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Fall music preview, hits and misses

by Ryan Snyder

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What is it about the last day of August that feels like the end of a new romance? There are technically still three weeks of summertime left, but September isn’t the first month that comes to mind when plotting out a warm-weather concert-hopping itinerary. This past summer, touring was down everywhere and, compared to 2009, it was no different in the Triad. This fall, while some local venues appear to be showing the ill effects of a slow economy still, others are making a determined grab for your entertainment dollar. The following is a rundown of some of the most anticipated shows of the fall music season.

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For better or for worse, the Greensboro Coliseum seems mostly immune to dire economic circumstances and they emerge from a relatively quiet summer with a well rounded slate of performances that includes at least one surprising name. Top billing of course goes to Carrie Underwood on Oct. 29, but it’s a show the following night that might engender even more excitement along with a double-take or two. Electrifying five-piece synthpop band Passion Pit will stop in as a part of their Campus Consciousness tour, and while this one will probably be light on attendance compared to the typical coliseum event, the lighting possibilities and the proximity to Halloween send the awesomeness potential through the roof. Also of note is the North Carolina A & T University Homecoming concert (Oct. 9), with one of the most divisive figures in hip hop at its forefront. Love Drake or hate Drake, he’s famous as hell. That doesn’t mean he’s particularly good, but Rick Ross and J. Cole are, and they’ll be on in support.

On the other end of that spectrum unfortunately lies the Carolina Theatre, who, despite a fruitful fall 2009 in bookings, has little to offer musically this time around. While Yes’s Jon Anderson (Sept. 10) is a great get and the chance to hear honest acoustic interpretations of otherwise complex prog rock bears promise, it’s no secret that Carolina Theatre CEO Keith Holliday is a huge Yes fan and didn’t exactly do it out of curatorial acumen. This makes two big Yes-related shows in two years, to go along with two Wailers shows (three if you count the N Club gig that CT bumped on their site) and, hey now, two Steep Canyon Rangers shows in a 365-day span. The Rangers will once again be performing the Land Jam in October, this time with Amelia’s Mechanics, yet another band that has played CT recently, along with about every other place in the Triad that they can, as many times as they can. Word is that Holliday also wanted to put together a local band showcase with a ticket price of around $20, which would be the cost of four shows at Legitimate Business for the same bands.

One local theatre that is engaging in creative booking practices is the High Point Theatre, who’s goofy if endearing motto for this season “Ec-lectricity” really does capture what they have going on this season. They have a little something for everyone with the current, multifaceted series that starts with the masterful English smooth jazz outfit Acoustic Alchemy (Oct. 9) and carries over to country rock favorites the Georgia Satellites (Nov. 13). The real meat of their season begins after the holidays, so stay tuned for the Winter Concert Guide.

Not to be outdone in the theater department, Winston-Salem’s new Hanesbrand Theatre is booking legends already. Legendary vocalist Tony Bennett will open the place on Sept. 10, while one of the all-time greats of soul music, Mavis Staples, will take the stage with the equally magnificent Jolie Holland on in support on Oct. 2.

Remember the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum? Some do, some don’t. It didn’t go anywhere and it actually has as couple of outstanding shows on tap in October. One of those comes on Oct. 8, as rapper Lupe Fiasco hits the stage in support of his new release Lasers. More amazingly, Sublime, not a cover band, the real Sublime will play there on Oct. 22. Yes, Bradley Knowell is still dead, but the new singer Rome Ramirez is getting nice reviews.

Local college and universities are getting in on the act as well. Wake Forest’s World Cultural Festival on Sept. 17 will feature performances by funky Brazilian jazz big band Tropic Culture, and WQFS presents lo-fi surf pop band Wavves on the Guilford College campus on Sept. 28. Not to be outdone, WUAG will host analog/electronic beat master Tobacco at Artistika the following night.

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