Thursday, May 31, 2012

This week's hot concerts

Soul Asylum                                                                                                                                                                                      6:30 p.m. Friday, June 1, Fountain Plaza, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $5.     With its first new album in six years - a smart, rocking collection that finds the quartet in peak form - on the way in July, the veteran rock band headlines Friday Live! with three decades of hits, fan favorites and killer new tracks.
Corrosion of Conformity                                                                                                                                                              7 p.m. Friday, June 1, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $15-$18.                                                                     For 2012’s well received self-titled eighth album founders Mike Dean, Woody Weatherman, and Reed Mullin (who formed COC in Raleigh in 1982 and recorded 1985's much heralded “Animosity”) regrouped as a trio (vocalist Pepper Keenan was working with Down). With Torche and Black Cobra.
My Captain
9 p.m. Friday, June 1, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5. 704-333-9799.
This second act from most of the members of Charlotte's the Lights, Fluorescent hits its stride with urgent guitar lines and former Lights' bassist Robby Hartis' providing vocals and heartfelt, but biting lyrics. With Small Talk Industries, Homewrecker and Your Fuzzy Friends. 

10:30 p.m. Friday, June 1, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $6-$8. 704-376-3737.
This Savannah rock trio shows incredible promise with a female vocalist whose presence and delivery are powerful but not fussy (like Pat Benatar-meets-Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). 
Tom Principato
10 p.m. Saturday, June 2, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $12. 704-376-1446.
The award winning Washington-DC based guitarist, who is known for his lyrical playing and electric rhythm & blues style, celebrates his 60th birthday and the release of the remastered version of his disc, “Raising the Roof.”
Joe Pug
8 p.m. Tuesday, June 5, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $10-$12. 704-376-3737.
This up and coming songwriter’s attention-getting lyrics and grassroots approach has garnered him critical acclaim and placed him in the company of songwriters like Josh Ritter. His sophomore disc “The Great Despiser” boasts arrangements worthy of his literary lyrics. With the David Wax Museum.  
Blind Pilot
7 p.m. Thursday, June 7, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $15-$17. 704-358-9298.
Like its Northwest neighbors Death Cab for Cutie (or New Mexico’s Shins), the Portland sextet makes subtle, acoustic-flavored pop that doesn’t quite reach a rocking fever pitch. but instead enlightens listeners with lyrical heft and pretty arrangements.
Paul Thorn Band
7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St. $19.50-$25. 704-372-1000.
The blues-rock singer-songwriter’s new collection, “What The Hell Is Goin’ On?,” finds Thorn putting his own gritty rock stamp on some of his favorite songs. With Lera Lynn.
Ghost Wolves
10:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $8-$10. 704-376-3737.
This duo creates bare bones, punk-inspired blues and raw, retro psychobilly like early White Stripes fronted by a mix of Lesley Gore and Wanda Jackson. With fellow Austin act Uncle Lucius. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Doc Watson's music continues to impact Carolina artists

May has been brutal on the music industry. It began with the loss of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch and ends with the death of North Carolina’s own roots music legend Doc Watson. In between those two music giants we lost Robin Gibb, Donna Summer, and Chuck Brown - all giants in their own genres. 

Doc Watson died Tuesday. Like those aforementioned musicians, his influence extended beyond his genre and his generation. Shortly after his death was announced tweets started rolling in. Everyone from Slash to NC’s own Valient Thorr to actor David Guintoli (star of CBS’ “Grimm”) mentioned Watson and included the above YouTube clip of him playing.  It was a reminder of his reach and influence.

That influence is evident in music being made today by players that are 60 and 70 years Watson’s juniors. Watson was one of my deceased father’s favorites, but he is also a favorite among fans my age and younger. I remember Seth Avett, who met Watson when he was young, telling me in an early interview about the impact the guitar legend made on him. I’m sure numerous other young Southern musicians have similar stories. I imagine there were fledgling musicians discovering his incredible flatpicking for the first time at Merlefest’s 25th Anniversary just last month.

When I was in my early twenties I had a mandolin playing boyfriend - a former drummer whose course and eventually career was altered in part by his experience at Merlefest. The musicians - many of them famous - that he met and saw perform at Watson’s annual tribute to his son Merle as a 13 or 14-year-old kid helped change his path. He dove into the acoustic music scene in Charlotte - jamming with much older musicians at Tyber Creek Pub in Southend on Sunday nights and soaking in live music at rural festivals. At 17 he saved practically every dime he had for a $4,000 custom made mandolin. Today he makes custom acoustic instruments on a farm in Siler City. If it weren’t for the rich history of music he absorbed here in North Carolina he might have gone in another direction. Having played that first acoustic guitar he built, I can say with confidence that that would've been a real shame.

For musicians like him, the Avetts, Jonathan Wilson, the New Familiars and countless others, the music of pioneering Carolinians like Watson and Earl Scruggs (who died in March) continues to inform, impact and influence. I doubt that will change now that they’re gone.

Wilson, a Forest City native who now lives in L.A., summed it up well during an interview earlier this month: “The tunes and the musicians that have come from that state have been extremely strong. Those are the thoughts that have been swimming in my head since I was a kid. Of course Doc and Earl Scruggs…there’s a potency and sense of skill and dedication that those dudes had. That gives you a confidence and a sense of pride.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

New App helps fans, bands preview local live music

A month or so ago I downloaded a new App to my iPhone called DeliRadio. I think its a good idea for both fans in search of live music and bands looking for a quick and easy way to promote shows.

Here's how it works: Say you're out with friends on a Friday night looking for something to do. You can type in your city, choose events within five, 15, 50 or 100 miles of your location, and hit "crunch" to hear a sampling of live music options. If you're planning ahead the calendar includes concerts that are months away. You can choose what's going on tonight or 30 days from now.

Keep in mind the selection is dependent on those acts that are registered with the site. So it's not comprehensive, but there's a lot of variety. This week, for instance, you can hear Polyphonic Spree (at McGlohon today) and Nadastrom (a DJ duo at Dharma Lounge Friday) or look ahead to the coming month with Screaming Females at The Haunted Mill, Bad Veins at Snug Harbor, Antigone Rising at the Muse, Zach Deputy at Visulite, the Farewell Drifters at the US National Whitewater Center, or Tech N9ne at Tremont.

Another thing I like is it gives listeners a chance to check out opening acts. I know many people roll in right before the headliner. I'm guilty too sometimes (less to pay the sitter). But that can mean missing a really awesome band. After checking it out on DeliRadio I realized Chappo's "Come Home" is ever so familiar from an iPod commercial. I dug their other tracks and now will make sure I'm at Neighborhood Theatre early enough for their opening set with Of Montreal on Tuesday, June 12.

The other big reason I could see to use DeliRadio is while traveling. It also offers festival specific playlists, so you could check out who you want to catch at Bonnaroo during the drive there.

It especially seems like a great tool for independent and local bands or small venues that might not have a big marketing budget. It seems to level the playing field not pushing one act or one venue over another. Users can search by local bands and local venues as well. There are only a handful of Charlotte bands registered though - Carson, Old Milwaukee, Wretched, Paleface, and a handful of others. We could definitely use more representation.

Registration looks pretty simple. Artists can upload multiple songs and photos and sell music or offer free downloads through the App. Fans can shop for tickets to shows as well.

For more information check out or find it at the iTunes store.

Friday, May 25, 2012

This week's hot concerts

Snug 600
7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday , May 25, 26 and 27. Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $6. 704-333-9799.
The annual Plaza-Midwood alternative to Speed Street features Temperance League, Pullman Strike, Hungry Girl, Steer, and Brandaddy Longlegs Friday; One Another, Baby Shaker, Chalkies, Jeremiah & the Howling Owls, Hey Baby and Junkhat Saturday, and AM/FMs, Overmountain Men, Wiggle Wagons, Scowl Brow and Poontanglers Sunday.

Ancient Cities
8 p.m. Saturday, May 26, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $7-$10. 704-358-9200.
With a pedigree that includes Secondhand Stories’ Stephen Warwick and members of Small Talk Industries and the Noises 10 this promising new project should deliver the musical goods with Hello Handshake and Luz opening up the show.

The Dandy Warhols
9 p.m. Saturday, May 26, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $27.
For nearly two decades this Portland outfit has been straddling lo-fi alt-rock,  psychedelic grooves, and goth mysticism in its own quirky, signature way. Opening night in San Francisco revealed ample material from its new album “The Machine” as well as a career overview full of fan favorites.

The Coathangers
8 p.m. Sunday, May 27, The Haunted Mill, 6325 W. Wilkinson Blvd. Belmont. $7.
The ladies of the Atlanta indie rock act hang with the grittiest of punk and garage rockers on stage, but have also matured into a stellar modern day girl group (hear the track “Go Away” for example). The BYOB concert series is also a potluck dinner, so bring food to share. Admission to The Mill’s haunted attraction and mini-golf is an additional $3. 

The Polyphonic Spree
7:30 p.m., Monday, May 28, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St. $19.50-$27.50. 704-372-1000.
Though the uniformed orchestral pop ensemble appears as a cult (or sometimes a paramilitary group), Tim DeLaughter’s post-Tripping Daisy outfit (which is the closest thing the alt-rock world has to a colorful choir) examines life and death with zeal and dynamics on its digital and vinyl single series.

Church of Misery/Gates of Slumber
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $13-$15.
A preoccupation with death (serial murder in particular), Sabbath-ian riffs, and `70s metal color this Japanese import’s doom rock. Indiana trio Gates of Slumber (along with Hail! Hornet) open the show with its own brand of hypnotic and spooky blues-anchored metal.

Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons
8 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $10. 704-358-9200.
This veteran singer-songwriter writes raw rocking rootsy songs and manages to channel artists as disparate as Elvis Costello and John Hiatt (with a touch of Springsteen) on songs that are musically gritty and lyrically witty with substance. 

2013 Wolves
9 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. Free. 704-333-9799.
The Charlotte duo, who has evolved into a genre defying, atmosphere-crunching, well-oiled manic machine of gospel, punk, blues, and metal, ends its month long residency at the Plaza-Midwood haunt. Next month? The Aqualads. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Beastie Boys speak out about Adam Yauch's death

May has been a dark month for music with the loss of Donna Summer, Robin Gibb, Chuck Brown, and the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch (pictured above). The passing of the Beastie's MCA has been the hardest for me. He was the youngest of those recently departed and the Beasties had a huge impact on my generation. I'll never forget checking Twitter that Friday afternoon while navigating my massive double stroller through Belk in South Park - the lump in my throat, the emptiness in my chest. I immediately texted one of my best friends in West Virginia who is a huge fan.

I felt so fortunate to have interviewed Yauch when the Beasties brought its Get Out and Vote campaign to Charlotte during the 2008 election. And what a rare treat to see them in a club - their first Charlotte show since Lollapalooza 1994.

Yesterday "Rolling Stone" published the first interviews with Yauch's band mates Adam Horowitz and Mike Diamond. You can read both online here and here.

Since its induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in April and Yauch's death weeks later, a lot has been written about the band's evolution and the misogyny and violence that colored its early work.

He was the first to speak out against those sentiments later in the band's career, but I never took the sexism of "Girls" or the guns in "Paul Revere" seriously even as a kid. While off color and mildly offensive at times, their rhymes didn't seem mean-spirited. The trio became probably the most feminist of any male artists in hip-hop and possibly even in rock for that matter. Kate Schellenbach (now a producer on Ellen Degeneres' talk show) was their original drummer. The Beasties later put Schellenbach's groundbreaking all-girl band Luscious Jackson on their Grand Royal label. And Adam Horowitz ended up marrying Kathleen Hanna of the riot grrrl band Bikini Kill and the socially conscious dance trio Le Tigre. She's like the Gloria Steinem of my generation.

I've made a point of playing more Beastie Boys for my two young sons since Yauch's death. If they grow up to be as open-minded and evolved as Yauch and his band mates became, that's all the better.

Review: Jane's Addiction at Ovens Auditorium

The Christmas my parents got divorced my dad bought me Jane’s Addiction’s “Nothing’s Shocking” (much to the amusement of the kid that sold it to my 300 pound bib overall-sporting father). I remember laying in the dark on the living room carpet listening to “Up the Beach” and “Ocean Size” and “Ted…Just Admit It.” It was weird and fascinating. In a way, it changed my path. I bet many of the concertgoers at Wednesday’s Jane’s Addiction show at Ovens Auditorium have similar stories.  

And while I’ll never recapture the magic and romanticism of seeing Jane’s live for the first time during the “Ritual de lo Habitual” tour, I never expected them to be so good 21 years (to the month) later. Aided by stylized production, which included Perry Farrell’s wife Etty Lau as one of two scantily clad S&M dancers, Jane’s put on an incredible show that was far beyond the performance it gave a few years ago opening for Nine Inch Nails at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (although that one did boast original bassist Eric Avery, which was a treat).

Wednesday’s show was more like one of Farrell’s twisted (his word) fantasies come to life. Whereas in 2009 Farrell seemed to show his age more, he, ever buff guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney all appeared fresh from the gym. Farrell in particular reveled in the spotlight grinning that wide Cheshire cat smile and repeatedly calling us “South Carolina” (which did garner some boos) until the very end of the show.

Britain’s the Duke Spirit opened the show with its sultry, bluesy modern rock. Singer Leila Moss is a show unto herself. In skintight leggings, a lacy poncho-style blouse, and braids framing her petite face she looked like a cross between a “Game of Thrones” character and CBGBs era Deborah Harry. Like Harry she’s got a sexy, capable and unique voice that purrs over the gnarling guitars as she shakes her tambourine, or at one point, played a killer harmonica solo. The Duke Spirit has opened for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Ted Leo, and Incubus in Charlotte. I long to see it receive a greater reception stateside.

The audience stepped into Jane’s Addiction’s crazy, colorful world as the band took the stage with “Underground,” which opens its newest album “The Great Escape Artist.” The dancers swung above the band with parachute-like skirts that draped almost to the stage while a man dressed as an evil bird “flew” and pawed suspended on one side of the stage. The crowd erupted as Jane’s kicked into “Mountain Song” with Navarro turning in one of many spot-on guitar solos.  The dancers left the stage giving way to retro footage that busily played on backdrops centered around the nude twin statues that serve as the tour mascots on t-shirts and posters.

“Just Because,” “Been Caught Stealing,” and “Ain’t No Right” followed. Then the two Asian girls returned wearing bondage gear and negligees and nestled on a rocking wooden seat that reminded me of a porch glider for a sort of disturbing showstopper - “Ted…Just Admit It.” They “unwrapped” each other using their binding as a prop while vintage pinup and bondage footage rolled on the screens to illustrate the lyrics (“sex is violent”). Although some of the footage featured women on women violence, it annoyed me that all the violence was perpetuated against women.

Written 25 years ago lyrics like “the news is just another show” are even more relevant today. 

As if to disprove the “nothing’s shocking” refrain of “Ted,” the hauntingly catchy “Twisted Tales” was accompanied by a babydoll bashing performance art piece and clips from a 1988 documentary about doll abusing teen punks or, as the film is titled, “Sadobabies: Runaways in San Francisco.”  

One fan climbed on stage during the stage front acoustic jam of “Classic Girl” and “Jane Says” (with Perkins playing steel drums on the latter). Farrell invited the fan to stay, but Navarro, who was incredibly patient, eventually had her escorted off the stage after she insisted on whispering in his ear while he was trying to play.

It was refreshing to see Navarro, so adept on guitar, focus on drumming alongside Perkins and Chaney during a tribal rendition of “Chip Away.”

The set really hit its stride with the instrumental “Up the Beach” leading into the atmospheric, reverb drenched “Irresistible Force” and “Ocean Size," which closed the set. The cast regrouped for an encore of the marathon “Three Days” and the powerfully spastic “Stop!” As the music dropped out at the latter’s climax the entire crowd seemed to join in with Farrell. The band appeared truly thankful and humble sticking around to shake hands and sign a few autographs after those last lingering notes disappeared. Farrell even handed a set list to one adoring fan - something you rarely see the actual artist do. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Local acts fill out Speed Street schedule

In addition to the already announced headliners and NASCAR drivers scheduled for this year's Food Lion Speed Street festival, the annual free three-day fest features a number of local and regional acts playing originals and covers. The annual 600 Speed Week festival takes place uptown Thursday, Friday and Saturday May 24-26.

Live music kicks off Thursday with U-Neek Flavor, Sol Fusion, Darrell Harwood, and Benton Blount. Thursday's previously announced headliners include Evelyn "Champagne" King, Midnight Star, and Easton Corbin.

Friday's lineup includes the Hoss Howard Band opening for Justin Moore and Sugar Glyder and 21st Century Goliath opening up for Halestorm. If you like catchy, big atmospheric pop-rock or AC/DC style rock I'd recommend both latter locals. I haven't seen Culowhee's Hoss Howard live, but the music on his website indicates his warm vocals and Southern sound make him a perfect pick to warm up a country loving crowd.

Saturday music begins at noon on the Coca-Cola Stage with Fusebox Poet (above, who make rock that could easily find its way on 106.5 The End) followed by Stella Rising, The Catch Fire, and Chris Weaver Band. Night Ranger and Loverboy close out the Coca-Cola Stage.

Sun Dried Vibes, Vess, Beyond the Fade, Stony Creek Boys, and Gal Friday perform on the Miller Lite Stage. Casey James and Clay Walker headline that stage as well.

For the entire schedule go to

Kyuss Lives! respond to lawsuit in "Rolling Stone"

Last September I interviewed vocalist John Garcia about the Kyuss Lives! reunion prior to the band playing Asheville two days after my husband's birthday (super present, super show). The band featured original members Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork along with sometime bassist Nick Oliveri and new guitarist Bruno Fevery. Longtime Kyuss fans like my husband, his bandmates, and their friends were beside themselves heaping on the superlatives after the show which many dubbed concert of the year (although my husband still sticks with Sade as his top pick).

In the interview Garcia seemed ecstatic about the reception and the reunion. You could see that on stage. He talked about the group working on new material, supporting Oliveri through his legal problems, and the amicable situation with fellow founding guitarist Josh Homme who surpassed his Kyuss fame as leader of Queens of the Stone Age.

Then in March, Homme and another former Kyuss bassist, Scott Reeder, filed a lawsuit against Garcia and Bjork (Oliveri eventually dropped out of the band) alleging "trademark infringement and consumer fraud." In a press release they stated that Kyuss Lives! had "filed federal documents in 2011 in an attempt to steal the name Kyuss."

Aside from a statement in March saying they were "shocked and saddened" by the suit, Garcia and Bjork have remained pretty quiet until yesterday when "Rolling Stone" published an interview with both band members. You can read it here.

As a music fan I try not to let band drama get in the way of enjoying music. I saw Queens of the Stone Age and Kyuss Lives! at the same venue in Asheville last year. Both were great. No matter which side you come down on the interview and some of the reader comments are pretty interesting.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: New Edition at Bojangles' Coliseum

R&B fans flocked to Bojangles’ Coliseum for New Edition’s reunion tour Saturday. The tour hit Greensboro in February only a week after Whitney Houston’s death. While it was obvious her passing still haunts ex-husband (as does the 2011 deaths of his mother and father), Bobby Brown played up his bad boy reputation boasting, clowning, dancing, and (true to the title of his reality show) just “being” Bobby Brown.

After an opening set by current comeback crooner El DeBarge, who had fans rapt with his still soaring falsetto and slick moves, five of New Edition’s six members took the stage in classy white-trimmed, black three-piece suits. As Ronnie DeVoe, Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell, Johnny Gill, and Ralph Tresvant hit move after move straight from the video for “If It Isn’t Love,” tongues began wagging at the possibility that Brown might be a no-show. They sang two more songs, including “You’re Not My Kind of Girl,” before Brown sauntered on stage as if to say, “Gotcha!” The crowd erupted.

“Ya’ll thought Mr. Bobby Brown wasn’t gonna show up,” shouted Ralph Tresvant later. The crowd had nothing to worry about. It was actually Gill who appeared on those mid-era tracks following Brown’s departure from the group - a topic Brown and Tresvant comically revisited later. 

Suddenly it was 1983 as Gill stepped away and the original members charged through “Jealous Girl,” “Is This the End,” “Popcorn Love,” “Candy Girl” and “Mr. Telephone Man.”

Time seemed hardest on Brown’s vocals (at 43 he’s the youngest of the group). But considering New Edition recorded most of those songs before its members were old enough for learner’s permits, they and their material have held up well. With the Temptations/Jackson 5-style choreography, it does not look like an easy performance to executive even though the group has been performing many of these routines for years. 

Brown thanked the audience for its support of both the Brown and Houston families. He also mentioned that he’s been sober for seven and a half years and credits the group with helping him keep it together since Houston’s sudden passing. Then things turned less serious with him accusing his band mates of “plotting” to kick him out because he couldn’t keep up with their dance moves.

He then announced that he could out-dance everyone except Ronnie DeVoe (who was still the smoothest of dancers, gliding across the stage as if there were liquid in his limbs). With Brown cutting dance moves behind them, the group covered the rest of its older hits in a medley that included “Cool It Now” and “Count Me Out.”  

Gill returned to sing his smash ballad “My My My” signaling each solo artist or offshoot of the group to follow suit. Brown wooed the crowd with “Roni.” Bell Biv DeVoe turned in “When Will I See You Smile?” And Tresvant revisited his more upbeat “Sensitivity” (with heavy backing vocals from Brown playing nicely off Tresvant’s higher vocals).   
“Can You Stand the Rain” and “Boys to Men” followed. Gill, who released his first solo album in 16 years in 2011, performed his recent single “In the Mood” alone. Gill literally worked the crowd, walking out into the audience, growling, summoning Prince-like squawks, and calling out Charlotte area-native K-Ci Hailey (of Jodeci and K-Ci and JoJo fame). Gill expended so much energy I wondered if he’d have any left for his other big hit, “Rub You the Right Way.” He didn't perform it. Hailey took the stage briefly, but did not sing (fans will have to wait for Fresh Fest at Time Warner Cable Arena July 1 for that).
New Edition emerged in blue track suits. Brown broke into “My Perogative,” which was followed by a portion of Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Do Me” and a bumping rendition of “Poison.” The latter received one of the biggest crowd responses of the night. Although I was hoping for more of the same - upbeat solo hits like “Rub,” “Every Little Step,” or “Don’t Be Cruel,” - the clock was ticking. Instead all six gathered on stools and crooned 1996’s “Home Again” as the crowd, apparently aware that there’d be no encore after 11:15, dispersed.

My biggest concern going into the concert was the sound. At their March 2007 show in the same venue I had a hard time differentiating what song they were singing, though performance-wise they looked spot-on. This time was much better. The sound wasn’t impeccable, but I had no trouble figuring out what was being sung on stage. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

This week's hot concerts

5:40 p.m. Friday, 4:40 p.m. Saturday venues and restaurants in the heart of Plaza Midwood. $25 for two day pass. Admission available on per show basis as well.
Eight neighborhood venues host over 70 diverse independent bands - both local and national acts ranging from folk to experimental noise - at this two-night festival. Venues include Snug Harbor, Thirsty Beaver, Lunchbox Records, Kickstand, Twenty-Two, Studio 1212, Common Market, and Thomas Street Tavern. (Wymyns Prysyn plays at 9:10 p.m. at Snug Harbor Saturday. Warning: There is violence in above clip)

7 p.m. Saturday, May 19, Verizon Wireless Amphithteatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $46.25-$171.75.
The hot hip-hop star leads the Club Paradise Tour which includes Carolina rapper J. Cole, Meek Mill, Waka Flocka Flame, 2 Chainz, and French Montana.

New Edition/El DeBarge
8 p.m. Saturday, May 19, Bojangles’ Coliseum 2700 E. Independence Blvd. $56.95-$147.
All six members of the veteran R&B vocal outfit - Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell, and Michael Bivins - deliver hit after hit from its group, off shoots, and solo projects.

Key of V
8 p.m. Sunday, May 20, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $6-$9.
Like spooky sirens the Pennsylvania sister duo - on violin and guitar - can create lovely, stirring folk music or turn acoustic string music traditions upside down with experimental vocals and effects.

Gogol Bordello
8 p.m. Monday, May 21, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $33.
With one wildly flailing foot planted in breakneck punk traditions and the other dancing to an eclectic array of world music, this NYC octet bring exotic, unbridled Gypsy music to the rock n’ roll stage.

Adrenaline Mob/Kill Devil Hill
7 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $16-$18.
Two metal acts high on star drumming power. The former features Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy. The latter Dio/Sabbath time keeper Vinny Appice with Pantera bassist Rex Brown. Both are making new hard rock with old school spirit.

Jane’s Addiction/the Duke Spirit
8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd. $50.80-$72.35.
Three out of the band’s four original members deliver the theatrical and intimate “Theater of the Escapists tour.” England’s the Duke Spirit, who bridge sultry female vocals, blues, and modern rock, are a must-see opener. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Keller Williams and company drum out cancer at weekend festival

The annual drumSTRONG concert festival and fundraiser takes place Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20, at Misty Meadows Farms in Weddington. Part concert and part marathon drum circle, drumSTRONG raises funds for cancer research and awareness much like a Race for the Cure-type event. Instead of walking or running, participants, who collect per-hour sponsorships and donations, drum. The longer you keep a beat during the 30-hour drum circle, the more money you raise for the cause (although no one is expected to drum continuously).

If you don't own a drum, instruments are available for rental and sale at the festival.

Spectators are also welcome. There will be plenty of live entertainment with a bevy of local and regional acts and headliners George Porter, Jr. and Keller Williams. Williams will perform with Jeff Sipe, Gibb Droll, and Jay Starling; Porter with his band Runnin' Pardners. Saturday's other scheduled acts include Bubonik Funk, the Brubakers, Sci Fi, Dead End Parking, and Eyes of the Elders. Of Good Nature kicks off the schedule early Sunday followed by Remy St. Claire, Jordan Klemons Trio, Pseudo Blue, and Inner Visions. The full schedule is available here.

Other attractions include belly dancing, a MayPole dance, KidZParades, a Health Expo, and an allstar jam featuring Porter, Jr., members of Williams' band, and guest musicians that will close out the festival Sunday. There are plenty of children's activities, food options, and vendors. Camping is available.

Admission is $30 per person or $50 per family. Donations are tax deductible.

If you can't be there, participating drum circles will be webcasting their own events live around the globe. Groups in other US cities as well as those in places as far away as Malaysia, the Ukraine, Cairo, and Melbourne have participated in past years. For more info on global events go here.

DrumSTRONG was founded by Scott Swimmer in 2006. The idea was that the universal language of rhythm could unite families who are facing cancer around the world in their fight to BEAT the disease. Swimmer's young son Mason - now a cancer survivor - was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2004. The all-volunteer event is produced by Swimmer's DrumsForCures organization. In 2011 fifty US cities and 15 countries hosted drumSTRONG events.

Gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday. Events begin at noon. The finale is Sunday at 6 p.m. For tickets and more information please see 

(Photo of participant Corson Hicks courtesy of S. Swimmer)

Friday, May 11, 2012

This week's hot concerts

All-American Rejects
8 p.m. Friday, May 11, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $33.
After a reportedly debaucherous chapter in L.A., the Oklahoma-reared rock group returned with a more personal album (“Kids in the Street”) without sacrificing the pop hooks and head bobbing grooves that propelled its past hits.

NC Brewers & Music Festival
12 p.m. Saturday, May 12, Rural Hill, 4431 Neck Rd. $20-$30 ($7 for children, $15 evening only).
Western Carolinas’ Steep Canyon Rangers, who regularly work with Steve Martin, Larry Keel, Sol Driven Train, and Ryan Montlbleau Band head up this roots music and craft beer festival, which highlights Carolina breweries with an afternoon tasting.

5 p.m. Saturday, May 12, Thirsty Beaver, 1225 Central Ave. FREE (Donations encouraged).
The 7th annual outdoor festival combines BBQ, roots music, and booze to raise money for pediatric cancer research and treatment. David Childers, the Loudermilks, Leadville Social Club, Bill Noonan & the Barbed Wires and house band the Loose Lugnuts will perform.

Mayer Hawthorne
8 p.m. Saturday, May 12, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $18-$20/$33 VIP. 704-358-9298.
Like Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, this Ann Arbor-raised  producer magically recreates the sound of `60s and `70s soul. What’s comes as a surprise is he's young, white music geek channeling Smokey Robinson and Curtis Mayfield on stage.

The Aggrolites
7 p.m. Sunday, May 13, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $13-$15.
Before heading out this summer with 311, this rowdy L.A.-based ska/reggae act leads a headlining bill that includes Old Man Markley and Brothers of Brazil in support of its first live album (which includes Roy Ellis’ “Banana” you “Yo Gabba Gabba” fans).

Greg Laswell
7 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $10-$12.
Having made a name for himself scoring scenes on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” this singer-songwriter continues to create stirring, cinematic tracks on his latest album “Landline” which manages to straddle intimacy and orchestral grandeur. Elizabeth Ziman (of Elizabeth & the Catapult), one of Laswell’s female duet partners on the disc, opens the show.

Jonathan Wilson
7 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $12-$15. 704-358-9200.
Charlotteans may remember the Forest City native from the NC-band Muscadine. He’s since been working with A-listers like Jackson Browne and Elvis Costello until releasing his hypnotically psych-folk solo debut “Gentle Spirit” (which is wowing European fans) in 2011.

7 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $17-$20.
The new wave throwback recently followed up hits like “Your Surrender” and “Animal,” with a batch of equally catchy `80s-inspired tunes on the sophomore disc, “Picture Show.” It joins electronic rock co-headliner AWOLNATION and Glasgow’s Twin Atlantic.

Less Than Jake
7 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $15-$17.
The horn-laden ska-punk outfit’s 20th anniversary is bound to make many a `90s Warped Tour regular feel their age. The group, who kicks off a short East Coast jaunt here, keeps things nostalgic returning to a club it frequented in its earlier days.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes
8 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $33.
This quirky collective, who had an online hit with its much download single “Home,” recently completed two albums. One will be released May 29; the other later this year. Opener Fool’s Gold would’ve been at home on MTV’s “120 Minutes” in the late `80s lacing jangly guitars, squawky danceable hooks and deep, emotive vocals.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chop Shop celebrates first anniversary with busy bill

It's been a year since NoDa's Chop Shop opened it's doors. Like the events that the crew behind the bar/live music venue (Iron Cordoba's Jay Tilyard and alternative event planner extraordinaire Tracie Nasta) has been putting on for years, the club's anniversary party Friday, May 11, features a variety of performers.

The line-up includes the Funky Geezer, Lucky Five, Groove 8 (pictured), DJ Grandbastard, L-Shape Lot, Birds With Teeth, Miss Collette and Billy 1/2, the Fat Faced Polka Band, DJ Toberlerone, live painting by Jon Norris, John Hairston, Jr. and Tim Sheaffer, and performance art by hoop artists Cory Sunshine and Ariana, bellydancer Naima Sultana, and Queen City Aerialists.

The theme is diversity with music ranging from dance to folk to funk to rock to soul to polka.

Doors open Friday at 8 p.m. Free.

Speed Street solidifies lineup

The 18th Annual Food Lion Speed Street Festival, which kicks off Thursday May 24, revealed its full lineup of headlining artists earlier this week. As previously announced R&B artist Evelyn "Champagne" King and `80s funk/R&B unit Midnight Star will perform on the Coca-Cola Stage while Easton Corbin rouses country fans on the Miller Lite Stage Thursday, May 24.

Justin Moore and Halestorm (pictured) headline those respective stages Friday night, May 25. Pennsylvania female fronted hard rock band, Halestorm, recently received stellar reviews for it's performance at the Carolina Rebellion festival in Rockingham last weekend.

Saturday Loverboy and Night Ranger bring `80s rock nostalgia to closing night of the festival. They play the Coca-Cola Stage. "American Idol" Season Nine's third place finalist Casey James will open for returning Speed Street entertainer Clay Walker on the Miller Lite Stage Saturday as well.

In 2011 an estimated 400,000 made their way to uptown Charlotte for the free race week festival. Activities are planned throughout the day and include NASCAR driver meet and greets, giveaways, and live music and entertainment from regional and national artists. The entire schedule and entertainment lineup should be available the week of the festival at

Food Lion Speed Street takes place in uptown Charlotte along Tryon St. and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, between the Bank of America Corporate Center and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Gates open at noon and close at 11 p.m.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bluegrass, craft beer highlight Saturday festival

The Steep Canyon Rangers have gone from rising stars on the bluegrass music scene to internationally renowned for their work with banjo picking comedian Steve Martin both as his backing band on tour and (with 2011's "Rare Bird Alert") on record. The Western North Carolina-based band returns to its home state Saturday to headline the Second Annual NC Brewers and Music Festival at Historic Rural Hill in Huntersville.

The music lineup isn't entirely bluegrass, but all acts share a base in Americana and roots music. The lineup, which includes a mix of regional and national acts, consists of Big Something, Old Man Markley, Larry Keel, Sol Driven Train, the Black Lilies, Steep Canyon Rangers, and the Ryan Montbleau Band. Music runs from noon to 10 p.m. in that order.

Over twenty breweries are represented including Asheville's Highland Brewing Company, Farmville's Duck-Rabbit Brewery, Raleigh's Big Boss Brewing Company, and locals Four Friends Brewing, NoDa Brewing Company, Bird Song Brewing Co., Kind Beers, and Triple C Brewing. Free tasting sessions begin at 12:45 p.m. and run until 4:15 p.m.

There are a variety of ticket options if you don't want to partake in the tasting or can't block out an entire day for the event. Advanced tasting and music tickets are $30. That price rises to $35 at the gate. Tickets for non-drinkers, designated drivers and those ages 13-18 are $20. Evening only tickets (no tasting) are $15. Children ages 5-12 are $7. Camping options are also available with $10 tent passes and $25 for pop-up campers and pick-ups. RV camping is $35.

For more information on the NC Brewers and Music Festival go to

Friday, May 4, 2012

Snagglepuss hosts Cinco de Mayo farewell performance & cd release

Some things in local music you just take for granted - as in they'll always be around. Bands like Antiseen and the Spongetones have clocked or are nearing three decades in music here. Hope Nicholls and her husband Aaron Pitkin are another longstanding Charlotte fixture. Their history together has stretched across three bands - Fetchin' Bones, Sugarsmack and Snagglepuss.

Snagglepuss' guitarist Amy Kay is moving to San Diego to pursue her PhD, so the latter will come to an end (but a celebratory and triumphant one at least) with a cd and video release party at its home base Snug Harbor Saturday, May 5.

The farewell concert doubles as a Cindo de Mayo party. The band will play two sets - one consisting of songs from its new album, "Doing Music." The other set will feature old favorites from its 13 year history. The group will be joined on stage throughout the night by several of its peers - the Houston Brothers, Benji Hughes, and members of Babyshaker and Super Ape. The Alternative Champs - never ones to shy away from a costume - will play Mariachi band with amps strapped to their backs in lieu of a more traditional opening act.

Amy Kay was really just a kid when she joined Snagglepuss. She was 18 and had never played guitar before. That was the setup for Snagglepuss. After years on major labels, Nicholls decided she wanted to surround herself with friends and not necessarily seasoned musician friends at that. The members, including Pitkin (a guitarist turned bassist who would now tackle drums) took up instruments that were new to them.

I don't know Amy Kay that well now (although from our occasional conversations I know that she's a sweet, sweet girl). I didn't know her at all back then, but I remember thinking she must have a lot of guts to get up on stage with so little experience especially with an old pro like Nicholls (I'd been playing and singing for years at that point and I still haven't gotten up on stage). I watched Amy Kay grow up there as she gained more confidence in her playing and even started a few other bands. It's sad to see her go, but I'll live vicariously through her gutsy move to uber-expensive California like I did when she was rocking out on stage at 18.

"Doing Music" was actually recorded with Don Dixon a couple of years ago. Like all Snagglepuss records it exudes a sense of brightly colored fun, wacky idealism, and this sort of no-rules-apply approach.

There's a garage rock feel to the recording - especially because of the guitar tone and frantic saxophone. It can be chaotic and jazzy. You don't always know where a song is headed. "Dixon" for instance seems to grow out of "Vuvuzela" (the song before it) and winds through a trippy "Wizard of Oz" meets "Alice in Wonderland"-like sonic cyclone.

Like Scott Weaver's other band, Babyshaker (which started around the same time as Snagglepuss and is still going strong), Snagglepuss has just gotten better with experience and time. The harmonies on "Vuvuzela (The Banktown Anthem)" are downright beautiful. There's an entire four-disc "Occupy This Album" compilation set featuring a bunch of famous musicians being released May 15, but I wonder if anyone will capture the Occupy Movement with as much zeal as Snagglepuss does here. Maybe Yoko Ono. She and Nicholls seem like distant artistic relatives.

As a band it's always embraced the odd and weird, but there's always an anchor in really catchy melodies and hooks like Weaver and Nicholls trading off vocals with the telling "How much is enough time?" line that closes out the album. 

It'll be interesting to see where Nicholls and Pitkin will head musically from here. They own Plaza-Midwood's Boris & Natasha boutique and have two kids, so making time is a factor. But I can't imagine them staying away from the game for too long.

This week's hot concerts

Benji Hughes/Lucky Five/Grown Up Avenger Stuff and Holy Ghost Tent Revival
6:30 p.m. Friday, NC Music Factory Fountain Plaza, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $5.
The nationally revered songwriter headlines the second week of the Friday Live! series – the only installment to showcase local bands. With support from a rising funk-rock powerhouse (Lucky Five), a female-fronted alt-rock combo (Grown Up Avenger Stuff), and Greensboro’s Holy Ghost Tent Revival.
7 p.m. Friday, May 4, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $20-$30. 704-358-9298.
The Lancaster, SC country star best known for 2004’s “Break Down Here” has weathered MS and the loss of her record deal and everything she owned (in the Nashville flood). She emerges as a newly independent artist that’s feisty, soulful and inspiring.

Amy Ray
8 p.m., Friday, May 4, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $20. 704-358-9200.
The Indigo Girl has long moonlighted as the leader of rollicking rock bands (which feature members of the Butchies), she merges those rock, soul, and folk sides on her latest solo album, “Lung of Love.” With the Shadowboxers.

Carolina Rebellion
11 a.m. Saturday, May 5, Rockingham Speedway, 2152 N. US HWY 1. $92.35.
The hard rock festival moves to Rockingham and boasts a lineup that includes Slash, Staind, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, Halestorm, Shinedown, Adelita’s Way, Chevelle, P.O.D., Evanescence, Volbeat, Weaving the Fate, New Medicine, Ghost of August, Red, Redlight King, and Charlotte’s own Paper Tongues.

Mickey Avalon
7 p.m. Saturday, May 5, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $15.
Ladies love this notorious sexually explicit party rapper whose colorful backstory includes drug addiction, prostitution, and young parenthood. After parting ways with Interscope, who released his buzzy debut, he finally delivers the follow-up, “Loaded.”

Bombadil/Justin Robinson & the Mary Annettes
8 p.m. Saturday, May 5, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $10-$12. 704-358-9200.
Sidelined by medical issues after early buzz, the Durham-based Ramseur Records’ act made a triumphant return in 2011. It’s joined by former Carolina Chocolate Drop Robinson, who navigates folk waters with the inventiveness of a roots music Prince.

Beats Antique
8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $15-$20/$30 VIP. 704-358-9298.
The San Francisco trio fuses electronica, world music, and belly dancing with musically progressive performance art that appeals to both young beatheads and more mature fans of forward thinking international music and dance.

10 p.m. Saturday, May 5, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5. 704-333-9799.
Hope Nicholls and husband Aaron Pitkin’s (Fetchin Bones, Sugarsmack) say farewell to their long running third act, due to the departure of guitarist Amy K. (who moves west for grad school), with a cd and video release Cinco de Mayo party that promises guests and career spanning tunes.

Ingrid Michaelson
8 p.m. Tuessday, May 8, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $20-$23.
The New York indie-pop songwriter whose career gained steam in 2007 thanks to an Old Navy commercial (and numerous TV placements since) that took her quirky and beautiful pop melodies (think Sara Bareilles) to the masses.

Matthew Santos
8 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $10-$12. 704-376-3737.
Best known for crooning the hook in Lupe Fiasco’s “Superstar,” as a solo artist this Chicago singer-songwriter actually lends his soulful pipes to atmospheric original rock and folk.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 10, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $39.50.
Critics hailed the Atlanta metal act’s latest full-length, “The Hunter,” as an end of year best in 2011. Some called it a modern classic. It joins purveyors of equally theatrical metal, Sweden’s Opeth.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Firstman unveils new band during homecoming show at Chop Shop Friday

The longer singer-songwriter Joe Firstman is away from the Carolinas the closer his music draws to his Southern roots. Charlotte raised Firstman, who moved to Los Angeles over a decade ago, returns to his hometown with a new band, Cordovas (pictured above), Friday at the Chop Shop. He'll also serve as a solo opening act.

His latest solo album and his work with Cordovas follow his recent progression into rootsier music. On 2011's "Swear It Was a Dream," Firstman explores Southern boogie ("Who's Turnin' Your Light Out?"), funky blues ("Standin on the Porch"), and bluegrass ("Angel Moon") as well as rock ("Born Dreamer").

Cordovas features three part harmonies in the tradition of Crosby, Stills & Nash courtesy of Firstman (pictured in back) and fellow songwriters Jaron Lowenstein (middle) and Jon Loyd. Both draw heavily on 1970's Southern rock, blues, and Southern California sounds.

In 2001 Firstman hopped a Greyhound heading to Hollywood with little money and a guitar. He eventually scored a deal with Atlantic Records, which released 2003's "War Of Women" album and put him on the road opening for Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson. Firstman's profile rose further during his stint as house band leader on "Last Call with Carson Daly," where he demonstrated his capabilities in a number of genres. When Daly's show switched from the traditional talk show format to more of a news magazine style show, that gig ended giving Firstman more time to focus on his solo career.

Since forming Cordovas, Firstman has released both his latest solo album and two records - live and studio discs - with Cordovas. You can check out both acts with Steve Everett and John Wesley Satterfield Band at Chop Shop in NoDa Friday.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Shiprocked sails into its fifth anniversary

Snug Harbor celebrates its fifth anniversary in May and that means Shiprocked - the club’s hugely popular weekly dance party - celebrates its fifth anniversary Thursday, May 3. Captain Scott Weaver and Shiprocked's cast of performers will do so by turning Plaza-Midwood’s only stationary sailing vessel into a carnival complete with stilt-walkers, aerialists, dancers, a fortune teller, a dunk tank, and drag, burlesque and sideshow performances as well as fun fair food like hot dogs, cotton candy, and popcorn. Former cast member Lilith DeVille joins founder Weaver (pictured with cast above), who serves as DJ, and performers Cherry Von Bomb and Bethann Phetamine.

Shiprocked has become Snug’s signature event drawing large late night crowds each Thursday. The music and performances are fun and even the most reluctant dancer can be lured to the floor there. It’s even attracted some celebrity partygoers. Actor Tony Todd (aka The Candyman) was spotted there along with some of his fellow Mad Monster Party convention guests in March.

Admission to the anniversary party is free for the first 100 people. After that it’s $2. 21 and up.