This Friday Our Region Hosts An Impressive Night of National and Regional Acts

These days it is hard to fathom the notion that “there is nothing to do around Roanoke” ever existed. From the festivals and special events, to outdoor adventures, breweries and wineries, the regional calendar is chock full each weekend with activities to choose from. Live music is a big part of those offerings. This Friday, our region is set to host one of the most diverse and impressive nights of national and regional performers.

Here’s a run down of what’s to come:

Andrew Mathews Crosses Genres to Benefit the Punk and Metal Scenes in Roanoke

“Don’t be picky, just play. Play music with others as often as you can, because that is where you learn to communicate and collaborate.”

Guitarist/bassist Andrew Mathews leads by example when it comes to this piece of advice. At 29-years-old, Mathews plays in five bands here in our region. I sat down with him recently to learn more about the metal and hardcore scenes in the Roanoke area, and what drives him to stay so active.

Jamiel Allen

Artist Spotlight: Jamiel Allen

“I have asked myself “Why am I even doing this?” more times than I care to admit. I have frequently been caught up in the idea that chasing my dreams as a music artist does little for the world around me. I could be a doctor, curing people of something. I could be a farmer, growing better food for those who want it. I could be in the Peace Corps doing my best to help people around the world in any way possible. I feel that my gift and my curse was knowing at a young age that music is what I am, and what I would do. Through my experiences, I’ve ultimately learned that music is one of the single most important things we have. While I like to engage in other activities at times, at my core I will never be able to put aside my goals to make my mark on the world as an artist.”

Original Minister of Soul Staple to Roanoke Music Scene

It has been nearly two decades since local musician Hoppie Vaughan made his way to the Roanoke Valley. A native of N. Augusta, SC, and former Nashville resident, Vaughan started playing music at the young age of 10, when he fell in love with the bass guitar during his older brothers’ garage band sessions.

It was playing alongside his brother that carried him to Nashville in the early 80s. Over the next dozen years, Vaughan played with a number of bands and musicians, recorded at the infamous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, and even competed on the hit television series, “Star Search.” Then, in 1996, Hoppie’s wife Sandra landed a job at the Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Salem and the couple moved to the area. They were only supposed to stay two years, but fell in love with the region and its slower pace of life. Two years has now turned into twenty and Vaughan has made a name for himself, playing a mix of soul, blues, and jazz that he calls “blue-eyed southern soul,” around the Roanoke Valley.

Spooktacular Live Music Guide to Halloween for Roanoke and Beyond

Halloween is creeping up quick. But before you start stock piling candy to fill the bags of costume-clad kiddos, there are parties a plenty in what promises to be another year of adult Halloween insanity. Lucky for you, we’ve put together a guide to the best live music around the region this weekend. So, tap into your inner freak, costume up, and prepare to get your boogie on with spooktacular fun courtesy of a few of our favorite venues

Taubman Fundraiser Pairs Blues, Brews, & BBQ for a Good Time

In the shadow of Jump Mountain, just outside Lexington, 100+ guests gathered at Grace Hill Farm on Saturday to enjoy Blues, Brews, and BBQ, for a toe-tapping benefit for the Taubman Museum of Art. After five days of heavy rain in our region, the weather cooperated, and on Saturday the sun came out, the humidity dropped, and Fall was upon us. What better way to celebrate the weather change than a retreat to the mountains of Rockbridge County to eat delicious BBQ and listen to hot blues?

The food on hand was delicious, provided by Blue Ridge Catering and paired perfectly with cold Deschutes beers, and wines from the local Jump Mountain Vineyard. The music for the festivities was generously donated by two local blues bands, Smokestack Lightnin’ Blues Band and the JoJo Stockton Band. Smokestack Lightnin’ kicked the night off, playing a combination of originals and blues standards as the crowd began to arrive. The band was nestled at the back of a small central building that allowed for the sound to project out over the dining area, but also permitted guests to get up inside to dance. Smokestack Lightnin’ played for two hours, and near the end, Kerry Hurley, local bluesman and host of 101.5FM’s Sunday show “Blues with a Feeling”, joined the band to perform the blues standard “Goin’ Down” (video below), and then kicked it up a notch with a swampy version of Slim Harpo’s classic “I’m a King Bee.”

Artist Spotlight: Kyle Forry

“Performing live didn’t always come easy for me. I’ve been playing guitar for nearly 20 years, and singing for about 10 years. It took at least a year or two of playing gigs almost every weekend for me to feel comfortable as a performer. It took awhile, but now performing live is amazing! There are good nights and bad, but when you have the audience in the palm of your hand, and they’re feeling your songs, there’s nothing in the world like it.”

“One of my favorite nights performing came two years ago, on the night of the grand opening of The Harvester Performance Center. My good friend, Levi Lowrey, who was on Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label, was booked to play the grand opening with Clay Cook from the Zac Brown Band. I spoke with Levi and Gary Jackson about being the opening act, and they were gracious enough to let me, along with my bandmate Justin Arnett, open the very first show. I’d never been more terrified and thrilled to play in front of an audience in my life.

“The house was packed, and all eyes were focused on us. When I stepped out on that stage and began to speak, I felt the tears well up in my eyes. so I made the introduction short and sweet. In the 10 years I’d been performing, I’d never experienced that kind of undivided attention from an audience. I was accustom to playing in bars, full of drinkers. It was especially emotional because I grew up in Rocky Mount. To be the very first act to perform on the Harvester stage, in my hometown, was and is the highlight of my musical career. The night became even more special when Leny, who is one of my musical heroes, joined us on stage with his fiddle. Together we played a song I wrote, “Some Kind of Magic,” that seeks to capture the magic of being a musician. I’ll never forget those 45 minutes for the rest of my life.”

Brian WIlson

Brian Wilson Brings “Good Vibrations” to Elmwood Park

It was end of summer circa 1965 last night when Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and Blondie Chaplin took the stage at Elmwood Park Amphitheater. The late August air was heavy with humidity, cicadas were screaming in the trees, and the smell of grilled burgers wafted from the vendor area. A jubilant crowd wore a mix of soft pastels and bright Hawaiian shirts, while beach balls floated and stilt walkers dressed in 60s fashion danced among the fans; one young man even had a surfboard in tow. It all combined to draw the audience back to the best summer nights of yesteryear.

It was a fitting backdrop to host the legendary Brian Wilson and his band, as they presented the seminal “Pet Sounds” album, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. This also marked the final show in the inaugural FloydFest-presented Totally Rad Roanoke Star City Concert Series, which also brought iconic acts Blondie and Huey Lewis & the News to Elmwood Park.

Artist Spotlight: Urban Soil (FloydFest Edition)

As the festival grounds gently warmed, and people were easing into their Saturday morning, Urban Soil was cranking the heat up fast on the Workshop Porch. The band, which hails from Raleigh, NC, was starting the first of four performances in the FloydFest On-the-Rise competition. Their music wove a powerful combination of roots rock, world beat, bluegrass, and pure joy into an original blend that brought the crowd to a standing ovation by the end of the set and eventually landed them the first runner up spot in the competition.

“We have a little something for everyone with our music,” said lead singer, Sarah Reinke. “We work to make sure you never get bored listening to us.” A truth that was evident throughout each of the four sets.
Urban Soil is packed with talent and they just kept bringing more to the stage with each song. Reinke has a strong voice that reminds me of Natalie Merchant, with hints of Siouxsie Sioux’s quirky tonal breaks. She couples that with mean rock guitar skills, then surprises audiences by playing a washboard that she runs through her guitar pedals to create her distinctive “Wah-Wah Washboard” sound (you’ll find a short video clip at the bottom of this article). Eric Chesson, on lead guitar and vocals, moves easily between acoustic and electric numbers, at times sounding jammy like Garcia, then turning it up and laying down blistering rock licks. Then there is Greg Meckley. He is a whirling dervish of blonde dreadlocks, dancing alongside his percussion rack adding extra rhythms, or stepping to the front of the stage to lead with violin or mandolin.


Artist Spotlight: Roosterfoot (FloydFest Edition)

Acoustic instruments in hand, Norkolk, Va. band Roosterfoot took the Speakeasy stage Friday afternoon for its first of four sets at FloydFest. After a quick warmup, the crowd, a mix of diehard fans and first timers, moved in close to the stage as the first notes were played. Moments later the audience was rewarded with the powerful voice of band leader Seth Stainback as Roosterfoot launched into a soulful set of southern rock goodness.

Following the sixty-minute set, I had to the opportunity to sit down with Stainback to ask him about his FloydFest experience and future plans for the band. Since this was the second year in a row that Roosterfoot performed at FloydFest, I was interested to find out what expectations were coming into the first set.

“I didn’t know what to expect with this first show, sometimes people hang back. They might not know our music yet,” commented Stainback. “As a band, our comfort level performing has skyrocketed, and that’s because of repetition. Repetition trumps skill, IQ, everything. And that’s all we’ve been doing this last year is just grind, grind, grind. So now our playing feels very natural and effortless.”