Archives for posts with tag: live music

DSC_0662After 23 years traveling and touring the national circuit, renowned bluegrass star Lorraine Jordan decided to bring a piece of the road home with her. And I don’t just mean her band, Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road.

DSC_0666This summer, the Garner resident opened Lorraine’s Coffee Shop in her hometown, mindful of her growing town’s needs.

“I see a need for a small town community to have gathering places,” Jordan said. “I don’t think anytime you want to see live music you have to go into a bar scene to see it. Being a musician myself, I see how important music and entertainment is to a small community. My coffee house is the perfect place to bring your family. It’s peaceful.”

DSC_0727Greater Raleigh’s Town of Garner is certainly peaceful, with a listed population just shy of 27,000.

“I think Garner’s a perfect place to live,” Jordan continued. “I’m a country girl at heart. Garner’s only a few minutes from the big city, but you almost have that country feel.”

Outsiders may be surprised to learn that Garner gave birth to former American Idol winner Scotty McCreery, NBA stars John Wall and David West and the founder of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament, Barbara A. Kelly.

On a Fri. night, I made my way out to Garner to see Jordan’s vision first-hand. The coffee shop stood alone, a much larger structure than I anticipated, complete with a drive-thru.

As I pulled around back to park, I noticed a sign for “Jordan Driving School.” The name is not a coincidence. Lorraine Jordan has operated her own private driver’s education school for 23 years, serving Greater Raleigh students.

DSC_0656The interior shone brightly half an hour before local guitarist Cliff Davis was set to perform. I sauntered over to the coffee bar, noting the absence of alcohol. Jordan truly believes in creating a family atmosphere, and the quiet country venue caters to a wide spectrum of guests. High schoolers mingled with the elderly, with Southern charm the prevailing attitude.

DSC_0671My camera attracted some attention. Several Garner residents and coffee shop regulars approached me to ask what I was doing. Upon hearing I was a Music Maniac, they each expressed their appreciation for what Jordan brought to their town. Most of them remarked that the lack of alcohol encouraged them to come out more often. I rarely find a venue that does not serve alcohol, but Jordan seems to be on to something here. Later, I would witness the reverence in which musical acts are held, as the crowd focused their full attention on the stage and not on their friends. If I were a touring musician, Lorraine’s Coffee Shop would be high on my list of places to play.

DSC_0685DSC_0682The coffee bar serves the standard variety of coffee and espresso-based drinks, available hot, iced or frozen. They also serve smoothies, water, sodas, juice, sandwiches and chips. Manhattan Bakery in Greater Raleigh’s Morrisville and Amish Country Market out of Clayton provide pastries.

DSC_0679DSC_0681The walls are decked with pictures, albums and press clippings from her time touring. In the back, facing the stage, I found her Wall of Fame. Photographs and autographs from famous musicians are proudly displayed, her vibrant personality helping to acquire many famous friends. Hank Williams, Eddy Raven, Kid Rock, Dolly Parton, Lynn Anderson and Jim Ed Brown were among the many musicians to wish her well in opening Lorraine’s Coffee House & Music.

DSC_0668DSC_0667On this night, Cliff Davis held court with his long-time musical partner Doug Pitts. The two play what Davis calls “Southern swamp music,” a blend of folk, gospel and blues that he developed in his hometown of Burgaw, N.C. Davis began playing guitar nearly 60 years ago, and he and Pitts record in a private studio Pitts set up in his home.

DSC_0713DSC_0722Davis and Pitts complement each other well. Davis strums a D35 Martin and a D26 Martin, while Pitts lays down some improvisational licks on his electric.

DSC_0714“I love storytelling and weaving an image,” Davis remarked. “I give Doug a palette to paint on, and he goes from there.”

DSC_0723DSC_0697Jordan’s musical tastes emphasize the down-home country feel that she seeks. Thurs. evenings, between Oct. and March, Lorraine’s Coffee Shop hosts live bluegrass. Fri. nights bring acoustic solo artists and duets. On Sat., full jazz bands own the stage. Jordan said she hasn’t had any trouble booking acts for her new venture.

“Everybody wants to come play Lorraine’s Coffee Shop. We have five national bluegrass bands booked in route coming through our area. We’ve got a whole lot of jazz bands in this area. We’ve been able to find plenty of musicians.”

Lorraine’s Coffee House & Music is open Mon.-Fri., 6:30am-7:30pm, and Sat. and Sun., 8am-7:30am. Nights featuring live music have extended hours, with bands playing 7:30-9:30pm. Check the venue’s website for a full event schedule.

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10384591_10152558384189367_3149141661301439576_nIn the South, bluegrass remains a staple of its rich culture. From today through Sat., Oct. 4, downtown Raleigh welcomes International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA’s) World of Bluegrass, a week-long celebration of all things twangy.

Kicking off World of Bluegrass, the Bluegrass Ramble runs today through Thurs., Oct. 2, in seven sites around Raleigh: The Architect Bar & Social House, Kings Barcade, Lincoln Theatre, The Pour House Music Hall, Raleigh Convention Center, Tir Na Nog and Vintage Church. Ticket-holders can “ramble” all over downtown, checking out a bevy of talented acts from across the nation including Jeff Scroggins and Colorado, Rebecca Frazier and Hit & Run, Newtown, The Danberrys and Garner’s own Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road. The Bluegrass Ramble shows begin at 7pm and run until well after midnight at each venue.

ramble-poster-version011377455_10151851510179367_634910898_nOn each day of the Bluegrass Ramble, Raleigh Convention Center hosts the IBMA Business Conference. This massive trade show and insider gathering covers all aspects of the musical genre. Artists, merchandisers, publicists, record labels and a host of others talk tunes and debut the latest innovations in recording technology, instruments and strategies. This year’s keynote speaker is Bela Fleck.

The Bluegrass Ramble builds up to the 25th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards at Memorial Auditorium at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, hosted by Lee Ann Womack and Jerry Douglas. Listed performers include Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Balsam Range, Del McCoury Band and The Boxcars.

2014-awards1377392_10151853656829367_437700088_n1375895_10151853822754367_1946461971_nFor those of you concerned about getting around, a complementary shuttle runs between hotels and venues over these three days. The Ramble-based shuttle operates from 4:45pm-2:45am.

But that’s just the prelude to the weekend blowout: PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass. On Fri., Oct. 3, and Sat., Oct. 4, the festival’s two main stages, Red Hat Amphitheater and Raleigh Convention Center, explode with talent. 2014 headliners include Del McCoury Band, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Yonder Mountain String Band, Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby and Steep Canyon Rangers. Fri. night’s show finishes at Red Hat Amphitheater with the Wide Open Jam, featuring Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Bryan Sutton, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan.

WideOpen-poster-20141474407_10152700561574367_25411150177228156_nOn a budget but aching for some good live bluegrass? The PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass Street Fest will help you get your fix. Four professional stages, one youth stage and one dance tent line Fayetteville St. on Fri. and Sat. from noon-midnight. And it’s free. FREE.

ramble-poster-version011381986_10151855310894367_1198374962_nFree performances from Gibson Brothers, Della Mae and The Duhks. Free peformances from Blue Highway, Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road and Chatham County Line. Free bluegrass from more than 85 bands, right on the streets of downtown Raleigh.

10346454_10152590211214367_2852084799719141432_nAre you excited yet? Because there’s still more.

The 2014 N.C. Whole Hog Barbecue State Championship runs concurrent with PNC Presents Wide Open Bluegrass. Between 15-20 local barbecue competitions give out prizes, and the cooked meat will be sold to the public at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle tent, located on Cabarrus St. beside the Raleigh Convention Center.

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If you’re still looking for more ways to appreciate bluegrass, you can check out the inaugural IBMA Bluegrass Film Festival. Two Feature Films are set to be screened at the Business Conference, while six Festival Films will be shown during the PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass.

All told, more than 160 acts flood downtown Raleigh for the World of Bluegrass festivities. Join the party and embrace one of our country’s most impressive bluegrass festivals. It doesn’t take a Music Maniac to appreciate this special week. On the heels of Hopscotch Music Festival 2014, our great city cements itself as a musical hub to rival all others.

1375162_10151855634194367_2099675258_nVisit the official website for tickets and full event schedules (you can also see the PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass map and schedule here). For information on parking, click here. And for accommodations, events during the festival, dining and more, click here.

It’s time again for Greater Raleigh’s 31 Days of Art! The October calendar is filled with 31 days of performances, exhibits and gallery shows in a broad range of artistic disciplines.

Bluegrass_header_webIn celebration of International Bluegrass Music Association’s second World of Bluegrass and PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass in Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of History‘s case exhibit, Carolina Bluegrass: Breakdowns and Revivals, explores the roots of bluegrass music in the Carolinas. The exhibit, recurring daily through May 17, 2015 (Mon.-Sat., 9am-5pm; Sun., noon-5pm), with free admission, features promotional posters from events, album covers and television clips. The exhibit will also present rotations of instruments owned and played by North Carolina bluegrass musicians:

Aug. 29-Oct. 9: Guitar, custom-made by Carl McIntyre for Doc Watson; and banjo played by Earl Scruggs.

Oct. 9-Nov. 13: Guitar, Martin D-28, played by Rodney Dillard; and banjo, made by Ome Banjos, custom-made for Beverly Cotten-Dillard.

Nov. 13-Dec. 18: Fiddle, played by Bobby Hicks during his time with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys.

DocWatson_KT           Gibson "Flint Hill Special" Mastertone banjo associated with Earl Scruggs.           Watson guitarDec. 18, 2014-Jan. 22, 2015: Banjo, made by Vega; this tenor banjo was played by Arthur Smith while composing and recording “Feudin’ Banjos” in 1955.

Jan. 22-Mar. 5: Mandolin, custom-made for Curly Seckler; this mandolin was used during Seckler’s time with Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass.

Mar. 5-Apr. 9: Banjo, made by Bud Soesby ca. 1970, played by David Holt; the banjo is signed by numerous musicians.

Apr. 9-May 17: Banjo, made by Gibson Guitar Corporation; this Earl Scruggs Standard Banjo is a faithful re-creation of Scruggs’s 1930 Granada model.

Complementing this exhibit are these live music events: New Deal String Band Special Reunion Concert, Oct. 1, 5-7pm; and PineCone Bluegrass Jam, Oct. 2, 5-7pm.

litmusThe Wide Open Bluegrass Art Show 2014 is sponsored by the Litmus Gallery & Studios in downtown Raleigh (just across the street from the Red Hat Amphitheater) and the Raleigh Sculpture Group. Litmus features artists each month, and studio artists have their works on display and studios open for touring. Paintings, pottery, mixed media art, drawings/sketches and sculptures are some of the art forms available for viewing and purchase. The Bluegrass Art Show will showcase 2D and 3D artwork from 35+ artists, with more than 75 works of art relating to the theme of bluegrass. Recurring daily; see times and more information here.

HRMPCORMuseumEntranceAnd the City of Raleigh Museum (COR Museum) hosts Face of Folk: 30 Years of PineCone. Housed in a historic former hardware store, the COR Museum is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of N.C.’s capital city while envisioning its future. It curates temporary and permanent exhibits about the city’s people, places and resources while maintaining a collection of approximately 5,000 artifacts, offering educational programs and tours. The Face of Folk exhibit, celebrating the 30th anniversary of PineCone, Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, recurs weekly; see times and more information here.

All part of #31DaysOfArt in Greater Raleigh!

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

Photo credit: Litmus Gallery & Studios: Litmus Gallery & Studios Facebook Page

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.

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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

1:00pm

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.

remedy2:15pm

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.

loamlands5:18pm

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.

8:23pm

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.

range11:12pm

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

6:50pm

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.

20140905-DSC_120820140905-DSC_112320140905-DSC_11917:40pm

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

8:29pm

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.

20140905-DSC_13949:37pm

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.

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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.

20140906-DSC_153512:27am

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

5:45pm

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.

stanburyfoundation6:00pm

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.

thurston6:23pm

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

7:00pm

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.

20140904-DSC_072020140904-DSC_074620140904-DSC_07228:00pm

De La Soul. ‘Nuff said.

20140904-DSC_088120140904-DSC_082420140904-DSC_090420140904-DSC_080620140904-DSC_085220140904-DSC_083420140904-DSC_08958:22pm

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.

8:40pm

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.

9:10pm

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.

reptar12:47am

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!

Deep South 2Deep South The Bar presents raw talent in a welcoming, friendly environment created by genuine music fans for genuine music fans. With 365 shows per year, the hot spot promises visitors a stellar night of live music any night of the week. And my night at the music venue last Thurs. was everything stellar. As soon as I heard that Raleigh’s one-man-band and singer-songwriter Adam Pitts was playing, I made plans.

When you’re greeted at the door, you feel like you’re at the door of a friend’s placeyou’re greeted with a smile and a warm welcome. Upon walking in, you can see the entire venue. The layout is simple, yet it’s an intriguing space to explore, detailed enough to spend hours taking everything in. Lyrics are written across the walls with concert posters and more in between. You’ll feel inclined to look for lyrics you recognize, and you will, quickly. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. ~J. Lennon” caught my eye.

Deep South 4A pool table sits near the entrance and the stage captures your attention at the back of the venue. To your left, booths line the wall. To the right, the bar glows with a lineup of drinks, an artfully hand-written drink menu, memorabilia and photos and yes… strings, drums sticks and more are for sale for musicians who need emergency gear during a gig.

Deep South 6For those wanting some fresh air, hop outside to find outdoor seating, with a fantastic view of the Raleigh Convention Center’s CREE Shimmer Wall and some of downtown Raleigh’s skyline. All-in-all, getting comfortable for the night happens very quickly.

The drink menu rocks, with cocktails themed appropriately for Raleigh and the venue. Order The Hopscotch, named after Hopscotch Music Festival, with Bulleit Bourbon, St. Germain liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup and Champagne. Try The Cherry Bounce, the drink that helped Raleigh become North Carolina’s state capital and the first cocktail ever served in Raleigh, with cherry vodka, cranberry juice, a splash of lime juice, club soda and cherries. On Thurs., Greater Raleigh beer on tap (draft selections are switched out periodically) included Aviator Brewing Company Mad Beach and Big Boss Brewing Company Angry Angel, plus three other beers brewed outside of Greater Raleigh. The bar also serves bottled brews and wine. Check out the collection of backstage passes and credentials from countless major concerts under the protective surface of the bar itself.

photoAdam Pitts took the stage soon after I arrived on Thurs. Building beats, bass lines, orchestrations and harmonies live and on-the-spot with his acoustic guitar, loop pedal, voice and sometimes a keyboard and kazoo (I’ve seen lots of solo artists use a loop pedal, but Pitts is a master), he popped off intriguing versions of covers ranging from A’ha’s “Take On Me” to “Kiss” by Prince to “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot and more.

Deep South 3Deep South 7His voice’s timbre and pitch are dead on, fitting perfectly with his song selection and impressing audiences at every performance that I’ve seen of his.

Deep South 8Soon after Adam Pitts started up, it wasn’t long before the crowd filled the venue and dances broke out in front of the stage. Throughout Pitts’s performance, the energy never dwindled.

Deep South 1Music fans like myself honed in on Pitts’s talent and also discussed new major album releases and upcoming shows in Greater Raleigh with fellow crowd-members. Deep South The Bar is without a doubt a popular gathering space for musicians and fans of quality music. Speaking of quality, I honed in on the sound system’s quality and the mix qualitythe sound was nothing short of outstanding, with frequencies not too harsh and the volume at a perfect level.

Deep South 5When you visit Raleigh for live music, you should definitely hit Deep South The Bar, even if you just catch a few songs and grab a drink. The venue is a “can’t-miss.” Check out the lineup of concerts ahead of time or drop in on a whim at night. If you’re a musician visiting early in the week, the venue hosts open mic nights on Tuesdays, so you can share your talents in Raleighcheck out the open mic FAQ here. Experience a music venue that stays true to presenting raw musical talent in a genuinely-friendly atmosphere.

The venue is located right in the action of downtown Raleigh, adjacent to Red Hat Amphitheater, which will present artists including Lorde, Earth, Wind & Fire and PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass this summer and fall. In fact, crowds of Music Maniacs seeing their favorite artists at the amphitheater can walk across the street to hear even more music at Deep South The Bar, before and after concerts. Deep South The Bar is easy to spot from the amphitheaterjust up the hill on the corner of S. Dawson and W. Cabarrus Sts.

Rock on and see you at Deep South The Bar!

20140814_183457Nickel Creek’s first tour in seven years could not have passed through a better venue. On the road in support of “A Dotted Line,” their first studio album since 2005, the band spent an Aug. evening at Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre. This show was extra special as singer-songwriter Josh Ritter joined the bill for the second of only three nights together.

For this blogger, few events better signify the warm North Carolinian spring and summer like an evening at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. Sitting on 14 acres with a capacity of 7,000 people, the amphitheatre is encircled with hardwoods and pine trees. To the south, bordering the grounds, the shimmering Symphony Lake beckons visitors to picnic beneath the pines before and during events.

20140814_184718CobbleStone Courtyard, where the main entrance spills out, serves beer, wine, sandwiches, pizza, ice cream and other snacks.

20140814_183614Crescent Area houses Crescent Café, where guests can purchase beer, wine, mixed drinks and hot sandwiches. The amphitheatre sells table seats in Crescent Area featuring wait staff service.

20140814_18342120140814_183520A new wrinkle for me was the addition of three food trucks, and each show is sponsored by two local breweries. I lucked into Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing and Fortnight Brewing Company.

20140814_18460520140814_183917Koka Booth Amphitheatre gives patrons plenty of reason to keep coming back. Pickin’ in the Pines Bluegrass Series kicks off this year on Sept. 3 and continues every Wed. through Oct. 1. Between May and Aug., Koka Booth Amphitheatre hosts the outdoor movie series, WakeMed Movies By Moonlight. Beginning in late May, the North Carolina Symphony Summerfest runs for eight weeks. Raizin’ A Ruckus Country Music Series brings stellar country tunes every Wed. in July. Meanwhile, the venue books a star-studded lineup to play throughout the warm season. Past acts include Crosby-Stills-Nash, Alan Jackson, Duran Duran, The Avett Brothers, Ben Folds, The Lumineers and My Morning Jacket.

But on Aug. 14, Nickel Creek and Josh Ritter held the eyes and ears of my fellow Music Maniacs. At 7:30pm, Josh Ritter walked on stage. I’ve been seeing Josh Ritter live for 10 years, and this show marked the first time I’d seen him without a full band. He was joined on stage by Josh Kaufman, who added some dazzling guitar work for about half of Ritter’s set.

DSC_0073Ritter and Kaufman opened with the wistful “Monster Ballads,” setting the tone for his set: peaceful, honest and mellow. Lacking a big band, Ritter avoided the raucous songs in his catalogue, such as “To the Dogs or Whoever” and “Mind’s Eye,” to focus instead on the acoustic ballads which originally brought him notoriety. He strummed old favorites (including “Kathleen,” “The Temptation of Adam” and “Me & Jiggs”) and mixed in a few new unreleased songs, including my new favorite, “Cry Softly.” His songs tell stories of the Midwest, his literary style a unique blend of poetry and prose.

DSC_0061Ritter’s 2013 album “The Beast In Its Tracks,” a stripped down solo acoustic record, seemed destined to get lots of love from this type of set. Not surprisingly, Ritter closed his set with three songs off his newest release: “New Lover,” “Hopeful” and “Joy To You Baby,” a song about acceptance and moving forward. Ritter’s Midwestern croon had the crowd at ease and primed for the headliner.

Nickel Creek blended bluegrass with rock, pop and ragtime, creating a new genre dubbed “newgrass.” Members Chris Thile (mandolin), Sean Watkins (guitar) and Sara Watkins (violin) are all in their 30’s now (upright bass player Mark Schatz joins them on tour), but that same youthful energy that made them crowd favorites when they formed 25 years ago remains the hallmark of their music.

DSC_0091Nickel Creek began their set with their new album’s opening track “Rest Of My Life.” Ostensibly about waking up with a hangover following a wild party the night before, this song sounded to me like a metaphor for their career. Their first successful run as a band netted them, among many other awards, a 2003 GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Perhaps a hangover set in after so many years together, and now the band is waking up to a new life post-hiatus. “I’m coming to. I’m turning myself into something a little less promising, a little more useful,” Thile sang.

But that didn’t mean the band would forget the songs that made them famous. Only six of their twenty songs from their set list were off the new album. Old fans were treated to “The Lighthouse’s Tale,” “This Side,” “Smoothie Song,” “When You Come Back Down” and “Ode To A Butterfly.” New fans caught “Destination” and “21st Of May,” singles released ahead of “A Dotted Line,” as well as the humorous instrumental “The Elephant In The Corn.” After explaining that they’d been kicking around a cover song for a couple of weeks, Nickel Creek launched into Fleetwood Mac’s “The Ledge,” delighting the eclectic crowd.

DSC_0111Their two-song encore concluded at 10:30pm with the closing track from “A Dotted Line:” “Where Is Love Now.” “Where is love now?” they harmonized. “Out here in the dark?”

Clearly it was, and the crowd let them know it. Welcome back to N.C., Nickel Creek. In your absence, I never found somebody more like you.

To my fellow Music Maniacs: Miss the Nickel Creek and Josh Ritter show? Check out Koka Booth Amphitheatre’s concert lineup here and experience the stellar venue for yourself.

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