This week, Weekend on a Shoestring tries something new: a Top 10 of budget-friendly activities. Same idea — art, music, book and festival happenings around WNC with an entry fee of $5 or less … whittled down to 10 not-to-be-missed events. Know of something we missed or something that should have made the list? Please add it below.
Thursday, June 10
• St. Lucia-born reggae artist Taj Weekes grew up the youngest of 10 children. He started singing in church and by age 9, he and his brothers had formed a band that played in local talent shows as well as the town hall or parish centers around the island. According to press, he and his band Adowa have released “two full-length albums to critical acclaim, Hope & Doubt and Deidem, which won Best Reggae Album at the Just Plain Folks Music Awards. The band is set to release their much-anticipated third CD, an acoustic album entitled A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen, this summer. The band performs at Pisgah Brewing Company (150 Eastside Dr., Black Mountain, 669-0190). 8 p.m., $5.
• The lovely and talented singer/songwriter/banjo player Eleanor Underhill (Barrel House Mamas, Underhill Rose, Habibigy) plays the Flat Rock Wine Shoppe’s Back Room (2701 C Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock, 697-6828). 9 p.m.
Friday, June 11
• Here’s how to kick off your weekend: Squeak out work a few minutes early and race (within the speed limit, natch) to Highland Brewery (12 Old Charlotte Hwy., Asheville, 299-3370). There are brewery tours early (4 p.m.) and later — 6-8 p.m. — live music, food and beer. This Friday, Nashville blues/funk act Justin Conn & The Short Bus Mafya takes the stage. This is the kind of high energy, feel-good, crowd-pleasing act the Bele Chere committee would be smart to book, IMHO.
• Thankfully there is no such thing as the frightful cobrahorse (snake head, equine body) that graces the MySpace page of Asheville rock outfit Cobra Horse. The band has plenty of venom and their one demo, “Sharp Ones Say Die” gallops along at a fist-pumping pace with plenty of gritty guitar. Scary, yes, but in a really good way. They’ll be at LAB (39 Lexington Ave., Asheville, 252-0212). 9:30 p.m., $5.
• “Atlanta-based funk poppers, Taste. pair with Asheville indie/rock wave-makers, The Ocean for a celebration of cool grooves, sweet melodies and high-energy,” reads a press release. Yes, “funk poppers” sounds like a combination of stink bombs and noisemakers but Taste. has much more taste than that. You can trust the polished, synthy grooves of this band. Likewise, The Ocean — masterminded by local singer/songwriter Matt Williams (pictured), is all cool syncopation, ringing guitars and thoughtful lyrics. The two bands share a bill at MoDaddy’s (77-B Biltmore Ave., Asheville, 258-1550). 10 p.m., $5.
Saturday, June 12
• The 15th Annual Bluff Mountain Festival (nicknamed “The little festival that could”) takes place in Hot Springs. The description: “This is an all-acoustic music and dance festival that takes place on the Hot Springs Spa and Campground in Downtown Hot Springs.” The background: “Originally started to help fund the eventually successful effort to prevent logging on Bluff Mountain, the Bluff Festival has morphed into a daylong fundraiser for the Madison County Arts Council, and other local nonprofits. The Arts Council holds a silent auction and cash raffle, and groups such as the Spring Creek VFD and the Hots Springs Lions Club sell food to raise money for their efforts.” Who’s playing: The Shinola Troubadours of Possum Splendor, 11 a.m.; Stoney Creek Boys with Green Grass Cloggers and Cole Mountain Cloggers, 12:45 p.m.; Twilite Broadcasters featuring Adam Tanner and Mark Jackson, 1:30 p.m.; Fiddlers in the Round with Roger Howell (host), Paul Crouch and Adam Masters, 4:05 p.m. For the full schedule click here. The festival runs 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and is free.
• Local artist Keenan Kulp doesn’t seem to have a Web site, so if you want to check out his “abstract, Pollack-like paintings,” you need to head to the New Courtyard Gallery (which relocated from its former 9 West Walnut St, location to its new River Arts District home in the Phil Mechanic Building at 109 Roberts St., Asheville, 273-3332). The exhibit opening reception — 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; free — coincides with the River Arts District Studio Stroll on Saturday and Sunday. Visit more than 120 working artist studios and galleries, ride free on the Asheville Historic Trolley between Studio Buildings, shop, socialize, dine and drink Wedge beer. Awesome.
• Nashville-based, pomadour-and-plaid-shirt-wearing, honky-tonk-and-two-step-song-singing Willie Heath Neal plays straight up outlaw country in the spirit of Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and Hank III (he toured with the latter). And Paste Magazine likes him, so chances are, you will too. He performs at Mike’s Side Pocket (375 Haywood Rd. Asheville, 281-3096) at 9 p.m.
• Adorably-named Humble Thumb has an equally adorable song: “Lima Bean.” Worth seeing them just for that chugging, banjo-fueled number. They’ll play Fred’s Parkside Pub (122 College St., Asheville, 281-0920) with acoustic/roots/punk band Cutthroat Shamrock (pictured). 10 p.m.
• Garbage Bear plays Americana/indie-rock. At 10 p.m. they’ll do just that at Westville Pub (777 Haywood Rd., Asheville, 225-9782). $5.