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Brett Barest on Upstate Music: To Fall or Not to Fall, That is the Question

About this time every year I find myself writing about all the great music featured at Fall for Greenville. There are more than 70 bands appearing on six different stages over the festival’s four days after all so, naturally, there is a lot to talk about. That said, such is my practice as of late (in writing and life in general) I am trying to break old habits and routines so I am actually not going to dwell on the Fall for Greenville shenanigans this year.

That is not to say that I do not think Fall for Greenville is worthy of you attention – it most certainly is. The City of Greenville does a phenomenal job of booking local, regional, and big time national names to this festival when, in all honesty, they probably do not even have to. People are going to bring Downtown Greenville to maximum capacity no matter who is on stage and it is a testament to the city’s commitment to quality that they bring in the bands that they do. A quick glance at the music lineup at the official Fall for Greenville website reveals a ton of talent that would be worthy of headlining shows on any other weekend at any venue in town. I strongly recommend checking it out as it comes complete with bios and video links to every artist on the bill and there are some seriously good ones to consider.
All of this is to say that, while Fall for Greenville offers a ton of live music in Downtown this weekend, there are quite a few good shows happening in the week ahead that I just cannot overlook.

The Ghost of Paul Revere @ The Firmament, Wednesday

My plan for Wednesday was to accelerate my weekly service as trivia host at Quest Brewing Company so I could get home and watch the Appalachian State game with my son. Then I saw that The Ghost of Paul Revere was playing tonight at The Firmament and now I am reconsidering my love of football and family. The Portland, Maine based trio describes their sound as “holler folk” which, in my opinion, is just vague and unique enough to warrant a listen. More specifically, they combine American roots instruments with a musical style influenced by decidedly not-bluegrass artists like Radiohead and Led Zeppelin. The harmonies are deliciously captivating and the changes in tempo and direction have you hanging on every note for dear life.

Touring in support of their sophomore release Monarch, The Ghost of Paul Revere is on the fast track to big things and are continually leaving a long list of sold out shows and festivals in their wake. Wednesday they play The Firmament but their next visit to Greenville will likely be at The Peace Center, if we are lucky enough to get them back at all. This is a great opportunity to make an “I saw them when…” memory and, more importantly, is a darn good excuse to catch a mid-week show.

Scott Miller @ The Radio Room, Thursday

 Just as I am still considering being a lousy father Wednesday night, I knew that would most certainly be the case on Thursday evening the moment I listened to Scott Miller. I am a sucker for a good storyteller and clever wordplay and Miller delivers both in spades. The first couple tracks I heard struck me as really good music but when I listened to “Lo Siento, Spanishburg, WV” I knew I was listening to something truly special. It is a critique of American “progress” a la James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make it Here Anymore” but delivered with a clever sense of humor more akin to Todd Snider or Dan Bern. All three of the aforementioned artists are my favorite storytellers in the business and Scott Miller joined their ranks inside of three songs and I could not be more impressed.

Miller is ten albums deep into his second musical career as he formerly led the V-Roys, a “thinking man’s party band” signed to Steve Earle’s record label in the 1990’s. His most recent release, Ladies Auxiliary, is simply incredible and I cannot wait to delve deeper into his catalog and see him perform live. Local favorites Mourning Dove kick things off for an amazing evening of music.

Natural Born Leaders @ The Radio Room, Saturday

I have been saying lately that the Upstate needs more hip-hop but what I did not know we needed was hip hop with funk rock guitars and a saxophone. That, my friends, is Asheville’s Natural Born Leaders and they could not be more completely different – and fun – than any show in town all weekend. The fusion of hip-hop, soul, funk, and rock makes for a totally unique sound and a fascinating journey to sound. Take the band’s latest single “Abominable Creatures” which opens with a psychedelic guitar intro that gives way to an in-your-face rap verse before weaving in and out with saxophone riffs that would be right at home on your favorite ska recording. The chaos of it all gives way to a full on instrumental jam that ends with a guttural yell from lead singer/lyricist Mike Martinez for the perfect finish to such an eclectic track. One can only guess at how this energy transfers to a live performance I am damn sure excited to find out.

One More For the Road… Or, Couch

Whether you spend your weekend exploring all that Fall for Greenville has to offer or checking out one of any number of venues outside of Downtown, there are no wrong answers. If, however, work or family obligations provide obstacles to getting out to a show, there is one that you have absolutely no excuse for missing. That would be Thursday night (and then all of Internet Eternity after that) when The Menders headline this week’s edition of the Red Arrow Concert Series. All you need is an internet connection and whatever device you are reading this on to catch the live stream Thursday night or the recording anytime thereafter.

Based in Gastonia, The Menders are one of my favorite bands that I have had the pleasure of listening to since I started covering the local music scene. Their self styled “raw garage folk” is everything there is to love about good old fashioned rock & roll and they bring a refreshing energy to the stage every time out. The cost is nothing more than a bit of bandwidth and the show time is as flexible as you need it to be so if you are only catching one show this weekend, it does not get any easier than this one.

Upstate Live Music Calendar

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