Saturday, November 22, 2014

My 5 year old has a new internet radio show

Sunday marks the premier of my son’s new internet radio show. I really didn’t think I’d be making this announcement so soon. He’s only 5. 

The Devo Radio Show, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday on Plaza Midwood Community Radio, isn't really a kid's show. It just happens to be hosted by a kindergartener who has such a deep knowledge of rock n’ roll that, once a friend at PMCR clued into it, it seemed only natural for him to share his passion and interest and get some broadcasting experience.

I can see where you might think, "Oh, this woman is clearly humoring her child," but I had almost nothing to do with the show getting on the air. Devo chooses all the music, does all the commentary - aside from his brother introducing his pick - and my husband records and edits it to fit in an hour block. You see if you let him, Devo will go on and on about the Who, the Ramones, Kiss, Neon Trees, Cage the Elephant, Rancid and whatever other band he’s into, naming dates, band members, and other facts he's memorized.

I guess I did have something to do with that.

When I found out I was pregnant with him I started keeping a journal where I recorded what concerts I went to and what I was listening to as I was writing - usually on Shuffle to get an even mix. After he was born I kept it up, making iPod mixes and seeing what songs resonated with him. I continued this process for his little brother, who has much more eclectic tastes (ABBA, Phantogram and Against Me! are favorites). I considered it my unscientific study of how what we hear as infants and toddlers inform our tastes as adults. I’ll continue this “study” as he grows up.

He is a mini me in a lot of ways. I began teaching him rhythm listening to Alkaline Trio’s "Calling All Skeletons" in his car seat at about 18 months. The first things constantly on repeat and performed in our living room were "Run" by a rocking hip-hop duo called the Knux and "Diane" by the defunct Chicago power pop trio Material Issue. The latter was because his teacher was named Diane and I started singing it to him one day. That’s all it takes.

Blur’s “Song 2” popping up on Shuffle led to an obsession that included naming action figures after the band. He pontificates about the stronger versions of certain Blur tracks (remix vs. original, seriously).

I was singing "Rockaway Beach" in anticipation a beach trip and that opened the floodgates. He became Joey Ramone. He wore nothing but jeans and t-shirts for a few months. I had to buy him a leather jacket (fake of course). Our family dressed as the Ramones for Halloween. And when asked if he’d rather go to Disney or make a pilgrimage to see the Ramones' graves, he - in all seriousness - chose the Ramones.

That’s just scratching the surface. His latest obsessions are Kiss and the Who (the former sparked by this summer's Kiss Tour). If you saw our Halloween pics on Instragram (yeah that's us), that pretty much sums it up (it's done wonders for my makeup skills).

His interest in music, which also includes playing drums, guitar, and taking piano lessons, has also helped him learn how to read (googling bands), do math (calculating ages and birth and death dates faster than I ever could), and about geography (through mapping tours and reading about where acts are from).

I never expected when I logged my first journal entry about realizing I was pregnant at Bonnaroo and keeping it to myself until after the Cure show when we got home, that the “experiment” would lead to a 5-year-old with a radio show. The most important part is that he seems to be having a blast doing it and it's given him something he and his dad can share (my husband's still hoping for the day Pink Floyd is on the playlist).

Tune in Sunday at 5 p.m. EST.

(Photos courtesy of Courtney Devores and Lauren Marlowe)

Friday, November 21, 2014

This week's hot concerts

Love and Theft
Friday  8 p.m., Coyote Joe’s, 4621 Wilkinson Blvd., $12,  
Matthews-native Eric Gunderson - one half of this country duo best known for 2011’s "Angel Eyes" - is one of a handful of national artists returning home for pre-holiday concerts. He and Stephen Barker Liles embark on their first headlining trek with the "Night You’ll Never Forget Tour" in anticipation of a new album in February.

Friday  8 p.m., Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave., $12,  
After a run on this summer’s Rock Star Energy Mayhem Festival the technical metal wizards - whose self-produced album “Cannibal” has been drawing accolades - play a hometown show at their old thrashing grounds before heading out on the Warriors of Winter Tour with Battlecross next week.

Friday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $33.58,  
Five days before it ends its 12-year run at the House of Blues in Orlando not far from its hometown in Florida, the alternative hard rock band makes its last Carolina appearance  on its Final Tour, folling the July release of its final album "Lowborn."

Friday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $5,
Amigo frontman Slade Baird celebrates his birthday performing his last show of the year with his rising Charlotte roots rock band. He invited two of his favorite bands - Magnolia Collective and Sinners & Saints - along for the ride before Amigo gets serious upping its touring efforts in 2015.

The Flatland Tourists
Saturday  9:30 p.m., Puckett’s, 2740 West Sugar Creek Rd., $5, 
This Union County roots music collective of seasoned players and songwriters laces bluegrass instrumentation with shades of early `70s rock and classic country and then tops it with the soulful bluesy singing of Rachel Garcia. Its self-titled, Mark Williams-produced debut EP, which was released earlier this month.

Tyler Ramsey
Saturday  10 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $12-$15,
The Asheville-based Band of Horses guitarist who has released three solo albums and often opens for his more famous band returns for an intimate set of haunting, dreamy pastoral folk that’s reminiscent to Neil Young (thanks for Ramsey's voice and delivery).

Sunday  7:30 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $52.91,
The Big Four metal giant takes a break from working on a 2015 release to reteam with Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus for its first Charlotte headlining show in many years. The upcoming album will be its first without founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman (who died in 2013) and its first since 2001 with drummer Paul Bostaph.

Lyfe Jennings
Sunday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 35th St., $35,  
Make it a date night fellas. The R&B crooner may have weathered his share of drama (two stints in prison), but the reformed musician wows as a Luther Vandross-style romantic showman that nearly sings the clothes off the ladies without getting raunchy.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
Sunday  8 p.m., Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., $39.50-$84.50,  
The holiday juggernaut rolls into uptown to kick off the season as it celebrates its 30th Anniversary Christmas Tour. With such high demand and such a short window of time to celebrate, this is one of two simultaneous tours hitting the US between now and New Year’s.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: Kid and adult-friendly, Marvel Universe Live! blasts into uptown

Marvel Universe Live! blasted into Time Warner Cable Arena Friday with a cast of high flying and motorcycle stunt-racing superheroes. The live-action show, which pairs the Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man not to mention an all-star group of Marvel villains, runs through Sunday.

Although there were plenty of distractions in the lobby for younger kids that couldn't quite hang for the whole show, the real attraction was on the arena floor where all the comic book franchise's heavy hitters gathered to battle Thor's brother Loki for an all-powerful Cosmic Cube. Loki kidnapped The X-Men's Storm, Wolverine, and Cyclops in order to power a clone Cosmic Cube since Thor busted up the real cube and scattered it around the globe.

Sound confusing? That's the nature of superhero stories. Thor with the Avengers, Spider-Man, and Wolverine team up to reassemble the original cube in order to beat Loki. As with most of the movies, the story is secondary to the action here which incorporates aerial stunts, ground combat, car chases, and motorcycles, The latter steals the show. The biggest gasp occurred when two-wheeled Captain America scaled a ramp and jumped on stage chasing Red Skull up and down a half-pipe that doubled as Tony Stark's office (Peter Parker uses it as a skateboard ramp during his inspired introduction earlier in the show).

Marvel Universe Live! is definitely a kid's show although I found myself wincing as Wolverine sliced through enemies like a wound up Freddy Krueger and wondering if I would spend my evening separating my boys. The dialogue, which reflects the quick banter of films and cartoons, and the stunts will appease older fans. The teaming of Wolverine and David Banner, whose amusing scenes acted as segues to bigger battles, seemed especially tailored for adults. Adults could also appreciate the skill the cyclists exhibit as well as the dead-on casting of characters like Loki and Captain America (dead ringers for the big screen versions).

The show is divided into two parts with plenty of time to peruse merchandise during intermission. The first half sets up the premise and brings the team together, while the second, longer section finds our heroes battling familiar villains.

The Statue of Liberty-set battle between Spider-Man and Thor and Green Goblin, Black Cat, Rhino, and practically all of Spidey's foes was particularly riveting as was the motorcycle-stunt filled battle led by Captain America. Both utilized a climbing spiral walkway which mimicked the Statue of Liberty's stairs and morphed into a tiered motorcycle ramp for the next act. Each act benefited from more and more cast members on the floor. Black Widow fought Madame Hydra in one corner. The winged Falcon dodged moving bikes in another as Captain America sent his shields rocketing (via wires) through the air to take down Red Skull. By the last fight all the characters, including a cartoonish Hulk towering over the other characters, share the stage.

Not everything was as fast-paced as the cyclists or Spider-Man's acrobatic fight sequences though. Iron Man was a bit clunky, but its hard to be agile wearing a bulky suit of armor. Kids didn't seem to mind.

Including intermission, the show clocks in at two hours. I was worried my four-year-old couldn't hang. He did voice his desire to go home during the second half, but I placated him with snacks and juice, and was happy to provide loud commentary ("I'm going to get that guy" - aimed at the Hulk). My older child was happily along for the ride, afraid it was over after each battle. Spider-Man waving at my him as the show closed eclipsed everything else.

Marvel Universe Live! has three more performances at Time Warner Cable Arena this weekend - at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Find more information and tickets here.

(Photos courtesy of Marvel Universe Live!)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

This week's hot concerts

Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland & Ulster to Appalachia
Friday  7:30 p.m., Great Aunt Stella Center, 926 Elizabeth Ave., Free (donations accepted),
NPR’s “The Thistle & Shamrock” host Fiona Ritchie and Swannanoa Gathering founder and former Charlotte Folk Society president Doug Orr penned the recently published book chronicling the roots of Appalachian music, which gives the concert its title. They’ll share history and stories. Little Windows provides the soundtrack for the multimedia show.

Cameron Floyd Band/Life Size
Friday  7:30 p.m., Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St., $12, 
The local acoustic pop band celebrates the release of its new album, “Dancing the Distance.” Standout track “Change” indicates it’s an impressive collection. On its own debut EP “Mockingbird Alarmclock,” Salisbury soul-pop outfit Life Size flits between Dave Matthews-style acoustic pop and meatier almost gospel-flavored rock with emotive harmonies and colorful piano fills.

Friday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $10-$12,  
This female-fronted, Rolling Stone-endorsed Canadian combo’s self-titled album of deeply infectious indie pop lands somewhere between influential `80s alt-rock, `90s K Records, and Best Coast. It went to No. 1 on the college charts this summer. The group is paired with fellow Toronto band Absolutely Free and Charlotte’s Late Bloomer.

Friday  8:30 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $15,  
On his 2014 full-length debut “Days and Nights,” the British R&B singer/producer who got his break guesting on Gorillaz’ “Doncamatic,” skirts retro tags while making some of the most classic yet still modern R&B around. To prove it he embarks on a acoustic tour - a rarity for an electronic age artist that brings to mind Bill Withers’ moving `70’s shows.

Benefit for Luke Hill
Saturday  8:30 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $10-$20,
Charlotte musician (Animals, Public Radio) and Neighborhood Theatre bartender Luke Hill was injured by a hit and run driver walking home November 4. Locals Flagship, Junior Astronomers, Jeremiah Wilde, Warsong, One Amazing Kid, Solis, the Business People, Deep Sky and Animals will play to help with his mounting medical bills.

Max Drake & Sheila Grady Carlisle/The Mannish Boys
Saturday  9 p.m., Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave., $10-$12, 
During the `70s and `80s Drake and NC-native Carlisle’s band Arhooly was a popular blues rock fixture on the East Coast circuit. They return to the Double Door for the first time since 1989. They’ll be joined by Charlotte’s own Mannish Boys, whose sound is a throwback to classic `60s garage rock n’ roll.

Justin Townes Earle/Cory Branan
Monday  7:30 p.m., McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St., $20-$28.50,  
The now well established singer-songwriter son of Steve Earle - whose sound is deeper ingrained in the blues and old-timey rock and country than his dad’s - turns another corner through sobriety and marriage on his new album “Single Mothers” and its follow-up “Absent Fathers.” Fellow Nashville renegade and stellar songwriter Branan also plays.

Powerman 5000
Thursday  7:30 p.m., Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St., $20-$25,  
After the sudden death of scheduled headliner StaticX’s Wayne Static, Powerman 5000’s Spider One (whose band toured with StaticX in the early days and saw the upcoming bill as a reunion) stepped up to continue the tour in honor of Static (Atlanta’s show even features a StaticX tribute). With American Headcharge and Wolfborne.

Dillon Francis
Thursday  9 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $27.51,
On his long-awaited debut album, “Money Sucks, Friends Rule,” the rising EDM DJ/producer gathered disparate guest artists like Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie, Major Lazer, and Twista and mixed his slower signature moombahton style with unapologetically guilty-pleasure pop that’s melting dancefloors.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Locals bands unite to help musician injured in hit-and-run

While walking home on the morning of November 4 local musician Luke Hill was struck by a vehicle at the corner of E. 36th and The Plaza. The car did not stop. Hill was rushed to Carolinas Medical Center with a broken arm and fractured ribs and brain surgery was performed to relieve bleeding and pressure.

Friends and colleagues from local bands will play Neighborhood Theatre Saturday to help cover Hill's medical expenses.

Friends and co-workers report that Hill, who was initially in ICU and placed in a medically induced coma, has since woken up and is talking. Hill is a bartender at Neighborhood Theatre and plays in the band Animals. I knew of him from the band Public Radio, where his animated, shirtless wailing on the drum kit always brought to mind Tommy Lee.

Given the outpouring of generosity his accident has sparked in the local community, it's safe to say Hill is deeply beloved. Saturday's concert features Animals (with Leo Solis stepping in for Hill), Flagship, Junior Astronomers, WARSONG, One Amazing Kid, Jeremiah Wilde, Solis, Business People, and Deep Sky. T-shirts and patches and other items are also being sold to raise money.

As of Tuesday donations had reached nearly $18,000 through a GoFundMe page for Hill and his wife Charis started six days ago.

Businesses have also donated items for a raffle Saturday. Greenlight Tattoo, for instance, is offering up three $150 certificates toward tattoos as part of the raffle.

The funding goal is initially $20,000, but mounting medical bills and lost wages will certainly exceed that. Even if you don't know Hill, the show at Neighborhood Theatre features a great lineup of local artists and I always encourage people to catch local multi-band bills where they can really get a good overview of what Charlotte's music scene has to offer. It's also a chance to witness an outpouring of generosity that we don't witness often enough.

Admission is a $10 or $20 donation. All proceeds will go to benefit Hill. T-shirts are available for purchase here. Tickets to the show are available here.

Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Theatre.

Gabba returns for unforgettable show

When Yo Gabba Gabba announced its return to Charlotte this year, I felt like this might be our last time seeing the Gabba gang live. My oldest son will be 6 this winter and his brother isn't far behind. While Nick Jr.'s "Yo Gabba Gabba" was a near 24/7 fixture in our home for the first four and half years of their lives, they have already moved on to other entertainment from superheroes to other Nick Jr. shows that are now in more regular rotation than Gabba like "The Bubble Guppies" and "Paw Patrol." Those shows are fine, but I doubt I'll ever embrace a children's TV show the way our family embraced "Gabba." We are a pop culture family and Gabba is pop culture incorporating `80s video games, indie rock, skateboarding, Puff N Stuff-style creatures, and music that is more contemporary than kiddie (my favorites are the title songs to the episodes "Flying" and "Big").

Sunday's show at Ovens Auditorium marked my older son's fifth time seeing it live and his brother's third. We went the first time in 2010 when my son was only one and a half. We sprung for VIP passes that first time and had our picture taken with the gang, but Sunday's show at Ovens was the first time I felt like my kids were comfortable enough to really let loose.

Sunday wasn't without a hiccup though. The earlier show was interrupted by the massive power outage. When we arrived DJ Lance, Leslie Hall and the characters were holding an impromptu meet and greet to pass the time and reward patient toddlers. WSOCTV reported that attendees were offered tickets to the later show in exchange as well.

The format hasn't changed much over the years, but as co-creator Christian Jacobs stated in our recent interview, this year's tour is more about the series' greatest hits and plays more like a participatory concert than a typical kid's show. More so than years past I felt like it hit on more songs in quick succession - like they were trying to cram in as many favorites as possible. Kids' songs are short and they zipped through "Party in My Tummy," "Get the Sillies Out," and "Dancey Dance" and combined "Try It, You'll Like It," "Jumpy Jump," and "Don't Bite Your Friends" into a medley.

Regular tour guest Leslie Hall joined in for "All My Friends are Different" and led the "Razzle Dazzle" dance, which was a big hit with kids bouncing and dancing in the aisles. Gabba is the only place you can witness spastic dancing, sleeping babies, meltdowns, and literal rolling in the aisles simultaneously. I'd heard of rolling in the aisles, but I'd never seen it until a little boy did a forward roll down the inclined walkway beside me. Gabba creates unbridled elation for children. For a parent it's hard to keep your eyes on the stage when so many cute kids are freaking out around you.

Speaking of freaking out, I was sitting there filming my kids getting the sillies out out on my phone when it happened - every Gabba mother's dream. A tour staff member tapped me on the shoulder and asked if my kids wanted to get on stage and dance. Seriously? For real? I asked them both, because you never know with kids. They might be completely petrified. I always try to hide under my seat during Blue Man or when Chris Isaak cruises the crowd for ladies. They both agreed and a little while later they were on stage beatboxing with Biz Markie in their fuzzy orange DJ Lance hats and pogoing to his classic hip-hop set. It was one of the most amazing moments.

The woman in front of me asked if we knew someone on the tour. Nope, it seemed completely random although I think maybe having an older child who they could be confident wouldn't bolt without a parent and the fact that they were dancing so animatedly - but at their seats right beside me - that their escort knew exactly who to ask for permission. Maybe it was just luck, but I'll take it.

They were returned to us safely and the show finished up just like each TV episode with a remix of the day's set. If it was, as I suspect, our last Gabba exceeded all expectations.

There is really nothing like it and, as I said, I doubt there ever will be. That age is a unique time and "Yo Gabba Gabba" is a unique show. I love sharing live music with my boys and taking them to see Against Me! and Damon Albarn earlier this year will go down in the scrapbooks, but "Yo Gabba Gabba" truly belongs to them. They know every single word, absolutely adore the cast,
and they can really let lose without the shadow of adults looming. I imagine someday when my kids are grown and I'm old and lonely, I'll watch those Gabba DVDs and sob. Heck, I may do that next year.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Chrissie Hynde at Ovens Auditorium

Chrissie Hynde's voice has not changed since the Pretenders released its first album in 1980, a fact she confidently demonstrated Saturday at Ovens Auditorium playing tracks by her band and material from her first solo album, "Stockholm."

She may now be 63, but age was never a factor for Hynde. Beneath shaggy black hair that hid her eyes, it was hard even in the early days to tell her age. That hasn't changed. I had to wonder early on when she shed her sequined blazer revealing bare arms, a simple black vest and man's white tie if this is what a lifetime of vegetarianism does for you. As she sauntered to the front of the stage in skinny jeans and Doc Martens during the new song "In A Miracle," she exuded a kind of sex appeal that can't be trumped by skimpy clothes and twerking. Like fellow sexaganarian Lucinda Williams, she's just got it.

Notoriously honest, funny, and outspoken, it shouldn't have been a surprise that Hynde played what she felt like. She hit on a handful of Pretenders' hits, but it was not a hits set. The show flowed almost opposite of most concerts from slower, almost adult-contemporary openers to full-on punk, yet it was so good that first 17 songs whizzed by within the first hour.

She opened with "Don't Lose Faith in Me," a slow bluesy burner from her the last Pretenders album and followed it with a few more methodical mid-tempo numbers, "Biker" (which closed 1999's "Viva el Amor!"), 1994's "977," and "In A Miracle."

Another new song, "Like in the Movies" helped segue from moody to pop to rock. "Talk of the Town" kicked off the latter, raising the tempo and energy and bringing the crowd to its feet. It remained there for "Kid." The surf guitar and girl group feel of "Talk" and "Kid" were well matched with the Wall of Sound spirit of the new solo song "You or No One" which opens "Stockholm."

Guitarist James Walbourne (Son Volt, Pernice Brothers and with Pretenders since 2008) proved a consummate, flashy sideman delivering ripping bluesy solos with animated expressions.

Instead of classic rock staples "Middle of the Road" and "Brass in Pocket" and the monster `90s ballad "I'll Stand By You," she opted for lesser hits "Night in My Veins" and "My City is Gone," obscure album tracks and early tracks "The Phone Call," "Precious," "Pack It Up," and "Tattooed Love Boys" (the latter three played during two encores) aptly plucked from the late `70s/early `80s punk and post-punk new wave period that birthed Pretenders.

The Kinks' "I Go To Sleep" opened the second and final encore. It was a really beautiful rendering that the group first covered on its sophomore album in 1981. For those still expecting "Brass," Hynde threw another curve breaking out her current single "Dark Sunglasses" as the final song of the night.

The crowd - many of them baby boomers like Hynde and the generation that followed - didn't seem to mind the omissions as they grooved and danced like it was 1984. The biggest hits "Don't Get Me Wrong" and "Back on the Chain Gang" enjoyed the biggest response from the crowd, as expected. This was MTV pop music in the early `80s when female rockers like Hynde, Pat Benatar, Debbie Harry, and Stevie Nicks - fully clothed musicians I might add - were our role models. Today's girls and even women her own age can still learn from Hynde's confidence and preservation.