Monday, April 20, 2015

New Music: Tattermask

Charlotte has come a long way for women in rock. When I first moved here for college in the mid `90s there were a handful of established female rock musicians like Hope Nicholls, Violet Strange, and a few others. But, even though I worked at a record store frequented by musicians, I wasn't running into girls like myself that wanted to start bands. Winston-Salem's Squatweiler came the closest to what I was looking for, which was a Southern answer to angry, punk-fueled riot grrrl.

Today the city is rich in female rock musicians from the folks that run Girls Rock Charlotte, who are fostering the next generation of female rockers to bands like Something Clever, Grown Up Avenger Stuff, and Tattermask.

The aforementioned metal five-piece kicks off Revolver Magazine's Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock Tour at Tremont Tuesday. The lineup also features female-fronted bands Flyleaf, the Agonist, Fit For Rivals, Diamante, and Falling For Scarlet. Yes, the sexist nature of singling out these ladies as "hot" is noted given that there's no hottest guys in hard rock tour. But if you dig female singers like I do, then a collection of these bands on one bill is a good thing. I've had bands tell me they've sometimes been told by promoters that they already have a "girl band" on a bill, so they don't need another, which I think is absolutely ridiculous. I want to see so-called girl bands and I think a lot of other people do too.

Tattermask recently released its "Carpe Noctem" EP. The 5-song collection includes the band's cover of Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" and four other original tracks. Tattermask specializes in catchy, hard charging metal with soaring theatrical female vocals reminiscent of Lacuna Coil and Evanescence. Obviously if they can cover Seal, they're a pretty versatile act and Amanda is a very capable vocalist.

The EP is stacked with memorable tracks. My favorite may be "Concern," which juxtaposes Middle Eastern guitar (maybe even sitar) with pummeling riffs and bass. "Better Off Alone" builds to a sing-along chorus while "Asylum" creates a menacing and haunting vibe that is fit for a horror movie soundtrack. It's capped with another memorable chorus and showcases the band's grasp of dynamics. Some metal bands just constantly hit you in the face with distortion and aggression, but it's the prettier, quieter parts that allow the heavier sections to rumble with even more force.

You can listen to "Carpe Noctem" here. And check them out early on Tuesday's bill. The show starts at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

Tattermask seems like the perfect pick to open such a lineup. With talented players and a knack for writing and arranging, its on par with bigger national acts. Hopefully touring behind the EP will bring the group more national recognition.

(Photo: Scott Grube, Altered Ego Images)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This week's hot concerts

Stuck Mojo
Friday  8  p.m., Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St., $17-$20,
Earlier this month frontman Rich Ward told “That Metal Show’s” audience that the recently reunited original lineup will record a new album. Its December hometown show at Atlanta’s Masquerade was its first with Ward, Bonz, Corey Lowery, and Frank Fontsere since 1998.

Blackberry Smoke
Friday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $31.08,
Over the course of four albums the Atlanta country-rock quintet has gained a reputation on the strength of its soulful live shows, riveting blues and Southern rock with nods to both AC/DC and the Allman Brothers that still manages to top the Billboard Country Chart. The Ben Miller Band and the Temperance Movement open the show. The latter is an on the verge act from the UK where it's already opened for the Stones.

The London Souls
Friday  9 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $12-$15,     
In 2012, guitarist/vocalist Tash Neal survived a hit and run car accident that resulted in two brain surgeries. Only now are he and bandmate  Chris St. Hilaire releasing the album they recorded pre-coma, but the mix of Thin-Lizzy-meets-funk, poppy Beatles, wailing Zeppelin and folk, soul and roots is worth the wait.

Stephane Wrembel
Saturday 8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $20,   
The French-born/Brooklyn-based guitarist is an incredibly nimble and fast picker with a light touch who flits between channeling Django Reinhardt and dividing his attention from Flamenco to rock. Wrembel, who performed his song from Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” at the Oscars, will play his latest album, “Dreamers of Dreams.”

Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel
Saturday  8:30 p.m., Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St., $20-$23/$32.95 VIP,
The former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist, who replaced Randy Rhoads and played on “Blizzard of Oz” and “Ultimate Sin,” made headlines in late 2014 for admitting he was railroaded out of publishing royalties for the former. His first album with RDC is his first solo album since 2008 and his first output since 2009.

Guster/Kishi Bashi
Monday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $33.05,   
It’s hard to believe this Massachusetts alternative rock outfit has been at it for almost 25 years. It’s latest doesn’t sound like a band that’s growing old. The “Evermotion” is a lush, moody pop-rock album that calls on shoegazing Brit-pop, electronic jam bands, and pastoral folk-pop. One man looping violinist Kishi Bashi’s live execution can hypnotize.     

Billy Joe Shaver
Monday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $20-$22,   
Last year the legendary Texas songwriter released his first album in six years, “Long in the Tooth,” with the help of A-list peers like Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, and producers Ray Kennedy and Gary Nicholson. By all accounts he hasn’t lost any of his ornery fire or his knack for creating hooky choruses and descriptive honky-tonk verses.
Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock Tour
Tuesday  5 p.m., Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave., $20-$25,   
Flyleaf heads up this all female-fronted lineup, which feature “The Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock” according to “Revolver Magazine.” The Agonist, Fit For Rivals, Diamonte, Falling for Scarlet, and Tattermask - Charlotte’s answer to Evanescence and Lacuna Coil - thankfully aren’t just a bunch of pretty faces, but rock in equal measure.

The Woggles
Tuesday  9 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $8,  
Known for its rollicking live sets, the veteran Athens-GA garage rock n’ soul throwback is a staple on Sirius/XM’s Little Steven’s Underground Garage where frontman Mighty Manfred is a DJ. The band is also signed to Steven Van Zandt’s label and just finished a EP of R&B covers that will be released in late summer.

Thursday  2:30 p.m., N. Wilkesboro Community College,$50 single day, $155-$180 3 and 4-day pass, respectively; RV camping is sold out, but tent camping is available for an added $75, 
The annual 4-day music festival kicks off its 27th year with a strong opening night lineup featuring Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Scythian, Trampled By Turtles, Lee Ann Womack, and Hot Rize along with its alter-ego Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers. The Avett Brothers, Dwight Yoakam, Del McCourty Band, and North Mississippi Allstars are among the weekend acts.

21st Annual Speed Street Festival reveals music lineup

The 600 Festival revealed the live music lineup for its annual three-night downtown Speed Street fan fest leading into the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. 

Now called Circle K and Kangaroo Speed Street Presented by Coca-Cola, Speed Street kicks off Thursday, May 23 with popular tribute bands Appetite For Destruction: The Ultimate Guns n' Roses Experience and Journey tribute Departure. The former is a seasoned Gn'R act whose lead singer looks and sounds like Axl Rose. The latter boasts a vocalist with stratospheric range on par with the real Journey's current lead singer. 

Friday offers country music fans a double header with Southern country-rockers Parmalee (pictured), who got its start in Parmele, NC near Greenville before heading to Nashville and Corey Smith, a live fixture in the Southeast for years. Smith signed with Sugar Hill Records in February and will release his tenth album, "While the Gettin' Is Good" this summer. 

Saturday, May 25 Craig Wayne Boyd and Dennis DeYoung will close out the festival. The seventh season winner of NBC's "The Voice" joins the co-founder of Styx. During his tenure in the band in the `70s and `80s, DeYoung wrote and performed classics like "Come Sail Away," "Babe," "Lady," and "Mr. Roboto."

Headliners begin at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 

The Annual 600 Festival kicks off May 8 with over two weeks of free events throughout the area . Those include the "Movies on the Campus" screening of Disney's "Cars" in Kannapolis May 8; the Haulers on Union parade May 14; the Valvoline Little 600 May 19, which finds NASCAR drivers racing a fleet of GoPro Motorplex’s rental karts; and the inaugural PNC 5K run downtown Thursday morning at 8 a.m. followed by the Kids 600 Fun Run at 8:45. An awards celebration will follow the race on the Coca-Cola Stage at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  

The Circle K and Kangaroo Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola also includes appearances by NASCAR drivers and celebrities and exhibits from sponsors. To find out more click here

Monday, April 13, 2015

Shovels & Rope, Mississippi Allstars among Friday Live acts

The NC Music Factory announced its 2015 Friday Live lineup today. The annual concert series begins May 8 with Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Chris Cook and the Heartless Road Band will open.

The after work early summer concert series continues to evolve its lineup. What started as a mostly nostalgic `90s rock lineup now includes Americana and roots music, indie rock, and tributes as well as tried and true returning acts like Cracker, who ride the fence between `90s radio hits, nostalgic alt-rock and power pop, and roots-rock.

The popular Michael Jackson tribute Who's Bad, which does a great job of covering Jackson's career, will headline May 15.

Cracker follows the next week, May 22, with local opening act Temperance League.

New York indie-pop band MisterWives headlines May 29 followed by Charleston's Shovels and Rope, who sold out the Neighborhood Theatre earlier this year. Union County Americana quintet Flatland Tourists also play.

Another big blues and Americana name - the North Mississippi Allstars - head up the June 12 bill with the Josh Daniel and Mark Schimick Project opening up.

Friday Live regulars and longtime live favorites Cowboy Mouth return June 19 with roots-reggae band Of Good Nature.

Indie rock band Surfer Blood closes out the series June 26 with Knoxville's the Black Cadillacs.

Tickets have risen from $5 to $8 this year, but given the caliber of eclectic acts the price hike is warranted. Plus you'd pay way more to see all of these bands elsewhere. A season pass is available for $50. Proceeds also benefit the Greater Charlotte SPCA.

Tickets are on sale now at Friday Live takes place at the Fountain Plaza outdoors at NC Music Factory. All ages welcome, although note that not all neighboring Factory restaurants and clubs are family-friendly.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

This week's hot concerts

Friday  7 p.m, Bojangles’ Coliseum, 2700 E. Independence Blvd., $24-$59.93/$119.92 VIP,
The struggle to remain cutting edge and Christian rests on the shoulders of this chart-topping Atlanta-based rapper who manages to stay true to his faith while pushing boundaries with tracks that don’t distinguish themselves from mainstream hip-hop (his latest album “The Anomaly” debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200) and lyrics that aren’t always faith-based, but rooted in realism.

Cape Breton Fiddling & Piping
Friday 7:30 p.m., Great Aunt Stella Center, 926 Elizabeth Ave., Free, donations accepted, 
The Charlotte Folk Society introduces the city to the music of Cape Breton with three natives of the island off the coast of Canada which has preserved the Gaelic music and culture of the Scottish Highlanders who settled there. Fiddler/stepdancer Andrea Beaton, Northumbrian smallpiper Dick Hensold, and pianist Troy MacGillivray deliver old sounds anew to Charlotte. 

Friday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $15-$18,
This multi-instrumentalist has spent nearly 40 years as a sideman for everyone from Meat Loaf to Mick Jagger, but is best known for his work with Todd Rundgren’s `70s prog-rock side project Utopia. He employees Rundgren and his fellow Utopians for his eclectic solo album “3,” which wears its link to `70s AM pop, classic rock, and prog on its sleeve.

Friday 9 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $19.29, 
The Canadian dubstep DJ ends his Ninja Nation Tour this week, so expect a mix of delirious exhaustion and amped enthusiasm as he pays tribute to hip-hop’s influence on dubstep - which is the same theme of his “Down for My Ninjas” EP - for the last time (the tour ends in Tennessee Saturday). With Etc., Etc., Bear Grillz, and Infuze.

Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires
Saturday  9 p.m., The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd., $8,  
Alabama Shakes and St. Paul may have led the charge out of Birmingham, but this raucous rock n’ soul powerhouse is the meat to their potatoes with blistering performances of well-educated punk and literary folk-meets-Southern rock that verges on exorcism. Late Bloomer, Totally Slow, and Motel Glory fill out the impressive bill.

The Suffers
Sunday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $10,
Take a fired up horn section, Latin percussion, and a charismatic soul singer in Kam Franklin and you’ve got Houston’s female-fronted answer to the next buzz band in the old school soul revival. It’s like a cross between Sharon Jones and St. Paul & the Broken Bones with a funkier rhythm section and startling versatility.

Sick of Sarah
Sunday  9 p.m., The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd., $8,    
With its new single “Rooftops” premiering on last week, the Minnesotan girl group hit the road with the promise of a late June release for the long-awaited new album “Anthem.” “Rooftops” finds the rock band evolving with a touch of `80s longing and a knack for memorable melodies.

Monday  8:30 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $11,  
If My Bloody Valentine had been a West Coast indie rock band with Jesus & Mary Chain’s taste for thick veils of distortion and tendencies for girly Northwest indie-pop (2012’s “Pipe Dreams”) and heavier, more masculine contemplation (2014’s harder “Sway”), it might’ve sounded like this San Fran shoegazer. With Wildhoney, Serfs, and Girl Pants.   

Tuesday  9 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $8,    
The Montreal soft rock quartet ties together delicate harmonies, breathy (mostly) female vocals, warm, expressive guitar, and reverb-heavy synth that sounds like Fleetwood Mac and ELO producing twee, lesser known, `90s girl groups like the Softies with equal measures of pastoral folk and indie-pop.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

This week's hot concerts

Cassandra Wilson
Friday  8 p.m., Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St., $20-$59.50,
With the release of her tribute to Billie Holiday, “Coming Forth By Day,” days away (it’s out April 7 to commemorate Holiday’s 100th birthday), the renowned jazz singer brings Holiday’s music to the stage. The album features what may be the most eclectic cast on record - Wilson, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Nick Zinner, T-Bone Burnett, string arranger Van Dyke Parks, and Nick Cave’s rhythm section as well as Wilson’s regular collaborators.

Delta Spirit
Saturday  9 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $17-$20,     
On its fourth album, “Into the Wide,” this Brooklyn transplant does a lot of things well. Reverb soaked guitars and grand production create a big, expansive sound, while singer and gifted lyricist Matt Vasquez’s twangy, fiery delivery can come off as Ryan Bingham leading Coldplay or a modern rock mashup of Neil Young and the Boss.

Daddy Issues
Friday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $5-$7,
With breathy, feminine vocals, surf rock guitar, a retro girl group vibe and riot grrrl humor and lyrics, this Greensboro indie quartet may have ruled K Records if it had existed in the `90s. Instead we’ll settle for NC’s lo-fi answer to Dum Dum Girls with wicked, winking sass.

Bakalao Stars
Friday 10 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $10, 
Almost a year after releasing its third album, “Afro Dijiak,” long-running Splanglish rock purveyors continue to keep local Latin rock alive in Charlotte 13 years after getting its start. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a livelier live unit as the quintet charges through seamlessly intertwined reggae, ska, hip-hop and self-described tropical rock. 

Boney James
Saturday  8 p.m., Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St., $45-$70,  
The veteran jazz saxman, who started his career as a sideman for Morris Day, the Isleys, and Teena Marie, gets back to those mainstream pop and soul roots on the upcoming album “futuresoul” (out May 4). He took inspiration from youngsters like Ellie Goulding and Sam Smith and called on Mint Condition’s Stokley and Dwele to collaborate.

The Moms
Monday  9 p.m., The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd., $5-$7,  
Delivering the irreverence of the Dead Boys or the Germs with the hook-laden excitement and pop appeal of early Weezer or Nerf Herder and a dark sense of humor and irony, this Jersey band make drunk-punk that’s much better than that self-coined description indicates. (Warning: A few choice words and dark adult humor in video).

Tuesday  8 p.m., Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave., $8-$10,   
This rising Pennsylvania psychedelic metal combo carries on the `70s rock tradition of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, adds stoner rock riffs and the hip-shaking groove of blues-based rockers like Clutch and Maylene, and tops it with vocals that combine the howl of Chris Cornell and Dio and a fictional fantasy element that’s retro but refreshing.

Coal Chamber
Wednesay  7 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $33.58,  
Thirteen years after its last album, “Dark Days” and 12 since its breakup, the `90s nu-metal band - which returned to touring in 2011 and reunited with all the members of the old lineup in 2013 - will release “I.O.U. Nothing” in May. Fans can get a preview on this tour with Filter, Combichrist, American Head Charge, Saint Ridley and Daywrecker.

Jess Klein & Rod Picott
Thursday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $8-$10,  
Hot on the heels of her new live album, “Bootleg,” acclaimed singer-songwriter Klein - whose voice blends the earthiness and grit of Lucinda Williams and Bonnie Raitt and the unique timbre of Susannah Hoffs - joins construction worker-turned-troubadour Picott - whose songs have been covered by writing vets like Fred Eaglesmith and Ray Wylie Hubbard - for a string of East Coast dates.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Horror film with NC Halloween roots gets Mad Monster premier Saturday

Last October a friend and I ventured to the small town of Kannapolis for the premier of the new horror film "Honeyspider" paired in a old-fashioned double feature with the original "Night of the Living Dead" a couple weeks before Halloween. Besides being the birthplace of godfather of Funk George Clinton, Kannapolis is home to an adorable historical single screen movie house called the Gem Theatre where part of the movie is set. It was really special to see the film's theatrical premier in the very spot it was filmed with the filmmakers and actors in tow. 

The film is screening closer to Charlotte's city center this weekend. It's part of the Mad Monster Party film festival at The Sheraton downtown. It will screen Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Screenwriter Kenny Caperton, who grew up near Kannapolis and frequented that theater as a kid, will be on hand. He's running the Honeyspider/Myers House, NC table in the vendor's room. "Honeyspider" is one of a string of full-length and short films that are screened during the three-day horror fest. You can pop in any time and get your fill of horror (I still can't get this short about a giant killer chicken from the first year out of my head). 

In "Honeyspider" college student Jackie Blue (newcomer Mariah Brown) works concessions at the theater. It’s Halloween and her twenty-first birthday. She’s having issues with her family and wants to celebrate her birthday quietly, but the mysterious man that’s watching her from a distance seems to have other plans.

I was interested in "Honeyspider" for several reasons. First, it’s the first horror film to get a local world premier since the campy zombie indie "Come Get Some" (written and directed by Charlotte’s Jason Griscom) screened here in 2003. It is also the first featurel-length film from Caperton, who owns the Myers House in Hillsborough, NC. Caperton built an actual replica of the house from John Carpenter’s original 1978 "Halloween." His home was purposely patterned after the house from the movie where Michael Myers knifed his sister Judith as a child and later tried to do the same to his baby sister Laurie. 

I’ve wanted to write about Myers House since I found out about it and "Honeyspider" allowed me to kill two birds with one story, so to speak. You can read all about Myers House and "Honeyspider" in the preview we did on the premier last fall here

I knew as soon as the film ended I would need a while to digest (ahem) the movie. Six months later there are scenes that still stick with me. I tend to replay movies in my head when I can't sleep at night - particularly horror movies (weird, I know) - and I've done this as much with "Honeyspider" as I have with last fall's "Annabelle" (that creepy doll). 

Watching a movie after I interviewed the screenwriter and knew a bit about him was interesting because I found myself watching it the same way I listen to records - with references jutting out at me. I know Caperton grew up on classic horror films and that he has a soft spot for `80s horror. "Honeyspider" is set in 1989, for instance, and some of the fashion is a hoot (oh, ill-fitting jeans and side ponytails).  There’s also a classic `80s movie-within-the-movie, “Sleepover Slaughterhouse III,” which includes all the `80s tropes - bubbleheaded teenage girls, boobs, and a serial killer that’s distracted by neither. It in itself is a fun ride with a completely different tone than the actual movie. 

Caperton took the title of the film from an old Smashing Pumpkins track that served as inspiration. There are several Pumpkins references throughout. The first reference I can find online to the song “Honeyspider” was on a cassette demo released in, you guessed it, 1989. You have to admire Caperton’s devotion to weaving it all together. The song plays over the end credits, by the way, with Billy Corgan’s permission, and Caperton, who plays a college student, is introduced in the film pummeling a jack-o-lantern.

The pace is another factor. There’s not a ton of dialogue, which is probably smart for new filmmakers. The exchanges between friends and co-workers are funny and realistic. Actresses Katie Bearden, who plays Jackie’s friend Jenny, and  Rachel Jeffreys as her co-worker, were particularly at ease. And the humor and ease of those characters counters the drama, stress and obvious discomfort of Jackie's situation. 

There are also long shots of Jackie walking across campus, quietly drifting to sleep in her room, and driving through the country on her way to work. Since "Scream" horror movies have often rushed through one scare after another. "Honeyspider" is restrained by comparison. There are a few jump-in-your-seat moments and some clever Halloween-related scenes. Oh candy corn, you got me! I don’t want to give much away, but the title’s meaning is much more unsettling than I imagined. 

Besides the slower `80s pace and the `80s-like setting, two other films come to mind. The dream sequences recall "The Blair Witch Project" and the dissonant music at the end recalls John 5’s score from "Lords of Salem." I found a couple of parallels with the Rob Zombie Kubrick-esque modern witchcraft story, including an ending that’s a bit open-ended. But I didn’t find the ending of "Honeyspider" frustrating as I did with "Salem."

Pairing it with George A. Romero’s original 1968 "Night of the Living Dead" turned out to be a perfect companion to capture the spirit of independent filmmaking then and now. First of all seeing it in the theater with no commercials and, better yet, no remote control in hand, was like seeing "Night of the Living Dead" with new eyes.  I’m not a huge fan of zombies. They’re gross and slow (and that flesh eating scene is still pretty gross), but it unfolds slowly and calmly as well. I began thinking about the parallels between the independent filmmakers behind "HoneySpider" and "Living Dead" - the spirit and passion in seeing a project through and doing it with the tools you have at hand on a budget especially in an industry that seems to pour money and can build an entire film on a green screen. 

I wouldn't have thought playing a classic following the premier of a brand new film would reflect so well on the new film and add the the experience. But it did. On the way home I found myself pondering tragedy and fanaticism. 

"Honeyspider" is sandwiched between a sneak preview of something called "Toxic Tutu" (gotta check that out) and a short Hell On Earth film block Saturday. Saturday passes are $35 and that includes access to a lot of fun - the vendor's room (it's like Christmas for a horror fan), the film festival, Q&A panels (Saturday's include Batman and Robin/Adam West and Burt Ward, Leatherfaces Gunnar Hansen and Bill Johnson, William Forsythe and Steve Railsback, and voice actors that verbally animate Skeletor, Roger Rabbit, and the Cryptkeeper), live music, a costume contest, beauty pageant, scaraoke, games, and a chance to meet the guests stars from film, TV, and music(autographs and photos are usually extra). 

Check out the full schedule and film schedule here and learn more about "Honeyspider" (I hear there will be big news soon here).