The time has come to whip out the party hats and noisemakers, and grab a big bottle of bubbly. 2014 is closing in on its finale, and 2015 is right around the corner. However, before we officially give 2014 its rightfully due 21-gun salute, let’s meander through some of the biggest music events to hit the Port City this year.
The year opened strong by ushering in a new concert series, Listen Up Brunswick County, which showcases various professional musicians and benefitted the Brunswick County Homeless Coalition. Their new season benefits the New Hope Clinic. Helmed by Jeannie and Ron Dufour—who based the performance series on one they attended while living in Connecticut—they launched Listen Up in February at Holden Beach Chapel, with the talents of folk singer Tracy Grammer. Since, the concert series has hosted the likes of The Kennedys, Thomas Wesley Stern, Ellis Pa, Jack Williams, and Kate Campbell. Their 2014/15 season is in full swing and continues on Satruday, January 24 with Anabelle’s Curse.
“We plan to try other facilities within the county that may be more centrally located and convenient for the general public,” Jeannie Dufour tells. “We may expand our concerts to include a catered meal, wine and beer or a bring your own choice. We are open to and welcome ideas.”
Additionally, Pipeline Events combined music and chairty with Epic Day at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater in April. The event benefitted Step-Up for Soldiers, a local nonprofit that aids wounded soldiers. The concert hosted three reggae bands—The Dirty Heads, Fear Nuttin’ Band and Signal Fire—and had taps flowing with 16 microbreweries and 32 brews from RA Jefferys.
Local ears also were met with the sounds of jazz permeating along Front Street. Wilmington Downtown Inc. launched a new event to satisfy music-lovers during the fall, when their summer series, Downtown Sundown, ended. Enlisting the help of percussionist Keith Butler Jr., Live at Bailey’s took place at Bailey Theater Park on Mondays throughout October and November. Folks gathered weekly, with lawn chairs, blankets and eager ears in tow, as a host of local musicians ratcheted up the energy with impromtu performances and jams.
Likewise, a brand spankin’ new music festival took hold of downtown Wilmington in November. Upstarted by music and event-planning mavens Jeff Clark (chair and volunteer for the Azalea Festival) and Omar McCallop (founder of Award Show Nation, a group that represents the Carolina and Georgia Music Awards), the inaugural Sonorous Music Festival lit up the stages of Orton’s Music and Billiards, Longstreet’s, Calico Room, Brooklyn Arts Center, Bourgie Nights, City Limits Saloon, and Bottega Art and Wine, with the talents of around 40 artists. From the soothing folk chords stummed by Michael Stovall to the heavy riffs of Avenue of the Giants, the festival had something for everyone.
“We certainly plan on doing it again,” Clark says. “We hope to have more sponsors to make it even better. We estimated over both nights upward to 800 attended the different venues; 2015 will be bigger and better.”
Local bands, too, have left their mark on 2014. The Scoundrels Reunion recorded their self-titled debut album at Hourglass Studios this year. Comprising Brandon Rougeau, Eric Kimmul and Jamie Eggleston, grungy guitar riffs merge with bluesy-folk rock in their classic-rock-inspired music.
Newly formed band Stray Local, which came together in spring 2013, also unleashed their first album this year. The Americana trio, which consists of Jamie Rowen, Hannah Lomas and Nick Simon, placed first in the Hourglass Studios’ EP competition, which awarded them 10 days of free recording time in the local studio. They utilized this time to lay down tracks for their debut full-length album, “The Sun Still Shines,” which was released in October.
Stray Local wasn’t the only band blasting through speakers with a debut album this year. Americana-folk group Mike Blair and the Stonewalls, too, treated listners to a full-length recording. Members Mike Blair (acoustic guitar, vocals), Sarah Blair (vocals), David Graham (bass, vocals), Michael Graham (electric guitar, vocals), Nathan Purifoy (keys), and Keith Butler Jr. (drums) culled together their self-titled album at Mike Blair’s apartment and completed it at Hourglass Studios. The band released the 13-track recording on December 6, with Stray Local as an opening act.
While local flavor certainly has prevailed throughout the year, a host of big bands from across the nation have churned out sonic splendor around town. Presented by now-defunct Progressive Music Group and AEG Live, big-name act Fitz and the Tantrums turned in a synth-laden performance at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater in May. The ‘80s-drenched pop rockers previously have opened for Maroon 5, and their music has been prominently featured on hit TV shows like “Desperate Housewives,” “Suits” and “Criminal Minds.”
The scorching months of summer also permitted locals the chance get in touch with their spiritual side with the Soulshine Festival thanks to Huka Entertainment. Battleship Park came alive with Michael Franti and Spearhead’s mellow tones and the practice of yoga. Monies raised from the yoga-concert mashup benefitted Green School’s Indonesian Scholarship Fund, which provides free education for Indonesian children.
Local turntable enthusiasts, too, have had reason to rejoice in 2014. Gravity Records, owned and operated by Matt Keen and wife Lindsey Zimecki, celebrated 10 years of vinyl sales, album release parties, and special events in August. A party at Bourgie Nights, featuring the musical talents of Astro Cowboy, Free Clinic, Museum Mouth, and Gross Ghost, signigifed the milestone. As well, they’ve annually observed National Record Store Day in April, with a plethora of deals and performances for the 200-plus music lovers who line up outside the store each year.
Speaking of records: Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern recently transcended their prowess for bringing hot and often hardcore bands to their half-foot stage by upstarting Reggie’s Records in the bar’s neighboring building. Reggie’s owner Matt Hearn and DJ Eric Parson of 98.3 FM The Penguin officially cut the ribbon on August 30, with the 910 Tableau Pop-Up Underground Art Show. The festivities included posters from Poster Hound Family Workshop, work from tattoo and flash artists, graffiti, drawings, paintings, skateboards, and prints. They enlisted the help of Zak Duff (Thrive Studios Collective), who assembled the nearly two-dozen artists who purveyed their art. Parson spun tunes throughout the evening, and barbecue was doled out.
Undeniably, the year came through musically. New festivals laid their groundwork, up-and-coming bands debuted recordings, a host of concert series sprung up, and some highly acclaimed national acts played their music in our stomping grounds. Milestones were achieved and fresh ventures were embarked upon. Here’s hoping the Port City maintains its musical momentum throughout 2015.