PIANO POP | Robert Ellis, a.k.a. Texas Piano Man
w/ Ian O’Neil (of Deer Tick)
Sun. April 7
8:30 p.m.
Pour House

It’s difficult to know what to make of singer/songwriter Robert Ellis’ new album, and new persona, both called Texas Piano Man. He’s had stylistic range for a while, moving with ease from R&B to rough-hewn alt-country to gritty garage rock. But the top-hat-and-tails-clad Texas Piano Man, who now offers up tender ballads called “Fucking Crazy,” jaunty mental-breakdown chronicles like “When You’re Away,” and vintage Elton John-style glitzy rockers called “Nobody Smokes Anymore,” (which is about how, y’know, nobody smokes anymore), before ending his album with a Latin-pop number called “Topo Chico,” is, to say the least, a curve ball. What, exactly, is going on here? Is this a put-on? Some sort of neurotic crack-up set to piano pop? A Joaquin Phoenix-style deep-dive into a character? We’re not really sure, but damned if this stuff isn’t catchy and compelling as hell. It’ll be interesting to see if Ellis continues in this vein, for sure, but for now, maybe we should just enjoy the show. —Vincent Harris SUNDAY


NEW ORLEANS SOUL & JAZZ |Cameron & The Saltwater Brass
Sat. April 6
6 p.m.
Pour House

The name “Saltwater Brass” might not sound familiar, but they’ve been a band for four or five years under a different, and more difficult to deal with, name. “We’ve been around in some capacity for a while,” says bandleader, trumpet player, and vocalist Cameron Handel, “but it was under Cameron and the Funk Dumplins. Which was cool when it was said right, but it got messed up all the time. People called it ‘Cameron and the Funky Donuts,’ or ‘The Funk Dumpers’ was another — it was just too hard.” Handel decided that the Saltwater Brass was a better moniker for the group’s horn-heavy blend of New Orleans soul and jazz. “I figure the Saltwater Brass name lets me play what I want,” she says. “The name is clear and describes what we do. We have a sousaphone instead of a bass player, so it gives the music that New Orleans feel.” Handel is a classically trained musician with a decade of experience in the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, so when she’s playing trumpet, she’s completely in the zone. But she says she’s still getting used to being a lead vocalist. “The main reason I started doing it was to get the horn off my face and rest my chops,” she says with a laugh. “It’s still very scary, but I just kind of made myself do it.” —Vincent Harris SATURDAY


HIP-HOP | Friendly Neighborhood Fest
w/ Waiting on Mongo, Damn Skippy, Long Miles, Little Stranger, Apollo Valdez, Pip the Pansy, Bananaz
Fri. Apr. 5-Sat. Apr. 6
7 p.m.
The Royal American

Kevin and John Shields of Little Stranger are just getting back in town from their latest tour and instead of taking it easy with a low-key hometown set, they’re celebrating with a two-day festival called Friendly Neighborhood Fest. Little Stranger brought together some friends they made on the road (New Jersey jam band Waiting on Mongo and Athens pop group Pip the Pansy) and plenty of local favorites for this genre mash-up festival. “We’re in over our heads a little bit, but we’re going to be great,” John laughs. The first night of the festival will have Mongo, local rapper Damn Skippy, John’s last band Long Miles, and Little Stranger doing a set as a duo. The second night will bring out Mongo again, Pip the Pansy, Gorillaz tribute band Bananaz, Summerville rapper Apollo Valdez, and Little Stranger with a full backing band. And before you ask — yes, John and Kevin will dress up like superheroes at the show. —Heath Ellison FRIDAY


HIP-HOP | Lil Skritt
w/ Cheesus Crust, Public Luxuries, Infinitefreefall
Sat. Apr. 6
9 p.m.
Tin Roof

Lil Skritt has a song called “Illuminati Jesus.” That’s pretty much all you need to know about the Charlotte rapper — he’s profane, silly, outrageous, but light-hearted. “What I try to bring to the table is a little bit different, a little bit more versatility,” says Skritt. “I love to make people dance, I love to make people laugh, and I love for people to just have a good time all around.” Skritt’s music is raunchy as hell, giving garish, comedic details behind hygiene (“What That Smell Like?”) and autoerotic activities (“Follow Your Booty”). “I’ve always enjoyed being the class clown, but I also enjoy rapping,” Skritt says, “so to bring those two portions together really makes the sound of Lil Skritt.” In between producing small viral videos for his music, Skritt is plugging away at his new EP Survival of the Skrittest. —Heath Ellison SATURDAY


ACOUSTIC FOLK | Rod Abernethy
w/ Darby Wilcox and David Burney
Sat. April 6
7 p.m.
Queen Street Playhouse

Even with a decades-long career behind him as a skilled guitarist, composer, film-scorer, and general mainstay on the North Carolina folk music scene, Rod Abernethy’s 2018 double-album The Man I’m Supposed To Be was a bit of a shock. The 19-song collection was a tour through dazzling acoustic playing, singer/songwriter intimacy, and passionate vocals, a sort of how-to for anyone looking to excel at being a folk musician. But Abernethy also stepped outside of the straight-ahead folk tradition into vintage pop (a gorgeous instrumental version of the 1960s nugget “Walk Away Renee”), Leo Kottke-style, string-bending (“Trick Or Treat”), and more. Perhaps it’s an exaggeration to call The Man I’m Supposed To Be the summary of a life spent making music, or maybe it’s a mistake to think of it as autobiography through song. But it sure as hell feels like a major statement, delivered through sparkling acoustic arrangements and rugged vocals. —Vincent Harris SATURDAY

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