Thursday, August 30, 2012

This week's hot concerts

I Was Totally Destroying It
9 p.m. Friday, August 31, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5. 704-333-9799.
This Durham indie outfit actually makes rock that’s a bit gentler than its name implies - dynamics-driven college rock with male/female harmonies and shades of Velocity Girl’s pop and Cocteau Twins’ dreaminess, but a bit heavier and darker. Its new album “Vexations” was lyrically inspired by Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower.”

4 p.m. Saturday, September 1, US National Whitewater Center. Free.
Bon Iver’s former Durham-based band mates grabbed listeners with 2011’s self-titled psychedelic/orchestral folk offering, which easily satiates fans of Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, My Morning Jacket, and Bon Iver (who makes a cameo) himself.

The Third Party
7 p.m. Sunday and Monday, September 2 and 3, Snug Harbor 1228 Gordon St.
Plaza-Midwood offers an eclectic alternative to the crowd downtown with Stranger Day & Elevator Jay, Miami Dice, Great Architect, the O-getters, Fat Face Band and That Guy Smitty on Sunday and Cement Stars, Scowl Brow, Modern Primitives, Leron Simeon, and Erika Blatnik Monday.

10 a.m. Monday, September 3, Tryon St. between Stonewall and Trade. Free.
The city ushers in the DNC with a free festival that includes performances from James Taylor, Jeff Bridges & the Abiders, Janelle Monae, the Blue Dogs, Chairmen of the Board, Simplified, and West End Mambo.

Underhill Rose
11:30 a.m. Monday, September 3, Matthews Alive Festival, Texas Roadhouse main stage Trade St. Matthews. Free.
Armed with traditional bluegrass instruments and soulful three part harmonies, this striking female Asheville trio makes strikingly thoughtful Americana. It helps close out the family friendly four-day festival. Monday’s music lineup includes PUSHH and the Dickens.

Gigi Dover & the Big Love
9 p.m. Wednesday, September 5, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $8. 704-376-1446. 
The seasoned Americana singer-songwriter who spins an eclectic mix of world music and Southern folk-rock and bluesy soul on her new album, plays a set just outside downtown following President Clinton's speech. 

9 p.m. Wednesday, September 5, Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd. $71.15-$135.70.
This smooth crooner (whose pre-music career backstory includes homelessness and rehab) delivers `80s flavored slow jams and jazzy mid-tempo R&B.

Occupy Your Mind
7 p.m. Thursday, September 6, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $10.
Western Carolina newgrass/roots rock staple Acoustic Syndicate teams with Brooklyn trio Breaking Laces and Charleston’s Dangermuffin for a DNC closing night concert in NoDa. 

Rock the Red Cancelled

Rock the Red - the country concert that was scheduled Wednesday, September 5 at Bojangles' Coliseum as a Republican-friendly alternative to the DNC's live entertainment - has been cancelled. The lineup included recent Nashville breakout Lee Brice (pictured) and country veterans the Charlie Daniels Band and Travis Tritt.

Refunds are available at point of purchase.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Locals release Daytrotter session

Charlotte's Junior Astronomers recently embarked on the Favorite Gentlemen Tour with labelmates Harrison Hudson, Death on Two Wheels, and All Get Out. The tour swept through Tremont Music Hall last weekend.

The hardworking Charlotte rock outfit was given the opportunity to record a Daytrotter Session in Nashville earlier this month along with the other bands on the tour. The three-track session is available to Daytrotter subscribers here.

Daytrotter features unique, rare performances from a plethora of artists. While many of these are up and comers or current indie it bands, many are established veterans like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Iron and Wine, Cowboy Junkies, and Anvil. Members can download tracks as well. Aside from the music my favorite thing about Daytrotter is the incredible watercolor illustrations like the one of Junior Astronomers above (courtesy of the Daytrotter site) that accompany each session.

Keep an ear out for Junior Astronomers' upcoming full-length "Dead Nostalgia."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: No rain for My Morning Jacket return

The weather was in My Morning Jacket’s corner Saturday as the Louisville-based festival favorite returned to Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre. After its 2011 set at the same venue was cut short at 14 songs due to a rain delay followed by an 11 p.m. curfew, fans were treated to a 2- plus hour set that stretched to 24 songs.
Likeminded Carolinians Band of Horses (pictured below) opened the show playing a daylight set of Southern-stewed folk-rock. And even though the group now hails from the Southeast(originating in the Northwest), at times its songs brought on sun-soaked desert dreaminess. It introduced the new single “Knock Knock” early in its set. It’ll be interesting to see whether the upbeat pop-rock guitar-centered track is indicative of the direction of its upcoming (aptly titled) album “Mirage Rock” (out September 18). The Charlotte date was the Charleston-based band’s second to last night with MMJ.
It was apparent how well matched the two acts were especially when MMJ frontman Jim James joined BOH for “Slow Cruel Hands of Time” or later when BOH’s Ben Bridwell returned the favor joining MMJ for “Wonderful (The Way I Feel).” The sound was a bit muddy for the openers, but it didn’t make a huge difference because their material is dripping in reverb anyway.
In explaining the attraction of My Morning Jacket, a friend of mine was told they’re a jam band for people that don’t like jam bands. That was true for most of its set. It began with the recent singles “Holdin’ On to Black Metal” and “Outta My System.” James wore a blue cape, which might actually be ornate enough to be described as a cloak, over a black shirt and vest with tan pants. The five members all had a different look about them. There’s the hirsute team of James, multi-instrumentalist Carl Broemel (ripping through a sax solo below), and drummer Patrick Hallahan. Bassist Tom Blankenship (the snappiest dresser of the bunch) and keyboardist Bo Koster (both in vests) repped the band’s leaner, shorter-haired contingent.
Having seen MMJ at Bonnaroo three times from 500 or more feet away I was pleased to actually see not only what they look like, but their on stage interplay. The biggest treat was watching Hallahan, who like Band of Horses’ bouncing drummer Creighton Barrett, is often the most animated member on stage (although James’ is definitely MMJ’s focal point). When he stretched his long arms (made even longer by his drumsticks) above his head and broke out what I can only describe as cheerleader-esque moves during the extended bridge of “Run Thru,” he completely stole the show.
James also impressed shredding on a Flying V like a stoner version of Eddie Van Halen (top photo), commandingly pacing back and forth at the front of the stage, and creating bleeps and bloops with the sampler he sometimes wore around his neck.
Part of the magic of My Morning Jacket is the band’s ability to weave interesting arrangements. Little things that aren’t necessarily the crux of a song pop out at you. It’s often Koster’s contribution - the synthesized bass sounds of “First Light” for instance buzz like a tiny bug circling your ear; the subtle piano beneath the primary arrangement of “You Wanna Freak Out.”
While rooted in psychedelic rock, its ability to delve into other genres is another attraction. The R&B feel of “The Day Is Coming,” the fuzzy, trippy synthesized bass of 2005’s “Wordless Chorus” pumping like a merry-go-round at a carnival, and the futuristic sampler work of “Touch ME I’m Going to Scream” (which was like Blondie’s “Atomic” meets Fleetwood Mac live) played back-to-back-to-back was the funkiest segment. Watching stocky, beer guzzling men try to match James’ soaring falsetto was quite amusing.
The quintet jumped back into blatantly Southern blues and boogie closing the first part of its set around 10 p.m. with “Dancefloors” and “Run Thru.”
It returned to the strains of “Victory Dance” with James marching across the stage in his blue cape. Its rendition of “Lay Low,” which featured rollicking twin guitar harmonies, reminded me of a Doobie Bros’ 45 played at 33 RPM. The aforementioned jam was mostly relegated to “Steam Engine.” MMJ masterfully built and expanded the jam to a big, climactic end just before Band of Horses returned for “It’s a Pity.” The combination further demonstrated how well these groups fit together (there were actually quieter times in MMJ’s set that reminded me of BOH). 
The show ended - without even a sprinkle - with “One Big Holiday.” The weather couldn’t have been kinder. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Free local music during DNC

While the DNC means big name national acts and celebrity sightings, local artists and musicians are getting in on the action too. Musicians will perform at a series of free concerts under the label "The Third Party" as part of the Quasimodo Project's arts initiative, which aims to draw attention to local visual and performance art during the DNC. 

Sunday and Monday's events take place at Snug Harbor in Plaza-Midwood. Sunday's lineup includes soul throwback the O-Getters, Fat Face Band, Stranger Day with Elevator Jay, DJ That Guy Smitty, experimental jazz trio Great Architect, electronic artist Miami Dice, and drag performer Bethanne Phetamine. 

Monday's Snug bill includes psych-blues garage throwback Modern Primitives, rockers Scowl Brow (fresh from its Snug residency), shoegazers Cement Stars, and Leron Simeon. The event's music curator Hope Nicholls describes the latter, who is originally from Detroit, as a cross between Kid Cudi and TV on the Radio. Music starts at 8 p.m. both nights. 

For those bound to uptown The Third Party features free live music during what Nicholls calls "cocktail hour" at 7th Street Market Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. 

Tuesday its Brazilian transplant Reinaldo Brahn with famed percussionist Jim Brock and purveyors of futuristic funk-soul Super Ape. Wednesday features singer-songwriter Erika Blatnik and eclectic multi-instrumentalist and band leader Bo White. Thursday singer-songwriters Bart Lattimore and Alex Kastanas and Jennyanykind's Mark Holland (pictured above) share the spotlight. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

This week's hot concerts

9 p.m. Friday, August 24, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5.
Though there’s a haunting quality to this buzzing NYC-based Australian duo’s sound, it’s mix of electronic synthesizers, brooding`80s alt-rock grooves, and juxtaposition of swelling female and moody, Sister of Myercy-like male vocals creates more than mere dark wave.

Favorite Gentlemen Tour
8 p.m. Friday, August 24, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $8.
Charlotte’s own Junior Astronomers join label mates All Get Out, Harrison Hudson and Death on Two Wheels on the Favorite Gentleman label’s first tour. The label was started by members of Manchester Orhcestra in 2005, which puts the band in good company.

My Morning Jacket/Band of Horses
7 p.m. Saturday, August 25, Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $40-$57.85.
After a rainy 2011 concert, Kentucky’s favorite sons are back along with likeminded Carolinians Band of Horses to deliver a night of big jamming rock that’s both modern and distinctively Southern.

7 p.m. Sunday, August 26, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $57.50-$74.
With frontman Trey Anastasio readying a new solo album for October, the jam stalwarts and veteran road dogs begin the final week of its summer tour here.

Okkervil River
8 p.m. Monday, August 27, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $14-$17. 704-358-9200.
Somewhere between Dylan-rooted folk-rock and the grand, joyous rock of groups like Arcade Fire (with vocals more akin to Of Montreal) fits this Austin favorite whose slowly been climbing up from the underground since the early `00s. With the Mynabirds. 

Covenant/The Break-up
8 p.m. Monday, August 27, Amos’ 1423 S. Tryon St. $17-$20. 704-377-6874.
The former is a Swedish trio that mixes electronic atmospherics and dark Euro dance music for the Purgatory crowd, while the latter makes dubstep-bordering, new wave-flavored dance pop with vocals that bridge Gwen Stefani and `80s singer Josie Cotton.

Shy Hunters
8 p.m. Thursday, August 30, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $8-$10. 704-376-3737.
Imagine if Kate Bush had collaborated with “Pornagraphy” era Cure and you’re halfway to the duo of Indigo Street and Sam Levin, who create guitar rock that drifts from ethereal to dance-inducing. The addition of live bass for the first time on tour promises to fill out its live sound.

Post DNC festival presents a who's who of indie scene

If you've ever been overwhelmed perusing weekly live music listings and small club calendars full of band names you've never heard of or simply just don't have a lot of free time to check out whoever is supposedly hot locally, then God Save the Queen City 2 is a fairly quick and economical way to get a good overview of Charlotte's underground rock, pop, and Americana scenes. Where else can you catch Jim Avett, the Funky Geezer, the Hot Gates, and Super Ape on the same bill?

The event takes place at NoDa's Chop Shop (behind Cabo) Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, September 7-9. In addition to the venue's regular indoor stage, another stage will be erected outside and the club's parking lot will be extended. 

The full lineup is below, but it's a good mix of Charlotte music veterans like funnymen the Alternative Champs (pictured), CLT icon Renelvis, and glam-garage rockers Baby Shaker, who perform alongside well established younger acts like Little Bull Lee, Modern Primitives, Pullman Strike and others Friday. 

Saturday's lineup is equally weighted with long running acts like the Houston Brothers and Benji Hughes and familiar faces with newer bands like Jason Scavone's the Hot Gates, Mike Mitschele's the Catch Fire, the Josh Daniel and Band, Ancient Cities, Super Ape, and Temperance League. The band members accumulative CLT music histories probably equate to well over a century. There's also more recent up and comers like Anna Bullard and Side By Side scheduled for Saturday. 

Sunday closes out the festival with acts like singer-songwriter Lindsey Ryan (formerly Lindsay Horne), Yardwork. S.O. Stereo, the Loudermilks, Chasing Edison, Bubonik Funk, Hello Handshake, Hectorina, and Elonzo. The quality is pretty astounding. 

Single day tickets are $10 for Friday, $20 Saturday, and $15 Sunday with a $30 three-day pass also available. Information is available here. Tickets are on sale here

The full lineup is as follows Friday, September 7th:

Alternative Champs
Little Bull Lee
Modern Primitives
Old Milwaukee
Pullman Strike
Jeremiah & The Howling Owls

Saturday, September 8th:

Benji Hughes
Temperance League
Ancient Cities
Houston Bros.
Jim Avett
Anna Bullard
Hot Gates
The Catch Fire
Josh Daniel and Band
Small Talk Industries
Side by Side
Tolleman Randall
The Elves
The Funky Geezer
Super Ape
Dirty Drummer
Dirty Art Club

Sunday, September 9th:

Scowl Brow
SO Stereo
The Loudermilks
Fat Face Trio
Taylor Ferrell
Chasing Edison
Hello Handshake
Rusted Radio Dial
The Chalkies
Devon Elizabeth
Wicked Powers
Bubonik Funk
Indy Americana Masters
Lindsey Ryan

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

LGBT DNC Unity event announces lineup

Comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer and dance music artist Debby Holiday are among the scheduled headliners for the Unity Through Community DNC event set to take place at the North Carolina Dance Theatre Sunday, September 2. Other acts include DJ Justin Ryan, singer-songwriter Lindsay Katt, the Carrie Marshall Band, jazz artist Noel Freidline, DJs Little Betty and Billy Waters, and dance/performance artists from Tryptych Collective. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-centered DNC event will focus on unity and equality.

The Unity party is open to the public and is expected to draw prominent leaders in the LGBT community as well as LGBT delegates to the Democratic National Convention, business leaders, celebrities, elected officials, and friends and supporters of the LGBT community. Tickets are $40 for general admission and $100 for VIPs. Tickets are available online here. VIP tickets include access to the VIP suite, lounge, and open private bar, as well as exclusive swag.

NC Dance Theatre is located at the corner of 10th and Tryon streets. The event begins at 8 p.m. Sunday, September 2. For more information check out

Monday, August 20, 2012

Foo Fighters play rare CLT club gig for Rock the Vote

The Foo Fighters will perform a rare, intimate concert Wednesday, September 5 at The Fillmore. The concert will benefit Rock the Vote, which aims to register 1.5 million young voters before November's election.

Tickets go on sale Tuesday, August 21, at 10, Ticketmaster or charge by phone 800-745-3000. There is a two ticket limit per order. Tickets are nontransferrable and can only be picked up at will call night of show with valid id. Patrons must bring the credit card used to purchase the ticket to verify the order.

Will call at The Fillmore Charlotte box office will open at 7:30 pm on September 5th.

Wednesday's concert begins at 9 p.m.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Acoustic Syndicate to play DNC week event

News about entertainment for the week of the Democratic National Convention has begun to roll in, but many of these concerts and events will be private or invitation only. However, some shows like the Third Party events presented by the Quazimoto Group featuring local visual and musical artists at various uptown venues (more on that to come), will be open to the public.

The Neighborhood Theatre announced this week that regional favorites Acoustic Syndicate will return to the NoDa venue for Occupy Your Mind Thursday, September 6. The Western Carolina group will share the stage with Brooklyn's Breaking Laces and Folly Beach, SC's Dangermuffin. Tickets are $10 and available through

Also open to the public are previously announced concerts from R&B singer Kem at Ovens Auditorium and the Rock the Red concert with Travis Tritt, Lee Brice, and the Charlie Daniels Band at Bojangles' Coliseum. Both of those concerts take place Wednesday, September 5. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster outlets.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

This week's hot concerts

Jay Brannan
8 p.m. Friday, August 17, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $12-$15. 704-358-9200.
While the lesbian community has an entire genre of indie folk artists to choose from, this openly gay singer-songwriter/actor (whose drawn comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Tracy Chapman) gives male (and female) folk-pop fans something to swoon over.

Leela James
10:30 p.m. Friday, August 17, Tempo, 4809 Wilkinson Blvd. $15.
Part of the neo-soul resurgence of the mid `00s, the raw, vintage soul throwback has reined in her signature wild main and recently released a thoroughly modernized yet still respectful tribute album to her hero and stage-namesake Etta James.

Matisyahu/Dirty Heads
7:30 p.m. Sunday, August 19, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $38.
The versatile reggae-rock singer, who released a sunny/dance-friendly new album last month and makes his major motion picture debut later this month in “The Possession,” teams with the rock/reggae/hip-hop hybrid who has its own new disc in June’s “Cabin By the Sea.”

Steve Vai
7:30 p.m. Monday, August 20, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $33.
The veteran shredder’s new album “The Story of Light” swells with experimentation as he draws from disparate genres and toys with harmony and melody with the help of harpist/multi-instrumentalist Deborah Henson-Conant, songwriter Aimee Mann, and “The Voice’s” Beverly McClellan.

Trespass America
7:30 p.m . Tuesday, August 21, Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $40.50-$60.50.
Five Finger Death Punch celebrates its 10th Top 10 hit “Coming Down” (currently #1 at rock radio) by heading up “Metal Hammer’s” Trespass America hard rock tour which includes Killswtich Engage, Trivium, Pop Evil, Emmure, God Forbid, and Battlecross.

Fear Factory 
8 p.m. Tuesday, August 21, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $20-$23.
If your taste in metal is more old school and thrash and industrial-oriented, then you may prefer this 25-year-old veteran group (led by vocalist co-founders Burton C. Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares since 2009).

8 p.m. Wednesday, August 22, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $12-$14.
The politically outspoken alternative hip-hop artist (a co-founder of his former label Anticon Records) brings his anarchist and idealistic visions to life on his first solo world tour in several years.

10 p.m. Thursday, August 23, Phoenix, 300 N. College St. $10/$25 VIP.
The former Forum launches College Night with a glow party featuring the up and coming Chicago trio, whose sugary mix of thumping dance music, dreamy electro, fuzzy dubstep, and girly vocals never strays far from its accessible pop-roots.

Benefit Concert at NoDa's Area 15 Saturday

The Summer LoveFest takes place in NoDa Saturday, August 18, with live music, food, and art. If you've traveled down North Davidson Street toward the NoDa arts district in the last five years you've probably noticed the brightly graffitied building on the left shortly after you pass the railroad tracks. There are usually cars - some automotive art pieces actually - parked in the grass outside. In the heart of Optimist Park, this 23,000 square foot building is actually home to several small businesses. Area 15 is described as a micro business incubator and includes the neighboring free store, studio space for artists, musicians and techies of all sorts, event spaces, and other unique start ups. Last weekend it hosted a conference on Christianity and Anarchism for instance - not something you're going to find everywhere.

Such a unique venue, which supports small businesses, alternative culture and the arts doesn't thrive in a vacuum. Hence Saturday's fundraiser, which will benefit community arts through Area 15 and Live Out Loud. Musical acts include Carolina Runaway, Towns Inn, the Atlas Shrug Project, milf, the Wormholes, and Asleep in the Weeds. Event starts at 2 p.m. and runs until after 10 p.m. Music begins at 3 p.m. Vendors and the neighborhood's NoDa Records will also be part of the event.

Admission is $10 and the concert will take place at Area 15 at the corner of 15th Street and North Davidson. For more information call 757-613-3267 or click here. You can also find out more about Area 15 here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gap taps Avetts for new campaign

Concord's Scott and Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers are part of clothing chain The Gap's latest ad campaign, which focuses on rising artists. Along with the Avetts, the "Fit For Originals" Be Bright campaign features guitar virtuso Kaki King, dancers Yuan Yuan Tan and L'il Buck, pop music pair Karmin, and singer-songwriters Nicki Bluhm and Lia Ices.

Watch the Avetts' clip above and check out behind-the-scenes footage here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

This week's hot concerts

I Am Music Fest
7:30 p.m. Friday, August 10, Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St. $39.50-$79.50. 704-372-1000.
Grammy winner India Arie is back on a Charlotte stage for the first time in three years. She headlines this inaugural festival with Saint Paul R&B vocal outfit Mint Condition. 

Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun
9 p.m. Friday, August 10, Snug Harbor, 1218 Gordon St. $5. 704-333-9799.
The coed Atlanta quartet look like an `80s throwback and sound a bit like Metric’s Southern cousin, but the distorted mix of dance music and indie rock is also firmly rooted in early `90s alternative rock (think Curve, or a British Breeders).

Grown Up Avenger Stuff
8 p.m. Friday, August 10, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $5-$7. 704-358-9200.
The Charlotte band celebrates the release of its new EP, “Alive.” Produced by Bruce Irvine, it captures the foursome’s knack for dynamic heavy rock, emotive and theatrical vocals, and complex, but accessible arrangements.

Def Leppard/Poison/Lita Ford
7 p.m. Saturday, August 11, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $32-$166.
Although a 25th anniversary performance of “Hysteria” in its entirety would make this bill sweeter, these `80s hold-outs bring the hard rock/hair metal summer fun back with enough hits to sustain an audience for four hours.

Power 98 Summerfest
7 p.m. Saturday, August 11, Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $23-$30.
The annual WPEG-sponsored festival’s lineup heavily represents Southern hip-hop. It includes performances by Future, Miguel, Travis Porter, Pleasure P., Ace Hood, Chief Keef, and Mykko Montana.

9 p.m. Saturday, August 11, Dharma Lounge, 1440 S. Tryon St. $15.
The British DJ, actor, visual artist, and UK reality TV star is best known as a veteran in the electronic music scene whose work was influential in the early drum n’ bass and jungle scenes. At 46 he makes a rare, intimate Charlotte appearance.

Peter White
7:30 p.m. Sunday, August 12, Halton Theater at CPCC, 1206 Elizabeth Ave. $30-$49.
Before stepping out as a solo artist in the early `90s the British smooth jazz and fusion guitarist was a busy session musician (Dave Koz, Boney James, the Rippingtons) and member of Al Stewart and Basia’s bands. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Charlotte's Groove 8 gets its cinematic groove on with new album

I was recently asked to contribute to a DNC week playlist. When I brought it up to my husband after discussing how David Bowie is the patron saint of Plaza-Midwood (you can’t walk into a neighborhood bar or restaurant without hearing him), he suggested Charlotte’s own Groove 8.

If the sound of Charlotte is jazz-funk fusion outfit Groove 8 then we are one cool city.

The band who was originally known as Audioform released its second album, “Curious Poses,” in late June (its fourth if you count its output with Audioform and what incredible cover art).

The first track begins with cool cat vocals spelling out the band’s mission against the backdrop of a trembling, scale-climbing sax. It’s as if the curtains of the smoke-filled VIP room of the underground’s version of Studio 54 just parted. Is that Richard Roundtree?

The second track, “Candles and Incense,” is a more straight-forward come-on and features vocals, which is a rarity for the predominantly instrumental group. So what do they sing about? The kind of night out you might experience hooking up in said smoky dance club circa 1979.

After the vocal segue things get gritty and funky on guitar with big lyrical horns leading the way on “The Stand.” The drama escalates on the title track. The percussion and repeating guitar line in “Time and Place” set the stage for an old-fashioned horn-off (if there’s such a thing). Derrick Bartell’s keys and Keith Whatley and Chris Spivey’s guitars get in on the action too as instruments alternate leads - but those solos don’t go overlong. Whatley seems like such an underrated player and this track in particular gives him room to exercise his inner Hendrix.

The playing is fun and loose, but tasteful. The players never go overboard. Groove 8 always reins its jams back in without getting too showy.  There seems to be purpose and the musicians, many of who have been playing together for years, read each other like only seasoned players can. There’s an ease to it all that translates to the audience. It relaxes. 

To say its music is cinematic is only touching the surface. The changes, the juxtaposition of squalling electric guitar and punchy horns, the repeating rhythm at the heart of a song, a subtle phrase returning at the right time - all these elements create drama so the listener can create a corresponding mini movie in in their minds (if they're so inclined - I'm a visual listener). 

Groove 8 shares an eclectic bill at The Milestone Club Sunday with the Last Good Year, Trinity Seed, and Old Rusty Mandolin. The band also plays NoDa’s Chop Shop September 28. Maybe someone will book them for DNC week as well. Charlotte may be a corporate banking city on the surface, but it’s more than that. And the music of this ethnically diverse, multi-generational band makes a fine representative for what’s cool and unique stirring in the city’s underbelly. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Asheville's third annual Moogfest lineup revealed

Moogfest, the two-day electronic music-leaning festival celebrating the work of former Asheville resident Bob Moog, revealed the lineup for its upcoming third Halloween weekend installment. Scheduled acts include Primus 3D, Orbital, Mike Snow, GZA presents Liquid Swords, Santigold, Explosions in the Sky, Squarepusher, Richie Hawtin, El-P, Thomas Dolby, Divine Fits, and the Magnetic Fields. A complete list is below. 

The festival, which has been reduced from three days to two this year, takes place October 26 and 27 at multiple venues around the city including the Arena (formerly the Asheville Civic Center Arena), Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, The Orange Peel, and Asheville Music Hall. 

Weekend passes and daily tickets go on sale Friday, August 10 at noon at 

Moogfest actually began in New York in 2004. Moog, who is best known as the inventor of the Moog synthesier, died a year later in his adopted hometown of Asheville. Moog Music, which still makes electronic instruments and remains Asheville-based, later partnered with Knoxville-based concert promoter AC Entertainment (the folks behind Bonnaroo) and moved Moogfest to Asheville. The first Asheville lineup included Sleigh Bells, Hot Chip, MGMT, and Massive Attack. Last year's festival included headliners the Flaming Lips, Moby, Passion Pit, Tangerine Dream, and a talk and art exhibition from Brian Eno. 

Here's the 2012 Moogfest lineup:
Primus 3D

Miike Snow
Richie Hawtin
Explosions in the Sky
The Magnetic Fields
Four Tet
Divine Fits
GZA presents Liquid Swords
Carl Craig
Pantha Du Prince
Shpongle presents The Masquerade
Thomas Dolby
Black Moth Super Rainbow
Cold Cave
Mouse on Mars
Prefuse 73 with Teebs
Ana Sia
Bear in Heaven
Killer Mike
Julia Holter
Wick-It the Instigator

(photos courtesy of 

Biltmore kicks off concert series Thursday

Asheville's Biltmore Estate kicks off its 16th annual concert series Thursday, August 9, with the Steve Miller Band, which last played the estate grounds in 2009. Peter Frampton follows on Saturday, August 11.

The rest of the series, which runs through early fall, includes several blasts from the past that don't frequently tour the Carolinas. Artists include KC & the Sunshine Band and the Village People (above) August 18, Chris Tomlin August 25, Foreigner September 1, The Lettermen September 28, David Cassidy (above) October 5, and Mary Wilson of the Supremes October 12. Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers close out the season October 19.

The Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas show scheduled for August 24 is already sold out.

Tickets for the series are available at or by calling 1-866-336-1255.

Friday, August 3, 2012

D'Angelo set to play Charlotte with Mary J. Blige

When R&B singer/musician D'Angelo appeared as a surprise guest at Bonnaroo this summer during the Questlove-curated Superjam, it was arguably the biggest news of the festival. The Grammy winner hadn't performed on stage in the U.S. in twelve years, although he played some gigs overseas earlier this year.

The comeback is in full swing now and Charlotte is in on the fun. LiveNation announced today that D'Angelo will co-headline Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Saturday, September 15 with Mary J. Blige.

Both acts played the Essence Music Festivals in New Orleans in early July. Reviews of his performance, which was reportedly more improvisational, funk-rocking, and James Brown-like than longtime fans expected, were mixed.

The Liberation Tour will feature Blige, D'Angelo, and Canadian R&B singer Melanie Fiona. Tickets go on sale Friday, August 10 at 10 a.m. A limited number of $20 lawn tickets will be available until Sunday, August 12 at noon or until they run out. Tickets will be available at, Ticketmaster, the Hardee's Thickburger Box Office at the venue, and by calling 1-800-745-3000.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

This week's hot concerts

Allman Brothers/Lynyrd Skynyrd
7 p.m. Friday, August 3, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $33-$80.40.
The title of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s new record “Last of a Dyin’ Breed” may sum up this pair of classic Southern rockers who both formed in late `60s era Jacksonville, Florida. Both charge ahead through illness, lineup shakeups, hiatuses, and death.

Ava Luna
9 p.m. Saturday, August 4, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5. 704-333-9799.
The Brooklyn septet makes experimental soul and unpredictable art rock for indie rock fans that dig funky falsetto with stuttering percussion, quirky free jazz-like swerves, and layered female backing harmonies.

Andy Vaughan & the Driveline
10 p.m. Saturday, August 4, Puckett’s Farm Equipment, 2740 W. Sugar Creek Rd. $5. 704-597-8230.
On its new album, “Searching for the Song”, this Richmond combo trades in authentic old timey country, twangy honky-tonk, and late `70s/early `80s pre-pop/post-outlaw country with aching pedal steel and Vaughan’s stellar songwriting. 

10 p.m. Saturday, August 4, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $29.50/$45 VIP. 704-358-9298.
The 47-year-old Jamaican singer is known as the Messenger for his dedication to traditional reggae and Rastafarian principles, shunning the sex and violence that colors many of his contemporaries’ lyrics.

12 Stones
8 p.m. Monday, August 6, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $10-$14.
The Milestone hosts another former hit maker in an extremely intimate setting. While signed with Wind Up Records the New Orleans Christian hard rock band became fixtures on soundtracks ("Dead Man's Chest" for instance), commercials, and WWE programs.

7 p.m. Tuesday, August 7, TWC Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $32-$55.85.
“Champions” - its collaboration with B.O.B. - was created for the 2012 Olympics. So it’s a good time to revisit these East Coast road dogs who are still riding the renewed energy of its latest album, “King.”

Carnival of Madness
5 p.m. Wednesday, August 8, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $32-$68.
If you missed the Carolina Rebellion festival in Rockingham in May, four of the hard rock acts from that bill return to headline their own mini-fest. It includes Evanescence, Chevelle, Halestorm, New Medicine, and Cavo.

Ray Wylie Hubbard
9 p.m. Thursday, August 9, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $15-$18. 704-376-1446.
On the aptly titled latest album, “The Grifter’s Hymnal,” the veteran Texas songwriter straddles gritty country, stirring folk and rocking blues while ruminating on mortality and spirituality and telling nostalgic tales about his colorful past. 

Americana fundraiser and festival set for Elkin Saturday

The second annual Reevestock Music Festival takes place in Elkin, NC Saturday. Its the second year in a row regional musicians have banded together to raise funds to renovate Yadkin County's 71-year-old Reeves Theater (pictured above in the 1940s), which is located in downtown Elkin. It's already been refurbished enough to host concerts and other events for the first time in decades and its owners want to resurrect it to its past glory with films and cultural arts performances, a snack bar and lobby. Right now the stripped down version is called "Reeves in the Raw." 

Saturday's concert not only attracted regional acts that are invested in the cause, but also boasts Knoxville's Dirty Guv'nahs who are gaining steam in roots-rock circles. Other artists include Greensboro's Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Chapel Hill's Mandolin Orange, Tennessean Josh Oliver (who played with the Everybodyfields' and its offshoots), and local heroes Time Sawyer, who are heading up the festival, as well as mountain band Porch Dog Revival and songwriter Luke Mears. 

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. You can order online here until 10 a.m. Friday. Covered VIP seats are $35. Admission for children 12 and younger is $5. Gates open at 11 a.m. Music starts at noon. Blankets and chairs are encouraged. For more information go to

Don't miss the comic-rock genius of Die Roten Punkte

When I left Spirit Square Wednesday night, my face hurt. If there’s one show I’d recommend taking a chance on it’s Die Roten Punkte’s comic concert running Thursday through Sunday at Duke Energy Theater. I felt the same way when I saw them at Booth Playhouse in 2010. For music fans, even those who don’t care that much for standup or sketch comedy, it is ridiculously funny. I go to movies and watch sitcoms and can count on one hand the times I laugh out loud. At this show, I completely lost track of the times I heard my husband (who reserves his own tearstained giggle fits for the rare “South Park” and “Portlandia” episode) chuckling loudly beside me. The entire crowd was in fits over Astrid and Otto Rot’s on stage antics. A few were even playfully heckled by the band for arriving late.

Astrid and Otto - orphaned siblings whose parents were either hit by a train (more likely) or eaten by a lion (a story young Otto seemed to prefer because it’s less gruesome?) ran away from their abusive relatives and started a rock band in the city. They wrote a mini rock opera about the experience. The show is presented as a regular concert with the Rots playing child-size instruments that look small enough for my three-year-old to comfortably play. The songs are funny enough. The opener is about a vegetarian dinosaur that’s force to flip burgers at a fast food joint. Another is a double entendre heavy come-on from sister Astrid that features physical comedy, audience interaction, and seems to go on and on causing Otto to quip, “Wasn’t that a quick one?” But it's their banter that really takes the show to another level. 

The pair snipe and poke fun at each other, revisit their tragicomic backstory, and bicker about song meanings, non-rock n’ roll behavior, and Astrid’s drug rehab. But what’s different about this run of shows is the subject of their new album and tour is "Kunst Rock" or art rock, which is a topic that’s ripe for lampooning. 

Otto worships at the church of Brian Eno. He sings an ode to his portable banana protector (the Velvet Underground/Andy Warhol-like t-shirts they’re selling would make an inspired gift to the record geek or indie rock snob in your life). But it’s the “Untitled” track - an over-the-top live looping experiment that includes a bit of audience participation - that really gives modern music a good razzing. It may seem like a joke, but I’ve actually interviewed bands that sampled pages turning and water running.

It may appear a train wreck, but it’s a calculated one which has received rave reviews at international arts and culture festivals. Their sibling rivalry and interplay is actually very realistic, even if the circumstances of their relationship falling apart on stage seem fantastical. She’s bossy and slutty. He’s na├»ve and innocent.

People might miss out on the show because it’s hard to know when you see their painted faces and black and red costumes just what you’re in for. Is it a rock concert? A comedy? A musical? A play? It's all of that, but it rarely seems staged. You can forget that maybe these are actually Australians riffing on rock n' roll cliches.

There are plenty of clips online to encourage (or discourage) further investigation. Be aware - there's a bit of profanity and suggestive subject matter in the live show. But you can check out "Ich Bin Nicht Ein Roboter (I am a Lion)," "Rock Bang!," "Burger Store Dinosaur," and "Bananahaus" on YouTube.