by Ryan Snyder

Upcoming shows you should check out


For his Moogfest-closing set at Asheville’s Emerald Lounge back in April, Walkertown-raised, world-traveling electronic producer Travis Stewart, known on stage as Machinedrum, created something as epic and as mesmerizing as the ongoing project he was presenting. Stewart might be one of the most progressive “” and sometimes challenging “” beat makers working today, and & Travelin’ McCourys he proved that through the rendering of the Vapor City saga. It was an exploration of a fictitious place that compelled its listeners to construct in their minds via relentless drum patterns and wafting melodies. That world existed only within a few EPs, mixtapes and one stunning, eponymous album, but Stewart created a virtual tour through that angular, austere and often grimy metropolis with the aid of visual artist Weirdcore. It was his pitterpattering, soulful sonics, however, that were the tour guide. With human cyclone Lane Barrington on the acoustic drum kit, and Stewart on guitar, vocals, MPC and synth, the tenor of his performance was heightened by the death of his close friend and influence, DJ Rashad, just a few hours earlier. Once he wrapped up his fantastic presentation of Vapor City, he dove straight into Rashad’s 2013 breakthrough, Pass That, maybe the first time anyone had ever spun footwork tracks with tears streaming from their eyes.

Machinedrum wasn’t part of the Hyperdub Records 10-year anniversary tour that recently passed through North Carolina honoring Rashad’s legacy along the way. He did officially release “Only 1 Way 2 Know,” a track that one year ago formed the centerpiece of Rashad and DJ Spinn’s excellent Lexdray mix. Last week, that track heralded a release that will bring his Vapor City work to a close, Vapor City Archives, and this weekend at Asheville Music Hall, Machinedrum will offer his newly expanded vision of that work. Earlier in the day, he’ll provide insight into his famously esoteric processes when he heads up a beat-making workshop at the Moog Factory at 4 p.m. Asheville breakbeat producers Aligning Minds and Miami Bass reconstructionist Panther God will be joining him on the evening bill. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.


Charlottesville quintet Sons of Bill showed that they had a rather strong handle on writing great, pedal steel-drenched songs of longing and conflict through their first two records. They decided to push beyond the confines of roots-rock on their third record, Sirens. With production and instrumental support from Cracker’s David Lowry and Johnny Hickman, they created something that at first could have been construed as the band throwing in with the roots aesthetic of the moment “” the driving, kick drum-driven pop experimentation that Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers had spun into arena-sized success. The album’s opening William Faulkner monologue framed it with a sense of existential irony: It was fully aware of its place among giants, but still willing to go to battle anyway. It mostly eschewed catchy lyrical hooks in favor of gut-wrenching build-and-release, punctuated by the kind of visceral imagery that only a Faulkner disciple could conjure.

It was a great album that broadened their catalogs and earned them a lot of respect, but a little more than two years later, Sons of Bill find themselves in a similar spot. On their brand-new record, Love & Logic, they retreat inwards a little, but now they’re pushing outwards from a new perspective. With Ken Coomer from Uncle Tupelo and early Wilco at the production helm, Love & Logic doesn’t embrace the enormity that Sirens did, but instead makes known some of the same ultra-sincere power pop influences that informed Summerteeth or Hollywood Town Hall, and it works well. There are jangly chords, mirrored choruses and a lot of heart, but Sons of Bill also do a lot of what they do best “” play straight-up country rock. It’s almost amazing they’re playing the album release party for Love & Logic at the Blind Tiger, because it’s also where they brought Sirens early on. A band this good, and with this diverse a catalog should, theoretically, be commanding Jason Isbell-sized audiences by now, but maybe that’s just a matter of time. Sons of Bill will perform at the Blind Tiger this Thursday night with support from Israel Nash. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door, and the show starts at 9 p.m. !