Live Music: Sideshow Americans, Donavon Frankenreiter, BJ Barham, Hans Wenzel & The Eighty-Sixers

Great live music to check out this week

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ACOUSTIC AMERICANA | Hans Wenzel & The Eighty-Sixers
w/ Pinkerton & The Brinks and The Mike Freund Band
Sat. Aug. 20
9 p.m.
The Sparrow

Hans Wenzel has tried on a few different hats during his career. He's been a metal band frontman with Greenville's Noxious. He's done the cover band thing with the Swingin' Richards. And he's been a solo singer-songwriter. But it wasn't until Wenzel moved from the Upstate to Charleston last year that he found a comfortable niche with his band the Eighty-Sixers. After discovering a songwriting connection, Wenzel and guitarist Chris Fulmer recruited drummer Dan Wilson and fiddle player Zach Hudson for a stripped-down acoustic Americana sound and some simple-but-incisive story-songs. "It was important to us to tell good stories with these songs," Wenzel says. "I wanted to keep it simple like a lot of the artists I admire, like Jason Isbell or Ryan Adams or Ray LaMontagne." And apparently, Charleston was just the right place for Wenzel to find his comfort zone. "The musicians around here took me in very fast," he says. "I met so many great players in such a short time. I've really found a sense of family here." —Vincent Harris SATURDAY

JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek

TRIBUTE | Sideshow Americans
Sat. Aug. 20
9:30 p.m.
$10
Pour House

For months, Charleston's Sideshow Americans have been kicking around the idea of performing songs from Wilco's Being There. Now with Jordan Igoe and SUSTO's Marshall Hudson in tow, it appears that it's finally the right time to do it. "We were hanging around after a practice one night, and 'Sunken Treasure' came up on a playlist," says guitarist/vocalist Ryan Bonner. "And we all started talking about how awesome of a record Being There is, and how it was really Wilco's first step outside of the box where they started to push the boundaries of their songwriting and dig deeper into exploring new things musically, not unlike like The Beatles' Rubber Soul and Revolver." Revisiting Wilco's 1996 record has also inspired Sideshow Americans' own songwriting. "We've been talking a lot about where we want to go artistically with the next Sideshow Americans album, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to allow us to go cook a meal with the stuff we find in somebody else's fridge before we have to come home and mix up our own new recipes.  Maybe we'll call our next album Jeff Tweedy's Refrigerator or something." —Kelly Rae Smith SATURDAY

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ROOTS-ROCK | Donavon Frankenreiter
w/ John Shields
Sun. Aug. 21
9 p.m.
$17-$20
Music Farm

There's a deceptive ease about Donavon Frankenreiter's songs. After over a decade of recording and seven full-length solo albums, he's refined an easy-going shrug of a singing voice into a casual but effective weapon, and his songs, many of which turn on a simple acoustic guitar figure or a subtle turn of phrase, fit as comfortably as that proverbial old pair of jeans. On his 2015 album The Heart, the surfer-cum-songwriter tries on acoustic folk, a little dash of gospel, some laid-back, sun-kissed rock, and a bit of smoothly crafted pop — and he's an adaptable enough talent that none of it seems out of character. His work is reminiscent of Jack Johnson or John Mayer on a superficial level, sure, but there's more grit under the surface of this dude than those other guys. Who he really resembles is John Hiatt circa Slow Turning or Stolen Moments, where confidence and a slippery musical style combine into some great roots-rock. —Vincent Harris SUNDAY

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ALT-COUNTRY | BJ Barham of American Aquarium
w/ Justin Osborne of SUSTO
Sun. Aug. 21
8 p.m.
$15/adv., $20/door
Charleston Library Society

In BJ Barham's more than a dozen years as frontman for American Aquarium, he's never set out to make a solo record. But a European tour with the band late last year changed all that. The alt-country six-piece was in Belgium when a series of terrorist attacks two hours away in Paris left 130 people dead. Messages of concern from friends and family back home came flooding in, and Barham suddenly found himself with a lot to say. "Usually when I write one or more two songs, if I have a notion of doing a solo record, I immediately put that notion out as crazy talk and just put those couple songs toward the next band record," says the Reidsville, N.C. native. "But this is the first time where a lot poured out at once, and by a lot, I mean enough to put it out as it poured out." While songwriting in Belgium, Barham's mind turned to his roots in North Carolina. The result is Rockingham, a collection of songs that, though written far from home, reflect the small-town life Barham knew in Reidsville — the good and the bad. "I'm appreciative of the man Reidsville made me, but I'm also happy about the person I became after I left that small town," he says. "The morals, the values, the family structure that was set up early in my life, the sense of community of small-town life were things that I really loved. But on the flip-side, there's a closed-mindedness to it. There's a refusal to change with the times." Though the characters in the songs are fictional, they're loosely based on many folks he knew growing up. And each story is set within a very real place, making the songs powerfully relatable to small-town folks everywhere who have known the same lives, experienced similar joys, and developed the same sort of disillusionments. "I don't think I set out to make a huge grand statement on the brokenness of the American dream," Barham says, "but the record kind of ended up thematically encapsulating that for me." —Kelly Rae Smith SUNDAY


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