The weekend in live music, with Jimmy Thackery and more

August 8th, 2014 at 5:03 am

Jimmy Thackery

Jimmy Thackery

Fayettevillians, this might be your last weekend alone.

Fayetteville and Dickson Street change identities when the school year starts, and we’re nearing that time of year. I, for one, like the influx of enthusiasm our town gets every fall. But I must say I hate the extra traffic on the roads.


If you’re looking for one last weekend before it gets busy again, I suggest this one.

And, of course, I suggest some live music.

Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers will be a good way to start the weekend.

Renowned guitarist Jimmy Thackery and his band The Drivers — so named because Thackery doesn’t drive — will visit the area after an extended East Coast tour. The bluesy band will perform at George’s Majestic Lounge’s Friday night (Aug. 8) Happy Hour from 6-8 p.m. Joining in will be local guitar wizard Earl Cate. Admission is $5.

Soul/blues/folk musician Shawn James returns from a tour for a hometown show this weekend as well. He’ll be at Smoke & Barrel Tavern on Saturday (Aug. 9) with guests Randall Conrad and Kiel Grove. Admission is $5 for that one.

If you want to get away, but not too far, Chelsea’s Corner Cafe in Eureka Springs has a two-night set of Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers, who describe themselves and a R&B/soul group who write songs about “people scrambling to try to find what they are looking for.” Catch them Friday or Saturday.

What’s on your live music agenda?

Soon in tunes: The Ben Miller Band, Aug. 7 at Gulley Park

August 7th, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Longtime local favorites the Ben Miller Band will close out the Gulley Park Summer Concert Series with an event Thursday (Aug. 7) at the park in Fayetteville. The Ben Miller Band plays a blend of Delta blues and Ozark stomp. The band spent much of last year touring with Texas trio ZZ Top and performed at the Arkansas Music Pavilion together last year. They’ve also performed at the Gulley Park series in previous years. The Joplin, Mo. band’s performance in Fayetteville takes place from 7-9 p.m. Admission is free. (Photo courtesy Joshua Black Wilkins)

Soon in tunes: Tim McGraw, Aug. 7 at the AMP

August 6th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw

Trust me on this one.

Tim McGraw‘s Thursday (Aug. 7) concert at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion is going to be a big show. Nay, a giant show.

I’ve heard from several well-placed folks that more tickets have been sold for McGraw’s upcoming stop on his “Sundown Heaven Town” tour than for any other show in the history of the AMP. And that number holds true no matter which incarnation and location of the music pavilion you want to talk about — this will be the biggest show.

There’s a reason. McGraw is one of music’s biggest stars. For a refresher course, I recently listened to his “Number One Hits” album. It contains 23 tracks, and, yes, all of them were No. 1 Country hits.

A quick perusal of his “Sundown Heaven Town” setlists [Note: Spoiler alert!] shows he’s not playing all 23 No. 1s, but he does offer most of them.

In other words, one of country’s biggest stars is playing many of his No. 1 hits in a new venue.

To put things in perspective, opening act Kip Moore visited Barnhill Arena last year and drew several thousand people all by himself. With Cassadee Pope also on the bill, this one’s set to be a monster.

The show is officially sold out. The venue has drawn up policies for lawn patrons to attempt to get everyone a place to sit.

See some of you at the show?

Soon in tunes: Jonathan Tyler, Aug. 7 at the Rib Room

August 6th, 2014 at 9:59 am

Jonathan Tyler

Jonathan Tyler

Once a fixture of the touring circuit that passes through these parts, Jonathan Tyler has recently been quiet. Now back on the road, Tyler, who describes his sound as “rock with a twist of blues and country,” visits Neumeier’s Rib Room in Fort Smith. Also performing on Thursday (Aug. 6) at the Rib Room are The Soft White Sixties. The show begins at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $5.

Soon in tunes: Ray Wylie Hubbard, Aug. 6 at George’s

August 5th, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Ray Wylie Hubbard photo by Todd Wolfson

Ray Wylie Hubbard photo by Todd Wolfson

Texas troubadour and songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard will make a return trek to Fayetteville for a Wednesday night (Aug. 6) show at George’s Majestic Lounge. His official biography describes him as a “scrapper poet with the devil-may-care wherewithal.” He currently tours behind the 2012 release “The Grifter’s Hymnal.” Tickets to the 8:30 p.m. event are $15 and are available at the club or through

Spaghetti with a side of country music

August 5th, 2014 at 10:13 am

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Contemporary country artist Granger Smith sings about, you guessed it, riding in a truck. You can take your truck, or any vehicle, to his show tonight at the Tontitown Grape Festival.

Go for the spaghetti dinners. Stay for the free live music.

The Tontitown Grape Festival returns today (Aug. 5). The well-attended event is rooted in traditions, and those things you expect from the festival all return — spaghetti dinners (with fried chicken!), carnival rides and grape ice cream. And, yes, live music, too.

Music starts tonight (Aug. 5) and continues through Saturday (Aug. 9).

Here’s list of the performers:

Aug. 5

• 7 p.m. — Caleb Garrett

• 9 p.m. — Granger Smith

Aug. 6

7 p.m. — Mike & Grady

9 p.m. — Backroad Anthem

Aug. 7

7 p.m. — Barrett Baber

9 p.m. — Clayton Anderson

Aug. 8

7 p.m. — Ashlyn Metheny

10 p.m. — Shotgun Billys

Aug. 9

6 p.m. — Kyla Horton

7 p.m. — Take Cover

9 p.m. — T. Graham Brown

There’s plenty more happening on the church grounds in Tontitown this weekend, too. Check out the schedule before you go, or read our summer intern Lauren Robinson’s take on the festival here [Note: Subscriber content].

I’ll see you there.

Concert review: Steve Martin and friends, Aug. 3 at the AMP

August 4th, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

There are many words that can describe the combined Steve Martin, Edie Brickell and Steep Canyon Rangers concert on a pleasant Sunday (Aug. 3) evening at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion.

But perhaps that one — pleasant — is the best of them all.

Sure, the concert was fun. Martin’s jokes caused many chuckles, and sometimes those chuckles turned into outright laughter. The playing was crisp. The sound was good, too. I’ve heard some recent complaints about the AMP’s sound, and maybe that was true for other events. I paid particular attention here, and I heard the combined band’s percussionist slapping his knee into a microphone. If that noise was picked up, not many were missed. I also, during quiet numbers, heard the roar of the passing cars on nearby Interstate 49. I don’t know if a rock band would have the same problem blanketing that noise away. It mattered some here, but not much.

Steve MartinLiveWEB001Now midway through the venue’s inaugural season, this was the AMP’s smallest show and by some distance. But much of that was by design. No lawn tickets were sold, meaning the AMP was about 50 percent capacity in the name of creating a more intimate show. It’s also the reason the introductory price for tickets — $69 — exceeded the other shows on this year’s roster.

Martin made several references to ticket prices, first to thank people for spending their hard-earned money on concert tickets. He later asked those who paid for something less than front-row price to cover an eye during the encore, because everyone in the crowd was getting the same encore and not all had paid the same rate.

In the same blowhard character Martin made famous on television programs such as “Saturday Night Live,” he cracked jokes for much of the night, such as introducing Edie Brickell by telling the crowd about her favorite movie and favorite Oscar host. If you guessed “Father of the Bride” and Steve Martin, respectively, you guessed right, and you understand a good deal of the humor that was offered Sunday night.

But it’s important to know that while Martin had a lucrative television and movie career, and probably could again anytime, he’s chosen music, at least for right now. He told the crowd he’s been playing banjo for 50 years, but only about five years live onstage with a band. That band is the Steep Canyon Rangers, with whom Martin has collaborated with since he started touring. Having the Rangers onstage behind him meant that Martin was not the best musician on the stage, and I think he’d agree with that assessment. He even mentioned it in passing — he claimed he was more of their celebrity than bandleader. Indeed, the Rangers shined both on their solo numbers such as “Stand and Deliver” and in their playing behind Martin and Brickell. Particularly, Nicky Sanders on fiddle was a revelation, and his wild solo at the end of the night that featured snippets of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and Greig and whatever else he wanted to play might have been the singular highlight of the night.

Steve Martin LiveWEB003But Martin wasn’t afraid to show off his chops, either, and the solo acoustic version of “Gentleman Pete,” a tribute to Pete Seeger, was another nice moment.

Or maybe the main highlight was when the crowd erupted into a singalong for Brickell and the Rangers’ take on her early 1990s pop hit “What I Am.”

She talked about the nostalgia factor when she offered that song. But it was a night conceived in such throwback concepts as a professional, well-dressed band who played promptly and smartly. The songs talked of trains (“Sarah Jane and the Iron Mountain Baby”) and suicide (“Yes She Did”) and other bluegrass and old-time tropes. Perhaps the only reason a listener might have guessed any of these tunes were conceived in the most recent 50 years is a reference to sending an email, and not a letter, when the subject of the song “When You Get to Asheville” achieved that destination.

I didn’t really mind the anachronism. In fact, I doubt many left the venue without smiles.

It was a pleasant evening.

On the way: Foster the People, Oct. 9 at the AMP

August 4th, 2014 at 1:41 pm

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This song, “Coming of Age,” is by indie rockers Foster the People. The Walmart AMP is a very young venue still, but it managed to book this band for an October show.

I’ve heard it 100 times. At least.

‘When is the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion going to get an indie rock act?’ people kept asking me.

The answer, it would appear, is Oct. 9.

That’s when the California-based Foster the People will perform at the new venue in Rogers. Foster the People had a major hit in 2011 with the song “Pumped Up Kicks” and recently released a new album, “Supermodel.”

The current tour also includes neo-soul act Fitz and the Tantrums.

Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Aug. 15. Tickets are $32.

Welcome to the Toadies’ kingdom

August 1st, 2014 at 1:57 pm

The Toadies

The Toadies

Remember the song “Possum Kingdom?” You know, the strange but strangely catchy song by The Toadies?

That song and the album it came from turn 20 years old later this month, and the recently reunited band is in a celebratory mood.

The Toadies are touring across the country to celebrate the release of “Rubberneck,” the platinum-selling album that made them famous. They are playing that album from front to back on the tour stops, and local fans can see that for themselves on Saturday (Aug. 2) night when the band returns to George’s Majestic Lounge. Ume and locals Benjamin Del Shreve open the show.

I spoke with The Toadies’ bass player Doni Blair about his introduction to “Rubberneck” and the idea behind the current tour. You can read my story in today’s What’s Up! section, available online [Note: Subscriber content] and in the five daily papers produced by Northwest Arkansas Media.

Saturday’s show begins after 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $17.50.

Equally funny and musical: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

August 1st, 2014 at 11:34 am

Steve Martin, Edie Brickell and the Steep Canyon Rangers

Steve Martin, Edie Brickell and the Steep Canyon Rangers

Mike Guggino remembers the first time he played with Steve Martin. Martin’s wife had arranged a meeting between the funnyman/banjo player and the bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers. Guggino plays mandolin in that band.

“It felt right,” Guggino says of the session with Martin.

Martin must have agreed. Martin has frequently collaborated with the Steep Canyon Rangers since that meeting, both in the studio (with “Rare Bird Alert”) and live, including a new live album that also features Edie Brickell.

The same players — Martin, Brickell and the Rangers — that recorded the album live continue that tour, and it visits the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on Sunday (Aug. 3).

In a recent conversation with Guggino, I asked him about meeting Martin but also about integrating the bands into a cohesive unit. You can read my preview of Sunday’s concert in today’s What’s Up! section, which is published in the five daily Northwest Arkansas Media newspapers and also online [Note: Subscriber content].

Music starts at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $69-$89 and are available at the venue’s box office or online.

See you at the show?