Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Def Leppard remains a consistent crowdpleaser at PNC Tuesday

Def Leppard's story is one of overcoming and soldiering on be it through the loss of drummer Rick Allen's arm, the death of guitarist Steve Clark, or in the wake of news of guitarist Vivian Campbell's returning cancer little more than a week before the band's US tour was to kick off last week.

Yet Tuesday night at PNC Music Pavilion (where the venue's name has changed three times since Def Leppard started playing there in the early `90s) Campbell was back on stage, having only missed the first two dates of the tour.

Singer Joe Elliott introduced him as "healthy and happy" earlier in the set (pictured above), but the warmth and spirit of band brotherhood and achievements well beyond massive album sales came to a head later in the set during "Hysteria." Following Allen's crowd rousing drum solo which ended with his face contorted in elation, the band broke into the mid-tempo pop hit as a homage to Clark, whose image flashed on the screen. For a moment as they cruised into the second verse Campbell smiled, took his hands from his guitar and clasped them together as if in thanks that he could join his comrades on stage. The meaning of the band's perseverance was wrapped in that shared moment with Clark's photos and the gracious guitarist that replaced him over 20 years ago.

The other side to Def Leppard's appeal is a knack for rousing pop-metal anthems that have been in radio rotation for so long the words are seared in fans' minds. That was the case for much of the night as the British hard rock giants shifted from the opener "Rock Rock (Til You Drop)" and "Animal" to later era Leppard "Promises" and "Paper Sun."  The latter weren't the monster hits that "Love Bites" and closer "Pour Some Sugar On Me" were, but many of the fans still knew all the words.

Styx (guitarists Tomy Shaw, back and James "JY" Young, front, above) did a lot to rally the crowd early in the night. Following a set of Tesla's bluesy hard rock, which included its own monster hits "Love Song" and cover of "Signs," Styx proved youthful, bombastic showmen most comfortable utilizing the sprawl of the amphitheater stage (they've also played the smaller Fillmore and Uptown Amphitheatre). Styx's production consisted of a revolving keyboard platform for animated vocalist Lawrence Gowan and four sets of stairs leading to a walkway running the length of the stage above drummer Todd Sucherman's kit. The set-up was slightly more elaborate than Def Leppard's, which - like last year - made more use of LED screens than tiered levels and height.

After an hour-long set that peaked with "Come Sail Away" and encores of "Rockin' the Paradise" and "Renegade," the standing ovation was worthy of a headliner.

Def Leppard, who held Styx's spot as a big band in a support slot opening for Kiss at PNC last summer, played a set similar in look and songs to that tour. The video backdrops for "Rocket" and "Armageddon It" were the same, but those were some of the highlights of last year's show so the inclusion makes sense. I could always do without a cover of "Rock On" (my point of reference is soap star Michael Damian's version). I'd rather hear a side 2 "Hysteria" album track (side 2 gets no love). "Rocket" on the other hand has turned into one of the highlights of the set despite its 6 and a half minute length and sort of trippy, psychedelic chant-feel. Even as a kid I found it an odd choice for a single, but over 25 years later it works maybe even better than it did then.

The sound wasn't pristine. Elliott doesn't hit all the high notes as regularly as he once did and the lack of clarity and singing crowd helped cover that fact. He doesn't swipe at notes like some veterans his age, but seems to know when and where to push it. He may not reach for the peaks on "Love Bites" or "Animal," but he soared on "Foolin'."

He was playful, tossing a Union Jack stiletto to a fan whose high heel somehow ended up on stage and bassist Rick Savage and guitarist Phil Collen (with Elliott above) remain consistent, charismatic players.

Between last summer's Def Leppard show and Tuesday's concert, I've gained a greater appreciation for the group's history through my 6-year-old's interest in them. There was a time in my life when Def Leppard wasn't cool. An avid Headbanger's Ball and MTV Top 20 countdown viewer during the band's height when I was 12, boyfriends and peer groups eventually steered me toward "alternative" fare. But a fondness for bands like the Pixies and the Smiths, shouldn't have negated my love of Def Leppard. I thought about that as I was singing "Rock of Ages" with my son during the encore.

I'm so glad that adolescent time has passed. I - like the audience Tuesday - still find a lot of joy in Def Leppard.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Locals get in on Dead farewell; I'm reminded of the best Deadheads

Surviving members of the Grateful Dead began the first of five Fare Thee Well shows at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California this weekend. Original members Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, and Bob Weir will take their final bow at Soldier Field in Chicago July 5 after a three-night run with Bruce Hornsby, Trey Anastasio and Jeff Chimenti joining them for two sets each night.

If you can't make it to one of those five shows, it is available on pay-per-view, in some movie theaters, and via YouTube through Apple TV, Android, Chromecast, IOS, Samsung and Panasonic smart TVs, XBox 360, XBox One, PS3, PS4, and WiiU as well as being broadcast on Sirius/XM's Grateful Dead channel. The cost for the YouTube broadcast for the Chicago dates is $29.95 a night.

Locally fans can warm up for those final nights at Smokey Joe's on Monday where Grateful Dead Tribute band Other People will be joined by members of Charlotte's Moonshine Racers and former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten who'll play an opening set at 9:30 p.m. Admission is free.

For me, the Grateful Dead's legend both died and exploded with the death of Jerry Garcia. I was never really a fan - although I lived with a guy with a Steal Your Face skull tattoo on his upper arm for a year and a half. Yet I find many memories are tied to the band. As a child I was put-off by the cover of 1971's "Skull and Roses" which scared me as I thumbed through my dad's record collection. The Grateful Dead were also huge at my high school, embraced by the kids from wealthy families who I suppose wanted to shake their preppy upbringing and clean-cut image. High school social structure determines so much of our young opinions. I secretly had a crush on one such deadhead and I never uttered a word of it to anyone.

The Grateful Dead became more of a presence in my world in March of 1995 when they played three shows at Charlotte Coliseum. One of my boyfriend's friends stayed with us that week. I'm not sure if he bought a ferret in the parking lot, but he came home with one shuffling around in his backpack.

Later that year my father had his first heart attack - possibly the same day as Jerry Garcia. It seems like it was the day before or after. My memory's a little fuzzy I've told the story so many times. Two overweight, bearded, long haired hippies loved by many despite their flaws with music running in their blood (my father's ties to the bluegrass community made his funeral a standing-room-only service). The list of ailments that contributed to both my father and Jerry Garcia's decline were similar - drug addiction, weight problems, sleep apnea, diabetes.

Jerry died that day. My father lived another eight years. I remember being relieved that if it had to be one old hippie, that it wasn't my old hippie.

I never quite embraced the Dead's music, but I've embraced the people. I've had close friends that followed them in those last years. I've interviewed several musicians with ties to the band starting with Dead historian David Gans back when I first started covering music as Bob Weir on his birthday (Me: You're doing an interview on your birthday?).

When I volunteered during Arc Overnight at WNCW in Spindale, I often hit the air right after Uncle Dave's Dead Air show. He left the station in May, but one Christmas night 13 years ago he came to my rescue. After I was nearly carjacked at the Morehead Street exit on my way home from WV to pull an all-nighter at the station, he stepped up and covered my shift even though he'd already been there for hours on a holiday. I was too shaken up to drive. I don't think I drove alone at night until a month and a half later when I resumed my shift.

I didn't even have to ask him to stay. Again and again I'm reminded that Dead people are often good people, so I'm glad they can enjoy this final bow. They're lucky that 20 years later they can still have that. I know my own favorite bands would never require the same big, grand international farewell. Siouxsie who?


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Charlotte loses unique artistic voice as Andy the Doorbum heads West

Andy the Doorbum is saying goodbye to his hometown with a farewell show at The Milestone Sunday that will track his musical journey from the very door booth that gave him his stage name through his current performance art work.

After April's arts invasion, during which Andy Fenstermaker (aka the Doorbum) not only acted as artist in residence at Snug Harbor (another club where he manned the door) but carryied out unusual acts of public performance art around the city. He wasn't alone in this. He curated a whole month of visual and musical exhibitions that included artists he'd befriended during his many travels. One of those artists was Los Angeles-based sculptor and photographer Sarah Sitkin, who has since become Fenstermaker's fiance.

Fenstermaker will join Sitkin in L.A. after detours through his native Pennsylvania where he'll help his father build a cabin on the family land and Ireland where he is setting up an art show with Amy Bagwell (mistress of Charlotte Wall Poems and CPCC professor).

Fenstermaker grew up in Gaston County and aside from extensive touring, he's lived here his entire life (aside from that one year in Pennsylvania). One of April's Art Invasion slogans was "Change Is Coming." Three months later it is here.

He recognizes the foreshadowing of the statement he created. But while Charlotte is losing an integral part of its underground arts scene it also seems like a place like L.A. may appreciate Andy the Doorbum's originality and vision more than the banking capital of the South. Although the other side of that argument is that Charlotte needs residents like Andy to push the envelope and create subversive statements that even his audience might not always "get."

I'm sure I cackled over lunch at Pinky's as he shared stories of explaining to police just what he was doing dragging a tree limb up and down Central Ave. while (I imagine) dressed in one of his costumes with his face painted ("Do you have a place to stay sir?"). He pointed to the story about his art invasion in Creative Loafing and said the folks at Snug would vouch that he worked there. The initial assumption is that someone coloring that far outside the lines must be crazy. Nah, he just has big thoughts he actually follows through on. How strange a place it would be if we all did?

Fenstermaker is a beloved figure in the community. He may look like a freaky character with his red curls and unkempt beard shooting in all directions wearing t-shirts of his own design, but get to know him, witness one of his performances, or listen to one of his records and you'll likely find yourself charmed.

Andy has made an impact on my family in a big way, which I've mentioned on this blog before. My husband went back to school after having a conversation with Andy at Snug Harbor one night. Although I joke that he took career advice from someone named Andy the Doorbum, my husband is happy about his decision.

His music has also put me in the mindset of certain characters and situations when working on my books. It helps get me to that mental place I need to be to write. I titled a chapter after one of his songs and consider him one of the inspirations behind the book.

Art begets art - a sentiment I think he'd approve of.

Those at his going away party Sunday will witness his evolution of art begetting art. He plans to start the show from the door booth where he recorded his first album then move chronologically through his different projects and collaborations over the years ending with his Alien/Native Movement. The show is likely to sell out, so buy tickets in advance.

Although he no longer has family here, Fenstermaker expects he'll return from time to time to perform and visit with friends. So it's not goodbye forever although he has shed much of the possessions and work he accumulated while living here. He even burned old journals in an exercise of renewal that kicked off the residency at Snug Harbor. That was even before he knew that change would mean a cross country move.

Tickets to Sunday's show are $5-$7. Friends Hectagons, Bo White, Robert Childers, and Nerve Endings will also play.

(Photo by Sarah Sitkin)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

This week's hot concerts


Surfer Blood
Friday  6 p.m., Fountain Plaza, NC Music Factory, $10, www.ncmusicfactory.com  
The early summer concert series ends with the indie guitar-rock headliner that’s wherewithal has been tested leading up to the release of its new album, “1000 Palms.” Guitarist Thomas Fakete left the band recently to undergo cancer treatment and in May donations to his medical fund were stolen from the band’s van along with gear.

Groove 8
Friday  9 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $8-$10, www.visulite.com  
The Charlotte jazz-funk act celebrates ten years together with the release of a digital compilation called “Decades.” Now sharing members with Bette Midler, Prince, and Paul Simon’s bands, the group will be joined by two Detroit musicians during its annual trek to San Francisco and a late summer tour overseas.

The Rippingtons
Saturday  8 p.m., Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St., $45-$70, www.blumenthalarts.org
As the contemporary jazz group led by guitarist/composer Russ Freeman approaches its 30th anniversary in 2016, the band continues to explore oft-revisited geographical inspiration while delving into themes through unique collaborations - from scoring the Weather Channel to working with Black Label Society guitarist Zack Wylde.


Malcolm Holcombe
Saturday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $10, www.eveningmuse.com
The country-folk singer-songwriter (think NC’s answer to Guy Clark-meets-Tom Waits) marks 20 years of music by rerecording favorite tracks from his 11 releases with frequent band members at RCA Studios in Nashville for the new CD and DVD “The RCA Sessions.” It stands as a fine collection and career overview.

Charlotte 1960’s Rock n’ Roll Reunion
Saturday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $15, www.neighborhoodtheatre.com  
For the third year running author and photographer Daniel Coston, who chronicles the history of `60s rock n’ roll in his book with musician Jake Berger, reunites Aiken, SC’s Mod IV and Durham’s the Bondsmen for the first time in over 45 years along with the Kinksmen and Berger’s band Mannish Boys.


Andy the Doorbum
Sunday  9 p.m., The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd., $5-$7, www.themilestoneclub.com  
Before heading West to join his visual artist fiancĂ© in L.A., Charlotte’s resident noir folkie-turned-performance-artist revisits his past from the door booth where he started through his latest guerilla-art inspired persona on stage with collaborative stops in between. The city is losing a unique voice in underground art with his departure.

Def Leppard
Tuesday  7 p.m., PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd., $25-$99, www.livenation.com
The English rock giants who weathered the death of guitarist Steve Clark, drummer Rick Allen losing an arm, and the onset of grunge, can’t be held down for long. It announced this week that guitarist Vivian Campbell, who is being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, is back on stage after missing only the first two days of the tour with Styx and Tesla.


Merle Haggard
Tuesday  7:30 p.m., Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., $20-$59.50/$74.50 VIP, www.blumenthalarts.org  The country music legend has influenced everyone from mainstream stars like George Strait and Gretchen Wilson to roots rockers the Avett Brothers. His legacy and influence is actually mentioned in several songs by other artists. At age 78 he continues to tour often.


Chrisette Michele
Tuesday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $33.58, www.livenation.com
The R&B singer and reality television star takes a break from working on her fifth album - an experience which she’s been sharing with fans via her YouTube Vlog - for a run of tour dates. Inspired by current racial strife in the US, she promises an album that reflects music’s place within the turmoil she’s witnessing in the news.


Daughtry
Thursday  7 p.m., Carowinds Palladium, 14523 Carowinds Blvd., $59.99-$99.99, www.ticketmaster.com
Before hitting Camp Lejeune to celebrate the 4th with the troops, the rockers return close to home to kick off the holiday weekend. The Carolinian singer continues to diversify his resume. He was booked to play a drug addicted musician on a Fox pilot this season, but the show remains in limbo since the network passed on the “Empire-esque” series.



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

CLT rapper drops infectious new EP at monthly Southern hip-hop night

Charlotte-native Elevator Jay releases his new EP "Sum'na Say" Tuesday. He celebrates with a listening party at the monthly Southern hip-hop night at Snug Harbor called Playa Made that he hosts and DJs with Rapper Shane (formerly Stranger Day) and Ahuff.

You can also catch him live this weekend at Clture Fest at ChopShop, where he'll perform early in the day. The eclectic indie rock, roots and hip-hop lineup features several Carolina artists include the Love Language, TOW3RS, RBTS Wins, and Susto along with Charlotte's Miami Dice, Serfs, Rapper Shane, Pullman Strike, Elevator Jay, Modern Primitives, Stereoloud, the Tills, Late Bloomer, and Susto. Philly's Man Man and Utah's Desert Noises will headline.

He will also perform an afternoon set at Snug Harbor July 4th celebration with Rapper Shane and Three 6 Mafia's acclaimed female emcee Gangsta Boo.

You can check out "Sum'na Say" at Elevator Jay's Bandcamp site or his Soundcloud page. He's offering it as a free download, but it will also be for sale on iTunes and under Bandcamp's Name Your Price program. He may even give some copies away at the listening party tonight.

Although I've only had a couple days with it, so far "Sum'na Say" is pretty terrific. It's always a good sign if I'm listening to something and my husband asks if I have a download of it to share. What I think caught his ear was just how catchy and smooth it is. He praised the melodies and ventured that it was as good as any current hip-hop he'd encountered lately.

My favorite tracks so far are "Ride Out" and "Chicken Wangz." Both coast on that smooth, timeless quality that I think encompasses the idea of transcending genres, which Rapper Shane mentioned to me while describing his friend's new EP.

Check out the links and Elevator Jay live this weekend at Chop Shop.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Weenie Roast taps old and new favorites for 20th anniversary

WEND 106.5 The End's End of Summer Weenie Roast may have taken a few years off in the mid `00s, but the new rock station is still celebrating its 20th year in September with an impressive lineup.

Following 2014's festival (technically its 14th, which was capped by a fun, nostalgic performance from Weezer) this year's bill finds another act that made its name in the `90s - Stone Temple Pilots - in the headlining slot. The entire lineup reflects the station's mix of  `90s grunge and mainstream alternative rock, which emerged at the same time as WEND was solidifying its format, and current rock and pop-rock favorites with a bit of Americana thrown in for good measure.

Blues Traveler and Live join STP to fill the `90s quotient, while Passion Pit, Bleachers, Atlas Genius, X Ambassadors, IAMDYNAMITE, Langhorne Slim & the Law, Kopecy, Catfish & the Bottlemen, and alt-rock stalwart MuteMath (who came along during the decade between STP and Bleachers) give the 20th Weenie youthful spark.

Stone Temple Pilots and Live no longer feature original vocalists Scott Weiland and Ed Kowalczyk. STP features Chester Bennington of Linkin Park on vocals. Chris Shinn, formerly of the band Unified Theory and son of former Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn, now fronts Live.

Pre-sale starts Tuesday at 10 a.m. The pre-sale password is "Weenie." A limited number of lawn seats will be available for $10.65. Gold Circle and pit tickets will also be available. General sales start Friday at 10 a.m. at LiveNation.com and at LiveNation ticket sellers.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

This week's hot concerts

Juicy J
Friday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $38.73, www.livenation.com
The Oscar winning veteran Three 6 Mafia rapper is enjoying the attention of a new generation of hip-hop and pop fans through collaborations with Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry. He continues the youthful star collabs on his upcoming 2015 album.


Chris Stapleton
Friday  9 p.m., Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St., $16-$20, www.amossouthend.com  
This Kentucky musician spent 15 years writing tracks for everyone from George Strait to Adele and two of those in Grammy nominated bluegrass band the Steeldrivers. So it’s no wonder his solo debut “Traveller” is lighting up the charts and critics’ early 2015 best lists.

Beatles Tribute Night
Saturday  7:30 p.m., Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St., $19.80-$30, www.blumenthalarts.org
The annual tribute to the Fab Four presented by the folks behind the 25-year running Tosco Music Parties features 15 artists covering Beatles’ songs in a variety of styles. The three-hour concert is usually a sell-out that boasts local musicians amped to take a break from their own material to pay homage to one of their favorite artists.


The Weepies
Saturday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $22-$25, www.neighborhoodtheatre.com  
The married folk pop duo - go-to collaborators for artists like Mandy Moore whose songs have been used in numerous television shows and during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign - weathered wife Deb Talan’s breast cancer diagnosis shortly after the birth of their third child. In remission since 2014, the band returns with “Sirens” its first album in five years.

Antiseen
Sunday  6 p.m., Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave., $12-$15, www.tremontmusichall.com
Not all dads want to golf or grill, so the veteran Charlotte Southern punk stalwart offers an alternative to cap your Father’s Day activities - an early evening hardcore punk rock show with probably blood splatter for the metal, hard rock, and possibly pro-wrestling-loving dad in your life. With No Anger Control and Hookers.

K Flay
Sunday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $10, www.neighborhoodtheatre.com
During last summer’s Warped Tour Bayside singer Anthony Raneri mentioned that this female indie rapper/songwriter stopped him in his tracks with her performance. Now she’s turning heads with her smart mix of hip-hop and indie rock opening for bands like Third Eye Blind and AWOLNATION this summer. Here she plays a rare solo date.

Colony House
Sunday  8 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $12-$14, www.visulite.com  
After opening for fellow Southern pop-rockers NeedtoBreathe at Uptown Amphitheatre last month the Tennessee trio, which features Christian music giant Stephen Curtis Chapman’s sons Caleb and Will on vocals and drums, respectively, returns for a headlining gig showcasing its expansive, emotive dreamy guitar pop.


Betty Who
Wednesday  8 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $16-$18, www.visulite.com  
The 23-year-old Aussie wowed fans of public displays of romance when her track #1 dance single “Somebody Love’s You” went viral during a gay fan’s flash-mob marriage proposal in 2013. She’s gained cred with LGBT fans through Pride events, a Logo NewNowNext award and a song on “Glee” and relatable pop on her debut album “Take Me When You Go.”

Natalie Cole
Thursday  7:30 p.m., Belk Theater, 130 S. Tryon St., $20-$69.50/$84.50 VIP, www.blumenthalarts.org 
After tackling everything from pop music to her father’s catalog on the groundbreaking “Unforgettable,” the veteran singer received multiple Latin Grammy nominations for her 2013 collection of Latin standards which she revisits live. Having learned from her father Nat King Cole and friends like Frank Sinatra, 


Michael Franti & Spearhead
Thursday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $38.23, www.livenation.com
After last summer’s yoga-themed outdoor tour, the activist/band leader is back indoors promoting positivity with the summer tour’s “Once A Day” which is also the name of the first single from his upcoming album. The genre-splicing singer/guitarist explains that the song and tour encourages people to share and spread love at least once every 24 hours.