Twice monthly, my 30 Days Out column 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 spotlights one of the strongest musical schedules in recent memory: two shows of historical and sociological importance, a preview of what is sure to be a highlight of this year’s Barnaroo, and the man responsible for some of the best (and least-heard) pure pop of the decade.
Artist: Jay Gonzalez
Venue: Ambrose West
Date: Saturday, June 9, 8 p.m.
Door: $12 advance / $15 day of show
Upon learning that Gonzalez is a member of Drive-By Truckers, one might suspect that the multi-instrumentalist trades in intelligent Southern rock. In fact, though he’s an important asset to the superb Truckers, Gonzalez’s personal style is radically different. He makes pop music of the highest order. Musical touchstones include Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, Jason Falkner, Ben Folds, prime era Elton John, Brian Wilson, Emitt Rhodes and other impossibly talented studio auteurs. Gonzalez’s 2015 EP The Bitter Suite is a scintillating pop classic, one of the most criminally overlooked records of the last decade. He borrows liberally from 1970s AM radio pop and other styles, but his overarching ambition transcends genre, and Gonzalez ends up sounding like no one but himself. On this date, he’ll set aside his stunning original material and focus on paying tribute to his influences.
Artist: Pussy Riot
Venue: The Grey Eagle
Date: Tuesday, May 22, 8 p.m.
Like Sex Pistols in 1976 and the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration Lulu, Pussy Riot is one of those phenomena that few have heard, but about which nearly all have an opinion. Formed in Russia out of an art collective and protesting (among other things) the regime of Vladimir Putin, Pussy Riot found three of its members sentenced to a penal colony. But other members — all of whom are (ostensibly) anonymous — carried on with the band. And for all the furor, there’s precious little music upon which to measure Pussy Riot on a musical level. “Straight Outta Vagina” sounds like a mashup of Spice Girls and Gang of Four, while the pointed “Make America Great Again” has hints of tropicalia and hip-hop. And 2018’s “Bad Apples” evokes memories of industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle. Despite a pledge never to work within the capitalist system, Pussy Riot is currently on a world tour, with Asheville near the end of a small number of North American dates. Dorian Electra opens.
Artist: Erin & the Wildfire
Venue: The One Stop
Date: Saturday, June 9, 10 p.m.
Door: free (donations encouraged)
In and of itself, a soulful and funky band with a powerful female vocalist is nothing especially remarkable. But Erin Lunsford is no run-of-the-mill singer; her vocals soar and swoop with a deft balance of skill and expression. And the band is whip-tight as well, crafting a knottily tense musical bed to back Lunsford. The Charlottesville, Va.-based group’s latest album, Thirst, delivers the musical goods with style and humor. The horn charts are ambitious but not intimidatingly complex; the band members have jaw-dropping chops that they put to good use in service of the songs. The band is on the bill for this year’s Barnaroo, but this free (donations encouraged!) show is your opportunity to see Erin & the Wildfire much sooner.
Artist: Sun Studios: Live in Concert
Venue: 185 King St.
Date: Saturday, June 16, 8 p.m.
Equal parts history lesson, concert and dramatic performance, “Sun Studios: Live in Concert” is the brainchild of multitalented Brevard College graduate Blake Anthony Ellege. His varied background spans gospel, opera, soul, pop and rock ‘n’ roll, making him the ideal person to mount a tribute to one of the most important pieces of musical history (American or otherwise). Sun, of course, was home to historically significant recordings by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Rufus Thomas and many others. Backed by his band, Ellege provides an entertaining and informative trip through time.
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