Asheville's annual downtown street festival, Bele Chere gears up for what may be its last year as a city-sponsored event. But even if that is the case, the three-day event is wrapping up more than 35 years with a memorable (and largely local and regional) roster of musical acts.
• Dan Deacon: "Baltimore's Dan Deacon has many interests. For almost a decade, he has produced some of the most uniquely entertaining indie electronic music around, a bright collage of layered effects, cartoon vocals and enormous hooks. He's also the founder of Wham City, an arts collective in his home base, and an integral member of the group's comedy troupe…" Read more here.
• Wanda Jackson: "The Queen of Rockabilly got her start in 1958 with a rousing, gravelly voiced version of “Let’s Have a Party,” a song that her ex-boyfriend, Elvis Presley, had already released. More than 50 years later, she joined forces with former White Stripe Jack White, who produced and arranged The Party Ain’t Over."
• The Mountain Goats: "The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle is discussing his recent decision to road test new material again despite today’s “cell-phone camera versions” that despoil new releases. He admits that even his band made concessions to the new viral order, but says that those days and “that philosophy” are now over…" Read more here
• Karl Denson's Tiny Universe: "Karl Denson's Tiny Universe last release, Brother's Keeper, was a star-studded affair, featuring Meshell Ndegoecello, Mark Ford of the Black Crowes and members of Lenny Kravitz's band. Which seems fair since saxophonist/flutist/vocalist Denson performed with Kravitz for years (including on Let Love Rule and Mama Said). He's also recorded with Blind Boys of Alabama, Blackalicious and Stanton Moore, among others. And he cofounded funk outfits The Greyboy Allstars. And he leads the Karl Denson Trio (KD3). And he tours pretty much all the time, among his various projects…"
• Mountain Heart: According to the band's bio, they have "been fearlessly revolutionizing the way acoustic music can be presented and played. The band's name has been synonymous with cutting-edge excellence in acoustic music circles since the group's creation in 1999. Widely known throughout the music industry for continually redefining the boundaries of acoustic music, the band has gained legions of loyal fans both as a result of their superlative musicianship, and more notably, their incomparably exciting live performances."
• Kishi Bashi: "Kishi Bashi, a solo artist, performed on violin and looped vocals. Bashi is from Norfolk, Va. and is also known as K Ishibashi. He returned to the stage later in the evening as part of the of Montreal band, but his opening set was a lush, orchestra spectacular — Ethereal, haunting, atmospheric, symphonic. 'Now I'm going to play a love song,' he announced at one point. 'It's called "I am the Antichrist."' The frayed bow of his violin — from which he finessed both high notes and the low voice of a cello, seemed an apt metaphor for the mournful but gorgeous sweeping melody. He reminds of Active Child and of Imogen Heap; hopefully he'll be back in Asheville before long." Read more here.
• Moon Taxi: The Nashville-based indie-rockers say this about themselves — "Their new record, Cabaret, is a layered, multi-dimensional endeavor that displays the band’s maturing sense of their own musical identity. A follow-up to their live album, Live Ride, Cabaret illustrates the challenges of defining yourself in a world that seems to be suffering from its own identity loss. Lead singer Trevor Terndrup says, 'It’s about juxtaposition—putting together seemingly opposite ideas and finding a strange harmony.'"
• Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band: "'You've got to be born to do this,' says Mary Frances, keyboardist for Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty band. She's talking about a number of things — being on stage, being on the road and being the lone woman in a six-piece funk outfit. 'You've got to love the journey, she says. Frances joined the Asheville-based band in 2009. At that point, the group was seven years in, and had already seen changes both in its lineup and its sound. The group moved to Asheville from Boone in 2006 — one of its early iterations included singer/guitarist Josh Phillips who left to form his own band, Josh Phillips Folk Festival. The Booty Band played numerous Bele Cheres, spurring the crowd with high-energy jams — the band pogoing around the stage…" Read more here.
• Matrimony: "Matrimony is, indeed, a love story — though not the obvious one. The band itself (fronted by husband-and-wife singer/songwriter duo Jimmy Brown and Ashlee Hardee Brown) is a melding of two musical careers and two continents (he's Irish, she's American). More on that in a minute. 'The whole reason we call ourselves Matrimony is because it's a marriage of music and words,' says Jimmy. The singer/guitarist was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but was spending some time traveling in the the U.S. when someone suggested he drive to Hickory to see the band of another Belfast native…" Read more here
• Antique Firearms: "The gateway into Antique Firearms' moody, shadowy world of thrumming percussion and shimmery guitars is Bradan Dotson's raspy vocal. It's divisive. You'll love it or hate it; it's unlikely you'll be on the fence. One the opening track to the band's new album, Vicious Behavior, Antique Firearms (with Galen Dotson, Parker Dotson, Chandler Brewer and Dave Breske) make the most of that beautifully tattered voice with layers of guitars that edge toward stadium rock at the song's most intense moments. But then, before the pummel and crush becomes too much, it's back into the aching slow dance of songs like 'Blessing In Disguise,' all shades of night and dreamscapes." Read more here
Nahko & Medicine for the People
• Balsam Range: "Darren Nicholson (an award-winning country, bluegrass and Americana musician in his own right), has been making a career out of taking bluegrass to places it doesn’t usually go (he lists Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti and Australia on his bio). And, on the heels of last summer’s release (Papertown, the band’s fourth full-length), Balsam Range decided to dedicate this year to traveling more…" Read more here
• CrazyHorse & Colston: "CrazyHorse & Colston (whose names are taken from a Native American figure and a great-great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War) spent three years on Backroads & Bonfires; part way into the process they realized their direction incorporated the landscape in which they’d grown up and the experiences they’d had. 'We speak about what’s real to us,' says Hupertz. Like battered pickup trucks, waterfalls and a spiritual connection to nature…" Read more here
• Doc Aquatic: Doc Aquatic’s sound, on the Grey Eagle stage, engineered by Mars Farris, was the best this reviewer has heard to date — and that crisp clarity made all the difference. The standard rock setup of Doc Aquatic (J.C. Hayes on vocals and Guitar, Adam Grogan on guitar and piano, Charles Gately on bass and vocals and Zack Hayes on drums) can grow muddy when the band launches into its trademark, psychedelic-tinged instrumental breaks. It’s that effect that gets labeled 'jam.' But on the Grey Eagle stage, with each instrument differentiated, Doc Aquatic’s nuances came to light…" Read more here
• Jonathan Scales Fourcestra: "The Jonathan Scales Fourchestra has hit its stride — as a trio. But the discrepency of the name works itself out in the local steel pan-fusion band’s favor, says Scales. 'We’re already a strange collective, so it’s just one more little thing that makes it even stranger.' He adds that the Fourchestra name is a brand at this point: 'You can’t just change that. So, even if it’s five people, it’s still going to be the Fourchestra.'” Read more here
PLUS: Bright Light Social Hour (rock from Austin, Tex.), Drew Holcomb (rock from Nashville), Space Capone (funk from Nashville), Former Champions (rock from Richmond, Va.), Goodnight, Texas (folk, Appalachian from San Francisco and Chapel Hill), Nahko & Medicine for the People (acoustic thump-hop from Portland, Ore.), Blair Crimmins & the Hookers (ragtime, hot jazz from Atlanta), Deep Fried 5 (funk, rock and disco from Nashville), Carolina Rex (local blues, rock, frun, r&b and soul), Chalwa (reggae from Chandler), Chuck Brodsky (local singer-songwriter), Dave Dribbon & the Stomping Rain (local rock), David Earl & the Plowshares (local rock and soul), David Holt & the Lightning Bolts (local roots and old-time), Boys in the Well (folk rock and pop from Charlotte), Joy Styles (country pop from Nashville), Lyric (local pop, funk and soul), Mountain Feist (local bluegrass and Americana), One Leg Up (local Gypsy jazz), Paul's Creek (local old-time), Porch 40 (funk, jazz and rock from Cullowhee), Randall Bramblett Band (Americanan singer-songwriter from Athens, Ga.), Rory Kelly (local rock), Spicy Moustache and the Flavor Saviors (local funk-hop), The Birchtree Band (folk pop from Nashville), The Buchanan Boys (country from Sylva, N.C.), The Get Downs (rock and blues from Boone, N.C.), The Restoration (indie-roots from Lexington, S.C.), The Stereofidelics (local indie-rock), The Swayback Sisters (local country soul), The Travis Smith Project (Christian, folk, r&b from Spartanburg, S.C.) and Tyler Lynch (alt-pop from Hendersonville)