10561749_706321976088751_8725344352360511920_nHead to Koka Booth Amphitheatre and Symphony Lake for the 1st Annual Dragon Boat Festival! Both the race and accompanying festival started more than 2,000 years ago in southern Mainland China. Brought to you locally by Asian Focus, the Pan American Dragon Boat Association and the Board of the Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce (CAACC), this event is designed as a day of community-based recreation that promotes team-building, wellness and cultural awareness. Previous years have boasted more than 7,000 visitors.

10524353_706378402749775_1675853464756262278_nThe Dragon Boat Festival is popular across the country, and is an opportunity to bring people together, watch races from club and community teams, experience various food and performances and enjoy a fun cultural experience. The festival title–in Chinese, “Duanwu Jie”–translates to the Double Fifth Festival which is derived from being celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese calendar (the lunar calendar), commonly known as the Summer Solstice.

The team sport of dragon boat racing consists of 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steers person paddling to cross the finish faster than the competition. The paddlers work in unison to a drummer’s beat in a long, narrow boat decorated at bow and stern with a dragon’s head and tail. The event encompasses the elements of power, speed, synchronization and endurance. Twelve local teams have entered the competition and welcome you to cheer them on: N.C. Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce Top Fast, Grand Asia Market RTP Community Team, North Carolina State University, CDBA, TACAS, Healing Dragons, Merck Dragon Boat Team, RCLS, HEALING DRAGONS OF LAKE JAMES, TAA-NC, Koka Cruisers and Raleigh Relentless.

10384919_706378079416474_2999066948654964110_nThe day will include cultural performances (music, dance, sports, fashion), a variety of food/drink, as well as exhibits. There will also be informational vendor booths set up on site.

The festival itself runs from 9am-4:30pm on Sat., Sept. 27, while the boat race will take place between 9:30am-4pm. Races will continue throughout the day. Admission is free; blankets, lawn chairs and bottled water are allowed. No picnics are permitted as the festival will feature a variety of international cuisine for purchase. Venue-owned parking is offered at no charge.

Written by Kristy Stevenson. You are invited to follow her online.

Photo credits: Dragon Boat Festival in the Greater Triangle Area Facebook Page

Pizza and beer. What’s not to love? But I’m not talking just any pizza and beer. I’m taking it up a notch with gourmet wood-fired pizzas loaded with fresh ingredients and in-house-made mozzarella cheese, served with craft beer from North Carolina breweries.

Brixx Wood Fired PizzaBrixx Wood Fired Pizza, has opened a second location this month in Raleigh at Cameron Village Shopping Center. Brier Creek Commons Center in North Raleigh is home to the first Brixx Wood Fired Pizza location.

This family-friendly, casual eatery is a great addition to Cameron Village shopping center, which just happens to be like my second home, since it’s so close to downtown Raleigh. I’m probably at Cameron Village more than anywhere since my son goes to elementary school nearby.

My family attended a pre-opening dinner to sample some of the cuisine. We started with the hummus trio with wood-fired pita chips. The trio comes with traditional, roasted red pepper and black bean hummus, served with wood-fired pita chips dusted with cumin.

Brixx Wood Fired Pita  Chips and HummusThis was one of the best hummus appetizers I’ve had, and the black bean hummus with those wood-fired pita chips was a favorite.

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza is known for its specialty pizzas, but I really love angel hair pasta with meatballs. Seriously, it was like that dish was custom-made for me because usually meatballs are served with spaghetti noodles rather than angel hair. It is a fabulous dish, and one that I would order again when I want my angel hair and meatball fix.

Brixx Wood Fired PastaPizzas served at Brixx are 10 inches in size, so it’s perfect for one or for two people with lighter appetites to share. My husband chose the Chicken Florentine, which has wood-roasted chicken, crumbled bacon, roma tomatoes, fresh spinach and feta and mozzarella cheeses.

Brixx Wood Fired Chicken FlorentineKids are easily entertained with crayons and menus created just for them. The pizza size and price are just right, too. A kid’s meal costs less than $5, and includes a drink and either pizza or a pasta entrée.

We also noticed on the menu that the restaurant serves a S’mores Pizza Dessert. Brixx’s take on this American classic is toasted marshmallows and warm melted chocolate sprinkled with graham cracker crumble on a pizza crust and cooked in its wood-burning “campfire.”

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza Kid-FriendlyI think that is a good enough reason to go back for me. Need I say more?

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza serves daily at two locations in Greater Raleigh. The new Cameron Village location is now open at 402 Oberlin Rd., Ste. 120. There is a parking deck underneath the restaurant that you access from Clark Ave.

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza InteriorFollow Leigh Hines on Twitter and Facebook, or visit her blog here: HinesSightBlog

20140812_125320Whatever I expected upon driving into the little country town of Wendell, N.C., to visit a shop specializing in banjos, this was not it.

Entering a nondescript store marked “Zepp Country Music” on the main drag of Wendell, I found myself surrounded by banjos. Lots of banjos.

20140812_12281120140812_122826“Well, what did you expect?” you ask. “It’s a banjo shop.”

Zepp Country Music, Inc. is a banjo shop, sure. But it’s not just any banjo shop. Zepp Country Music, Inc., is the banjo shop, one of just a handful of businesses in the world that truly specialize in banjos.

I stared in awe. I’d never seen so many banjos. Here, on a Tues. afternoon, I counted 75 banjos on display. That number doesn’t even count the ones stored in the back! Ask yourself seriously: Have you ever seen that many banjos in one place (other than at Wide Open Bluegrass, presented by PNC and Bluegrass Ramble).

20140812_122739Since only a small percentage of the world’s population plays the banjo, and here I was in the instrument’s Valhalla, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that it’s run by a former entomology professor at Cornell University.

Since the age of eight, Donald Zepp knew his calling was entomology, the study of insects. But in 1961, he started plucking on a banjo just in time for college. The resulting love affair created an internal rift.

20140812_123501“I managed to flunk out of my freshman year of college because I didn’t bother to go to classes or to take any exams,” Zepp said. “What I was doing instead was playing the banjo.”

After a miserable year working construction, a local music shop hired him to give guitar and banjo lessons. It was 1964 and the folk boom raged.

“I was pretty successful,” Zepp reminisced. “Within a matter of months, I had more students on my schedule than anyone had ever had at one time. I had over 60 people a week.”

Zepp learned to balance his passion for music with school work, eventually earning his Ph.D. in entomology from the University of Missouri in 1976.

He embarked upon a long career in entomology, teaching at Cornell and, later, marketing insecticides as well as heading research and development on them.

When he realized the negative effect his workplace stressors and job hopping had on his family, Zepp retired from the entomology field. In 1997, he purchased a generic music store in Wendell with the intention of turning it into a banjo shop. In 1998, he opened Zepp Country Music, Inc.

20140812_122856Zepp Country Music, Inc. carries all things acoustic. No pick-ups, no amps, nothing electric. You can have your pick of about any banjo on the market, though the store specializes in open back banjos. Guitars, mandolins and a cellos dot the shelves. Also, you’ll find strings, tabs, picks, heads, instructional videos and cases. Zepp repairs banjos and does minor guitar work too.

20140812_122923On Mon. evenings from 7-10pm, Zepp Country Music, Inc., hosts an open bluegrass jam. Anyone who can play is welcome to sit in. Zepp emphasized that it’s a “bluegrass jam” and not an “old time jam,” though he appreciates each style. A bluegrass jam features a group of musicians who play a backup tune while a soloist carries the melody. The soloist then “passes the break” to the next musician in line, and that musician picks up the melody. In an old time jam, everyone plays together, one great jam that spreads the focus among the group.

20140812_122753Zepp Country Music, Inc.’s, show room is located at 4 E. 3rd St. in downtown Wendell. Open Mon.-Fri., 11am-6pm, and Sat., 10am-5pm. Banjo lessons are available Tues. and Thurs.

Raleigh’s Crabtree Valley Mall is not only one of the best places to shop for children’s clothes in the area, but it’s also home to several stores that make your kids beg to go to this premier mall that offers shoppers more than 200 stores, dozens of restaurants and valet parking.

Crabtree Valley Mall is home to Greater Raleigh’s only Disney, LEGO, and Build-A-Bear Workshop stores.

Build A Bear Workshop in RaleighThat’s right. Raleigh is home to the stores that our kids dream about nightly.

Many parents, myself included, have promised trips to these three stores following a great report card, or after filling up a reward chart for good behavior. And sometimes you go just to see the smile on your children’s faces.

Making a new friend at Build-A-Bear Workshop was on my daughter’s summer wish list. We had a fun outing with some of her best friends to make that happen.

At Build-A-Bear, children can pick out a new best friend, give it a heart, pick out character and personality traits and choose just the perfect amount of stuffing for hugs.

Build A Bear Workshop in Raleigh at Crabtree Valley Mall Build-A-Bear Workshop has something for every parent’s budget. Basic bear building starts around $12. Some small animals are already stuffed for under $10.

For our outing, I set a budget of $25, and she chose Rarity, a My Little Pony. Animal clothing and accessories are extra. I imagine I’ll be heading back for those items during the holidays.

Build A Bear at Crabtree Valley Mall Crabtree Valley Mall is open daily and has an impressive selection of items for children under one roof. No matter if you’re looking for shops with everyday essentials like kid’s clothing, kid’s shoes or kid’s eyewear or a great toy store for the perfect gift, you will find it there. For a complete list of stores at Crabtree Valley Mall, visit the store directory.

Crabtree Valley Mall is located at 4325 Glenwood Ave. in Raleigh. There are numerous hotels in the midtown Raleigh area, so you can shop even longer. Crabtree Valley Mall is located about six miles from downtown Raleigh.

See you at Crabtree Valley Mall this fall and winter. Get that holiday shopping list done early.

Follow Leigh Hines on Twitter and Facebook, or visit her blog here:HinesSightBlog.

page walkerPage Walker Arts & History Center

If you have a creative interest in putting pen to paper, Cary has a unique “meet and learn” opportunity for writers (and wannabe writers) in the form of four free writing workshops offered by Piedmont Laureates. Jaki Shelton Green (poetry), Ian Finley (theatre/playwriting), Scott Huler (non-fiction) and Carrie Knowles (short fiction) share their expertise at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center.

“Climbing Down the Ladder of Writing Head First…” with Jaki Shelton Green, 2009 Piedmont Laureate. Poems often get stuck inside our stories, fiction, non-fiction and our folklore. How do we reclaim voice and revision? How do sensory, detail, metaphor and imagery serve as bridges between the story of the poem and the unleashing of the poem? Participants will play around with their own narrative memories/cerebral lore and create poems in this excavation. Prior to class, email your poems to: wildwoman46@hotmail.com. Course code: 79801

“How to Tell a True Story in a True Way: Non-Fiction Workshop” with Scott Huler, 2011 Piedmont Laureate. Do we live in a golden age of non-fiction, with radio enterprises like StoryCorps making the telling of true stories a legitimate art form? Or do we live in the non-fiction End Times, with “reality” TV and a tide of faked memoirs? We live in both. Learn how to tell the difference–and how to tell a true story in a true way. Course code: 79803

HulerScott Huler

“How to Begin: Theatre / Playwriting Workshop” with Ian Finley, 2012 Piedmont Laureate. An introduction to dramatic structure and the tools to prevent writer’s block and the fear of the blank page. Course code: 79804

“No Problem, No Story: Short Fiction Workshop” with Carrie Knowles, 2014 Piedmont Laureate. You need a main character and a problem…when you’ve got those two things, you can begin to build a story. Designed to get your main character knee deep in a plot that’s ready to unfold, this workshop will help you develop a believable main character, find the problem, let the character make decisions both good and bad, and talk. Course code: 79805

All workshops are provided at no cost and will be held Sun., Sept. 14, 3-5pm, at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center. To register, please call 919.460.4963.

Following the workshops there will be a 6pm panel discussion at The Cary Theater where Laureates will read from their latest works and answer your questions about writing and the writing life. Books will be available for sale and signing during a light reception. No registration is necessary for this program.

Looking for more? Then mark your calendar for a Writing Workshop & Train Trip with Carrie Knowles on Sat., Oct. 4. Get away for the day on the train and see where your writing muse takes you. Board in Cary; talk about where stories come from and how place and time play a role in the development of both characters and the story line. Travel to Burlington, N.C., have an hour to write, then back on the train to talk about where your story is going. The adventure begins at 11:30am at the Cary Depot. Course code: 79807

belleBelle at the Historic Jones House

And in Nov., Knowles will also present a Short Story Writing Workshop. Take a look around Belle at the historic Jones House, view old photographs and talk about the structure of a short story and the power of setting to create an interesting narrative. Share a page from your work and receive feedback. Mon., Nov. 10, 2pm. Course code: 79808

These offerings are brought to you by the Town of Cary’s Recreation and Cultural Resources Department–they look forward to seeing you!

Written by Creative Genius Kristy Stevenson. Follow her online.

mastodon 7
To honor Hopscotch Music Festival 2014, I’m posting my diary of my nights out in Raleigh at the event. This is part three, the final entry.

Sat., Sept. 6, 2014


I start my afternoon off with brunch at one of my favorite downtown Raleigh staples, Remedy Diner. Though known for its vegan and vegetarian fare, there’s still plenty on the menu for my fellow meat-eaters. I choose a simple breakfast burrito and a pint of Sweet Josie Brown Ale by Lonerider Brewing Company, which hits the spot.


Phil Cook & Caitlin Rose at The Pour House Music Hall. Trekky Records co-hosts this day party, giving me a second chance to see Loamlands. But that’s not until later. Right now, multi-instrumentalist Phil Cook (of Megafaun) and Nashville country music singer Caitlin Rose team up for some soft acoustic tunes. Beautiful.

cook rosecook rose 22:40pm

Rebekah Todd at Slim’s Downtown. I’m in luck. Not only do I finally get to hear Rebekah Todd’s soulful acoustic folk, I get to hear her backed by Gabriel Reynolds and Nathan Spain of Morning Brigade. This short set includes one of her newest tracks, “Roots Bury Deep,” as well as a fun little cover of Pharrell’s “Happy.”

r todd 2r todd 13:40pm

Hearts & Daggers at The Berkeley Café. I have a new favorite party band. They’re upbeat, sassy and wild, and I absolutely love them. They give outlaw country a fightin’ edge, just the way it should be.

hearts daggers 2hearts daggers 14:15pm

Landlady at The Pour House Music Hall. Catchy hooks, melodic indie-pop, big ideas, excellent stage presence. I wish I had been able to catch more of their set.

landlady 1landlady 24:42pm

Loamlands at The Pour House Music Hall. I wrote about Loamlands yesterday, so I’ll only say that I could not wait for the chance to see them again in a slightly more up-close-and-personal venue. I must be in a country/rock mood.


Some Army at Legends. I give the country music a break to delve back into indie rock. Some Army channels early Radiohead and Coldplay, but in their own, unique way. They lean toward hazy psychedelic rock, slowly building and sucking me in.

some army 2some army 15:43pm

Time to head home for a while and recharge for the night.


Mastodon at City Plaza. I’m not normally a big metal fan, but I make exceptions. Mastodon is one of them. I saw them last back in 2009, when they played their record Crack the Skye in its entirety, so this City Plaza show provides an opportunity to hear what they’ve been doing lately. Once More ‘Round the Sun was released earlier this year, a magpie collection of big riffs, highly technical guitar work and heavy rock.

mastodon 6mastodon 3mastodon 5mastodon 1I’m pleased to see them on the Hopscotch Music Festival 2014 bill because they appeal to a different sect of concertgoers. This year’s festival had big headliners in indie rock, hip hop and metal, something for everyone.

mastodon 2Oh yeah, and I like watching people headbang and crowdsurf.

mastodon 89:05pm

Madison Jay at The Hive. I move on to catch this local freestyle legend.

madison jay9:25pm

Y’ALL at Kings Barcade. When I arrive, a few minutes early, there are perhaps two dozen people spread out around the horseshoe shaped bar and venue. I move to the front preemptively to get the full experience of Y’ALL’s psychedelic power pop. Completely enthralled by the music, I forget I’m in a club. When I turn around, about half an hour later, I’m stoked to see Kings Barcade at full capacity.

yall 1yall 210:07pm

Beer break! Deep South the Bar has a line out the door to see Coke Weed, and I’m not quite ready to trek over to Contemporary Art Museum (CAM Raleigh), so I drop in on Crank Arm Brewing, one of my favorite local breweries. I’m a big fan of Holy Spokes, their chocolate habanero porter.

crank arm10:28pm

Because cats rule the Internet.

crank arm cat10:50pm

The Range at Contemporary Art Museum (CAM Raleigh). I’m way overdue for some electronic music. Smart EDM by this artist out of Providence, R.I.


I hate it when my beer makes faces at me.

can face11:30pm

How To Dress Well at Contemporary Art Museum (CAM Raleigh). More electronic-based music, and with a full band! That’s how to hook me. I love the range of Tom Krell’s voice, and he contrasts his moody beats with some dynamic dance grooves.

dress well 1dress well 212:02am

Dent May Band at Deep South the Bar. I pick Dent May to close out my Hopscotch Music Festival 2014 experience, with a conventional pop/rock sound.

dent may 1dent may 212:33am

I’m signing off. It’s been a successful weekend. Farewell, Hopscotch. See you next summer!

20140905-DSC_1320To honor Hopscotch Music Festival 2014, I’m posting my diary of my nights out in Raleigh at the event. This is part two.

Fri., Sept. 5, 2014


St. Vincent at City Plaza. The art rock artist routinely puts on some of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

20140905-DSC_1156This evening is no exception. She draws heavily from her 2014 eponymous album and Strange Mercy, her 2011 release, for her Hopscotch Music Festival 2014 performance.

20140905-DSC_1180Crowd favorites “Digital Witness,” “Birth in Reverse,” “Surgeon” and “Cruel” make the set list. Pre-Strange Mercy favorites including “Your Lips Are Red” and “Marrow” also fill City Plaza.


I get sustenance for the second consecutive night from Z Pizza (Downtown). Why? Because I enjoy the pizza and it’s superfast.


Spoon at City Plaza. The addition of Spoon to the Hopscotch Music Festival 2014 lineup cemented my attendance. Spoon’s been one of my favorite bands for more than 10 years, and I’ve never seen them live. Mission accomplished.

20140905-DSC_139220140905-DSC_1399The new Spoon album They Want My Soul ranks among the best records of 2014 (so far) and is one of my two or three favorite Spoon records of the eight they’ve released.

20140905-DSC_1362They play a healthy number of new songs, such as “Rent I Pay,” “Do You” and “Inside Out,” because that’s what bands do when they release a new record.

20140905-DSC_1425But this band hasn’t toured since 2012, and their fans want to hear some classics. We are rewarded with “I Turn My Camera On,” “Don’t You Evah” and “The Underdog,” among many others. I could not ask for more from their live show.


Canine Heart Sounds at A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. I stroll back here to see a N.C.-based band that I particularly enjoy. Their quirky beats often stop and start at unexpected moments. Their music wanders as much as I did last night, and always returns with a purpose. Simple harmonies and experimental guitar jaunts create complex melodies that make my soul hum. Drummer Yan Westerlund, formerly of Bowerbirds, sat in with the band IIII last night in this same venue.

canine 1canine 210:10pm

Sinners & Saints at Lincoln Theatre. I arrive early for the Trekky Records band Loamlands, which gets me a nice spot for another N.C.-based band, Sinners & Saints. I catch the final two songs of this contemporary Southern country duo. They merit further investigation in the future.

saints sinners10:33pm

Loamlands at Lincoln Theatre. A friend of mine joked that there’s no such thing as a small show for Loamlands. Lead singer and guitarist Kym Register steals my heart instantly, her genuine smile and country-tinged twang reminding me of Josh Ritter. It feels wrong to simply classify this N.C. band as country/rock, what with Register’s rich vocals inviting comparisons to Birds & Arrows, Bob Dylan and Jenny Lewis. So take my word that Loamlands is much more than that. They’re alt-country, brooding folk and classic rock in the style of CCR and just darn good.

loamlands 1loamlands 211:08pm

Tony Conrad at Vintage21. It’s only Fri., but I’m at church. Vintage Church on S. Person St. graciously opened its doors to the Hopscotch Music Festival 2014 crowd, the perfect setting for quiet acoustic acts. I’m not sure Tony Conrad qualifies. He’s 74 years old and a master violinist, but he’s not playing classical music. His long, droning songs are experimental noise, and I can see exactly how his former 1960s bandmates Lou Reed and John Cale would take to his style.

conrad 2conrad 111:39pm

Freeman at A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Also known as Gene Ween, co-founder of the band Ween, he drew a crowd of loyal fans to the venue.

20140906-DSC_1512I’d seen Aaron Freeman in three different bands over the years. I saw him many times with Ween, where he let his weirdness hang out. I saw him when he fronted his solo band as well, Gene Ween Band, a few years back.

Tonight, with scores of raucous, devoted fans on their feet, Freeman rocks the house. His new music is straight-up rock, and he performs it with an honest gusto befitting his personality. Ween fanatics are treated to “Transitions” and “Exactly Where I’m At,” but he’s mainly sticking to songs from his self-titled album, released earlier this year.


I check out Sun Kil Moon at Lincoln Theatre. After the show, I decide to call it a night. Time to go home and prepare for a big Sat.

This is it. The weekend I’ve been waiting for since 2010. The commencement of one of our proud country’s greatest music festivals: Hopscotch Music Festival 2014, now in its fifth year. In past years, something always came up, keeping me from experiencing the coolest party in North Carolina. Last year at this time, I was in the process of moving from Winston-Salem to downtown Raleigh and missed out. This year, I knew nothing would get in my way. And I’m going to do it up right.

To honor the event, I’ve decided to write a running diary of my nights out in Raleigh.

Thurs., Sept. 4, 2014


vipContempory Art Museum (CAM Raleigh) hosts a VIP pre-party to kick off Hopscotch Music Festival 2014. I’m already impressed. Spacious, bright and clean, this venue adds panache to the weekend festival. The atmosphere makes me feel underdressed even though everyone here is dressed as casually as possible. It’s going to be a long night, after all–there’s no need for suits and ties at a festival that spreads itself across the city.

I see Standard Foods Grocery and Restaurant serving roasted eggplant with water-blanched peanuts, shiso (an Asian mint-like herb) and lettuce from Raleigh City Farm. Poole’s Diner set up a small grill to make toasted, bite-sized pimiento grilled cheese, and I’m all over it.

standardpoole'sNew Belgium Brewing supplied the beer, and I opt for Hop Kitchen, an American pale ale brewed in collaboration with its Fort Collins neighbors Odell Brewing Company. I’m thirsty, so this brew doesn’t last long in my hands.

new belgium5:55pm

I sample the red wine from McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks, which is excellent. Stanbury and Foundation are dishing out craft cocktails that look amazing, even in a plastic cup. I pass by Larry’s Bean’s–cold brew coffee on tap! Love it. New Belgium Brewing kicks its final keg.


Thurston Moore comes on stage. The principal singer and songwriter for Sonic Youth, Moore plays a 20-min. set of his experimental noise rock backed only by a drummer. No vocals. None needed.


Foundation and Stanbury run out of mixers and are now serving healthy pours of straight bourbon.


I arrive at City Plaza to catch the Durham-based hip hop group Toon & the Real Laww. You know you’re good when you’re picked to open for De La Soul on the main stage. Strong support from the crowd.


De La Soul. ‘Nuff said.


Z Pizza (Downtown) refuels me, and I eat as I watch De La Soul rock the block. Now I’m ready to rock. The problem with Hopscotch Music Festival 2014, if this is even a problem, is that it brings more than 150 exceptional talents to downtown Raleigh, many of which even a Music Maniac like myself hasn’t heard of. There are several bands playing simultaneously at venues across downtown all night long. I decide to explore and catch a few songs from as many bands as I can, hoping to broaden my musical horizons. This is going to be fun.


Wild Fur at Lincoln Theatre. I couldn’t pass up the chance to hear my area’s singer-songwriter Wylie Hunter’s newest project. I chose a great show to start my small stage odyssey. I love the synth-tinged Americana coming out of Hunter’s collaboration with another local stud, Nick Jaeger.

wild fur9:01pm

It’s raining, and, like most people, I’m on foot going from venue to venue. I’m not happy, but I’m a festival veteran. I will not let the weather spoil my night.


Young Cardinals at Deep South the Bar. I like power pop, and this band out of Raleigh had a good edge to them. A little dark power, perhaps.

young cardinals9:50pm

Sun Club at Lincoln Theatre. I’m back at Lincoln Theatre, which has, in my opinion, the most enticing lineup tonight. I wish I had caught more of these guys, but I arrive a little late. Sun Club, out of Baltimore, elicits comparisons to Vampire Weekend for their happy electric pop ditties. I hear more of the quirky band Born Ruffians in their style. I wonder if anyone will top this performance tonight.

sun club10:15pm

I’m thirsty again, and Lincoln Theatre offers one of my favorite N.C. craft beers in the bottle–Bad Penny Brown Ale from Big Boss Brewing Company. Malty, chocolaty goodness. Yum.

bad penny10:31pm

American Aquarium at Lincoln Theatre. It’s still raining, so I decide to stay dry a little longer and catch the beginning of this Raleigh band’s set. I want to slow it down some and get my alt-country fix. Think Uncle Tupelo or early Wilco. Though American Aquarium tours constantly around the U.S., tonight is my first time seeing them live. I’ve been making poor life decisions, I know. These guys are easily the tightest band I’ve seen tonight, everything perfectly in sync.

american aquarium20140904-DSC_099020140904-DSC_104420140904-DSC_101711:13pm

IIII (read “four”) at A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. How can I resist a band featuring 14 drum kits? I cannot. Two synthesizers/mixers in the middle of the stage are surrounded by 14 drummers, including core member Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. 14 bass drums pound in unison, their pulsating rhythm shaking the very foundation of this theater. I stay from the beginning to the end, the only show tonight that has sucked me in for its entirety. What a performance! Electronica meets a drum line, only more so. Just wow.

FourFour 212:10am

Reptar at Deep South the Bar. Friends have been pushing me to see Reptar for almost a year now, and it never happened. I decide to see what the fuss is about. It takes me about three seconds to get hooked. Seven band members crowd the stage at the tiny bar, giving them barely enough room to move around. They don’t seem to care. These guys are jumping, dancing, twirling, head banging and pouring sweat. This is high energy indie pop at its finest, and they’re exciting the crowd which, after so many hours of music, must be exhausted by now. I should be, too, but somehow I find an energy reserve, dug from the depths of my rain-soaked body by this band out of Athens, Ga.


I call it a night, deciding to skip The War on Drugs back at Lincoln Theatre. After all, this is only the first night of three. In a few hours, I’ll do it all again.

MJ“A Feel Good Music Series” is how North Hills and Midtown Events describes its Friday Night Tributes concert series at Midtown Parkand that’s exactly what it is.

The cool breeze of a Carolina evening. Hands-down delicious food. The positive energy of fellow music fans in the air. Music that will take you back to some of your fondest memories. These are all ingredients for a feel-good night of live music, and Friday Night Tributes doesn’t skimp.

Friday-Night-Tributes-650x346I’m a pretty big Michael Jackson fan. Always have been (since I was four years old), and always will be. I had already planned to check out the opening night of Friday Night Tributes last Fri. (I heard it was going to be big), and when I heard that Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band was going to kick off the series, my “Michael Jackson Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour” disc didn’t leave the player.

I knew there would be a big crowd, so I arrived early. I highly suggest to arrive early and dine at one of the many restaurants surrounding Midtown Park. You can’t go wrong with any of the options, and especially with Chuy’s, a Mexican restaurant that has an outdoor patio overlooking the park and the stage. The aromas, themselves, coming from the restaurants might entice you to dine there, if I don’t! Also, if you want a lawn seat, close up, take a lawn chair and claim a spot early (at around 6pm or sothe concerts start at 7pm). I saw the “front-row” spots fill up pretty quickly (seating is general admission, with the lawn seating setup).

20140829-DSC_0568Entering Midtown Park, I got the same feeling I did as a kid when I hit the playground, seeing a landscape full of entertainment, knowing there was a great evening ahead and knowing I was going to be immersed in something I love for hours (music, in this case, and Michael Jackson’s music, specifically).

Midtown Park is beautiful. Modern amenities and design, with a community park feel, blends perfectly in the area filled with greenery and open space. The design of the stage itself at Midtown Park is something to awe over. Designed by Thomas Sayre (who also designed the gigantic earthcast rings at North Carolina Museum of Art’s Museum Park), the stage was designed using local resources to create an authentic community feel, and it sure does. Checking out the stage and the sound system was a must, and I knew immediately from Who’s Bad’s sound check that the volume and mix were going to be just rightnot too loud and harsh, but still at a rocking volume.

I acquainted myself with the venue and found that no matter where my feet were planted, I had a great view of the stagefrom in front of Chuy’s patio and all over, due to the slant of the lawn.

20140829-DSC_0510For the special event, North Hills features vendors sidelining the lawn, from North Carolina-related apparel vendor Oak City Collective, to the ever-so-popular Chirba Chirba food truck, an Eschelon Experiences beer tent (with Longboard, Goose Island, Bug Light Lime brews and more drinks), to-die-for cotton candy from Oscar William’s Gourmet Cotton Candy from Apex and more. Definitely walk the streets around Midtown Park to check out the vendorsthere’s some cool stuff to pick up.

20140829-DSC_0562Who’s Bad hit the stage approximately at 7pm and the lead singer, decked out in the whole Michael Jackson getup, filled the venue with the spirit and vibe of MJ. And the voice, dance moves and personality echoed MJ superbly. That feel-good atmosphere I mentioned earlier… it came alive, full force, when the songs of Michael Jackson took my mind to some of the best times of my life. You know, how hearing a song can make you think of a specific moment in your life? By the looks on faces around me, I wasn’t the only one feeling good. The band rocked, and played the music of Michael Jackson phenomenally.

20140829-DSC_0530The audience moved the entire time, and all in sync with the grooves. The event was family-friendly by all means. Kids and parents danced, and several young ladies and gents in the audience brought their MJ moves and gear, including gloves, hats and the shoes. At one point, Who’s Bad even invited all the kids to the stage to rock with the band. Some hit center stage, showing off their moonwalk, twirl and pop and lock skills. The grooves didn’t stop, and Who’s Bad’s energy never faltered.

20140829-DSC_0598As the night went on, the lights of the stage came on and splashed purples, blues, reds, greens and a plethora of colors on the band and the audience up front. The festive lights at Chuy’s, at the back of the park, added to the celebratory atmosphere. After all, the show did land right on Michael Jackson’s birthday!

20140829-DSC_0623Who’s Bad pumped out Man in the Mirror, Thriller, Beat It, Off The Wall and much more: a full, two-hour set of MJ favorites.

20140829-DSC_061820140829-DSC_0626And the fun and energy never stopped.

20140829-DSC_0661With a two-hour set, the night didn’t feel like it went by fast as myself and the audience was totally immersed in every note and line from the hits.

20140829-DSC_065220140829-DSC_0681If you missed the first night of Friday Night Tributes last Fri., have no fear, Bob Marley is here… tomorrow (Sept. 5)… his spirit through the tribute band, Crucial Fiya Band. And Trial by Fire (Journey tribute), On the Border (Eagles tribute) and a whole series of concerts is ahead. Check out the full Midtown Park schedule here! The concert series is a “can’t miss.”

And tag your photos on Twitter and Instagram with #NHTributes and #FeelGoodFriday, along with using the @visitRaleigh, @visitnorthhills and @midtownevents handleswe’d love to see photos from your night!

P1160267Downtown Raleigh’s Artspace can be defined as a thriving visual art center offering provocative exhibitions, inspiring hands-on education programs and a dynamic environment for more than 35 established and emerging studio artists as well as nationally acclaimed exhibitions.

It’s a great cultural experience for all ages and tastes. Enjoy challenging exhibits of regional, national and international artists’ works. And while you’re there, visit the artists in their studios to fully interact with and observe creativity in action!

P1160278Discover the inspiration behind a piece, learn a new technique or purchase an original work directly from the artist. Choose from a diverse mix of visual art including acrylic, oils, sculpture, jewelry, encaustics and printmaking. Artspace’s uniqueness lies in the ability for visitors to engage with the artist and to experience the creative process firsthand.

P1160269Eric Raddatz, iPhoneography

P1160277Anna Podris, Encaustic Painting

Meet artisans like Pam Shank of Pam Shank Portraits. She does commissioned original paintings in watercolor or oil–from your photos or photos taken by her. Compositions are artistically planned with elements from several reference points. With a national client base, Shank honors the tradition of portraiture using her unique personal touch and vision of timelessness in every painting.

P1160285Pam Shank, Portraiture

Shank says a portrait must, first and foremost, be an excellent likeness of the subject and it must also be a strong painting. She works with each client to create a work of art that captures the subject in a creative and unique composition. Paintings are priced by the size of the work and complexity of the subjects included. Watercolors usually take three to four weeks; oils six to eight weeks.

P1160288Pam Shank, Portraiture

Fiber artist and textile designer Mary Kircher’s art specializes in hand weaving and custom dye techniques and is inspired by scenes in nature. “The wilderness is my muse. I am captivated by untamed places and am drawn to unstructured surroundings of woods and water,” she says. Kircher finds solace in the outdoors and realized she could get there through her work.

P1160273Mary Kircher, Weavings

She appreciates Artspace’s open studio design and likes talking with visitors about how weavers get pattern and color. Kircher’s gallery consists of a Marsh series, Currents series, Passages, Wilderness series, Window series, Wearables, Weaving Journals and commissioned pieces.

P1160290Mary Kircher, Weavings

And Linda Ruth Dickinson translates her vision primarily through paint on canvas or panel, with recent explorations resulting in abstract imagery that is “both familiar and otherworldly.” She believes that work can make spiritual beliefs manifest, therefore her focus is on the expression of those possibilities, connecting the viewer to that which may sometimes be beyond or outside usual experience or ordinary existence.

P1160282Linda Ruth Dickinson, Abstract Painting

A visit to Dickinson’s studio made my seven-year-old exclaim, “This makes me not want to play video games and [instead] make art.” A mother couldn’t ask for better inspiration!

Utilizing mostly large brushes, Dickinson paints with bold hues, transitional shading and lines. “Layer after layer of thin acrylic wash is stroked on the support to build a vibrant transparency of contrasting or complementary hues,” she said. My favorite of her works is below:

P1160284Linda Ruth Dickinson, Abstract Painting

Check out these and the other artist members and residents. Take a class, enjoy artist talks and exhibitions, explore First Friday, or just buy some art! 201 E. Davie St. in the City Market district. Admission is free, although donations are accepted. Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10am-6pm; First Friday (Gallery Walks) of each month, 10am-10pm; studio hours vary.

Written by Creative Genius Kristy Stevenson. Follow her online.


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