Teen quintet Jazz The Ripper plays with a savvy beyond their years. Check their MySpace page for a playlist that reads more like a fast-food menu (“Java Chiller,” Paco’s Taco,” “No Pickle”), but the tongue-in-cheek stops with the songs’ titles. Each piece is a serious composition displaying skilled musicianship, layered textures, complex rhythms and tasteful grooves.
Silas Durocher and Everybody Knows, 6:15-7:15 p.m.

Groove on: Brit-pop band The Cheeksters are one of many groups serving up the sounds at this year’s Mountain Sports Festival.

Recently relocated to Asheville, native Texan Silas Durocher names The Beatles, the Grateful Dead and Bela Bartok among his influences. The rock-meets-psychedelic-meets-jazz amalgamation comes to life in the band’s 2008 debut album, Thesis Statement. Ranging from funk-fueled jams to tightly crafted motifs, this is music for the thinking man … who likes to boogie.
The Bridge, 7:45-9:30 p.m.

Based in Baltimore, this roots outfit spends a lot of time touring the U.S. Equal parts funk and Southern soul, the sextet’s sound recalls the Allman Brothers. What sets The Bridge apart from the average jam band is its laid-back approach. Sure, the group packs a lot of instruments onto the stage, but each player tastefully adds just enough. The blending of, say, mandolin and beat box brings the sound from the ‘70s straight into the new millennium, and lyric themes (“Honey Bee,” “Old White Lightning,” “Bad Locomotive”) are both familiar and appealingly down-and-dirty.

Saturday, May 30

The Cheeksters, noon – 1 p.m.

Masterminded by husband-and-wife duo Shannon and Mark Casson, this Brit-pop band is rooted in the danceable, feel-good tunes of the ‘60s. When the Cassons met—by chance, while traveling in the U.K.—they had the good sense to blend their talents. The result? Jangly guitars, throwback Wurlitzer, pin-sharp percussion and plenty of addictive hooks. Oh, and there are go-go boots, too.
If You Wannas, 1:30-2:30 p.m.

This Asheville-based rock band says it “dabbles in sarcasm, fun, heartbreak and the experimental.” Sweeping guitar riffs, warm vocals, retro keys and straightforward beats: It’s quirk-folk with a punk sensibility. If anyone could revitalize that creativity-saturated, post-new-wave sound, it’s the If You Wannas.
Shane Pruitt, 3-4:15 p.m.

Spartanburg, S.C.-based bluesman Shane Pruitt proudly claims this not-so-sexy backstory: “raised in the suburbs, in the shadow of a Wal-Mart store.” Schooled on recordings of Piedmont blues and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pruitt has crafted his own fiery guitar style. His smoky, too-sweet-to-be-Bourbon-soaked voice pays fitting tribute to the grittier forefathers of the blues.
Heypenny, 4:45-6:15 p.m.

Despite calling Nashville home, this ain’t no country band. Instead, the trio cranks out upbeat, pulsing pop. Crunchy guitars, ringing keys and vocals that call to mind both Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Kinks add up to something simultaneously retro and modern. Says the band, “Heypenny is going to make itself permeate your existence.”
Nerd Parade, 6:45-9:15 p.m.

This Atlanta-based indie-rock quartet knows a thing or two about social networking. Band members blog, they Twitter (recently: “ROFL! My Little Pony live-action movie trailer!”), and they’re currently streaming both of their albums online. For free. This high-energy, driving music is perfect for road trips, gearing up for Saturday night, forgetting an ex—or hanging out at a sun-drenched festival.

Sunday, May 31

Wilsin, 12:45-1:45 p.m.

Wilsin’s frontman, singer/songwriter Will Hartzog, has a gravelly, powerful voice reminiscent of The Marshall Tucker Band’s Toy Caldwell. Backed by a full band, Hartzog’s tunes take on a driving urgency landing somewhere between blue-eyed soul and veggie-burrito-fueled jam. No surprise there: Keys player Damien LeMaster is adept on both modern and vintage instruments; guitarist Trevor Wolford mixes samples with his strumming.
Vertigo Jazz Project, 2:15-3:45 p.m.

A year since its inception, Vertigo Jazz Project is already on an initials-only basis. VJP prides itself on fusing genres like funk, Latin, rock, avant garde, classical, world and even country—but always under the umbrella of tightly crafted (and sometimes downright scholarly) jazz. So how does the quartet take its sound from the listening room to the street? It might have something to do with the self-described “brontosaurus-sized backbeat” of drummer Sean Mason. Or the fact that VJP’s bassist goes by the name “Pajamas.”
Geoff Achison, 4:15-5:45 p.m.

The casual listener might wonder what Australian-born musician Geoff Achison has to be blue about, what with all those beaches, kangaroos and that fantastic accent. But Achison’s driving sound is as much rock (in the classic AC/DC sense) as it is blues. Add to that his soulful voice, his proclivity for guitar jams, and a tour schedule that has him logging as many U.S. as Australian shows, and you’ve got a world citizen who knows how to rock.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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