Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Live review: Vans Warped Tour, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 7/30/2012

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 10:06 AM

Vans Warped Tour
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
July 30, 2012


Another Vans Warped Tour has come and gone, bringing more than 50 bands to the masses. The only real problem with Warped, besides the blazing hot sun and the three-dollar water, is not having enough time to check out all of the awesome new talent and all the old favorites that continue to rock our faces off. So here are just a few highlights from the day — from Stepdad to Taking Back Sunday, which brought so many awesome new bands to the surface that it was nearly impossible to play favorites.

Stepdad (the newbie)
Warped has always been a platform for new bands to launch and has been growing more and more musically diverse over the years. Come on, it’s evolved so that Katy Perry has played the same stage as Chiodos. It’s set the stage to bring some lighter fare to a crowd that is die-hard for their brand of choice.

Michigan-based Stepdad is probably one of the more memorable newbies on the tour this year. It’s not just their sound that sets them apart, but also their attitude: for a group as talented as they are, they’re insanely modest “I’ll be honest, our CD sounds better than we do live,” says keyboardist Ryan McCarthy. “The other guys in the band are great musicians, so that’s good — I can barely play.”

You’d never know it when the electro-pop group hits the stage. They definitely seem to know their way around their instruments, not just playing them, but also adding in electronic sounds that make their set sound ethereal without missing a beat. Still, McCarthy insists it’s all just a happy accident. “I just like writing songs,” he says, noting that the band got started when he and singer Mark started writing songs together in their Chicago apartment. “Honestly, I’m a song writer that just so happens to be in a band.”

Happy accident or not, they stick out in a good way from the hardcore bands also making their tour debut. Although I Fight Dragons also made quite the impression, bringing a ton of positive energy to the crowd with their set.

“They’re one of my favorites on the tour,” says McCarthy, indicating guitarist for the group Packy Lundholm as he walked by. “I can always tell when they’re playing onstage, because they have this adorable little guitar riff that trickles in and out... ” “Yeah, we’re the most adorable band on Warped tour,” Lundholm says, shaking his head.

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Live Review: Alison Krauss and Union Station, Uptown Amphitheatre, 7/28/2012

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Alison Krauss & Union Station
Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre
July 28, 2012

“We always like to sing a good sad song,” Alison Krauss told the crowd after performing "Wild Bill Jones" on Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre. “That one had everything — somebody gets killed, somebody gets dumped, somebody’s a-drinkin’... ” Krauss said, to audience cheers.

Krauss wasn’t wrong. For 22 years, the fiddler has been making songs about Southern blues and heartbreak with her band Union Station. Their most recent album, Paper Airplane, provides their traditional one-two punch of beautifully wrought, borderline pop-country songs about love as well as foot-stomping bluegrass numbers. This wasn’t the band’s first trip to Charlotte, and this time, they brought dobro player Jerry Douglas along for the ride.

The seats were nearly packed — surprising when you consider how bluegrass has such a niche audience, but the standard when it comes to Krauss and Union Station's essentially mainstream bluegrass style. The sound was clean and polished, with the only missteps coming from a bit a feedback near the end of the show. That refined type of playing serves well for more pop-sounding hits like “Let Me Touch You For A While,” but seems a bit out of place on down-home jams like “Who’s Your Uncle.” Krauss and Union Station carried all their songs well, wailing on their respective instruments like indulgent lead guitarists.

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Live review: Childish Gambino, Uptown Amphitheatre, 7/27/2012

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 9:46 AM

Childish Gambino
Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre
July 27, 2012


It’s fitting the Childish Gambino show started off with a bit of magic. A mostly under-25 crowd half-filled Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre, welcoming the grey drizzle that brought temperatures in the outdoor bandshell to a bearable level. When the rain stopped, it left a gift behind: not one, but two massive, glittering rainbows.

Even the front rows couldn’t resist turning their backs to the stage to gaze on the marvel. They were exact replicas of the rainbows drawn by seven year olds everywhere, stretched out in technicolor over our heads, and for a few moments it seemed to transport the girls in vintage cut-offs and the guys in ironic tees to a simpler time. Even the set-up tracks, like “Gimme the Loot” by Notorious B.I.G., fanned nostalgia for times long gone.

That mood was perfect because Camp, Childish Gambino’s major-label debut, is full of longing for a Neverland that doesn’t quite exist outside of front man Donald Glover’s mind. Camp is a place where kids can be artsy, stupid, smart or lame as fuck — and not be perceived as being any less black because of it. Enormous projections of forests and fireflies at night shored up the theme, giving the concert a sing-along, bonfire feel, and contrasting with the seizure-paced strobe effects of his up-tempo songs.


Backed by a modern band (bassist, guitar player, drummer, keyboardist and laptop dj), Glover gave an energetic show, pogoing around the stage. But just as often, he stood rooted in one spot, shoulders slightly hunched, delivering lyrics raw and ridiculous.

He seemed a bit reserved and disconnected from the audience, though not for a lack of enthusiasm on their part. Outside of the play already written into his verses, or exhortations to get loose, he simply didn’t push much interaction with the crowd. That’s a shame, because they were dying to give it to him. Girls on both sides of me knew every line, and a guy in front of me climbed onto his boy’s shoulders, he was so hyped for the show (seriously, it was hard to get him down).

Glover’s bravado carries a touch of vulnerability, as though he’s not quite sure of his new friends’ affections and is unwilling to open up too much. Beneath the swagger of the self-made sensation, much of the awkward kid still clings.

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Lindsey Buckingham at Neighborhood Theatre tonight (7/31/2012)

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 9:00 AM

LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM It must be a bitch being Fleetwood Mac svengali Lindsey Buckingham. Like his idol and fellow pop perfectionist Brian Wilson, he must live up to his musical legacy. In Buckingham’s case, he domineeringly directed the Mighty Mac to towering commercial and creative success. At the same time, Buckingham must live down his personal legend — the obsessive coke-blown genius and abusive demon lover to Stevie Nick’s gossamer faerie queen. The evidence suggests the two cannot be separated. After all, Buckingham’s fidgety, Peruvian-powdered fingerprints are all over Mac’s diffuse and difficult masterpiece Tusk. The guitarist seems to have accepted this. He’s on board for Mac’s 2013 tour, while solo he’s mellowed and matured, reflecting a man at peace with his place in the pop firmament. True, his simple, emotionally resonant lyrics have grown more opaque and self-consciously poetic, but his inventively arranged pop 'n’ roll and baroque folk still engage while getting under the skin. It’s the mark of a master that he makes it all look easy. $50. 8:30 p.m. Neighborhood Theatre.

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Filter at the Fillmore tonight (7/31/2012)

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 8:40 AM

FILTER Sure, they haven’t been relevant in years, but I still can’t bring myself to say anything bad about Filter. There was always this mix between the band’s semi-industrial chug and Richard Patrick’s hard-drinking howls that hooked me as a teenager. With the dominant rock radio model of that era being either lobotomized party jingles (Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, the baffling swing dance revival) or misogynistic threat-songs (Limp Bizkit, Disturbed), what Filter brought to the table was consistently refreshing. The songs hit hard, yet mine human vulnerability for an essential angst quotient. As far as ’90s survivors go, one could do far worse. I won’t say the same for the headliner, though. With Fuel. $27. 8 p.m. The Fillmore.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Antiseen at Tremont Music Hall tonight (7/28/2012)

Posted By on Sat, Jul 28, 2012 at 8:36 AM

ANTISEEN You’ll get your usual blood, guts and gore at this Antiseen-headlined show, but the mayhem will happen before they even hit the stage. Welcome to the inaugural “Rock N’ Rassle Apocalypse,” a wrestling-rock extravaganza that’s a perfect pairing for Destructo rockers — they go with wrestling like Texas Pete goes with anything I eat. (Interestingly, this is only the second time in its 29-year history that the band has performed at a wrestling event.) Matches will feature wrestlers from Raleigh-based Gouge Pro Wrestling, including a headliner pitting the Necro Butcher (featured in “The Wrestler”) against “Beastmaster” Rick Link. Plus, the first 100 attendees get a free copy of Antiseen’s new wrestling CD collection, Falls Count Anywhere. The only beef you could possibly have with this event is that it won’t be available on Pay-for-View for the next month. With Flat Tires and Rory Kelly. $15. 7 p.m. Tremont Music Hall.

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Alison Krauss & Union Station at Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre tonight (7/28/2012)

Posted By on Sat, Jul 28, 2012 at 8:26 AM

ALISON KRAUSS & UNION STATION Alison Krauss has been making gorgeous American music since her debut recording for Rounder, Too Late to Cry, back in 1987. Her sweet voice and fiddle playing are rooted in a bluegrass foundation, but she can turn a phrase with ease in country, folk and even pop. Her recording with rock god Robert Plant could have gone horribly wrong and landed among the rock era’s myriad disparate duo albums that fizzled, but Krauss simply folded her natural voice with Plant’s and further proved her versatility on that fine record, while dabbling in rockabilly and rock. She’s just as warm when she performs with legendary Southern gospel act the Cox Family. Krauss & Union Station’s most recent recording, Paper Airplane, displays, once again, how beautiful music can be without all the flashiness. With Jerry Douglas. $35-$70. 8 p.m. Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre.

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Rainbow Danger Club From Shanghai at the Evening Muse tonight (7/28/2012)

Posted By on Sat, Jul 28, 2012 at 8:16 AM

RAINBOW DANGER CLUB FROM SHANGHAI We’re led by some to believe the Chinese will soon be our overlords, and there are 282 billion reasons (that’s the 2011 trade deficit, in case you were wondering) to stoke that xenophobic fire. Unless you’re Rosetta Stone-ing your way through Mandarin or Cantonese, the 21st century will leave you behind — or so goes the (Western) doomsayer’s logic. All that may or may not come to pass, but for now, as China kicks America’s import/export-ratio ass and Westernizes at warp speed, the cultural deficit is still found on the Chinese side. (Not saying that’s a good or bad thing, but how much Canto- and Mando-pop do you have on your iPod?) You can look to these visitors from Shanghai, who play, according to the UK’s Guardian, “riveting, epic melodies that soar and patter along majestically...[and] skirt the line between beauty and ugliness, light and dark, innocence and depravity” as an example. It’s impossible to measure objectively, but the most Chinese element of their proggy dreampop songs are the accompanying Mandarin characters. It’s not bad at all, if a little stiff, but one does wish the cultural exchange rate was more even here. Some day the U.S.’s cultural hegemony will end, as hegemonies must. But even in today’s age of data-byte Internationalism, Western pop music in all its iterations is still the sin qua non of youth culture around much of the developed world. $5 in advance. 10:30 p.m. Evening Muse.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Live review: Kiss, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 7/25/2012

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 9:53 AM

Kiss w/ Motley Crue
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
July 25, 2012

IMG_2115.JPG

As I stood watching Kiss perform on Wednesday night at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, I thought, "this is the same show I saw at Voodoo Fest in New Orleans in 2009." It's also the same show I saw in 2003 at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Then I thought, "this is the same band I remember listening to when I was growing up." I remembered staring at the cartoonish cover of Rock and Roll All Over for hours. I laughed at the thought of my brother and I wearing out our vinyl copy of Alive!, and subsequently losing no less than three cassette versions. I recalled watching the 1987 home video Exposed, shocked at what the members looked like without makeup.

That is why people go to a Kiss concert. People don't go to support a new album, hear new songs or wonder what's changed in the performance. They go to relive the past, and find comfort in the fact it's "just like I remembered."

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Josh Ritter at the Knight Theater tonight (7/26/2012)

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 8:47 AM

JOSH RITTER It’s no surprise that this spud-fed spawn of Idaho neurosurgeons is both brainy and earthy. But troubadour, raconteur and budding novelist Josh Ritter also knows his way around inventive arrangements and killer hooks. His freshman novel, Bright’s Passage, has been praised for compressed lyricism on par with Ray Bradbury’s, and that same haunting and magical wordplay populates his songs. Lyrics both Dylan- and carnival-esque unfold in delicate, uncluttered compositions that build to majesty. Jaunty humor also joins the fray, particularly on the murder ballad mash-up “Folk Bloodbath,” Ritter’s foray into Nick Cave-ish goth-opera territory. True, Ritter sometimes hews too close to his influences, with arrangements relying too much on “Everybody Must Get Stoned” B-3 organ. It’s also been charged that his songcraft is too perfect and pristine, and that his muse is more intellect than soul. His wide-open Celtic heart recalls The Waterboys, and his surreal folkloric storytelling nods to John Prine, proving that mind and emotion need not be exclusive. Ritter is trawling mythic waters both deep and wide. With David Wax Museum. $25.50-$29.50. 7:30 p.m. Knight Theater.

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