On the way: Fifth Harmony, July 24 at the Walmart AMP

April 27th, 2015 at 10:21 am

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Meghan Trainor, the star behind the mega-hit “All About That Bass,” also wrote “Sledgehammer” for girl group Fifth Harmony. The Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion has landed a July 24 concert by the pop quintet.

My commitment to not watching traditional television got the better of me this morning.

Because if I watched any at all, perhaps I would have heard of the girl group Fifth Harmony, a project that started on “The X Factor.” After forming there, the group has gone on to appear on many other programs, and their album “Reflection” cracked the Top 5 on Billboard’s 200 album chart earlier this year. The quintet, whose members range in age from 17 to 21, have also released an EP.

The group has announced dates for their summer tour, and the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion announced on their Facebook page that the venue in Rogers would be one of those stops. The event takes place July 24. According to the Facebook post announcing the event, opening acts will be Natalie LaRose, Debby Ryan & The Never Ending and Bea Miller. No other details have been released.

Concert review: Needtobreathe and more, April 24 at the AMP

April 25th, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Bear Rineheart of Needtobreathe, live in concert on April 24 at the Walmart AMP. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette.

Bear Rineheart of Needtobreathe, live in concert on April 24 at the Walmart AMP. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette.

More than one performer from the four-band package crossing the country as part of the Tour de Compadres mentioned the kind of familial friendship the tour name suggests while onstage Friday (April 24) at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. These are best friends, brothers from a different mother, we were told. That was evident in the tour’s composition itself, as Needtobreathe and Ben Rector have successfully toured together before (including an Oct. 2011 stop at the former Arkansas Music Pavilion location at the Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville).

Friday night’s season opener at the outdoor venue in Rogers captured some of that “nice guys having fun” feel. During the first song of Needtobreathe’s encore, for instance, every member of every other band (or almost every – it was hard to count) joined the headliners for a rendition of “Brother,” Needtobreathe’s current hit. But the sentiment runs deeper than the physical manifestation late in the evening. This was an evening filled with nice people singing songs about nice things, like pretty girls and God and picking yourself up after you’ve fallen down. At their best, those kind of songs conjure happy smiles, hand claps and singalongs. At their worst, that kind of material makes for pretty sappy stuff.

The crowd of perhaps 6,000 did more of the former, particularly with hometown hero Ben Rector, a University of Arkansas graduate now firmly ensconced in the pop music world, and Needtobreathe, a quartet from South Carolina that swelled to seven members when the touring musicians were added. The bulk of the crowd – themselves friendly and far less booze-soaked than many of the other assembled masses for AMP shows –  knew every word to every song.


Bo Rinehart of Needtobreathe


Needtobreathe focused on their most recent album, “Rivers in the Wasteland.” Lead singer Bear Rinehart told the audience during his introduction to the song “Wasteland” that the band went through a down period before releasing their 2014 album and the work buoyed their collective spirits. He failed to elaborate, but the song does co-opt its chorus from Romans 8:31, which talks about finding strength in God.

Needtobreathe pulls from a couple markets, including heavily from the contemporary Christian scene, where that ballad surely gets played on Sunday mornings. They also tap into the swaggering Southern rock of The Black Crowes – a particularly fitting comparison considering the strangely charismatic frontman with a lead guitarist brother present in both bands – and the Kings of Leon’s knack for hooks.

This was a very safe choice for the AMP, and the response to the bands on Friday night exceeded what was given to them three and a half years ago.

Ben Rector’s profile has only increased since his last appearance here, too. He once played every fraternity house he could find. Then he started playing sets at George’s. Now, he performs for large crowds wherever the tour takes him, be it with a band like Needtobreathe or on his own. Rector clearly reveled in his return to his adopted home (he’s a Tulsa, Oklahoma native). He talked fondly of his time here, and he was smart enough to rile up the crowd by telling them they were rowdier than the fans the night before in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a rival town courtesy of Southeast Conference affiliations and the University of Alabama. The Hog Call he led thundered through an otherwise clear evening, weather wise.

Ben Rector

Ben Rector

Rector said his song “Forever Like That” has been frequently used as a wedding song. In truth, the vast majority of the songs he played on Friday night fall into that category with their heartfelt look at love and fidelity.

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors fit the mold, too. In particular, Holcomb dedicated a song to his wife Ellie, who was once in the band with him. She can’t be on the road right now, because she’s at home taking care of their children, he told the crowd. He said he owed much to her as his muse, but he also owes some to Fleetwood Mac, whose harmonic pop songs influence his own. While onstage, Holcomb announced a return appearance for Fayetteville. He’s scheduled to perform in September at George’s Majestic Lounge.

Colony House opened the evening promptly at 7, I’m told, but with their 20-minute set and some prior obligations, I missed their performance entirely.

But if I had to guess what they sounded like without listening to their album, I can venture a guess. It’s the same thing I could have said about all the bands, or all the fans in the venue.

I bet they were nice.

Tonight in tunes: Marc Cohn at the Walton Arts Center

April 24th, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn

If you’re out walking in Fayetteville, and you walk in the direction of the Walton Arts Center tonight (April 24), you’ll find a concert featuring a songwriter Marc Cohn.

Best known for his hit (and Grammy-winning) song “Walking in Memphis,” Cohn brings his current tour to town for an 8 p.m. show.

My colleague Becca Martin-Brown interviewed Cohn recently, and you can read her story in today’s What’s Up! section, which published today in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is also available online.

Tickets range from $27-$47 and are available through the Walton Arts Center’s ticketing website.

The weekend in music, with Nicholas St. James and more

April 24th, 2015 at 5:03 am

Nicholas St. James

Nicholas St. James

Can I interest you in the weekend?

It’s heading here as we speak, and it’s the newest model available. Best of all, it comes at no up-front cost to you.

What does it look like?

Like a little bit of live music, that’s what.

Here’s one opportunity:

Calling himself a “vaudeville folk troubadour,” performer Nicholas St. James has a series of gigs in the area. He performed last night at Chelsea’s Corner Cafe in Eureka Springs, and he stays in that town tonight (April 24) for a show at the Cathouse Lounge, then plays Saturday (April 24) at the Smoke & Barrel Tavern in Fayetteville. St. James’ music, according to a note on his website, is one part gypsy and one part blues while also fitting into Americana. For details, visit nicholasstjames.com.

There’s a big show at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion this weekend, too. The venue’s first event of the season, in fact. The Tour de Compadres featuring Needtobreathe, Ben Rector, Colony House and Drew Holcombe and The Neighbors kicks off at 7 p.m. I’ll have live coverage, so check back for that soon.

Elsewhere this weekend, Arkansas native Fractal Sky takes over George’s Majestic Lounge on Friday night, and Antartichrist takes over The Lightbulb Club for a Saturday night metal show.

What’s on your music-watching agenda?

Soon in tunes: Lachlan Bryan, April 23 at Smoke and Barrel

April 23rd, 2015 at 11:33 am

Lachlan Bryan

Lachlan Bryan

Before returning to his native Australia, songwriter and vocalist Lachlan Bryan will bring his tour of the states to several regional college towns, including Fayetteville. Bryan’s latest recording earned high regards in Australia, including taking home Best Alternative Country album at the Country Music Awards of Australia. He performs at 10 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 23) at the Smoke & Barrel Tavern.

Soon in tunes: Albert and Gage, April 23 at Fayetteville Underground

April 22nd, 2015 at 8:33 am

Albert and Gage photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Albert and Gage photo by Todd V. Wolfson

The duo of Christine Albert and Chris Gage will perform on Thursday night (April 23) at the Fayetteville Underground community space in Fayetteville. The pair own their own Austin, Texas, recording studio, and they have released six albums together. The two each have successful careers outside of their duo as well. Gage serves as the lead guitarist in Jerry Jeff Walker’s band, and Albert is chairman of the National Recording Academy — that’s the group responsible for the Grammy Awards — Board of Trustees. The duo’s show begins at 7:30 p.m., and admission is $15.

Soon in tunes: Robert DeLong, April 22 at George’s

April 21st, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Robert DeLong

Robert DeLong

Listed as an artist to watch by MTV, Billboard and Vice, one-man electronica act Robert Delong visits Fayetteville for a performance on Wednesday (April 22) at George’s Majestic Lounge as an aside from a series of music festival dates. His single “Long Way Down” topped out at No. 3 on the Billboard alternative chart, and his tour supports an EP of the same name. Tickets for his 8 p.m. show are $10.

On the way — Hozier, Sept. 15 at the Walmart AMP

April 20th, 2015 at 12:57 pm

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“Take Me to Church,” says Hozier. Take yourself to the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion if you want to see him this fall.

The song “Take Me to Church” crossed many platforms, and radio stations adjusted in kind. The song by Hozier claimed massive airplay on rock radio, pop radio and just about every radio. It’s a mega hit — it’s amassed more than 180 million views on YouTube, too.

And the man responsible for that song, an Irish singer-songwriter, will visit Northwest Arkansas in September.

Hozier’s tour just got extended, and a Sept. 15 stop in at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion is included among the dates.

Tickets for the event start at $35. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday (April 24).

Wakarusa announces stage schedule

April 20th, 2015 at 9:17 am

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Last year, Ben Harper announced a reunion of his much-beloved backing band, The Innocent Criminals. Last week, officials at Wakarusa announced it was Harper and company who get the festival’s most prominent set.

A sure sign the dates for Wakarusa are nearing is the release of the stage schedule for the music and camping festival that takes place on Mulberry Mountain near Ozark. And, sure enough, officials with the festival revealed each day’s events late last week.

The festival runs from June 4-7, and that’s just 45 days away, if you weren’t counting along at home.

I’ve taken my first glance through the lineup. It’s to much to post every concert here — there are in excess of 100 sets. Here are the thing you ought to know:

• If you count the roughly 10 p.m.-midnight sets as the headlining set (and Wakarusa generally does, so you should too) the headliners schedule looks like this: Umphrey’s McGee on June 4, STS9 on June 5, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals on June 6 and Thievery Corporation on June 7.

• The big deals (but not quite headliners) getting prominent sets on the main stage are Chance the Rapper, The Roots, Major Lazer and Slightly Stoopid.

• Some of my favorite sets are often the late-night, rowdy shows at the Backwoods Stage. Closing that stage with sets lasting until (at least) 2 a.m. on the first three nights of the festival are three festival favorites, in order of performance date: Mountain Sprout, Dirtfoot and Andy Frasco.

• The biggest conflict caused by simultaneous shows? That will differ from person to person, of course, but for me, it’s Split Lip Rayfield against Ben Miller Band early on June 5. Those are very similar, and very good, bands playing at the same time.

• There’s a ton of music on the Riverside Stage. If you’re camping in that area, you might not need to leave for the mainstage area until 7 p.m. for dinner and headlining shows.

Tickets are on sale now for the festival. I understand the prices go up on Friday (April 24), so plan accordingly.

What do you notice about the festival schedule?

A new springtime tradition: The Springtime of Youth Festival

April 17th, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Mutemath photo by Colin Gray

Mutemath photo by Colin Gray

With a name that comes from a line in the University of Arkansas’ alma mater, the new Springtime of Youth festival debuts this weekend. Music begins at 5 p.m. today in the parking lot just east of Baum Stadium in south Fayetteville.

The festival is presented by the University of Arkansas’ Headliner Concerts Committee, a student-run group that books acts courtesy of a student fee designated for the cause. Students got the first pass at tickets as a result, and they snagged more than 6,000 of the 7,000 available for the two-day event. General admission tickets were made available to the public, and at my last check, it looks like there are still a few available. The tickets are $30 per day, and it appears only tickets for tonight are available.

Headliner Concert Committee chairperson Garrett Skrovina told me that a student survey helped the committee pick the acts they eventually brought to campus. Rap or hip-hop was most requested, with rock or indie trailing in second. As a result, Mutemath (indie rock) and Wiz Khalifa (rap) are the Friday (April 17) and Saturday (April 18) headliners, respectively.

They will be joined by acts such as Wet, Moon Taxi and Viceroy.

My story about the inaugural festival — which Skrovina says is likely to become an annual event — can be found in today’s What’s Up! section, which is available in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, or online.

Who is heading to the festival?