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Houndmouth: Zak Appleby, Katie Toupin, Matt Myers & Shane Cody
“Kentuckiana” quartet Houndmouth, who are set to play the Orange Peel this Saturday March 5th, have achieved quite a bit of buzz and stardom over what most would consider a short period of time as the band technically only became active back n 2011.
Despite the fact that Houndmouth are now regulars on the summer music festival circuit, are Rough Trade label mates with other rising stars such as Alabama Shakes and are capable of selling out shows as headliners themselves, it wasn’t all that long ago when the band were still regularly playing to 30 and 40 people at any given live show.
So what exactly was the catalyst that helped launch this roots, rock, pop, folk, alt-country, Americana, etc. foursome into stardom? If you’ve ever listened to either of Houndmouth’s studio efforts, 2013’s From the Hills Below the City or last year’s Little Neon Limelight the shortest answer is talent.
Although this may be a gross simplification regarding Houndmouth’s ascendancy the fact remains Matt Myers (vocals/guitar), Katie Toupin (keyboards/vocals), Zak Appelby (bass/vocals) and Shane Cody are all superlative musicians, vocalists and song writers that effortlessly weave sonic tales of heartache, alcohol and drug abuse, love and loss that binds the listener to their music instantly.
That’s not to say the band doesn’t have a sense of humor as even though most of Houndmouth’s music tends to play to darker themes they have a light hearted side that they’re not afraid to display both on record as well as on the lighted stage.
I had the fortune of seeing Houndmouth perform live for the first time toward the beginning of their touring career when by chance I caught the band opening up for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals in February of 2013 at the Rams Head in Baltimore Maryland.
By the end of their performance, which concluded with a cover of The Band’s “I Shall Be Released” which saw all four band members switching instruments, I was immediately convinced they were going to move onto to do great things.
It’s interesting that Houndmouth chose to cover a Band song because right or wrong it’s the band they are most often and somewhat unfairly compared to. Don’t get me wrong there are some similarities regarding the two outfits’ music particularly as it pertains to their four-part harmonies.
However, I think it would be a grievous miscalculation to pigeon hole Houndmouth as sounding like any one particular band or playing within any specific genre because the reality is Houndmouth’s sound encompasses a multitude of genres and their musical palate traverses across a wide variety of soundscapes.
Following my initial indoctrination into the Houndmouth universe I decided to make it a point to see the perform in seven different states and once even up in Canada throughout the course of 2013 and 2014.
Whether it was at IOTA in Arlington, VA, Signal Kitchen in Burlington, VT, the Sons of Herman Hall in Dallas, Texas or the Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine Houndmouth always impressed with the force of their live performance, how genuine they came across on stage and their ability to immediately connect with a crowd of strangers.
Another big takeaway from every live Houndmouth show I’ve ever barred witness to was just how much damn fun the band was having whether there was one person in the audience or two hundred. This feeling of joy always managed to bleed itself into whatever size audience the band was playing to making each and every performance feel unique and warmly intimate.
Back in 2013 I was speaking with Cody after one of the band’s performances and I mentioned to him that I was in town for business but that when I saw that they were playing in the city I spent two-hundred dollars to change my flight back home to catch their show. Upon hearing this Cody turned to me and said, “man that’s the coolest thing anyone has ever said to me about our band.”
A lot has changed for Houndmouth since then as much hipper things than talking to me in a dimly light club at two in the morning have come the band’s way including their being mentioned on nearly every buzz worthy music list you can shake a stick at, guest appearances on Letterman and Conan as well as their playing the likes of both Bonnaroo and Forecastle. I’m okay with this because I’ve never really been all that cool anyway and that fact is Houndmouth has earned this type of praise and success.
Come see and hear for yourself as Houndmouth along with Justin Paul Lewis take to the Orange Peel’s stage this Saturday March 5th starting at 9:00 PM.
Who: Houmdmouth plus Justin Paul Lewis
When: Saturday March 5, 2015 / 9:00 PM
Where: The Orange Peel / 101 Biltmore Avenue Asheville, NC
Cost: $18 advance / $20 day of show
Sleepwalkers play the ISIS Music Hall on November 4th at 9:00 PM
Pop, rock, psychedelic or whatever label you want to place on Sleepwalkers, the primary takeaway one should come away with regarding the Richmond, Virginia based quartet is a fairly simple one, these guys are just plain good.
Continuing to tour on their critically well received 2014 debut release, Greenwood Shade, Sleepwalkers offer up catchy layered harmonies, textured melodies and overall sublime musicianship to create a retro sound that evokes 70’s acts such as Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac and Paul McCartney’s Wings, while also throwing in some psychedelic elements that one may liken to Pink Floyd but probably are more closely aligned to that of Tame Impala.
Sleepwalkers sound is not completely locked in a time machine as there are nods to more modern alternative bands reminiscent of such acts as Vampire Weekend and even the Fleet Foxes.
Yet this is the very thing that ultimately makes Sleepwalkers something that is beyond rare in today’s world of popular music, they are unique. By incorporating a multitude of influences that spread across decades and genres Sleepwalkers can’t easily be defined or put into a singular box and isn’t this a good thing?
On record the music Sleepwalkers offer up is somewhat complex and intricate. Thus Greenwood Shade is an album I’d suggest grabbing a pair of of high quality headphones and listening to from beginning to end.
It’s literally one of those records where you’ll find yourself hearing sounds and experiencing each track a bit differently on every new listen. That being said, one should not understate the electricity Sleepwalkers are able to generate in a live setting.
Although Greenwood Shade comes off a bit mellow and breezy on record when the band takes these songs to the stage they still retain the retro sound created in the studio but with significantly more rock and guitar oriented punch than one might expect.
Having taken in their show at the Grey Eagle earlier this year I can provide first hand testimony proving that it’s beyond evident why fellow Richmond, Virginia based rockers J. Roddy Walston & the Business took them on the road, Sleepwalkers rock.
Come see for yourself as Sleepwalkers play the ISIS Music Hall Wednesday November 4th at 9:00 PM.
Where: ISIS Music Hall / 743 Haywood Road
When: Wednesday November 4, 2015 / 9:00 PM
Grace Potter: Some Things Change and Some Things Stay the Same
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
Twiddle: Jam Band Virtuosos Set to Light Up New Mountain
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