By Emma Witman
“We are all immigrants” is how the members of Kansas City, Mo.-based (by way of Panama and Mexico) rock band Making Movies sums up its political sentiment.
Singing in both English and Spanish over Afro-Latino rhythms, the group draws from personal experience to tell the tale of a family who has emigrated to the U.S. on the 2017 album I Am Another You. A portion of proceeds from that record benefited the National Immigration Law Center. Making Movies kicks off UNC Asheville’s Concerts on the Quad series — four free outdoor concerts, open to the broader community — on Monday, June 18.
Last year’s lineup brought in a greater number of Latino listeners, says Cori Anderson, assistant director of Cultural Events & Special Academic Programs at UNCA. That trend could continue, thanks to Making Movies.
“NPR listed their recent album as one of the best of the year, and I think we’re lucky to be catching them at a certain time,” Anderson says. “I try to look for bands that are really talented, and obviously it’s ideal to get them early on in their career.”
Beyond attracting the Latino community to the campus series, Anderson anticipates that student activists among the university’s enrollment will be drawn to Making Movies’ sociopolitical statement. “The band had visited the National Civil Rights Museum there the day before the Trump administration announced it was canceling the DACA program,” says a bio. “The musicians channeled their frustration and dismay into covers of Manu Chao’s ‘Clandestino’ and Los Tigres del Norte’s ‘De Paisano a Paisano’ (with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos on accordion and backing vocals)” as well as a version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”
At a time when local ICE raids are provoking strong reaction in Asheville, the band’s message is a timely one.
Though current in its lineup, Concerts on the Quad dates back three decades. The summer series ran for 20 years before taking a four-year hiatus. It relaunched in 2015 with two highly regarded local acts: self-described “absurdist gypsy folk funk punk” locals Sirius.B and pop-noir collective stephaniesid. That lineup also included Pura Fé, an a cappella group known for fusing First Nations music with elements of bluegrass, jazz, soul and folk.
This year’s roster strikes a similar balance of eclectic, multicultural and homegrown.
Multireedist Steve Alford and other UNCA faculty musicians will improvise music across genres, oscillating between rock and jazz on Monday, June 25. Alford will play alongside an ensemble of eight, including performers such as Jacob Rodriguez on saxophone and Justin Ray on trumpet, both regular members of Grammy-winner Michael Bublé’s band.
Then, on Monday, July 9, The Get Right band performs. Voted “Best Progressive Band” in Western North Carolina by Xpress readers, the trio (Silas Durocher, Jesse Gentry and JC Mears) play the kind of reggae-infused indie-rock that heightens moods and keeps the dance floor busy. The group recently announced that its upcoming show dates include opening slots for ’90s rockers Everclear and Angelo Moore of Fishbone.
Rissi Palmer, who will close out the series on July 16, represents a type of performer rarely seen: She was the first African-American woman to record a song that hit the country charts in 20 years when she debuted her single “Country Girl” in 2007. A little bit country, a little bit soul, the crooner’s voice bridges both genres beautifully on songs including “Sweet Sweet Lovin’” from her 2015 release, The Back Porch Sessions. Palmer has an album in the works for later this year.
The Concerts on the Quad series, which will take place on Monday evenings in June and July, is outside and free, Anderson says. Attendees are encouraged to get comfy on the quad — blankets, lawn chairs and picnicking are welcome. Vendors will be out as well with food and drink. Weather contingency plans will move the concert indoors, if necessary; see unca.edu/concerts for more details in the event of rain.
WHAT: Concerts on the Quad
WHERE: UNC Asheville, One University Heights, events.unca.edu
WHEN: Mondays, June 18 and 25, and July 9 and 16, 7 p.m., free.