By Tim McCoy
Some big acts will descend upon Roanoke as the eighth annual Down by Downtown (DxDT) Festival rocks the Star City for next three days. Chris Stapleton has a sold-out show tonight at the Berglund Center, and Saturday night’s headliner, Lotus, is sure to draw an energetic crowd. For an excellent rundown of those bigger acts, I’d recommend reading Tad Dickens’ Roanoke Times article. Meanwhile, here’s a look at a few of the local bands that are part of this weekend’s festivities. After all, DxDT was first conceived to showcase downtown Roanoke’s live music scene.
Empty Bottles kicks of the local music tonight at The Wall Street Tavern. The band brings new energy to interpretations of an array of genres that range from Billy Joel and Prince to The Beatles and the Grateful Dead. This foursome features the versatile Steele Whisnant on bass, and the incomparable Ben Hite on keyboards. Hite is a demon on the keys, and could hold the stage by himself. In a band, he can move from back up to lead, and everything in between. Empty Bottles will clink the glass, and start the show at 9pm.
Music lovers will face some tough decisions due to the range of talent on tap at downtown Roanoke’s various venues. Here are four that deserve special consideration: MC Broom & the Jam will be bringing the party to Elmwood Park, Monster Atlantic is playing at downtown Roanoke’s listening room, The Spot on Kirk, Black Mountain Revival will be at the Fork in the Market, and Half Moon is playing at the Wall Street Tavern.
MC Broom & the Jam brings classic jam band goodness to every show they perform. John McBroom, a longtime player in the Roanoke music scene, has assembled a band of merry men working to honor the musical spirit of Jerry Garcia, Jamming is the intent, and they do an outstanding job of chasing and achieving that magical edge where the music plays the band. MC Broom & the Jam kicks of at 5:30pm for a free show on the Elmwood Park stage.
Monster Atlantic makes you wonder “what if Soul Asylum kept making good music?” The band takes influences from 90s rock bands, and creates wholly unique original songs. Lead singer, Lance Smith brings a voice, stage presence, and guitar sound that is nostalgic of that era but adds his own original twist. Monster Atlantic takes the stage at the Spot on Kirk at 8pm. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.
Black Mountain Revival brings an alt-country sound to the stage that defies easy description. The foursome is comprised of members who have roots in Metal and Punk, but bring their talents to bear an acoustic-based style that blends a dive bar sound with distinct Appalachian themes. You can check out some of the band’s tunes at Reverbnation. Black Mountain Revival plays Fork in the Market at 7pm.
Half Moon delivers a blend of high-energy soul, funk and rock music. This talented group of guys has been adding new twists on old favorites with specialty shows like Half Talking (Talking Head tunes), and Half Bowie (self explanatory), where they create innovative covers to classic tunes. No two shows are ever the same. The first few songs on their Reverbnation page are good examples of the diversity this band displays. Half Moon rises at Wall Street Tavern at 10pm.
Saturday provides a carnival of bands around downtown Roanoke following the Blue Ridge Marathon. One of those acts, Kris, Brittany, Henry, is a new trio comprised of Kris Hodges on drums, Brittany Sparks on vocals, and Henry Lazenby on guitar. Brittany and Henry have played together for years in local jam band, Groova Scape. Sparks’ has a powerful voice that’s often likened to Janis Joplin, and Lazenby is one of our region’s most talented and hard working guitarists. Add in Kris Hodges, who is a strong, innovative drummer, and you have a trio that can bring some serious heat to the Elmwood Park stage. Check out Lazenby playing a little “Voodoo Chile” from a recent show. The trio will be performing a free show on the Foot Leveler Stage at 1pm.
You can find a full breakdown of the bands with scheduled performances at the DxDT site. Regardless of which bands you get out to see, just get out there! It looks like it will be a rockin’ weekend of great music wherever you land.