In my twice-monthly blog 30 Days Out, I spotlight upcoming music shows and events of note. While the most well-known venues in town (The Orange Peel, The Grey Eagle and whatever they’re calling the Civic Center) consistently book popular and worthwhile acts, I’ll shine a light into some less well-lit corners, where some equally fascinating artists schedule performances. I do my best to give ample advance notice so that you can adjust your budget and calendar in a way that lets you get you to the show.
This edition might be thought of as a tribute … to tributes. Three groups – one local, two nationally touring outfits – pay homage to other, better-known groups. But we’ll start with a local act that deserves notice for its original music. The essential quality that all four share is the prospect of a good time.
Artist: Jonathan Scales Fourchestra
Venue: ISIS Music Hall
Date: Saturday, March 15, 9 p.m.
Door: $10 advance / $12
Fusion jazz isn’t in and of itself wholly remarkable; like any genre, it has its strong exponents and its weak practitioners. But Jonathan Scales’ group (pictured above) is unique right out of the gate: the group’s lead instrument is the steel drum. And while the uninitiated might reasonably guess that there’s a strong Caribbean flavor to the Fourchestra, in fact the band’s music isn’t so easily pinned down. Informed by polyrhythmic experiments, bop and classical, the group’s expressive music is felt every bit as much as it’s heard. I first saw them in one of Asheville’s smaller clubs, and the joy and enthusiasm in their music was infectious. The Galen Kipar Project is also on the bill.
Artist: Weather Report Tribute
Venue: White Horse Black Mountain
Date: Friday, March 28, 8 p.m.
Speaking of fusion, one of the genre’s success stories (along with Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever) was Weather Report. A jazz supergroup led by keyboardist Josef Zawinul and sax legend Wayne Shorter, the group also saw innovative bassist Jaco Pastorius and Brazilian percussion master Airto Moreira pass through its ranks. Their albums routinely topped the jazz charts, and they made significant inroads on the pop charts as well. The group ceased operation in the mid 1980s. Nationally known yet locally based musicians Michael Jefry Stevens (piano) and Jason DeCristofaro (vibraphone) have joined with electric bassist Zack Page, tenor sax man Tyler Kittle and drummer Micah Thomas to present an evening’s tribute to the pioneering fusion group. I saw Stevens and DeCristofaro at a recent show presenting original material, and they brought the room alive with their spirited interplay. For music lovers whose tastes include both rock and jazz, this performance is not to be missed.
Artist: The Rocket Queens
Venue: Jack of the Wood
Date: Saturday, April 5, 9 p.m.
Traveling nearly to the other end of the musical spectrum, we find Guns N Roses. While the ‘80s hard rock act is more remembered in some circles for its front man’s fall from musical grace and 21-year delay between albums (not for nothing did the band title its 2008 release Chinese Democracy), back in the day, GNR was a force to be reckoned with. And it’s those heydays that are celebrated by the Rocket Queens, a six-member, all-female group straight outta Brooklyn. Campy? Sure, but sort of in reverse. This group aims to bring the sound and the look of Axl Rose, Slash and their (ex-) pals to the stage. How swaggering, high-energy “cock rock” (after a fashion) will go over in the intimate confines of Jack of the Wood remains to be seen and heard, but it’s certainly an intriguing prospect. Fiddle-and-washboard fan/regulars best steer clear. Asheville-based teenage quartet Posh Hammer opens.
Artist: Mang: A Tribute to Ween
Venue: The One Stop
Date: Saturday, April 5, 10 p.m.
Intentionally unclassifiable, Ween has always been an “outside” band. From its indie days to its major-label era to its more recent work (whether the band is still together depends largely upon whom and when you ask), the band has always done things its own way, with a large dollop of off-kilter humor. Perhaps an odd choice around which to build a tribute, Ween has nonetheless enjoyed some measure of commercial success in its now nearly-30-year run. New Jersey-based Mang says that its members “shall strive to pay reverence, do [Ween’s] music justice, and assist in keeping its legacy alive.” You’ll have to decide whether your tribute tastes for this evening run to Ween or Guns N Roses.
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