The seven can’t-miss sets of the Fayetteville Roots Festival

August 27th, 2015 at 9:17 am

Happy Roots Festival opening day!

In my research for this year’s Fayetteville Roots Fest — which begins today! — I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the artists coming this way between now and Sunday (Aug. 30).

I’ve tried to rank seven of the best sets. That’s an arbitrary number, necessitated because I didn’t have time to just rank whole dang lineup. It also means that several great acts didn’t make the cut. I promise you now I’ll see far more than seven sets, and that there will be far more than seven excellent sets delivered during the festival.

These are the ones that — and this is a matter of personal preference here — have the most potential.

Below, you’ll find them ranged from my seventh-most anticipated set at the top to my most-anticipated set at the bottom. Feel free to send along your list.

7) Shook Twins, midnight Saturday (the midnight at comes just after 11:59 p.m. Friday), George’s Majestic Lounge

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The Shook Twins perform “Awhile.”

The Shook Twins, who are indeed twin sisters, are innovators of their field, and I feel like they’ll really make George’s move during a late night set.

6 Pokey LaFarge, 10:45 p.m. Saturday, George’s Majestic Lounge

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Pokey LaFarge performs “Drinkin’ Whiskey Tonight”

I watched Pokey LaFarge at a previous late-night Roots Fest set at George’s. He does not disappoint. He’s got a throwback sound. Recommended if you like gangster movies, whiskey neat or dancing.

5) John Fullbright, 8 p.m. Thursday, Garner Farm (or if you’re not lucky enough to have VIP tickets, 7:45 p.m. Friday on the Town Center Main Stage)

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John Fullbright performs “Gawd Above.”

J.D. McPherson, who follows John Fullbright on the Town Center Main Stage, better look out. The last time Fullbright immediately preceded the headlining act on the Roots Fest main stage, he blew everyone away. Fullbright is talented, young and skilled on many instruments.

4) J.D. McPherson, 9 p.m., Friday Town Center Main Stage

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J.D. McPherson performs “Let the Good Times Roll”

I also think J.D. McPherson can hold his own. Above, he’s on Letterman. Letterman knows music, and he liked this one, you can tell.

3) John Moreland, 3 p.m. Friday, Town Center Main Stage

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John Moreland performs “Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars”

John Moreland released one of the saddest albums of the year when he released “High on Tulsa Heat.” I saw him live in Fayetteville about three years ago. I’m excited to see him again now that I’ve spent more time listening to his recorded material.

2) Watkins Family Hour, 8:15 p.m. Sunday, Town Center Main Stage

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Watkins Family Hour covers Ella Fitzgerald’s “When I Get Low I Get High” (featuring Fiona Apple on vocals)

I don’t know what will happen here, and that’s a big part of the excitement. The Watkins Family Hour is a collection of grade-A players, helmed by brothers and sisters Sean and Sara Watkins. And, you guys, Fiona Apple is going to be there. We’ve been promised other special guests, too – get ready for something special.

1) Punch Brothers, 9 p.m. Saturday, Town Center Main Stage

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The Punch Brothers cover Radiohead’s “Kid A” at Yonder’s Harvest Festival Near Ozark

The last time I saw the Punch Brothers live, I declared them my favorite concert of the year. They are excellent players, wildly inventive and fun. I’m so excited to have them back in town.

A Sunday Funday — Roots Festival bulks up final day programming

August 26th, 2015 at 11:47 am

The Punch Brothers

The Punch Brothers

I know I’m guilty of taking the Fayetteville Roots Festival for granted. I know you might, too.

I just know that on Friday (Aug. 28), I’m going to walk out of my apartment and walk to the many stages offered by the annual festival, returning this year to the Fayetteville Town Center. I don’t have to drive, except for to Thursday (Aug. 27)’s preview party at the Garner Farm.

Our local venues such as the Town Center, George’s Majestic Lounge and Maxine’s Tap Room are stuffed with Americana acts.

It’s all right here.

Meanwhile other people must — and do — make the drive into our fair city, which, as if on cue, just shed about 10 degrees and feels amazing. Visitors from more than 20 states will make the trip to Fayetteville. This festival, increasingly, is a draw for those outside our immediate market.

And tickets sold accordingly.

Tickets for the Friday (Aug. 28) and Saturday (Aug. 29) events quickly sold out, as did a four-day package that included the VIP preview party.

Only a few tickets remain for Sunday (Aug. 30), and that’s a brand new offering for the festival, something that only stands to grow in popularity, too. I recently spoke with festival co-founder Bryan Hembree — also a member of Roots Fest band Smokey & The Mirror — about the expansion and what to expect on Sunday. He also talked about assembling the lineup for the festival, which includes The Punch Brothers, Watkins Family Hour and J.D. McPherson, among many others.

Take a look at my preview of the Roots Festival. It published last Friday in What’s Up!, the entertainment section for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

For other details on the festival, such as getting yourself Sunday night tickets, visit the Roots Fest website.

See you at the festival.

Soon in tunes: Hard Working Americans, Aug. 26 at George’s

August 25th, 2015 at 1:31 pm

The Hard Working Americans photo by Jay Blakesberg

The Hard Working Americans photo by Jay Blakesberg

The Fayetteville Roots Festival officially kicks off on Wednesday (Aug. 26) with a freshly added show the four-day festival passes don’t cover — that would be a fifth day. The 8:30 p.m. show involves the Americana supergroup Hard Working Americans, which includes members Todd Snider, Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), Neal Casal (The Cardinals) and more. Turbo Fruits will open the show. Admission is $20, and tickets are available through (Photo by Jay Blakesberg)

Concert review: Hank Williams Jr., Aug. 22 at the AMP

August 23rd, 2015 at 9:32 am

Hank Williams live at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on Aug. 22. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Hank Williams live at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on Aug. 22. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Hank Williams Jr. does not care what you think. He does not care for your opinions. He does not care for fools. He cares greatly about two things: His country and Hank Williams Jr., or Bocephus, as he would often call himself during a wild concert on Saturday (Aug. 22) at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers.

One of his songs, “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down),” a No. 1 country hit in 1981, talks about how so many of those he once counted on to party are no longer up to the task. Now 34 years removed from the release of that song, Hank Jr. is 66 years and just as rowdy as ever. He’s alternately cantankerous, charming, lewd and befuddling. He’s part guitar slinger, part carnival barker. And, yes, entertaining.

Some performers stuff a few decades worth of material into a concert. Hank Jr. went even a step beyond, dipping frequently into the catalog of his father, the late great Hank Williams. The concert was pushed forward by 30 minute to accommodate Hank’s set and a 75-minute output from openers .38 Special. This was a lengthy night of music.

Tributes and homages were a big part of the night — he covered songs by some of his outlaw Southern rock contemporaries, including a two-song block of Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes. He cycled through riffs of familiar songs, and he led on guitar. He’s a heck of a guitar player.

Hank WilliamsWEB001

Just as important to the proceedings before a packed house at the AMP were Williams’ pronouncements. He talked about his country, and he briefly mentioned the recently re-embattled Confederate flag. He didn’t need to talk about it much — it got a spot stage right immediately after .38 Special left the stage to make way for Bocephus’ headlining set, long before .38 Special’s equipment was hustled off the stage. More than one fan wore a Confederate flag as a scarf/cape. You could even buy one with Hank Jr.’s logo — a Phoenix in the middle of the X, along with Hank Jr.’s name. There’s a message there, if you didn’t already hear it yelled out from the stage.

Something of a singing preacher, he whipped the crowd into a frenzy. He preached to the choir, literally and figuratively. The crowd roared several of his songs back at him, especially when he slowed down the pace long enough to allow a song to gain momentum. The “turning your microphone and letting the crowd sing” tactic is overused and often ineffective. But it’s specifically designed for songs such as “Family Tradition,” with its built-in call-and-response section. The crowd indeed accused Hank Williams Jr. that his actions were a result of his continuing efforts to “get drunk, get high and get laid.” He denied none of it. At the same time, he also flashed images of him sitting on his father’s lap on the video board behind him. There’s humanity somewhere in there, too.

The performer’s costume changes consisted of wearing different hats. He started and ended the evening wearing one with big block text reading “ICON.”

If you’re not sure what he’s an Icon of, he’ll gladly tell you. He told everyone last night many times.

A note about the openers:

.38 Special

.38 Special

.38 Special has a lengthy history of their own. They carved out a 75-minute set, which included an encore — a curious move considering Hank Williams Jr. and his band didn’t use one. The band’s set was divided into three sections — the rocking opener “Rockin’ Into The Night,” a lull for the midsection and the surprisingly rowdy encore, which included the hit song “Hold On Loosely” and as-of-yet unused dry ice machines and flashing lights to simulate thunder. Where those gadgets were during the middle part of their set, I have no idea.

I arrived late into Whiskey Myers’ 40-minute set. The last 10 of those minutes were dedicated to a lengthy jam session. I probably ought to give them a listen.

A heavy load of rock: Diarrhea Planet, Aug. 22 at The Lightbulb Club

August 21st, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Diarrhea Planet

Diarrhea Planet

Presented with the idea that concert fans in Northwest Arkansas had a choice between seeing his band and seeing Hank Williams Jr., Jordan Smith, frontman for Diarrhea Planet, laughed.

If you want to see someone younger than 60, the the six punk-loving rockers in Diarrhea Planet are the clear choice. If you want four of those people to play behind their backs, thrash about the stage and rawk, Diarrhea Planet is also the choice.

If you want country music, well, pick Hank Jr., he says.

Smith says he enjoys Hank Jr., actually. He also likes Bruce Springsteen and Melissa Ethridge. And a host of other acts. His rock band is an amalgamation of many, and those influences are showing up on the band’s new record. The band isn’t quite ready to announce all the details just yet. They’ll start recording next month.

But for now, the boys are touring hard behind the 2013 album “I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams,” including a stop Saturday (Aug. 22) at The Lightbulb Club in Fayetteville. Teenagers also performs.

Smith talked to me about the band, his fascination with funny phrases and telling jokes in serious situations. You can read the resulting story in today’s What’s Up! section, available on newsstands everywhere or online.

Admission to the show is $8. It starts at 10 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Block Street Records.

A family tradition: Hank Williams Jr., Aug. 22 at the AMP

August 21st, 2015 at 10:43 am

Hank Williams Jr.

Hank Williams Jr.

Hank Williams Jr. has his ways.

He makes sure his touring doesn’t interfere with hunting or fishing. He writes songs his way. Basically, he does what he wants.

And on Saturday (Aug. 22), he’s planning on a stop at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers. He’ll be joined by .38 Special and also Whiskey Myers.

In an email Q&A, Williams shared some insights about his famous family, his hunting schedule and his new recoding project on Nash Icon Records. The story appears in today’s What’s Up! section, offered as part of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. You can read the story in any Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or find it online.

Tickets are still available for Saturday’s show. Lawn seats are $41.

The weekend in live music, with Carry Illinois and more

August 21st, 2015 at 5:03 am

Carry Illinois

Carry Illinois

As you probably noticed, Fayetteville is changing.

It takes longer to get across town. It’s harder to get a table at a restaurant. Confused people are wandering all about town.

It means one thing — students are back in session (or will be very soon).

As jolting as those changes are, it’s also one of the most fun times of the year. The students provide a very distinct energy, and the crisp mornings are inspiring.

So enjoy Fayetteville. Or enjoy wherever you are.

And go see some live music — that’s a great way to enjoy the surroundings.

Here are some things to check out this weekend:

Vocalist Lizzie Lehman credits a chance meeting with Peter Yarrow — of Peter, Paul & Mary fame — with starting her down her current musical path. He suggested the Oregon-by-way-of-Illinois songwriter try Texas instead. She got involved with a band named The Blackwells — they played at the Fayetteville Roots Festival a few years back — but formed Carry Illinois when her previous group disbanded. She returns to the area for a show on Saturday (Aug. 22) at Nomad’s Music Lounge in Fayetteville. The show begins at 8 p.m. Lost John also performs.

Looking for something else?

Pianist and vocalist Michael McDonald was a member of two prominent classic rock acts — Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers — and later launched a solo career. He’s earned five Grammy wins and several other nominations during his career. McDonald’s current tour brings him to Downstream Casino in Quapaw, Okla., just west of Joplin, Mo., for a show tonight (Aug. 21). Admission is $25-$45, and tickets are available via

Other notable shows this weekend include Diarrhea Planet at The Lightbulb Club and Hank Williams Jr. at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. Both take place Saturday. More on both in a bit.

What’s on your live music agenda for the weekend?

Soon in tunes: Boom Kinetic, Aug. 20 at Powerhouse

August 19th, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Boom! Kinetic

Boom! Kinetic

Party pop band Boom Kinetic performs around the region, but the musicians have a hometown gig scheduled soon. The band, which cites MGMT, Michael Jackson and The Killers among its influences, takes the stage for Powerhouse’s Party on the Patio at 8 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 20). There’s a $5 cover charge.

Soon in tunes: heRobust, Aug. 20 at George’s

August 18th, 2015 at 8:53 am



Hayden Kramer, better known as heRobust, visits George’s Majestic Lounge for a Thursday night show. The producer from Atlanta claims his genre(s) as “beats/electronica/bass.” His set begins at 9 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 20). Admission is $10, and tickets are available through

Concert review: Whitesnake, Aug. 15 at the Walmart AMP

August 16th, 2015 at 11:49 am

Whitesnake 2014

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette could not reach contractual terms with Whitesnake for a photo pass. These photography by Ash Newell are courtesy of the band.

Among the many things it is, there’s one thing that hair metal is certainly not — subtle.

Not more than 30 seconds arriving on stage with his bandmates in Whitesnake, lead singer and founder David Coverdale put his microphone stand between his legs and shimmied a bit.

That should have been suggestive enough, but enough isn’t in the genre’s vocabulary, so late in the show he dropped any pretenses and grabbed his crotch. He’s 63.

Coverdale wore three shirts during the course of his band’s 95 minute show at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on Saturday (Aug. 15). Each of them had the word Whitesnake on it somewhere. The most brazen was the one he wore for the last third of the show, and it contained the phrase “Make some [curse word] noise!” on the back. Two other members of the band wore Whitesnake-branded shirts, too. The band members jumped around on stage during “The Purple Tour,” a homage to the three-year period when Coverdale was the lead vocalist for Deep Purple. Fittingly, and continuing the lack-of-subtlety theme — the sparse stage was bathed in purple lights. One of the band’s guitarists played a guitar covered in purple sequins. You get the idea.

Whitesnake and bands like them reveled in excesses, and that culture was promoted at the AMP, where about 4,500 people showed up on a nice evening. Coverdale, when he drank a cold beverage late in the evening, drank from a fluted glass of some sort. No red solo cups here.

Whitesnake 2014

Whitesnake 2014

For the high schlock value — and high doses of onstage preening — Coverdale also let his band do the work. Particularly, he turned dueling guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra loose at any occasion, and wisely so. Both played flashily, but with gusto, and both employed some high-level harmonics. The guys could sling it, and they did, trading time on an extended guitar solo the other band members cleared the stage for. Brief solos accompanied almost every song.

The band also helped him with vocals. Coverdale famously had a skyscraper of a voice, and he’s lost some of the momentum in the high registers. That classic high scream common in similar bands — think Deep Purple and Def Leppard — is not an easy one to maintain in later years, and Coverdale is not an exception. But the band has altered the songs slightly to more closely fit his current vocal range. He can still scream, and he did so frequently and impressively.

Coverdale and company performed five Deep Purple songs from the new “The Purple Album,” none more impressively than “Mistreated.” Opening act The Dead Daisies got in on the action, too, performing a cover of the early Deep Purple hit “Hush,” itself a cover of a Joe South/Billie Joe Royal song. In short, it helped if you like Deep Purple.

The crowd responded well to those songs, but not like they did for the three songs Whitesnake would drop among its last four, the hits “Is This Love,” “Here I Go Again” and “Still of the Night.” I had just as much fun watching Coverdale on stage as I did watch the crowd around me, headbanging or making out or dancing in the aisles.

It’s Whitesnake — you go big, because the band will, too.

A note about the opener: The Dead Daises are a supergroup featuring a host of musicians from bands of the same era as Whitesnake. They had the necessary credentials, in terms of playing ability and the big hair and tight leather pants. They were loud, personality AND volume wise.