Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: Beyonce returns with Mrs. Carter Show

Since 2007 Beyonce has had two hit albums, married rap mogul Jay Z, become a mother, performed at the Super Bowl, and for President Obama. What she hasn’t done since 2007 is play Charlotte (although she brought her “I Am” tour to Greensboro in 2009). No wonder thousands crowded into Time Warner Cable Arena Saturday to witness her spectacular return.
She noted early in the show between “Flaws and All” and “If I Was a Boy” that she noticed the line around the building as she was driving in. What may be the biggest crowd I’ve seen waiting outside the arena (aside from the DNC)  shuffled in during opening act Luke James. James proved a strong, hunky vocalist with impressive range. Female fans outnumbered the guys and were stylishly dressed. Black and white stripes were the print of choice.  
Beyonce hit the stage with “Run the World (Girls”) following a Marie Antoinette-style clip. Her look for the Mrs. Carter promos looks a lot like Madonna’s 1990 MTV Video Music Awards performance of “Vogue.” The pre-taped dissertation on seduction that introduced the peepshow-themed “Naughty Girl” also recalled Madonna's live shows, although Beyonce’s lace longsleeve unitard offered more coverage than most of Madge's old stage clothes.
There were 10 costumes changes ranging from fluid Charlie’s Angels-style gowns for “Freakem Dress” to a black sequined number that was like something Eartha Kitt as Catwoman would wear by the pool in The Hamptons for “Get Me Bodied,” “Baby Boy,” and “Diva.”
I’m not exaggerating when I say her return was spectacular. Could Beyonce create anything but a spectacle? Could she even put on a bad show? Maybe not. Backed by a female 11-piece band she goes move-for-move with her 10 dancers while never faltering in the vocal department without repeating previous tours. 
If you've seen her before, The Mrs. Carter Tour is a completely new show. Yes, she does her signature “Crazy in Love” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” dances, but the production was fresh and many of the songs were ones crowds didn’t hear in 2007 and 2009. 
In addition to “Freakem Dress,” she added several tracks from 2011’s “4” including “Party,” “1+1,” “I Care,” “I Miss You” and the loads-of-fun Diana Ross-style “Love On Top.” It, “Irreplaceable” (which doesn't feature her female band as prominently now), and “Survivor” featured Beyonce and her dancers (including limber French identical twin brothers Larry and Laurent Bourgeois - pictured above) performing on a circular catwalk opposite the main stage where a lucky group of fans got front-row seats for a few songs. Beyonce sailed there on a wire like a superhero, but didn't try to duplicate the aerial stunt-work that Pink treated crowds to in the same arena this Spring.
She’s retired 2007’s Destiny’s Child medley for the lone “Survivor,” during which her eight female dancers posed as backup singers all dressed in sparkling jumpsuits (like Bey's pictured above at the Atlanta show) at the center of the floor like the ending scene from “Xanadu” (sans roller skates). Much of “I Am…Sasha Fierce” has been exchanged for new tracks like the jungle themed “Grown Woman.”
She ended the set on an emotional note weaving “I Will Always Love You” into her anthem “Halo.” My mother teared up at the first lines of the Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston song, although the inspiring video that preceded it tugged at heart strings as well.
Through example Beyonce seemed to be urging her fans to work hard and follow through whatever they might want to achieve. Earlier she mentioned the young girls standing in line outside as she drove by and thinking about when she was that young girl going to see Janet Jackson and Anita Baker. The comment brought her story full circle as the crowd sang along with “Halo.”

As usual there were messages of female empowerment in the music and the videos that ran between sets. My only complaint was the house music that followed a clip for Gucci’s Chimes for Change non-profit which promotes education, protection, and justice for girls and women around the world. The pro-woman clip, which ran before Beyonce's set, was followed by Kendrick Lamar chanting “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe. The lyrics aren't that misogynistic, but it’s placement after an inspiring video about folks like Malala Yousafzai was way off. 

(Photos courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thirsty Beaver's brothers honky-tonkin' on new LP

The first time I saw the Loose Lugnuts - the Charlotte classic country-western band led by brothers Mark and Brian Wilson of The Thirsty Beaver and The Rat’s Nest - I was sitting at a picnic table at Mac’s Speed Shop with the speakers blaring at my back. It’s not how I’d recommend seeing and hearing a show. The sound was harsh, but I managed to make out references to local wrestling (Starrcade, Ric Flair, and Harley Race) and NC television personality and musician Fred Kirby. Now, not being from NC I’m not that familiar with Kirby. The Halloween my husband dressed up in one of his country music singer father’s red, fringed stage costumes (a costume Mark Wilson now wears on stage, by the way) I thought he was Jack White, but all the locals thought he was Fred Kirby. So I knew there was local history in singer Mark Wilson's words. 

After that I wanted to hear more. The Loose Lugnuts play a lot of classic country covers and their audience digs that, but when I heard the song “Fred Kirby” I leaned into my friend and said, “Why don’t they play more originals?” On the new album, “Half Tight,” they do. In fact the 13-track album is made up of Mark Wilson's originals about heartache and drinking and struggles and broken relationships.

I first heard it when Brian Wilson brought the fresh off the presses LP into his NoDa thrift store early one Saturday evening. As I chased my children through the racks of vintage clothes I noted that the album sounded as if it’d been pulled from the stack of worn LPs that face the door of the store (where Rita Coolidge stares out on to the gravel parking lot). 

"Half Tight" was recorded at Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium Studio in Kernersville and was produced by Lugnut Bill Noonan and engineered by Chris Garges. The MP3 versions aren’t given an artificial scratchy LP treatment or anything, but Joe Smith’s weeping pedal steel, sustained guitar notes, and Wilson’s deep vibrato sounds as if they originated decades ago.

Yet it’s not a Hank Williams copy or anything. The Wilsons grew up on punk rock at The Milestone. They dig Antiseen as well as Merle Haggard and Hoyt Axton. In fact the younger Wilson’s voice channels deceased Cramps’ singer Lux Interior with its low vibrato and rich tone (at times it also reminds Glen Danzig or Jello Biafra speaking through the ghost of Lefty Frizzell). That juxtaposition gives the retro feel a contemporary twist.

Many bands strive to be “authentic” and true to themselves. It's something that comes up in interviews. But the Wilsons don’t have to try. Maybe that’s why they’ve done so well drawing crowds without playing the typical local band game. They have their own venue and a built-in audience that seems to follow where they lead be it Mac’s, the Double Door, or Myrtle Beach.  

In his email Bill Noonan says, the Lugnuts (the Wilsons, Jef Pearce on bass, Noonan and Jim Garrett on guitar, and veteran Smith on pedal steel) really stepped it up in the studio. I agree. Live shows are often at the mercy of the sound system, alcohol, or other factors, but “Half Tight” is the Lugnuts at its polished best - playing those colorful original honky-tonk tunes that I suspected Mark Wilson had in him when I first heard "Fred Kirby" (which is on the album too). 

The Loose Lugnuts play its home turf - the Thirsty Beaver Saloon - Saturday, July 27, following the bar’s portion of Recess Fest. Showtime will likely be around 9 p.m. The album is available on vinyl with MP3 downloads included or you can find it online here

Thursday, July 25, 2013

This week's hot concerts

Lil Wayne/T.I./2 Chainz
7 p.m. Friday, July 26, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $38.75-$158.75.
Just months after being hospitalized, reportedly surviving a coma, and still recurring death rumors, the controversial Lil Wayne is alive, still ruffling "Amerika's" feathers, and headlining the America’s Most Wanted Festival (both its headliners have served jail time) with fellow Southern hip-hop icons T.I. and 2 Chainz as well as Oakland’s G-Eazy.

Drivin’ n’ Cryin’
8 p.m. Friday, July 26, Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St. $15.
The Southern alt-rock vets took a different approach with its latest release - instead of an album its four EPs that focus on different aspects of its psychedelic, punky, garage, folk-rock history. The final chapter is set for October and a documentary, “Scarred But Smarter: the life and times of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’,” is premiering around the country. With Porcelain Mary and Darlings of the Underground.

8 p.m. Saturday, July 27, Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St. $59.90-$276.20.
For those of us that have seen previous tours, some aspects of The Mrs. Carter World Tour like her all female band and her biggest hits will be familiar, but reviews indicate daring new production and a few deeper cuts. Of course it’s doubtful with the actual singing, choreography, and costumes that Bey could put on a bad show.

Davey Suicide
8 p.m. Sunday, July 28, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $10-$13.
The Hollywood industrial dance metal quintet mixes Marilyn Manson, Ministry and Motley Crue tackling social and political issues and compelling teen angst with sexed-up glam guitar throwbacks. Frontman Davey Suicide was named Number 41 on “Kerrang” magazine’s list of “50 Greatest Rock Stars Today.” With the Bear the Bunny, Defiled, and the Beautiful Chaos.

8 p.m. Monday, July 29, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $7-$9.
One of the highlights of this year’s Coachella festival, this Nashville rock quartet released its sophomore album, “Torches and Pitchforks,” last week. Imagine early Kings of Leon’s Southern garage soul filtered through a steady diet of U2, the Clash, and Queen.

Psychedelic Furs/Space Hog
8 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, Chop Shop, 399. E. 35th St. $25-$28.
The legendary new wave band has luckily graced Charlotte annually for the past few years. This time it plays its string of dreamy, alternative pop classics (“Heaven,” “Love My Way,” “The Ghost in You”) at a new venue. Fellow Brits Spacehog, who scored a hit with “In the Meantime” in the `90s and reunited in 2008, are along for the ride. With Cement Stars.

Paper Bird
Thursday, August 1, US National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway. Free.
This harmony-driven septet may follow in the bootprints of fellow Denver folk-pop group the Lumineers, but its bluesy and bluegrassy strings, psychedelic production, and multiple vocalists give it a rootsy originality as if Crosby Stills and Nash were jamming with the ghost of `50s girl groups like the Paris Sisters.

8 p.m. Thursday, August 1, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $40.
For almost two decades the Latin Grammy winning quartet has been seamlessly mixing classic rock, hip-hop, punk, blues, and funk into its amped up Spanish language rock like Mexico’s answer to Beastie Boys, the Black Keys, Cypress Hill, and Rancid all rolled into one.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Locals honor Doors' Manzarek & children Saturday

When Cora Tucker was two-years-old she was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma - a childhood cancer. Cora spent a year enduring surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, radiation, and a six-month long antibody treatment. During her recovery from the bone marrow transplant she and her mother Candice were practically quarantined at Levine Children’s Hospital.

You have to be completely secluded. It doesn’t just kill the cancer, it kills everything. So it was me and her in the hospital for 45 days,” says Tucker who sings for the Charlotte rock band the Situationals. Tucker’s story seems to have a happy ending though. In May Cora, who turned 4 in January, was declared cancer free. She’ll continue to get check-ups.

“I’ve read that if you can get passed the first two years normally you’re good. We’ll do (check-ups) for four years. If we come out clean when that’s done, they consider her cured,” Tucker explains.

Sick children are sadly not uncommon, which is why local musicians will hold a benefit for Levine Children’s Hospital - the institution where Tucker spent so much time - Saturday at Neighborhood Theatre.

“So many wonderful stories like that have come to light since I started working on this,” says Justin Fedor of the band the New Familiars who spearheaded the concert which serves as a tribute to Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzerek. Manzarek died May 20. 

I actually ran into my friend, George Westberry of the band Deluge, this weekend. He lost his daughter a few years back, but they had spent some time at LCH. He expressed his deepest gratitude for the folks there. It's a special place - that hospital - winning or losing, Fedor adds. The staff there has a reputation of being gentle, patient, and courageous and for that we are all working to support them in any way we can.

It wasn’t difficult to round up musicians. The lineup features New Familiars, Bums Lie, the Sammies, members of Heywire, Ancient Cities, the Funky Geezer, the Midwood Horns, Jon Lindsay, Sherman Hellville, Eric Mullis, Kodiak Brotherhood, Duk Tan, Time Sawyer, Ross Adams, and Brian Doyle & the Hamiltons.  The evening promises new collaborations and twists on familiar Doors’ tunes with unDoors-like acts like solo acoustic senior Funky Geezer and the bluegrass band Time Sawyer putting a completely different spin on Jim Morrison and company’s signature tunes. Keyboardist Jason Atkins will handle Manzarek’s infamous organ parts.

The concept came from Fedor’s discussion about concert ideas with the Neighborhood Theatre’s new manager, Alex Shaw, following Manzarek’s death.

“Growing up it was my dad’s favorite band. It’s always been around the family. That’s how I realized my dad was cool,” Fedor recalls. “The Oliver Stone film came out. I remember watching it and looking at my dad like ‘This is your favorite band?’”

It wasn’t difficult to decide where the money from such a tribute should go.

“I’ve dealt with children being sick all my life,” says Fedor who lost a childhood friend to leukemia when he was 10. “I’ve had band mates and friends who’ve had to visit the Levine Children’s Hospital with their children. It’s an important thing that children are able to be taken care of.”

The concert takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday at Neighborhood Theatre. A $5 donation is recommended. Click here for more information.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Scowl Brow celebrates compelling, raw new record

There’s a lot of darkness to Robby Hale’s storytelling on Charlotte-based indie rock trio Scowl Brow’s new full-length album, but that darkness doesn’t mean it’s depressing. Maybe if it was delivered as slow, stark folk music it would turn sad, but the fast pace, driving rhythm, frank lyrics, and gruff delivery don’t allow the songs to cave-in on themselves. The makeup of the band is a simple and direct guitar/bass/drums. The rhythm section is rock solid with Scapegoat’s Justin Driscoll and A Stained Glass Romance’s Joshua Taddeo on bass and drums, respectively. It doesn’t musically reinvent the wheel, but the songs are strong, the melodies are catchy with ample bite, arrangements are engaging, and the songwriting is risky. 

Risky? Yeah. Think of a mainstream band like Kings of Leon or the Strokes. Scowl Brow seems like its white trash cousin. That’s not a criticism. It’s like “Roseanne” following “The Cosby Show.” Hale’s stories aren’t pretty and neat - they’re more like Drive-By Truckers on meth - but that’s what makes them so compelling. His songs are populated with cheating and death and booze and drugs and, in one case, the sexual demise of a relationship.

Some of the tracks are angry and even chauvinistic, but it’s honest and it’s real. The album captures what life is like during your twenties (or maybe longer depending on your lifestyle) when you work a job you don’t necessarily enjoy to pay the rent and you spend your downtime time hanging out at a bar and, in this case, playing in a band. Drugs, booze, and dysfunctional relationships are the norm. And that makes for interesting storytelling.  

Hale writes like someone would actually speak and you might not always like what he has to say. On “Compound Girl” he calls a girl “Nothing but a tramp” repeatedly, but reveals a romantic side asking for a serious commitment and reconciling past mistakes on “Tell Me Now.” Whether you agree with the sentiment, those songs are relatable. Relationships are messy and that’s something that’s easy for a listener to identify with. There’s a certain charm that comes from the flawed characters - real or otherwise - that populate Scowl Brow’s songs. Besides, it's not like Kanye West or Axl Rose got popular by being cheerleaders and playing it safe. People want warts and honesty in their art and entertainment, especially in a volatile economic, social, and political climate. 

The approach works because the stories aren’t only compelling and the songs aren’t just snappy. The songs display heart and vulnerability as Scowl Brow combines the urgency and youthful angst of early Replacements, the messiness and distortion of Dinosaur, Jr. (without the searing solos), and the working class punk of Avail with more folk-based storytelling. It reminds me of a grittier Gaslight Anthem - as if Springsteen lacked a filter and really didn’t care what you thought about him.

Scowl Brow created buzz in local circles with its live shows and this self-titled album proves that it’s warranted. It should translate on a national level if given that kind of exposure. The group celebrates the album release tonight, July 19, at Snug Harbor. Tickets are $5 and 2013 Wolves and Black Pope open the show. For more on Scowl Brow and to check out tracks click here

(Left to right: Taddeo, Hale, Driscoll. Photo courtesy of

This week's hot concerts

Toad the Wet Sprocket
8 p.m. Friday, July 19, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $30-$35.
Reunited on the road for the last six years, the sunny California alternative pop band is back with its first album since 1997 (set for September 17). If the title track is any indication, the aptly titled “New Constellation” updates Toad’s sound without sacrificing its harmony-driven pop formula.

The Catch Fire/Onward Soldiers/Mark Crozer & the Rels
8 p.m. Friday, July 19, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $8-$10.
Mike Mitschele’s (Jolene, Alternative Champs) band with former members of Laburnum and Bellglide team with new member and fellow NC music vet John Morris while co-founder Jon Lindsay has left to pursue his solo career. They team with Wilmington’s bopping theatrical pop outfit Onward Soldiers and local Brit Mark Crozer who returns home after touring Europe with Jesus & Mary Chain.

Scowl Browl
10 p.m. Friday, July 19, Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St. $5.
The local trio delivers on early buzz with a new full-length album. With his gravelly voice Robby Hale delivers honest storytelling that’s rich in detail and working class realism against gritty guitar and chugging rhythms that recall Dinosaur Jr., an indie-rock Avail or a gnarlier Gaslight Anthem.

Dwele/Chrisette Michele/K. Michelle
8 p.m. Saturday, July 20, Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd. $68.50-$113.15.
This trio straddles romance and sex with a modern take on R&B and soul traditions. There’s soft, romance and lovelorn belting, but there’s also blatant sexual lyrics especially from the newest act on the block - K. Michelle (the star of VH1’s “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta”) whose new single “I Just Wanna” begs for the description "hardcore ballad."

8 p.m. Saturday, July 20, Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St. $10.
The Wilmington outfit etches out its own brand of psychedelic stoner metal with big, heavy anthems that conjure up images of purple skies and mountain peaks on Mars. It’s new album “Blood Drive” continues to balance Jason Shi’s soaring vocals with sludgy riffs and stomping tempos. The show features two stages with DSR, Gruppe 36, Mercia, Dr. Cirkustien, and Cop Graves.

Vienna Teng
8 p.m. Saturday, July 20, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St. $15.
The piano pop singer-songwriter took a break from music to study sustainability at grad school. Before delving into a second profession next February she’s releasing a new album, “Aims,” in September and hitting the road on what may be her last tour for a while. Recent tracks indicate the new material is heady and beautiful.

Black Crowes/Tedeschi Trucks Band
6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 21, Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $47.35-$101.70.
The again reunited Crowes and husband and wife Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks join forces to riff on blues, jazz, rock n’ roll and other bits of Americana. TTB’s set will likely rely heavily on its upcoming album (out August 20), while the Crows should dig into its rich catalog.

Girls & Guitars Benefit
7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $12.69-$52.50.
Albemarle’s own recent “Dancing with the Stars” champ Kellie Pickler headlines this benefit for the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, which works to enhance quality of life for seriously ill and injured children. Katie Armiger, “The Voice’s” Cassadee Pope, Rachel Farley, and Maggie Rose also perform.

Leopold & His Fiction
8 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $10.
Although frontman Daniel James looks like Freddie Mercury as a silent film star, this combo is rooted in classic folk and `50s guitar rock (not `70s arena rock) and features James’ interesting songwriting that can come across as simple, literate folk music or as churning, Jack White-style howling garage rock.

The Aristocrats
8 p.m. Thursday, July 25, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $20-$23.
The members of this international instrumental trio are revered experimental players with impressive resumes that include stints with Asia, GPS, Steve Vai, and Dethklok (to name a few). Its adventurous fusion of flowery jazz, hard rock backbone, bluesy skills, and technical, but fluid licks spells mind warp for guitar geeks.

Field Report
10 p.m. Thursday, July 25, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $10-$12.
Justin Vernon from Bon Iver’s former band mate Chris Porterfield is an impressive songwriter in his own right as he proves as band leader for the folky Field Report, who stop by the Muse on the way to play Floyd Fest in Virginia this weekend. With Ancient Cities.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Impressive lineup at upcoming God Save QC fest

God Save the Queen City - a day-long indie music festival that takes place at The Chop Shop in NoDa September 14 - recently revealed an impressive lineup.

Athens' psychedelic folk-rock combo Futurebirds (pictured), Ohio-based singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield, Birmingham classic soul throwback St. Paul & the Broken Bones and its country soul-rock neighbors Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Athens' quiet pop--rockers White Violet, and Durham's bluesy laid-back folkies Hiss Golden Messenger make up the out-of-town acts.

Temperance League, Benji Hughes, Bubonik Funk, the Catch Fire, Ancient Cities, the Hot Gates, the Loudermilks, the Elves, and Pullman Strike represent Charlotte.

It's a pretty killer lineup. Mayfield, for instance, hasn't played a solo show here in several years (she was here with her brother - who plays Evening Muse solo a week earlier - in December). The others are proven live acts and the local lineup is worth the price of admission alone.

So far the only information I've found is on Ink Floyd's Facebook page (that's the screenprinting shop behind the festival). Check it out here. It says the first 200 tickets sold will go for $15 each. Check for more information as well.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Q&A with Boz Scaggs

Boz Scaggs’ biggest hits epitomize the idea of career crooner. From the `70s smashes “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle” to his `80s singles “JoJo” and “Look What You’ve Done To Me,” Scaggs can equally work a soul-rock groove or a romantic ballad. On his latest album “Memphis,” the 69-year-old digs into his favorite classic blues and R&B tunes with an assist from producer Steve Jordan and a cast of seasoned session players that were attached to Royal Studio in Memphis. Scaggs spoke to The Observer about making the album, his evolution as a vocalist, and the current popularity of singing on television. He plays a sold out show at Knight Theater Wednesday (july17).
How did you “Memphis” in three days?
Everything was just sort of right. The studio sounded right, but more important the musicians we assembled - it was just a perfect mix. Once we had a couple songs under our belt we realized it was sounding good. Three days later we were done. It’s not uncommon in that kind of situation. My first solo record was in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and the musicians (that are associated with these studios) are used to these kind of schedules where you’ve got an allotted amount of time and you’ve got to be finished because another artist is coming in.
How long did you have?
We gave ourselves 10 days.
Have you ever made a record that quickly?
I don’t think so. I’d done a couple projects with jazz musicians where I’m doing standards and those sessions are the same. It really is more talk than actual playing - how you’re going to do it, how you’re going to approach it, where solos are. You run through it so everyone knows the road map and usually get it in one take or two, maybe three.
How did you decide which songs to use?            
Working with Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen (in the trio Dukes of September) we look at hundreds of classic R&B material. I had a handful of things I’d demoed for myself and looked at with arrangements and approaches and found my key. There were several songs that Steve said, “Let’s try.” We just pitched them out to the room - “Anybody remember this one?” We didn’t accept everything, but when we felt we had a spark we’d go ahead.
How did your own voice develop?
It came out of playing live. It wasn’t a serious career decision. I sang and played some guitar and a little bass. Then later on people of my generation started forming bands and getting recording contracts. Some people develop their voice and their style is defined early on. Mine has been a very gradual process. I work really hard to find my phrasing and sing in tune and all that stuff. In time you begin to recognize your style and use your style as well as continue to grow.
What do you think about the popularity of singing competitions on television?
It’s kind of a novelty to me. I think people who watch those shows are probably somewhat fascinated by seeing the process. To me it’s very much a sign of the times. They really encourage the people on the shows to overdo it, to dramatize their lives. That’s cool. I don’t care. There’s another part of singing where the character and the emotion of a song evolves with the character and emotion of a singer and how they connect. It’s one thing to be able to connect in front of a TV camera, but to be able to connect on a club level or on a human level and be able to play and sharpen your skills…I’m not knocking them. It just doesn’t interest me. There are good musicians and singers out there playing clubs all over the place. That has a lot more value. If (TV shows) make people want to go see live music, I think that’s where it’s at.
Do you find people are still going to see live music?
People in their twenties and thirties - they get it. They go out to live concerts and are going to the clubs again. Live music is where it’s at. (Laughs) I’m sort of being a pitch man for my profession.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Spot local landmarks in Matrimony's new video

Charlotte folk-rock band Matrimony have released a video for its new single "Golden City," which features a number of familiar Charlotte spots from The Plaza to Phat Burrito to NoDa. Watch as the band, who may enjoy singing in the car more than anyone ever, roll pass your house.

Matrimony released its major label debut - the "Montibello Drive" EP - with an extremely well attended EP release show at The Fillmore opening for Langhorne Slim in June. A full-length album is set to follow.

The family band consists of husband and wife Jimmy Brown and Ashlee Hardee Brown and Hardee Brown's brothers CJ and Jordan as well as bassist Ethan Ricks. The group is currently touring the Southeast and plays Charlotte again at the End of Summer Weenie Roast 13 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre September 28.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Franklin makes classic pop and rock on solo disc

Classic pop and rock music is probably the most recognizable mainstream music in the world, but while many of today’s artists can trace their influences to early rock n’ roll only a handful put that style into practice. Charlotte actually has a handful of artists practicing classic pop and rock in the spirit of the `60s and `70s and a few of those artists are involved in Randy Franklin’s new solo album, “Bloodlines.” Franklin has long led the Charlotte band Crisis as primary songwriter and frontman and his album was produced by the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover and Eric Lovell of Gigi Dover and Big Love. All have a foot well planted in classic rock, pop, and soul.

Although “Bloodlines” begins with the jangle of Mersey beat guitar, a walking bassline, and echoing harmonies (on the song "This Girl") - elements that reoccur throughout the record - Franklin doesn’t just hit on one style. “Ready” sounds like Tom Petty, who’s mentioned in the chorus, but it also rides the blurry line between country and rock as if Steve Earle was backed by the Byrds. The bluesy grooves of the snappy Dead-like “Papua New Guinea” would get a jam band crowd bouncing on the lawn. “She Wore Diamonds” is a darker guitar rock track about a stripper that you can easily imagine playing under low lights at the Double Door late, late at night. 

The harmonies of the summery “Haley” bring to mind the Beach Boys, while “Mabel Rae” is a classic country western-meets-Laurel Canyon tale of chasing doomed fame in Hollywood. Classic harmonies and rich backing vocals abound throughout these subtle stylistic changes. Franklin has surrounded himself with a stellar local cast including vocalists Dover, Hoover, and duet partner Carrie Marshall. But sometimes those voices and instruments are actually just layers of Franklin himself like on the final track “The Face of a Child.”   

“Bloodlines” also features supporting players like bassist Ed Leitch, who has played with Franklin since their days in the Providence Drive Band. That experience and ease comes through on the record.

If you’re looking for original music that trades in the sort of classic, harmony-driven pop and rock n’ roll you might’ve grown up with, Franklin celebrates the release of “Bloodlines” Saturday, July 13 at Vintner Wine Market at The Arboretum at 7 p.m. Jackie Moseley will open. For other upcoming dates click here

Thursday, July 11, 2013

This week's hot concerts

Luke Bryan
7 p.m. Friday, July 12, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. Sold out. 
The “Crash My Party” singer is currently country music’s “it” guy with a recent Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year award and a list of number one singles that would even make a music veteran jealous. That's why his show with Thompson Square and Florida Georgia Line is sold out.

AWOL Festival
1 p.m. Saturday, July 13, Symphony Park at South Park, 4400 Sharon Rd. $35-$95.
Girl Talk headlines the eclectic outdoor festival which features a mix of national electronic and rock acts as well as a sampling of regional sounds. Acts include Cris Cab, Skizzy Mars, Watch the Duck, Tony Arzadon, Simplified, Styles & Complete, Brandon Kirkley & the Firecrackers, Early Ray, and XJ4000.

 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 13, Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $32-$55.85.
It ain’t Red Rocks, but the hard touring outfit’s annual summer tour gives fans a taste of its latest live DVD and album as it returns with rising soul singer Allen Stone and former Jack’s Mannequin/Something Corporate leader Andrew McMahon.

Junior Astronomers
8 p.m. Saturday, July 13, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $10.
The Charlotte indie rock band’s new full-length, “Dead Nostalgia,” captures the intensity and rises and falls of its chaotic live shows while drawing more focus to the intricacies of songs like “Touching War” and “Vibrator.” It’s out on Cincinnati’s Broken Circles label later this month.

Bad Company/Lynyrd Skynyrd
7 p.m. Saturday, July 13, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $33-$135.50.
At 63 singer Paul Rodgers remains a force in classic rock (who else would Queen choose to fill Freddy Mercury’s boots on tour?). His classic rock stalwart teams with Skynyrd, who continues to bring the sound of the South to generations long after its first chart-topping all-too-short run.

Marilyn Manson
8 p.m. Monday, July 15, The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $58.
Although live reviews have been ecstatic to scathing in recent years, the aging shock rocker appears to be rejuvenated of late with a theatrical, stylized show that features the band’s biggest hits and interesting covers although at a probable 14 songs (according to recent set lists) his first Charlotte show in ages should be longer. With Picture Me Broken.

311/Cypress Hill/G. Love & Special Sauce
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $17-$61.85.
The funky veteran rock combo celebrates 25 years together by reteaming with stoner rap icons Cypress Hill and feel good funk-flavored bluesman G. Love & Special Sauce for the first time since 1996 and 2003, respectively, for its annual Unity Tour.

Boz Scaggs
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St., $44.50-$125.50.
From his early hits “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle” to his time with Steve Miller Band and his `80s “Urban Cowboy” smash ballad “Look What You’ve Done To Me” to the all-star trio Dukes of September, the soul crooner remains a class act. His latest album finds him revisiting sweet Memphis soul and his voice hasn’t lost its tone or range.

 The Virginmarys
8 p.m. Thursday, July 18, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $7.
This seven-year-old British indie rock trio is finally making its way stateside following the release of its debut album, “King of Conflict.” With raving live reviews and a sound that takes off where Jet and Arctic Monkeys leave off, it could be the next hot indie rock import. With American Fangs.

Hollapenos' 10th anniversary honors old friend

It’s hard to forget a band name like the Hollapenos. Not because it’s the world’s best band name (that’s a whole other blog post), but because it’s funny and an odd spelling. It just sounds like a high school band - and it was. 

Charlotte native and New York-based mastering engineer Dan Millice mentioned his old Myers Park high school band when I interviewed him in February about his Grammy nomination for his work on Trey Songz “Heart Attack.” So when the name popped up on the Visulite’s calendar as an opening act for fellow locals Bubonik Funk and Richmond’s the Shack Band, I wondered if it could possibly be the same band.

Yes, the stars have aligned and the original Hollapenos lineup will regroup for a special show to honor an old friend Friday, July 12, at Visulite. The show marks the defunct band’s tenth anniversary. The group's members include Millice, who is in town celebrating the new album release by fellow Myers Park grads Junior Astronomers (which he mastered), and Andrew Gillespie, who now plays with the Shack Band.

Funds from the reunion show will be donated to the Zach Ramsey Children’s Cancer Fund. Ramsey was a classmate and friend of the band during its Myers Park days. Before his death three months shy of his eighteenth birthday, he started the Zach Ramsey Children’s Cancer Fund with a few thousand dollars from his savings and asked that friends and family continue to raise money to fight pediatric cancer in his name. 

If you attended Myers Park High a decade or so ago, this week sounds like a partial high school reunion with Junior Astronomers’ listening party and acoustic set at NoDa Brewery tonight, the reunion show featuring both the Hollapenos and the Shack Band, and JA's cd release show Saturday. Junior Astronomers’ singer Terrence Richard will also join the Hollapenos on stage for a song Friday. 

Tickets for Friday’s concert are $8 to $10. Additional donations will also be accepted. Doors at 9 p.m.

Monday, July 8, 2013

30 Seconds, Sublime with Rome headline Weenie

WEND 106.5 The End announced the lineup for its End of Summer Weenie Roast 13 today. While the festival's return last summer looked back at some of the radio station's history with headliners like The Offspring and a reunited Garbage, this year's bill is a bit more current with 30 Seconds To Mars taking the top spot.

The reconfigured Sublime with Rome and Filter - who do recall the decade when the Weenie Roast the got its start - will play along with AWOLNation, Sick Puppies, Airborne Toxic Event, New Politics, Manchester Orchestra, Biffy Clyro, Langhorne Slim, Matrimony, the Unlikely Candidates, Leogun, and DJ Skratch n' Sniff.

The all day festival will take place Saturday, September 28 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. Tickets go on sale July 12 at 10 a.m. at Ticketmaster outlets.

Most of these acts are no stranger to Charlotte. Actor Jared Leto's 30 Seconds to Mars has worked its way up from playing large clubs like Amos' and Tremont as well as the Warped Tour. Others like AWOLNation, Sick Puppies, and Langhorne Slim play Charlotte almost annually.

Charlotte's Matrimony will represent its hometown as Paper Tongues, who were easily one of 2012's highlights, did last year. The lineup features other national and international up and comers including London trio Leogun, Fort Worth's Unlikely Candidates, and Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro.

The End Of Summer Weenie Roast took six years off between what was thought to be its last hurrah in 2005 and last year's resurrection. With a second, umm, second act, let's hope it's here to stay.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Dr. John, Zap Mama, more to play LEAF Fest

The 37th Annual LEAF Festival, which takes place in Black Mountain October 17 through 20, announced its lineup today. Grammy winning New Orleans musical stalwart Dr. John and his band the Nite Trippers, Afrobeat artist Zap Mama (pictured), acclaimed African musician Vieux Farka Toure (son of Ali Farka Toure), and NC's own Acoustic Syndicate will headline.

As usual the lineup is a diverse blend of international styles from homegrown roots music to an eclectic acts from afar. Soul Rebels Brass Band, John Cowan Band, Grupo Fantasma, James Hunter Six, Beausoliel avec Michael Doucet, King Britt, Rising Appalachia, 101 Runners, Lake Street Drive, The Bluegrass Project, Dirty Bourbon River Show, Robin & Linda Williams, Samite of Uganda, Underhill Rose, and the Moon and You are among the other musical acts.

Giant Robot and Rodney Miller's Rhythm Raptors, Contra callers Sarah VanNorstrand & Maggie Jo Saylor, and a late night DJ set with DJ Jor-D will lead the Contra dancing portion of the festival. Orquestra Gardel will provide a Salsa soundtrack for dancing as well.

Other performers include LEAF International Bequia Steel Pan Youth, Metropolitan Klezmer, Unifire Theatre, Hobey Ford's Golden Rod Puppets, and the Whee Ah Faerie Kin troupe. The family-oriented festival also includes several children's activities and education opportunities. For more information and tickets click here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

This week's hot concerts

8 p.m. Friday, July 5, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $8. 704-343-9494.
This still relatively new Winston-Salem act steers its muscle car toward bluesy, groove-anchored metal with gruff, literate vocals and ample whiskey-dripping boogie. The band features former Charlottean/bassist Mike Tyson, who was part of Hopesfall’s later lineup.

Maria Howell
5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 6, The Bechtler Museum, 420 S. Tryon St. $12 for non-members (Friday’s show is sold out).
The Atlanta-based actress and Gastonia native who sang the show stopping choir solo in 1985’s “The Color Purple” and has appeared on “Revolution” and “The Vampire Diaries” of late, joins the Ziad Jazz Quartet for a two-night Jazz at The Bechtler engagement.

Kristy Lee
 8 p.m. Saturday, July 6, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $12-$14. 704-376-3737.
You wouldn’t expect such a huge, emotive soul-soaked voice just looking at this white Alabama singer-songwriter strumming an acoustic guitar in her sideways ball cap and dew rag. Imagine the Indigo Girls or Tracy Chapman backing Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes) or Lisa Kekaula (the Bellrays) at The Apollo.

Mike Pinto
8 p.m. Saturday, July 6, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $12-$15.
This California songwriter’s playful, reggae-laced acoustic rock captures the easy, relaxed existence of beach dwelling while horns give it a lively ska punch. Pinto’s latest album “Truthful Lies” (which features guest musicians from the Aggrolites and members of Bob Marley's, G. Love's, and Lenny Kravitz’s bands) hits on several levels. It could appeal to jam crowds, Parrotheads, traditional reggae fans, or those that dig 311 and Love.

Debbie Davies
10 p.m. Saturday, July 6, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $15. 704-376-1446.
Along with Bonnie Raitt this award winning blues guitarist and singer was a forerunner for women in the genre as a sidewoman for Albert Collins and Fingers Taylor before launching a solo career that’s seen her collaborating with everyone from Ike Turner and Charlie Musselwhite to Peter Green and Coco Montoya.

Christopher Paul Stelling
8 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $8-$10.
The nimble picker combines the dexterity of a classical player and a six-string attack that feels like musical exorcism. Vocally he hits with quick, frantic, raspy quips or, elsewhere, more traditional drawn out harmonies. The combination brings new life to the solo acoustic genre. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pixies pick up a new Kim for tour

Following the release of its “Bagboy” single last week, the Pixies announced this morning that founding members Black Francis, David Lovering, and Joey Santiago will embark on a European tour with a new Kim. The Muffs founder Kim Shattuck (pictured) will serve as the group’s bassist since Kim Deal has opted out of another reunion. Deal is now focusing on the Breeders, who headline the Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh in September.

I’ve always been a fan of Deal, especially the vocal interplay between her soft coo and Black Francis’ dynamic vocal style. When I was a teenager I was friends with Deal’s cousin. His association with her made the group at once mystical and attainable to our group. I imagined her rolling up to his house on the hill on Thanksgiving morning and hanging out with us. That never happened, although some friends enjoyed an awkward backstage exchange with her almost 20 years later when the Breeders played nearby Pittsburgh.

I’m glad Deal was a part of the 2004 reunion that beckoned my husband and I to make our first cross country trip to the Coachella Festival and I’m glad we got to see her at Ovens Auditorium for the incredible “Doolittle” anniversary show. But I’m also happy to see the band continue as she celebrates the 20th anniversary of “Last Splash” with her other band.

If the Pixies - a band who I think deserve a Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame induction next year - still have good music in them, then fans deserve to hear it. “Bagboy” is one of those quirky Pixies’ songs, but it also puts a modern spin on the band's old sound production-wise. You can hear it here

When I interviewed Lovering before the Pixies’ Doolittle show he seemed excited about the prospect of continuing on, but said that the group would only do it if they could deliver the goods. “Bagboy” features the same Deal/Francis-like vocal interplay that fans expect, although Deal does not appear on the track. Francis reports it's actually Jeremy Dubs of the band Bunnies on backing vocals.
Francis also reports that the upcoming global tour will not only premier new Pixies’ material, but songs that the group rarely or never play in concert. That’s the part I’m most excited about. To me the Pixies weren’t a singles band. They were an album band whose records gelled from start to finish. So hearing songs like “Tony’s Theme,” “Brick is Red,” or “The Sad Punk” (which Francis name checks in the press release) seems like a big bonus. Can I add “Subbacultcha” (which it played in Raleigh in 2005), “Letter to Memphis” or anything from “Bossanova” and “Trompe Le Monde” to the ample list of requests? 

Francis reports that the group has rehearsed 80 songs with Shattuck - who seems like a good choice from what I remember. I saw the Muffs in Columbia in the late `90s and was impressed with her as a front-person.  It’ll be interesting to see what she brings to the latest version of the Pixies.

US dates have not been announced, but the Pixies have been good to the Carolinas of late with shows in Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh since 2005 not to mention Black Francis’ recent solo performance at Visulite in May. Let’s hope we make it on the itinerary this time.