Archives for posts with tag: live music

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.


Photo by Ted Richardson

Festivalgoers, meet the Hopscotch music venues. Get the scoop on the dozen Hopscotch Music Festival 2014 venues below, plus some tips to help along the way.

City Plaza
Located in the heart of the center city, the artful City Plaza, with 50-foot programmed light towers, three sculptures from North Carolina-based artists and a smart design, is one of the premier and most popular spots for outdoor live music events in Raleigh. Experience Spoon, St. Vincent, Mastodon, De La Soul and more rocking downtown Raleigh all the way down Fayetteville St. and back at the plaza. Memorable Hopscotch moment in City Plaza: Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips shooting lasers out of a pair of giant hands all the way down to the North Carolina State Capitol. Located near an abundance of Foodie hot spots.


Photo by Ted Richardson

Contemporary Art Museum (CAM Raleigh)
CAM Raleigh features an ever-changing collection of contemporary art and strives to inspire visitors with captivating works from some of the top artists today. The museum, in a repurposed early 20th century produce warehouse, honors the spirit of the former tenant by keeping fresh works moving in and out, showing visitors what’s current in the art world. Situated in the Warehouse District, chow down on delicious eats at spots such as The Fiction Kitchen and The Pit, before or after performances. And you can also grab a brew on your way at Crank Arm Brewing.

CAM Raleigh 2Deep South the Bar
Experiencing Deep South when you come to Raleigh for live music is a must. With lyrics covering the interior walls of the venue, look for the words from some of your favorite songs. Deep South certainly knows live music as it hosts concerts 365 nights per year. Thirsty? Deep South offers crazy-good local beers! Plus, catch some fresh air between performances at the venue on the outdoor patio and see an iconic view of the Raleigh Convention Center’s CREE Shimmer Wall.


Photo by @kristenabigailphoto on Instagram

A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
A theater full of personality and class, the venue offers 600 seats, with the farthest balcony seat (yes, balcony seating for an “overhead” view of the stage) 70 feet from the stage. You won’t want to miss room-filling sounds from artists such as Phosphorescent, Future Shock, IIII and Celestial Shore. Located on the east side of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing arts, the walk to the venue makes for great photo/Instagram opps.

Kennedy Theatre at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
This 170-seat, 40×60-foot, black-box experimental theater fuses intimacy with energy and the deeply personal with the universal theater experience. In past years, the venue’s atmosphere has dramatically amplified the mood of the performances held here. Kennedy Theatre is going to be the perfect venue to catch Screature, White Lung, Power Trip, Ken Mode and more this year.

Kings Barcade
After relocating to Martin St. in 2010 following a three-year absence from the music scene, Kings Barcade has once again become a prime location to catch independent bands on the rise. A favorite of local musicians, this spacious club is not only a great place to hear music, but also a good place to hang out in the cocktail lounge downstairs, Neptune’s Parlour, which has become home to the venue’s arcade game collection. Muppets (yes, “The Muppets,” as in those funny-looking, puppet creature things) Statler and Waldorf catch every single show at the venue. Find them and say hello to them while you’re there.

1a8a52661Lincoln Theatre
A haven for singer-songwriters, rock fans and a plethora of cover bands year-round, this former movie theater is home to one of the best sound and lighting systems in the area. Music Maniacs can get up-close-and-personal with Hopscotch artists stage-side, or watch from a variety of levels for multiple views. Don’t miss Raleigh’s American Aquarium (Sept. 4, 10:30pm) or Demon Eye (Sept. 6, 9:30pm) perform at the venue. Catch Sun Kil Moon, Witch Mountain, Mark McGuire and more here as well over Hopscotch weekend

485970_10151453665774367_1192793866_nThe Pour House Music Hall
You may feel a bit like Harry Potter skulking around Knockturn Alley the first time you walk down the narrow alley and through the door of this Moore Square institution. Open nearly 365 days a year, The Pour House Music Hall plays host to bands of all genres, from bluegrass to metal and reggae year-round. But the place isn’t called The Pour House Music Hall for nothing. The venue is known for its well-stocked bar and variety of quality beers on tap, so go thirsty.

1a8a68821Slim’s Downtown
Slim’s may be your quintessential hole-in-the wall venue. Blink as you’re walking past its downtown Raleigh storefront and you might miss it. Inside you’ll find one of the area’s more shoulder-to-shoulder venues as patrons crowd the narrow stage and line the stairway to get a better view. Check out the small lounge with a pool table upstairs to get a game in (you might have to get in line). Local brews offered include Aviator Brewing Company and Big Boss Brewing Company, and the venue offers them at surprisingly affordable prices. Must be 21+ to enter.

Slim'sThe Hive (at Busy Bee Cafe)
The Busy Bee restaurant originally opened in 1913, serving breakfast and lunch to Raleigh’s downtown crowd. For years after the cafe closed in 1925, the space was used for an auto parts tore, a hardware store and more, and in 2009, the building underwent an extensive renoviation, reopening as Busy Bee Cafe and The Hive (second level of Busy Bee Cafe). Named one of America’s 100 Best Beer Bars this year by Draft, this local hot spot offers some of the best of craft brews and, in addition to Hopscotch performances, hosts live music events year-round such as the PineCone Bluegrass Jam. Must be 21+ to enter.

hive2Tir na nOg
With a prime location in Raleigh’s Moore Square, Tir na nOg is part restaurant, part bar and part venue. Catch a performance, taste local brews and dine on some killer Irish fare. Its Pub Classics include Ye Olde Celtic Nachos, Scotch Eggs, Guinness Wings and more. And it’s right next to The Pour House Music Hall, so if you’re catching shows there, hop next door for a bite to eat.

On Sept. 4-6, during the evenings, Vintage Church’s downtown Raleigh location will turn into a Hopscotch Music Festival music venue. See noise genre music here and more (if you haven’t exprienced the noise genre–Hopscotch is the place to do it). Spacey rock jams are also on the bill here.

Wanna’ know how to get to the venues? The festival website has a venue map to plan ahead with that also includes parking lots/garages, Larry’s Beans Veggie Shuttle sites and SiteWork Art sites.

Haven’t purchased tickets yet? Get them here!

I suppose Raleigh could be better…

Sure, it’s a Foodie’s dream, housing the likes of Ashley Christensen, named by the James Beard Foundation as 2014 Best Chef: Southeast. I know there’s a burgeoning art scene, boosted by the presence of North Carolina Museum of Art. And yes, Greater Raleigh lists nearly two dozen breweries. The city supports innumerable collegiate and professional sports teams. I don’t need to be reminded that Raleigh has more music than any destination in North Carolina. Its citizens are open-minded, well-educated and community-centric.

But if forced to make a choice between staying static and being dynamic, well, I’ll take a second helping of awesome, please.

Enter Shop Local Raleigh, an organization designed to support locally-owned, independent businesses. You may know them as the creators of Brewgaloo, one of the largest beer festivals in the Southeast. On their latest venture, they’ve focused on the continued revitalization of the Glenwood South district in downtown Raleigh by hosting Glenwood Live.

DSC_0011Glenwood Live is a free, seven week concert series that began Thurs., Aug. 7, at the intersection of Glenwood Ave. and W. Lane St. Each Thurs. evening through Sept. 18, a local band will play an outdoor concert from 5:30-8:30pm. The event’s location changes each week, cycling through the Glenwood Ave. intersections of W. Lane St., Tucker St. and North St.

DSC_0014Glenwood Live encourages families (and pets) to chill and relax in the warm summer evenings. The series is sponsored by Oskar Blues Brewery, DeMo’s Pizza and Clear Channel Media & Entertainment, so of course there’s plenty of beer, wine, food and even margaritas. Beginning on Aug. 14, Right Time Kids joins the fun to offer face painting, balloon animals and other child-oriented activities so that everyone stays entertained.

DSC_0034On the inaugural day of the series, acoustic duo Chapel Hill Serenaders took the stage, playing traditional music from the Southeastern U.S. The band, composed of singer and multi-instrumentalist Cary Moskovitz and fellow multi-instrumentalist Ed Witkin, focused on music dating mainly from 1923-1935. Moskovitz recently finished recording a tribute to Papa Charlie Jackson, who was the first blues musician to make records when he signed with Paramount Records in the early 1920s, and the setlist reflected this infatuation. Their selections included old standards in blues, ragtime, jazz and Hokum.

DSC_0017Moskovitz stayed true to style by playing a 1930 Paramount banjo, a 1930 S.S. Stewart guitar made by Gibson and a 1950 Martin tenor guitar. He also employed a harmonica and kazoo. Witkin, who grew up playing the piano, brought the most interesting instrument of the two: a banjo he built himself while in high school in 1979.

DSC_0026Let me reiterate–this event is FREE. Bring the family. Walk the dog. Explore the streets of Glenwood South. Need to eat? There are plenty of options, notably Plates, Sushi Blues, Sushi O and MoJoe’s Burger Joint. Want a beer? Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing sits around the corner and a new bottle shop, Stag’s Head, just opened at 106 Glenwood Ave. Inspired by the music and looking to get back into playing guitar? Harry’s Guitar Shop will get you going.

Embrace the growing scene on South Glenwood Ave. by checking out Glenwood Live. Visit the official website for the schedule and further information.

With the tagline “Imagine the Possibilities,” the town of Wake Forest, North Carolina, is (rightfully) proud of its newly-renovated performing arts and conference venue, the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre.

P1160332As the town’s latest significant investment in the downtown municipal district, this multifunctional facility is the setting for visual and performing arts as well as community events. Sometimes called the Renaissance district, the area encompasses approximately 220 acres and extends from south of Holding Ave. to just north of Spring St., and between South White and South Franklin Sts.

P1160334The two-story foyer entrance and box office lead directly into the 4700-square-foot grand hall that accommodates 330 with lecture-style seating and around 240-plus for seated dinners.

P1160338This versatile venue includes curtains to improve acoustics, as well as a dance floor and bar area. It strives to be the perfect venue for concerts, plays, recitals, exhibits, meetings, expos, conferences and private celebrations.

Numerous amenities are provided, including a 535-square-foot performance stage, dressing rooms, staging area for caterers, an LCD projector, automated projection screen and monitors, computer ports for presentations and and wireless Internet.

P1160344Check out upcoming events at the venue here!

Located at 405 S. Brooks St. in the heart of Wake Forest.

Written by Creative Genius Kristy Stevenson. Follow her online.

20140809_155551Surviving the first year is a big accomplishment for small businesses, and breweries are no exception. And Crank Arm Brewing went all out with its celebration on Aug. 9.

20140809_135542Hundreds of people attended to show their appreciation for one of Raleigh’s breweries.

20140809_145532“I can’t believe it’s already been a year!” owner Adam Eckhardt exclaimed. “It’s gone by so quickly. It’s raining like [crazy] out here and there are three hundred people here in the rain. There are kids jumping around in the bouncy house getting soaked and it’s pretty amazing.”

Yep. A Disney bouncy house.

20140809_145812This family-friendly event was a hit. The Pit, Dump Pho King and Bulkogi Korean BBQ food trucks were on-site. Donatos Pizza, Brewmasters Bar and Grill and The Fiction Kitchen sat at tables to sell their wares. Crank Arm Brewing set up two satellite bars to ensure faster service. 919 Beer, a local group of craft beer enthusiasts, made an appearance to promote its Beericana festival on Sept. 18.

20140809_145740And live music reigned for ten hours.

Crank Arm Brewing spared no expense in bringing together some of Raleigh’s greatest talent. Six stellar local bands took the stage in a collaborative effort to incite attendees to get down and party.

Raleigh-based Crucial Fiya kicked off the music barrage at 1pm with their special blend of reggae, rock and pop.

20140809_135737Hot on their heels, the aptly named Trouble followed with some snarling Southern rock. Trouble features members of Donna the Buffalo and The Blue Rags.

20140809_152145Batting third was Tonk, out of Raleigh, playing, of course, classic country honky-tonk.

The Backsliders, fresh off their first record release in more than 15 years, played fourth. Featuring local legends Chip Robinson and Steve Howell, the band adds some rock ‘n’ roll sleaze to country tunes.

Acoustic Manner followed. A spin-off of famed Americana band Barefoot Manner, this incarnation plays frenetic bluegrass tunes with a variety of stringed instruments.

20140809_201407Blanko Basnet headlined. Blanko Basnet is the solo project of Joe Hall, who fronts the well-known indie rock band Hammer No More The Fingers. His signature intense vocals and explosive guitar riffs permeate his side project, a perfect close to the high-energy dance-a-thon put on by one of Raleigh’s favorite breweries.

20140809_204415Hats off to Crank Arm Brewing for its contribution to Raleigh’s music lore. Crank Arm Brewing threw a party of such magnitude that it rivaled the excellence of their beer, no easy feat for brewmaster Mike Morris and his widely acclaimed brews. Keep an eye on Crank Arm Brewing for future live music events and brew events!

North Carolina Museum of Art is a fascinating place.

Open to the public since 1956, the museum moved into its current 181,000-square-foot home, East Building, on Blue Ridge Rd. in 1983. East Building features a wide variety of rotating exhibitions.

2010 saw the $76.8-million construction of West Building, providing an additional 127,000-square-foot space to permanently house the museum’s collections. Those collections include an impressive display of European Renaissance paintings, Egyptian funerary art and international contemporary art.

They also include one of only two permanent Jewish art displays in an American museum.

The North Carolina Museum of Art sits on 164 acres, which it has turned into the largest museum art park in the country. The Museum Park contains a dozen sculptures, two miles of trails, picnic areas and the Joseph M. Bryan, Jr., Theater, which presents one of the greatest concert series in the state.

NCMA lawnThe Museum Park Theater is a welcoming outdoor amphitheater with a capacity of 2,500 people (500 reserved seating, 2,000 lawn). The venue sells four different canned beers and wine by the glass and bottle. The Museum Park Theater encourages visitors to bring outside food, blankets and chairs. Coming to a show? Be prepared to picnic!

NCMA stage
NCMA patioAs a courtesy to guests, the North Carolina Museum of Art sends out an email the day of the show answering most potential questions about the event.

On July 12, famed singer-songwriters Iris Dement and Loudon Wainwright III co-headlined the bill, the latest in a line of legends to have graced the stage in the Raleigh summertime. The heat of the day gave way to a pleasant evening, temperatures in the upper 70s with a mellow breeze meandering through the crowd as Iris Dement walked on stage at 8pm sharp.

Iris2Backed only by her Steinway grand piano and a chorus of cicadas, Dement’s mournful Southern-gospel-tinged vocals rang through the air, carried on the summer breeze like church bells in the Arkansas delta. Though she confessed to be in the midst of a mild panic attack, her passionate performance masked any hint of discomfort.

Iris1Dement’s 75-minute set included a few tracks off her 2012 release, “Sing the Delta,” such as “Mornin’ Glory,” “There’s A Whole Lotta Heaven” and the title track.  Her setlist also included “Our Town,” a crowd favorite from her 1992 debut album, “Infamous Angel.”

Iris4Recently, Dement became infatuated with the late-acclaimed Russian poet Anna Akhmatova and set nearly two dozen of her poems to music. On this night, she brought two of the poems to life, enhanced by Dement’s soulful country charm.

NCMA moonThe supermoon sat fat and happy over the left shoulder of the stage, and Loudon Wainwright III seemed determined not to let it outshine him. Bursting with energy belying his age, The Ol’ Loudo began his set with “High Wide & Handsome,” a tongue-in-cheek ode to both himself and noted banjo player Charlie Poole, men of large stature and larger-than-life personalities.

Loudon1Then the Durham-born folk singer did something uncommon in the world of touring musicians. He began to play new unreleased material. Seven of the 17 songs he unleashed on Raleigh were from his upcoming album, due for release in Sept. 2014. In fact, 16 of the songs played were recorded within the last decade. Loudon Wainwright III is set to release his 23rd studio album (not including three live albums). He’s been recording music for over 40 years. And he’s sick of playing the same old songs.

Loudon2But that’s okay, because a Loudon Wainwright III show isn’t about sing-a-longs. He mesmerizes the audience with stories and punchlines, and he just happens to carry a guitar. He’s a slightly neurotic and highly expressive actor who finds comfort on the stage. He’s a true entertainer.

As Wainwright approaches his eighth decade, his song motifs have evolved. He may not be singing about dead animals anymore, but he’ll tell you all about parking in New York City, the medications he’s taking, the pains of living in a dry county and death and decay.

Loudon3He’ll also tell you all about his father. Last year, he began performing a one-man show that exclusively pairs his songs with writings from his father, who was a highly respected LIFE magazine columnist. At his North Carolina Museum of Art concert, Wainwright recited all or part of three of Loudon Wainwright, Jr.’s columns, each followed immediately by a song: “Half Fist,” Peter Blegvad’s “Daughter” and “Man and Dog.”

When Loudon Wainwright III finished up his 81-minute set with a two song encore (“The Swimming Song” and “Unfriendly Skies”) at exactly 11pm, he bid the crowd a fond farewell, promising to Google the lyrics of “Grey in LA,” the last verse of which he forgot while playing. Music Maniacs would do well to Google both Iris Dement and Loudon Wainwright III. While they will not be visiting Raleigh again this year, there will be plenty of good music emanating from the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art in the near future.


Schoolkids1 (3)In 1973, Schoolkids Records opened its doors to the music-hungry public on Hillsborough St. The vaunted business (lauded by both Time Magazine and embraced its role in the community, forever altering the musical tastes and lives of innumerable students and fellow Music Maniacs in the heart of the North Carolina State University campus district.

20140602_150641Forty years later, on Dec. 31, 2013, Schoolkids Records bid farewell to Hillsborough St., giving itself a special edition re-release at 2237 Avent Ferry Rd. The development of a new hotel resulted in the relocation. Though the old location will be missed, owner Stephen Judge and music fans, local and beyond, are excited about the new location.

“I saw the move as an opportunity to do what I want to do,” Judge said.

Judge’s vision included draft beer, a larger space, a sleek stage and a massive, easily accessible parking lot.

In Oct. 2013, we profiled the Hillsborough St. location and discussed the history of Schoolkids Records. Let’s take a look at its newest incarnation.

The Bar

Schoolkids1 (2)Beer and music form a natural partnership. For years, Judge wanted to sell beer at the store.

“That’s always been on the periphery here,” Judge said. “We’ve always had that kind of opportunity, but this move forced it to happen. It’s awesome.”

Judge sees beer as a way to loosen people up and promote camaraderie.

“You get people sitting around, talking about records, talking about music, talking about the music scene here and national bands that are coming through,” Judge said. “You can feel this magic happening. Other customers feed off it – the whole bar filled with people, blasting music, drinking beer.”

Schoolkids Records offers four draft brews, including local standout Big Boss Brewing Company, and a few cans. Judge plans to expand the draft selection and wants to keep local beers in constant rotation.

Schoolkids1The bar itself contains a bit of Judge’s own history. He decorated the counter with band photos and ticket stubs from concerts he’s attended.

The Stage

Schoolkids1 (5)The old Hillsborough St. location had a stage, but the new stage is more visible throughout the store.

The Avent Ferry Rd. stage, like the rest of the store, gives insight to Judge’s life. Band posters he collected over the years and old Cat’s Cradle schedules advertising Nirvana and Pearl Jam playing in the same week dot the wall behind the stage. His décor helps facilitate conversation among shoppers who might see a poster or ticket stub from a show they also attended.

Schoolkids Records hosts live music (local and national acts) quite frequently. Check the website for a full list of upcoming shows.

The Space

Schoolkids1 (6)Schoolkids Records now occupies about 1,600 square feet, a significant increase from their previous address. The expansion gives shoppers more selection, in addition to freeing up the stage and bar area.

The shop sells a wide variety of new and used vinyl and CDs. Vinyl accounts for an astounding 70 percent of sales, a nationwide trend that Judge expects to continue.

“The people who bought vinyl before and now buy vinyl again are elated that it’s back. The kids who are buying it for the first time, it’s the coolest thing in the world. It’s not just collecting. It’s not just a fad. They’re spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on turntables. So we’re seeing major growth there.”

The Parking

20140602_150703You get the picture.

The Future

Five months after the move, Judge and his small staff feel at ease in their Avent Ferry Rd. location. The future is bright for Schoolkids Records.

“I started working here in 1990, and I started shopping here in 1985 when I was old enough to drive,” Judge said. “This place has been important to me, and it’s always been on Hillsborough St., but if I were to dwell on what used to be and not look to the future we would have been out of business a long time ago.

“For me, it’s about looking forward to what the next 40 years are for the store, and Hillsborough St. doesn’t quite fit into that equation. It’s a shame, but I’m very happy here. This is a great opportunity.”

Schoolkids Records is located in the Mission Valley Shopping Center, sharing a building with Waffle House and Planet Smoothie.

It’s open 10am-9pm, Mon.-Sat. and noon-7pm, Sun.

May 1 was another beautiful and quiet spring day. Downtown Raleigh welcomed summer skirts and polo shirts. Tir na nOg bustled with activity for its Local Band – Local Beer series. The iconic acorn sculpture provided more photo ops for outgoing university seniors. The sun began to set, creating a fiery collage of color against the darkening blue sky. Oh, and international touring sensation Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars snuck into downtown Raleigh to play The Pour House Music Hall.

Pour House barDespite a documentary, appearances at massive music festivals (such as Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and New York’s Central Park SummerStage), an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show and opening for Aerosmith in front of 12,000 screaming fans, this roving band of African musicians arrived with little fanfare to promote their most recent album, “Libation.” They were joined on the bill by Pittsboro-based Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba.

For those unfamiliar with The Pour House Music Hall, you’ve been missing out. The Pour House Music Hall boasts the greatest draft beer selection I’ve ever encountered in a concert venue. The club lives up to its name by offering 30 drafts, including Big Boss Brewing Company, White Street Brewing Company, Crank Arm Brewing and Lonerider Brewing Company. Its liquor selection’s not too shabby either.

Pour House tapsAs we’ve recently written about the perks of The Pour House Music Hall on the blog, I won’t go into detail here. Click here for more information regarding this amazing concert venue.

Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba began the show shortly after 8pm. Hailing from Pittsboro, N.C., this two-year-old band is one of the few N.C.-based bands specializing in West African music. Diali Cissokho, a Senegalese griot , fronts the band. He’s backed by a fellow Senegalese percussionist and four talented North Carolinians.

Diali 1Cissokho plays the kora, a 21-string harp/lute hybrid well known in West Africa. His delightfully intricate jams were accentuated by the snarling yet jazzy riffs played by electric guitarist John Westmoreland. Their overlay, punctuated by a strong bass line and rollicking rhythm section, produced high-energy African dance music influenced by funk, soul and American rock ‘n’ roll. Their 40 minute set ended far too quickly for my taste, but the growing crowd fed on their vivacity. The aforementioned quiet evening faded out of memory, replaced by an African party full of joie de vivre.

Diali 2Readers, I implore you to take advantage of Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba’s N.C. roots and see them live. Without question, they are one of the most talented and powerful bands in the area, unique in our vast music scene. They next play locally during the Downtown Raleigh Fourth of July festival called The ‘Works!.

Born in the midst of a bloody war engulfing their home country of Sierra Leone, the members of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars fled for their safety and found each other in refugee camps in Guinea. United by an obsession with music and a strong desire to bring a sliver of happiness to their fellow refugees, the band moved from camp to camp. Their sincere traditional folk music and uplifting attitude gave life to their fellow displaced Africans.

SLRAS 2For 13 songs on this night in Raleigh, the band mixed the traditional Sierra Leone styles of highlife, maringa and palm wine with funk, gospel, reggae, soul and rap. Nine of the songs came from the 2014 release “Libation,” their fourth album which mostly sheds electric instruments and harkens back to their acoustic and experimental roots.

SLRAS 3One of their best tracks of the night, “Rich But Poor,” questions whether or not Sierra Leone learned anything from their most recent blood-letting. “We live in it / Yet we never know / What a rich rich country,” sings bandleader Ruben Koroma over a banjo-laden reggae beat. Other highlights included the salsa-tinged “Maria” and traditional “Gbaenyama.” Singer/percussionist Black Nature spent the night drinking Big Boss Brewing Company’s Bad Penny Brown Ale and professed to drink only local beers. He took lead on “Treat You Right,” one of the night’s odder songs which mimicked simple contemporary R&B.

SLRAS 1The crowd danced and swayed to the eclectic tunes. The band played on, pausing only to ask the audience simply to be happy and enjoy the moment. On this night in Raleigh, I lived in the moment with no distractions, and I couldn’t have been happier. A night of wonderful music ended with a full band harmony on “Gbara Case,” emphasizing the fact that we’re all stuck on this planet, and look at what happens when we join together.

Music Maniacs taking in concerts at PNC Arena will be stoked to find out about the great selection of N.C. craft brews on draft. Not only can music fans experience big-name artists live, such as Bruno Mars and Tom Petty and The HeartBreakers, this summer and on, but can also enjoy a N.C. brew while doing so!

Craft brew at PNC ArenaThere’s something about live music and craft beer that goes together so very well. I pin it on the fact that great-quality live music deserves to be enjoyed with great-quality brews, which Greater Raleigh breweries offer.

Natty Greene's Pub & Brewing PNC Arena offers Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing beers, on tap, including year-round beers Buckshot Amber Ale, Wildflower Witbier, Guilford Golden Ale and Southern Pale Ale. If you’re new to craft brews and want to try one out, the Guilford Golden Ale is a good beer to start with, with a low amount of bitterness, a full body, slight tartness and a delicious wheat flavor. (On another important note: Though its closed during concerts, the Natty Greene’s PUBDECK is a must-visit during Carolina Hurricanes NHL hockey games. The area features a 2,000-square-foot sports bar, pub-style food, waiter/waitress table service and more. The deck screams craft beer, with information and artwork all throughout the section from Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing.)

Carolina Brewing Company is one of Greater Raleigh’s oldest breweries, and you can bet that its Carolina Pale Ale can be enjoyed at concerts, on draft and served in four different sections and also in bottles on the 200 level. Taste of one Greater Raleigh’s staple beers, an American-style pale ale using three varieties of American-grown hops to create a “pleasing bitterness, aroma and lingering hop taste,” as the brewery describes it.

Carolina Brewing CompanyGreater Raleigh’s Aviator Brewing Company continues to rise in popularity and is constantly offering unique and innovate beers. On tap currently are Devil’s Tramping Ground Tripel, Hotrod Red, Saison de Aviator and HogWild IPA. I suggest the Saison de Aviator, available until Sept. 30, 2014, right through the summer. The brew is a Belgian-style made with pilsner malt, mid-kilned malts, coriander and sweet orange peel, offering up a refreshing and celebratory taste. Hops fans will absolutely love the HogWild IPA!

Aviator Brewing Company tapsAlso on tap are Foothills Brewing (Winston-Salem) beers, also a N.C. favorite! Taps can be found throughout the arena, with a dedicated section for Foothills Brewing, complete with a bar and a great selection of brews.

So, if you’re a Music Maniac and a fan of delicious beer, you’re all set when you rock at shows at PNC Arena! When you see your favorite artist, give the Greater Raleigh beers a try, and if you’ve already tasted what our area breweries have to offer, you already know you’re in for some good offerings. Have one to go along with the mouthwatering food PNC Arena offers, including Carolina barbecue, grilled sausages, fresh charbroiled burgers and much more.

Concerts coming up this summer at PNC Arena include Bruno Mars (June 14), Katy Perry (June 22) and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (Sept. 18).



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