Cigars and Guitars – Place Called Home Album Release

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.

Grandin Theatre Celebrates 85 Years of Entertaining Roanokers

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.

New Album Alert: “Believer” by Low Low Chariot

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”.

Deschutes Brewery Street Pub Event

This Saturday, Deschutes Brewery brings the Street Pub one-day celebration back to downtown Roanoke. With family-friendly entertainment, music, food, and tastings of all its excellent brews, the day promises to be an even bigger success than last year’s inaugural event.

The Deschutes Street Pub is a roving tour of good beer for good causes, which travels the country each summer putting on a day-long “block party” which generates funds for local nonprofits and introduces folks to the brewery. This year it will be hitting Cincinnati, Ohio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California. Roanoke will be its second stop.  Last year’s event raised more than $80,000 for local nonprofits. This year, proceeds will benefit the Roanoke Outside FoundationPathfinders for GreenwaysBradley Free Clinic & Blue Ridge Land Conservancy.

Down by Downtown: A Spotlight on the Local Acts

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.

Record Store Day All-Star Jam Slideshow

“The only truth is music” –Jack Kerouac

There was a whole lot of truth being shared Saturday, as musicians, fans, and organizers, all came together to make music at The Spot on Kirk in support of Community High School and the upcoming National Record Store Day.  It was inspiring and humbling to be a part of an event in which so many people donated their time and craft.
The bands were at the very heart of making this event such a joyful experience! The Community High School Performance Band, Groova Scape, GOTE, Blue Mule, and M.C.Broom & the Jam  all gave incredible performances which kept the whole place grooving throughout the day.

Photographer Meagan Reynolds was there to capture some of the musical truth and joy being shared so freely. These photos are just a sample of her great work. You can find more photos from the event on her Facebook page.

Record Store Day Turns 10

Born in 2007 by a group of independent record store owners and employees as a means of celebrating the culture unique to the independently owned record store, the first Record Store Day happened on April 19, 2008. On the verge of its tenth anniversary, there are now Record Store Day participating stores on every continent … except Antarctica; and, for the first time, RSD is coming to the Vintage Vault Record Store located inside the 16 West Marketplace, Saturday, April 22nd.


Record Store Day is a day for those who love the world of the independent record store – staff, customers, artists – to celebrate the unique culture of record stores and the role they play in their communities. There are special vinyl and CD releases as well as various promotional products available exclusively for the day. In the beginning the list of exclusive RSD only titles was small, now the list includes artists from large and small labels, artists from every genre and price point. Click here for a downloadable pdf of this year’s list.

Vinyl Lovers Gather for Roanoke’s Newest Listening Club

Running my hands over the worn cardboard sleeve of the Led Zeppelin IV album was as effective at transporting me back in time 30 years, as any modified DeLorean could ever do. Memories unfolded when I opened the album jacket to reveal the iconic Hermit on the hill, sending me back to those high school days when my friends and I would spend long nights playing Zeppelin albums, wondering (and arguing) about the meaning of the images and the lyrics. The tactile texture of the album cover mixed with wisps of memory, all coalesced into a resonant joy as the opening strains of “Black Dog” came pouring from the speakers. Thus, the stage was set for an afternoon of album listening, and new friends sharing the bands we love, at Saturday’s kick-off event of Vinyl On Tap.

Throughout the afternoon, folks came and went from the side room at Barrel Chest, most bringing albums to share, some drawn in from the regular patrons curious to see what was going on. What was happening was the first of what promises to be a mobile monthly meet up at different watering holes where music fans can come together to listen to music on vinyl. The idea was the brainchild of Andrew Chester, Roanoke resident and serious music lover. He sets up the locations, lugs in his own player, and brings a small selection of his record collection to share. And then, the vinyl fans start appearing. Folks came in with one to ten (or more) records to share. Every album had a story about how it was acquired, or why it was important. I got to handle, then listen to a rare Neil Young live album (“Time Fades Away”), that the owner told me will likely never be rereleased because of Young’s personal pain surrounding the time period when it was originally recorded. I listened to rare King Crimson tracks, and the full 1980 Talking Heads album “Remain in Light”, all the while listening to fans share their passion for music, and the bands they are currently listening to.

Feed the Need

Feed the Need: Martin’s Downtown and Tobacco Apache Host Thanksgiving Food Drive

As Thanksgiving Day draws near, friends and families are prepping their birds, finalizing their menus, and picking out loose pants in anticipation of stuffing themselves into a tryptophan-induced haze. It’s all a big part of our time-honored tradition of Thanksgiving. In Roanoke, another tradition has become well established to help provide for our neighbors who aren’t as fortunate. Now in its 6th year, Martin’s Downtown and Tobacco Apache are kicking off the festivities with a pre-Thanksgiving, Feed the Need Thanksgiving Food Drive.

This Wednesday, Nov. 23, local bands and artists will play to help raise donations for the local area food bank. If this year is anything like past years, patrons can expect a packed house complete with some of the best local tunes our region has to offer.