For the third year running, Zac Brown and company will bring food and music lovers together for a two-day Charleston festival. Local chefs will perform demos while some pretty big names provide the tunes, including headline performances both nights from the festival’s founders, the Zac Brown Band.
Saturday’s musical forecast also brings Rodrigo y Gabriela, Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, North Mississippi AllStars, Greensky Bluegrass, Darrell Scott, Coy Bowles & the Fellowship, John Driskell Hopkins and the Brighter Shade, Ashley Monroe, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and Secret Sisters.
Sunday’s schedule includes Gov’t Mule, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Wailers, Old 97’s, Boy & Bear, Clay Cook, Run River North, and Steep Canyon Rangers. One- and two-day tickets are available.
Here are just a few of the highlights to be had this weekend at the Southern Ground Music and Food Festival.
Boy & Bear
Spend some time listening to Harlequin Dream — the latest release from one of Sydney, Australia’s more notable recent imports, Boy & Bear — and it won’t take long to see why the band has amassed a sizeable worldwide following. When you have over 150,000 likes on Facebook and are currently in the midst of a world tour that runs through the middle of December, you’re clearly doing something right. It helps if you have an indelible sense of melody and are influenced by warm-and-fuzzy folk and rock music from the past.
“We wanted to create a record strongly influenced by old pop music, predominately ’60s and ’70s,” says singer, songwriter, and guitarist Dave Hosking. “We wanted to simplify things, focusing our energy on grooves and melodies.”
And do they ever on Dream. The album features easygoing Americana (“Southern Sun”), energetic pop-rock that’s perfect for driving with your windows down (“Old Town Blues”), and ambient folk (“A Moment’s Grace”) — and that’s all in the first half of the record. Hosking and the rest of the gang also demonstrate that it’s not just about the music on tracks like “Arrow Flight” when Hosking sings, “The moment’s fleeting/ And maybe that’s OK/ It’s proof I’m healing.” To Hosking, the content is just as important as the music.
“I definitely had moments where I felt a little exposed in regards to sharing a little too much, but I love honest art,” Hosking says. “I think that vulnerability is something that is important in art as well as our lives in general.” —Brian Palmer
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Street performance is a fierce instructor. When Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero’s Mexican metal band Tierra Acida broke up, they sold their stuff and moved to Ireland with only a couple of cheap nylon-string acoustic guitars. Busking on Dublin streets for four years, they learned what caught people’s attention, which led the two to a unique heavily rhythmic style and interplay informed by Spanish guitar music, classic rock, and metal.
Rodrigo y Gabriela’s entirely instrumental approach obeys standard verse-chorus-bridge construction, but builds, billows, and concludes with such gathering intensity that the framework disappears — particularly without lyrics driving the action. These oft elegant but earthy twin acoustic symphonies balance fluttering, Flamenco-style guitar strums, plus the churn of thrash metal. The dynamics and energy defy expectation, producing more striking, hair-raising power than most of their plugged-in peers.
The self-titled 2006 sophomore album scored acclaim across Europe, and their 2009 follow-up 11:11 earned a trip to the White House to perform for the Obamas, opening for Beyoncé. The duo also did the soundtrack for 2011’s Shrek prequel, Puss In Boots. For 2012’s Area 52, they traveled to Cuba and enlisted a 13-piece orchestra to back them. It allowed the twosome to push their music into even jazzier directions. But after all those releases, the one-time couple pull back for their latest, 9 Dead Alive, returning to their rock roots. The more austere setting suits them nicely as the duo takes on the challenge of creating a big sound and showcasing their knotty, hard-edged acoustic fury. —Chris Parker
Laura and Lydia Rogers grew up singing traditional country music with their family in Muscle Shoals, Ala., but the duo had no intention of making it a career. You see, Laura suffered crippling stage-fright. Yet she summoned the courage to travel to Nashville in 2009 to audition with music business representatives and producers looking for a new singing group. The audition took, the Secret Sisters was born, and they soon signed a major-label recording contract.
“The initial reason I went was to try to face that head-on,” Laura says. “I just wanted to be able to sing in front of my friends and not get so terrified.”
The Sisters’ supple, chill-inspiring harmonies suggest a feminine answer to the Everly Brothers. Supporting their eponymous 2010 debut cured Laura’s stage fright, and the pair brought new confidence into the studio for their latest, Put Your Needle Down.
While their Universal label representative pitched something like The Lumineers or Of Monsters and Men, the Sisters moved away from the trendier corners of Americana, instead plugging in and enlisting a rawer full band.
“We needed to get a little rowdier,” says Laura. “There is plenty of time for relaxing flow music. We’re still young, and right now we wanted to take it to a different level.”
The album’s biggest thrill was completing an unfinished Bob Dylan song, the jazzy-noir “Dirty Lie.” All they had was the hook, a refrain, and 24 hours to write and record it.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” she says. “It’s a thing where you have to forget about the important part of it, and just consider it a simple song. Then you can think about it after that fact, ‘Wow, I really butchered that Bob Dylan song.'” —Chris Parker