Off Beat Music Guide

Concert Review: Bon Iver August 1, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 11:04 pm
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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
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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: Joe Pug with Strand of Oaks April 11, 2011

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