One to Watch – Grace Potter at the Orange Peel October 13th and 14th

Grace Potter: Some Things Change and Some Things Stay the Same

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Grace Potter at Grand Point North – Burlington, VT – September 12, 2015 – Photo Courtesy of Robert Forte – 40_Photography

Not unlike many musicians Grace Potter’s ascendancy to super stardom may seem to have blossomed over night, however, the reality is the mistress of the magical midnight road show began paying her dues to the rock & roll gods over a decade ago.

Long before sharing the stage with the likes of Mick Jagger or singing duets with Kenny Chesney, Potter and her band the Nocturnals earned their stripes by playing upwards of 200 live shows per year while attempting to literally gig themselves into relevancy.

The band released four studio albums from 2005-2012 including 2010’s self titled Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, which spawned more radio recognizable hits such as “Paris (Ohh La La)” and “Medicine”, as well as the critically well received 2012’s The Lion the Beast the Beat.

The Nocturnals aforementioned last two releases on Hollywood Records began to see the band’s sound sway more toward the mainstream rock pendulum versus the Americana and jam band oriented sound the band had crafted on their earlier releases.

Changes have continued for Potter in 2015 as she’s now touring on her recently released solo record Midnight.  Many long time fans of Potter expecting her first effort sans the Nocturnals to be sonically aligned with her past may be in for a bit of a surprise.

Midnight still features, if not showcases, Potter’s powerhouse vocals but the songs and ultimately the sonic palate of the record itself is vastly different than anything the Nocturnals ever churned out.

Midnight has turned up the pop, the synths, the dance beats and the funk in ways that would get most anyone grooving and dancing in the streets.  That being the case I’m certainly willing to concede some of Potter’s fans may not immediately connect with the new material.

Potter has been criticized in some rock critic circles as attempting to craft herself into the rock version of Katie Perry.   I scoff at this notion and instead choose to believe that Potter is simply a sublimely talented song writer, vocalist and musician that wanted to write songs from a different place and perspective as well as to challenge herself to produce something unfamiliar and well fun.  If those were indeed her goals in regards to Midnight, I’d say she knocked them out of the park.

Although the Nocturnals all played on Midnight founding member Scott Tournet as well as most recent Nocturnal bassist Michael Libramento aren’t part of Potter’s current touring band that she’s dubbed the “Magical Midnight Roadshow.”

Long time Nocturnals guitar player Benny Yurco and original drummer Matt Burr are still along for the ride with Yurco proving he’s more than capable of helming the interstellar guitar solos he once shared with Tournet.

Potter’s new touring band additions, Ben Alleman (keys/guitar), Tim Deaux (bass), Daiki Hirano (percussion) and Eliza Jones (keys) seem to have been brought into the fold to accent Midnight’s more pop oriented feel but the result the new band creates live is a much weightier sonic wall that adds punch, albeit in a different form, to any Nocturnal’s classics they attempt to tackle on stage.

Having attended Potter’s Grand Point North music festival last month, now in it’s fifth year, I had the opportunity to see and more importantly hear her new band perform songs from the past as well as cuts off the current record.

Let me attempt to put some of her longtime fans fears to rest and state that above all else Potter has and continues to be a ferocious no holds bar live performer that’s capable of channeling the soul of Janis Joplin, the whimsy and romance of Stevie Nicks and the heart and grit of Chrissy Hynde at any given moment.   Potter’s live shows from the beginning of her career have always been a tour de force and I assure you this hasn’t changed in 2015.

The verdict is an easy one as whether it be hard charging rock guitar oriented Nocturnals favorites such as “Stop the Bus” or more recent solo tracks like “Alive Tonight”, Potter and her bandmates both old and new deliver one of the most wildly delirious, exciting and engaging rock and roll shows anyone would be lucky enough to experience first hand.

Should you have the inclination to have your doors blown off musically, to dance, to sing and to connect with one of the greatest female rock performers of our generation, come join me both nights this week at the Orange Peel. I feel supremely confident you’ll be shaking, grooving and smiling from first note to last.

Who:         Grace Potter

Where:     The Orange Peel / 101 Biltmore Avenue

When:       Tuesday October 13th / Wednesday October 14th

Cost:          $35 advance / 38 day of show

Buy Tickets For Tuesday October 13th

Buy Tickets For Wednesday October 14th

One to Watch – Twiddle at New Mountain Asheville Oct. 12th

Twiddle:  Jam Band Virtuosos Set to Light Up New Mountain

Photo by Dylan Langille © ontheDL Photo All Rights Reserved 2015

Twiddle performs Monday October 12th at New Mountain Asheville / 6:30 PM

One of the rising stars of the jam band world these past few years, Twiddle, brings their eclectic and explosive live performance to New Mountain’s stage this evening.

The Vermont based foursome consists of Mihali Savoulidis (lead vocals/guitar), Ryan Dempsey (keys/organ/synth/vocals), Brook Jordan (drums/percussion/vocals) and Zdenek Gubb (bass/vocals).

Hailing from the green mountain state and appealing to a similar fan base, the comparisons to Phish are almost unavoidable, however Twiddle’s music is quite divergent from that of the Trey Anastasio led legends.

Twiddle weave sounds ranging from reggae, funk, jazz, progressive rock and even classical into their music to create something that has become more and more rare in the genre in which they exist, something unique.

The level of musical IQ that resides within Twiddle is off the charts. The band’s live performances are filled with moments where at times each member of the quartet showcases their immense talents via distinct solos while throughout continuing to come together in unison to launch elaborate jams that slowly build tension and eventually transform into interstellar sonic masterpieces.

Any fan of bands such as Kung Fu, Papadosio, String Cheese Incident and of course Phish would be remiss, well to miss Twiddle’s first live performance in Asheville in over a year this evening along with The Werks, Cabinet and Fruition.

There are reasons Twiddle is being asked to play at more and more festivals year after year and to tour along side some of the giants in the jam band world.  Come see it and more importantly hear and experience it for yourself tonight.

Who:                  Twiddle with the Werks, Cabinet & Fruition

Where:               New Mountain Asheville / 38 N. French Broad Road

When:                Monday August 12, 2015 Doors 6:00 PM – Show 6:30 PM

How Much:      $15 day-of-show

One to Watch – Greensky Bluegrass at the Orange Peel – Friday September 25th

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Greensky Bluegrass is not your grandfather’s bluegrass band.  To be honest the band’s spin on this most revered form of music, especially here in Appalachia, might not even be your father’s or even your older brother’s preferred flavor of bluegrass. Let’s be clear on something from the get go however, Greensky Bluegrass is probably more than okay with this notion.

The band’s studio recordings very much embody the sonic elements that serve as the blueprint for most traditional forms of bluegrass but much like contemporary peers such as Trampled by Turtles, Greensky Bluegrass isn’t afraid to inject other styles of music into their own sound palate.

Greensky Bluegrass’s star began to rise in 2006 after winning the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s Troubadour contest in 2006; this of course being the same festival that helped launch other modern-day “new grass” bands such as Trampled by Turtles into national prominence.

Having just recently seen the band at Grace Potter’s Grand Point North music festival in Burlington, Vermont earlier this month, I can personally attest to the fact that Greensky Bluegrass is more than capable of captivating an audience.  Their sometimes darker and more bluesy and rockier sound, prodigious song writing and sublime musicianship easily make the band’s music very accessible in a live setting.

It should be to no surprise that Greensky Bluegrass is a “jam-grass” improvisational dynamo live as the band regularly plays over 150 shows a year.  That type of touring schedule has seen the band become extremely tight, while also opening the door for them to expertly experiment with their own music as well as inspired and often times jam infused covers by such artist’s as Phish, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Van Morrison, Pink Floyd and a myriad of others.

At the end of day Greensky Bluegrass is often predictably unpredictable as it pertains to their live performance and isn’t that a check box most avid concert goers want filled in if they are going to plunk down their own hard earn dollars to see a concert?

Whether it’s Paul Hoffman’s haunting tone and superlative mandolin chops, Anders Beck’s mesmerizing dobro guitar playing, Mike Bont’s superb banjo picking, guitar player and lyricist Dave Bruzza’s distinct vocals or Mike Devol’s first-rate upright bass contributions, when these five gentleman get their live engine revved up you’ll have but no choice but to stand up and take notice.

Still touring on their critically well received fifth full-length studio effort, If Sorrow Swims, the string band ensemble pride of Kalamazoo Michigan is bringing their version “new grass” to the Orange Peel this Friday September 25th along with the acoustically driven and Tom Hamilton fronted American Babies.

Who:    Greensky Bluegrass with American Babies

When:  Friday September 25, 2015 8:00 PM

Where: The Orange Peel / $17 advance / $20 day of show

Humans of Asheville – Andrew Scotchie

On the eve of this year’s edition of Asheville Barnaroo Andrew Scotchie, the festival’s founder and front man for local rock outfit the River Rats, sat down with AskAsheville.com to discuss this year’s event, the River Rat’s new record and how overcoming personal tragedy altered his and his band’s destiny.

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Andrew Scotchie on the surface represents in many ways the musical youth movement that continues to spread throughout the streets of Asheville and beyond.   He’s hard working, immensely talented and beyond committed to elevating his band, the River Rats, to new heights of success.

Beneath this typical exterior Scotchie is humble, gracious and introspective in such a way that when speaking with him I feel as though I’m interacting with a much older individual whose life and musical experiences have molded him into this wise almost seraphic soul.

As I walk up from the surface streets towards the steps of the old Victorian style home Scotchie shares with several roommates I’m uncertain as to if I’ve even located the correct address as the home itself looks more like an off campus frat house than that of a musician’s abode.

Within seconds of my shoes striking his front steps Scotchie himself emerges from dwelling, smiling ear-to-ear as usual and opening up his arms to welcome me with a big hug.    To be honest my own family doesn’t greet with me the warmth and genuine happiness Scotchie does and here’s the thing, I think he’s actually glad to see me.

Scotchie and I exchange pleasantries in his kitchen while he fixes something to drink and discusses a few house keeping related bullet points with one his roommates, this very attractive twenty-something I might add.

Shortly thereafter Scotchie leads me through his home, first past a worn drum kit on my right then up a set of wooden stairs and eventually towards his bedroom where we sit down for our interview.

Like himself Scotchie’s home and bedroom are unpretentious.  The room itself is very much a musicians dwelling. Old vinyl records populate the bookcase shelves, instruments are strung about and posters of past Barnaroo’s, the annual musical festival Scotchie founded, adorn his walls.

Barnaroo is the brainchild of Scotchie himself. Initially the concept of Barnaroo was birthed from the fact that Scotchie and his boyhood friends and bandmates needed a space to unleash their own brand of adolescent inspired rock n’ roll.

“Everyone said one day back in 2009, let’s go over to Scotchie’s place, his mom’s great and she’ll feed us,” gushes an animated Scotchie.

“The first night we had something like fifteen or twenty people over and we ran some power to all the amps and I think I was on drums.”

Scotchie further goes on to explain, “In 2010 I really fell in love with the idea of Barnaroo. I always had this idea of bringing in musicians and bands that were hungry to play and to have a great time with and I wanted to treat people really well.”

“In 2011 and 2012 I started bringing in bands from Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina but at that time Barnaroo was still being hosted at my mom’s place.  The last one we did there I think was in 2013 and shortly after that we got a noise violation and my mom’s neighbors ended up bringing me to court.  So I had a choice, I could either end it or I could move Barnaroo somewhere else.”

This year’s edition of Barnaroo will be held on the grounds of Franny’s Farm this upcoming Saturday September 26th and Sunday September 27th.   As in year’s past, Barnaroo 2015 will continue to benefit the Asheville Music School with a portion of alcohol sales and a silent auction going to support the institution.

Barnaroo ultimately found its way to Franny’s Farm based on a relationship Scotchie had with one of the farm’s owners Frances Tacy.  Not at all surprisingly Scotchie diverts the success and growth of Barnaoo a bit away from himself when speaking on the topic.

“The biggest thing I’ve gotten from Frances besides our friendship and this amazing network of people she has given me, is that she showed me how to make something like Barnaroo really work in a way I never really thought possible, says Scotchie.

When Scotchie is not focused on all things Barnaroo he serves as the front man and lead guitar player for the popular local rock band Andrew Schotchie and the River Rats, which is also comprised of brother and sister team Eliza (drums) and Asher (bass) Hill, Alex Bradley (trumpet) and Kyle Snuffer (trombone).

Evidence regarding the band’s popularity can easily be unearthed by simply picking up this year’s edition of the Mountain Xpress’s “2015 Best of WNC”.   Andrew Scotchie and The Rivers Rats were named this year’s best local rock band.

On finding out that the band had been named to the top spot Scotchie’s response is again that of someone who is more concerned about others than himself.

“My initial reaction was, oh man I hope we didn’t piss off any other bands in town that we think are awesome,” Scotchie cautiously explains.

“One hundred percent I believe that we deserved it though. Winning made me really happy and it has also made me realize that we have the community behind us and that to me is huge.”

Earlier this year the band released their sophomore effort, We All Stay Hungry which served as the follow up to band’s 2012 debut, Soul and Sarcasm.

“The similarities between the two records really lies with the genre of music we play because our music is still rock, bluesy and very soulful.  Those sounds carried over from the last record to the new record but the songs on the new record are very different as far as dynamics and song structure go,” explains Scotchie.

“We wanted each song to be a different presentation and to have different aspects to them.  The way that it was produced at The Eagle Room, we mixed it in analogue and that really warmed everything up.  The drums sound very vintage, the guitars maintain that soul and the record has this wide open feel but at the same time you can hear everything.”

A few songs on We All Stay Hungry feature Asheville’s own Lyric, who herself took home not one but two “Best of WNC” awards this year as both the best local R&B/Blues and best Soul band.

“I never had the opportunity to sing and record with a female performer.  I remember listening on the headphones when Lyric was recording “The Best in You” and she was doing these really high harmonies on top of my main melody and the chorus and every time I think about that moment it gives me goose bumps,” describes a grinning Scotchie.

It’s evident that Scotchie couldn’t be more proud and enthusiastic about the band’s latest release.  He continues to speak about the new record and some of the tracks that get him excited.

“I really like “Love Like Fire”, says Scotchie. “The way the drums and percussion sound on that one blows me away.  There are three or four percussion and rhythm tracks that Eliza plays on it that aren’t in your face but you can really hear everything on the record and the song just has this great studio recording quality to it.”

Scotchie himself may be one of the most convivial individuals that I’ve met since I relocated to the mountains of Asheville earlier this past Winter.   Despite this fact it would be very easy for Scotchie to not have such a positive outlook on the world considering his past and specifically a tragic event that fell upon his family at a time when he was just beginning to figure out who he was as a youth.

“My life got turned upside down when I was 15 when my dad was shot and killed in West Asheville.  That was the worst thing that had ever happened to me.   That fucked up horrible event in a way made me who I am today, it made me want to do this thing so adamantly and with so much vigor,” Scotchie somberly discusses.

“I’ve been writing about that event for years and what it has taught me about people and family.  The first album we released in 2012, the songs were not sad but the lyrics I wrote for it were more about helping me work through what had happened.   Even the new album has notes alluding to it as I’m definitely still working through it all because that’s who I am but it’s coming from a much different place now.”

The sky seems to be limit in terms of what Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats may be able to accomplish professionally as they move forward as a band.   Scotchie himself goes on to talk a bit about what success would mean to him personally and to the River Rats.

“I think individually we all would have different definitions of success, however in terms of the River Rats success to us we would be continuing to maintain a great relationship with our core fans, getting our songs picked on radio and T.V. shows and having our music distributed more widely,” says Scotchie.

“Success to me in another very important light would be for us to constantly keep developing and challenging ourselves musically because if we don’t try to keep doing that we’ll never grow as a band.”

As for the future of the band Scotchie remains optimistic but again takes a very pragmatic stance on the topic as well.

“In five years I would love to see us touring a ton, going overseas for a couple of weeks out of the year and coming back to the United States and killing it.  However let’s say in five years we are still struggling financially a bit but we have good distribution, good fans, we are playing the kind of music we want to, we have a roof over our heads and we have good friends and family, that’s success man.  You don’t have to have a big bus and money. Those material things are great but they shouldn’t define who you are,” explains Scotchie.

Scotchie and I conclude our interview, he leads me back down the same wooden steps, past the aged drum kit, out his door and into the warmed up atmosphere of downtown Asheville.  I reach out my hand to thank him for his time and before I can even get my arm half way up Scotchie again opens up his arms and brings me in for another big hug.

I came into this interview with Scotchie expecting to be impressed with the knowledge he was likely to going share with me about all of the the musical projects he and the River Rats are tied to these days.

However as I walked away from Scotchie’s home I feel a sense of inspiration and a mountain of respect for an individual, that through his own personal tragedy, has made it his mission to bring music and joy to the community of Asheville with a big smile and even a few hugs.

Asheville Barnaroo 2015:

When:  Saturday September 26th & Sunday September 27th:  Main Day 9/26 gates open at 9:00 AM with music starting at 11:00 AM (featuring over 12 bands) – 9/27 acoustic music by the pond starts at 10:00 AM

Where: Franny’s Farm – 22 Franny’s Farm Road, Leicester, NC

Food/Crafts: Farm to Fender Food Truck on-site / Over 15 regional craft vendors

Cost:  Pre-Show Price (ends 9/25) Single Day Ticket – $20 / Ticket and Overnight Camping – $35 / Children Under 12 – Free / Day of Show Price – Single Day Ticket – $25 / Ticket and Overnight Camping – $40

Who:  Les Amis, Lyric, Laura Blackley, Stolen Hearts, Bare the Traveler, Red Honey, Porch 40, Demon Waffle, The Paper Crowns, Kick the Robot, Asheville Music School Rock Band. Special appearances throughout the weekend by Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats.

 

Unique Night of Music at Isis Music Hall

Photos and writing courtesy of AskAsheville Music Correspondent Robert Forte.

Unique Night of Music at Isis Music Hall Featuring Dangermuffin, Weather & Waves (featuring Brock Butler of Perpetual Groove), Les Amis and More Thursday September 3rd 

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Dangermuffin

The true litmus test regarding any live music venue should rest solely in the metric that sits atop most avid concert goers’ checklists, how does the venue actually sound?

Although I have individual soft spots for the litany of live music hamlets within the greater Asheville area, if I were to be asked to rank each of them by the dulcet barometer alone there would be a clear champion, ISIS Music Hall and Restaurant in West Asheville.

Despite being a known commodity in Asheville, ISIS Music Hall may be miscast as being dedicated more towards an older demographic versus being one of the only locales in the city that has a 450 seat capacity, offers distinct dining experiences, hosts music of all varieties and provides a listening experience that is second to none.

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Justin Perkins and Drew Heiler of Les Amis

On Thursday September 3rd the ISIS Music Hall will host a unique night of music featuring Dangermuffin, Weather and Waves (featuring Brock Butler, front man for Perpetual Groove) and Les Amis (featuring members of Toubab Krewe and Zansa).

Les Amis, a collective of globally inspired musicians whose members include players from West African- and Appalachian-influenced outfit Toubab Krewe as well as Afropop and African folk music band Zansa, will start things off at ISIS’s upstairs lounge at 7:00 PM.

ISIS’s upstairs lounge offer patrons an intimate space to dine as well as to take in one-of-a kind musical performances.   Only 50 tickets will be sold to this portion of the evening. Reservations are recommended should you plan on attending and taking in a meal from the venue’s superb restaurant, Kitchen 743.

Beginning at 9 PM the ISIS Music Hall will host Dangermuffin, a self described “organic, sand blasted roots-rock band with a sweet jam spread”, as well as Weather and Waves.

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Weather and Waves’ front man Brock Butler

Weather and Waves, Brock Butler’s Perpetual Groove side project originally called P-Grass, will serve as the downstairs show opener. The band will be making their Asheville live music debut on the evening.

Listeners familiar with Perpetual Groove can expect to hear some of P-Groove’s music but with a more traditional “new-grass” spin to it as the band spurns electric instruments in favor of acoustic guitars, stand up bass and the banjo. Sonically and improvisational driven Weather and Waves will quench the thirsts of most any fan of jam band and blue grass music alike.

Show headliner and feel-good trio Dangermuffin offers up a mellow combination of both folk and jam band sounds. Dangermuffin, who recently put on a sublime performance earlier this summer at the inaugural LEAF Downtown festival, takes the blue print their studio material provides and injects new life into it via many of their trade mark extended jams.  The band also isn’t afraid to tackle inspired covers of other artists’ music ranging from the reggae sounds of Bob Marley to the psychedelic grooves of Pink Floyd.

On the ISIS outdoor patio starting at 6 PM, modern jazz will fill the air with the sounds of bassist Danny Iannucci and drummer Micah Thomas, both of Asheville-based Brushfire Stankgrass.

Amazing sound quality, check.  Superlative dining options, check.  World-class music, check.  ISIS Music Hall and Restaurant in West Asheville knocks all of these criterion out the park and then some.   Come judge for yourself this Thursday September 3rd.

When: Thursday September 3, 2015

Where: Isis Music Hall and Restaurant 743 Haywood Road, Asheville

Who: Les Amis / 7:00 PM – Upstairs Lounge / Dinner Available / $7

Dangermuffin & Weather and Waves / 9:00 PM – ISIS Music Hall / $10 advance – $12 day of show