June 12, 2008...
As City Stages celebrates its 20th year, it's working hard to draw more artists who are at the top of their game. To that end, the festival has signed a three-year agreement with AC Entertainment, a national firm that books and promotes bands for a number of festivals, including Tennessee's mega-festival Bonnaroo. Les Lovoy reports on how the City Stages front office sees AC Entertainment as one key to its future success.
Some of this year's performers may be able to draw crowds that organizers haven't seen in some time. When Saturday's headliner Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals performed at the Alabama Theatre last Fall it was for a sold out audience. Part of their appeal is a sound that transcends time and genre. It could be gospel. Maybe soul. Perhaps even plain old rock 'n' roll. Here's WBHM's Steve Chiotakis.
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals perform at City Stages Saturday night/tonight.
Cajun band Feufollet has often been hailed as the future of Cajun music, but it's probably more accurate to describe them as the "present" of Cajun music. Chris Stafford started Feufollet at age 9 with a childhood friend. As the band has grown into young adults, they still pay homage to traditional Cajun music. At the same time, the group pushes the envelope of Cajun music. WBHM's Michael Krall spoke with accordionist, vocalist and fiddler Chris Stafford...
Ten years ago, a group of young musicians decided to forgo higher education for a life on the road and that lead the fledging Old Crow Medicine Show to play their way across North America. In the decade since then, they've become a hot ticket on college campuses, concert halls and music festivals like City Stages. Old Crow takes an old musical form, the string band, and infuses it with new energy and new music. Ketch Secor sings, plays fiddle and pens many of their songs. He regards their early road experience as a necessary right of the passage for the group.
The internet is so powerful, it can even help you start a band. A few years ago, a young African American banjo player started an online discussion group for Black banjo players. That led to the first Black Banjo Gathering where three young musicians discovered their mutual passion for old time string band music and decided to pursue that passion. And with the mentoring of an eighty-something musician, they became the Carolina Chocolate Drops who have become a big hit among roots music fans here and abroad. They had a small part in Denzel Washington's The Great Debaters and next weekend, they play the Grand Ole Opry. I asked guitarist Dom Flemons how they chose the name.
"Roots music" is a catchall that encompasses a wide variety of traditional American musical forms including gospel, the blues, country, alt country, Latino, Cajun - just about any ethnic music. But there's also a band - called The Roots - playing at City Stages. They're well-known in hip hop circles but have never broken out into the mainstream. Many hip hop artists release one or two records and then fizzle. But The Roots has had an amazing record of longevity.
The Flaming Lips are known for their experimental musical style, which owes as much to psychedelic music and orchestral pop as it does to hardcore punk rock. In the 25 years since they formed, the band has also gained notoriety for their theatrics ---- odd costumes, giant bizarre props and recently, a UFO lighting rig. But behind it all, there's always been a focus on the inspirational philosophy that guides their music and the life of founding member Wayne Coyne. Coyne contributed to the public radio series This I Believe.
What to know what's going on around town? Activeculture.info is a one-stop source for finding out what's going on in the Birmingham metro area.
Tapestry is produced by Tanya Ott and Michael Krall, with help this week from Les Lovoy, Russell Lewis, Steve Chiotakis, Andrew Yeager, Coleman Lipsey, Connor McCarty, Marlon Glenn, and Brian Campbell. I'm Greg Bass, and we'll see you next week.