Saturday, September 13, 2014

After stormy delay OutKast rules Funk Fest stage Friday

Thankfully for patient but wet ticket holders, day one of Charlotte's second annual Funk Fest didn't succumb to rain Friday at Metroline Expo. The concert promoter and performers waited it out through the storm and didn't cancel the show despite a two hour delay for the headliner. Because really? Who wants to tell thousands of fans that they aren't going to see OutKast after waiting, not just two hours, but for well over a decade for the group to even tour again much less play Charlotte.

Until mid-evening it looked as if the outdoor festival might dodge the rainy forecast completely. The sun was beating down during Salt N' Pepa's late afternoon set during which the duo capped a string of hits with Kirk Franklin's fiery gospel anthem "Stomp." By the time Fantasia went on the schedule was already 45 minutes behind, but for those stuck in traffic getting into the parking lot when Salt N' Pepa were scheduled to hit the stage the delay was a blessing.

Backed by a full band that included horns and backup singers and wearing a sequined white Vegas showgirl-meets-Tina Turner mini dress and headband, Fantasia (above) wowed a hometown crowd and brought a bit of funk and old school soul to Funk Fest. When she dropped a snippet of Drake's "Started from the Bottom" into "Without You" my friend said, "Now that means something!"

Fantasia's past may make it hard to shake her underdog status, but she's become a Grammy winning pro whether giving her vocals a break and letting her band take the lead on an `80s medley of "Nasty Girl," "In My House," "Glamorous Life," and "The Bird" (the latter in Morris Day's absence) or raising the crowd to its feet during the modern classic "Lose to Win."

Doug E. Fresh (above) again proved that he doesn't bill himself as the World's Greatest Entertainer and the Human Beatbox for nothing. He soared at both as part emcee, part rapper, part comic, and marathon beatboxer. He appropriately adopted Cali Swag District's "Teach Me How to Dougie" and had the entire crowd on its feet as he closed his set.

It was during Fresh's set that a man in front of me folded up his lawn chair, packed it in its bag, looked me in the eye and said, "In 30 minutes, this place will be shut down." Thankfully he was partly wrong. As clouds loomed and lightning struck in the distance, an announcer informed the crowd that they were herding upper level ticket holders into the buildings on the Metrolina Expo's grounds (where they regularly hold flea markets). Those with general admission tickets were encouraged to find shelter. They huddled under metal awnings between buildings, while others braved the rain - which eventually did come - under umbrellas debating when and if promoters would cancel the show.

Roughly an hour and a half later B.O.B. (lighting up above) took the stage in a drizzle. He had his work cut out for him given the soggy, tired crowd, but won over those who, as his DJ said, consider him more of "pop star" than a rapper. His breakthrough hit "Nothin' On You" was as pop as he got, opting not to include "Airplanes." And anyone that was still on the fence as he waded into the crowd for the finale of "Still In This Bitch" was probably bouncing up and down with fists raised along with him as he shouted "They tried to shut us down about an hour ago/But we still in this bitch."

The wait for OutKast was tiresome, but worth it once the duo took the stage backed by a full band at 11:20 - two hours and five minutes after its advertised start time. Five months into their reunion Andre 3000 and Big Boi (pictured at top) were already more enthusiastic, comfortable and energetic than during their Coachella debut in April bounding into the fitting opener of "B.O.B."

They charged through "Gasoline Dreams" as the rain started back up. Dancing lasers appeared to sparkle above the crowd reflecting drops of rain. Images of Gene Kelly came to mind in the sea of umbrellas dancing in the rain. One fan pulled a detached Power 98 banner over their head. The rain came and went, but no one really cared. It somehow gave more power to the image of Andre 3000 crooning tracks like "Prototype" projected through lines of rain on the big screens during his solo portion. Wearing a black jumpsuit with the words "Hiders of Pain" printed on it, he seemed to revel in performing again. He even restarted "Hey Ya!" with a grin when the crowd didn't start dancing the first time.

Longtime collaborator Sleepy Brown joined them for "SpottiOttieDopaliscious," for Big Boi's "The Way You Move," and during an old school medley toward the end of the show. Of course they hit on all the expected "Ms. Jackson," "Roses," "Rosa Parks," and "So Fresh, So Clean" before the finale of "The Whole World."

It was approaching 1 a.m. - which honestly echoes the vibe of a Coachella or Bonnaroo - and the crowd left wet and tired, but they got their OutKast and that was really all that mattered in the end. Sadly some fans that arrived during the wait just to see OutKast were under the impression that the show had been cancelled and returned home.

Funk Fest continues Saturday with LL Cool J., Ice Cube and the Roots headlining following sets from 112, 69 Boyz, and War. There's a fifty percent chance of rain all day. Let's hope it's not enough to derail the show.

Photos by Lukas Johnson.





Friday, September 12, 2014

This week's hot concerts


Funk Fest
Friday and Saturday  4 p.m. and 3 p.m, respectively, Metrolina Expo Fairgrounds, 7100 Statesville Rd., $65-$100 1 day pass, $100-$375 2 day pass, http://funkfestconcerts.com/charlotte-2014/
This year’s killer hip-hop, old school, soul, and R&B festival expands to two days and features Outkast - fresh from its festival-hopping reunion - B.O.B., Fantasia, Doug E. Fresh, Forever FC, and Salt n’ Pepa on Friday and LL Cool J., Ice Cube, the Roots, War, 112, Olivia, and 95 South/69 Boyz on Saturday.

Robin & Linda Williams
Friday  7:30 p.m., Great Aunt Stella Center, 926 Elizabeth Ave., Free, www.folksociety.org  
The internationally known duo and longtime “Prairie Home Companion” staple celebrated 40 years of making music together (and 42 as a couple) in 2013 with the album “Back 40.” Robin - a Charlotte native - and his wife return to his birthplace for a rare free concert of traditional bluegrass, old time and folk.


Amanda Shires
Saturday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $12-$15, www.eveningmuse.com
Acclaimed songwriter Jason Isbell’s fiddler bride is quite an accomplished singer-songwriter in her own right on her 2013 album “Down Fell the Doves,” which isn’t an obvious straight alt-country record. It’s more stylistically textured, darker, and bookish in a chamber rock meets art-folk sort of way.

Crowbar
Saturday  8 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $22-$25, www.chopshopnoda.com
Following frontman Kirk Windstein’s departure from Down, the New Orleans’ sludge metal stalwarts commemorate their 25th year (celebrate would be too “up” a word) with the well-received tenth album “Symmetry in Black” (released earlier this year), which exercises Windstein’s demons by lacing methodical riffs with thrash and hardcore assault in classic Crowbar style.

Midnight Ghost Train
Sunday  8 p.m., The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd., $5-$7, www.themilestoneclub.com  
Started as an ongoing creative eulogy for a friend after guitarist/singer Steve Moss’ best friend died in 2007, the Buffalo-based stoner trio ready the follow-up to 2012’s excellent “Buffalo” - a moody mesh of biting grooves, psychedelic expansion, and slow building, growling metal - with the upcoming “Cold Was the Ground.”


Trombone Shorty
Thursday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $27-$30, www.neighborhoodtheatre.com  
TV viewers may have seen this Grammy nominated funk powerhouse performing with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Madonna on the Grammys earlier this year or as himself on HBO’s “Treme.” His third album is spiked with rock n’ roll furor (think Lenny Kravitz) and classic R&B grooves amid the jazz and funk base. With Honey Island Swamp Band.

Ray Wylie Hubbard
Thursday  9 p.m., Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave., $17-$20, www.doubledoorinn.com  
The troubadour may not be as well-known as some of his Texas blues and folk songwriting contemporaries (Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark), but as a writer and band leader he’s one of the Lone Star State’s best lesser known secrets with a flair for doing whatever he’s doing - soul, rhythm & blues, country, blues or rock - well.


Tom Keifer
Thursday  8 p.m., Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St., $20-$23, www.amossouthend.com
Aligned with the hair metal movement of the `80s, Philly’s Cinderella had as much in common with blues and Southern rock as it did glam and on his 2013 debut solo album, “The Way Life Goes,” frontman Keifer stretches even further. Expect impressive new material as well as Cinderella staples.


Matisyahu
Thursday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $33.58, www.livenation.com
Although the distinctive singer/emcee’s look has changed since he debuted in 2004 with beard, ringlets, yarmulke and the hit “King Without a Crown,” his reggae and hip-hop-flavored alternative rock remains some of the most positive and spiritual pop music out there and his live show rides that same feel good vibe. With Radical Something.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Former Scapegoat vocalist unveils new electro-pop video


Kit Walters, the former vocalist for Charlotte metalcore band Scapegoat (who began its twelve year run when Walters was barely a teen) has released a new video for his electro-pop project Kit. Walters, who produced and engineered Scapegoat's later albums as well as others by defunct local band Sugar Glyder and national act LetLive, recently moved to New York to pursue pop music more seriously.

The clip for "Your Ghost" features Walters flanked by a ghostly figure. One of those ghost women is my kids' babysitter, by the way, who has appeared in a handful of videos.

For fans of Scapegoat's mix of melodic hardcore and metal, the pop direction may come as a surprise. But it's something Walters has been exploring since the band called it quits - first with the group the New Renaissance and now with Kit. I talked to Walters in 2012 about moving toward a more pop sound and his production work. You can read about that transitional period here.

You can also keep up with Kit here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Review: Weenie Roast 2014 finds firm footing with newer acts

Hot dog weenies could have literally roasted on the asphalt at the 106.5 WEND End of Summer Weenie Roast, which was an exercise in endurance, at PNC Music Pavilion Saturday. While the heat was unforgiving for much of the day, fans did show up.

The turn out for the semi-annual music festival was much, much better than when it relaunched after a six year break in 2012. That year the lineup was heavy on acts that helped form the radio station's identity in the `90s - the Offspring, Garbage, Eve 6, and Our Lady Peace. Last summer's lineup - headlined by 30 Seconds to Mars - moved to Saturday from Sunday and toward a more current bill that included AwolNation, Airborne Toxic Event, and Manchester Orchestra.

This year's Weenie continued that trend with only headliner Weezer (pictured above) and Fuel, who closed out the second stage, having any connection to the festival's first decade. Fitz & the Tantrums and Foster the People - both strong live acts that broke big in 2011 and 2013, respectively - had throngs of fist pumping fans bouncing and dancing and by the time they went on, the lawn was fairly packed. Sure, there were some empty seats, but it wasn't that obvious.

The joy that Foster the People left the crowd with continued for Weezer, who stacked its hour and 10-minute set with hits from opener "My Name is Jonas" to encore "Buddy Holly." It's set wasn't solely about nostalgia either. Later hits like 2009's "(If You're Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To" and the recent single "Back to the Shack" (the album it's from is out October 7) received as big of a reception as older ones like "Hash Pipe."

Frontman Rivers Cuomo sings "Rockin' out like its `94" on the latter (and bemoans shows like "American Idol") and the apex of Weezer's set echoed that era with the modern rock power ballad "Say It Ain't So." Even the most passing rock fans (like my country-loving sister on the lawn) know the words to it. It, "The Sweater Song" and "Buddy Holly" - the most nostalgic songs of the night - were also the biggest sing-alongs.

Although the abbreviated set lacked any surprises or tracks off the beloved sophomore album "Pinkerton," it felt overall better than the club set Weezer did at the Fillmore this Spring. I knew plenty of people who couldn't get tickets to that show and Weezer really deserves a bigger crowd and a louder show. Even at the large amphitheater the show felt less detached thanks to the volume (although they were not the loudest band of the day) and it wasn't much shorter in length although I will say that the crowd at the Fillmore smelled much better.




Oddly, Cuomo seem to appear before Weezer's set to sound check his guitar wearing a welder's mask. Of course, I can't prove it was him since I couldn't see his face from afar, but the pants and hair looked like they belonged to the singer although he shed the jacket (which was definitely his style) before the show (see photo).

With 14 bands, none got long sets. It was more like a buffet of alt-rock from brief spots from Sir Sly and Iamdynamite early on to slightly longer ones later in the day. That meant bands like Wild Cub and J. Roddy Walston & the Business had to get its message across quickly, which made for strong, concise sets with little filler.

The show was fairly consistent throughout. Although the conditions were pretty miserable due to the heat even early in the day lesser known bands like Charlotte's own Flagship (pictured above), who opened the larger main stage, drew respectable crowds. It helped that the amphitheater was open to general admission until 4 p.m. so fans could flock to the front of the stage while enjoying the shade and seating. The show was a nice homecoming for Flagship, whose grand, atmospheric pop-rock recalls a mix of British, Scottish, and Irish acts like U2, Big Country (minus the bag pipes) and James (the latter two didn't occur to me until watching them yesterday).

While some fans huddled in the shade or rested on the hill behind the sun-baked parking lot-set second stage where they could barely see through the fence, others braved the sun for electronic act Big Data (who did a fun, squawky synth cover of Hall & Oates "Private Eyes") and the feel-good indie rock of Wild Cub. Both were greeted warmly as was Foxy Shazam, who charged through a brief set with typical chaotic abandon full of wild dancing and cigarette munching courtesy of singer Eric Sean Nally.

I was pleased that the heaviest band on the bill was the one fronted by a woman - former "Gossip Girl" actress Taylor Momsen (pictured above). She's become more comfortable on stage since the hard rock band headlined Visulite a couple of years ago adding Stevie Nicks' twirls to her headbanging and back arching. The Pretty Reckless did have to contend with the seated area being closed to lawn ticket holders by the time they went on, which cut down on the size of its immediate crowd. The solo-heavy band didn't seem to care though.

Where the Pretty Reckless was simultaneously sultry and hard, earlier multitasking indie band Bear Hands (pictured below) proved the quirkiest of the day.

Fitz & the Tantrums' Noelle Scaggs added needed soul to the festival with her boisterous belting. It's actually hard to leave a Fitz or Foxy Shazam show without smiling. The same could be said for Foster the People, who rivaled Weezer in crowd response.

Of the bands I saw, there were no duds. By the time Fitz and Foster the People went on production came into to play with half of Foster the People playing on a stage of moving discofloor-like lights that added to the danceable rock feel of its show.


Weenie Roast has regained its spot as far as annual music events go. It's nice to see it progressing musically in reflecting the "new rock," that's largely new, format.






Friday, September 5, 2014

Weenie Roast `14 delivers bevy of up and coming acts Saturday

WEND's End of Summer Weenie Roast is back for its third year since taking a break earlier this decade. Headliners include Weezer, Foster the People and Fitz & the Tantrums, but the day long festival - which kicks off with Eyes Eat Suns at 12:30 - also features a great bill of up and coming acts that fall into that alternative rock category. It wasn't so long ago that Fitz and Foster the People were unknowns themselves.

Charlotte's own Flagship, who make grand, arena-ready rock in the tradition of U2 and Coldplay, represents the Queen City. Bands like Sir Sly and Wild Cub make similarly cinematic, yet anthemic, atmospheric rock. Bear Hands mixes those elements with demonstrative dance punk that has as much in common with Fitz and Foxy as anyone else on the bill.

Other notable acts are power rock duo Iamdynamite (whose drummer lives in Raleigh), Brooklyn-based electronic act Big Data, the Pretty Reckless (the pop-metal band featuring former "Gossip Girl" star and talented singer Taylor Momsen), Foxy Shazam (the Queen of indie rock), and current buzz band J. Roddy Walston and the Business.

While most people will undoubtedly turn up for Weezer, Fitz, Foster, and Fuel - the only other act besides Weezer that fits that `90s hard rock sound that makes up so much of WEND's playlist - I hope people will check out the bands earlier in the day.

I feel like music lovers fall into two categories. There are those of us that are always searching for new music. A lot of times those are younger fans, maybe because they have more time for such pursuits. Then there are those who at some point in their lives become satisfied with the music they already know and are happy to keep listening to it. I say this because many of my friends from high school fall into this latter category. Just this weekend flipping channels in a hotel room in Atlanta I stopped on Beyonce's VMA performance only to have my high school BFF look up from her book and say "Who's she?"

Seriously?

Now although my friend's obliviousness to a supermarket tabloid staple like Bey is beyond a lack of awareness of new music - it's pop culture - it did give me pause. If she doesn't recognize Beyonce on sight, she's probably not going to know who pretty much anyone on the Weenie Roast lineup is other than Weezer. Our other friends are much the same. I started making Christmas mix CDs for three of my West Virginia friends after hiring one to paint our house and finding his 20-year-old Beastie Boys and Ministry CDs next to the boom box. Nothing against those acts, but there's a world of music out there (including newer Beasties and Ministry).

With new music in mind, some of the Weenie Roast acts are the kinds of bands that make this job exciting. I remember hearing Iamdynamite a few years ago on the honest recommendation of their publicist ("I think you'll really like this" said with sincerity not in a press release). Their debut album blew me away and has become a staple in our house that my two kids know all the words to. They are currently doing a PledgeMusic campaign to fund their next record here. I did the vinyl
reward to get both the new album and the first one on LP and encourage others to do the same since they need a minimum commitment to press the vinyl.

Foxy Shazam is another live powerhouse. I feel strongly that if most people see either act live, they'll get it. I've heard similar praise for Wild Cub, Bear Hands, and J Roddy to name a few.

You may not love all the bands at Weenie Roast, but with 14 acts there is sure to be someone you've never heard of that grabs your ears and eyes. So why not show up early?

Set times are as follows according to WEND and LiveNation. Times are subject to change though.

Eyes Eat Suns 12:30 p.m., Iamdynamite 1:05 p.m., Sir Sly 1:55 p.m., Flagship 2:25 p.m., Big Data 2:55 p.m., Bear Hands 3:25 p.m., Wild Cub 4 p.m., the Pretty Reckless 4:30 p.m., Foxy Shazam 5:15 p.m., J. Roddy Walston & the Business 5:50 p.m., Fuel 6:35 p.m., Fitz & the Tantrums 7:20 p.m., Foster the People 8:35 PM, Weezer 9:55 p.m.


NC's band of singing activists call out McCrory on new single

Over a year after forming, the NC Music Love Army isn't letting up. Tuesday the all star group of NC-based musicians led by Charlotte's Jon Lindsay and the triangle's Caitlin Carey released Lindsay's song "Dear Mr. McCrory" as its latest single.

It follows last fall's "We Are Not For Sale" album, which featured additional artists like Carolina Chocolate Drops' Rhiannon Giddens, Snuzz, Lynn Blakey, and Django Haskins. Lindsay's song specifically targets the governor and voter ID laws.

The group, which features American Aquarium on the track with Lindsay and Carey, filmed a video for the song in Raleigh Wednesday. It performs at Hopscotch Music Festival's daytime block party in Raleigh Saturday. Band members perform in a couple different configurations with Carey & friends at noon, Shirlette Ammons, Charly Lowry and others at 1 p.m., Charlotte's Amigo at 2 p.m. and the the Love Army closing out the stage at Davie and Salisbury at 4 p.m.

The lineup of day parties alone is dizzying. Click here for a full schedule.

You can download the track via iTunes, Amazon, and other online outlets.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

This week's hot concerts


Diarrhea Planet
Friday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $7, www.snugrock.com  
The breakout sextet from Nashville’s booming garage rock scene’s punky rock n’ roll is a throwback to a time when alternative rock was slowly cresting toward the mainstream on the fuzzy guitar hooks and deadpan sing-songy choruses of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. And it’s staked its reputation on a killer live show.

106.5 End of Summer Weenie Roast
Saturday  12:30 p.m., PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd., $32.51-$91.84, www.livenation.com
With the exception of headliner Weezer and `90s rock staple Fuel, the annual Weenie Roast is relying on current rock acts like Fitz & the Tantrums and Foster the People and hot up and comers Foxy Shazam, Wild Cub, Iamdynamite, the Pretty Reckless, Bear Hands, Flagship, Big Data, and J. Roddy Walston & the Business - for a lineup that puts the “new” back in the station’s new rock format.


Jocelyn Ellis
Saturday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $5, www.snugrock.com
Since her days fronting Charlotte rock band the Alpha Theory, the UNCC grad has evolved musically and artistically. There are traces of Erykah Badu, Grace Jones, Bjork, and Santigold, but Ellis - on projects like the futuristic concept album “Life of a Hologram” - illustrates a voice, style and persona all her own.


August Alsina
Sunday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $31.58, www.livenation.com  
A true R&B singer for the hip-hop age, this 21-year-old takes his experience dealing drugs on the streets of New Orleans and losing friends and family to gunfire - which ultimately led to him turning from that life and seriously pursuing music - and turns it into something fresh. He’s got more to say than just lovelorn ballads and sexed up jams.

R5
Sunday  6:30 p.m., Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St., $29.50-$32, www.amossouthend.com  
It’s no wonder Disney star Ross Lynch (“Austin & Ally,” “Teen Beach Movie”) and his sibling pop group with brothers Riker and Rocky and sister Rydel (with friend Ellington Ratliff) has stormed the charts with candy-coated, harmony-driven pop and big screen worthy videos given that the family is full of triple threat performers.

Terry Bozzio
Monday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $22-$32, www.neighborhoodtheatre.com  
Music geeks and serious drummers won’t want to miss the former Frank Zappa cohort and Missing Persons co-founder, who has since forged a unique solo career as a clinician leading workshops and as a performer astounding crowds with a massive rig that has to be seen and heard to be appreciated.


Pinback
Wednesday  8 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $15-$18, www.chopshopnoda.com
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of its Touch and Go records’ touchstone “Summer in Abandon,” the San Diego indie rock duo is performing the album in its entirety as well as taking fan requests via paper airplanes from its four other albums. With Tera Melos.

Ed Sheeran
Thursday  7:30 p.m., Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St., $65.14, www.ticketmaster.com
A folkie raised on hip-hop and Taylor Swift’s former opener/BFF graduates to arena headliner status following the June release of his sophomore album “x” on which the massively popular ginger worked with Rick Rubin and Pharrell. For longtime diehards, it’ll be interesting to see how his normally stripped down, intimate club show translates.


David Mayfield Parade
Thursday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $10-$12, www.eveningmuse.com  
Two days after his third album, “Strangers,” is released, the masterful and charismatic band leader who cut his teeth on festival stages as a kid before doing time in the bluegrass band Cadillac Sky, returns with a show that will likely later be described with words like fun, funny, poignant, hot-picking, charming, and above all, entertaining.