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Off With Your Radiohead Presents: Hail to the Thief
Friday, September 7
Doors: 8:00pm | Show: 9:00pm
Tickets: $10 ADV | $12 DOS

Fresh on the Asheville music scene, and already packing the city’s most sought-after venues, Off With Your Radiohead is set to perform one of Radiohead's most challenging albums, Hail to the Thief, in its entirety. The show will also include a bonus set of carefully-curated tunes from the Radiohead discography.

After mesmerizing a crowd of unsuspecting Radiohead fans at a tribute show last fall, frontman Jeff Thompson knew he was onto something. What was intended to be a one-off homage to the greatest rock record of all time quickly developed into a permanent ensemble. Now, the five-piece is dedicated to mastering even Radiohead’s most complex arrangements note for note.

The evening’s lineup features Jeff Thompson on lead vocals and guitar, Jake Cavinder on drums and backing vocals, Joshua Cavinder on keys, Kyle “Cricket” Colclasure on bass, and Kevin Carballo on lead guitar.


Courtesy of NPR Music:

There were nearly 5,000 entries to this year's Tiny Desk Contest. While NPR Music selected Los Angeles guitarist Naia Izumi as its 2018 winner this year, there were scores of contestants that impressed the judges with their music, their desks and for Asheville, N.C. band Natural Born Leaders, their convenience store.

For the Tiny Convenience Store Concert, the band packed behind the ice cream freezer, just to left of the Slim Jims to play the original song "Abominable Creatures."

"I was trying to stray away from the beer cooler," lead vocalist Mike Martinez jokes, though he says the store actually provided the perfect setting for a song that reckons with his experiences of his childhood in New Jersey.

The convenience store as an institution was an ubiquitous constant across the suburban landscape of "Newark, New Jersey, Irvington, New Jersey, Elizabeth, New Jersey" that he grew up in. Martinez's lyrics grapple with growing up in the obscurity of the area, trying to seize his "one chance / to stand up to these wicked man-made plans" of racism, sexism, and every other -ism stacked against a young person's future.

"I feel like I had no real direction in New Jersey. I've heard a lot of people talk about after coming to Asheville, they kind of felt like they had a purpose," Martinez says of the city he now calls home. Once in North Carolina, he got involved in the local music scene and started Natural Born Leaders. "Everything seems to be falling into place ever since I came down here."

The song "Return of Jafar" off Natural Born Leaders' newest EP About Time speaks to the community Martinez found in Asheville. He took the song's chorus — "There ain't no power like the power of the people because the power of the people don't stop" — from a protest chant, thinking it'd be the perfect fit for a song that deals with war, racism and greed. Martinez says Asheville is the perfect place for music that approaches politics like this.

"It's a huge music community and there's no nations and borders," he says. "Everybody's helping each other out ... [That's] the only reason why we're doing what we do right now."


Courtesy of Mountain Xpress:

Queen Bee & the Honeylovers‘s sound is heavily influenced by swing era music from the 1920s and ’30s, and the lyrics are drawn from family stories passed down from generations past. The group’s members are Asheville natives and write songs (as evidenced by the song titles) inspired by their grandparents stories about Asheville’s golden age.

The quintet is headed by singer Whitney Moore and with Michael Gamble of the Rhythm Serenaders and Low Down Sires, Mattick Frick of Sirius.B, Drayton of Drayton and the Dreamboats, and Trevor Stoia of Hotpoint Trio.

Queen Bee & the Honeylovers are currently doing a residency on the patio at Isis Music Hall. Catch them every other Thursday this summer starting June 14, at 6:30 p.m. They’re also playing The Block Off Biltmore‘s swing dance on Tuesday, June 19.

The group is actively working on a debut record now and it should be out this fall. In the meantime, the musicians gave an exclusive performance at The Grey Eagle for Xpress and Acoustic Asheville. Big thanks to Silas Durocher of The Get Right Band for assisting with the session.


Courtesy of Bill Kopp (via Mountain Xpress)

There was no blueprint:

One of this year’s most eagerly anticipated local releases is the debut album from Natural Born Leaders. Even in an era of countless cross-genre mashups and hybrids, the band’s music resists pigeonholing. Natural Born Leaders’s sound starts with a relatively conventional rock instrumental lineup: guitarist Rex Shafer, bassist James Eddington and drummer Kevin Murtha. Jazz and R&B textures are provided by saxophonist Ben Survant, while lead vocalist (and lyricist) Mike Martinez brings folk, soul and hip-hop flavors to the group.

But the resulting music made by the five musicians sounds nothing at all like rock-rap hybrids Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, Faith No More or Rage Against the Machine. “There was no blueprint” in putting together Natural Born Leaders, Martinez says. “We all come from different musical backgrounds, and we just try to make it work.”

The prog-hop label is a useful a way of defining Natural Born Leaders’ music, and the group itself sometimes uses the term (along with many others) in its own promotional material.

The four songs on About Time are a varied lot. “Do You Mind” starts off with a melodic bass line that conjures visions of northern Africa; the supporting bass figure has its foundation in funk. When the whole band kicks in, there are elements of reggae, but those are delivered in an ambitious, progressive rock style. And Martinez’s vocals alternate between sharply crafted rap phrasing and soulful, melodic singing.

Martinez says that the group develops its material in an unhurried, collaborative manner. “Nothing we’ve done has been hard to come by,” he says. “Everything’s been really natural. The way we started was organic; the way we got all our members was organic. We put our intention out there with everything we do and just hope that it comes back.”

He adds, “Generally, it does.”

Natural Born Leaders’ music is dense and layered, and Martinez’s lyrics share those qualities. “I only write lyrics to songs that I absolutely vibe with,” he says. The lyrics to each of About Time‘s songs were written in one sitting. “Do You Mind?” “The Return of Jafar” and “Time Flies By” all began as jams. “I’ll blast a jam through my speakers at home and write the lyrics quickly,” Martinez says.

An early lineup of Natural Born Leaders included MC Austin Haynes out front with Martinez. Having two MCs meant that the group’s music was more hip-hop-oriented. But once Haynes left, Martinez’s folk-blues background revealed itself more in the group’s new material. Once the group entered Artcore Studios, producer Patrick Doyle helped Natural Born Leaders channel their jams into concise songs.

“We wrote the songs,” Martinez emphasizes, “but Patrick really helped us figure out what our music meant and what directions we should go with it.” Even in the space of four songs over 20 minutes, the group’s improvisational character still comes through.

Live onstage, the band members build upon the songs’ foundations, following their collective muse wherever it leads them. “I improvise lyrics a lot, too,” Martinez says. He half-jokes that he does so because he can’t remember his own words. “And a lot of time, I’ll freestyle rap. I’ll end up changing words around, putting this line here, moving something elsewhere.”

So, while About Time is an accurate audio document of Natural Born Leaders, it’s also a snapshot of the band in a given moment. “Every show is different,” Martinez says.

There remains a relationship between the studio versions of the group’s songs and the way they’re played onstage. “I don’t like making songs I can’t play live,” says Eddington. “But what’s fun is that when you work on a song in the studio, you end up changing it.”

Then, in concert, the songs change yet again. “There’s a give-and-take, a back-and-forth between the two,” Eddington says.

Natural Born Leaders are currently focusing on promoting their EP, but the band is already at work on new material as well. “We kind of like the idea of just putting out a few songs at a time,” Martinez says. “Ideally, we’ll put out a new EP every six months.”

WHO: Natural Born Leaders with Spaceman Jones and the Motherships and Secret B-Sides
WHERE: Asheville Music Hall, 31 Patton Ave.,
WHEN: Saturday, May 5, at 9:45 p.m., $10 advance/$12 day of show