The Saturday bands

Asheville-based progressive bluegrass outfit Sanctum Sully plays the Coxe Avenue stage Saturday from 2:30-4 p.m.


Hip-hop/jazz/funk ensemble ArtOfficial is considered (at least by one vocal fan) to be the best band in Miami. Formed from two defunct bands (one hip-hop, one jazz), ArtOfficial prides itself on an original sound, eschewing drum machines and samples in favor of "organic instrumentation."

Aunt Martha

Few bands subtitle their names. Folk-country outfit Aunt Martha (actually a band of men) does. The musicians also tour around in a man-van, camping in their man-tent and releasing sonic extras through their website. Like three-song collection 87, on which each track was written in a different state.

The Archrivals

The most immediate difference between stephaniesid (Archrivals leader Chuck Lichtenberger’s main gig) and this offshoot is that where stephaniesid make songs, The Archrivals create compositions. The band’s dense sound-scapes melt jazz and rock into a psychedelic pool where distorted synthesizers ride walking bass lines and staccato horns interact with wildly effects-treated vocals. stephaniesid aren’t without their experimental tendencies, but The Archrivals are a welcome complement for anyone who wishes they’d go just a little bit further.


Friends/producers/DJs/songwriters/multi-instrumentalists Russ Randolph and Zion Rock Godchaux make up electronic rock/blues duo Boom Box. But as experimental as their sound might be, the musicians are also based in classic sounds (after all, Godchaux's parents were in the Grateful Dead).

The Critters

For a locally sourced garage-rock fix, look no further than The Critters. As their name suggests, this ‘60s-informed trio are compact and feisty, Beatles-inspired hooks delivered with a grimy rock touch most often found under Stones. Captured on this year’s Visions of Light EP, the band shakes and shimmies with with party-loving abandon like the Black Lips on a caffeine-and-sugar binge. The Critters ask for nothing more than your attention and enthusiasm, and reward both in spades.

Delta Rae

Durham-based Delta Rae sounds, name-wise, like it should be a Mississippi blues act. They look (at least the three blond Hölljes siblings) like a Dutch supermodel army. The band’s sound is all layered percussion, roots-y thump and stomp, power vocals and driving, pulse-racing melodies. Which, in a way, is a long stretch from the band's genesis: Eric teamed up with Mike Posner to write and produce the dance hit "Cooler than Me.” But forget the club beats; Delta Rae's bewitching songs hook fans — like pop band Hansen, for whom Delta Rae opened at the Orange Peel.

Dr. Dog

Proving that things (and by “things,” we mean “bands”) can get better with age, Philadelphia's indie-rock outfit Dr. Dog is the product of a 20-year musical partnership between bassist Toby Leaman and singer-songwriter Scott McMicken. This year's Be The Void, fashioned from live and overdubbed recordings, blends effortless cool with enthusiasm, touches of angst and cheerful self-deprecation. Expect a boundless, bombastic stage show.


Local rapper Eazy (aka Ethan Andrew McMahan) spits the sort of verses and expounds upon topics that would probably make his grandmother blush. According to his bio, he’s also been featured on mix tapes with the likes of Yelawolf, Wakaflaka and Machine Gun Kelly. His Bele Chere appearance is likely to be not soon forgotten.

Grown Up Avenger Stuff

When Charlotte's Grown Up Avenger Stuff isn't fighting crime and modeling the latest fashions (as they did last fall for Charlotte Magazine), the musicians blend punk, blues and art rock into their own potent elixir. The band is dad John Thomsen, with sons Tyler and Hunter, and award-winning vocalist Dierdre Kroener.

Inner Visions

Originally from the Virgin Islands, reggae outfit Inner Visions is all about family. Made up of two brothers and two songs, the band (all with storied nicknames: Grasshopper, Jupiter, Mr. Snooze and Hollywood) are Bele Chere favorites. Deep grooves, island flavor, positive messages and well-preserved roots reggae traditions are what they bring to the stage.

Kovacs & the Polar Bear

Asheville indie-rockers Kovacs & the Polar Bear have been going through some growing pains. They saw multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Chris Lee move to the West Coast earlier this year. His spot has since been filled by Casey Ellis on bass and Xpress writer Dane Smith on keys, guitar and banjo. The good news, of course, is Kovacs' excellent catalog of songs and infectiously fun stage presence are still solid as it gets.

Jody Medford & Cash Creek

Baritone vocalist Jody Medford kind of rap-sings, but that's not nearly as important as his subject matter: moonshine. His song, "Moonshine," recorded with the band Cash Creek, is a Jerry Scoggins-style (singer of "The Ballad of Jed Clampett") play-by-play on the art of moonshine production. It was inspired by the late moonshiner Popcorn Sutton, and one of Sutton's stills in featured in the video for Medford's song.

Larry Keel and Natural Bridge

Larry Keel specializes in flat-picked folk that honors mountain music traditions while also appealing to fans who just want a catchy ditty. With Natural Bridge, he nimbly adapts bluegrass trappings to his own purposes, using mandolins and banjos to texture breezy ballads and gritty folk rave-ups. Keel unites his various strands of Americana with gruffly gratifying pipes, growling through the intense moments and diminishing to a fractured whisper when emotions are tender.

Lorraine Conard Band

Lorraine Conard makes the kind of bright, easy-moving folk-rock that requires talent and stage presence. Her band’s pleasant melodies and rustically comfortable arrangements would be common to the point of meaninglessness were it not for Conard’s deft songwriting and softly smoldering vocal chords. Anyone could easily name a few dozen artists making similarly laid-back blues and wistful folk ruminations, but Conard still manages to stand out, a testament to her talented and passionate approach to music.

Michael Reno Harrell

Michael Reno Harrell’s long, white locks and somewhat silly demeanor might have you expecting Americana frivolity — lightweight yarns good for a laugh and little else. But one would be mistaken to judge this veteran folk storyteller by his album covers. His mastery spans acoustic ballads, stark, hard-hearted blues and pure-and-piercing bluegrass. The tales he spins match his stylistic diversity. Keenly capturing wry country wisdom, Harrell ably adapts it to whatever tone he’s pursuing, consistently charming with disparate sounds.

Sanctum Sully

Asheville’s Sanctum Sully fits right in with the progressive contingent leading the charge in N.C. bluegrass. Like Steep Canyon Rangers or Chatham County Line, the bands’ melodic pathways are paved mostly with pop, harnessing tangled acoustic instrumentation to make hooks as unavoidably catchy as mountain bramble. The recently released Trade Winds sees the group refining its approach, and rustic harmonies and bustling arrangements add a comfortably road-worn feel to slick and satisfying songs.

The Swayback Sisters

The first line in the Swayback Sisters’ online bio trumpets the fact that they are a “close harmony trio based out of Asheville,” and, truth be told, that pretty much sums it up. With guitar, banjo and bass, they pick their way through mostly mountain styles, ranging from Appalachian blues permutations to unfettered ballads. But in every case they downplay their instruments, playing quietly to give their well-matched voices room to reverberate. Musically solid and self-aware, these Sisters are sure to please.

The Travis Smith Project

Spartanburg’s Travis Smith Project offers a compelling mix of experience levels. Smith, who leads this Christian-informed folk and R&B outfit, is a relative newcomer, highlighted by his Facebook bio, which notes that in 2005 he “was recognized as the Best Male Vocalist at the Lee Roy Water’s Talent Show in Woodruff, S.C.” His drummer, John Rutledge, on the other hand, has been playing since the ‘70s. A little old and a little new, this project strives to please all comers.

Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band

Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band does not value subtlety. The Asheville funk outfit specializes in come-ons and rhythms that are unflinchingly frank. Take “@$$,” the second jam on this year’s Doin’ It Hard. The song’s hook is a call-and-response where one member sings “Badonkadonk” and the rest scream “Shake it!” “I like what your momma gave to you, now give it to me!” they cry over a two-stepping bass line that just won’t quit. This Booty Band is after a sexy good time, plain and simple.

About Webmaster
Mountain Xpress Webmaster Follow me @MXWebTeam

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.