Upcoming shows you should check out


New music festivals in North Carolina have cropped up in the last year faster than Starbucks, so naturally those without the brand power of Moogfest, MerleFest or even Hopscotch have to bark a little louder to get their place at the water bowl. The festival making the most noise for the past few months has without a doubt been the DrumSTRONG Rhythm & Arts Festival, a three-day event starting this Friday in Weddington, just outside of Charlotte. It’s primary vehicle for getting the word out has been a many-pronged, multi-channel and practically unremitting stream of social media content and engagement, but those efforts are bolstered by the event’s noble cause, not to mention a really good lineup.

To oversimplify things, DrumSTRONG is a cancer benefit. More complexly, it’s trying to raise cross-cultural awareness for cancer through marathon drum sessions here and abroad, some going on for insanely long stretches. If the connection seems somewhat tenuous, consider that it’s simply an expression of commitment through a vehicle with which all cultures identify. And it’s a fun thing to do, just like the mothership event this weekend probably will be.

Musically, the lineup feels inspired by the funk- and folk-centric lineups that the LEAF Festival puts together a couple of times per year. Its top headliner, Railroad Earth, have years of festival cred, while its subsequent top act, the Felice Brothers, have put enough distance between themselves and the massively disappointing Celebration, Florida record that it’s safe to begin remembering them as one of the better live alt-country bands. The strength of DrumSTRONG’s lineup, though, is in the North Carolina acts it chose. Certainly, Chatham County Line and ex-Chocolate Drop guitarist Dom Flemons need no introduction; same for Lost In the Trees, American Aquarium or Bombadil. The Love Language has yet another local show on the horizon, this time at the old War Memorial Stadium site with Nashville indie rock group the Kopecky Family Band.

Marley Carroll, on the other hand, likely still does need an introduction. His performance at Moogfest last month was among the biggest surprises of the weekend, though maybe not if you heard his late 2013 release Sings. It’s the rare electronic record where the lyri cism is the standout element, though sonically, it approaches the best dance music of the past year. Live, he takes it all to another level, with synths, MPC beats and turntable skills that you’d never suspect at first glance. He’s playing late Friday night, so maybe that’s a good enough reason to make a weekend of it. Tickets are $80 for a weekend pass and $200 for VIP, and the full lineup is found at


Nearly 30 years into its existence, maybe the greatest thing that the Carolina Blues Festival this Saturday at Festival Park has come to offer is consistency. Despite being a creation of the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society, it’s hardly a vessel for the Piedmont blues specifically. Instead, the festival gravitates more towards the kind of middle-of-the-road, but comforting kind of electric blues that has come to be used as backing tracks in commercials. (Maybe that’s fitting — both parties keying on predictable results.) This year’s lineup is, you got it, more of the same. Aside from the resurgent local hellraiser Abe Reid, who gets the unfortunate spot at the top of the order, this year’s catch includes Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, a bit of a gimmicky guitarist backed by a group whose website is still hosted by Mindspring. There’s Tom Principato, a firebrand guitarist for all of his 30-plus professional years, but didn’t start writing actual good lyrics until recently. After him is Carl Weathersby, a former disciple of Albert King who actually did his best work with jazz pianist George Gruntz, but found his niche in the Louisiana-Chicago pipeline. And the player with the honor of getting the closing spot which half of the crowd will not have stuck around to see is harmonica master Rod Piazza, the musician maybe most responsible for creating the template to which most modern blues sticks, but also gets the least credit for it. Basically, if you hear new blues, it’s going to sound a lot like him. Tickets are $22 and the music starts at noon. !