30 Days Out: a look at upcoming concerts

GIANTS OF THE POP WORLD: John Linnell and John Flansburgh (plus their band mates) are They Might Be Giants, a reliably witty and clever group that never lets its smart lyrics get in the way of a great tune. The Asheville favorites play the Orange Peel Jan 19. Photo courtesy of the band

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 edition marks four years since Mountain Xpress began “30 Days Out.” Over the last four years, Asheville has seen music venues come and go, but the local opportunities to enjoy live music only seem to increase. This time I’m previewing five upcoming shows.

Artist: They Might Be Giants
Venue: The Orange Peel
Date: Friday, Jan. 19, 9 p.m.
Door: $25
Witty beyond compare and proudly nerdy, the Brooklyn-based group, co-led by two Johns (Flansburgh and Linnell) has been making witty albums that rock for more than three decades. Along the way, they’ve scored hits and remain critical darlings. TMBG has also managed the tricky feat of making several kids’ albums that are effective in their own way without diminishing the band’s grown-up rock ‘n’ roll credibility. TMBG loves this city (and The Orange Peel) so much that the group wrote a song called “Asheville.”

Photo by Cristina Arrigoni

Artist: Willie Nile
Venue: Isis Music Hall
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 17, 8:30 p.m.
Door: $25 advance / $30 day of show
Nile has been bubbling under for decades; I saw him open for The Who way back in the summer of 1980. He’s seemed always to be right on the edge of breaking through to the big time, with a sensibility informed by (and not far removed from) American troubadours like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. In fact, though Nile’s a fine songwriter with more than a dozen albums of original music to his credit, his most recent release is a collection of covers from Dylan’s vast catalog. Nile makes them his own, and Positively Bob recasts Dylan’s songs in a wide array of styles.

Artist: Gaelynn Lea
Venue: The Grey Eagle
Date: Thursday, Jan 18, 8 p.m.
Door: $12 advance / $15 day of show
The fascinating music of Gaelynn Lea explores the sonic spaces between folk and ambient. With little more than a violin and a looping pedal, Lea crafts ethereal, alluring and often meditative soundscapes. She rose to fame after a “Tiny Desk Concert” performance in 2016, and has visited Asheville to enthusiastic crowds a few times since then. True, she’s an inspiration to the differently abled, but her music effectively pushes discussions of that to the side. Read more about Lea in my 2017 interview/profile for Mountain Xpress. Anthony Mossburg opens.

Artist: Taj Mahal
Venue: Isis Music Hall
Date: Thursday, Jan. 25, 9 p.m.
Door: $52 advance (SOLD OUT)
Long before the term Americana existed as a mass media marketing label, Taj Mahal was making it. Drawing upon roots music of many styles — Afro-Caribbean, folk and more — Taj Mahal has helped to expand and ultimately redefine the blues idiom. One of his earliest professional gigs was in an overlooked band called The Rising Sons, in which he teamed up with another important musical archivist/folklorist, Ry Cooder. Not counting compilations, Taj Mahal has released more than three dozen albums. His latest is a collaboration with Keb’ Mo’.

Artist: The Moon and You
Venue: The Mothlight
Date: Friday, Feb. 9, 9 p.m.
Door: $10 advance / $12 day of show
The Moon and You is Asheville-based wife-and-husband team Melissa Hyman (cello) and Ryan Furstenburg (guitar). Nominally a folk act, The Moon and You has a lot more going on musically than can be contained within the folk label. In my April 2017 review of the duo’s album Endless Maria, I noted that Hyman and Furstenburg hit “the sweet spot between bouncy pop and something more substantial.” They tour internationally, but here’s an opportunity for the hometown crowd. Bombadil is the headliner.

You may also enjoy: With more than 2500 entries and nearly 500 interviews, my Musoscribe blog features new content — features, reviews and more — every business day. A proud tradition since 2009, now in its ninth year. My first book, Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon, will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in February.

About Bill Kopp
Author, music journalist, historian, collector, and musician. His first book, "Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon," published by Rowman & Littlefield, is available now. Follow me @the_musoscribe

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