Thursday, August 31, 2017

Listen Up: Special Edition of 'Local Vibes' Discusses Bigotry and Inclusivity in CLT Music Scene

Posted on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 4:00 AM

For our first special episode of Creative Loafing's "Local Vibes" podcast, we filled up the studio following CL's publication of an article that confronts a disturbing image posted on FB two years ago by the frontman of a popular Charlotte band. The discussion that followed on Facebook among Charlotte musicians, as well as other recent events across the country, convinced us this was a conversation worth having, and we hope it continues around the Queen City, in music and arts scenes and beyond.

Don't forget to check out our iTunes page to catch up on past episodes.

The panel: "Local Vibes" co-host Mark Kemp, editor of Creative Loafing; CL contributor Kia O. Moore, founder of Hip Hop Orchestrated and Hip Hop University; Audrey Ayers, guitarist with Mineral Girls; "Local Vibes" co-host Ryan Pitkin, news editor of CL; Susan Plante, vocalist and guitarist with Faye; Phillip Gripper, drummer with Modern Primitives and pianist with Space Wizard; Brett Green, vocalist and guitarist with Mineral Girls; and Joshua Robbins, bassist with Late Bloomer and Alright, and co-founder of Self Aware Records.
  • The panel: "Local Vibes" co-host Mark Kemp, editor of Creative Loafing; CL contributor Kia O. Moore, founder of Hip Hop Orchestrated and Hip Hop University; Audrey Ayers, guitarist with Mineral Girls; "Local Vibes" co-host Ryan Pitkin, news editor of CL; Susan Plante, vocalist and guitarist with Faye; Phillip Gripper, drummer with Modern Primitives and pianist with Space Wizard; Brett Green, vocalist and guitarist with Mineral Girls; and Joshua Robbins, bassist with Late Bloomer and Alright, and co-founder of Self Aware Records.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kendrick Lamar Gives an Eclectic DAMN in Charlotte

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 5:10 PM


Kendrick Lamar's DAMN Tour gave Charlotteans three very different hip-hop concert experiences at the same damn time Tuesday night at the Spectrum Arena. Hip-hop heads of multiple hues and ages took to Uptown to fill the seats and feel the music of Lamar, along with D.R.A.M. and YG.


From 7:30 to 11 p.m., a variety show of lyrical content, rap styles, and show production took over the arena's stage, serving as a reflection of the diversity in the crowd. The night transitioned from the party-rap, sing-song stylings of D.R.A.M., to the gangsta party lyrics and visuals of YG, to the socially conscious, thought-provoking stanzas of Lamar, paired with an elaborate performance-art stage production.

With each performance an inverse musical correlation became more and more obvious. As onstage instrumentation decreased, other variables increased with great intensity. The visuals, props and crowd engagement escalated as the performances crescendoed to headliner Kendrick Lamar.


ACT I: D.R.A.M. Party

Charged with helping to get the party going while raise excitement levels, D.R.A.M. brought playfulness and color to the stage. As his show started, many concert -goers were still sitting down and lots of seats remained empty, but by the end of the set this scene would drastically change.

As people still navigated their way to seats, D.R.A.M. warmed up the crowd with big smiles and words of gratitude between each song as he bombarded the arena with hits like “Broccoli,” “Gilligan,” “Cash Machine,” and “CHA CHA.” The crowd was on its feet dancing and rapping as multi-color visual backdrops, with a heavy emphasis on neon lights, painted faces in a kaleidoscope flickering of ROYGBIV lighting.

D.R.A.M.’s set relied heavily on the power of instrumentation. The rapping singer was accompanied on stage by a keyboardist, drummer and DJ. The determining factor of what would bring the crowd to its feet was in direct correlation to the drummer’s sticking and D.R.A.M.’s dance moves. Whenever the drummer switched from sticks to mallets and stood up from his throne to hammer down on the heads like a wild man, the energy increased.

Toward the end of his set, during the song “Broccoli,” D.R.A.M. made his way into the crowd at the floor level as his keyboardist, drummer and DJ held down the stage. The artist skipped and bounced his way through the first section aisle and then looped back on stage.

D.R.A.M. brought the energy, but now the crowd was primed and ready to party ‘n bullshit with Y.G.

ACT II: Party ‘n Bullshit

YG brought the Bompton attitude to the Charlotte masses with a straight-shot, no-chaser vibe that one has come to expect from a gangsta rap act. He kept it G-rated in a the non-conventional sense — Girls, Guns, Gunja, and Gangstas.

Before YG ever stepped on stage, the gangsta life party ‘n bullshit vibe was set with the sound of a voice. A streetwise narrator with that 70’s vibes pimp talk in his bravado set the scene for the gangsta shit we were about to experience.

The multi-color of neon lights was no longer the visual cue. It was now a more minimal All Red Everything approach. Backdrop: red. Outfit: red graphic-tee framed in black. Props: red. And, if all the red still left someone in the audience questioning what set he repped, the gang hand sign visuals backdrop clarified why he was repping Bompton and not Compton.

YG’s onstage instrumentation was a combination of keyboard, DJ, and hypeman. The crowd energy level amplification would now rely less on the innate connection to the live drum. The energy level of the crowd was now connected to the bass levels controlled by the soundboard operator, the amount of props on stage, and how much time YG spent in the crowd connecting with the people.

There were two distinct moments during YG’s show that took the crowd to peak level energy. There was the Ass & Titts moment and the Donald Trump moment.

YG’s on stage set transformed from the minimalist red and black backdrops to a full set red and black strip club stage set — two stripper poles, a red plush couch filled with YG’s cronies, & “Girls, Girls, Girls” signage for the backdrop. Two strippers proceed to shake ass & titts for the men on stage and the sea of mobile phones aimed at the stage.

Phones were aimed at the stage once again when another ass (depending on your politically leaning) made its way to the stage. An impeccably tanned orange Donald Trump impersonator made his way to the stage. Homophobic and xenophobic banter spewed from the impersonators mouth. Just as the booing started to come to a roar, YG stepped in and started a chant that the crowd latched on to immediately — ”Fuck Donald Trump!” The red hatted MAGA character scurried off stage as the red banned rapper proceed to through the verses of “Fuck Donald Trump.”

During Y.G.’s set, the crowd stood the entire time. The seats were filled. They were at peak desire and ready for the DAMN Kendrick Lamar experience.

D.R.A.M. started the party, Y.G. stirred up the id brain of the crowd, and now they were ready for the heavy content. They were ready to get cerebral with Kendrick.

ACT III: Get Cerebral

The Kendrick Lamar experience began when the DAMN Tour curtain dropped in front of the stage as it was transformed from YG’s Bompton set to the DAMN set.

The curtain fell and two screen backdrops now faced the crowd. The lights turned down and the story of Kung Fu Kenny began to roll on the screen. The Kung Fu Tale of Black Turtle finding “the (inner) glow” in the darkest place was a common thread throughout Lamar’s on stage production The Kendrick Lamar Kung Fu tale vignettes had the look of Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” and a storyline similar to Barry Gordy’s “The Last Dragon.”

When Lamar rose to the stage through the stage floor and emerged from the smoke in his all yellow outfit with hints of black accents the vibe of Bruce Leroy was actualized as he exploded with intensity and pyrotechnics into the track “DNA.” No instrumentalist, no DJ, just Lamar and powerful imagery plastered on two screens.

Throughout Lamar’s show the new moveable secondary screen acted as a secondary plan bringing deeper visual emphasis to the lyrics pushed out of Lamar’s body. With each song, as Lamar got lost in his flow, his noticeable rhythmic jerk brought even more emphasis to his lyrics. It was another visual cue that signaled to the cerebral superego brain that what Lamar was saying will move you.

Lamar move the Charlotte DAMN crowd with artistic visuals performed onstage by trained martial artists and solo dancers. He moved them with juxtaposed visuals of artistic imagery placed beside inner city imagery. He moved them with light shows on stages and creating a light show in the crowd with mobile phone lights. But, it was the passionate delivery of verses by Lamar that seemed to pull the crowd in the most.

With every lyric Lamar spit, a sea of mouths moved in unison with him. The final song of the offical set was the chart topping “HUMBLE.” Lamar started the first few bars of the track and the beat cut out. He continued rapping and the crowd continued with him. He eventually faded out and allowed the crowd to take over the show. No beat, just an a cappella recitation from a Spectrum Arena choir conducted by Lamar. The track restarted and Lamar then performed HUMBLE in its entirety for the crowd.

With the end of the track and the darkening of the stage, the crowd chanted Kung Fu Kenny’s name to bring him back out for a final encore. He obliged and bid the crowd adieu and encourage them to find a designated driver.


The DAMN Tour was damn good. What made it so good was the juxtaposition and sequencing of the rap subgenres displayed on the stage that night. It was not all light hearted party rap, it was not all gangsta rap, it was not all socially conscious and introspective. It was just the right dose of each rap subgenre at precisely the right time. The ability to go from CHA-CHAing in your aisle, to seeing a strip show, to exploring the richness and power of self-actualization by connected with and celebrating your connection to black culture, it just left me saying one word — DAMN.

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Scowl Brow Singer Robby Hale Burns Cross, Posts Pic to Facebook

Charlotte musician sparks anger on local music scene

Posted By on Sun, Aug 20, 2017 at 4:00 AM

UPDATE: Robby Hale, the Scowl Brow singer shown in the photo in this story, has since contacted CL, saying the image was taken out of context. See his quotes at bottom.

A disturbing photo posted by Robby Hale, the singer of a Charlotte punk band that has sparked controversy in the past with its misogynistic and homophobic lyrics and other antics, was making the rounds on Sunday. It shows the singer holding a burning cross.

In the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy involving white supremacists and the death of a counter-protester, Hale's actions have caused a palpable ripple through the local music scene.

Scowl Brow singer Hale with burning cross.
  • Scowl Brow singer Hale with burning cross.

"I'm 'bout to make a BIG stink about this," Phillip Gripper, co-founder of the Charlotte band Modern Primitives, said this morning after being shown the photo. "I've defended Robby when people have told me that he was racist."

The three other members of Scowl Brow — Rick Contes, Joshua Taddeo and Daniel Biggins — reached out this morning and said, "Language like that is disgusting and unacceptable and does not represent the entire band." (UPDATE: The three members have since announced their departures from the band.)

Josh Higgins of Refresh Records wrote in an email this morning that Scowl Brow has been dropped from the label. "The message that this image conveys is one that I find truly disgusting and do not condone nor wish associated with myself, Refresh, or any of our other artists," Higgins said. "We support equal rights for all, full stop.

"As of Friday, we have terminated our relationship with Scowl Brow and have begun the process of removing merchandise and music from our website and digital platforms," Higgins added.

Other members of the local music scene this morning said they've long been aware of Hale's threatening behavior.

"We have refused to play with this band for years and have probably lost friendships over it," said Scott Wishart of the band Late Bloomer and owner of Lunchbox Records. "There are also some pretty questionable lyrics in songs as well but that was explained as 'stories,' a la Bob Dylan or something."

Late Bloomer's Joshua Robbins said in a message to CL that he had spoken to the band and its record label, Refresh, about Hale's behavior in the past and that nothing was done about it.

"If we’re going to indict Robby Hale for this," Robbins said, "are we going to indict all of the people that just didn’t say anything when questionable things popped up over the years? The picture in question has been up for two years and no one has said anything, and also multiple people liked the picture that routinely speak out against violence and racism in the community."

Refresh Records' Higgins said he just learned of the photo last week and immediately took action. "I was not made aware of this image until Wednesday," Higgins said. "Although I knew what action Refresh would take immediately, I took Thursday to discuss the matter with our lawyer before terminating the relationship on Friday"

Robbins said he hopes the recirculation of the Hale photo can be a "teachable moment" for members of the Charlotte music scene.

"I myself have learned a valuable lesson today and over the course of this current [presidential] administration: These symbols aren’t empty, this all holds weight," Robbins said. "We can’t toy with this iconography and think it doesn’t hurt people. Racism, sexism, homophobia and misogyny are real things that are still a huge problem in 2017."

For full disclosure and transparency, even Creative Loafing was aware of Scowl Brow's deplorable lyrics as recently as 2014, when the paper ran a review that failed to take a direct critical stance on it:

"[Hale's] also not afraid to give a frank perspective," the CL critic wrote, "even if it's far from politically correct. 'Tell me what the hell is going wrong in this town, every day there's more pussy hipsters around/You never know who's straight or who's off suckin' some dudes,' Hale sings on 'Mediocre My Ass.'" The critic went on to characterize the lyrics as "honest."

CL was tipped off to Hale's photo at 11:30 a.m. Sunday by Brett Green of Charlotte's Mineral Girls, and we immediately contacted Hale by Facebook Messenger. He has yet to return our message. We will be updating this story as it develops.

UPDATE: Hale contacted CL Sunday afternoon and said the photo in question has been taken out of context.

"That was a piece of a burning pallet I picked up out of a bon fire, and the racist comment was not of my own," Hale said. "This Nazi stuff wasn’t happening when that picture was taken."

When asked what message he was trying to get across in the photo, Hale commented that he was just "drunk and being an asshole. I wasn’t being a racist. I’m not a fucking racist. Some of my fucking best friends are black."

It should be noted that Hale's response to a commenter, who used the N-word racial slur on the page where the photo was posted, was, "Hahaaa, you're such a f****t [homophobic slur]."

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Magpie Salute smashes expectations

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 9:55 PM

The Magpie Salute
Neighborhood Theatre
Aug. 16, 2017

If you walked into the Neighborhood Theatre on Tuesday night expecting to simply hear a Black Crowes cover band playing hit after hit, you were in for a rude, yet exciting, awakening. Sure, the former members of the Black Crowes played a good number of cover songs, but they were mostly off-the-radar tracks. Their set also included originals, a couple of Rich Robinson covers and a Marc Ford song. The end result was a sonically charged-up band that's forging down a path of its own. It's partly thanks to three talented guitarists, including Rich Robinson and Marc Ford, a trio of backup singers adding fantastic depth and the vocal lead of John Hogg (Moke, Hookah Brown). The 10-piece rock band cruised through a rock-heavy set that enticed the crowd with hints of Southern soul and blues. Sure, the Crowes songs are always nice to hear, but this outfit might just have solid footing on its own.

No Speak No Slave
A Conspiracy
Cosmic Friend
Idle Time
Which Way Your Wind Blows
I Don't Know Why
Don't Say You Love Me
Better When You're Not Alone
Go Tell the Congregation
Walk Believer Walk
Rebel Music
Badge of Descension
Gone Away
Black Cloud
Grows a Rose
Thorn in My Pride
Thick 'n Thin

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Beloved Charlotte School of Rock Instructor Dies

Posted By on Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 10:48 PM

Eric Lee Lockwood, the music director of Charlotte's School of Rock, cofounder of the band Little District, and a fixture on the city's music scene for almost 15 years, died near his home in Pineville in the early morning hours of August 8. The much-respected singer-songwriter and music educator was 34.

  • School of Rock photo
  • Eric Lockwood
Due to the delicate nature of Lockwood's death, the family has not released any further details at this time. He is survived by his wife Christina, and family that includes his cousin, Cole Flodin, the entire School of Rock student body, and David Bowie — his dog.

Lockwood, a native of Sandy Run, S.C., touched every life he came across in Charlotte's music communities with his irrepressible positive energy, love of music, dedication to his students, and pride in his work and theirs. Candace Williamson Steude recalls Lockwood's passion for music and drive to educate the next generation. “He had such an amazing energy for teaching; it just was awe-inspiring,” Steude, 43, a music educator who worked alongside Lockwood, says. “I became a better teacher just being in his presence and soaking up the unconditional support and encouragement.”

Chas Willimon was a member of Charlotte's Milkjug Music Collective with Lockwood in the early aughts. Willimon remembers the singer-songwriter as "a fine musician, a compassionate and funny guy and, to a fortunate many, a friend. You always knew you were a friend whenever you hung around him,” Willimon says.

Since Tuesday morning, Lockwood's Facebook page has been a stream of tributes — from friends, co-conspirators, and most poignantly, his students. The outpouring of grief and love from Lockwood's students — many of whom credit him with getting them out of their shells and helping them navigate the treacherous waters of adolescent self-image — is impossible to forget.

Lockwood (left) with Little District. - REVERB WEB SITE PHOTO
  • Reverb web site photo
  • Lockwood (left) with Little District.
One of those grieving students is Magdalene Criswell, who recalled her first lesson with Lockwood in her post. "He made me play and sing my favorite song for him, even though I felt mortified by the very idea,” Criswell wrote. She was 17 at the time and convinced she was awful. But Lockwood loved it. “From that moment, he never stopped encouraging me in music, and in life," Criswell wrote. "There's no one like Eric Lockwood, and there's never going to be again.”

Lockwood, who joined School of Rock in 2009, soon became the top instructor and right-hand man to then-director Jill Livick. When asked to remember Lockwood, Livick was initially at a loss for words, but her words came eventually. “Eric was a friend, a mentor and a force. He was stubborn and vocal and passionate about making Charlotte a thriving music scene,” Livick says. The source of Lockwood's strength and passion, Livick is convinced, was his heart. “He wanted everyone to realize that they could be the best versions of themselves possible. His absence will be grieved by so many.”

It's not just students and fellow educators who are grieving — parents of Lockwood's students are saddened, too. “Eric was one of the truly good people you meet in your life, right to the core," says Mike Gruver, whose son Nick studied under Lockwood. "The respect that the kids had for him, and the respect of their parents, was unparallelled.” Teachers like Lockwood, Gruver says, come only once in a lifetime. “An incredible person.” Grover says. “The arts and music community and the School of Rock family won't be able to replace him.”

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Descendents satisfy every punk fan's dream

Posted By on Sun, Aug 6, 2017 at 9:56 PM

Descendents, The Bronx, Late Bloomer
The Fillmore
Aug. 4, 2017

Skate rats (like me) and punk music fans (also like me) have been waiting a long time for legendary punk rockers Descendents to descend on the Queen City. Needless to say, they didn't disappoint while playing plenty of crowd favorites. They were the icing on the cake for a night that was started with Charlotte trio Late Bloomer, a group that adds excitement to any bill they're on. The Bronx held up their end of the bargain in the middle. Singer Matt Caughthran is incessantly energetic and has a paradoxically shit-eating-yet-genuine smile which permeates the crowd into celebration.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Listen Up: Rapper Elevator Jay Tells Some Big Fish Stories on 'Local Vibes'

Episode 3

Posted By on Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 12:11 PM

This week, rapper Elevator Jay talks with Mark and Ryan about fishing, Southern living, Charlotte music and West Side Pride. Listen to Jay's latest album, the terrific, blues-informed Ain't Nothing Finer; and check out his earlier work at his Bandcamp page, and watch his latest video, for "The River," at YouTube. But right now, kick back, take your shoes off, and enjoy our ride through Charlotte's backstreets. And if you'd prefer to listen on iTunes, go here.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Logic whips young Charlotte crowd into a frenzy

Posted By on Wed, Aug 2, 2017 at 9:46 PM

Logic w/ Joey Bada$$, Big Lenbo
Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre
Aug. 1, 2017

"Peace. Love. Positivity. But also, no fuckboys allowed." Those hard and fast rules were set by Logic the moment he came onstage Tuesday night at the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater. It was a beautiful and odd sentiment. Beautiful, because there was such a nice vibe to the crowd. Odd, because most of his crowd consisted of underage white guys. Several times throughout the set, Logic would ask the crowd if they were ready to go home — and, in a call-and- response facilitated by Logic himself, they would scream back “Fuck no!” Interesting considering 80 percent of the audience appeared to be there with their parents.

Logic’s two-hour set consisted of a variety of songs from his mixtapes, Under Pressure and The Incredible True Story and his latest release, Everybody. Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, otherwise known as Logic, has created a rap legacy at just 27 years old. He released his first mixtape in 2009 before signing with Visionary Music Group, eventually landing a contract with Def Jam Recordings.

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