Venues across downtown Wilmington will host the first annual Sonorous Music Festival this weekend—a sonic journey, featuring a score of bands across all genres. The festivities kick off Friday, November 7 and continue through the 8, with shows taking place at Orton’s Music and Billiards, Longstreet’s, Calico Room, Brooklyn Arts Center, Bourgie Nights, City Limits Saloon, and Bottega Art and Wine. A portion of the festival’s proceeds will benefit Half United, an organization which aims to stop hunger all over the world.
Headed by Jeff Clark, a chairman and volunteer for the Azalea Festival, and Omar McCallop, founder of Award Show Nation—a group that represents the Carolina and Georgia Music Awards—discussions for the concert began in 2013. McCallop was brought in by Wilmington Downtown Inc. to produce an event a few years back and fell in love with the local flavor. One he met Clark, the two immediately found an affinity for upstarting an official music festival in Wilmington. “We care deeply about the unsung,” Clark details. “We like finding unknown or talent that is not indigenous to the area and introducing them to a whole new market.”
Teaming up with Reverbnation allowed Clark and McCallop to sift through a plethora of lesser-known talents; they received interest from over 2,300 artists but had to cut it down to 40. Sponsors like SweetWater Brewing Company and RA Jeffreys have helped get the event up and running. As well, the festival has found unparalleled support from local venues. “They all have been extremely helpful and forgiving as well,” Clark reports. “Offering up their venues for two nights for an event that is brand new to the area can be a huge ‘leap of faith’ for these establishments. All in all, we are quite pleased.”
The venues instrumentally helped decide which musical acts would be a part of Sonorous. A full list of the performances and where they will be can be found on the event website (www.sonorousmusicfestival.com). But we’ve highlighted quite a few performances not to miss throughout the two days:
Friday, Nov. 7, 9 p.m.: Carson Hill
City Limits Saloon, 28 S. Front Street
At 4 years old, Carson’s solo performance of “Happy Birthday, Jesus” lit a flame of passion for music. Since, the 16-year-old Wadesboro, NC, native has performed at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville and the Feld Motor Sport Monster Jam. She has opened for “I’ll Be” crooner Edwin McCain, and her propensity for music caught the ear of Blind Melon’s Brad Smith. Smith has served as Hill’s mentor and produced her first two songs (Hill routinely performs a cover of “No Rain” during her sets).
Learning the piano in the first grade jump started her instrumentation abilities, but it wasn’t until she was 8 that she began learning guitar. Her mother gave her lessons, but Hill truly started concentrating on strumming when she was 11—an age wherein she also wrote her first song. The ditty captured the teenage, love-sick anguish her sister was going through after a breakup. Hill lampooned her sister’s boyfriend through song in an effort to cheer her up.
Even today Hill’s sonic motif maintains uplifting, cheery qualities. Inspired by friends who have lost relatives, she crafts songs to lift spirits, as heard in “Everybody Falls Sometimes.” It illuminates resilience in the face of past mistakes. Her tunes feature graceful chords, overlaying catchy, airy vocals. Though she touches on the essence of youthful love, she maintains it isn’t just about relationships but about putting a positive spin on experiences that affect everyone.
Saturday, Nov. 8, 10 p.m.: Dark Water Rising
Bourgie Nights, 127 Princess Street
Powerhouse vocals and screeching guitar licks will take over Bourgie Nights this Saturday. Hailing from Chapel Hill, NC, Dark Water Rising prides itself on its Native American heritage. Group members belong to the Lumbee and Tuscarora tribes in NC, and their songs touch on universal issues deeply ingrained in the Native American experience.
“As Native Americans, you learn quickly that you are walking in two worlds and most people are interested in your culture as much as they are your music,” Aaron Locklear (keys/guitar/percussion) expresses. “Although our music isn’t considered traditional Native American music, our culture has no choice but rear its head at times. Hand drums, fancy dancing, chants, etc., will all pop up and come out at our shows, sometimes unexpectedly. We feel honored that we can use our time on stage to educate just as much as to entertain people.”
Forming in 2008, the band’s name derived from the people of Robeson County, sometimes referred to as “people of the dark water.” The band quickly began experimenting with different sounds and instruments. After releasing their self-titled, debut recording, they were honored with the Native American Music Award for Debut Duo or Group of the Year in 2010. “Dark Water Rising” earned a nomination from the Aboriginal People’s Choice Awards for Best Folk/Acoustic CD, and their song “Hooked” scored a nomination for Single of the Year. Building off this momentum, they released the follow-up album “Grace and Grit Chapter 1” in 2013.
With Locklear, Charly Lowry (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Corey Locklear (guitar), Emily Musolino (lead vocals/guitar), and Tony Murnahan (Bass/guitar) leading the way, their broad sound ranges from artists like Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and Lynyrd Skynyrd. They also infuse gospel, drawing from Sunday morning worship services. They term their unique blend as “rocky soul.”
Songs like “My Fun” feature piercing vocals that penetrate the soul. Heart and conviction colors powerful notes that crescendo to an emotional peak. Conversely, “Brownskin” comes with rock, and there’s a jazz component in the smooth rhythm augmented by Lowry’s vocal range. The song captures the ways in which girls from their communities try to fit in with society. It surges with a distinct sense of pride for their heritage.
Saturday, Nov. 8, 11 p.m.: Michael Stovall
Bottega Art and Wine Bar, 28 S. Front Street
Armed with a harmonica and guitar, 29-year-old Michael Stovall will enchant audiences with his folk-inspired tunes. The self-taught musician began playing guitar at the ripe age of 14. “My dad used to play guitar for me in our living room, and I was always in awe of how beautiful the guitar could sound,” Stovall tells.
Stovall fully became entrenched in music while in college, as he started writing his own material. He realized his potential to write impactful stories through song. In 2004 he started the trio called Jackson Jones, a jam/rock group that played for three years before Stovall went on hiatus from music.
“I felt like I needed a break in order to really find out who I was as a person and as a musician,” he tells, “I think stepping away helped me write songs that were more personal and more in tune with who I am.”
Stovall returned to the music biz as a solo artist, channeling the energy of Neil Young and Jackson Browne. He has been compared to the likes of Ryan Adams. The subtle strums of his guitar come interlaced with soulful vocals. His body of work captures the simplicity of rural America.
“My creative process usually begins with a guitar riff,” Stovall describes. “Sometimes I’ll sit for hours and just noodle around on the guitar until I find something I think sounds cool. From there, I usually start hearing the entire song in my head and I write lyrics very fast.”
His first and only full-length album, “Georgia,” takes on autobiographical themes, relaying the artist’s transition into adulthood. “I truly believe in my songs,” Stovall says. “They all come from a real place, and I think it’s evident when I perform onstage.”
Friday, Nov. 10 p.m.: Avenue of the Giants
Brooklyn Arts Center, 516 N 4th Street
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, rock group Avenue of the Giants will be performing Friday night at the Brooklyn Arts Center. Comprising Devon Lewow (vocals/percussion), Foz Rock (lead guitar/vocals), Justin Aldrich (bass guitar/vocals), and Darrick Atwater (drums/production), the band released their debut LP “Just Between Us” last fall.
Despite their heavy riffs, they have a positive approach to their unadulterated rock due to a near-death experience by Foz Rock. Someone slipped something in his drink at a California show, which resulted in him being hospitalized. Having to continue the tour, he enjoyed a serene road trip through Northern California the next day, and saw a sign which announced Avenue of the Giants highway. From there, the band was born.
Lewow and Aldridge, both longtime professional musicians, are RIAA Gold Certified, too. Rock found an strong bond with Atwater, who has been clean and sober for four years. Their close encounters with death have lead the charge in cultivating Avenue of the Giants burgeoning career.
Their music features growling vocals and heavy bass that implores listeners to head bang and fist pump. Currently, the band is touring the Southern U.S.
Sonorous Music Festival
Fri- Sat. Nov. 7 – 8