Just as Soon Be in Boone
Back to school means back to the bars, at least that's what
those behind local venues are hoping.
But bars in Boone aren't just about the frosty beverages - they're about the music, and, The Mountain Times has 11 (Editor's Note: Our list goes to 11.) local sounds you need to know about (and dance to), whether you're a first-time Boonie or a returning Yosef back for more. Your education is, in no particular order:
With local "alt-country" shoulder shaking hits like porch song "Carborro Nights" and the pepped up and gritty "Greasy Spoon," the boys are here to stay, and guaranteed to attract a crowd wherever they play.
The sound, southern rock injected with a healthy dose of blues, all started in 2004 at Murphy's.
From that first show, the boys moved on to play throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia, spreading their sound and the Boone vibe as they switch instruments and keeping the crowd and charts hopping.
What started as a "bar band" has transformed into a versatile entertainment powerhouse, complete with gigs at festivals across the region like FloydFest and the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion.
It's a band that's been carved by the Appalachian Mountains themselves.
"It's really fascinating to be in a place that has a very special musical heritage and identity ... you hear those songs and you learn about those traditions even if you're not on stage playing Old Joe Clark ... or some old Doc Watson song," frontman David Brewer said. "It's there. It's cool to be connected to that in some geographic way," PJ's next Boone show is Oct. 16 at the Boone Saloon.
The Major Sevens
Lead singer Brooks Forsyth, a 2007 Watauga High School graduate was there when it all started.
"We were playing in barbeque restaurants ... then that kind of evolved into playing at house parties... then we finally started playing publicly, then two years ago, we put out an album," he said. "We developed a passion for playing live and wanted to develop our music more than just making a buck off of it."
From that first album, the Major Sevens spiraled through the region, with music on radio station WNCW and an appearance at Music on the Mountaintop with Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush. Over the summer, the gang played with their idol, Doc Watson, and their offshoot, the Nectar Brothers, is taking the boys in a different direction altogether.
"We still have the acoustic band," Forsyth said. "That's more folksy ... and now there's also an electric band ... that's more psychedelic pop rock, basically," he said.
The new sound is set to play for a more "college" crowd..
"It's not to say that Major Sevens is ending ... I still want to put stuff out under that name, too," he said, stuff like their "Goodbye Baby," a hit at this summer's MusicFest 'n Sugar Grove.
The Naked Gods
These boys are Boone-based through and through, but not the mountain bluegrass the Appalachian Mountains usually breed.
"It's burly pop mountain rock," lead singer Seth Sullivan said, and Boone Saloon is their home base.
Derek Wycoff, Chris Hutelmyer, Seth Sullivan, Brian Knox and Christian Smith.
They're just your average Boonies. Most of them have known each other since high school.
They've got day jobs (look for Seth at the Boone Saloon) and families (an extremely affectionate basset hound).
With catchy, soulful tunes like "Mountain Smashing Song of Joy," (what's not to love about that name?) they're the Naked Gods, and they always bring a crowd. Furthermore, the bands they play with are practically guaranteed to bring even more energy into the mix for a great time that will have you putting up your feet for the rest of the week. They hit the Mellow Mushroom (957 Rivers St.) Saturday at 4 p.m., joined by three other local bands, The Native Sway, Galaxy Jam (think improvisational electric) and Upright and Breathin'.
It's old school punk, and it's been rocking Boone venues for 14 years.
Despite having "gone through more drummers than Spinal Tap," the headliners have held onto local music guru and guitarist Kevin Freeman, co-owner of RPM Records.
"I'm from the area. I grew up in Avery County," he said, and since moving to Boone proper in 1994, he's been a fixture, first at video hotspot Grapevine and then, when it closed, at RPM, a location that's not just a record store, but a central locale for Boone's growing music industry.
A punk band came naturally to Freeman.
And the Appalachian location? It added to the ferocity of the sound.
"When we were first starting out, it forced us to create something that wasn't there ... there was a big explosion right around that time of punk rock bands," he said, and Karloffs erupted from the fever with a fiery passion. "We were kind of the bastard child."
The bastard child that stuck around, even as Boone bands of the '80s and early '90s started to disappear. While they've been out of the circuit for awhile, a new drummer has them back in the practice studio and is giving them a new lease on an old sound.
It's loud, but trust us, their show's worth a front row position, especially if, like in This is Spinal Tap (and we have 11 things we like about Spinal Tap) yet another drummer spontaneously combusts. Check them out at http://www.myspace.com/thekarloffs.
To Andy Page, it's all about the music: Steely Dan, Prince, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and the list isn't stopping.
Bafoodus takes Page (a professor of guitar at ASU) back in time for the ride.
"It's definitely a funk-oriented band ... but all the players in the band are really proficient on their instruments. We have keyboard (Mike Runyon), drums (Ryan Lassiter), bass and guitar and our bass player (Scott Haynes) sings and he's really got an awesome voice," Page said. "We try to feature his voice as much as possible."
Expect Steely Dan. Expect Prince. And expect to dance. "We are one of those bands that's very eclectic in that we're all influenced by jazz, funk and rock," Page said.
Along with original tunes, Bafoodus brings together classic electric pop that dancing shoes find irresistible.
The group has its CD release party at Koncepts Hookah Lounge Aug. 26.
Expect Bafoodus to headline the Halloween show Oct. 30 the Boone Saloon,
Upright and Breathin'
It's Appalachian, pure and simple. Upright and Breathin' describes its sound as "Appalachian-flavored originals influenced by a mix of bluegrass, jazz, and rock & roll, peppered with a hard-driving high energy traditional bluegrass sound."
Upright and Breathin' has increased its popularity the old fashioned way-one fan at a time, and this year they've taken flight. During a typical Upright and Breathin' set, you might hear an original reminiscent of the band, Old & In the Way, a cool minor key rendition of the traditional song "Shady Grove" and the occasional gypsy tune, such as Django Reinhardt's "Minor Swing."
Regardless, what you hear will have your foot tapping. Hear them next at Saturday's Mushroom Meltdown at the Mellow Mushroom (957 Rivers St.) starting at 4 p.m.
The Worthless Son-in-Laws
They're not as worthless as their name implies.
After five years, they've become a tradition, four guys with a sound brewed straight from the Appalachian Mountains. Meet Jimmy Davidson, acoustic guitar player. Davidson teamed up with electric guitar player Rob Brown eons ago at summer camp in Georgia. The pair met up in Boone and the resulting mesh of breezy alternative country continues to cause High Country shoulders to sway.
"Our first gig was going to be in South Carolina, and my mother-in-law put some events together ... she wanted us to play, and we didn't have a name, so I decided, 'Let's just be the son-in-laws,' and then Rich (Crepeau, bass) said, 'Yes, let's be the worthless son-in-laws,'" he said.
"It's a mix of indy rock and Americana, alternative country sort of stuff," he said.
And they have a huge set list.
With a mix of originals and Americana covers, the group has a set for every occasion. You may have seen them at the Watauga County Farmers' Market. You may have seen them at MerleFest a few years back. You may see them again at Boone Saloon (with local group Guard the Van) Thursday, Oct. 14.
The Native Sway
The High Country's favorite jammers, The Native Sway, can always be counted on to bring the crowd with their Phish-esque electrics.
"We all bring our own style and our own influences to the table, and it's really cool when we get together and write a song," Kevin Quinn said.
The 2-year-old Boone-based act (the Quinn brothers, Kevin and Justin, joined by Josh Bertram and Kelly Turner) is an instrumental jam band that just started experimenting with lyrics. Despite the vocal dabbling, they've retained the jamming energy that got them this far.
If anything, the recent addition of vocals by Andrea Brown and Kevin Quinn have pushed them even deeper into the Boone subconscious.
"It was kind of crazy how the chemistry worked out," Kevin Quinn said. "We could all feel this energy. It's different feeling when we come together. We just had this very strong connection and chemistry and that's really, I think, what people come to see."
It's that same energy, founded in rock and funk, that keeps bringing audiences back for more, and they have a busy fall, starting Saturday at the Mushroom Meltdown (The Mellow Mushroom, 957 Rivers St., 4 p.m. Saturday with Naked Gods, Upright and Breathin' and Galaxy Jam). They're part of the Music on the Mountaintop ( http://www.musiconthemountaintop.com) lineup Aug. 28 and hit Boone Saloon Sept. 9 (with the Mantras).
With her funky mesh of bluesy rock, Reaves is nothing if not prolific. The 1999 Lilith Fair Talent Search winner (Charlotte) plays more than 200 shows a year and just finished a performance at ASU's Front of Curtain Festival.
Among her credits? Opening for Robert Plant and touring England and France. She brings a unique brand of energy that sucks audiences in to her heart-and-soul brand of blues and has shared the stage with legends like Sarah MacLachlan, Leon Russell, Sheryl Crow, Cyndi Lauper, Doc Watson and Sister Sledge. Think powerful vocals and an energy that's contagious. After all, with Reaves, it's all about that energy. You can tell in her lyrics, her stage presence and even the audiences themselves. She hits the Banner Elk Cafe Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m.
That's right, the flatpicking bluegrass legend himself is a local boy, bred right down the road in Deep Gap, and he's not one to forget his roots. Not only does he play the MusicFest 'n Sugar Grove and MerleFest each summer, but the master himself plays various events throughout the High Country, including a show for $15 just down the road in Todd this Saturday ( http://www.todd.nc.org for ticket information).
"I've been in the business too long, and I don't like to brag on myself ... people love me for being who I am on the stage, and I appreciate that very much, as much as what I can do. If I come to hear you play and you are yourself up there, if I'm enjoying you as much as your music, I'm giving you a compliment, and they tell me that's what I do on the stage. I'm being myself and I'm kind of proud of that. I don't have to rehearse it," he joked.
While Watson gives off the "regular Joe" chuckle, there's nothing regular about his picking style.
"It sounds like I have two guitars, don't it?" Watson said.
Watson, an inspiration despite age and lifelong blindness, is always an optimist and, by the end of his set, he'll have you "on the sunny side," too.
"If you're 87-years-old and you've been blessed in many ways, to walk around without a cane or something like that, and I can still sing a little, my voice is still pretty good, and if you've been blessed in many ways, don't complain too much," he said with a smile.
They're Boone's original hip-hoppers and no, they'll never tell you what the BPL actually stands for (trust us, we've tried).
"Lyrically, it's a little more old school and true, real lyricism, and not just the common stuff you hear these days," frontman Rhett Huffman said.
With roots in the '70s (you can hear it in their background tracks) BPL (Pete Schaffer, Michael Martin, Ryan Van Fleet, James Troy Harris III, Will Sautter, John Portela and Huffman) is a crowd pleaser with "a good mix of stuff a lot of people can appreciate," in the vein of Outkast and the Roots, with some upbeat Stevie Wonder influences thrown in for good measure.
"You really can't just sit back and just listen to it," Huffman said. "We just keep those songs going one right after another. All of our songs are hard hitters."
BPL has a busy fall, with a Music on the Mountaintop ( http://www.musiconthemountaintop.com) appearance Aug. 28, a High Country Beer Fest ( http://www.hcbeerfest.com) appearance Sept. 4, a Boone Saloon show Sept. 18 and a Murphy's show Oct. 30.
And this is just a sampling. The Boone music scene? It's something you've got to check out for yourself.