Sound Bites: Must-see shows

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Who: Howl In The Valley (album-release show)
Where: The Radio Room, 110 Poinsett Hwy., Greenville
When: Friday, April 5th at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $7

Spartanburg’s Howl In The Valley actually began as one-man-band Jonathan Stephens pummeling his acoustic guitar and thumping an old suitcase with his foot for percussion. That was before Stephens tried to give up the music biz and make a go at being a normal functioning adult. “That didn’t last long,” he says with a laugh. “I realized I had to make music regardless of how much money I was making.” Stephens got back into the game in 2018 and met vocalist Janeen Scott and lead guitarist Michael Krell at an open mic. The three of them quickly revived Howl In The Valley as a gritty, folk-blues-rock trio, enhanced by Scott and Stephens’ raw-but-tight vocal harmonies and Krell’s fiery lead guitar, all of which are on display on the band’s new self-titled EP. “The writing for this record is 100% me, but I started re-doing my songs when I started playing with them,” Stephens says. “We re-created the sound to fit the trio.” Actually, the trio sports a full-band sound on the EP, thanks to producer/engineer Matt Langston doubling on bass and Stephens hopping behind the drum-kit. “I wanted to record it like we sound live,” Stephens says, “but Matt said something that really resonated with me. He said, ‘I don’t think anyone goes to the movies and says they wish they hadn’t used some of that CGI.”


The Veer Union is playing The Firmament tonight at 7 p.m. Photo provided.

Who: The Veer Union, w/ NeverWake
Where: The Firmament, 5 Market Point Dr., Greenville
When: Friday, April 5th at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $13-$20

The Vancouver hard-rockers The Veer Union are calling their new tour the “The 10 Year Anniversary Tour” because 2019 marks ten years since the release of their first major-label album, Against The Grain, which came out on Universal/Motown (yes, THAT Motown). It was twelve tracks of sleekly produced, tight and melodic heavy modern-rock that put the band on the Billboard charts for the first time. It was also their only album on a major; they’ve recorded and released all of their subsequent albums, including last year’s half-acoustic, half-electric Decade II, independently. “Signing with Universal was really exciting,” says The Veer Union’s singer, Crispin Earl. “As with anything though, things can go from awesome to very dark very quickly. We had a disagreement with the label about what single we wanted released, and they released one that we didn’t want released, and it didn’t go very well. And unfortunately it didn’t matter that that was their decision not ours, and we got released from the label.” And in retrospect, Earl says that was the best thing that could’ve happened to them. “We were able to take control of our own creativity,” he says. “It’s ten times more work, but it’s ten times more gratifying when you have little successes because you did it on your own. It’s a learning curve, but we couldn’t be happier doing it the way we’re doing.”


The Trapfire Brothers will play Downtown Alive on April 11 at 5:30 p.m. Photo provided.

Who: The Trapfire Brothers
Where: Downtown Alive, NOMA Square, 220 N. Main St., Greenville
When: April 11th at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets: Free

The Trapfire Brothers actually began several years ago as a somewhat traditional folk trio, with two acoustic guitars and a standup bass. Through a series of lineup changes, they’ve evolved into something a lot more intriguing: Joe Tamburro mans a stripped-down drum kit, Aaron Bowen plays keyboards and Justin Garber sings while playing guitar, the only remaining stringed instrument in the group. The result is a light, sinewy sound that lends a fresh feeling to the band’s diverse catalog of cover tunes. There’s no bass guitar,” Tamburro says. “We make Aaron do it all with his left hand. As a drummer, it makes me really focus on what the drums are doing and how they contribute to the song. I’ve got to make sure what I’m doing carries the song forward. It makes you approach the songs differently.” In fact, that’s why the trio enjoys what they do so much: The familiar songs they play sound entirely different in this instrumental context. “That’s the fun thing,” Tamburro says. “That allows us to put our own spin on things and take them where we want.”

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