Saturday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m.
Aloft Acoustic Stage
Although Wirewood is an acoustic guitar-and-cello duo, don’t expect a classical recital when you come to see Keith Groover (guitar) and Laura Koelle (cello) live. The pair is far more comfortable playing their own pop- and rock-tinged originals, or a slew of covers ranging from Lady Gaga to Metallica. The two musicians came together when Koelle was hired to play a wedding where the playlist was far from the norm. “They wanted some modern music like Coldplay, Guns N’ Roses, or maybe even Coheed and Cambria,” Groover says. “She and I knew each other already, and she asked me if I’d be interested. It was fun, and it just snowballed from there. We didn’t set out to start an instrumental acoustic rock group, but that’s what sprung from it.” Both players have extensive experience with classical music, and Groover says that the Wirewood project allows them a lot more freedom. “Whenever you’re doing classical music, you’re wholly recreating what someone else has done,” he says. “You’re trying to make it sound the way Bach or Beethoven or Mozart wanted it to sound. But playing pop music, we get a fresh start. Classical and pop both have technical expectations, but they’re very different ones.”
Sunday, Oct. 15, 2 p.m.
Empire Strikes Brass
Furman University Jazz & Blues Stage
Empire Strikes Brass, with their seven-man horn section and general party-time atmosphere onstage, might seem like a typical New Orleans second line-style brass band. But a closer look at their latest album, “Theme for a Celebration,” reveals a much more expansive sound, incorporating funk, rock, and jazz just as liberally as the sounds of the Big Easy. “We started off as friends getting together to play some second line New Orleans stuff five or six years ago,” says keyboard player Lenny Pettinelli, “but then we added a lot more to that foundation. It’s certainly a genre we embrace and play wholeheartedly, but there are horns in a lot of different genres, and there are some tracks where the horns aren’t as present as the vocals.” The band has run into misconceptions about their music before, even from the public relations people they hired to promote their album. “They said, ‘We’re happy to promote this album, but we want you to drop three songs off of it because they’re so stylistically different from the rest of the stuff. But the album is a cross-section of what you get if you come to a live show,’” Pettinelli says. “We’re not afraid to play anything. We were asked to compromise in the name of marketability, and that wasn’t in the cards.”
Sunday, Oct. 15, 1:30 p.m.
Amongst the Trees
Hawkins Law Firm West End Stage
The three-piece band Amongst The Trees has a lineup that will look familiar to fans of acoustic Americana. BJ Callahan plays guitar, Jeff Gibson plays upright bass, and Larry Williams often plays percussion on a cajon. But a closer listen to their sound reveals more than just your average string band combo. The group is far more into groove than you might expect, creating surprisingly danceable music underneath Callahan and Gibson’s tight vocal harmonies. In fact, they’re closer to an acoustic jam band than any bluegrass or folk group. “You see the upright bass and acoustic guitar, and your mind goes to a certain place,” Callahan says. “But we’re really influenced by early blues, and I’m a big fan of jazz and R&B. I’d say we’re more influenced by those styles than anything else. But we can turn on a dime and play a straight-ahead bluegrass song.” The band also includes a healthy dose of improvisation in their songs, and Callahan says it’s like walking a musical tightrope. “You have to be willing to carve that space out, to trust your instincts and seize that moment,” he says. “If you trust yourself to go into that unknown territory, it doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s always better than something you planned.”