Of course a number of these bands have been leaking their Bele Chere performances over the last couple months. (Xpress dropped a few names on April 19 and June 2.) That’s given us all plenty of time to think about what group’s we’re most excited about seeing. Here’s an Xpress Top 10. (Got your own Top 10? Let us know what it is, below.)
1. Viper’s Dream, U.S. Cellular Stage on Biltmore Ave., Friday, 5-6:15 p.m.
Local jazz quintet Viper’s Dream (Dan Bletz, Adam Masters, Stephen Shealy, Dave Keister and Cary Fridley) plays “plays the forever vibrant and swinging music of Django Reinhardt, in the style commonly known as hot club gypsy jazz.”
2. The Speedbumps, Battery Park Stage, Friday, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Based out of Kent, Ohio, The Speedbumps keep up a hectic tour schedule, which seems fitting for the sweet, low-key acoustic pop sound that they may not have masterminded but surely are perfecting. Their instruments include guitar, cello, saw, Wurlitzer, banjo, upright bass and ukulele. Kind of Zack Gill/The Shins/The Fruit Bats/Nick Drake … but also unique enough to be compelling. Must see.
3. Inner Visions, Haywood Street Stage, Friday, 6:30-8 p.m.
What says “summer festival” better than the carefree island-inspired grooves of reggae? From the Virgin Islands, Inner Visions is a family band that creates old school soul-informed reggae with dancable beats and positive, upbeat messages. Read more about the band here
4. Southern Culture on the Skids, U.S. Cellular Stage on Biltmore Ave., Friday, 8:30-10 p.m.
“Long the bards of downward mobility, Southern Culture on the Skids have always embodied a sleazy, raucous, good-natured, good-time take on the culture of the South.”
5. Dirtfoot, Rock n’ Kiss Stage on Coxe Ave., Saturday, 2:30-4 p.m.
Dirtfoot bills itself as “the only Front Porch, Whiskey Swillin, Foot Stomping, Gypsy, Punk, Country, Grumble, Boogie band in the land.” They sound like if Tom Waits wrote the sound track to Mardi Gras, as produced by Tim Burton. Thick bass drum and tuba, venomous percussion, fierce horns, snarls and snaps, whip-smart instrumentation and deal-with-the-devil charisma.
6. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Rock n’ Kiss Stage on Coxe Ave., Saturday, 8:30-10 p.m.
Vermont-based Grace Potter and her band, The Nocturnals, are not strangers to Asheville. The first play the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam in 2007 and are quoted here in Xpress. But since the band’s early years (they formed in 2004 and broke out with 2007’s This Is Somewhere) change has been afoot. Once a jeans-and-flannel-shirted tomboy of a brunet, Potter returns to Asheville sleeker, blonder and rocking (if the group’s recent Good Morning America appearance is anything to go by) some serious heels.
7. The Legendary JC’s, U.S. Cellular Stage on Biltmore Ave., Saturday, 4:15-5:45 p.m.
Orlando’s r&b/soul revue The Legendary JC’s (stands for “joint chiefs”) once opened for James Brown. Especially cool since front man Eugene “Denzel” Snowden bears a strong resemblance — voice and dance moves — to Brown. Gritty guitars, horns and serious bass create just the right ambiance.
8. Bomshel, U.S. Cellular Stage on Biltmore Ave., Saturday, 8:15-9:45 p.m.
Bomshel is country, from the big blond hair and tight jeans to the searing fiddle and cheesy-folksy lyrics (“This butterfly tattoo might be something I tell my kids not to do…”); they’re also really relatable to a wide audience. “Few young women are equally at ease penning a poignant hit about a friend battling cancer or simply knocking back tequila with Kix Brooks, but then again you can always count on Bomshel to embrace the extremes and — like their name implies — deliver the unexpected,” says their bio. Yep, sometimes mainstream country is fun.
9. Tropic Culture, Battery Park Stage, Saturday, 6-7:30 p.m.
Unlike many world-beat bands, Tropic Culture doesn’t mind that kind of categorization. “It was 2007 and brothers Alberto and Jorge Espinosa followed a vision—to build a high-energy band that skillfully fuses their love for Latin, Jazz, Rock, Reggae and Soul into a sound to make the feet dance and heart smile.”
10. Caravan of Thieves, Haywood Street Stage, Sunday, 1:45-3:15 p.m.
My vote for, potentially, the most entertaining band at Bele Chere: “It wasn’t just a show, it was a total performance,” reported one viewer on Caravan of Thieves promo video. Part Gypsy-jazz, part Stomp!, part Vaudeville, part medicine show.