Friday, August 5, 2016

This week's hot concerts

Reeve Coobs
Saturday 8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $10,
The gifted Charlotte singer-songwriter celebrates the release of her second album, “Me + You,” a collection of love songs that were a challenge for the seasoned writer. Like her debut, “What Love Is All About,” “Me + You” is a stunning set at times reminiscent of the best female songwriters of the `70s when the lines of country and rock, folk and AM pop weren’t so defined. 

Tuesday 6 p.m., Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $29.50-$110/$200 VIP,
Now that `90s nostalgia has kicked in, it’s the perfect time for Gavin Rossdale and the second incarnation of the UK’s answer to grunge to headline again. The group isn’t merely a nostalgia act though, it’s continued to make new music and clocked a few new hits since relaunching in 2010. Its teamed with fellow heavy alt-rocker Chevelle, who managed to escape the `90s nu-metal tag with late entries like “La Gargola” and July’s “The North Corridor.” 

Motion City Soundtrack
Wednesday 7:30 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $20,
With almost 20 years (13 of them successful), six albums full of witty observations on relationships, playful lyrics, pop culture nods and Moog-spiked pop-punk and emo, the Minneapolis band embarks on its So Long, Farewell Tour. Although the break could be simply a hiatus, it feels like the real thing with the band touting its “final shows” at venues on the tour.

Kansas Bible Company/The Everymen
Wednesday 10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $2-$10,
The second week of Ink Floyd’s God Save the Queen City residency boasts bands with wild energy on stage and a disregard for what’s trendy. With between 7 and 11 members Nashville’s KBC looks more like a club than a band. Its sweeping melodies and quirky passages are punctuated by horns. The Everymen’s sax-laden E Street rock channel the seemingly unrelated “Grease” and “Eddie & the Cruisers” soundtracks, Dinosaur Jr., and Murder City Devils.

I Prevail
Thursday 7 p.m., The Underground, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $16,
How do you make hardcore more accessible? If you’re this Detroit hard rock unit who blew up in 2015 by covering Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” (over 24 million YouTube hits), you pair your growling screamer with a capable singer whose voice tempers the masculine aggression. The formula works given the catchiness of songs like “Scars,” which will appear on the band’s full-length debut “Lifelines” in October. 

Brandy Clark
Thursday 8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $20-$25,
Like Kacey Musgraves - her co-writer on Miranda Lambert’s hit “Mama’s Broken Heart” – the Grammy nominated Washington state native brings a sassy realness to Music Row. She may be better known for penning the Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two,” but the smart, funny, and heart tugging songs on her new album “Big Day in a Small Town” should garner a larger audience.

Thursday 9 p.m., The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd., $10,
When the now Berlin-based band formed in Chapel Hill nearly two decades ago, no one else was mixing experimental electronic music, hardcore, and winking subversive social commentary. That’s what made early albums like “Frigid Forms Sell” and “Anaesthetic” so fresh and exciting. The partially reunited band is back with a re-release of “Frigid Forms” and a new album, “Overseas.”

Friday, July 29, 2016

This week's hot concerts

2nd Annual QC Summerfest
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 7 p.m,, 7 p.m., and 6 p.m., respectively, Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., $39.50-$69.50 each night or $187.65 3 night pass,
This three-day jazz festival is made up of several downtown concerts from intimate after parties to daytime shows and even bowling. Headliners are Boney James Friday, Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, and Norman Brown Saturday, and Jonathan Butler Sunday. Maysa (of Incognito) celebrates 25 years in music Saturday  afternoon at McGlohon. Stage Door Theater features late night sets, and guitarist David P. Stevens plays Strike City Sunday. Tickets for non-Belk shows are available separately.

Phillip Phillips/Matt Nathanson
Friday 7 p.m., Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $25-$55,
“American Idol” has sung its final note, but 2012’s Season 11 winner Phillips was the Fox series’ last winner to achieve widespread name recognition. Now working on his third album, he’s graduated from opening for Matchbox Twenty and John Mayer to co-headline with veteran folk-rock singer-songwriter Nathanson, whose own TV appearances from “The Bachelor” to “That Metal Show” have broadened his audience.

Friday 7:15 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $10, 
Since leaving the Queen City to chase Hollywood music stardom, Charlotte native Joe Firstman has had a wildly varied career that echoes ability to adapt to any style. It’s included a deal with Atlantic, tours with Jewel and Sheryl Crow, a stint as an NBC late night band leader, and a jazz club with actor Danny Masterson. Now he and three stellar Nashville cats are showcasing stunning harmonies and a roots-anchored Southern sound that may be his best work yet.

Jon Lindsay
Friday 8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $10,
The Charlotte native and recent Triangle transplant has drawn more attention for his political songwriting and activism of late as cofounder of the NC Music Love Army and presence at Moral Mondays. Since releasing his long awaited new album, “Cities & Schools” last month, he’s also attracting national ears with snappy pop songwriting that’s big on quirkiness but never strays far from hooks.

Acoustic Syndicate
Friday 9 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $20,
Although the Western NC progressive roots quintet now spends more time on the farm and in the wild (the McMurry family has worked in NC agriculture for generations) than on a tour bus, it still makes time for semi-annual regional gigs like this one at its old Charlotte haunt. Expect songs from its `90s and early `00s as well as from its latest – 2013’s “Rooftop Garden.” 

Fifty Watt Freight Train/Something Clever
Saturday 8 p.m., The Underground, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $10,
The Fillmore opens a neighboring sister venue that strives to fill the void left by Tremont and Chop Shop or so its current calendar of locals and rising and established indie acts (the Struts, Danny Brown, Nothing But Thieves) indicates. Although the new digs may not ooze the same dirty rock club vibe as its homegrown predecessors, it gives hard rock fixtures like these two acts a new spot to call home.

Slipknot/Marilyn Manson
Tuesday 6:30 p.m., PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd., $30-$70,
Still on the mend from his June spinal surgery, frontman Corey Taylor admits he’s had to reevaluate his physical performance, but, because of it, is vocally better than ever. The masked marauders are joined by opener Of Mice and Men and Manson, who has something to prove given his uneven 2015 Carolina Rebellion performance that had even die-hard fans scratching their heads.

GSTQC August Residency
Wednesday 10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $2-$10,
The folks behind the annual God Save the Queen City festival expand the indie music fest again while shaking up its format. It all starts with this Wednesday residency curated by Ink Floyd with Philly indie rock foursome Left & Right, NC’s answer to second wave riot grrrl, Daddy Issues, and two of the city’s best emcees Rapper Shane and Elevator Jay, who both released new material this summer.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Review: Guns n' Roses in Atlanta

As Slash ripped into the opening notes of "Nightrain" - the last pre-encore song of Guns n' Roses' set in Atlanta Wednesday - I was struck by the realization that it was almost over. In just three more songs the show I'd waited to see since I was 12 years old (or a semblance of it) would be over. The anticipation was over and it might be the first and last time I'd see this configuration of the band with three out of five original members. At that moment the questionable sound and distance of a cavernous stadium show - things that would certainly come into play in a review - washed away.

Yet there's a glimmer of hope that "Not in This Lifetime" could be more than once in a lifetime. There was a moment earlier in the show as the crowd roared in response to Axl's sustained notes during "New Rose" when the famously difficult front man smiled knowingly and threw a sideways glance at guitarist Slash. For years fans were used to seeing angry Axl, but at that moment any sort of rock star facade melted away and genuine excitement and appreciation were evident. He may be almost 30 years older than when we met him, but there's still a hint of boyish joy in his eyes.

When I saw Rose's version of Guns at BiLo Center in Greenville, SC on Halloween 2011, the arena was largely empty. Maybe half full? (Yet they played a nearly four hours). The crowd Wednesday, exceeded 40,000. A count that had one Uber driver assessing it "bigger than Beyonce`."  Just wading through the masses on the way to our seats was daunting given that my date was my seven year old son who kept a death grip on my hand as we slowly maneuvered around snaking beer, merch, and food lines that extended into the walkways. My only other time at the Georgia Dome - Wrestlemania 2011 - seemed like a breeze in comparison.

The sheer number of people and booze poured made me nervous, but once at our seats the Gn'R crowd turned out to be amicable and friendly. No one spilled beer on my boy and I wasn't tempted to come to blows with any drunk, inconsiderate fools (as I was in Greenville). Instead we were bonded by an experience most of us assumed we'd never have.

The long walk through the crowd meant I missed all but opener the Cult's final song "Love Removal Machine." The sound was muddy under the concrete layer of seats that sheltered our lower level riser seats. That same less than pristine boominess was present during the opening "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone," although by the end of the fourth song - "Welcome to the Jungle" - the levels had improved. At its height, Axl's howl and Slash and Richard Fortus' guitars cut through everything else.

It didn't hurt that the crowd was singing along heartily. While I'd have preferred to have heard "Appetite for Destruction" in its entirety above anything else, the responses to covers (and longtime set staples) "Live and Let Die" and, much later in the set, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" were huge.

Although Axl may have garnered the bulk of headlines over the years, Slash and Duff were as much the stars and as he was. McKagan, who always brought a punk edge to the band, took the lead on a cover of the Stooges' "Raw Power." Slash repeatedly drew oohs and ahs with rippling guitar solos including a lovely rendition of "The Godfather theme" and a duet with Fortus of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Those segments gave Rose's voice time to recover (and for him to change his t-shirt and headgear every few songs). I once told him during an interview that the solo to "Sweet Child O' Mine" is the one my husband hears botched most often running sound for cover bands (he laughed), but his handling of it Wednesday was perfect.

That now 54 year old voice was in fine form scaling the rafters during songs like "New Rose," "Out Ta Get Me" and the encore "Paradise City." He had ample backup from McKagan, keyboardist Dizzy Reed, and additional keyboardist Melissa Reese, who added a female counterpoint to Axl's witchy yowl.

Although there was no sighting of original drummer Steven Adler, who joined the band on stage in Nashville and Cincinnati, drummer Frank Ferrer does a fine job.

As with the aforementioned covers, Gn'R paid tribute to its influences. McKagan wore a Motorhead t-shirt and a Prince sticker on his white bass and Slash threw in a few funky licks from Prince's "Kiss" during the extended portion of "Rocket Queen."

While Reed and Reese punctuated the set with keys, Rose kept his channeling of Liberace (those diamonds!) and Elton John limited to a lovely late show "November Rain."

Its core members may be in their fifties now, but with Rose's middle fingers, crotch grabs and naked breast t-shirts Guns n' Roses still isn't a band you'd want to take home to mom. At the merch booth my son requested a giant foam finger - a middle finger waving the bird - for instance. I had to explain that wasn't a nice gesture and no, he couldn't have one (he did hear songs I don't normally let him listen to like "It's So Easy" and "Out Ta Get Me").

It stuck to the set it's been playing since Coachella, although the overall show seemed fine-tuned since then. It helped that Rose is on his feet. The energy was palpable on songs like "You Could Be Mine" and the lengthy psych-goth-punk exercise "Coma." The sing-along "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" served as a climax with the encore of "Patience" (not one they do nightly) and pyro-laden "Paradise City" leaving fans covered in confetti.

While I'll always long for the original lineup recreating "Appetite," Guns is far from that gritty Sunset Strip band and that's OK because it's much, much better than nothing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

God Saves the QC with month long list of shows to benefit Milestone

The annual God Save the Queen City festival returns for its sixth year in August. Instead of an all-day fest as in its first four years or last year's multi-day event, the taste-making event will change formats somewhat taking over Snug Harbor's weekly residency and culminating with a larger concert at the Fillmore.

The main concert takes place August 27 at The Fillmore with Austin-based Canadian guitar and drum duo Black Pistol Fire, Greenville, SC native and cool country singer-songwriter Nikki Lane, Nashville's Promised Land Sound, and Charlotte's Serfs.

The first 500 early bird tickets for the Fillmore show are $10. After that advanced tickets are $15 and $20 at the door.

The weekly residencies also presented by Charlotte-based screenprinters Ink Floyd and Pabst Blue Ribbon take place each Wednesday and feature both out of town and local acts. Admission for those is a $2 donation that will go toward the Save the Milestone campaign. Greater monetary donations are encouraged.

Wednesday Aug. 3 kicks off with Nashville's Daddy Issues, Charlottesville's Left and Right, and Charlotte hip-hop fixtures Elevator Jay and Rapper Shane. Acts for Aug. 10 are Nashville Kansas Bible Company, New Jersey's rock powerhouse the Everymen, and Charlotte's Business People.

August 17 it's T. Hardy and the Knocks from Athens with Charlotte's Dust & Ashes and Landless. Memphis' Space Face team with Charlotte's It's Snakes and Ancient Cities Aug. 24. And the God Save the QC residency ends with a Houston Brothers reunion Aug. 31. The Houstons follow Noises Ten and Hot Gates' frontman Jason Scavone, and Midwood staples the Fat Face Band.

God Save the Queen City is again teaming with Heist Brewery on a signature seasonal English porter. The beer will make its debut at Heist July 15 where local rockers Temperance League, who performed at past GSTQC, will perform. 

For more information check out,

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Carolina Rebellion's inaugural 3-day run offers diversity and camaraderie

Carolina Rebellion ends its three day run at Rock City Campgrounds today. The festival kicked off in Concord Friday with a mix of classic rock and metal, `90s radio staples, and a smattering of current acts. It continued Saturday with half of thrash metal’s Big Four and some of the genre’s bigger acts.
Expanding from two to three days for the first time in its six year history allowed for a more eclectic lineup. Friday’s focus was largely nostalgic.

German metal legends the Scorpions – Friday’s headliner - marked the occasion as its first with longtime Motorhead drummer Mikkey Dee, who is filling in on the band’s North American dates. The Swede’s first drum solo here since Motorhead’s final show in Charlotte in September felt like a triumphant return. The death of Motorhead’s linchpin, Lemmy Kilmister, in December marked the end of Dee’s 23 years with the group. 

Many in the Rebellion crowd had never gotten a chance to see Scorpions before and the group didn’t disappoint. It kicked its set off with “Going Out With a Bang” from its 2015 album “Return to Forever.” The introduction felt like a mission statement for the night and for the band, given its 51 year history. Some of its members are only a few years shy of 70. The production was what you expect of a headliner, with Dee on a stage-length platform a story above the rest of the band (who came and went via two hidden staircases) and a series of graphics interspersed with footage of the band on three giant screens.

Scorpions (below) surprisingly didn’t stack the setlist with hit after hit opting for 1990’s “Tease Me Please Me” instead of radio staple “Rhythm of Love” or power ballads “Wind of Change” or “Believe in Love.” It did offer up “Still Loving You” during the encore. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” put the final exclamation point on the night. 

The crowd, which trudged in droves between the two main stages all weekend, went from Jacksonville, Florida - a hit-filled set by road dogs Lynyrd Skynyrd - to Deutschland. For years Skynyrd has performed at the seated PNC Music Pavilion as a co-headliner or support act, but the chaos of the general admission crowd added a new energy to the show. Given his expression as he launched into a solo during “Sweet Home Alabama,” guitarist Rickey Medlocke seemed to note the crowd surfing. The Southern rock band may have seemed an odd fit for the heavy festival, but given the location and its historical place in rock, Skynyrd fit right in. 

Georgia’s Collective Soul, which closed out a run of `90s hit makers on one of two smaller stages, was a fitting lead-in for Skynyrd with pop-rock radio staples “The World I Know” and “Shine.” The latter even had fans in the field who were simply waiting for the next band singing along.

Filter and Candlebox preceded Collective Soul as did another hit-heavy band, Three Doors Down, on the main stage. While those acts are mainstream rock staples, the more aggressive Escape the Fate and New Year’s Day appealed to a younger crowd on the opposite side stage. The former was at the mercy of Friday’s brisk winds, which meant inconsistent volume during songs like “Just a Memory.”
Veterans of hard rock giants, Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) and Vinnie Paul (Pantera), respectively gave crowds a taste of their current bands Sixx:A.M. and Hellyeah. Paul’s rumbling blast beats shook the hill top as he and his bandmates from Mudvayne and Nothingface plowed through Hellyeah’s late afternoon set. 

Sixx:A.M. - Sixx’s collaboration with former Guns n’ Roses guitarist DJ Ashba and producer/vocalist James Michael - delved into theatrical, almost rock opera territory with two female backing vocalists whose voices could go from shouting catchy choruses to operatic swells. They were certainly not just eye candy and contributed to the show with those varied vocals and interplay with frontman Michael. With a focus on uplifting, positive messages and that theatrical bent, Sixx:A.M. proved to be doing something that no one else is right now and it worked to its advantage. 

There are always a few wild cards on the bill, and NC’s prog-metal experimentalists Between the Buried and Me filled that role. It’s fluttering, harmony dual guitar parts, nimble sci-fi bass lines, and mood altering synthesizer were actually the perfect soundtrack for the sunset. Even if its rollercoaster of arty metal was too heady for some, everyone recognized its cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” – an ambitious festival feat given the length of the song and the brevity of anyone but the headliners’ sets.  

Short sets meant a 25 year old band like Clutch, who closed out the same side stage as BTBAM on Saturday, was relegated to 30 minutes. It opted for four tracks from its latest album, “Psychic Warfare,” one from its previous release, and two older tracks. 

The format also meant fans had to choose between side stage acts, while the main stage bands alternated times. That pitted Clutch against recent Grammy winners Ghost, whose theatrical show and last year’s radio play and buzz meant the Swedish metal band was one of the festival’s newer must-sees. Visually its costumes were scaled back to simple white faces and black clothes, but the performance was not. 

Yet the variety of the bill meant Saturday fans could also opt for the psychedelic stoner metal of the Sword or Parkway Drive's growling metalcore.

Thrash metal founders Anthrax and Megadeth played in succession on the Carolina stage. As with past Rebellions, Anthrax packed its 40-minute set with mosh-inducing staples “Caught in the Mosh,” “Got the Time” its “Antisocial” cover and “Indians” along with a couple from its new album. 

The crowd surfing and circle pits continued for Dave Mustaine, Dave Ellefson and company. The 54 year old band leader seemed a kinder, gentler version sharing his appreciation for the fans and joking about messing up the lyrics to “Sweating Bullets.” Its set ended with the obligatory one-two punch of “Peace Sells” and “Holy Wars.” 

Florida’s A Day to Remember brought pop punk and hardcore punch to the opposite main stage as the sun began to set. While delivering one catchy chorus after another, the young-by-comparison band’s set was also big on antics with a guy in a hot pepper costume shooting t-shirts at the crowd, an anatomically correct blow-up doll making its way to the stage, singer Jeremy McKinnon daring the audience to surf on top of crowd surfers. While most attempts at the latter were foiled by gravity and the fact that a constantly moving crowd isn’t Cirque du Soliel, a few managed to stay vertical atop the crowd for a few seconds. 

Lamb of God and Five Finger Death Punch delivered a biting punch of metal on both fronts with Shinedown’s more mainstream rock closing out Saturday night. 

Carolina Rebellion finishes up Sunday with headlining sets from Deftones, Rob Zombie and Disturbed. Horror rock icon Alice Cooper closes out the side stage in the fitting pre-Zombie slot. The lineup also continues to diversify with late afternoon sets from rapper Yelawolf and Cypress Hill and punk vets Pennywise. Japan’s female fronted Baby Metal will certainly draw curious onlookers with its cartoony image and theatrical, symphonic metal.

Throughout the weekend there was a defiant spirit that Carolina Rebellion and its sister festivals prove that rock - while it’s not the sole chart-ruler it once was – is by no means dead. But it’s sudden underdog status isn’t lost on the people who make the music. Hellyeah praised the region’s “metal community” and Pop Evil’s Leigh Kakaty thanked the crowd for being the kind of people who go to a show on Friday night. 

Entertainment has taken a hit across the board in the past 15 years, not only due to downloading and the collapsing record industry, but in the live arena as well with more people choosing to stay online at home than engage in a live concert. Yet as a stranger lifted my 60 pound 7 year old on to his shoulders to watch Megadeth (top), I was reminded of the camaraderie and community that these kinds of events create. In a global climate where so much emphasis is on division, the kind of unity music creates is greatly needed. 

Maybe it was the weather - much cooler than the previous few years, with rain falling only for a short time during Scorpions' set - or the ease of traffic coming in from I-85 during the afternoons this year, but

Carolina Rebellion seems to get easier to manage each year (although I don't know how traffic was coming in from the Speedway). The cigarette smoke, lack of vegetarian vendors (it's mac n' cheese, fries or nachos), or late day breeze from the port-a-potties and occasional mud were the only downsides this year and for many, if not most concert goers, smoking and meat are part of a metal way of life.