SWEET SUMMER SOUNDS

For Weekly SurgeMay 1, 2013 

Remember those nightmare essay assignments you used to get from the teacher during the first week of school each fall - “What I Did During My Summer Vacation?”

If you’re a Grand Strand resident, even if you’re way past your school days, imagine you’re going to be asked that question by somebody come October or so, and realize how ashamed you’d be if your description included the lines “I didn’t see any live music.”

There’s no excuse for such a thing for two reasons. 1) There’s plenty of good concerts coming to the beach this summer and 2) We here at Surge, as we do every year, are here to help you.

An annual tradition that has usually featured a dozen prime picks, we’ve prepared a healthy Baker’s Dozen for your concert enjoyment this year as summer approaches, 13 live music offerings that run the gamut from gangsta rap to alt-rock, barroom country to bands that make music with Weedeater strings. We’ve got acts from the Midwest, the streets of New York and right here in South Carolina. A few of our shows are reunion tours that will take you back to the halcyon musical days of the ‘90s, while others are retro acts from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and a few more feature up-and-comers and under the radar picks. There’s even some gospel to save your soul.

Our calendar took a hit, we must admit, because originally one of the selections included a scheduled concert by the late great George Jones at The Alabama Theatre. Surge knew from experience what a great show the man put on and wanted you to experience it as well, but very sadly the singer affectionately known as “The Possum” left us just a couple days before press time. Rest in peace, Possum, and we know somewhere you’re singing “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “White Lightning” with all the great singers and musicians that you join in the Great Beyond.

So, we found other great sonic selections for your summer enjoyment, and we’ve got your calendar covered, from tonight during the first week of May, all the way to the end of September, because everybody knows summer along the beach isn’t really over even if the calendar says it is:

Who: Fabolous and Pusha-T “Life is So Exciting” Tour

When: 8:30 tonight

Where: House of Blues

How much: $22-$25 general admission, $41.50-$46.50 reserved

Why you should go: Two of the strongest hip-hop artists to come out of New York in recent years are together on one night. Both Fabolous (Brooklyn-based) and Pusha-T (representing the Bronx) are part of the same generation of New York hip-hop, picking up what Jay-Z started in the ‘90s and making highly listenable hop-hop that combines a gangsta edge with just enough intelligence and dark humor to make it different. Pusha-T is best known for tracks such as the dance-hall tinged “Blocka,” “Trouble On My Mind,” “Million” and his Grammy-nominated turn with Kanye West and Big Sean, “Mercy.” Fabolous, meanwhile, can be expected to offer up his own hard-edged hits such as “Young’n (Holla Back)” and “You Be Killin’ Em.”

Who: Band of Horses

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: House of Blues

How much: $25 general admission advance, $27 general DOS, $35 reserve seat advance, $38 reserve DOS

Why you should go: Be proud to say that one of the best indie rock bands of the past decade is based right down the road in Charleston. Band of Horses is especially notable because the band’s six members made a reverse musical pilgrimage of sorts by forming in Seattle and then relocating to lead vocalist Ben Bridwell’s home state. You simply aren’t going to find modern rock music that’s as multidimensional, melodic and approachable as what Band of Horses hands out. Stellar, multi-layered guitar and percussion, intelligent lyrics and a wide range of musical influences that will take you in one show from roots music to Southern rock, alt-country and folk. Expect songs from all of Band of Horses’ great records, including 2012’s “Mirage Rock.”

Who: John Waite and the Little River Band

When: 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. May 11

Where: Mayfest on Main, Main Street, North Myrtle Beach

How much: Free

Why you should go: What could be better than a trip back in time, especially when you don’t have to pay for it? Mayfest, which has brought ‘80s hit makers Night Ranger and Eddie Money to the beach, is offering a free concert that’s a retro-blast of some great pop-rock from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Anybody who was an angst-ridden teenager in the ‘80s might remember calling up the local radio station to dedicate John Waite’s delightfully depressing 1984 No. 1 single “Missing You” to the love of your life who moved away, or putting some of his other big singles such as “Change” or “Every Step of the Way” on a mix tape to the latest heartthrob from the roller rink. Solo hits aside, Waite is a talented singer and guitarist who also fronted The Babys (“Back on My Feet Again”) in the ‘70s and the supergroup Bad English with Journey’s Neil Schonn and Jonathan Cain from 1988-91 which produced the power ballad “When I See You Smile.” Expect to hear a good helping of his more recent music as well. Australia’s Little River Band doesn’t currently include any members who were in the group when it was a hit-making machine but never the less you’re sure to hear upbeat yacht rock staples that are still very listenable, including “Lonesome Loser,” “Lady,” “Reminiscing” and, especially appropriate for a concert near the ocean, “Cool Change.”

Who: Kirk Franklin’s Gospel Brunch

When: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. May 12 (Mother’s Day)

Where: House of Blues

How much: Kids younger than 7 get in free, $14.50 ages 7-12, $29 adults

Why you should go: Does your mom need her soul saved as well as a nice meal on her special day? Forget the breakfast-in-bed and bring her to HOB for the unveiling of Kirk Franklin’s Gospel Brunch. The gospel brunch has been a Sunday staple at the Barefoot Landing venue since it opened, and this year its getting an update from nationally known, Grammy-award winning contemporary Gospel artist Kirk Franklin, who is personally selecting local, regional and national artists to perform at the popular weekly event. The lineup for May 12 hasn’t been released yet, but if Franklin is involved, expect it to be worth hearing, and you can enjoy some chicken and waffles, jambalaya and a Build Your Own Bloody Mary bar while getting some soul-saving inspiration.

Who: An Evening with the Black Crowes

When: 8:30 p.m. May 19

Where: House of Blues

How much: $39.50-$42.50 general admission, $74.50-$89.50 reserved

Why you should go: No band or performer is ever serious these days when they claim a series of shows is a “farewell” tour, and nobody really truly believed the Black Crowes when they claimed their string of excellent 2010 live shows was the Atlanta-based band’s swan song. True to form, lead singer Chris Robinson, his guitar playing bro Rich Robinson and the rest of the boys are back again for this year’s “Lay Down with Number 13” tour, featuring a few relatively minor lineup changes but nothing much else that’s different. Expect the usual strong live performance from the Crowes, including a heavy dose of classic rock hits such as “Hard to Handle,” “Jealous Again,” “Twice as Hard,” “Thorn in My Pride” and “Remedy,” as well as some cover tunes and jaunts into Southern-fried psychedelia on songs such as “Wiser Time.”

Who: Ben Miller Band

When: 8 p.m. June 7

Where: Pirate’s Cove Lounge, North Myrtle Beach

How much: $5

Why you should go: In a promo video posted on YouTube a few years ago, the members of the Ben Miller Band described the group’s sound as “mud stomp,” which later became the name of the band’s record label. It’s an unusual but fitting name for the insanely good brain-melting musical soup that the Ben Miller Band creates. This Joplin, Mo. trio liberally mixes gut-bucket and Delta blues with bluegrass, Appalachian folk and about 9,000 other things that we can’t describe but have to be heard to be believed. Suffice it to say that besides lead vocalist Ben Miller’s outstanding guitar and harmonica work, the lineup also includes drummer Doug Dibarry, who also plays (among other things) trombone and electric washboard, and Scott Leeper, whose specialty is a washtub bass that consists of, yes, a washtub and a Weedeater string. BMB’s album “Heavy Load” showcases multifaceted songwriting talent, with everything from the gently musing title song to “Get Right Church,” a low-fi, acid-blues romp. Miller also pens great songs about everything from Amsterdam prostitutes getting off work to Jagerbombs. If these guys don’t make you dance by the end of the night, you’re probably missing a pulse.

Who: Kelly Rowland

When: 9 p.m. June 7

Where: House of Blues

How much: $27-$30 general admission, $51.50-$66.50 reserved

Why you should go: Announced just before press time, this show offers the chance to see one of the strongest, multi-faceted and sometimes downright seductive singers on the modern R&B and dance scene. Kelly Rowland, one of the original members of Destiny’s Child, has shown in the past 10 years she can more than hold her own as a solo artist, selling more than 20 million albums, and at times conveys a more sophisticated vibe than former bandmate Beyonce. Rowland is touring this year to support her new release “Talk A Good Game” which features the very sexy debut single “Kisses Down Low.” Expect to hear that and more off the new album, as well as past hits such as “Commander,” “Motivation” and “Can’t Nobody.”

Who: Shooter Jennings and the Old Southern Moonshine Revival

When: June 23

Where: Boathouse Waterway Bar and Grill

How much: Free

Why you should go: No music is a better soundtrack for summer than good ol’ Southern rock. Think of sun-bathed highway roadtrips while listening to the Allman Brothers’ “Rambling’ Man” or a beer-fueled day at the beach or lake with Skynyrd or the Marshall Tucker Band in the background. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Shooter Jennings is a modern heir to that sound and he carries with him a musical pedigree that can’t be beat: he’s the son of the late great outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings. Shooter’s sound deftly combines his daddy’s brand of country with Southern rock and even the occasional psychedelic influence thrown in for good measure. Expect to hear everything from the hard-edged “4th of July” to the wistful “Gone to Carolina” as well as songs from his six albums, including this year’s “The Real Me.”

Who: B.B. King

When: 8:30 p.m. July 7

Where: House of Blues, North Myrtle Beach

How much: $42.50 general admission advance, $46.00 general day of show, reserved seats $82.50-$97.50

Why you should go: Because a B.B. King concert is a chance to see and hear a legend while you still can. King is undeniably the king of the blues these days, and at 88-years-old he’s still touring, toting along beloved guitar Lucille and belting out signature tunes. (He is also an incredibly nice guy who legitimately cares about his fans. Years ago your intrepid Surge reporter, while covering music for a certain Grand Strand publication, got a chance to interview King. She later got a phone call before the concert and an invitation to come hang out with the Blues Master afterward. It’s not every night of your life you get to have a cold beer and watch CNN with a blues legend, but that’s the kind of guy he is.)

Who: The Veldt

When: 9 p.m. July 10

Where: Rockin’ Hard Saloon

How much: No cover charge

Why you should go: The Veldt was one of the most innovative bands to come out of the talent-heavy alt-rock scene in Chapel Hill, N.C. in the late ‘80s-early ‘90s, with a a multi-layered sound that remains to this day incredibly hard to categorize and also extremely intriguing. Lead vocalist Daniel Chavis and bandmates mixed alt-rock, psychedelia, funk and New Wave influences into a sound that led one critic to refer to The Veldt as “Echo and the Bunnymen mixed with Prince.” Take that as you will, but rest assured that classic Veldt songs such as “Soul In a Jar” sound are as fresh and sonically challenging today as they were back then. After a lengthy hiatus, the band hopped on the ‘90s-reunion train in 2011 and has been touring and recording since then - including a Grand Strand stop-over in March at Island Bar and Grill near Surfside Beach, so you don’t want to miss Chavis and Co. again, do you?

Who: Aaron Lee Tasjan and Findlay Brown

When: 9 p.m. July 28-29

Where: Pirate’s Cove Lounge

How much: Not available at press time

Why you should go: You’re simply not going to find a bill with two more different and talented singer-songwriters than Aaron Lee Tasjan and Findlay Brown. Both musicians produce distinctly original music that is both absolutely current and pays respectful tribute to rock and country’s past. Currently based in New York City, guitarist and vocalist Tasjan, who recently shredded his acoustic guitar alongside singer-songwriter Jonny Burke at Dead Dog Saloon in Murrells Inlet, crafts some music that sounds like it could have been penned in the depths of an old tobacco barn outside Loris during a rainstorm. His music deftly blends folk, alt-country, and straight-ahead rock and roll and his talent has led him to work with everyone from drivin’ n’ cryin’s Kevn Kinney to Texas country singer Pat Green. Tasjan’s approach to music? Best described by a line from his Facebook profile: “I write songs and then after that part I sing them.” Findlay Brown, meanwhile, comes to us by way of England and his talents allow him to produce everything from the sweet Beatle-esque acoustic tunes that appeared on his acclaimed 2007 “Separated by the Sea” disc to wall-of-sound romps like “Love Will Find You,” which will make you think Brown also has the talent of channeling Roy Orbison.

Who: Coolio

When: 4 p.m. Aug. 25

Where: Boathouse Waterway Bar and Grill

How much: Free

Why you should go: Another great dose of back-in-time fun, and this time it’s ‘90s radio-friendly hop-hop. Coolio was one of the biggest draws during the Boathouse’s 2012 Sunday concert series, and he’s back this summer to turn the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway into the area’s largest sloping dance floor. At age 49, Coolio can still lay down smooth raps with the best of them, and when he’s not appearing on reality TV shows these days, he still offers up fun shows that rely as much on audience interaction as rapping. Expect an experience that’s as much a party as a concert, and expect to hear Coolio’s well known hits from back in the day, including “Fantastic Voyage” and “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

Who: Clint Black

When: 7 p.m. Sept. 21

Where: Alabama Theatre, Barefoot Landing

How much: $44.95-$58.95

Why you should go: It’s not easy being a fan of authentic country music these days, when more new male country vocalists wear baseball caps than cowboy hats and look like they spend more time getting man-scaped than hanging out in honky-tonks. We’re also living in an era when the epitome of country song writing seems to involve tunes about watching Daisy-Duke wearing small town girls dance on the tailgates of pickup trucks. Have no fear, however, because real country music will never be gone as long as artists like Clint Black are still touring and performing. A perennial on the country charts since his debut with “Killin’ Time” in 1989, Black’s pure straight-ahead style of guitar-and-vocals tunes about love, loss, heartbreak and redemption never gets old. This is also a guy who’s such a strong songwriter it took until 2007 for him to actually record a song he didn’t write. Expect to hear signature tunes such as “Nothin’ but the Taillights, “Like the Rain,” and “Good Run of Bad Luck,” and expect to have your faith in country music restored.

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