Legends of the Fall: Live Music at ASU
It's more than a club.
Legends, Appalachian State University's very own rocking hotspot, is back in business for a fall semester that promises dancing, jamming and all out homage to local, regional and national acts.
"It's got the largest night club facility in western North Carolina," director Randy Kelly bragged.
He would know. Kelly was the mover and shaker behind legendary Blowing Rock venue P.B. Scotts, hosting the likes of REM and B.B. King decades ago, before its closure in 1983.
Along with Asheville's Orange Peel, Legends is the only 1,000-person occupancy club in the Carolina mountains, a fact that is among Kelly's favorite talking points. "It's the only one like it in the country," he said.
And he would know. He's traveled across the nation and has yet to find a university funded club that allows patrons to bring in a six-pack of beer.
While students are its focus, Legends also caters to a community that has been extremely willing to embrace events like contra dances (every other Friday) and nationally touring acts. Legends also functions as a multi-use facility, used for lectures, speeches and a variety of other events at Appalachian State University. Guests are welcome at many Legends events, though the ticket price is usually a few dollars more than at the student rate.
The best part?
It's operated by students, students who are in charge of everything from promotions to hospitality. Among Legends alumni? A former tour manager for the Kings of Leon and the person behind production management at the Greensboro Coliseum.
To celebrate Legends and its new season, we talked to some of this fall's Legend-ary stars.
Sept. 16: The New Familiars and The Infamous Stringdusters
Boone is familiar territory for Charlotte-based rock and rollers, The New Familiars.
While Thursday will be a first for Legends, the Boone Saloon crowd has become accustomed to the Familiars' masterful mesh of stormy rock and soul.
"You know, rock and roll, bluegrass, blues, country, soul," front man Josh Daniel said. "We like to say it's just rock and roll, but it's got hints of all those other things to it."
The foursome combines its members' influences in an energy whirlwind, a wind that's been picking up speed since "divine intervention" brought Daniel and Justin Fedor together at a neighborhood jam session a few years back.
"He and I started playing gigs together, doing a little touring," Daniel said.
While touring in Philadelphia, the twosome found Patrick Hollander. Add in another Charlotte native, drummer Dan Flynn, and The New Familiars just needed a name.
"We came up with a bunch of different names, put them in a hat, drew two out and it kind of stuck," Daniel said. "It became representative of what we do, putting a new spin on a familiar type of music ... the name is fitting for us ... a lot of people maybe think they've heard us before."
And the crew's home state continues to influence the Familiars.
"It's a great state for acoustic music," Daniel said, citing performers like the Avett Brothers and Doc Watson. "We all grew up watching those bands do their thing, and we realized this is something you can do and make happen."
Thursday, the something will be happening at Legends. For a preview, check out http://www.thenewfamiliars.com.
Doors open at 9 p.m. The event starts at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 for students in advance or $10 for everyone else at the door. BYOB, six-pack limit with ID.
The New Familiars open for The Infamous Stringdusters. Check out their groovy take on bluegrass at http://www.thestringdusters.com.
Sept. 24, Scythian.
Scythian: It's a Celtic sound bomb laced with bluegrass and just enough gypsy beat to knock you out of your comfort zone and onto your feet, and it's getting ready to blow.
Think fiddler dominated, crowd-jumping beats that sink into your pores for a show that will really, truly get in your head.
Before the show? You might want to stretch in the Legends parking lot.
Audiences, even those at venues like the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., are always on their feet.
Just ask the MerleFest crowd. Over the past few years, they've gotten a double dose, as have crowds all over the country.
No strangers to Legends (they opened for Toubab Krewe), the unique sound is back, and Mike Ounallah, a former ASU student, can't wait for the Scythian wave to hit the High Country.
"I think what we do is pretty interesting," Ounallah said. "We fuse a bunch of different types of music together."
Think Arabic, Ukrainian and other cultures fused together with a fiddler that won't stop. It's just similar enough to music Ounallah, Arabic by heritage, grew up with, and it's just different enough to transform it from just a show to an experience.
"Our shows are just really high-energy," he said. "We make it a point to come out and try to get all the crowds involved in the show and have a great time."
They'll use force if necessary.
"Scythian is a reference to a tribe of barbarians," he said. "They're barbarians ... they're taking the cultures that are already in place ... it just seems to lend itself well to our style."
And, like their namesake, if the crowd isn't responding, they're not afraid to use force to get what they want. Force in the form of theatricality and energy, that is.
It's what they've been doing since starting out strictly as an Irish band seven years ago. "That sort of evolved into a band that went out and started to play pubs," Ounallah said.
Now, years later, it's evolved from just playing up and down the East Coast to playing nationally.
"It's pretty rowdy," he said, and at Legends, he expects no less.
While he still has friends in Boone, that's not all he's looking forward to about his triumphant return to ASU.
"We can get our cowboy boot collection back up to speed," he laughed.
Ounallah is joined by Alexander Fedoryka, Josef Crosby and Danylo Fedoryka in Scythian. The show happens Sept. 24 at 9:45 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.scythianmusic.com.
Oct. 19, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Grace Potter. She's the Tina to your Turner, the Janis to your Joplin, and the comparisons to classic rock divas have only begun.
"I think it's a little bit hilarious, because I feel like people only compare me to women," Potter said. "I met Robert Plant the other night, and he is by far a bigger vocal influence on me than Janis Joplin ever was."
Apparently the folks at VH1 didn't think so when they asked Potter and her crew to cover a Joplin song for their Woodstock documentary.
"I take it as a compliment," Potter said. "I think it's really a blessing to be noted even in the same sentence."
Potter's been noted in lots of sentences lately. Rolling Stone even called GP and N one of the new bands to watch for 2010. The nationally touring voice from Vermont has worked with the likes of Willie Nelson and, after touring with legends like the Dave Matthews Band, hits the road later this fall with the Avett Brothers.
On Oct. 19, she's taking a detour, straight to Boone.
"We love North Carolina, and every time we head back in that area it seems to get more and more crazy with the fans," she said.
After all, Potter can deliver. With '60s-era vocals and an on-stage ambiance that forces the crowd to stand up (literally) and shake their miniskirts, Potter and the Nocturnals give fans what they're looking for.
"I think we're a pretty dynamic rock and roll band," she said. "Our whole vibe is to never give you one thing all night long."
Think "loud blast in your head stuff" framed by smooth acoustics, just enough to delight your eardrums with its unpredictability.
For Potter, a piano player since age 6, it's been a long time coming.
"Basically, my mom was a piano teacher, and I spent time watching her teach other students, and I copied whatever the students learned," she said.
But Potter didn't stop when the lesson was over.
"It was my own little private place to go," she said. "I could be quiet and play. I could make noise without speaking. I wound up spending more time with the piano privately ... I was really shy about performing."
The shyness didn't last.
Soon she was composing and performing her own songs. From her first little ditty ("It was just really stupid gobbledygook," she said) to the powerful ballads you can expect at Legends, her music has grown as her inspirations have changed.
"Our music has grown into something that pushes boundaries and doesn't have something you can put your finger on," she said. "You feel like you've heard it before, but you know you never have."
And even a hectic tour schedule can't break her spirit now.
"I spent seven years getting our asses on a tour bus," she laughed. "I'm not about to sit here and complain about that now."
Speaking of sitting, don't expect that at Legends.
"We're movers and shakers, and I think that's something I really demand of the crowd," she said.
Scott Tourney, Matt Burr, Benny Yurco and Catherine Popper join Potter on stage. It all happens Oct. 19 at 9 p.m. For a preview, check out http://www.gracepotter.com.
Legends Fall Calendar 2010
Sept. 16, 9:30 p.m.: The New Familiars/The Infamous Stringdusters ( http://www.thestringdusters.com / http://www.thenewfamiliars.com)
Sept. 24, 9:45 p.m.: Scythian ( http://www.scythianmusic.com)
Sept. 30, 10 p.m.: Boombox ( http://www.thisisboombox.com)
Oct. 7, 9 p.m.: Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band ( http://www.bootyband.com)
Oct. 19, 9 p.m.: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals ( http://www.gracepotter.com)
Oct. 28, 9 p.m.: Drive by Truckers with Bobby Bare Jr. ( http://www.drivebytruckers.com / http://www.bobbybarejr.com).
Nov. 7, 8 p.m.: Rebelution with Zion I and Tribal Seeds ( http://www.rebelutionmusic.com)
Nov. 10, 9 p.m.: Umphrey's McGee ( http://www.umphreys.com)