Around town: ABSFest turns 15

BURLESQUE BAZAAR: Jo’Rie Tigerlily performs her burlesque act as part of ABSFest. Photo courtesy of Jo'Rie Tigerlily

ABSFest will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a burlesque and sideshow festival Thursday, May 23-Sunday, May 26.

This year’s Medusa-themed event is a celebration of the weird and unique, featuring a collection of local and national performers. Despite taking a few years off during the pandemic, the festival has grown immensely since it started almost two decades ago. “Everything was made possible originally because The Orange Peel gave a young producer a chance,” says ABSFest Executive Producer Onça O’Leary. “I’ve been producing festivals there ever since, so you know I have a definite gratitude for The Orange Peel for believing in an Asheville kid.”

The opening party for the festival will kick off at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the Crow and Quill. Drayton & the Dreamboats will perform along with juggling, belly dance and sideshow acts.

On Friday at 7:30 p.m., Brooklyn-based goth folk band Charming Disaster will present Journey Through the Underworld, a narrative performance featuring burlesque and variety acts, at The Grey Eagle. There will also be a VIP preshow juggling set by comedy artist Paolo Garbanzo beginning at 7 p.m.

Saturday features workshops by Leah Orleans, aka Tiny Girl Big Show, at The Orange Peel from 12:30-3:30 p.m. Workshops include an introduction to whip-cracking, “Badass Shimmies for Every Body” and songwriting. Sideshow historian James Taylor will give a free talk on the history of sideshows.

The 15th Saturday Spectacular begins at 8:30 p.m. at The Orange Peel. Madame Onça will emcee the show, which will feature contortions and strip-teases by a variety of performers, including Selia d’Katzmeow. A vendor bazaar will offer soaps and other wares. Raffle tickets will be for sale in support of Asheville’s feral-kitten rescue, Sister Kitten. VIP tickets are also available for this performance.

At noon Sunday, The Grey Eagle will host The Church of Decadence Brunch, featuring Phat Man Dee’s jazz and gospel performance.

The Orange Peel is at 101 Biltmore Ave. The Grey Eagle is at 185 Clingman Ave. For more information, visit

Womansong announces spring concert

Womansong, Asheville’s longest-running women’s community chorus, announces We Come From Women, a spring concert Friday, May 17, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 18, at 3 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville.

The music in the production, led by Allison Thorp, celebrates the legacy of women carving a path for women who come after them. The concert will feature original pieces by Womansong’s Lytingale along with favorites by Sarah Bareilles, Ysaye Barnwell, May Erlewine, Holly Near, Dolly Parton and Carly Simon.

There will also be a performance on Saturday, June 1, 3 p.m., at 50 Liberty Road, Fletcher.

Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door and free for children 12 and younger.

Unitarian Universalist Congregation is at 1 Edwin Place. For more information, visit

Call for Black Cultural Heritage Trail art

Explore Asheville, in collaboration with River Front Development Group and the Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail Advisory Committee, invites artists to submit public art for placement along the trail, according to a press release.

Phase I of the BCHT, unveiled in 2023, highlights the contributions and achievements of Asheville’s Black community with the installation of 21 heritage sites throughout downtown, the South Slope and the River Arts District. Phase II seeks to enrich the trail with art such as murals and sculptures. Eligible artwork should highlight Black people’s agency and personal power and combat misconceptions to preserve Black history for future generations.

Artist submissions are due Thursday, May 30, 5 p.m. The call is open to all artists regardless of background or experience, and collaboration is encouraged.

For more information, email

Sound Effects Benefit Concert at Salvage Station

The 10th annual Sound Effects Benefit Concert will be held at Salvage Station on Thursday, May 23.

Steely Dan cover band Dirty Logic will perform on the outdoor stage. The concert is sponsored by the Asheville Music School to raise money for the Paul Thorpe Music Education Fund, which funds AMS scholarship programs and outreach. “Funds raised from donors, concertgoers and sponsors have helped us provide scholarships for music lessons and instruments,” says AMS Executive Director Ryan Reardon. “One of our student bands, Minør, will be opening the show!”

Proceeds from the benefit will also be used to upfit the AMS Sound Lab, which offers digital education to students in the field of music production, engineering and recording. “The AMS Sound Lab is designed to bridge the gap between traditional music education and a more modern approach,” says Reardon. “The lab will attract students who would love to learn music production but have not felt comfortable with traditional lessons and instruments.”

Doors open at 5 p.m., and the show starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.

Salvage Station is at 468 Riverside Drive. For more information, visit

Barbershop chorus wins regional award

Asheville’s Land of the Sky Chorus has won the Carolinas District competition for the first time in its 75-year history.

The chorus, which was founded in 1949 and recently opened up to include all genders, is now recognized as both the best and the most improved chorus in the Carolinas. Land of the Sky will also represent the Carolinas District at the 2025 Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Convention in Denver.

“At the Carolinas District competition we performed our rocking chair set, which was a custom arrangement by Robert Rund who used to live in Asheville,” says Frank Pierce, the bass section leader. “Nobody thought we were gonna win but we worked really hard and took the W as the underdog. Typically Raleigh and Charlotte win.”

A barbershop quartet is normally composed of four singers, each singing a separate part. However, the choral format has about 35 performers and expects to have 60 by the end of the year, with multiple people on each part. Pierce notes the chorus’s boom in membership as a contributing factor in the win.

Anyone interested in joining the chorus can begin by attending weekly rehearsals at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Kenilworth Presbyterian Church.

Kenilworth Presbyterian Church is at 123 Kenilworth Road. For more information visit

Asheville Ballet plans spring production

The Asheville Ballet will perform Spring into Dance: An Artistic Bouquet Thursday, May 16, and Friday, May 17, 6:30 p.m., at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

The Asheville Ballet is Western North Carolina’s oldest ballet company. This latest production will feature a variety of compositions, including “Knot,” which was inspired by a 1949 textile piece of the same name by Anni Albers of Black Mountain College. “Albers has captured, in two dimensions, one of the principal concerns of choreographers — patterns of movement through space in three dimensions,” says Ann Dunn, The Asheville Ballet’s artistic and executive director. “The artwork seemed to me to suggest three separate but intertwined journeys, whether they happen among three distinct individuals or within one individual throughout a life.”

The common theme of the production is the ever-evolving process of life and art, but it covers a wide array of topics, including seasonal change, meditations on the self, spiritual growth and presence. The pieces are composed of original choreography by Dunn in collaboration with Washington, D.C., composer and cellist Erin Murphy Snedecor.

Tickets range from $15-$40.

The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts is at 18 Biltmore Ave. For more information, visit

5Point Film Fest comes to Grey Eagle

MountainTrue will host the 17th annual 5Point Adventure Film Festival at The Grey Eagle on Tuesday, May 21, 7:30 p.m.

MountainTrue is a conservation organization committed to protecting the region’s rivers, forests and mountains and creating a sustainable future for WNC and eastern Tennessee. The organization will offer a raffle to raise money. Prizes include items from New Belgium Brewing, Yeti Coolers, Stio and other 5Point sponsors.

5Point is a production company dedicated to telling stories that create understanding, humility and purpose. “We were looking for a fun event to bring together our supporters while celebrating community,” says Amy Finkler, development and engagement manager for MountainTrue. “5Point has values that align with our own, and the films they show inspire communities and bring people together.”

The festival will show eight short films from the 5Point official selections, running a total of roughly 94 minutes. They include Strong Grandma, a story about a 95-year-old weightlifter, Slides on the Mountain, a story about two brothers from the Lil’wat Nation who attempt to ski a sacred mountain, Canyon Chorus, a story about mentorship in the LGBTQ+ community, and Above the Noise, a documentary about skydiver Maja Kuczynska.

The Grey Eagle is at 185 Clingman Ave. For more information, visit


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