Twice monthly, my blog 30 Days Out spotlights upcoming music shows and events of note, shining a light into some less well-lit corners, where some 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 to the show.
This time around, I take quick looks at two legendary names and two relatively newer acts. Even with the holiday season fast approaching, many national touring artists still find time for Asheville dates on their schedules.
Artist: Mavis Staples
Venue: The Orange Peel
Date: Sunday, Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Mavis Staples is American soul and gospel music royalty. As a member of the celebrated family group the Staple Singers, she lent her considerable vocal talents to the ensemble on such immortal classics as “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself.” As one of the most prominent and successful acts on Stax (along with Booker T & the M.G.’s, Isaac Hayes and other greats), the Staple Singers made serious inroads into mainstream pop culture and did so without compromising their musical and lyrical vision. As the only surviving member of the group who still performs, she’s well worth seeing. Mavis has often guested with other artists — she came onstage with the Decemberists at Bonnaroo a decade ago, for example — but she’s earned her place in the main spotlight. Asheville’s own Lyric opens, but only for VIP ticket holders.
Artist: Thee Oh Sees
Venue: Grey Eagle
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 9 p.m.
Loosely defined, garage rock is built on the influences — three times removed — of American rhythm & blues. The Rolling Stones and Yardbirds took those original influences and presented them back to American audiences. Then a nation of teenagers across the USA took up their own instruments. Today’s modern garage rock is primarily the product of fans of those ’60s teenagers. I interview a lot of groups who traffic in this style, and nearly every one of them speaks in awed tones of Thee Oh Sees. But don’t go expecting a slavishly retro act: In Thee Oh Sees’ music you’ll also hear elements of noise-rock and post-punk. And they write with some sharp hooks. Amplified Heat and Nest Egg are also on the bill.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Venue: Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
Date: Saturday, Nov. 12, 8 p.m.
It’s hard to say anything new about Bob Dylan. His influence upon pop culture is beyond calculation. And he’s enough of a curmudgeon to keep things interesting while other lesser artists coast on their past successes. Sure, his approach to his catalog is a bit dismissive: you may not even recognize the classics the way his band plays ’em and the way he sings ’em. He’s been on his Never Ending Tour since, oh, about 1988. But he’s a legend nonetheless, and, hey, he’s playing in Asheville. Don’t skip it and then wish you went. The photo above shows him in a familiar situation: receiving yet another honor, another award. Oh, and Bob Dylan doesn’t need an opening act.
Artist: Fruit Bats
Date: Sunday, Dec. 4, 9:30 p.m.
With the mainstream success — both critical and commercial — of Americana, rock and country fans alike are discovering the joys of this “real” music genre. Broadly defined, it includes just about anything you care to list (one look at the artist lineup at the annual AmericanaFest in Nashville proves that). The folk-rock sounds of Fruit Bats (Eric D. Johnson and a rotating cast) may remind older listeners of Poco or the Eagles before they achieved major success and got smug (not to mention deadly dull). Sturdy songwriting, sweet harmonies and memorable melodies are hallmarks of this Chicago-based group. Critics’ darling Skylar Gudasz opens.
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