Front Row Focus: Blog http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog en-us (C) Copyright David Simchock david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Wed, 05 Jul 2017 19:08:00 GMT Wed, 05 Jul 2017 19:08:00 GMT http://www.frontrowfocus.com/img/s/v-5/u433708976-o192245421-50.jpg Front Row Focus: Blog http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog 90 120 Festival Preview: Pilgrimage or Bourbon and Beyond? http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/7/festival-preview-pilgrimage-festival-or-bourbon-and-beyond-festival-2017 FESTIVALS: Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival (Franklin, TN) / Bourbon & Beyond Festival (Louisville, KY)

Dates:  September 23 & 24, 2017

Pilgrimage Festival Website:  www.pilgrimagefestival.com

Bourbon & Beyond Festival Website: www.bourbonandbeyond.com

What do you do when there are two festivals, both with killer line-ups, conflicting with each other on the same weekend?

Pearl Jam 2016-04-16 (Greenville, SC)Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam (Greenville, SC 2016)© Copyright David Simchock Such is the dilemma one faces if they were planning on hitting up the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival in Franklin, Tennessee in late September, but then the announcement came over the interwebs for the inaugural Bourbon & Beyond Festival -- a three-hour drive north on I-65 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

To be honest, there is somewhat of an overlap with some of the bigger artists, with the likes of Eddie Vedder, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Gary Clarke Jr. playing both events, but each fest definitely has its own rightful claim to having the "stronger" line-up. Pilgrimage boasts of superstars like Ryan Adams, Justin Timberlake, the Avett Brothers and Mavis Staples to beef things up, while Bourbon has secured "classic rock" legends Steve Miller Band and Stevie Nicks to headline, with added oomph from Buddy Guy, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Joe Bonamassa and Paul Rodgers (of Free / Bad Company fame), just to name a few.

Mavis Staples - LEAF Festival (May 2013)Mavis Staples - LEAF Festival (May 2013)© Copyright David Simchock In only its third year, the folks over at the Pilgrimage Festival have done a fantastic job in attracting world-renowned artists, quickly establishing itself as a "must attend" festival in a very crowded sea of music festivals scattered around the country. Taking place in a a suburb of Nashville certainly doesn't hurt its geographic location and attractiveness to music-lovers nationwide.

In comes Bourbon & Beyond, with a crushing inaugural line-up that surely catches the attention of the same folks who have already etched Pilgrimage in stone in their calendars. Steve Miller Band? Eddie Vedder? Stevie Nicks? Woah. And, it doesn't stop with the household names. This is truly a respectable first-year music event, and what's not to like about the added dimension of Kentucky Bourbon sharing the spotlight with the venue stages?

So, what does one do to decide between these to top-notch music festivals?

Well, we like the idea of attending them both! Hit up one fest on Saturday, and then shoot up or down I-65 to check out what the other has on offer for Sunday! That's our plan, anyway. Now to decide which day to be at which festival. Uh oh. This is not going to be an easy decision. Any suggestions?

 

PURCHASE PILGRIMAGE FESTIVAL TICKETS HERE
 

PURCHASE BOURBON & BEYOND FESTIVAL TICKETS HERE

 

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue - Ashevulle 2013-12-06Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue© Copyright David Simchock

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Amanda Shires Amos Lee Avett Brothers Bourbon and Beyond Festival Buddy Guy Eddie Vedder G Love Gary Clark Jr Justin Timberlake Kentucky Love Canon Mavis Staples Paul Rodgers Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival Ryan Adams Shovels and Rope Steve Miller Band Stevie Nicks Tennessee Town Mountain Trombone Shorty Valerie June artist band concert event festival live music performance photo preview tour http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/7/festival-preview-pilgrimage-festival-or-bourbon-and-beyond-festival-2017 Wed, 05 Jul 2017 19:03:50 GMT
Festival Preview: 2017 Biltmore Concert Series (Asheville, NC) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/6/festival-preview-2017-biltmore-concert-series-asheville-nc FESTIVAL:  BILTMORE CONCERT SERIES

Venue:  Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

Date:  July - August, 2017

Biltmore Website:  www.Biltmore.com

Preview By:  David Simchock

Kool and The GangKool and The Gang© Copyright David Simchock Everywhere you turn these days in Asheville there is an outdoor live music concert or festival going on. The options are endless once Old Man Winter fades into spring, carrying on into October. But, no matter how many stages are added to the ever-growing list of venues, or how many one-day or weekend festivals grace the calendar, nothing comes close to the musical, cultural, and historic ambiance provided by the famous Biltmore Estate during their annual Concert Series (this year being the 21st edition). And, looking at the calendar for this summer, we're in for quite a diverse treat once again!

Here's what's in store for the summer of 2017:

Kool & The Gang / The Commodores - July 27  
SOLD OUT 

The Beach Boys - July 30  SOLD OUT

Newsboys w/ Special Guest Mandisa - August 18  BUY TICKETS

Tony Bennett - August 19  SOLD OUT

REO Speedwagon - August 24  BUY TICKETS

Goo Goo Dolls w/ Special Guest Phillip Phillips - August 26  BUY TICKETS

Thought to be a somewhat lackluster line-up in 2016, the folks at The Biltmore have bounced back in a big way, delivering a jam-packed set of six dates that, as always, have something for everybody. The fact that three of the shows have already completely sold out, and reserved and premium seating for a couple of others are sold out (general admission still available), says something about the draw power of the artists. So, if you're looking to get in on the Biltmore Concert Series action this summer, you might want to buy your tickets now before it's too late.

For more information about all of these special events, visit the Biltmore website:

21st Annual Biltmore Concert Series

Michael McDonald 2016-08-16 (Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC)Michael McDonald 2016-08-16 (Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock
 

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) 2017 Asheville Biltmore Concert Series Biltmore Estate Blue Ridge Mountains Goo Goo Dolls Kool and the Gang Mandisa Phillip Phillips REO Speedwagen The Beach Boys The Commodores Tony Bennett artist band concert event live music performance photo preview tour http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/6/festival-preview-2017-biltmore-concert-series-asheville-nc Thu, 29 Jun 2017 17:10:00 GMT
Back Stage Pass: Dangermuffin (Pisgah Brewing, June 16, 2017) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/6/back-stage-pass-dangermuffin-pisgah-brewing-june-16-2017 What better way to get psyched up for your show than to have a pre-gig pep talk with Bruce Hornsby?

Members of Dangermuffin getting ready to take the outdoor stage at Pisgah Brewing Company. The guys went on to deliver an inspiring set, leading to an equally-inspiring set by Bruch Hornsby and the Noise-makers.

See more photos of the Dangermuffin HERE.
 

Dangermuffin 2017-06-16 (Pisgah Brewing, NC)Dangermuffin 2017-06-16 (Pisgah Brewing, NC)© Copyright David Simchock

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Black Mountain Bruce Hornsby Dangermuffin Pisgah Brewing Company artist back stage backstagepass band bluegrass concert event live music music photography performance photo photography http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/6/back-stage-pass-dangermuffin-pisgah-brewing-june-16-2017 Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:27:00 GMT
Foto Focus: Donna The Buffalo (March 17, 2017) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/3/foto-focus-donna-the-buffalo-march-17-2017 ARTIST:  Donna The Buffalo

VENUE:  The Orange Peel - Asheville, NC

DATE:  March 17, 2017

Photos By:  David Simchock

St. Paddy's Day 2017 was celebrated in style in Asheville with Donna The Buffalo taking the stage at The Orange Peel. But, it's not like their faithful fans needed a reason to party and to dance. It was just another night at a DTB concert, with Jeb Puryear (vocals / electric guitar) and Tara Nevins (vocals, guitar, fiddle, accordian, scrubboard) leading the way.

Believe it or not, this is the first time that I was able to photography DTB on an indoor stage with "proper" stage lighting (all previous encounters have been day-time outdoor shows). They're a fun band to see and shoot!
 

CHECK OUT THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE

 

Donna The Buffalo 2017-03-17 (Asheville, NC)Donna The Buffalo 2017-03-17 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Donna The Buffalo Jeb Puryear St Patricks Day Tara Nevins The Orange Peel artist band concert event folk fotofocus jam band', music, live, music, bluegrass, Americana, performance, photo, photography http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/3/foto-focus-donna-the-buffalo-march-17-2017 Fri, 31 Mar 2017 19:22:00 GMT
Concert Review: Umphrey's McGee (February 18, 2017) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/2/concert-review-umphreys-mcgee-february-18-2017 ARTIST:  Umphrey's McGee

VENUE:  US Cellular Center, Asheville, NC

DATE:  February 18, 2017

Review By:  Joshua Marc Levy

Photos By:  David Simchock

Umphrey's McGee 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)Umphrey's McGee 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock Last year at about this time, Umphrey's McGee inaugurated the now-annual Blue Ridge Rockway weekend concert series at the ExploreAsheville.com arena, rocking out two nights in a row. In 2016, they were supported by New York City instrumental jam outfit, TAUK. This year, UM brought on board Greensky Bluegrass for a slight change of pace, but certainly with no less energy and fanfare. Another change to this year's event was the addition of a third night of music, down-sizing the venue to the cross-town Orange Peel, providing fans with a more intimate experience of Umphyre's McGee (minus the GSBG opener). Front Row Focus was in the US Cellular Center for the Saturday show, and we're glad we could make it.

Umphrey’s McGee has a dedicated fan base who is there for one purpose -- to have fun and rock out. Long-time fan Wally McLendon said, “The band played over 300 songs in 2016, plus they have over 200 covers in rotation. It’s an exciting time, they are on fire right now.”

After 19 years on the road, the band are masters of time, quickly morphing their songs across many genres including: metal, island, jam rock, electronic, jazz, and funk. The ability to combine some of these styles within a single song is what makes them special. Was that a 25-minute jam we just experienced, or was it a stretched out 5 minutes?
Umphrey's McGee 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)Umphrey's McGee 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock
Sometimes the introductions to these performances are mysterious and trippy “Pink Floyd-like” anthems. Band members switched up their instruments, and at one point guitarist Jake Cinninger was on keys and bass player Ryan Stasik was playing synthesizer. The first set ended with Greensky Bluegrass mandolinist/singer, Paul Hoffman, and Dobro guitarit, Anders Beck, for an epic cover of The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” which had everyone singing along. Brendan Bayliss, lead vocalist and guitar proclaimed, “Asheville, You look spectacular tonight!” The entire first set was arena rock gold.

Umphrey's McGee 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)Umphrey's McGee 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock The sound experience is married by lighting genius Jefferson Waful who seamlessly changes with the band, morphing white lights into full color in a flash. Sometimes the lights are smoke ring halos, whirling snowflake wave storms, or transported rainbow tornadoes trapped inside of triangular beams. At times the lights make the band appear to be trapped inside a flashing psychedelic hologram. It’s all about dynamic perception.

The show ended with an outstanding cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” as the crowd went wild, and long time fan William Byrd yelled out to me, “I’ll never miss another show!” Wally McLendon said, “It was the best “Puppet String” they have ever played.” Douglas Mischley declared, “I’m Speechless!”

Umphrey’s McGee, we’ll see you again next year. Let’s do the time warp again!

Set 1: Gurgle > Higgins, Make It Right, In The Kitchen > White Man's Moccasins, Puppet String[1], Can't You See[2]
Set 2: Mulche's Odyssey, Hajimemashite > JaJunk > Miami Virtue[3] > Remind Me, Professor Wormbog, Much Obliged > In The Kitchen > JaJunk[4]
Encore: Tom Sawyer
[1] with Jake on keys
[2] with Anders Beck on dobro and Paul Hoffman on vocals and mandolin
[3] with (Don't Fear) The Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult) teases
[4] with Top Gun Anthem (Harold Faltermeyer) tease

 

CHECK OUT THE UMPHREY'S MCGEE PHOTO GALLERY HERE

Umphrey's McGee 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)Umphrey's McGee 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville US Cellular Center USCC Umphreys McGee artist band concert concertreview event live music music photography performance photo photography rock and roll souther rock http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/2/concert-review-umphreys-mcgee-february-18-2017 Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:10:33 GMT
Foto Focus: Greensky Bluegrass (February 18, 2017) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/2/foto-focus-greensky-bluegrass-february-18-2017 ARTIST:  Greensky Bluegrass

VENUE:  Thomas Wolfe Auditorium - Asheville, NC

DATE:  February 18, 2017

Insight By: Joshua Marc Levy

Photos By:  David Simchock

Greensky Bluegrass 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)Greensky Bluegrass 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock This year's Blue Ridge Rockway weekend concert series at the ExploreAsheville.com arena brought in Kalamazoo "jamgrass" outfit Greensky Bluegrass to warm things up for headliners Umphrey's McGee. Led by singer/mandolin-extraordinaire, Paul Hoffman, the band was more than comfortable playing in front of an Asheville crowd measured in the thousands. 

Greensky Bluegrass "live" is a musical companion of a country home commute to the big city. They start off on the country road, vast and beautiful. The music speeds up and rides the rails as we get into the city. It’s a fast, fun, and sweet ride. The boys played a very tasty cover of Traffic’s “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone” which had teases of Phish’s “Tweezer” and more within.

Set 1: Past My Prime> Run or Die, Room Without a Roof, Jay Walking1, Light Up or Leave Me Alone2,3, I'd Probably Kill You, Demons, Forget Everything, Kerosene4
        1.      "Foxy Lady" tease
        2.      "Reuben's Train" tease
        3.      "Tweezer Reprise" tease
        4.      "Let It Grow" tease
 

CHECK OUT THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE

Greensky Bluegrass 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)Greensky Bluegrass 2017-02-18 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock

 

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Blue Ridge Rockway Explore Asheville Greensky Bluegrass US Cellular Center artist band concert event folk fotofocus jam band', music, live, music, bluegrass, performance, photo, photography http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/2/foto-focus-greensky-bluegrass-february-18-2017 Tue, 21 Feb 2017 14:22:00 GMT
Concert Preview: Blackberry Smoke - Asheville, NC (February 3, 2017) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/concert-preview-blackberry-smoke-asheville-nc-february-3-2017 CONCERT:  Blackberry Smoke

Venue:  Thomas Wolfe Auditorium Asheville, NC

Date:  Friday, February 3, 2017

Artist's Website: www.blackberrysmoke.com  

Preview by: David Simchock

Blackberry Smoke 2016-02-05 (Asheville, NC)Blackberry Smoke 2016-02-05 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock Friday evening (February 3rd) marks the return of Atlanta rockers, Blackberry Smoke, to Asheville, this time moving on to the 2,400-seat Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. It was just about one year ago that Charlie Starr and the fellas sold out two consecutive nights at The Orange Peel music club just across town. This year they have their sights set higher, and at the time of this writing, tickets are in short supply, but still available. (click here for tickets)

Blackberry Smoke is celebrating the release of their sixth studio album, Like An Arrow, where they continue to push their creative comfort zone, and expand their development as artists and performers. "We just want the sound of the band to continue to grow and broaden." says lead vocalist / guitarist Starr. Not ones to rest on their laurels, the band continues down their path of global success while looking for inspiration from the likes of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, using the evolution of those two mega-groups and their respective journeys as role models for keeping things fresh and exciting for their fans.

Look for Blackberry Smoke to drop a few somewhat "heavy" tracks into their set list, which will certainly be welcomed by their Friday-night fans in Western North Carolina. When asked about Like An Arrow, Starr even made a comparison of their recent work to Black Sabbath. Woah. Sounds like Asheville is in for quite a treat this time around.

PURCHASE TICKETS

Blackberry Smoke 2016-02-05 (Asheville, NC)Blackberry Smoke 2016-02-05 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock

 

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Blackberry Smoke Thomas Wolfe Auditorium artist band concert concertpreview event live music performance photo preview rock and roll southern rock tour http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/concert-preview-blackberry-smoke-asheville-nc-february-3-2017 Wed, 25 Jan 2017 20:44:00 GMT
Concert Preview: Son Volt - The Grey Eagle (Asheville, NC - March 14, 2017) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/concert-preview-son-volt-the-grey-eagle-asheville-nc-march-14-2017 CONCERT:  Son Volt

Venue:  The Grey Eagle, Asheville, NC

Date:  Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Artist's Website: www.sonvolt.net  

Preview by: David Simchock

Son Volt - Orange Peel 2013-04-11 (Asheville)Son Volt - Orange Peel 2013-04-11 (Asheville)© Copyright David J. Simchock<br/>www.DavidSimchock.com It's been nearly four years since Son Volt passed through Asheville, delivering a solid performance at The Orange Peel back in April of 2013. This time around, the band is switching venue gears a bit, and will be gracing the stage at the more-intimate cross-town music hall, The Grey Eagle. With a capacity of half of what The Peel holds, this is guaranteed to present a totally different atmosphere for band leader Jay Farrar and his compatriots, not to mention their fans.

Son Volt's next studio album, Notes Of Blue, will be released on February 17th, giving everyone about a month to warm up to their new material. The album can be pre-ordered HERE. Says Farrar of the latest effort...

“For years I’ve been drawn to the passion, common struggle and possibility for redemption that’s always been a part of the blues. Everyone has to pay the rent and get along with their significant others, so many of the themes are universal. For me, the blues fills that void that's there for religion, really. That's the place I turn to be lifted up.”

Sounds to us like renowned vibe of The Grey Eagle will be a perfect match for Farrar's interpretation of the blues, not to mention everything else he and the band have added to their repertoire over the years.

At the time of this writing, tickets are still available (surprisingly!). No doubt, this will be a sold-out show, so fans would be wise to secure their tickets sooner rather than later. Who knows when we'll again get such a special opportunity to see such a special band in such a special venue?

PURCHASE TICKETS

Son Volt - Orange Peel 2013-04-11 (Asheville)Son Volt - Orange Peel 2013-04-11 (Asheville)© Copyright David J. Simchock<br/>www.DavidSimchock.com

 

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Jay Farrar Son Volt The Grey Eagle artist band concert concertpreview event live music performance photo preview tour http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/concert-preview-son-volt-the-grey-eagle-asheville-nc-march-14-2017 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 14:36:44 GMT
Back Stage Pass: Billy Strings (Asheville, January 12, 2017) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/back-stage-pass-billy-strings-asheville-january-12-2017 After a solid hour of live-streaming a performance for iamavl's Echo Sessions, Billy "Strings" Apostol kicks back in the control room of Echo Mountain Recording Studios (Asheville, NC) to catch the replay of the session. This intimate event would prove to be just a warm-up to what was to come the following night when Billy and his band opened for The Infamous Stringdusters at the Orange Peel. Click here and here for Foto Focus write-ups and photo galleries of both show.

See more photos of the Billy Strings Echo Sessions HERE.

Billy Strings 2017-01-12 (Asheville, NC)Billy Strings 2017-01-12 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Billy Strings Echo Mountain Recording Studios Echo Sessions Infamous Stringdusters Josh Blake William Apostol artist back stage backstagepass band bluegrass concert event iamavl jam band live music music photography performance photo photography http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/back-stage-pass-billy-strings-asheville-january-12-2017 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 01:39:44 GMT
Foto Focus: Infamous Stringdusters (January 13, 2017) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/foto-focus-infamous-stringdusters-january-13-2017 ARTIST:  The Infamous Stringdusters

VENUE:  The Orange Peel - Asheville, NC

DATE:  January 13, 2017

Photos By:  David Simchock

Just because it's January in the mountains doesn't mean that things aren't going to heat up at The Orange Peel. I mean this in the figurative sense, of course, but the 60-degree weather we've been having gave cause for the The Peel management to keep the Big-ass Fan humming throughout this winter evening, helping to cool things off in the room but not on the stage. Though it's been a while since I caught an Infamous Stringdusters show at The Peel, I did catch their show at Pisgah Brewing Company a few months back. and I was excited to catch them again on the day of the release of their latest album, Laws Of Gravity.

Nonetheless, I was looking forward to covering my first big-ish show of 2017, and what better way to kick things than a two-set energy-infused bluegrass jam with such a talented bunch of fellas? And, not only was the capacity crowd given their money's worth from the band, but they had a couple of guests join in for a couple of songs (Jon Stickley and Billy "Strings" Apostol) for a mind-blowing jam coined "Guitarmageddon". Woah. Acoustic guitar picking doesn't get much better than this! 

From a photography perspective, the Stringdusters are always fun to shoot. Never ones to stand still for too long, their habits of playing off each other makes for endless photo ops. I do find the five mic stands to be a challenge when attempting to compose unobstructed shots, but that only adds to the satisfaction when I pull off a full band shot, with nothing major blocking the band members (see below). Props go out to their Lighting Designer/Director, who keeps it mixed up and colorful for the entire show.

CHECK OUT THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE
The Infamous Stringdusters 2017-01-13 (Asheville, NC)The Infamous Stringdusters 2017-01-13 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock

 

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Billy Strings Infamous Stringdusters Jon Stickley The Orange Peel artist band concert event folk fotofocus jam band', music,live, music, performance, photo, photography http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/foto-focus-infamous-stringdusters-january-13-2017 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 01:01:13 GMT
Foto Focus: Billy Strings (January 13, 2016) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/foto-focus-billy-strings-january-13-2016 ARTIST:  Billy Strings

VENUE:  The Orange Peel - Asheville, NC

DATE:  January 13, 2016

Photos By:  David Simchock

Every now and then I head to a show where I'm as excited as covering the opening act as I am the headliner. Friday night at The Orange Peel in Asheville was one of those gigs. I've been hearing about Billy Strings (William Apostol) for a few months now, and nearly caught he and his band at the LEAF Festival back in October, but I wasn't expecting to get a double dose of him this week, first with his iamavl Echo Sessions event on Thursday, and then his opening for the Infamous Stringdusters on Friday. Having had a preview on Thursday of what was to come Friday, I knew I was in for a treat even before the Stringdusters took the stage. Bluegrass and jam band fans alike should keep an eye on this "kid". Not only can he play a guitar that exceeds the expectations of his nickname, but he's got the vocals to match. 

CHECK OUT THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE
 

Billy Strings 2017-01-13 (Asheville, NC)Billy Strings 2017-01-13 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Billy Strings Infamous Stringdusters The Orange Peel William Apostol artist band concert event folk fotofocus iamavl live music music photography performance photo photography http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/foto-focus-billy-strings-january-13-2016 Thu, 19 Jan 2017 00:37:42 GMT
Concert Preview: The Infamous Stringdusters - The Orange Peel (Asheville, NC - January 13, 2017) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/concert-preview-the-infamous-stringdusters-the-orange-peel-asheville-nc-january-13-2017 CONCERT:  The Infamous Stringdusters

Venue:  The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC

Date:  Friday, January 13, 2017

Artist's Website: www.thestringdusters.com  

Preview by: David Simchock

Friday evening (Jan. 13th) marks the return of The Infamous Stringdusters to The Orange Peel in Asheville. They last rolled through town at The Peel in late 2015 (click here for FRF photo gallery), and were in the area this past summer headlining at the Pisgah Brewing Company's outdoor stage (click here for FRF photo gallery).

Every Stringdusters' show is a treat, and there's no tellin' what they'll be serving up this time around. No doubt, we'll hear a few new tunes from their soon-to-be-released album, Laws Of Gravity (Compass Records), mixed in with a few crowd favorites, and maybe even a cover song or two.

Opening for the Stringdusters is rising bluegrass picker who goes by the name of Billy Strings. Strings, whose real name is William Apostol and originally hails from Michigan, now resides in Nashville and is quickly making a name for himself on the bluegrass and jam band circuit. Providing the intro to veterans such as the Infamous Stringdusters should prove to be a perfect complement of talent from start to finish.

With Appalachia now into a mid-winter and mid-week thaw after a cold and snowy first weekend of 2017, what better way to treat some cabin fever than to get out to The Orange Peel for a night of jammy bluegrass, and some serious Americana pickin' and grinnin'?

PURCHASE TICKETS

Infamous Stringdusters 2015-11-14 (Asheville, NC)Infamous Stringdusters 2015-11-14 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Billy Strings Infamous Stringdusters The Orange Peel artist band concert concertpreview event live music performance photo preview tour http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/concert-preview-the-infamous-stringdusters-the-orange-peel-asheville-nc-january-13-2017 Fri, 06 Jan 2017 23:07:00 GMT
Foto Focus: 2016 Concert and Festival Highlights by David Simchock http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/foto-focus-2016-concert-and-festival-highlights-by-david-simchock 2016 was quite a year in the Asheville, NC area, and Front Row Focus founder and lead photographer David Simchock was, once again, very actively covering the action. For the second year running, David was the house photographer at the popular Pisgah Brewing Company for their outdoor stage concert series. He also (finally) made it up to MerleFest for a couple of days, and continued his volunteer contribution to the LEAF Community Arts organization. David also spent a lot of time at the Echo Mountain Recording Studios in Downtown Asheville, documenting still photos for the iamavl Echo Sessions events.

Front Row Focus is proud to present a comprehensive photo gallery of David's work, capturing the energy of each performance, as well as the passion of the fans that attended them. Be on the lookout for a banner year in 2017, with more from the Asheville area, as well as a return to FloydFest in Virginia!

All photos © Copyright David Simchock


CHECK OUT THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE

My Morning Jacket 2016-10-27 (Asheville, NC)My Morning Jacket 2016-10-27 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock

 

 

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) 2016 Asheville Diana Wortham Theatre LEAF festival MerleFest WNC altamont theatre artist asheville music asheville music hall band concert concert photography echo mountain recording studios event festival photography fotofocus grey eagle iamavl isis restaurant and music hall live music music photography new mountain asheville orange peel performance photo photo highlight photography pisgah brewing company recording thomas wolfe auditorium us cellular center asheville http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2017/1/foto-focus-2016-concert-and-festival-highlights-by-david-simchock Sun, 01 Jan 2017 20:38:00 GMT
Festival Review: Warren Haynes Christmas Jam 28 (December 2016) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/12/festival-review-warren-haynes-christmas-jam-28-december-2016 FESTIVAL:  Warren Haynes Christmas Jam 28

VENUE:  US Cellular Center - Asheville, NC

DATE:  December 10, 2016

Review By:  Beth Baldino

Photos By:  David Simchock
 

Warren Haynes w/ Gov't Mule - 2016 Warren Haynes Xmas Jam (Asheville, NC)Warren Haynes w/ Gov't Mule - 2016 Warren Haynes Xmas Jam (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock There’s a sort of unofficial kick-off to the holiday season in western North Carolina, at least for die-hard music lovers in these parts.  It’s an annual musical extravaganza hosted by renowned guitarist and Asheville native, Warren Haynes, equally beloved as longtime guitarist with The Allman Brothers Band, founding member of the band Gov't Mule, and now most generous and dedicated coordinator of this blow-out charity event, Christmas Jam.  All proceeds from this musical extravaganza, which involves pre-parties all weekend at venues around town, go to the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

The 28th Christmas Jam was held at the US Cellular Center in Asheville, North Carolina, on December 10th. Holly Bowling, a classically trained pianist known for reinterpreting the tunes of Phish and Grateful Dead as fully developed classical pieces, served as the closest thing to a master of ceremonies for the evening. She was the first to perform and then continued to entertain the delighted crowd between sets with her tributes to jam-band luminaries.

With no introduction needed, Haynes got up next, making the first of his multiple appearances by sharing solo renditions of “The Real Thing,” and “And It Stoned Me.” From there, the evening brought an impressive showcase of incredibly-talented, highly-respected musical masters, collaborating in various configurations, well into the wee hours of the morning.  

Following Haynes’s solo intro, Multiple-Grammy nominee, Jamey Johnson, joined the winner of 27 Grammy awards, Alison Krauss. The two are frequent collaborators and one can see why; his deep husky voice the perfect complement to her angelic soprano. Their set featured a collection of country/bluegrass ballads including “High Cost of Living,” and “When You Say Nothing At All.”  These two singing the old-school romantic number to each other, “Make the World Go Away,” was both a highlight and quite timely a plea for some relief in what some perceive to be dark times.

George Porter, Jr. (& Friends) - 2016 Warren Haynes Xmas Jam (AsGeorge Porter, Jr. (& Friends) - 2016 Warren Haynes Xmas Jam (As© Copyright David Simchock Next up, Funky Meters’ bassist, George Porter, Jr., joined forces with Eric Krasno, Terence Higgins, Branford Marsalis and John Medeski to kick things into high gear with a super fun set of mostly Meters hits. This session ultimately pulled in the gifted young guitarist, Marcus King, just 20 years old and quickly becoming a Jam regular and favorite. Fulfilling Porter’s promise to keep it “disgustingly funky,” a smoking rendition of “Just Kissed My Baby” in which King and Porter traded lyrics, ensured that anyone in the venue who wasn’t already moving and grooving got up on their feet.

“Sugaree” ushered in a moment the audience was anxiously anticipating, as Bob Weir, most recognized as founding member of the Grateful Dead, joined Porter’s group to deafening cheers from the crowd.  Milking this number for all it’s worth, in typical jam fashion, there was time and space to bring a bluesy, sexy vibe to the classic tune. With Weir still on stage, this session wrapped up with “Iko Iko,” the old New Orleans tune that became a standard number in the Dead’s repertoire.  

Michael McDonald - 2016 Warren Haynes Xmas Jam (Asheville, NC)Michael McDonald - 2016 Warren Haynes Xmas Jam (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock Michael McDonald began his set with some commentary referencing to the challenging political season we’d just survived, with a call for equality and peace which segued perfectly into “Marching on the Freedom Highway” by the Staples Singers. Higgins and Medeski stayed for this set and Audley Freed and Don Was joined in. Doobie Brothers favorites covered included, “I Keep Forgettin’,” “What A Fool Believes” and “Taking It To the Streets.”

Up next, Weir led a group composed of guitarist Steve Kimock, drummer Duane Trucks, Was, Haynes, Bowling and Marsalis. Weir sang “Easy to Slip” on acoustic guitar before dueting with Krauss on “Peggy-O”, the two of them on the same mic, to make a tender song even more touching. A couple of Weir’s Blue Mountain numbers ultimately led to several Dead favorites, including “He’s Gone,” “Eyes Of The World,” “Truckin’” and “Ripple.”
Alison Krauss w/ Bob Weir - 2016 Warren Haynes Xmas Jam (Asheville, NC)Alison Krauss w/ Bob Weir - 2016 Warren Haynes Xmas Jam (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David Simchock
In honor of the 40th anniversary of The Last Waltz (The Band’s 1976 farewell concert in San Francisco) Haynes was joined by  Medeski, McDonald, Was, Higgins, Johnson, Krauss and a horn section, on renditions of “Up On Cripple Creek,” “The Shape I’m In,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “Ophelia” and “It Makes No Difference.” Weir guested on “The Weight” and former Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin (a participant in the actual Last Waltz) contributed to “Mannish Boy” and “Further On Up the Road,” along with harmonica player Smoky Greenwell. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” brought an end to this powerful set.

Following Christmas Jam tradition, Warren Haynes, along with Gov’t Mule, closed out the evening, at which point everyone who’d performed over the course of the event made an appearance and additional musicians including Rocky Lindsley, Mike Barnes, Jeff Sipe, Paul Riddle, and Tony Coleman joined in. Those hearty souls still in the house at nearly 3:00 AM, rocked out to “Mountain Jam” before reluctantly calling it a night.
The Last Waltz Band - 2016 Warren Haynes Xmas Jam (Asheville, NCThe Last Waltz Band - 2016 Warren Haynes Xmas Jam (Asheville, NC© Copyright David Simchock

 

CHRISTMAS JAM PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS HERE

CHRISTMAS JAM ARTIST PHOTO GALLERIES HERE

 

 

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Alison Krauss Asheville Bob Weir Branford Marsalis Christmas Jam David Simchock Photography Don Was Eric Krasno George Porter Govt Mule Habitat for Humanity Holly Bowling Jamey Johnson Jeff Sipe John Medesky Marcus King Michael McDonald The Last Waltz Band Warren Haynes Xmas Jam artist band charity concert event festival festivalreview fund raiser live music music photography performance photo photography review http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/12/festival-review-warren-haynes-christmas-jam-28-december-2016 Wed, 28 Dec 2016 05:38:00 GMT
Foto Focus: My Morning Jacket (October 27, 2016) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/11/foto-focus-my-morning-jacket-october-27-2016 ARTISTS:  My Morning Jacket

VENUE:  Thomas Wolfe Auditorium - Asheville, NC

DATE:  October 27, 2016

Photos By:  David Simchock

Okay, I admit that I was skeptical going into this show. Prior to this gig, I had never seen My Morning Jacket perform live, but I did see Jim James on his last solo tour when he passed through Asheville, and I just couldn't get into it.  Truth be told, I left the Orange Peel half-way through his set, long before he apparently got into some acoustic MMJ material (which I always love hearing on various Pandora stations). So, my expectations weren't very high as I walked into the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and found my way to the photo pit.

Lo and behold, by the time I finally left the venue, I was buzzing like everyone else as I had just seen one of the most memorable shows of 2016 in Asheville. Not only was it a fantastic production of music, but it was also a fun show to photograph. I hope that the energy of Jim James and band comes through in these photos. It was quite a show, and I now look forward to seeing MMJ again in 2017.

CHECK OUT THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE
 

My Morning Jacket 2016-10-27 (Asheville, NC)My Morning Jacket 2016-10-27 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock

 

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Jim James MMJ My Morning Jacket Thomas Wolfe Auditorium artist band concert event fotofocus jam band live music music photography performance photo photography rock and roll http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/11/foto-focus-my-morning-jacket-october-27-2016 Thu, 03 Nov 2016 01:36:00 GMT
Foto Focus: Greensky Bluegrass (September 29, 2016) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/10/foto-focus-greensky-bluegrass-september-29-2016 ARTIST:  Greensky Bluegrass

VENUE:  Pisgah Brewing Company - Black Mountain, NC

DATE:  September 29, 2016

Photos By:  David Simchock

There's nothing like an early start to the weekend with a Thursday night jam session at the outdoor stage at Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain. Just because the summer officially came to an end a few days ago, doesn't mean that the summer's live music vibe is over.  And, what better way to jam than with a band like Greensky Bluegrass? Better yet, how about opening the evening with Larry Keel?

CHECK OUT THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE
 

Greensky Bluegrass 2016-09-29 (Pisgah Brewing, NC)Greensky Bluegrass 2016-09-29 (Pisgah Brewing, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Greensky Bluegrass Larry Keel Pisgah Brewing Company artist band bluegrass concert event fotofocus jam jam band jam grass live music music photography performance photo photography http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/10/foto-focus-greensky-bluegrass-september-29-2016 Sat, 01 Oct 2016 21:28:00 GMT
Concert Review: Michael McDonald (August 16, 2016) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/9/concert-review-michael-mcdonald-august-16-2016 ARTIST:  Michael McDonald

VENUE:  Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

DATE:  August 16, 2016

Review & Photos By:  David Simchock

Michael McDonald 2016-08-16 (Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC)Michael McDonald 2016-08-16 (Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock It could not have been a more beautiful evening in the Blue Ridge Mountains as the annual Biltmore Concert Series presented a mid-August split-bill featuring Michael McDonald, followed by Boz Scaggs -- two 1970's music icons who have managed to maintain a loyal following over the years. Mother Nature was more than happy to cooperate with the 3,000 or so folks who made their way to the outdoor stage on the South Terrace of the world-famous Biltmore House as she delivered a stunning cloud-infused sunset as Michael McDonald finished up his opening set.

Of course, even with this colorful bonus, the evening remained all about the music. Though I would have personally thought (and hoped) that McDonald would be placed in the second slot for the evening, he settled in during daylight taking center stage behind his keyboard to pave the way for his long-time peer, Boz Scaggs.  Though I was initially told that McDonalds set would be a mere 30 minutes long, this proved to be false info as he entertained the Asheville crowd for at least an hour.

As expected, McDonald's repertoire of hits spread across both his solo career and his stint with the Doobie Brothers. Until you see him in concert, McDonald is one of those artists who you often forget had so many big hits. Though I have been a fan of his work since his days with the Doobies, I didn't remember how many popular songs he has put out over the years, all of which were included in this special Biltmore performance.

Michael McDonald 2016-08-16 (Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC)Michael McDonald 2016-08-16 (Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC)Michael McDonald
16 August 2016
Biltmore Estate
Asheville, NC

© Copyright David J. Simchock
The set list included solo hits such as  "Sweet Freedom" and "Keep Forgettin'", and also tapped into his Doobie Brothers catalog with "Here To Love You", "Minute By Minute" and "What A Fool Believes", as well as some older songs like the funky version of "It Keeps You Runnin'" and the final encore, the much-anticipated "Takin' It To The Streets". McDonald also peppered the set list with a few notable covers, including Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through The Grapevine" and his sentimental call for more peace and love in this world with Burt Bacherach's "What The World Needs Now Is Love".

Though I was a little disappointed that McDonald wasn't given the top slot for the evening, I left the venue more than pleased with his show, reminiscing about singing along to many of his songs in the 1970s and 80s. Whether your a fan of his unique, raspy voice or not, it was in perfect form, and he had a solid band to back him along the way. I wasn't able to attend any of the other Concert Series shows this summer at the Biltmore Estate, but I'm glad that I was able to make this one. Now, to see what the folks at the Biltmore (and Mother Nature) have in store for us in 2017.

Blue Ridge Sunset 2016-08-16 (Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC)Blue Ridge Sunset 2016-08-16 (Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock

 

CHECK OUT THE MICHAEL McDONALD PHOTO GALLERY HERE
 

 

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Biltmore Concert Series Biltmore Estate Boz Scaggs Doobie Brothers Michael McDonald North Carolina artist band concert concertreview event grunge keyboardist live music music photography performance photo photography singer http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/9/concert-review-michael-mcdonald-august-16-2016 Thu, 01 Sep 2016 17:08:00 GMT
Foto Focus: Michael Franti and Spearhead (July 20, 2016) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/8/foto-focus-michael-franti-and-spearhead-july-20-2016 ARTIST:  Michael Franti & Spearhead

VENUE:  Pisgah Brewing Company - Black Mountain, NC

DATE:  July 20, 2016

Photos By:  David J. Simchock

Though the line-up at Pisgah Brewing's outdoor stage seems to get better and better each summer, I don't think the venue has ever seen or felt the energy that Michael Franti & Spearhead brought to Black Mountain on this evening. Not only did Franti provide the high-energy and love-filled performance that he has become known for the world over, but he and his crew were very kind to the media photographers on hand, allowing them to photograph the entire show. Woah. This was a concert photographer's dream come true. Of course, Front Row Focus founder and lead photographer, David Simchock, was on hand to capture the electricity of the evening, from start to finish.  
 

CHECK OUT THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE
 

Michael Franti & SpearheadMichael Franti & Spearhead© Copyright David J. Simchock

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Michael Franti Pisgah Brewing Company Spearhead artist band concert event fotofocus live music music photography performance photo photography http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/8/foto-focus-michael-franti-and-spearhead-july-20-2016 Wed, 03 Aug 2016 17:31:00 GMT
Foto Focus: Infamous Stringdusters (June 4, 2016) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/6/foto-focus-infamous-stringdusters-june-4-2016 ARTIST:  Infamous Stringdusters

VENUE:  Pisgah Brewing Company - Black Mountain, NC

DATE:  June 4, 2016

Photos By:  David J. Simchock

The Infamous Stringdusters rolled into Black Mountain, NC on Saturday night filling the middle slot of a triple-header evening. Keller Williams opened up the night with an entertaining solo performance, and after the 'dusters finished their main set, he joined them for a full set of Grateful Grass. It was yet another night of music where I left the venue in awe, immensely grateful for live music scene in Western North Carolina.  
 

CHECK OUT THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE

Infamous Stringdusters 2016-06-04 (Pisgah Brewing, NC)Infamous Stringdusters 2016-06-04 (Pisgah Brewing, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock

 

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Infamous Stringdusters Pisgah Brewing Company artist band bluegrass concert event fotofocus jam jam band jam grass live music music photography performance photo photography http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/6/foto-focus-infamous-stringdusters-june-4-2016 Wed, 15 Jun 2016 21:28:00 GMT
Back Stage Pass: Infamous Stringdusters (Pisgah Brewing, June 4, 2016) http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/6/back-stage-pass-infamous-stringdusters-pisgah-brewing-june-4-2016 Travis Book of The Infamous Stringdusters stands tall behind his upright bass as he and his bandmates casually limber up back-stage for their show at Pisgah Brewing Company

For more photos from the show, including more from back-stage, CLICK HERE.  

 

Infamous Stringdusters 2016-06-04 (Pisgah Brewing, NC)Infamous Stringdusters 2016-06-04 (Pisgah Brewing, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock

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david@frontrowfocus.com (Front Row Focus) Asheville Infamous Stringdusters Pisgah Brewing Company Travis Book artist back stage backstagepass band banjo bluegress concert event fiddle green room guitar live music music photography performance photo photography violin http://www.frontrowfocus.com/blog/2016/6/back-stage-pass-infamous-stringdusters-pisgah-brewing-june-4-2016 Sat, 11 Jun 2016 17:46:00 GMT