Thursday, August 29, 2013

This week's hot concerts

Carnival of Madness
5 p.m. Friday, August 30, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $17-$57.50.
If black and white and gray represent the varying shades of metal, this annual hard rock tour hits on its varied gradations from the Southern rock of Shinedown to the catchy, anthemic hard rock of Papa Roach (which has taken a page from 30 Seconds to Mars of late) to the Christian alternative and industrial metal of Skillet and We As Human to the melodic assault of female fronted metal band In This Moment.

Megan & Liz
6:30 p.m. Friday, August 30, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $13-$15.
The YouTube-approved, Michigan-based twin sister act combines the positive shout-anthems of Icona Pop, the sweet, cheerleader pop of Disney grads like Hilary Duff and Aly & AJ, and the girly, carefree feel of beachy songwriters like Colbie Caillat. Its debut album is out this fall.

Matthew Mayfield
8 p.m. Saturday, August 31, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $8-$10.
The former Moses Mayfield singer approaches pop-rock with more heft and haunting than many of his TV drama scoring peers (his songs have been used in “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Hart of Dixie”) thanks to a dark, distorted rock undercurrent and a Springsteen-like scratch in his voice. He embarks on an acoustic tour in support of his impressive new EP, “Irons in the Fire.”

Analog Daze
8 p.m. Saturday, August 31, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $10.
The appropriately tagged Charlotte band, which trades in grooving and gritty classic blues-rock flavored with Southern, psychedelic, classic, and early modern rock, celebrates the release of its (again well titled) album “Throwback Anthems” with the Kevin Marshall Band and Gigi Dover & Big Love. The first 100 people receive a free download.

JP Harris & the Tough Choices
6 p.m. Sunday, September 1, Thirsty Beaver, 1225 Central Ave. Free.
Fans of true honky tonk and classic country music get a pass to sleep in late Monday morning following a likely marathon from this Southern traditional songwriter who snubs his nose at his home of Music City with a blatantly old school sound that rocks more than rolls live.

7 p.m. Tuesday, September 3, Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St. $45.15-$67.10.
The influential British arena rock band’s last world tour was one of the best of 2010, though it missed Charlotte. With it's Queen-meets-James-Bond soundtrack feel, its album “The 2nd Law” may not have resonated as much as its inescapable mainstream breakthrough, “The Uprsising.” But you can bet the theatrical trio will perform a grand, memorable and cinematic-sounding rock show as if scoring the apocalypse.

Goodie Mob (cancelled)
8 p.m. Thursday, September 5, The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory. $30.50.
Although now famous for his non hip-hop pursuits (“The Voice,” Gnarls Barkley, “Forget You”), Ceelo Green reteams with Big Gipp, Khujo, and T-Mo for a Goodie Mob reunion and album (this week's cleverly titled “Age Against the Machine”), which Green says goes beyond hip-hop and is just the first act for the reignited veteran unit.

Black Flag
8:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 4, Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St. $20-$25.  
Although entangled in an un-punk rock lawsuit with Flag - another touring version of former members playing Black Flag songs - over trademark infringement, founder Greg Ginn and vocalist Ron Reyes (from the “Jealous Again” era) are revisiting the seminal punk group’s influential catalog as well as creating its first new material since 1985.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Area native's NYC band captures its July 4 in video

Brooklyn-based indie rock band Ex Cops, which features Charlotte native Brian Harding (formerly of Hymns), released a new video. The clip traces the band's existence in Brooklyn and it's July 4 concert outside of the Museum of Modern Art as well as a wacky friend's journey to the show.

The song is from the group's recent full-length, "True Hallucinations."

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Temperance League video previews new LP

Charlotte rock band Temperance League releases its second full-length album, "Rock n' Roll Dreams" on iTunes September 17 and on vinyl October 1. Like its self-titled debut, which revealed a different direction than early punkier political and socially-conscious singles, "Rock n' Roll Dreams" sees the band continuing to evolve. It posted its new video "That, You Can Count On" over the weekend.

The group features a cast of local music veterans including Bruce Hazel, Shawn Lynch, Chad Wilson, Jay Garrigan, David Kim, and Eric Scott. It celebrates the album's release October 18 at Snug Harbor.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Lambert & Bentley rouse fans Friday

The last time Miranda Lambert played Charlotte, it was her first show back after burying her father-in-law and it was an emotional exercise in soldiering through with heart-on-sleeve that made fans adore her even more. Her concert at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Friday with Dierks Bentley was a lighter affair, if not carefree. The jubilation came from Bentley, who repeatedly said it might be the best night of his life. The first time he said it I assumed it was a line he gave to all audiences, but after noting the overwhelming response to the sing-along portion of his latest single “I Hold On” and repeating the sentiment on his knees in thanks to the rapt audience following the finale of “Home” I kind of believed him. I figured he meant after the birth of his children.

Bentley’s set appealed to both women and men who knew practically every single word to every single song. They rolled with him from the opening lines of “Am I the Only One,” “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go),” “5-1-5-0,” and “Every Mile a Memory” through “Sideways” late in the set. He played up his hunky looks without removing his shirt or gyrating by bringing a girl from the crowd on stage to pretend to play guitar while he watched her shake from behind leaning on the pedal steel riser and flirting jokingly with another late in the set. 

He even handed a guitar to someone in the pit area after his set was over. He was very particular about who received it (maybe a kid? I couldn’t see). He didn’t make a big show of his generosity either. The music had stopped, the band was leaving the stage, and applause were subsiding.

The logistics of two supersize country artists sharing the Locked and Reloaded stage was solved by Bentley working vertically on a three-tiered stage and Lambert’s setup utilizing depth instead of height. Both prowled a wide guitar-painted walkway that extended into the audience. Bentley and his band began the rootsy party song “Up on the Ridge” standing in front of the wide screen at the top back of his stage and made their way to the end of the walkway by song’s end.

In torn jeans, a plaid shirt that gave way to a black t-shirt and shorter curls that he admitted cutting covered with a ball cap, he led songs about drinking (“Tip It On Back”) and more poignant numbers like “I Hold On.” He introduced the latter by noting the old things he values - his acoustic guitar signed by Georges Strait and Jones and the truck he originally drove to Nashville. He ended the show by dedicating “Home” to the military. The soldier beside me, who said he deploys in two weeks, was irked that so many folks in front of us sat down for the song. Maybe people thought the dedication signaled a time to be more serious. Regardless I was glad I remained on my feet.

Between sets a trio from Nashville called Jukebox Mafia entertained the crowd from the center of the amphitheater with acoustic guitar-accompanied live mashups of classic rock, hip-hop, country, and R&B hits. The trio, which Lambert discovered and immediately invited on tour according to the backstory they shared, weaved tunes by Stevie Wonder, Aerosmith, and Georgia Satellites. Their soulful singing and funky hip-hop backbeat went over fabulously with the crowd. My sister texted me from the lawn: “Who is this and where can I go see them?”

Lambert came out firing with “Fastest Girl in Town.” The production was grander and more impressive than at Bojangles’ Coliseum a year and a half ago when she first began touring for the “Four the Record” album. She hit on “Only Prettier” and “Baggage Claim” with signature sass early on. She let loose on Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band’s “Fire Down Below,” which was the strongest of five cover songs. She flung her long blonde locks wildly and stomped the stage before turning serious on “Over You.” She skipped the 2013 CMA Song of the Year, which she and husband Blake Shelton wrote for his deceased brother, on her last trip to Charlotte. It was obvious the very personal hit is still a tough one to perform. 

The mood lifted for “Me and Charlie Talking” before turning serious again for “Dead Flowers.” Her voice soared on the ballad, leaving behind her country girl twang for the maturity and tempered scale climbing Lambert is capable of but doesn’t over use (she does this on the new Willie Nelson duets album too). It was a beautiful performance, but her face read as if this one got to her too.

Later in the set Lambert apologized for forgetting some words (she apparently forgot an entire verse of JOhn Prine's “That's the Way the World Goes `Round”). She said she was anxious about going into the studio on Monday to work on a new record. Having seen her four times now, there’s a sense that despite her tough girl persona Lambert is a sensitive soul that takes whatever is going on in her life on stage with her. That might not work for a highly choreographed pop artist like Lady Gaga or Madonna, but in country music it makes her seem more like a member of her audience.

Her sass returned for “Mama’s Broken Heart” as she spun like Stevie Nicks in her black tank top, sequined silver skirt, and fringed boots. She and opening act Gwen Sebastian (from “The Voices’” Team Blake) rallied for girl power on the Judds’ “Girls Night Out.” It was the second of five covers, including the all-star encore of “King of the Road” with Jukebox Mafia, Bentley, Sebastian, Randy Rogers (who turned in a crowd-rousing opening set) and their bands. Personally I want more originals (“Airstream Song” and “Me and Your Cigarettes” from “Revolution” would be my picks), but that’s just me.

There were no costume changes or band-showcasing exits. Lambert is no diva. She and Bentley both performed with five-piece bands, not the swelling three-guitar assaults solo stars sometimes carry. She broke from recent setlists, switching order and leaving a couple songs off. Instead she opted for must-play hits like “Famous in a Small Town” and “Kerosene.” The latter always manages to burn the house down as if it was meant to close the show. That place was reserved for the equally fiery “Gunpowder and Lead.”

In between she struck on The Beatles’ “Get Back,” the new single “All Kinds of Kinds” (with a beautiful revolving light show of disco balls throwing white light around the arena) and the touching “House That Built Me.” But it was during “Gunpowder & Lead” that a gleeful grin was glued to her face. 

She ended with an encore of “White Liar” and the all-star jam where she again threw the spotlight to her touring companions. If she hadn’t admitted earlier to “seeming disheveled” the crowd wouldn’t have noticed. But that’s kind of why people dig her - because she does admit it. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Weekend brimming with music, thanks to Pride

Charlotte Pride is in full swing this weekend, which means a bevy of live music and entertainment acts downtown. R&B singer Mya, "The Real L Word's" resident rock band Hunter Valentine, and "The Voice" grad Judith Hill (pictured above) are among the weekend's headliners. 

Entertainment kicks off at noon Saturday. That's when Flourish: A Celebration of LGBT Arts and Culture at The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and Pride events on the Wells Fargo Stage at the PNC Bank Festival Zone begin. 

Flourish is a free event presented by the Queer Arts Consortium and billed as a festival within a festival. It features a mix of visual art, theater, film, and live music performances showcasing Charlotte artists like the Gay Men's Chorus, StillOut photography, the Charlotte Pride Band, Queen City Theater Company, the Gay Charlotte Film Festival, mixed LGBT vocal ensemble Once Voice Chorus, and dance and performance art group Triptych Collective.

Short performances and films are staggered throughout the day along with an ongoing photography display so visitors and concert goers can come and go. Flourish runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday following the parade. 

The schedule for artists can be found here

Saturday's entertainment on the nearby Wells Fargo Stage begins with Augusta, Georgia female quartet She-N-She, singer-songwriters Ashley Joe Farmer Band, Ryan Cassetta, and Josh Zuckerman, and pop punk act Eryn Woods (pictured above). Snug Harbor's Shiprocked! brings Snug Harbor's weekly dance party to the stage followed by stars of "RuPaul's Drag Race." DJ Ghost, Queen of Bounce Big Freedia, and Mya close out the show. 

Later the party moves to Phoenix where Joan Jett-inspired Canadian pop-rock band Hunter Valentine (below) - who open for Cyndi Lauper in November at Belk - plays the Charlotte Pride Woman's event at 11 p.m.

Sunday the fun continues with Atlanta singer-songwriter Dylan Michael kicking off post-parade performances. Actors Theater will perform songs from "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" followed by rock act Spiralfire. Stars from "RuPaul's Drag Race" and vocalist Hill close out the festival following awards presentations. 

The Bechtler and the Wells Fargo Stage are located on Tryon smack in the middle of the festival zone between Stonewall and Third Streets. For the full Pride schedule click here

Thursday, August 22, 2013

This week's hot concerts

Miranda Lambert/Dierks Bentley
7 p.m. Friday, August 23, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $38.25-$67.
She’s redneck feminist country’s leading lady. He’s the genre’s red dirt pinup . They team up on the Locked & ReLoaded Tour, which shakes up the setlist and formula of Lambert’s memorable and emotional January 2012 concert (following the death of her father-in-law) for a larger crowd and possibly bigger production. With “The Voice” contestant Gwen Sebastian and rising stars the Randy Rogers Band.

The BoDeans
8 p.m. Friday, August 23, McGlohon Theater, 345 N. College St. $28.50-$32.50.
Despite a maze of lineup shifts over the years (leaving Kurt Neumann its only founding member), the Wisconsin rock combo nears its 30th year in 2014. The group took a break after it enjoyed its biggest hit - 1996’s “Closer to Free” - thanks to “Party of Five,” but its career of late has been prolific with four releases in three years.

Maxi Priest/Beres Hammond
8:30 p.m. Friday, August 23, Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St. $45-$90.
Dubbed the Kings of Lovers Rock, the veteran vocalists may be the smoothest cats in reggae with a style that owes as much to R&B as rock steady, roots, and dancehall.  Hammond delivers songs like a classic soul singer, while Priest’s pop tendencies earned him smash mainstream crossovers in the late `80s and `90s.

Crunk Witch/Louis Logic
9 p.m. Saturday, August 24, The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $7.
The electronic husband and wife duo should get a mention for its name alone, but it's frantic and spastic to dark and spooky beat-driven tracks are of note as well. It’s paired with the sometimes confounding, often surprising emcee who tosses musical styles in a soup pot much like a mad Iron hip-hop chef. Thought Criminals and Red Jesse open.

7 p.m. Sunday, August 25, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $13-$15.
With catchy soul-pop tracks like its current single “I Can’t Help” the Charlottesville outfit is an adequate substitute for Maroon 5. It's fittingly logged time on the road with Kelly Clarkson and its just-released third album, “Overnight,” follows modest adult contemporary hits “She Is Love” and “Something to Believe In.” With Matt Hires and Andrew Ripp. 

Umphrey’s McGee/STS9
7 p.m. Wednesday, August 28, Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $34-$40.50.
“Relix Magazine” suggested in 2012 that classic jam stalwart Umphrey’s McGee might be the “Last Jam Band Standing.” The same could be said for forward-thinking, futuristic electro-jam outfit STS9, who as Sound Tribe Sector 9 led the live electronic rave-meets-jam concert hybrid years before it was an attraction at Bonnaroo.

We The Kings/Breathe Carolina
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 28, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $20-$23.
It's evident from its catchy pop-rock tracks that the Florida quartet grew up during the rise of snappy emo-pop acts like Jimmy Eat World. Colorado-based electronic duo Breathe Carolina provides a link between youthful pop and bubbly club jams. T. Mills, the Ready Set, and Like the Movies round out the bill.

The Passenger
7 p.m. Thursday, August 29, Visulite 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $18-$20.
What started as a full British band is now the folky alter-ego of English singer-songwriter Mike Rosenberg who makes pastoral, genteel acoustic songs with pop sensibilities - think a sparse and intimate Van Morrison or Nick Drake.

The Coathangers
10 p.m. Thursday, August 29, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $3.
Atlanta produced an heir to feminist post-riot grrrl with this female trio (down a member from a quartet). There’s no sloganeering here though. The songs, while sometimes brash and unpredictable, are personal and layered responses to life, death, and relationships. 

Review: Bruno Mars shines light on music, band

Most solo artists bask in the spotlight surrounding themselves with anonymous musicians and dancers. Not Bruno Mars. His hit-filled concert Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena was as much about the whole package - the music, the songs, the choreography, and the players - as it was about the songwriter and showman himself.
Mars posted a photo of his recent cold-fighting remedies (from Mucinex and Sudafed to Afrin and Echinacea) on Twitter Tuesday, so there was some speculation that his performance or voice might suffer. That wasn’t the case. From the opening notes of “Moonshine” to the closer “Gorilla,” his voice and moves held out.
It didn’t hurt that each member of his band exhibited personality and individuality. Mars didn’t relegate them to the sidelines either. Six members of the eight piece band, which included three horn players that double as backup singers (how economical), flanked Mars throughout the night. All seem to double as hypemen. Bassist and North Carolinian Jamareo Artis funked like he’d played with Fishbone and keyboardist John Fossit bounced, headbanged, and ran in place during “Runaway Baby.”
They dressed not in Motown-inspired uniforms of old, but more as a playful group of `70s Hooligans (the name of the band) in mismatched plaids, solids, and stripes, butterfly collars, and - in one case - a black fishnet tank. They channeled a street corner doo-wop gang from the `50s, the crew from Fat Albert (minus the Fat), and the Jackson 5.
Following “Natalie” and “Treasure” from his latest album “Unorthodox Jukebox,” Mars reached back to one of the first hits he had a hand in - Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire,” which Mars co-wrote and appeared on. It wasn’t the only time he referenced someone else’s hit but instead of sticking to the hip-hop flavored original version of B.O.B.’s “Nothin’ On You” (which he also co-wrote), Mars kicked it off as a largely acoustic quiet number that morphed into a grand, horn-laden, `70s-style showpiece.
At one point my friend said, “So he’s channeling Elvis, Michael Jackson, and Paul Anka?” Mars has impersonated at least two of those as a tribute artist and he’s an old-style crooner with a classic look wearing a casual, but stylish leopard print shirt and black vest with his signature fedora. There’s definitely that feel, but it’s not a retro act. “Marry You” was a fun, grand throwback with Mars taking one of two very Prince-like guitar solos. He exhibited his skill on piano and drums as well. The latter introduced the encore of “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Gorilla.”
Instead of multiple screens and an over-the-top, multi-level stage, Mars and his band, like Beyonce recently, stuck to the lower level in front of a horizontal screen the length of the stage. Keys and drums were only a few feet above them on a platform behind them. You could imagine the same show - aside from the lights and backdrops - being performed in a large theater or club. It added the illusion of intimacy to the show.
The crowd, which ranged from tweens to senior citizens - ate it up too. They squealed for his jokey “damn” segment and laughed along as group members took turns using bad pickup lines on a female fan in the front row.
The early momentum snowballed at the end with “When I Was Your Man” (which he called the most difficult song to write and sing), “Grenade,” and “Just the Way You Are.” The introductions and thank yous at the end seemed appropriately final, but of course the group returned the obligatory encore.
Opening act Fitz and the Tantrums had the crowd on its feet early, clapping on cue to dance-pop singles like its current mix of new wave and modern soul, “Out of My League” (which should be a massive hit). With an impressive light show and charismatic band leaders Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, the group put on a lively, engaging set. It turned “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” into a soulful jam with jumping horns much like Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox might have done during the Eurythmics’ horn-happy “Would I Lie to You” period.

Like other acts we’ve seen this summer, both indicated that even live music in a big arena is still at its core about music. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

NC's Supastition reveals new CLT-based music vid

Charlotte-based rapper Supasition is back with a new video. The track "Best Worst Day" features a bevy of Charlotte landmarks. There's downtown, the light rail, and the back vinyl area of Manifest as well as a shout out to the "The Observer" in the lyrics. The stirring clip is worth a look aside from the local connection. I don't want to give it away, but it's an interesting story.

The Greenville, NC raised emcee has an impressive back catalog as well as notable guest spots with artists like KRS-One, RZA, TechN9ne, Royce da 5'9", and fellow Carolinians Little Brother. Supastition (aka Kam Moye) returned in 2012 after taking a break from the music industry. He began performing live again last year and released "The Blackboard EP" earlier in 2013.

"Best Worst Day" includes some profanity. So be warned.

You can find Supastition on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, August 16, 2013

This week's hot concerts

OneRepublic/Mayer Hawthorne
7 p.m. Friday, August 16, Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $34-$62.50.
Hit making songwriter Ryan Tedder’s Coldplay-styled pop-rock outfit returns following the March release of its third album, “Native,” with the Detroit-based soul throwback in tow.  The snappy dressing lady’s man (Hawthorne) taps into his `80s influences as well as his Motown roots on his new album. With Churchhill.

Jars of Clay/The Last Bison
8 p.m. Friday, August 16, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $17.50-$20/$35 VIP.
One of Christian rock’s biggest crossover acts - thanks to 1996’s Top 40 hit “Flood” - returns prior to the release of its eleventh album “Inland” (out August 27). Virginia family septet the Last Bison is the latest entry in the Mumford-following folk-pop category, but it stands out with self-described mountain chamber music and a startling single, “Switzerland.”

Tift Merritt
8 p.m. Friday, August 16, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $15-$17.
The Raleigh raised singer-songwriter summons the ghosts of the best female band leaders of the `70s  - a fun force on stage who seems to be enjoying herself with a voice that's mighty in its tone and strength, but still sweet and vulnerable.

10 p.m. Friday, August 16, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5-$10.
Matt Sumrow (Comas, Ambulance Ltd, Dean & Britta) channels the darker side of a John Hughes’ film with this melancholy new wave throwback that combines a sense of dreamy longing with a Jesus & Mary Chain-like marriage of melody and fuzz.

Skid Rowe
8 p.m. Saturday, August 17, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon ST. $17.50-$20.
At 14 years with the band, singer Johnny Solinger has actually been on stage with Snake Sabo, Rachel Bolan, and Scotti Hill longer than Sebastian Bach was. The hair metal stalwart’s latest material is a series of EPs. “United World Rebellion - Chapter One” is out now with “Chapter Two” to follow soon.

7:30 p.m. Sunday, August 18, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $10-$12.
The Detroit quintet approaches metal with a sense of humor and a fondness for grooves (think Maylene’s Northern cousins) as it twists between assaulting riffs and boogieing hooks with a nod to party metal and its musical Motor City roots. 

Scott Weiland
8 p.m. Sunday, August 18, The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $37.50.
While he and his former band mates have it out in court over the Stone Temple Pilots’ name, the infamous vocalist who was fired from the group in February (STP hired Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington) performs songs from the group’s 20 year history, focusing primarily on its most successful records on the Purple at the Core Tour.

Bruno Mars/Fitz & the Tantrums
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 21, Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St. $61.95-$78.
The Hawaiian hit maker brings retro Motown-style soul and showmanship to the modern era with a glitzy show that includes not only his own massive hits, but the others  (“Billionaire”) he’s had a hand in. Here’s hoping for a hint of his spot-on Michael Jackson impersonation too. Fitz leads a funky buzzing soul-pop unit that serving up modest hits of its own.

John Cowan
8 p.m. Thursday, August 22, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E . 36th St. $20-$30.
As the voice of New Grass Revival he was the first to mix bluegrass, rock, soul and gospel and he’s continued to do that as a solo artist. The go-to session bassist and dynamite singer celebrates his 60th birthday (officialy August 24) on tour this week.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Acoustic Syndicate posts video; album out soon

Carolina rock-grass innovators Acoustic Syndicate will release a new album, "Rooftop Garden," on September 3. It released the video for the single, "Heroes," today.

The album is the Western Carolina-based group's first since 2004's "Long Way 'Round." The band went on hiatus, but began playing live again a few years back beginning with regional gigs like its annual holiday show at Visulite and festival dates during the summer.

The new track illustrates the band's evolution with a grander feel. It taps into the family band's farming roots and adds a bit of longing Peter Gabriel-style vocals. Good stuff!

Acoustic Syndicate plays gigs throughout the Carolinas during the rest of the summer and fall and returns to Charlotte for that annual gig at Visulite December 20. For more on the band click here.

Jimmy Eat World gives fans their money's worth

There was a time when I’d go see any band any time. That was before I’d seen countless concerts and before I had to pay a sitter. I’ve found myself being more selective in the last few years, sometimes waffling about going to see bands that I used to go see frequently. Sometimes it’s because I was disappointed by their last Charlotte show. Sometimes a dud interview sort of sours me on a band.  Other times I just feel like I’m over it. There was a time I’d drive to Atlanta, Chapel Hill, Winston, or Columbia (this was mostly pre Orange Peel in Asheville) to see the same band I fail to drive across town for now.  

But I’ve found that whenever I am on the fence and I do go, I’m glad I did. My girlfriend and I drove to see Face to Face in Asheville and were both beaming by the time it was over. After the Hot Water Music show in January I wondered what the heck happened to my HWM t-shirt and cds. And Tuesday at The Fillmore I was reminded why I loved Jimmy Eat World in the first place. The Arizona four-piece (who had an additional keyboardist/vocalist on stage) played a long, solid set that hit on practically its entire career and they, for the most part, play the songs fans want to hear (I don’t think anything from its first album “Static Prevails” made the cut).

Jimmy Eat World opened with the catchy new single “I Will Steal You Back” from its new album “Damage.” It’s almost as catchy as anything the band's ever written. Even though it opened with a new track, the group hit the ground running following it up with “Big Casino” from 2007’s “Chase This Light” and the dancey “My Best Theory” from 2010’s “Invented.” After another new track (“Appreciation”) it reached back to what’s probably considered its seminal album for old school fans - 1999’s “Clarity” - with “Your New Aesthetic” and “Lucky Denver Mint.”  

Its other seminal album, 2001’s “Bleed American” (and I’m glad we’re back to calling it by its real name after its title was temporarily scrapped after 9-11) was represented by the lovely ballad “Hear You Me” before the group pounced into the heavier “Futures.”

There was no pyro, no stage antics, just the swing of Jim Adkins’ signature curled bangs flopping over his face and a kick or jump here and there. It was a straight ahead rock show and the fans ate it up, some singing every line. The band charged through 26 songs. The sound was good, loud, and clear and the crowd - at least from what I saw - was simply into the show, not falling down drunk or talking during the entire set. 

It’s difficult to pinpoint highlights because there were so many. Between 2004’s “Futures” and “Work,” the group flubbed the intro to “Kill” (another track from “Futures”) with Adkins shrugging: “It’s not the Grammys. It’s not a competition. It’s just art.” Shortly thereafter he segued into Grammy winner Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together” (as pictured above).

Adkins followed that winking tween-friendly moment with a solo acoustic version of “Clarity’s” “For Me This is Heaven,” which always reminds me of the first dance of a friend’s wedding reception. During the hard hitting “Pain” I turned to my friend (the same one who I watched Jimmy from the stage with during Warped Tour over a decade ago) and said, “There’s no way they’ll play my favorite song.” Three songs later I heard the opening riff of “The Authority Song,” turned back to her in shock and jumped up and down like a kid. From then on it was a “Bleed American” fest with four tracks from that album raising the momentum toward the end of the set. That was the album that contained Jimmy Eat World’s biggest mainstream radio hits “The Middle” (which was saved for the final encore) and “Sweetness.” The latter was sandwiched between “A Praise Chorus” and the title track to that 1999 record. Add three more during the encore and you have whopping 26 songs.

Some shows can go on too long, but Adam Ant playing 29 songs and Jimmy Eat World doing 26 this week is the kind of thing I want to see. I was stoked at first to see Marilyn Manson, but put off when I read his recent set lists were only 13 songs long. I realize his live show is much more about production and theatrical performance, but when your catalog is nine albums deep you should really stay a little longer on stage, no? The first time I saw Steve Earle he played something like 36 songs. That’s what I want. Not the dancing, not the extended solos. I want songs! It made it worth the drive to Durham back in 1998 and Tuesday, Jimmy certainly made it worth the drive across town.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adam Ant's smashing return for old & new fans

By the time my children are 18 they will undoubtedly have seen hundreds of concerts. Adam Ant’s show at McGlohon Theatre Monday was my four-year-old’s third non-kid/non-Daddy’s band show of the year, but that’s not the only reason it was special to us. Ant has been out of the spotlight for almost two decades, unless you count his tabloid headlining-grabbing brushes with the law due to bipolar episodes. For the last few years he’s been working on a new record with a cast that I’m fond of by association (producer Boz Boorer is Morrissey’s frequent co-writer and Marco Pirroni was an Ant and an original Banshee).

By the time Ant released his new album, “Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunnar’s Daughter” (man, that’s a mouthful) I’d introduced my kids to his music having placed “Stand and Deliver” on an early mix. By February of this year my oldest insisted I cut his hair like Ant’s and that he dress as Ant for Halloween. By April we had the new album (we found it in my hometown in WV, although we’d looked for it locally). By June my son knew we’d be going to see Ant at McGlohon. And by Monday we were singing “Antmusic” to each other in the balcony along with a modest, but extremely enthusiastic crowd that seemed delighted at the one time British sex symbol’s comeback.
Ant took the stage in the signature Napoleon pirate ensemble that’s a throwback to his `80s stage costumes following a set by punk-glam rock n’ roll outfit Prima Donna (the two songs we saw were great, the sound was impeccable and then we had to run home and get the ear protection I forgot. Oops!). Ant opened with the title track from the new album and the crowd rose to its feet where it stood the entire set. He and his four-piece band, which included both male and female drummers (a cool sight for my avid little drummer to see), churned out 29 songs in roughly two hours. He hit on all of his hits and peppered the set with new tracks that stood up to the old ones. The 17-track new album doesn’t just play like a rehash of Ant’s new wave career. It’s strange, fresh, and arty, but still accessible. The Nashville-nodding “Cool Zombie” - about his time living on a mountain in rural Tennessee - came off more rocking than on record and “Hardmentoughblokes” was a punky rave up. “Shrink,” which addresses Ant’s psychiatric history, could easily have been a Garbage single. It followed “Stand and Deliver” and had my little boy jumping in the isle.

We climbed to the balcony, which was fairly empty, during “Wonderful.” Ant introduced the few love songs in the set (including, winkingly, “Whip in My Valise”) with candor. Another new track “Vince Taylor,” which Ant’s performed on “Jools Holland” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” was another highlight from the new record. We missed a few songs to chat up the British merch guy during our second of three bathroom breaks, but returned (thankfully) for the snowballing finale that included “Viva Le Rock,” “Antmusic,” and “Goody Two Shoes” and ended with “Cartrouble” and “Prince Charming.”

The group returned for a four song encore that included T. Rex’s “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” before calling it a night. And what a night! Ant is now 58 and seemed to revel in finally being back on stage. He’s a little heavier and wears thick black glasses part of the time, but he certainly didn’t seem to be eligible for AARP. The crowd, which included other children, was with him from start the finish, seemingly starved for his comeback too.

The concert certainly inspired my son who refused to go to bed and began performing with his violin bow as a microphone as soon as we walked in the house. With so many artists that he likes either not touring the states (Blur), playing 21 and up venues (Billy Idol in Cherokee), or not being around anymore (in other words, dead like the Ramones), it was great to be able to take him to see a veteran English artist (because so many of the bands he likes are from England) with a vast catalog. Who knows if Charlotte will get to see Ant again. Despite the snacks and climbing up and down the stairwell for multiple bathroom breaks, I certainly won’t forget leaning in with my “bababababa” as he sang “Antmusic” during the show. It was pretty much perfect.

You can check out the entire setlist here


Friday, August 9, 2013

Steel Wheels pedal through NC on bicycle tour

When acoustic mountain music combo Steel Wheels rolls into Charlotte again August 29 to play the US National Whitewater Center, the Virginia band will be rolling in on bicycles. It's upcoming North Carolina tour of Black Mountain, Lawndale, North Wilkesboro, Morganton, Lexington, Greensboro and Charlotte is the foursome's fourth "Spokesongs Tour" in which they tour by bike pulling equipment and merchandise on carts behind them with no additional personnel.

Although the Steel Wheels traveled up to 75 miles per day on its last bike tour, distances between NC towns on the upcoming rides will be 40 miles or less although they'll face mountainous terrain and summer heat.

"There is something about being exhausted and determined that comes through in our shows on the bike tours," says lead singer Trent Wagler. "There is a little more of a live nerve on stage. It strips away pretense and energy is different - the shows don't suffer, but are the better for it."

Proceeds from merch sold on the tour will go to The Alzheimer's Association.

Steel Wheels play Thursday, August 29, at 7 p.m. as part of the Whitewater Center's weekly River Jam concert series, which takes place every Thursday between May and the end of September. Admission is free.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

This week's hot concerts

Kate Campbell
7 p.m. Friday, August 9, Great Aunt Stella Center, 926 Elizabeth Ave. Free (donations recommended).
A literary, funny Southern songwriter (you can hear the Mississippi twang in her voice), Campbell - who has been compared to Southern writers like Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner - kicks off Charlotte Folk Society’s 2013-2014 season with songs that evoke the ever-changing and unchanging South.

Big Country
8 p.m. Friday, August 9, Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St. $18-$20.
The 2001 suicide of singer Stuart Adamson brought the future of Scotland’s acclaimed equivalent to U2 to an abrupt end. Co-founder Bruce Watson recruited Adamson’s friend and one of his favorite singers, Mike Peters, to reunite with a new lineup for 2013’s “The Journey.” (The new lineup includes, drummer Mark Brzezicki, who played on The Cult’s “Love” album, coincidentally - see below).

10 p.m. Friday, August 9, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5.
Through a haze of distortion the Northern California combo alternates between evoking the dreamy guitars and swirling synth of `90s shoegazers like My Bloody Valentine and more aggressive punk urgency. With Nothing and Serfs.

The Cult
8 p.m. Saturday, August 10, The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $39.50.
After it recreated its “Love” album on tour in 2009, Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy, and company return to revisit 1987’s “Electric” as well as a second set of hits from the veteran British hard rock group’s 30 year career.

Tim Barry/Cory Branan
9 p.m. Sunday, August 11, The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $12.
The former frontman for Richmond outfit Avail (Barry) turned his working class punk songwriting into countrified folk noir. He teams with Branan - a fresh, if husky voice in Americana/alt-country whose “Mutt” was one of the best traditional underground country records of 2012. With Bryan McPherson.

Adam Ant
8 p.m. Monday, August 12, McGlohon Theater, 345 N. College St. $24.50-$49.50.
Since releasing his last album 18 years ago, Britain’s new wave King of the Wild Frontier lived on a mountain in Tennessee, became a dad, and was treated for mental illness. All that and his storied punk roots are fodder for his raw, adventurous new album. Recent comeback concerts have included performances of nearly 30 songs.

Jimmy Eat World
8 p.m. Tuesday, August 13, The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $33.
The Mesa, Arizona quartet who rose to the mainstream with crunchy guitars, emo sentiment, and pop harmonies on tracks like “The Middle” nears its 20th year (in 2014). Its latest album, “Damage,” feels lighter with jangly guitars and pop sing-alongs when the group isn’t charging ahead with characteristic driving rock. 

Daughn Gibson/Hiss Golden Messenger
8 p.m. Tuesday, August 13, The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $10-$12.
The former Pearls & Brass drummer makes a strange but happy marriage of dark Joy Division/Nick Cave-style goth (thanks to his boomy baritone and unusual arrangements) and twangy Americana. Sounds weird on paper, but great in actuality. Durham’s Hiss Golden Messenger takes an equally dark approach to stark, sparse folk music. With Ancient Cities.

Los Enanitos Verdes
8 p.m. Wednesday, August 14, The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $33.
A classic rock band in Latin America, the legendary Argentinian group has been kicking around since 1979 making Spanish language arena rock and pop ballads like a Latin equivalent to the Eagles, the Allman Brothers, and U2. Its latest is 2013’s “Tic Tac.”

Mobb Deep
8 p.m. Thursday, August 15, Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St. $20-$30.
With its 2012 feud behind it (as well as jail time for member Prodigy), the Queens rap duo, who carved its place in hip-hop history with 1995’s “The Infamous,” celebrates its 20th anniversary. With Big Pooh, Supastition, Mr. Invisible, and the Legacy Committee.

Avett Brothers announce new album, release date

The Avett Brothers have always been a prolific bunch. Every time I've interviewed them about a new project it seems they're working two or three projects ahead. So it's not a huge surprise that little more than a year after releasing the Grammy nominated "The Carpenter" the Avetts will release another record. "The Magpie and the Dandelion" - a follow-up and possible companion to "The Carpenter" - will be released October 15.

You can listen to a new track from the upcoming album at NPR here. The group released the following message to fans earlier today:


We wanted to let you know what we've been up to this year.

It's been one of the most amazing years in our lives up to this point. Not only did we get our first Grammy Award nomination, but we played some of the most incredible shows we've ever done. That's what we really remember. Every night, there was this energy in the air. You could feel it in the gusts of wind or as the stars blanketed the sky. Everybody felt it, and it made each gig simply electric.

We've got to let you in on a little secret because you've been so good to us. While we were working on The Carpenter, we were so inspired that we wrote another record as well. During those sessions, we just felt it. Working with Rick Rubin again, we tapped into something very special. It's like everybody was in the same zone.

Now, we're ready for you to hear the record. It's called Magpie and the Dandelion, and it's out October 15. It's new and being heard for the first time.

If you think about a Magpie, it's a bird from the crow family. You can see them everywhere, and they've got this strange grace. And, we all know what a dandelion is. It reminds you of being a kid and watching a flower come apart on a summer day. There's a youthful wonder in that. Those kinds of feelings live and breathe inside this album.

As a little treat, our friends at, NPR are streaming the first single "Another Is Waiting"so you can have a taste of what's to come. We'll be back out on the road and are looking forward to sharing these new songs with you.

For now, enjoy the music.


The Avett Brothers

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Donny & Marie bring Christmas to Greensboro

My dad liked to tell this story about how when I was about 3-years-old I told the cashier at the grocery store - my favorite place to impart ridiculous nuggets of information to strangers - that he was "a little bit country,” and I was “a little bit rock n’ roll.” Sadly I’ve never been accused of being clairvoyant, but looking back I was right. My father was a hardcore bluegrass fan. More than a little bit country. I don’t dislike country now. I absolutely love Steve Earle and Miranda Lambert and Loretta Lynn and newer kinda country artists like David Mayfield and Lydia Loveless. I can listen to those for hours, but nine times out of ten I'll choose fast-paced, distorted guitar-driven rock over a ballad or a folky number. I was most definitely the rock yin to my father’s country yang.

That memory came flooding back with the announcement that the siblings that served as my inspiration that day at the checkout are coming to Greensboro. Donny and Marie will celebrate Christmas Osmonds-style with a 15-city tour that brings the former “Dancing With the Stars” competitors (she fainted, he won!) to Greensboro Coliseum on December 9. And yes, they’re doing “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock n’ Roll,” as well as “Puppy Love,” “Paper Roses” and choice holiday tunes.

The Christmas run isn’t a new departure from their residency at The Flamingo in Vegas. But for the tour's third year Donny and Marie are hitting secondary markets like Cleveland, Tulsa, and Greensboro. The show’s format echoes the banter and music-filled TV series I adored as a child (although I think I watched for Jimmy) as well as its current hit Vegas show. 

Tickets go on sale August 16. For tickets and more information visit 

Here’s hoping they do Donny’s “Soldier of Love.” Because it’s a little bit rock n’ roll. Or at least Top 40.
(Photo courtesy of 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

This week's hot concerts

Crystal Bowersox
8 p.m. Friday, August 2, Don Gibson Theater, 318 South Washington St., Shelby, $22.50.
Some of “American Idol’s” most memorable personalities aren’t its winners (Pickler, Daughtry) and while this bold blues singer may not have won the prize she’s released two albums and will play the title role on Broadway this fall in “Always, Patsy Cline.”

Sy Arden
8 p.m. Friday, August 2, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $10.
This Charlotte singer-songwriter, guitarist and visual artist celebrates the release of her wild new “Baby Mama” video. Arden has personality to spare and her music and art are as unique as she is. So expect lots of humor and heart from her latest endeavor.

8 p.m. Friday, August 2, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $20.
Anchored by Don Dokken and drummer "Wild" Mick Brown, the hair metal holdout continues to make new music (2012’s “Broken Bones”) while the solid band stokes nostalgic flames with old favorites like “Into the Fire,” “Burning Like a Flame,” “In My Dreams,” and “Dream Warriors.”

Grown Up Avenger Stuff/Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun
10 p.m. Friday, August 2, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $8.
The female-fronted family band has been burning up the road since SXSW, touring the country with its unique brand of heavy alt-rock and creative arrangements - as if riot grrrl matured with its `90s influences intact. It’s paired with Atlanta’s dreamy modern rock quartet who’s playing its first Charlotte show in nearly a year.

Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
10 p.m. Friday, August 2, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $12-$15.
The recent Blues Music Awards recipient for Best Harmonica Player served in San Francisco’s Little Charlie & the Nightcats for over 30 years before he and his bandmates forged their own band after Charlie’s retirement. The hopping vintage blues, jazz, western, and surf on its second album, “One Wrong Turn,” has garnered raves.

8 p.m. Saturday, August 3, Bojangles’ Coliseum, 2700 E. Independence Blvd. $40.85-$52.15.
Her post “American Idol” life may have been as rife with drama as a reality series, but the Charlotte-based vocal powerhouse manages to hush naysayers by delivering inventive and relatable R&B albums that demonstrate her evolution and are each better than the last. With 112.

8 p.m. Saturday, August 3, Halton Theater, CPCC, 1206 Elizabeth Ave. $30.
The versatile veteran sax and flute player straddles contemporary jazz with urban soul and funky R&B having helped usher in the smooth jazz movement in the `80s. His collaborative “The Smooth Side of Soul” is the Grammy winner’s latest. The show is almost sold out.

BeaSoliel avec Michael Doucet
8 p.m. Saturday, August 3, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $22-$25.
The Grammy winner is one of the most popular Cajun groups in the world. A favorite of Garrison Keillor, the group explores a different strain of American roots music that’s vibrant and colorful and rooted in Louisiana’s rich history.

Matchbox 20/Goo Goo Dolls
7 p.m. Tuesday, August 6, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $32-$111.75.
Although its well over a decade since these bands ruled radio, Rob Thomas and company continue to crank out infectious pop-rock songs on the latest album “North” while Johnny Rzeznick’s Buffalo trio holds steady with its latest Top 10 album, “Magnetic.”  

The Tea Club
9 p.m. Wednesday, August 7, The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $5-$7.
Imagine Coheed and Cambria’s intellectual arrangements, Flaming Lips’ trippy invention, and the psychedelic harmonies of Blitzen Trapper scoring a trip through a folksy Wonderland. That nears the ballpark of this progressive New Jersey outfit whose songs tell stories with shifting tempo and direction and swirls of guitar, synth and vocals. With fellow Jersey act Thank You Scientist. 

Speedy Ortiz
9 p.m. Thursday, August 8, The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $5-$7.
If you miss the lo-fo nature and frank songwriting of `90s acts Liz Phair, Pavement, and Helium, then this Massachusetts’ indie guitar rock combo should strike your fancy. Vocalist Sadie Dupuis is a poet with a voice that recalls Phair and the Butchies’ Kaia Wilson while the guitars are mathy, angular, and distorted.