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2010 August at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

A cross between Rolling Stone, Soldier of Fortune and the Oxford American

Archive for August, 2010

Knoxville 2, Natalie Merchant 0

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Here’s hoping East Tennessee is a little kinder to singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant when she returns to town for a performance next week.

Merchant, who first made a name for herself as the front woman for 10,000 Maniacs from 1981-93 before going solo, will perform Tuesday, Aug. 31, at The Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville. I interviewed her for this Friday’s edition of The Daily Times Weekend entertainment section, and while she laughs at the memories, it’s clear her previous performances in our fair area didn’t always go well.

“I have a really clear memory of playing in Knoxville the last time — it was in 1999, I think,” she said. “I remember I asked if anyone had a horse so I could go horseback riding, and someone did, so they took me — and the horse bolted and ran into the forest. I’m not a very experienced rider, so I told them to give me the oldest, most tame mare they could find. They did, and it still bolted.”

The coup de grace as far as Knoxville stories go, however, was a performance previous to that, when 10,000 Maniacs was opening for R.E.M. (From what I can find online, that would have been Oct. 1, 1987, at Stokely Athletic Center on the University of Tennessee campus.) Merchant and R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe have long been friends, but that particular appearance didn’t end well for Merchant.

“The footlights had been trained on Michael’s chest, but they hit me in the face,” she said. “As the warm-up band, you don’t have the luxury of a soundcheck and testing out the stage. I went out on the first song and was completely blinded, got tangled up in a cord, fell off the stage and sprained both knees.”

Wait … it gets better, she added. It was cold outside, and when the crew took her to a local hospital, she didn’t think to grab her coat. Someone else did, however, and as they were pushing her into the hospital, someone draped the jacket around her shoulders.

“They took me to the maternity ward because they thought I was going into labor!” Merchant said with a laugh. “A nurse came over and asked, ‘How close are the contractions?’ I said, ‘I’m not having a baby! I fell off the stage and sprained my knees!’”

On a more serious note, she’s had a baby in the years since — daughter Lucia, born in 2003 — and being a mother in today’s world, especially for a socially conscious artist like Merchant, isn’t always easy, she added.

“Many aspects of the world have become unbearable to me now — the cruelty, the wanton destruction,” she said. “I have this vested interest in the future, and when I hear about ocean temperatures rising and how all the fish in the ocean might be dead in 50 years — that’s in my child’s lifetime. Before, I would have thought, ‘That’s tragic, but I’ll be gone.’ Now I feel it’s my responsibility to care more. I should have cared before, because other people’s children were going to live to see it, but I certainly do now.

“For the first two years of my daughter’s life, I would get physically ill reading the newspaper. I realized everyone who perpetrated a crime, every victim of a crime — whether it was a petty crime on the street or a crime against humanity like what’s happened in Darfur or Kosovo — all those people were infants and completely innocent at one time. What the hell went wrong?

“I keep turning to a lack of love,” she added. “There just isn’t enough love in the world. People spend their entire lives searching for the love they didn’t get from their parents.”

Written by wildsmith

August 25th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Local venues, Music

Catching up with Scott Miller

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Needing your Scott Miller fix? It’s been a while since the old boy played East Tennessee — back in April, when he performed at “The Shed” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson — but he’ll remedy that on Friday, when he does a little solo acoustic show at 8 p.m. at The Square Room, 4 Market Square in downtown Knoxville. He’ll no doubt draw on a few choice tracks from his time with local Americana rock band The V-Roys, as well as his most excellent solo albums — from “Thus Always to Tyrants” to last year’s “For Crying Out Loud.” We checked in with him this week, and he told us he’s been holed up in Fountain City, working on songs for his next studio album, and if he deems one of the new songs worthy, he might debut it on Friday. Other than that — well, he tells us he grew his beard back, and he’s getting advances of his new Christmas EP this week. We feel a holiday concert may be in the works — although, given Miller’s quirky nature, it probably won’t be the traditional kind. Check him out in the meantime on Friday; tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.

Written by wildsmith

August 25th, 2010 at 8:27 am

Posted in Music

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Flashback: Remember Barry “Byrd” Burton

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A buddy of mine sent me a tribute video of Barry “Byrd” Burton, a founding member of long-gone Knoxville band The Loved Ones. Burton died in 2008, and someone went to a lot of trouble to gather photos and clips of Byrd for the aforementioned YouTube video. It’s a touching tribute, and it reminded me of the conversation I had with Byrd back in 2004, when The Loved Ones were getting back together to perform at the inaugural MetroFest in downtown Knoxville. (The very same one where Rus Harper of Teenage Love13 got arrested for mooning the crowd.)

That story is stuck in our archives, unfortunately — which means you have to pay to access it — but to hell with that. Here it is in its entirety, because I just wanted to.

The Loved Ones commemorate role in Knoxville’s music scene

Daily Times, The (Maryville, TN) – Friday, September 10, 2004

By Steve Wildsmith

Barry “Byrd” Burton never thought Saturday’s reunion show by 1960s rock band The Loved Ones , one of the first original bands in Knoxville, would cause so much commotion.

But the gathering of Burton , Terry Johnson and Mike Coyner, appearing onstage together for the first time in almost 30 years, is the buzz of the Knoxville music scene — especially for those around during The Loved Ones‘ heyday.

“I can’t say that our status didn’t occur to me, but it certainly wasn’t anything I ever pondered,” Burton said during an interview this week. “It’s just something we did, at the time and place where and when we were. Let’s just say that a lot of things came together all at the same time for us.”

The Loved Ones will perform, along with a handful of other bands, on Saturday on Market Square Mall in downtown Knoxville. It’s the inaugural MetroFest, put together by Metro Pulse to raise money for a proposed park and to pay tribute to East Tennessee’s storied music scene.

The Loved Ones date back to the 1960s, when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones inspired kids to pick up guitars and start their own groups. It was an era of youthful exuberance and freedom, a time when Beat poets and ’60s radicals encouraged independent thought and the shaking free of the shackles of conformity.

And just as the lure of excess took its toll on big-time bands in those days, so it did on The Loved Ones as well. Coyner replaced the late Dorian Rush, who died during the band’s heyday, and while this weekend’s reunion was still in the planning stages, death claimed bassist and founding member Doug Graham as well.

Burton, modest in his assessment of The Loved Ones‘ role in East Tennessee’s rock scene, said the decision to go ahead with Saturday’s show was made for the benefit of the band members as much as it was the public.

“We’re hardly John, Paul, George and Ringo, but Doug’s passing has added another dimension to it for us,” he said. “For us, it is sort of a healing process. The guy who’s going to play bass with us on Saturday was always kind of a fifth Loved One and was a member of the band for a while in the second round.”

Burton, who session work is in high demand in Nashville, said the biggest adjustment, besides being back in the Loved Ones lineup, will be putting his vocal chops to work once again.

“I haven’t sung much in years, and now I’m going to have to sing again,” he said with a chuckle. “From that point of view, it scares me a little. I don’t mind the playing — I play every day. It’s just a matter of playing different songs.

“And without Doug, it’s going to be weird playing these songs. I haven’t played some of them in 30 years, and I’ve never played them without him. Whatever happens, he’ll certainly be there in spirit.”

And so will an outpouring of good will and fellowship, as those who followed in the wake of The Loved Ones ‘ success — from Boogie Disease to R.B. Morris to members of the Lonesome Coyotes — pull up a chair to watch their forebears once again show them how it’s done.

“I’ve been living in a world where every note has to be just right, and on Saturday, I’m going to put aside constant striving for musical perfection and just have fun,” said Burton, who left The Loved Ones and went on to serve as guitarist and producer for the ’70s country-rock outfit the Amazing Rhythm Aces. “If it’s not all right, it won’t matter It won’t matter if someone plays the wrong note or sings flat.

“Because if the four of us can have fun, everybody will have fun.”

Even the spirits of those long and recently departed, which will no doubt linger in the shadows, where the echoes of old rock songs played with renewed vigor settle like late-afternoon rain.

Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor. Contact him at steve.wildsmith@thedailytimes.com or at 981-1144

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August 24th, 2010 at 7:30 am

Pretty Lights pumped about Moogfest

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In case you haven’t heard, there’s a massive electronic music festival taking place over Halloween weekend in nearby Asheville, N.C.Moogfest, slated for Oct. 29-31.

It’s designed to honor the vision and invention of Robert Moog, who called Asheville home during the last 30 years of his life; previously, the festival has been held in New York. This year, it’ll take place at various venues in downtown Asheville and include a lot of latitude for the performers. According to the site, “While the wide range of Moog instruments – the Minimoog Voyager, the Little Phatty, the Etherwave Theremin, Moogerfoogers, and the new Moog Guitar – will play prominent roles throughout the festival’s events, the artists performing will certainly not be limited to those who create their work on Moog instruments. Instead, artists will be chosen for their role in creating unique and groundbreaking musical experiences that embody the essence of Bob Moog’s visionary and creative spirit.”

One of those artists is Derek Vincent Smith — the artist known as Pretty Lights, who’s coming to town for a show next week (Aug. 25) at The Valarium. I asked him about Moogfest when I interviewed him recently.

“I’m excited about my fall tour as a whole because of a lot of new things will be going on, and there are new production elements I’m bringing to the stage,” he said. “Asheville’s one of the coolest cities in the country, and also I love Moog. I’ve been into the factory before, I’ve seen live Moog performances, and I’ve always used the gear they create — even before creating the Pretty Lights project.

“I’m really pumped about that show. Hopefully it’s gonna kick off the fall tour in a big way.”

Written by wildsmith

August 19th, 2010 at 10:04 am

Matisyahu: Anti-Israeli sentiment is dangerous

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As one of pop culture’s most recognizable Jewish figures, Matisyahu — who performs this weekend at the University of Tennessee and is on the cover of the Aug. 20 edition of The Daily Times Weekend entertainment section — is often asked to weigh in on the neverending strife in the Middle East.

For the most part, he told me this week, he chooses not to engage in debate or discussion.

“With what I’m doing, there’s enough bad press for Israel right now, which means bad press for Jews,” he said. “I’m here, and I’m making music — I’m not a politician, and I’m not a leader of a country making decisions about lives. Those are the difficult decisions that leaders need to make; I’m involved in something completely different.

“It’s art and inspiration, and I don’t think there’s any point for me to tell people what my feelings about poltiics are. That’s irrelevant to what I do.”

He does, however, offer one caveat — as someone troubled for the future not just of his people, but of all people.

“All of this anti-Israeli sentiment going on around the world, I believe, is really just anti-Semitism masked as something else — blaming the Jews for the world’s problems,” he said. “It’s very similar to what was happening with the Jews at the beginning of the Holocaust, and it concerns me.”

Written by wildsmith

August 19th, 2010 at 9:55 am

Clayton Center for the Arts rolls out 2010-2011 season lineup

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The Clayton Center for the Arts over on the Maryville College campus got a test run when it opened at the beginning of the year, but now officials are preparing for the facility’s first full season of performances.

Clayton Center Executive Director Robert Hutchens unveiled the 2010-11 season for the center this week, and it includes something for everyone — literally — including some big names in jazz and bluegrass. Here’s what’s headed to Maryville this year:

  • Neil Berg’s “100 Years of Broadway” (8 p.m. Sept. 17 in the main theater): Five of Broadway’s leading performers as well as an all-star New York band come to town to perform the most beloved and memorable songs from a century of Broadway musical history, including recent as well as more traditional hits. Not only do they perform — they do so as the characters and scenes from which the songs come.
  • Richter/Uzur (7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in the Lambert Recital Hall): A duo fusing rock , folk and classical  to create a sound that is modern, traditional and unique.
  • Sam Bush with Missy Raines and New Hip (8 p.m. Nov. 5 on the main stage): One of the season’s headliners, Bush has been called “The King of Telluride,” “The Founder of New Grass” and “The Heir to Bill Monroe.” He’s an award-winning master of banjo, fiddle, and mandolin and has shared the stage with such luminaries as Lyle Lovett and Garth Brooks. Raines is a seven-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association Bass Player of the Year Awards and will be performing with her band, New Hip.
  • Robert deMaine and Andrew Armstrong (7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 in the Lambert Recital Hall): First chair cellist of the Detroit Symphony (deMaine) and internationally renowned pianist (Armstrong) perform an evening of intimate classical music
  • American Spiritual Ensemble (8 p.m. Jan. 15, 2011, on the main stage): Part of the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on campus, featuring the spellbinding singing of John Wesley Wright, who entertained at the center’s opening-night gala. He’s just one member of the ensemble, a group of professional soloists who combine their voices in a chorus of tribute to the soul-stirring spiritual.
  • The Aluminum Show (8 p.m. Jan. 21 on the main stage): Like Pilobolus and The Blue Man Group, the Israeli troupe of “dancers”  has defined its own genre.  Clad in  imaginative, often bizarre, structures of recycled aluminum, the  performers execute a choreography of shapes and colors that surprise, intrigue and enchant
  • Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana (7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 on the main stage): An evening of culture and art featuring dancers celebrating the national dance and songs  of Spain.
  • “All Shook Up,” the musical (8 p.m. Feb. 11 on the main stage): Featuring the songbook of Elvis Presley, telling the story of a teenage rebel shaking up a small town.
  • “The Comedy of Errors” (7:30 p.m. March 9 on the main stage): The Acting Company of New York City presents one of Shakespeare’s most farcical, accessible plays.
  • The Passing Zone (7:30 p.m. March 19 on the main stage): Comedy-juggling team that’s been in the Guinness Book of World Records four times, they’ll juggle everything from human beings to chainsaws.
  • “An Evening With Groucho Marx” (6:30 p.m. March 26 in the William Baxter Lee Grand Foyer): Actor Frank Ferrante transforms himself into the legendary screen and comedic legend for a night of dinner theater in the Clayton Center’s foyer.
  • Chris Brubeck and Triple Play (8 p.m. April 8 on the main stage): The son of legendary jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck comes to town with Joel Brown and Madcat Ruth to perform their melange of blues, rock, folk and, of course, jazz.

And those shows are on top of what’s already been announced:

As far as ticket sales go — 12 of the events are being offered in subscription series of different sizes through Sept. 19.  Patrons who buy a series of five to seven performances will receive a 10 percent discount; those wanting 8 to 11 performances get a 15 percent discount; and those who purchase tickets for all 12 get a 25 percent discount. Regarding single-ticket sales — excluding the Groucho Marx dinner theater show, the average ticket price is $16.09 for adult economy tickets (average price for students and seniors — $12.50).

To reserve seats for any of the shows, call the Clayton Center box office at (865) 981-8590, visit the center online or go by the box office between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets go on sale Thursday, Aug. 19.

Butt-ton of tickets going on sale Friday (Aug. 20)

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Get yer credit cards ready — there’s a ton of shows going on sale this coming Friday (Aug. 20). Doubtful they’ll sell out as quickly as Sufjan Stevens did, but nevertheless … they’re all pretty cool. Here’s what’s going on sale Friday:

  • Benjy Davis Project, Taylor Brown and Co., Jonathan Sexton (8 p.m. Sept. 23 at The Square Room in downtown Knoxville; $10 adv/$12 door)
  • Mindy Smith (8 p.m. Sept. 30 at The Square Room; $12.50 adv/$15 door)
  • GWAR, Mobile Death Camp, Infernaeon, The Casualties (7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at The Valarium in Knoxville; $19 adv/$22 door)
  • Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Hill Country Revue (9 p.m. Oct. 13 at The Valarium; $22 adv/$25 door)
  • Will Hoge (9 p.m. Oct. 13 at The Square Room; $12.50 adv/$15 door)
  • The Temptations, The Four Tops (8 p.m. Oct. 14 at The Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville; $55 and $70)
  • Corey Smith (9 p.m. Oct. 14 at The Valarium; $18 adv/$20 door)
  • 311 (8 p.m. Oct. 26 at The Tennessee Theatre; $41.50)
  • Punch Brothers feat. Chris Thile (8 p.m. Nov. 3 at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville; $19.50)
  • Reverend Horton Heat, Legendary Shack*Shakers, Split Lip Rayfield (8 p.m. Nov. 17 at The Valarium; $20 adv/$22 door)

For Valarium, Tennessee Theatre and Bijou shows, call 656-4444 to order, or visit Tickets Unlimited online. For Square Room shows, visit the Square Room’s online ticket office.

Written by wildsmith

August 18th, 2010 at 6:11 am

Posted in Local venues, Music

Senryu: hobnobbing with Arcade Fire, releasing new music

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Judging by the Internet chatter on Twitter, a number of local fans made the trek down to Atlanta on Wednesday night to see the double-bill of indie rock goodness that was Arcade Fire and Spoon.

Doubtless they enjoyed the show. Doubtful, however, did any of them get to hang out with both bands afterward. Except for one man — one Mr. Wil Wright of the Knoxville indie power-pop ensemble known as Senryu.

We’ve written multiple times about Senryu and the apparent bottomless well of talent Wil possesses — most recently in March — but he’s also the recipient of some boundless good fortune. Even he admits that finding himself post-show hanging with three-quarters of Spoon, all of Arcade Fire, his own publicist and Bryan Poole of the indie band Of Montreal.

“The idea was really just to go down and hang out with Eric (Harvey, multi-instrumentalist for Spoon whom Wright met when the two played in the North Carolina indie ensemble Physics of Meaning),” Wright told me today. “He’d gotten in touch with me and said to come on down to Atlanta, and I got to meet (Arcade Fire singer) Win Butler before the show.

“Afterward, though, everybody was excited because ‘The Suburbs’ had just gone No. 1. Everybody was drinking champagne, and Arcade Fire travels with a ping-pong table, so it was very ping-pong-centric. To meet heroes like that, and to meet them on such a big day for them and just get to blend in … it was surreal. I’ll remember it forever.”

Such is the life of the frontman of Senryu, but know this — every accomplishment, every stroke of good fortune has been earned through hard work. Example — on the heels of releasing the full-length “Inkling” in March, the band already has two EPs ready to go. Both will be celebrated on Saturday at a show with Teenage Love13 at The Longbranch Saloon, 1848 Cumberland Ave. (”The Strip”) in Knoxville.

By most standards, Senryu’s output is mind-blowing, especially considering Wright is already working on an album of remixes and B-sides for a fall release. To him, it’s just what he does — his best.

“I experienced and wrote everything in May and early June, then knocked everything out as soon as I got home from California,” Wright said of the creation of the two EPs — “Attached at the Hip” and “Superduperficialworld.” “ I was experiencing a lot of serious, dark examinations of progress, and also having a whole, whole lot of fun — a really insane sort of nobody’s-holding-the-steering-wheel sort of fun.

“I had enough for an album, but because of how different the songs were, I decided to do two albums worth of material split up into two very different camps.”

“Hip,” he said, reflects a tight-knit friendship — the heady invincibility felt by those on the inside and the head-scratching, left-behind feelings by those who are on the outside looking in.

“Inside, it feels like the center of the universe, but outside it can feel very polarizing and annoying,” he said. “I love the juxtaposition, the view from inside and outside of this really crazy, tight-knit group of people. It revolves around a lot of the fun I was having here and in Los Angeles for work. It was just a really, really crazy time.”

Quick aside — Wright was in Los Angeles because a documentary filmmaker he met on tour has embarked on the creation of a documentary about the band. It’s roughly halfway through production, with filming set for Saturday night at the Longbranch, and Wright flew to LA to film some scenes there as well.

“It’s about how we’ve stayed on our grind through the paradigm shift in the music industry, and how nothing has really ever happened for us even though everything has happened,” Wright said. “We’ve done everything we wanted to do – lived out our dreams and aspirations for the band — without ever experiencing any actual market success. That, and it’s focusing on the fact that we have an extremely long catalog.

“Things happen, but they don’t. It never feels like an ascension or descension — it feels like nothing really changes; sometimes in a frustrating way, sometimes in a comforting way. I get to see a lot and do a lot, and I try to accept it as kind of the stuff that happens. I just stay busy, stay focused on what I’m doing and not get caught up in it.

“Anyway, in Los Angeles, he took me around and had me play whatever I wanted to play in these massive, surreal settings and backdrops,” Wright added.

The film has no title yet, but Wright hopes it’ll be completed in early 2011.

Back to the new EPs … “Superduperficial World” is the more thought-provoking of the two, less frenetic energy and more contemplation. If “Attached at the Hip” (and the title track, by the way, is a shot of cocaine — brief, intense and stout enough to drop you to your knees and leave you with your ears ringing, panting and scrambling for more) is the wild night where all manner of craziness unfolds, “World” is the morning after, sitting in the living room with the shades drawn while the first rays of the sun creep through, having yet to find sleep and still digesting everything that just happened.

“It’s kind of like riding on the back of a monster — you can’t do anything about it; you just find yourself looking left, looking right, looking into the past,” Wright said. “It’s about home, about living here. A lot of people living here feel like they can’t escape, and that makes me feel really frustrated because I love it here. They talk about feeling trapped, about feeling stifled by the geography of Knoxville.

“I’ve been so many places, and I would rather be here than anywhere. I feel like this is the place for me, and that’s one of my major frustrations from other people. I don’t think being from Knoxville, Tenn., has stopped me from living my dream out. It’s as interesting as anywhere else and undersaturated.

“The whole thing i just about life direction paranoia and feeling out of control,” he added.

Saturday night, however, the control valves will be twisted all the way open, and the insanity that is Senryu … not to mention Teenage Love13 … will be unleashed, he added. It’s a masquerade party designed to mimic the beginning-of-the-semester mixers that will take place up and down “The Strip” over the next week, when University of Tennessee students come back to town.

“This is an icebreaker where no one meets,” he said with a laugh. ”Everyone will be there and no one will meet, because we’ll all be wearing masks.

“Some things are going to happen at the show that I have to keep secret, though. No one that attends the show will ever forget what goes down on Saturday night.”

FREE MUSIC! Download “Papillon” by Senryu, from the new EP “Attached at the Hip”: right-click here (choose “Save Link As” or “Save Target As”)

Beach Fossils drop from 8/19 Pilot Light bill

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If you were psyched about the double bill of Beach Fossils and Warpaint headed to The Pilot Light (106 E. Jackson Ave. in Knoxville’s Old City) … well, sorry to dash your expectations, but Beach Fossils have been dropped from that show. According to Pilot Light owner Jason Boardman, Beach Fossils trimmed the number of shows the band was doing with the LA girl-group Warpaint and so won’t be hitting Knoxville on Thursday, Aug. 19, as originally planned. Instead, Boardman said, Fecal Japan will be the opener. Admission is $10; look for our interview with Warpaint tomorrow on The Daily Times Weekend website.

Written by wildsmith

August 11th, 2010 at 11:00 am

Billy Joe out, Goose Creek in

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Bicep ligament tears have forced honky-tonk hero Billy Joe Shaver to cancel his summer tour dates, including one that was set for later this month — Aug. 28, to be exact — at “The Shed” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson, 1820 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville. A replacement has already been set — jam-band godfathers Goose Creek Symphony, which performed at “The Shed” back in June. The new date is billed as a Goose Creek “encore performance.” Click here to buy tickets. Best of luck to Mr. Shaver in his recuperation; Lord knows the man’s dealt with his share of health problems over the years. Good thing he’s tougher than Texas armadillo jerky.

Written by wildsmith

August 10th, 2010 at 11:41 am