Blue Ridge Rocks started as a simple idea: A website that would shine a light on the talented artists who ply their trade in the Roanoke music scene, and an events calendar for fans to find those acts. In the 21 months we’ve been here, we’ve featured more than 75 local and regional artists, sharing…
That’s a verse from the song “Alison California,”off of local pop-rock band My Radio’s most recent album release, “Tada IV.” It’s an evocatively written and beautifully recorded album that effectively captures the band’s vintage rock sound which features a heavy dose of classic rock and guitars.
The five-piece, which consists of local restauranteurs JP Powell (songwriter, vocals, keyboards) and Hunter Johnson (drums), along with Brett Lemon and Jake Zuckerman (guitar), and Jeff Hofmann (bass), originally formed in 2008 after Powell first met Johnson in 2006. Powell, a graduate of Salem High School, had spent a number of years in Boston where he attended the Berklee College of Music and was the front man for Chauncey, a popular indie-rock band whose first album was named “Best-Rock Album of 2002” by Boston Magazine.
On Saturday night, the Spot on Kirk will host a wonderful local band, Place Called Home, for its debut album release show. If past shows have been an indicator, whether at Martin’s or the Deschutes Street Pub, this will be one for the books.
Place Called Home formed in 2014 when a group of friends gathered around a campfire with guitars and cigars. The product of this bonfire brotherhood is their self-titled album, which is a perfectly eclectic mix of roots rock and folksy pop. Influenced by the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, The Lumineers, Bob Dylan, Dawes, and Needtobreathe, Place Called Home’s songs are as diverse as their idols. The vocals by lead singer Wes Winebarger are off-the-charts fantastic, and a strong rhythmic backing by actual brothers, Josh and Jeremy Smelser, rounds out Mike Loritsch’s soaring guitar solos that give Place Called Home their distinctive sound.
With the red carpet rolled out and the thick velvet curtains unfurled, Grandin Theatre is set to host an 85th Anniversary gala on Saturday, November 4th. Guests to this limited-seating event will come together to celebrate the storied past of the venue that has been the showcase for movies, live theater, art exhibits, and even internationally famous musicians.
Unbeknownst to many in our region, for a little more than a year (from 1984-85) the Grandin was host to an eclectic slate of musical acts that included R&B greats like Ray Charles and B.B. King, to more modern pop acts like Guadalcanal Diary and the Dead Kennedys. In that year, the owners of the Grandin partnered with the 27 year old Phillip Poff to realize his vision of bringing national touring acts to Roanoke audiences. That brief period of the Grandin Theatre as a music spot is just one the several incarnations of this timeless venue that will be featured in a documentary screened at Saturday’s celebration.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, Charissa Morrison is a hard working solo act putting in the stage time in our region, building a growing fan base with her beautiful voice, original compositions, and unique interpretations of modern songs. We caught up with her to discover the passions and motivations that keep music at the center of her life.
“My biggest inspiration comes from the people in my life. I have incredible family and friends who give me unending support and push me to keep going.”
“Music has always been a part of my life. I grew up in the Roanoke Valley in the church, as a pastor’s kid, and so I began singing at a very early age. I loved performing, and would hop up on stage and grab a microphone whenever I could! Singing was always my focus, and once I got to middle school I joined choir and stuck with that all the way through high school. In my teens, I picked up guitar and began playing and accompanying myself. I went on to study music in college and performed in a band during my time there.”
After three years of playing together, Roanoke-based country band, The Low Low Chariot are about to release their much anticipated full LP, titled “Believer”, an album that lead singer, JD Sutphin, said has been years in the making. Sutphin, who was previously in rock band Madrone, said the switch to playing country music was an easy transition. “I found a stash of my grandpa’s songs that he had never recorded. I learned the songs, and it completely changed my life”. Sutphin’s grandfather was a touring country musician and it seems he may be a follower of those footsteps, a believer in those beliefs.
That’s the power of music. At certain points in life, a certain genre of music may define your tastes, but as life changes and evolves, so does the music we grow to love. And it seems like the evolution from rock to country has been a valuable deviation for the former rocker. “Chariot has been all about writing songs, less about business, and we’ve had more success in three months than I had in three years with Madrone.” The process of songwriting also changed. “Writing rock songs was always about cathartically getting over something. Country can be happy. Country can tell a story.” Sutphin, like country-great Dwight Yoakam, wrote most of the album while driving in the car; “I’d start with a vocal idea, sing the guitar melody, and go back later and try to figure out what I wanted to say”.
This weekend more than 30,000 athletes, adventure seekers, music lovers, and craft beer enthusiasts will converge in Roanoke’s River’s Edge Park for the 7th Annual Anthem Go Outside Festival, which kicks off Friday night and runs through Sunday, Oct. 13 – 15, highlighting the best of our region’s outdoor recreational activities.
This year, the festival organizers, the Roanoke Regional Partnership and Roanoke City Parks and Rec, continue the partnership with Across the Way Productions, to bring in top-quality musical acts. This year’s lineup promises to showcase some of our best regional acts, and is bringing the guitar phenom Marcus King to the stage Saturday night.
While he may receive his mail in Shippensburg, PA, Nick Andrew Staver has made a home on the road for much of the last five years, bringing his bluesy steel guitar and heartfelt lyrics to venues large and small throughout the country. Currently promoting his fifth independent release, YOPE (2017), Staver visits our region for a stint “On the Dock” at Vinton’s Twin Creeks Brewing Company. We caught up with him to learn a bit more about the itinerant singer songwriter in the lead up to his Saturday show.
“We all want the same things. It’s just a matter of how we get there. I use music. And I use it as a tool to communicate to people around me.”
“My sound is centered around blues music but it’s much more than just blues. The core is blues, but you hear drops of jazz, R&B, rock n’ roll, folk, and country. Playing that music live is the most thrilling, fun, free thing I’ve ever done in my life. There is something special that happens on stage, and every night that “something” differs from the night before. Words can’t describe that feeling when a musician finds their “zone”, and the search and discovery of that “zone” in itself is priceless. Music is like a confession for me, it lifts a weight off my shoulders and makes life melt away for a few minutes during a song.”
Twenty years ago, San Francisco based rock band, Third Eye Blind, released their self-titled debut album. This summer, they’ve been touring around the nation, celebrating the success of that album. As someone who grew up with that album on repeat in my first car, these songs are like the soundtrack of my high school years. With the catchy, fun songs like “Semi-Charmed Life” and introspective rock ballads such as “God of Wine”, 3EB spanned the emotional roller coaster that is adolescence.
The band’s latest stop was Elmwood Park in downtown Roanoke, thanks to the Budweiser Summer Concert Series. Seventy degrees and clear, it was a perfect night for an outdoor show, and Third Eye Blind was blasting the past right out of every person in attendance. The crowd was as diverse as ever: early 20’s girls in flannel, middle aged folks, parents with kids. They all had one thing in common; an excited anticipation to see one of the 90’s most anthemic bands.
This article also appeared in the September edition of THIS! Magazine
By the time you read this, FloydFest 2017 will be long over. The grounds that held a crowd of nearly 13,000 will be emptied. The assorted mix of creative souls who converged on the land will be displaying their talents for new audiences. Other than the permanent wooden stage installations and few other signature FloydFest icons, the tranquil beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the innumerable memories are all that will remain from the five-day musical carnival.
For those five days in late July, the FloydFest grounds housed more than 100 musical acts, acrobats, stilt walkers, jewelry makers, concert painters and eclectic performers, and personalities of all types. The music was spread over the festival’s nine music stages and featured a diverse amalgam of genres. One of those artists, Virginia native Keller Williams, exemplifies the musical diversity that FloydFest embodies.