Artist Spotlight: Steele Whisnant

“The people I meet while playing music have always kept me motivated to continue to play; everyone from venue/bar owners, event promoters, to fellow musicians. Roanoke has such a vast amount of talented and driven people, many of whom are working together to continue to expand the culture of the area. I’m extremely happy and inspired to be a small part of that scene.”

The Avett Brothers

Concert Review: The Avett Brothers at Roanoke’s Berglund Center

The Avett Brothers returned to The Berglund Center last night, this time in support of their latest album, “True Sadness.” As an admitted core fan of the Avetts of yesteryear, I wasn’t quite sure where I landed on the group’s latest body of work. Last night as I watched the two inherently gifted brothers, Seth and Scott, accompanied by five other equally impressive musicians, play to a smaller, yet devoted audience, my fandom was reconfirmed.

The show, which covered 28 songs and lasted a little over two hours, was, in true Avett fashion, a musical and emotional roller coaster, complete with laughter and heartache, joy and sorrow. The songs danced between high-energy, upbeat rhythms and heavier, emotional tempos incorporated with honest and weighty lyrics that delivered a mix of positive and thought-provoking messages.

Although cognizant of the other high-caliber acts in town last night, I still was somewhat disappointed with the turnout of the crowd. If the band was, they hid it well, generously dishing out praise and love to the audience amid melodies that exhibited their expert musicianship and soaring vocals.

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.

Jake Dempsey

Dempsey’s Way: 5 Pieces Of Advice For Musicians

My first thought when asked to write a guest post titled “Five Pieces Of Advice For Musicians”, was that I am probably in no position to give professional advice to upcoming musicians, as I’ve been bumbling along trying to figure out a way to make a living at it for more than 20 years now. My journey has taken me from peanut butter on a spoon in the back of a 90s astrovan with a hi-hat stand jabbing me in the side, to playing for audiences in the thousands with catering and in good hotel rooms. From having credits on Grammy-winning recordings, to being back to the peanut butter, but in a newer model van.
All said, I have played many, many gigs during my career. I have worked in many facets of the business, including musician, live sound engineer, recording engineer, stage hand, event organizer, producer, booking agent, talent buyer, and manager. I do have a good idea of what works, or maybe more importantly, what does not.

So in lieu of “giving advice” with the notion that I have anything at all figured out, I will share five things I have screwed up along the way and how to avoid these things, and why. I’m not an authority on what or what not to do or how to “Make it” (whatever that means). However, I have messed up and learned from it. Plenty. That, I have things to say about.

Mad Iguanas! Mad Iguanas! Mad Iguanas!

It was a wet, warm summer night at Parkway Brewing Company. One of those where the rain was driving sideways and the roll up doors had to be closed to keep the place and everyone in it dry. But no one inside was worried about the rain as local jam band Mad Iguanas was driving the packed house to a frenzy with a scorching cover of “Fire on the Mountain.”

It’s in between the Grateful Dead covers and a mix of original jams, where the Mad Iguanas have developed a reputation as a highly funky and fun jam band that consistently delivers a good time. Currently, the band’s line up consists of Foster Burton on rhythm guitar and vocals, his brother Daniel on bass and backing vocals, Henry Lazenby on lead guitar, and a rotation of drummers. The Iguana’s lead singer Foster has a style to him reminiscent of the late Garcia. A jolly fellow with a wide smile, that you instantly know you want to share a beer with. I did just that awhile back to discuss the origins of the Mad Iguanas and the future of the band.

Willy Gurley

Spotlight: Willy Gurley & The Fainting Goat Studio

Tucked away in the back roads of Bedford County, you’ll discover The Fainting Goat, a 1500 square foot, two-room recording studio and control room, with 20 foot vaulted ceilings, operated by local musician and drummer Willy Gurley.

The Fainting Goat provides artists a comfortable space for recording, and access to some truly unique equipment and instruments. From the Kurzweil K250 that was played by Bruce Springsteen in a studio in Richmond, to an Acoustic 360 bass cabinet that was used in numerous shows with Wayne Newton in Las Vegas, to a vintage 1967 Bandmaster amplifier, the studio is equipped with more than 100 instruments, including guitars, drums horns, even an accordion.

It was at the young age of seven that Gurley was first introduced to music. His dad, Hal, who owns local seafood restaurant and live music venue, Clam Diggers, started finding and collecting guitars, keyboards, and other cool, rare instruments to fill his house, and Willy started learning how to play them. It was in 2006, that Hal had the idea to build a recording studio, and studio construction and sound proofing began. While it took several years to fully complete, Willy continued to develop his love and training for music by studying at The Jefferson Center’s Music Lab, an after school program in Roanoke focused on music production and performance.