest features 19 acts, including some of the city’s best local bands.

Michaela Anne
Saturday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $8-$10, 
On her new album “Ease My Mind” the singer-songwriter sounds more Nashville than Brooklyn (her home base) where she traded her jazz studies for twangy pedal steel, gritty, heartfelt storytelling, delicate vocals, and straight forward country-folk songwriting. With Christian Lee Hutson.

Thursday  9 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 35th St., $25-$28/$55 VIP,
Before his use of the band name expires August 31 following a drawn out settlement with his former bandmates, original singer Geoff Tate embarks on his final Queensryche tour. His band, which features Quiet Riot’s Rudy Sarzo, will then be known as Operation Mindcrime after the group’s most popular album. With Ireland’s the Voodoos.