Off Beat Music Guide

More on Bon Iver August 6, 2011

Filed under: Concerting — bethstephenson84 @ 10:37 am
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I found a couple of pretty amazing videos of the band’s performances of “Skinny Love” and “The Wolves (Act I & II)”. They are from the Atlanta show at the Cobb Energy and Performing Arts Center, and it makes me a little sad to see how much better the band is in an indoor venue. I will make sure the next time I see them it is somewhere like this. Just amazing…

Skinny Love


The Wolves (Act I & II)

The Wolves (Act


Concert Review: Bon Iver August 1, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 11:04 pm
Tags: ,

Where: Raleigh Amphitheater and Festival- Raleigh, NC

When: July 29, 2011

After a couple years of not-so-patient waiting, I finally got to see Justin Vernon’s most recognized project, Bon Iver, play a live set last Friday night at The Raleigh Amphitheater and Festival. And while the location was not ideal for this band, the music was just as magical as I had hoped. Let’s make no bones about it, the live performance doesn’t come close to their albums. (Keep in mind this is coming from someone who I think these albums can only be experienced through headphones.) But I realized before I heard them that it would be nearly impossible to translate the intimacy of the albums to the live show.

The Good: My favorite moments of the show were ones I least expected. The band’s cover of Bjork’s “Who Is It” exercised every ounce of this band’s talent and grew my heart by about three sizes—Grinch style. My two other favorite moments involve songs from For Emma, Forever Ago. I must say that it’s not that I didn’t want to hear these songs in particular, but I had really low expectations for the For Emma songs. I didn’t think they could make it interesting or unique live. As usual, I was wrong. The powerful drums and the crowd sing-a-long in “The Wolves (Act I and II) were chill bump worthy. The band turned their haunting song into something much more robust and powerful just in time to break our hearts with that killer line “What might have been lost.” And just when I thought they had outdone themselves, they played “Skinny Love” as the encore. Vernon took center stage with his guitar as his 8 or so bandmates corralled around microphones behind him. While he was telling us to be patient and be kind, the boys behind him provided the percussion with their hands and feet. It felt old, like a song that’s been sung for a hundred years.

The Bad: The venue wasn’t a good fit for this band. Outdoor venues aren’t made for quiet songs and that was proven over and over again that night. I would love to have seen them somewhere like The Tabernacle in Atlanta.

My other disappointment with the show was the pace. It felt like the first few songs were rushed. I think I felt that disappointment deepest because they were songs from the new album and they could have been something really special if they’d have played their hearts out from the first note. It took about 5 songs for the band to really get into it, but when they did, it was excellent.

The Ugly: The heat. It was about 103 degrees in Raleigh that day. This is another reason I am a fan of indoor venues.



Minnesota, WI



Beach Baby

Hinnom, TX


Who Is It (Bjork cover)

Blood Bank





The Wolves (Act I and II)



For Emma

Skinny Love

Here are a few videos from the show. To check out more, head over to my YouTube page at:

Blood Bank


re: Stacks


Concert Review: David Gray July 6, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 12:06 pm
Tags: , ,

Where: Ovens Auditorium, Charlotte, NC

When: July 2, 2011

During the almost three years I have spent blogging about music, I have always thought that I had what it takes to be somewhat unbiased in my concert reviews. I mean, I clearly like the bands I see, but I’d like to think I have a clarity that allows me to see if a band is really legit or just smoke and mirrors in their live set.

Unfortunately, after seeing David Gray this past Saturday, I am not quite so certain I have it in me anymore.

In thinking about this show, swooning is the only thing that comes to mind. I can tell you that the venue was different than what I was used to; it was in a concert hall instead of the beer bottle flanked, graffiti filled bar of my usual shows, and people sat down the majority of the set instead of shoving in to get closer to the band. But other than that, I didn’t note much more about the event. I sort of moved into my own little world of awe shortly after the opening number.

I went to this show with 3 friends, Jill, Kate and Mark and while all of us girls were in a dreamy haze post concert, all my friend Mark could say was “I liked it but I didn’t love it.”  Then I remembered all of the men sitting around us, impatiently shifting in their seats. I even overheard one guy saying “He better pick it up or I am going to fall asleep.” This was so strange to me because I could have lived in that hour and a half forever.

So I am admitting it; I am such a girl. Sing me a sweet love song in a British accent and I lose all sense of reason. There, now that is out of the way and we have established that this is a completely biased review by a woman who lets her emotions get the best of her, we can proceed. Just know that this review could be complete hooey.

Because he writes primarily about love, it came as no surprise that Mr. Gray did a wonderful job capturing that feeling in his show.  It was warm and vibrant. Funny and sweet. And most of all, it was beautiful.

I loved the lamp-lit stage and how dashing all of the band members looked in their suits. (That probably accounted for a good bit of the swooning.)

He played 21 songs that spanned his almost 20 year career. There were the obvious crowd favorites like “Babylon” and “The One I Love,” but I was most taken with “Kathleen” and his 10-minute version of “Nemesis.” You could tell that he liked playing all of his songs, even the ones he’s played hundreds of times, but it was evident that he loved playing “Nemesis.”

“I wish all (songs) were like that one,” Gray said. “I can’t put a price on the dawning.”

And that’s all you can ask for in a singer/songwriter: to have a passion that is so palpable that their love of a song alone sells you on its merits. And for David Gray, it worked. “Nemesis,” which I only liked before the show has turned into my favorite of his songs.

And I must mention my disappointment that he didn’t play my absolute favorite of his songs, “Shine” (It’s one of my Top 10 favorite songs of all time), but it was a long shot and ultimately it didn’t take away from the concert.



Only the Wine

Draw the Line

My Oh My

The One I Love

A New Day at Midnight




Flame Turns Blue




Morning of My Live (BeeGees cover)
Living Room


Ain’t No Love

White Ladder



Sail Away

Here are some videos from the show. I’ve had some serious problems trying to upload “Nemesis” because it is so long, but I have all of the other videos on my YouTube channel if you’d like to check them out.


Flame Turns Blue


Concert Review: Fleet Foxes May 16, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 9:12 pm
Tags: , ,

Where: The Tabernacle- Atlanta, GA

When: May 14, 2011

This was the first concert I’ve been to where the band received a standing ovation before playing a single note—and that was the first of six (!) standing ovations that would be given to them over the course of the night. I wanted to start by telling you this so you won’t think I am over-glorifying this show or this band. They deserved the standing ovation before the show, during the show and after. They were stunning, and there are a couple thousand people who can testify to that.

This 6 member, Portland-based band is led by singer Robin Pecknold, and their sound is somewhere between the Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkle.  That will seem ridiculous until you’ve heard them. They have released 2 LPs: Fleet Foxes (2008) and Helplessness Blues (2011) and their sound is a careful construction of contrasting starkness and bold energy. Harmonies and reverberation could be the seventh and eighth members of this band because they are utilized in nearly every song.  And they are powerful tools.

Here is an intro video to Fleet Foxes for those unfamiliar with the group. I’m including it on here because a) it’s one of my favorite videos of all time, ever b) it’s my favorite of their songs and c) it perfectly showcases their use of harmonies and reverberation in shaping their sound.

Back to the show. I was nervous about hearing the band live because I so closely associate their music with the North Carolina landscape. I was afraid it would feel gimmicky having this pastoral band play on a big stage in the 9th largest city in the US. Thinking back now, I don’t know what I was worried about because the next best thing to hearing them in the Carolina Mountains is hearing them in a cathedral-turned-music hall.  And The Tabernacle did not disappoint. It accommodated the band’s vocals with nearly perfect acoustics. And leaving the former church’s giant pipe organ as the backdrop was a stroke of genius.

The band played for nearly two hours and covered the majority of both of their albums. I may or may not have shed a couple of tears during “Blue Ridge Mountains”,“ The Shrine/An Argument”, and “Helplessness Blues.” Hearing their perfectly formed harmonies live was a mighty powerful experience. And unfortunately you will have to take my word for it, because the sound quality of the videos really doesn’t do the band justice.

This was one of those shows where I made a conscious effort to soak up every moment. From the way the crowd poured out praises, to the way the harmonies on “White Winter Hymnal” gave me chill bumps, I wanted to remember it all.

Here’s how it went down:

  1. The Cascade/Grown Ocean
  2. Drops in the River
  3. Battery Kinzie
  4. Bedouin Dress
  5. Sim Sala Bim
  6. Mykonos
  7. Your Protector
  8. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
  9. White Winter Hymnal/ Ragged Wood
  10. Lorelai
  11. Montezuma/He Doesn’t Know Why
  12. The Shrine/ An Argument/ Blue Spotted Tail
  13. Blue Ridge Mountains
    14. Oliver James
    15. Helplessness Blues

I was able to video the majority of the show. The only songs I missed were “Your Protector,” “Drops in the River” and “Mykonos”. To see all the videos from the show including three songs from opening act The Cave Singers, check out my YouTube page at:               

White Winter Hymnal/Ragged Wood Medley

Sim Sala Bim

The Cascades/Grown Ocean


Concert Review: Iron and Wine April 28, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 10:14 pm

Iron and Wine- Charlotte, NC

Where: Amos’ Southend, Charlotte, NC

When: April 26, 2011

I don’t think I was alone in thinking that this show would be a dreamlike sequence, complete with Sam Beam sitting on a wooden stool strumming his acoustic guitar while crooning soft and sweet grown-up lullabies.  In fact, while I was waiting in line for the show, I heard a girl remark something like “I hope I don’t fall asleep during the show.”

We would later find out that sleep would be almost impossible during the 2+ hour set of up-tempo songs that ranged closer to blues and funk than sleepy singer-songwriter.

While I knew the latest Iron and Wine album Kiss Each Other Clean, was a departure from Sam Beam’s characteristically minimal sound, I still expected to see a glimmer of the softer side. But even when taking a break from the big band sound to play old favorites like “Naked As We Came,” the sound was still shockingly much more robust than the original.

He played 19 songs, including the encore, and they spanned most of his discography with the majority being from Kiss Each Other Clean. The sound at Amos’ was a little better than usual so we were able to hear more of the one million instruments being played and less of that scratchy amp sound I have come to associate with Amos’.

Overall, I thought the band put on a great show. It was a sold out show and it was difficult to hear Beam speak over the chatty crowd, so he might have had some really hilarious banter going…we will never know.

I guess the only complaint I have is just my own unfamiliarity with this new sound. There were a few times during the show that the band ventured out into long, tedious jam sessions that just felt foreign to me. Don’t get me wrong, I am pro growth and exploration for musicians. It keeps things interesting. But I would have liked to have heard some of the old Iron and Wine without the unnecessary additional sounds.

Here the rundown of the setlist:

  1. Rabbit Will Run
  2. Sunset Soon Forgotten
  3. Freedom Hangs Like Heaven
  4. Summer in Savannah
  5. Wolve (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog
  6. Walking Far From Home
  7. Cinder and Smoke
  8. Half Moon
  9. He Lays in the Reins
  10. Naked As We Came
  11. Swans and the Swimming
  12. Me and Lazarus
  13. Boy With A Coin
  14. Lion’s Mane
  15. House by the Sea
  16. Woman King
  17. Fever Dream
  18. Tree by the River


  1. Flightless Bird, American Mouth

I took tons of video from this show, and here are a few. To see more, check out my YouTube page at Enjoy!

Me and Lazurus

Rabbit Will Run


Concert Review- The Low Anthem

Filed under: Concerting,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 9:26 pm

The Low Anthem- Amos' Southend, Charlotte, NC

Where: Amos’ Southend, Charlotte, NC

When: April 26, 2011

They were billed as the opening act for the usually mellow Iron and Wine, but I must admit I was a little more excited to see The Low Anthem than Sam Beam and his band. I discovered this little band in 2009 when I picked up their album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. It was one of those rare moments with music when you connect with an album on the first listen.  And while I was not as instantly in love with their new album Smart Flesh, it has grown on me and I think it is a really solid piece of work.

I think what makes this band special is the otherworldliness of their sound.  The deep hum of clarinets paired with the echoes of violin strings and Ben Knox Miller’s haunting vocals makes for a distinct sound indeed.

The concert was at Amos’ Southend, and feeling shamed for always speaking so badly about the place, I really did try to like it when I went this time. I did not succeed. Despite my frustration with the venue for reasons I won’t get in to, I did manage to get a really good spot to enjoy the show.

The band played around 8 songs in their set, starting with their softer tunes and moving into more boisterous songs like their new single “Boeing 747.”

I am going to be brutally honest now, and you can only be brutally honest when something is important to you: I was completely disappointed by this band’s live show. They seemed like they were going through the motions with very little interaction with the audience and zero stage presence. For a band whose album is so painfully beautiful, I felt nothing watching them.

Now granted, the chatty crowd did not help the situation. And maybe Amos’ was just the wrong venue for this type of act, but whatever the case I was a little embarrassed by how much I had touted this band to my friends after seeing their live show.

I consider myself a forgiving person though and I know that everyone has off days, so I will see if this band that I love so much can redeem themselves when they open for Mumford and Sons in June. Fingers crossed!

Here are a couple of videos I took from the show. To see all of the videos, head over to my YouTube page at


Boeing 737


Concert Review: Joe Pug with Strand of Oaks April 11, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Now Hear This,Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 9:18 pm
Tags: , , ,

Joe Pug- The Evening Muse, Charlotte, NC

Where: The Evening Muse, Charlotte, NC

When: April 9, 2011

Charlotte’s quaintest little music venue, The Evening Muse, was host to Mr. Joe Pug and Strand of Oaks this past rainy Saturday night.  Something about the ambiance and the AMAZING acoustics in The Evening Muse always makes me a little more excited to hear live music, if that’s even possible. The small intimate venue was standing room only for this event and judging by the crowd, it was the only way they could accommodate JP’s fans.

Strand of Oaks- The Evening Muse, Charlotte, NC

The show opened with Strand of Oaks, AKA Tim Showalter and his guitar. This set blew me away. Although it’s a much different genre, Showalter reminded me of when I first saw Justin Townes Earle and how awestruck I was that one man and one guitar could make that much sound.  Where Earle boisterously bangs and knocks on his acoustic guitar while belting out fast paced, twangy songs, Showalter croons with a loud clear voice over the atmospheric strums of his electric guitar. It’s soft and powerful at the same time. Don’t believe me, judge for yourself…

Strand of Oaks- “Sterling”

Then Mr. Pug took the stage accompanied by an electric guitarist and an upright bassist. Pug, who looks like a baby-faced 16 year old, has a deep growly voice that sounds like a perfect mixture of Jack Ingram and Bob Dylan. And his songs are a nice combination of the two as well; equal parts alt-country and folk.

He played around 15 songs in his hour and a half set and performed about 3 of those songs solo. And while I enjoyed every single song in his set I found myself leaving the concert with more a respect than an awe. He is a really talented guy who clearly has a gift for songwriting.  And while he’s not the best singer or guitarist in the world, he demanded respect, which gives him like a million points in my book.

There was a moment during the song “Hymn #101”  when the crowd had become loud and disrespectful, talking over him as he was pouring his heart out and he just stepped away from the mic. He kept singing and playing, but he was making a point: Listen to me; Respect what I am doing. You can hear the girl behind me in the video say “That was awesome,” and it was.

I don’t generally listen to a lot of singer/songwriters. I did when I was in high school and college, but then they all sort of morphed into this John Mayer character who writes songs primarily to make high school girls swoon. The songs stopped being original. So, I knew that Joe Pug was the real deal when I saw that the crowd was about 80% male. His songs resonate with people beyond the “I’m going to write songs about girls to sell lots of albums and fill arenas with 16 year old girls who will put posters of me in their lockers”.  I liked that the crowd wasn’t filled with girls talking about how cute he was, but was instead filled with guys who knew every word of his songs and the words meant something to them. Okay, I will get off my soapbox now…

I really had a good time at this show, and I think Joe Pug is what good music is all about. Check out some videos from the show.

Hymn #101

I Do My Father’s Drugs