by Ryan Snyder

Foster, Mattea headline the Carolina Theatre

If the offerings under the banner of ArtsGreensboro’s 17 Days Arts & Culture Festival seem to have taken a step up this year, it can at least partially be attributed to the procurement of former Carrboro ArtsCenter concert director Tess Mangum Oca’a as a booking consultant. For more than a decade, Oca’a kept the ArtsCenter’s calendar brimming with very, very solid, if not always spectacular bookings — shows that would catch you off guard, like the Residents or Matthew Sweet or Lindsay Buckingham. As it goes in the world of nonprofit concerteering, you win some, you lose more, and Mangum’s layoff last year was a gain for 17 Days, as this week’s offerings at the Carolina Theatre bear her fingerprints. On Thursday, the reigning queen of folk-blues, Ruthie Foster, makes her first trip to the Triad since the release of her highly lauded 2012 record Let It Burn, a dynamite bit of Southern gospel and blues that boasted tracks with the Blind Boys of Alabama and Stax legend William Bell. Foster holds her own, but her firebrand guitar playing is what sets her apart from dime-a-dozen, big-voiced blues singers. Then on Saturday, Grammy winner Kathy Mattea’s tour centered on her 2012 album Calling Me Home will show a wildly different incarnation of the singer who won over country radio in 1990 with the deep and smoky “Where’ve You Been.” Her newest material is decidedly braver, with the plight of Appalachian coal miners as its theme, but her deep vocals have softened considerably as the material hardened. Tickets for Mattea’s Saturday performance are $32.50, while Foster’s are $24.50 with Seth Walker opening.

Tate Street festival celebrates 40-ish years

Following what will (might? — no one seems to be able to say with real authority) be the 40th year of the Tate Street Festival this Saturday, stewardship of the bedrock Greensboro street fair will be changing hands once again. Georgia Frierson and Daniel Yount, drummer for local afro-fusionists the Brand New Life, took it over under the flag of their Live Original Local event planning association in 2010, but with most of the current lineup of the Brand New Life moving to New York City next month, the reins will be handed over once again, very likely, though unofficially, to a familiar party. In the meantime, this Saturday’s installment of the Tate Street Festival, happening where else but Tate Street, will hold true to a purpose that has remarkably changed very little over the decades, while the Live Original Local crew leaves their mark on it nonetheless. The Brand New Life are of course playing it, which will be one of their last local performances for a good while, but the lineup is also an aggregate of the best the city has to offer. There’s reckless country rock ‘n’ rollers the Grand Ole Uproar, garage minstrels Matty Sheets & the Blockheads, Jacob Darden’s new arena-sized indie-rock outfit Ameriglow, and local soul-punk demigods the Leeves to close it, with a secondary stage at Maya on Tate featuring the Tate Street Fest elder statesman Bruce Piephoff and world-beat collisionist Banana Lazuli. Continuing a tradition that began last year, the Grimsley High marching band are going to set up on Carr Street and march all the way to the main stage to join in with Matty Sheets & the Blockheads. It is of course a free event thanks to sponsors like 103.1 WUAG and 17 Days, and the music starts at 1 p.m.

Living legend and “elitist f*ck” visits Krankies

In Kurt Cobain’s Journals on page 281 (chronologically, it’s page 267), he says, “I made about 5 million dollars last year. And I’m not giving a red cent to that elitist little f*ck Calvin Johnson. NO WAY!” Those words, of course, are the private scribblings of Cobain, never intended to be published, yet disseminated in full anyway. The Calvin Johnson in question, of course, is the founder of K Records and a certifiable indie-rock icon. Cobain actually bore a tattoo of the famous K recs shield and was rumored to have intended to sign with Geffen and take their huge signing bonus before eventually signing with K, which never actually played out. That was purportedly written around the time that In Utero was released, and probably not coincidentally, also shortly before the Hole song “Olympia” (alleged to have actually been written by Cobain) which is a visceral takedown of a music scene that Johnson and K Recs built, was released on Live Through This. With In Utero’s 20th anniversary upon us, culpability for Cobain’s mindset on Nirvana’s final album once again becomes relevant, however oblique it might be. Johnson, who will come to Krankies this coming Tuesday, no doubt plays critically into it, if only because he was and remains a figure of immense gravity in the Pacific Northwest. He hasn’t released an album since 2006’s Sons of Soil record, but his label remains one of the most prolific in indie rock and, let’s face it, you don’t get near Johnson and not come away with strong opinions or good stories. Tickets are only $6, and Cakes Ov Light open at 9 p.m.