Category Archives: Live Shows

Technology’s Impact on the Music Industry

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In the 80s, video killed the radio star and music lovers became glued to MTV around the clock. Cable TV and the music video revolutionized how music reached people. Music fans were excited and satisfied, completely naïve to the impact that technology would have on the creation, delivery and live experience of music in the future.

More than three decades later, technology has exploded and changed the face of the music industry on all fronts. Musicians no longer need big record labels to reach the masses — they have social media and YouTube for that. Getting “discovered” can literally happen overnight with viral videos that spread like wildfire across the globe. As Dylan sang, “the times, they are a-changing’.”

Today, fans are bombarded by musical options — band status updates, tweets, live-streaming concerts, crowdfunding campaigns, Instagram concert photos, digital downloads, satellite radio, music apps, wireless headphones and more. The opportunities to connect to music seem endless and ever expanding, which allows fans to pick their poison, but also leaves plenty of room for overload and pitfalls.

The ability to record and mix an album no longer sits in the hands of big name studios as it once did. Home recording studios have popped up across the states as artists gain access to affordable digital audio workstation programs like Avid Pro Tools and Apple GarageBand or Logic Pro X. While engineering an album still requires a trained ear, these tools have opened doors to musicians who may have never dreamed of the chance to lay down tracks.

Ask independent touring musicians about income and they will likely tell you they are broke — this is no lie. After gas, hotels, meals, and bills, there is little left for recording costs. Without backing from a label, recording an album in today’s climate often requires the support of fans. This is where crowdfunding comes in handy. Online platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and PledgeMusic have changed the way musicians raise money to support their craft. Successful campaigns from artists like Langhorne Slim, Joe Fletcher and Holy Ghost Tent Revival have turned out solid albums that may have otherwise never been created. This virtual tip jar allows fans to be a part of the process, and in return receive “prizes” that are often handmade by the artists themselves.

For some, smartphone technology has ruined the live music experience. Watching an entire concert through the bright screen of someone’s iPhone or tablet is certainly not ideal and can create frustration among concert-goers. This frustration can also be felt by the musician, who can look out into a sea of phones, rather than faces, often creating a disconnect.

On the flip side, jam band Umphrey’s McGee has chosen a different approach to use technology to increase engagement and unity among its fans. At selective shows, including the band’s annual UMBowl, fans are asked to live tweet song requests and improv ideas to the band or vote for specific songs to guide the set list.

“It’s really fun and the fans just went nuts for it,” band member Joel Cummins said. “It’s a really great experience to be creative with the fan base and come up with new things … it turns improv on its head and treats it like composition. Over the course of three years, we’ve come up with nine to 10 new songs from it.”

Surprisingly, Cummins and the band have found that the live tweeting and voting have not distracted from the show itself.

“I don’t see (overuse of phones) as much of a problem at our shows,” Cummins said. “We aren’t big stars. (The fans) are there in the moment, for the music. People aren’t into us as people. They are more into us as a group, so if they want to take a picture that is fine with me. You really have to pay attention (at our shows). It’s not going to be the same thing every night.”

Umphrey’s McGee also offers a selective number of wireless headphone packs at most shows, allowing fans to experience the concert through the soundboard, just as the band does through ear monitors. Currently they have 40-50 packs that fans can rent for $40, which also includes a digital download of the evening’s performance. What started as an idea to bring fans a unique listening experience, has grown into more than the band could have ever expected — spawning new friendships and headphone sharing.

“Our biggest fear was that it would create a strange social stigma at shows, but the opposite has happened,” Cummins said. “It brings out people’s curiosity and most of our fans are nice, intelligent people. They want to accommodate and spread the word about the goodness of this. We’ve had about five to 10 negative comments and 500 positive comments — that it is a game changer.”

Social media has done wonders for the independent musician, not only through spreading information and new music, but also through networking and tour planning. Many smaller music venues now handle booking through Facebook, and keep patrons informed by creating event pages. Websites like Bandsintown and Artistdata can be linked to Facebook and Twitter by musicians, keeping fans informed of nearby shows.

However, the amount of accessible music may be nearing a threshold. Wood Robinson, bassist for the Chapel Hill-based group Mipso, has observed a shift in music accessibility on the internet and thinks that musicians need to use these resources wisely in order to be successful.

“The webs are all but saturated with music of all kinds and of all aesthetics and all abilities,” Robinson said. “It gives a little more of an even platform for everyone, but it also means that the listener has to plow through a lot to find that yet-to-be-discovered group that they’re going to fall in love with. It’s like taking all the fruit trees in the world and putting them in one grove. All those fruits are a lot more reachable, but so are the fruits that you don’t want to eat.

“I think that the biggest thing for artists is to figure out how to use that accessibility to their advantage. The constant connectivity is great but not if used poorly. Reverbnation has a lot of great tools for unsigned artists, but a ‘like’ doesn’t necessarily translate to a butt in a seat at a concert. It can be a good proxy for estimating growth, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all for measuring success.”

Music delivery through websites like Pandora and Spotify has also drastically increased mobile accessibility to music, while also somewhat stealing from the mouths of artists. This conundrum equates to the proverbial double-edged sword. While fans can listen to any type of music they want for free or a small monthly fee and it gives the artist exposure, in the end most artists literally earn pennies for the web-play their songs receive.

This drastic decrease in pay-out is also evident when fans choose to purchase a digital download over a physical copy of an album. Local musician Rebekah Todd has concerns about the impact technology has on not only the livelihood of the artist, but also how people are connecting to music today.

“Things have changed dramatically with the digital age and the introduction of things like Rhapsody, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and so many more,” Todd said. “The act of obtaining music has been cheapened. Thirty years ago, you had to walk into a record store and thumb through physical copies of albums. You picked the album up and you examined its artwork. You might have even read about who played on the album and where it was recorded. Today, we don’t have to have any physical contact to have a song delivered to us immediately.

“Not only have digital sites stolen the personal act of buying music from us, it has stolen a large portion of how musicians make their living. What people don’t realize is that musicians make a fraction of a penny for every time that their song is listened to, digitally, as opposed to the days when people had to spend at least an entire dollar on a song that a musician poured their soul into for months on end.

“I believe that music is not something you hear. It is something that you feel. If you aren’t feeling music, you might as well stop listening. To fully experience music, you have to stand in a room with someone who has written a song about the highest and lowest points of their life and you have to meet that person in their song — in their experience. That is where the connection is made. It isn’t made on an iPod. It isn’t made on XM radio. It is made at the live performance. I fear that a large percentage of the kids being raised today have never even been to a live show. They have never felt the bass pumping so loudly that they can feel it in their chest. They’ve never seen someone pour out all of their emotion with every bead of sweat that lands on the stage.”

Over the past decade, vinyl has made a significant comeback, giving listeners a higher quality recording when compared to a digital MP3 file. According to Pitchfork, 2013 vinyl sales topped out at 6.1 million units in the US alone. While this still only accounts for two percent of all album sales, it represents a 33% increase in vinyl sales from 2012.

To stay up with the times, most newly-pressed vinyl comes with a digital download code for those who want the experience of spinning a record, while also being able to take the music on the go. For audiophiles this is the best of both worlds.

Independent record stores, like Greenville’s East Coast Music and Video, have had to adapt to the digital world in order to survive. Store owner, Jon Hughes’ has gladly embraced the new demand for vinyl by stocking his store with new and used records, in addition to CDs, offering music lovers a wide array of options while trying to stay current.

“I think the resurgence in vinyl interest is awesome,” Hughes said. “The fact that vinyl sales are up throughout the world’s retail markets is evidence that people are starting to come full circle when it comes to listening and buying music. A lot of people have become slaves to their gadgets over the years and they have lost touch with the pure enjoyment of owning and collecting physical pieces of music. Many folks in the younger generations do not know what it’s like to really want their favorite band’s new album and having to wait for it to come out. They’ve never experienced the genuine excitement of going to their local record store and finally getting their hands on it for the first time.

“Opening up the record, admiring the artwork and photographs, reading the liner notes and song lyrics while listening to a beautiful piece of vinyl can be a surreal experience on many levels. A band’s music should be more than just background noise to fill the room while you’re scanning the internet. Let’s face it, music is art and it should be enjoyed that way. MP3s are flat pieces of digital noise but, vinyl records have warmth, depth, texture and soul. Nothing sounds better than analog and I believe more people are reconnecting with that fact.”

The increase in demand for current bands to release vinyl versions of albums comes with a disclaimer — fans must be patient. Currently, there are only about a dozen pressing plants in the US, which means turnaround time has gone from about four weeks to three months. Perhaps vinyl’s comeback will offset the need for instant gratification that comes with immediate downloads or streaming, and bring music lovers back to a time when great music was worth the wait.

 

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Review – Farm Aid 2014

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Since 1985, Farm Aid has been working to raise awareness about the hardships that accompany family farming in the US. Though efforts are year-round, the annual Farm Aid Concert marks the culmination of hard work, dedication, and commitment from non-profit organizers, farmers, musicians, volunteers and more. This star-studded event is not only a celebration of music, but more importantly a grassroots movement for those in attendance to get involved in the cause.

Now in its 29th year, Farm Aid continues to work toward its mission by promoting food from family farms, growing the Good Food movement, helping farmers thrive, and taking local, regional and national action to promote fair policies. To date, Farm Aid has raised over $45 million to support a strong family farm system of agriculture that is built to withstand the test of time and challenge the heavy-hand of government and corporate power that limits so many small family farmers.

This year, Farm Aid chose to focus the attention on the unique struggles of North Carolina farmers. Organizers spent months gathering the facts and stories from family farmers like Kay Doby and Craig Watts who face the hardships of contract poultry, NC’s only African-American dairy farmers Dorthay and Phillip Barker who have experienced blatant discrimination, and The Vollmer family who bravely moved away from traditional tobacco farming to organic production. While these are just a few of the countless stories from across the state, they represent a nationwide struggle that Farm Aid has been trying to dissolve for nearly three decades.

Farm Aid’s board of directors—Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews—serve not only as the musical voices behind the cause, but also work to educate their fans year after year at the Farm Aid Concerts. Last month, Nelson, Mellencamp, Young, and Matthews took to Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Amphitheater stage, along with acts like Jack White, Gary Clark Jr., Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Jamey Johnson, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and Durham-based Delta Rae, to share their talents and thoughts with a sold-out crowd.

Though scattered thunderstorms threatened the event throughout the day, the late summer weather managed to cooperate for organizers and concert-goers alike. When the gates opened at noon, fans, farmers and supporters found themselves at a venue that had been transformed into an interactive, family-friendly “Homegrown Village,” offering local fare, agricultural workshops, panel discussions, and educational exhibits from more than 35 local and national food and farm groups.

In the Skills Tent, participants learned how to make flower crowns and the best way to save seeds from their backyard harvest. On the Farm Yard Stage, farmers and musicians paired up to discuss important issues like farmer’s market dynamics, concentrated animal feeding operations, and the threat of international fish imports on local fishers. Hands-on demonstrations gave non-farmers opportunities to roll up their sleeves and learn more about the trade.

Farm Aid is likely the only concert where farmers are treated like VIPs. Farmers who registered were invited to pre-concert events, granted early-entry, and given special placards to wear while on-site. The farmers were not only drawn to the event to enjoy the music, but also to network, share ideas, and work toward finding viable solutions to support the family farmer.

Each year Farm Aid stacks the line-up with some of the top names in the music industry. Raleigh’s Farm Aid was no different. Performances that led up to the headliners proved entertaining, but the crowd’s energy really started picking up momentum when Willie Nelson’s son Lukas Nelson took the stage, and it continued to mount until Willie himself closed out the evening with a stage full of friends.

In between Nelsons, Austin-based rocker Gary Clark Jr. drew standing ovations with an impressive 7-song set which included his hit “Ain’t Messin’ ‘Round.” The Nashville-by-way-of-Detroit enigma Jack White followed and the crowd collectively went insane the moment he stepped on stage. Donning a new, slicked-back coif and long jaw-line sideburns, White rocked out a 10-song set with favorites like “Lazzaretto,” “We’re Going to Be Friends,” and “Seven Nation Army.” White and his band matched the static electric energy that was projected on the big screen behind them, and were clearly one of the evening’s crowd-favorites.

Matthews, along with longtime musical partner and guitar extraordinaire Tim Reynolds, played a more subdued acoustic set that kept the crowd standing, swaying and smiling, as if transported back to more carefree times. Matthews and Reynolds performed classic ballads like “Crush,” “Oh,” and “Dancing Nancies,” along with more message-driven anthems like “Don’t Drink the Water” “Bartender,” and “Ants Marching.”

Mellencamp kept the crowd happy with popular hits that date back before the beginning of Farm Aid. The engaged audience sang along to songs like “Jack and Diane,” “Pink Houses,” “Small Town,” and “Crumblin’ Down.” Mellencamp shared stories between songs, adding in a layer of self-deprecating humor that softened his admitted rough edges.

Young found his way to the stage just after 9 p.m. Staying true to form, he filled the space between songs with sermon, calling out N.C. Senator Richard Burr for his anti-farming voting record and educating the audience about better food choices. His song choices were obvious and deliberate with hits like “Heart of Gold,” “Pocahontas,” “Mother Earth,” and “Who’s Gonna Stand Up and Save the Earth.” After being joined on stage by Lukas and Micah Nelson, Young closed with a rowdy “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

It only seemed fitting that Farm Aid founder Willie Nelson, who opened the day-long event, would also close out his 29th Farm Aid Concert. Sporting his trademark, tattered and torn Martin N-20 guitar Trigger and long braids, Nelson performed originals and covers while surrounded by his band, family and special guests. Just over 80 years-old, Nelson continued to delight fans with favorites like “On the Road Again” and country classics like “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” His performance solidified the fact that his gift lies not in the smoothness of voice or nimble finger-picking, but in his down-home charm and ability to connect with everyday people.

This year’s Farm Aid delivered not only an amazing musical experience to fans, but it also gave North Carolina farmers a stronger voice. Concert goers of all ages were called to act in the best interest of the family farmer, both at the dinner table and in the voting booth. While Farm Aid founders and organizers openly wish they did not have to plan this event year after year, their vision remains steady and focused on changing the structure that currently drives agricultural policy in the U.S.

Young may have described the current situation best when he stated, “We love Farm Aid, but we don’t love that we are doing Farm Aid. It’s not a celebration. It’s a mission to change what’s going on.” As Farm Aid organizers move on to begin planning next year’s event, farmers and their supporters will continue to work so that family farms are better equipped to survive and thrive well into the future.

View photos from Farm Aid 2014 here

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Mipso in Japan – A Documentary

The Chapel Hill-based bluegrass band Mipso spent some quality time last Summer touring through Japan, getting immersed in the Japanese culture and growing bluegrass movement. University of North Carolina alum and award-winning film maker Jon Kasbe traveled to Japan with the trio to capture their experience and share it with the world. The result below is a strikingly beautiful documentary that highlights the unharnessed power of the universal language of music. 

“On a journey that blurs the cultural divide between East and West, three young musicians travel across the world to discover that the twang of the banjo needs no translation. While performing at a bluegrass festival, jamming with fiddle virtuosos, and touring by bullet train, the band finds that the traditions rooted in their home state have far-reaching branches.”

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Review – Shaky Knees Festival 2014

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Shaky Knees, an Atlanta music festival in its sophomore year, was by most accounts a success on a grand scale. The festival relocated to a single Atlantic Station location this year from its bifurcated presence last year in Fourth Ward Park and Masquerade Music Park. While there was initially some noise regarding the somewhat less central location of the festival, the new site proved to be a boon, allowing for improved transportation to and parking at the festival. While festival organizers strongly urged ticket holders to use public transportation, there was ample parking and a discount agreement with Uber for the weekend.

The Good

It’s not often that the entrance to a festival is located within a large strip mall, but the unused, paved lot behind the Atlantic Station live-work-play development proved a worthy space for a burgeoning event. While the festival was not long on real estate, the available space was well utilized and easy to navigate. Two stages on each end of the lot ran on impressively precise schedules- when one band finished its set, the band on the neighboring stage picked up within seconds, keeping the energy of the crowds high.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were as unpredictable as they were talented. Alex Ebert, the lead singer, was down from the stage and in the crowd within the first three minutes of their set. The Sunday show took place on his birthday, and he was in no way shy about celebrating with the audience. Ebert included plenty of audience participation in the show, and the band’s popular single “Home” was kicked off by a fan proposing to his girlfriend onstage. Ebert took time to showcase songs from several members of the ten-member band; however the female vocalist of the band, Jade Castrinos, was conspicuously absent. At times songs seemed on the verge of falling apart, such as their closer “Om Nashi Me”, only to burst into climactic and perfectly timed reprises.

Portugal. The Man played an impressive set on Saturday afternoon. Having heard about the previous day’s deluge, John Gourley performed the entire show wearing a hooded raincoat and sunglasses. The band focused heavily on their latest album, 2013’s Evil Friends, both opening and closing with “Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue.” While the band played all of the favorites, one of the most notable songs of the set was a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” which reminded the audience just how rock ‘n’ roll Portugal. The Man is at its core.

Tokyo Police Club proved once again that they thrive at an outdoor festival. Opening with the nearly nine minute long suite “Argentina (Parts I, II, III)” from the brand new album Forcefield, the band showed that they’ve grown up quite a bit since the release of Champ in 2010. That said, the setlist neatly combined the two albums, delighting already-fans and winning over those unfamiliar with the band’s indie-pop sound. TPC closed with the first track of their first album, “Cheer It On,” bringing the show full circle and reminding fans exactly who they were.

Closing the festival with her performance Sunday night, Britney Howard of Alabama Shakes continually told the audience between songs that she wasn’t an eloquent speaker. However her raw and melodious songs spoke for themselves. The band played “Hold On”, the hit single from their album Girls and Boys, with the same energy as if they were playing it for the first time. The Alabama Shakes also debuted a new song “Miss You”, which combined tender verses reminiscent of a Motown classic, with a chorus that was unapologetically Rock ‘n’ Roll. They split their show with the interlude “Gemini I and II”, an eleven minute song involving voice effects and a slower pace, which was the only part of their show that dragged or lacked energy. The band’s performance at Shaky Knees was their last stop before returning home to Alabama to begin recording their second album.

The Bad

Though the addition of local food trucks to the festival sounded kitschy and even appealing, the execution was off here. The front of the park had only three options to contend with roughly half of the crowd. While the back had more options, they were arranged in a tight U-shape where people hopped in lines for anything (or nothing) and never seemed to make much progress. I’ve never wanted a hot dog so badly in my life.

As mentioned earlier, this festival took place on an asphalt lot. On the upside, it wasn’t a giant mud pit by the end of day two. On the downside, there wasn’t much around to absorb sound, and it certainly bounced resulting in a somewhat fuzzy sound quality from the audience. There were also instances of sound competing from opposite sides of the park. Jenny Lewis fought to be heard as she was blasted by The Replacements set playing at the same time.

The Ugly

As some other Atlanta natives have famously said, “you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.” Such was the case for Shaky Knees. In fact, wash outs seem to be par for the course for this festival, making back-to-back appearances in 2013 and 2014.

That said, there were very few ugly parts of this largely successful new festival. It seems that in time Shaky Knees could easily develop into one of the more popular festivals in the Southeast.

Story and photos contributed by – Emily Yerke and William Ruff

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FloydFest Steps Up Outdoor Activities for Revolutionary Year

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FloydFest isn’t just a music festival in southern Virginia.  It’s an outdoor extravaganza–an unique experience that finds itself closer to perfection each and every year.  Now in it’s 13th year, FloydFest boasts not only a stellar musical lineup, but also a plethora of outdoor activities that can be nestled between sets, allowing FloydFestivarians the chance to find their chi right in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

This year’s festival, which runs from July 23-27th, offers attendees a 5-day staycation, packed with easily-accessible outdoor activities for all ages.  For 2014, FloydFest has partnered with some of the biggest names in the outdoor industry to provide festival-goers with top-notch outdoor experiences and access to the highest quality outdoor gear on the market.

Join Osprey Packs for guided hikes along the Blue Ridge trails, or challenge yourself at Vasque Footwear’s 2nd Annual 5K trail race.  If you’d rather bike the Blue Ridge, grab a free rental from Roanoke-based Starlight Bicycles  and sign up for the Belcher Mountain Beat Down.  Made possible by VA-based Tangent Outfitters and the Moonstompers Bike Club, this 16-mile mountain bike tour takes riders through the Blue Ridge on a unique hand-built, single-track trail.  If water is more of your thing, join local partner On the Water for five opportunities to take a paddling trip down a gorgeous, undeveloped stretch of the Little River.  Relax and rejuvenate back at the festival site with a round of disc golf on FloydFest’s Innova-sponsored 9-hole course, or taking a nap at the ENO Hammock lounge.  Later, join the US National Whitewater Center for a Sunday night after-party at the Beer Garden. Be sure to stop by FloydFest’s Outdoor Adventures Headquarters for trip information and sign-ups, bike rentals, trail maps, and more.

Additionally, FloydFest has paired up with the following outfitters and regional events for fun ticket giveaways and prize packages:

Chacos

The official sandal sponsor of FloydFest is giving away a pair of tickets as part of their 25th anniversary “Fit for Adventure” tour.  See them at FloydFest for fun activities, a photo booth, and chances to win footwear.

Get Out More Tour

FloydFest will be joining the one-of-a-kind mobile tour at 15 stops throughout the Southeast region, offering prizes and ticket giveaways along the way.  At FloydFest, join in the hunt for a Geo-Cache full of goodies that’s been stashed deep in the woods around the festival site.

Great Outdoor Provision Company

FloydFest has teamed up with North Carolina specialty outdoor retailer to host a Festival Preparedness Clinic at their Raleigh, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte, NC locations in April.  Ticket giveaways will run at all seven GOPC store locations from the end of May to July 1st.

REI – Richmond, VA

The national outdoor retail co-op will host a Festival Survival Clinic June 2nd at the Richmond, VA store location. The clinic will provide tips on what and how to pack for outdoor festivals while giving away a set of weekend pass tickets to a lucky clinic attendee.

Mountain Junkies

Whether you’re a ‘Mountain Junkie’ already or soon to be one, the Roanoke Non Ultra Trail Series will provide FloydFest promotional giveaways at each of their race events. Each race offers a tough challenge as you race up the mountain, but the locations are equally captivating.

Roanoke Outside

Dubbed America’s Toughest Road Marathon, The Blue Ridge Marathon takes place on April 26th.  FloydFest has paired with Roanoke Outside to provide FloydFest-related prizes to lucky marathoners.

“We want to give FloydFest fans endless opportunities to explore and enjoy the amazing outdoor activities that this area has to offer,” says FloydFest co-founder and producer, Kris Hodges.  We’re very fortunate to work with outdoor partners and vendors who are committed to providing a top-notch outdoor experience for our attendees.”

Driven to be the best music festival experience of our time, FloydFest is committed to selling a limited quantity of tickets to the highest quality event experience, bar none, celebrating music, art, and life in an intimate and visually stunning environment.  For more information on FloydFest, including ticket prices and the full 2014 ‘Revolutionary’ artist line-up, visit www.floydfest.com or call 1-888-VA-FESTS.

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Show Review – Hurray For the Riff Raff w/Shovels & Rope @ Cat’s Cradle 3-5-2014

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Every now and then an artist emerges on the music scene who creates buzz and provokes conversation. Bronx-native Alynda Lee Segarra is that artist. From her vagabond train-hopping days with Dead Man Street Orchestra to her breakout performance at last year’s Newport Folk Festival, the world is finally taking notice of this gifted folk singer-songwriter.

After traveling and performing across the nation, Segarra found her musical center in New Orleans amid the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Where she never quite felt at home in NYC, the Lower Ninth Ward community took in her rambling soul and Segarra found inspiration to stay and make music.

Segarra soon found a group of musicians who shared a similar passion for writing and performing songs that spoke to social injustice, challenged political power, and revealed modern day issues that had been swept under the rug. They called themselves the “riff raff,” which eventually led to the formation of Hurray for the Riff Raff, of which Segarra stands at the helm.

Last month, Hurray for the Riff Raff took to the stage at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro as the supporting act to South Carolina’s sweetheart duo Shovels & Rope. While most in attendance were there to see the rowdy lovestruck pair, many left with a new appreciation for Segarra and her band of riff raff.

With Gibson in hand, Segarra took the stage. Petite in stature and draped in a black lace dress, the soulful songstress started the set solo by performing “The New SF Bay Blues.” The curious crowd listened intently to her timeless voice and simple finger picking. They quickly realized they were witnessing something that softly demanded attention.

Segarra then welcomed her four-piece band to the stage, and they treated the audience to tracks from their new album, “Small Town Heroes,” including the toe-tapping “Blue Ridge Mountain,” homesick homage “Crash on the Highway,” fun-loving bayou jam “End of the Line,” and gender-flipped murder ballad, “The Body Electric.” Segarra was candid and chatty with the crowd, telling stories and setting up each song — a quality that all concert goers appreciate and yearn for to feel more connected to the artist and songs.

As Segarra bridged the gaps between her songs, the venue felt less and less like a black box and more like a backyard hootenanny. It was with little to no effort that Segarra transformed the stage into her front porch and exposed listeners to the magic of her songwriting. The set closed with fan-favorite “Little Black Star,” where the band called upon the audience to join in with synchronized claps and snaps, further drawing the sold-out crowd into the riff raff fold.

After a sweat-drenched, energized set by Shovels & Rope, Segarra returned to the stage to join Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent for their encore performance of J. Roddy Walston and the Business’ song “Boys Can Never Tell.” With Hearst on the drums, Trent on guitar and Segarra at the center mic, the trio closed out a special evening of music with a genuine mutual admiration that was evident all the way to Franklin Street.

As Hurray for the Riff Raff carry on its U.S. tour, Segarra will continue to grow into a modern day folk icon, whether she likes it or not. Her essence dates back to the days when Greenwich Village was alive with folk music and people toted around acoustic guitars on their backs. Those were the days of Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, where music was powerful enough to rally people and create change. With Seeger’s recent passing, Segarra steps into the spotlight as someone to carry the torch and keep the movement going well into the future.

For those who may have missed the Cat’s Cradle show, Hurray for the Riff Raff will return to North Carolina on April 10 to play at Local 506 in Chapel Hill. This will sell out, so plan accordingly. All riff raff is welcome.

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2014 Summer Featured Artists

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Each summer, new and seasoned artists step into the sunny spotlight and seem to shine just a little bit brighter than before.  This coming summer is no exception to the rule.  With festival lineups set, music lovers have a chance to catch these artists on multiple outdoor stages across the US.

Evolution of a Fan has chosen to feature a handful of these artists as their momentum builds. Stay tuned for features on the following artists through the end of summer:

The Milk Carton Kids

Willie Watson

Hurray for the Riff Raff

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Charles Bradley

 

 

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2013…The Year of the Fan!

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With 2013 coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on another spectacular year of music.  Live music pulled me to many different corners of our beautiful United States.  From Rhode Island’s Newport Harbor to Colorado’s Red Rocks and everywhere in between, I’ve been lifted up by the music and the many friends and fans I’ve met along the way.

I know 2014 will bring many new musical experiences–already have 5 concerts on the books so far–however, I’d like to take this opportunity to share my 2013 Top 10 EOAF Moments:

10. Watching Jay-Z and JT somehow get a sold-out Fenway Park to sing along to “Empire State of Mind” with little to no resistance, might I add.  Perhaps all it takes is these two powerhouse performers to dissolve decades of hatred between Bostonians and New Yorkers.  Not too sure New Yorkers would have done the same if roles were reversed!

9. Filling our home with the imperfect but impeccable sounds of vinyl, and the constant chase to find my next favorite record at the thrift shop…oh and my first Record Store Day, too!

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8. Being one of 200 people at MerleFest who got to listen to Wayne Henderson tell the story about the first guitar he ever made.  That sweet, humble man seriously blew my mind.

7. Experiencing my first live Bob Dylan performance.  Even though I could barely understand him, I knew I was in the presence of folk greatness!

6. Being a part of this wonderful “Thank You” project…

5. Stumbling upon the surprise songwriters session at Newport Folk Festival and spending the morning listening to Langhorne Slim and Scott and Seth Avett play and answer questions from a small audience (capped off by a Jim James eyes closed staring contest).

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4. Experiencing The Avett Brothers’ performance of “Complainte D’Un Matelot Mourant” at Red Rocks Night 1 — to try to describe the ghostly wind that blew down through the rock amphitheater to the stage would be impossible.  Even the video doesn’t do it justice.

3. Being one day late from experiencing The Milk Carton Kids at Newport Folk Festival, but falling in love with them through the NPR podcast anyway.  They are by far the best musical discovery of the year!

2. Experiencing Neutral Milk Hotel live at The National in Richmond, VA.  The musical saw performance alone was worth the trip.

1. Being involved in the recording process from start to finish, and then hearing the absolutely amazing final product.  Thanks to Rebekah Todd for having me along for the ride! (“Roots Bury Deep” out in early 2014)

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Thank you all for coming back time and time again to pay EOAF a visit.  Next year we hope to bring you more exciting music news, reviews, guest bloggers, and more.  Merry music cheers and happy ears in 2014!

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IROCKE to Live Stream Avett Brothers’ Letterman Performance

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IROCKE, the #1 source for live streaming concerts around the world, will be live streaming The Avett Brothers’ performance on Letterman tomorrow night.  Even if you can’t be there in person, you can still catch all of the action online!

RSVP here and be sure to tune in on Wednesday, Oct. 30 (8:00 PM, ET/5:00 PM, PT).

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Nonprofits Partner to Bring Folk Music to Richmond Students

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For the past eight years, JAMinc and the Richmond Folk Festival have partnered to bring internationally recognized folk musicians into Richmond schools to perform for students. This partnership has enabled over 23,000 students to be exposed to a diverse array of folk music rooted in cultural traditions from across the globe.

Tomorrow, JAMinc, a local nonprofit music education organization, will coordinate ten school performances by six of the festival musicians at Richmond area schools, including the Faison School for Autism and St. Andrew’s School.

Coordination involves a host of volunteers who donate their time and resources to organize transportation and sound equipment set-up to ensure an enjoyable and unique musical experience for the students and musicians, alike.

This year, select students will be treated to a performance by Tuvan throat-singers, Alash.  Throat-singers learn to sing multiple harmonic notes with one voice, sometimes creating two and three separate tones.

“It is the most amazing, out of this worldly kind of sound that you’ve ever heard,” said Tim Timberlake, Richmond Folk Festival programming committee member and JAMinc chairman.

Students will also have a chance to experience music from polka and reggae groups, as well as traditional mountain music from Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt. Exposure to a variety of musical genres teaches students that the word “folk” can have multiple meanings across different cultures.

“Folk is the indigenous music from any culture. It’s the traditions that are passed down that stem from the roots of all of these different cultures all over the world,” explained Timberlake.

Promoting music education in the school systems is something that is very important to JAMinc and the Richmond Folk Festival, but music education goes well beyond the school walls for both organizations. It took some time to educate the people of Richmond about the diversity that underlies folk music, but attitudes are moving in the right direction.

“The complexion [of the festival]…beautifully reflects the demographic composition of Richmond. There is nothing that happens near here that approaches that success of being able to bring everybody together, to be that inclusive, have it all work and have everyone have a wonderful time and celebrate music together,” said Timberlake.

In addition to coordinating the school music events, JAMinc is sponsoring four local musical acts on the festival’s Genworth Financial Family Stage. Saturday’s sponsored acts consist of the kids group, Silly Bus, and VCU graduate Andrew Ali, who which will lead a harmonica workshop. JAMinc sponsor, TKL/Cedar Creek Case Shoppe, donated approximately 100 harmonicas to be passed out to the children who want to take part in the workshop.

On Sunday afternoon, JAMinc will present big band composer, Samson Trinh, who will conduct a ukulele workshop and play alongside a ukulele orchestra of young musicians. Sunday’s Family Stage festivities will come to a close with the high-energy stringband music of The Hot Seats Shortband.

It is the hope of JAMinc and Richmond Folk Festival organizers that young music lovers will walk away from these experiences inspired and enlightened.

“Generally, music just has that potential for just opening and unlocking doors.  At their ages their minds are open, and they are receptive to hearing and learning new things. That’s definitely what this is all about–to let them hear some things and let them realize that there is more to the world and to music than what they are hearing on commercial radio,” said Timberlake.

The Richmond Folk Festival is a free event from October 11-13, 2013. Organizers anticipate that this weekend’s festivities will draw over 200,000 attendees to Richmond’s beautiful, historic downtown riverfront. Festival grounds include the American Civil War Center, Brown’s Island and Tredegar Street.

In addition to being held on a picturesque campus, the Richmond Folk Festival boasts a stellar line-up that spans the globe and a solid foundation of dedicated volunteers working behind the scenes to ensure a smooth and successful event.

“It’s a joint effort of a whole lot of people, the city, Venture Richmond, the National Council for the Traditional Arts and a huge bank of volunteers,” said Timberlake.

JAMinc hopes to continue their role in the Richmond Folk Festival well into the future. The collaboration has extended JAMinc’s mission of promoting music education and appreciation beyond their school and evening concert series, and established a bond that gets stronger with each passing year.

“I think the Richmond Folk Festival appreciates what we do and I think we, JAMinc, really enjoy being associated with such a quality event, such a successful event and such a jewel in Richmond’s crown. All of us are really proud of how this thing has played out, that it’s continuing and that most people will say it’s the coolest event in town, down there on the river in the RVA,” said Timberlake.

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