Soundchecks: BJ Barnham, Yonder Mountain String Band, Willie Heath Neal & the Damned Old Opry, lespecial, DerPot

Live music to catch this week

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MIGUEL EMMANUELLI
  • Miguel Emmanuelli

ACOUSTIC SINGER/SONGWRITER | BJ Barham
Thurs. Feb. 7
8 p.m.
$20/adv., $25/door
Charleston Library Society

As good as American Aquarium's last album Things Change was, and we thought it was one of the best rock albums of 2018, it's appealing to think about hearing frontman BJ Barham playing the songs from that album acoustically. Things Change was a nakedly confessional collection of songs that found Barham taking on our country's political climate, his own flaws as a husband and his alcoholism in unflinching terms, and lyrics like the ones he wrote for that album lend themselves to the intimate, folkier interpretation of an acoustic setting. What's more, Barham is an appealing between-songs talker, an uninhibited conversationalist who can be reflective, funny, sharply intelligent, and contemplative. It's fun to think about those personality traits in a stripped-down setting, where Barham can simply talk to the audience between tunes and feel out the vibe. But this show is ultimately about the songs, and Barham's most recent batch is easily the best of his career. —Vincent Harris THURSDAY

PROVIDED
  • Provided

PROGRESSIVE BLUEGRASS | Yonder Mountain String Band
w/ Handmade Moments
Sun. Feb. 10
7:30 p.m.
$25
Music Farm

Though he certainly wasn't the main focus of the band, singer/mandolin player Jeff Austin was essentially the frontman of the Yonder Mountain String Band for nearly a decade. So when he left in 2014, it was reasonable to assume that there might be troubled times ahead for the Colorado progressive-bluegrass outfit. But what Yonder Mountain has done since then amounts to a creative rebirth; adding fiddle player Allie Kral and mandolin player Jake Jolliff, the band became both more adventurous and more of a collective, sharing vocal duties and delving into a darker, more nuanced sound. Kral's fiddle has emerged as a formidable addition to their instrumental attack. She can do the lightning-fast soloing that any bluegrass-based ensemble needs, but on the band's two post-Austin albums, Black Sheep and Love Ain't Love, she's shown a real knack for mood and atmosphere, giving Yonder Mountain's music a haunting depth they'd never had before. —Vincent Harris SUNDAY

PROVIDED
  • Provided

OUTLAW COUNTRY | Willie Heath Neal & the Damned Old Opry
w/ Kira Annelise
Thurs. Feb. 7
8 p.m.
$5
The Sparrow

Every once in a while, you run into a combination of acts on one concert bill that fit together like perfect jigsaw puzzle pieces. Willie Heath Neal & the Damned Old Opry sharing the stage with Kira Annelise is such a bill. Neal is about as old-school outlaw country as it gets — a tattooed, guitar-slingin' greaser with an ear for honky-tonk heartache and a love of roadhouse stompers, a tasty selection of which he pounds out on his latest EP, South Americana. With a voice like a whiskey sour and a serious don't-give-a-fuck attitude, Neal could almost be mistaken for a punk-rocker if he wasn't so good at writing barroom philosophy lyrics with a poet's touch. Kira Annelise was inspired by Neal's back-to-basics outlaw country heart-tuggers, so she's developed just as keen an eye for dusty heartache, even if she takes a more rock-edged, modern approach to her brand of C&W. Either way, this show is for those who like crying in their beer, then tearing the roof off the place. —Vincent Harris THURSDAY

ALEX HARNEY
  • Alex Harney

FUTURE GROOVE/ PRIMUS COVERS | lespecial
Sun. Feb. 10
9 p.m.
$5
Pour House

Starting in the vein of groups like the Mars Volta (hell yes) and 1960s Miles Davis (also, hell yes), lespecial mixes plenty of styles to give a different outlook on contemporary prog rock. 2015's Omnisquid has the movement of old-school progressive, extensive instrumental sections, layered songs, and the heaviness of bands like Tool and, of course, the band they're paying tribute to, Primus. lespecial will do one set at the Pour House full of their original music, and then one set covering the music of Les Claypool and crew. "We do every era," says bassist Luke Bemand. "All of us have been playing Primus together since we were in high school." Bemand adds that lespecial tries to hit every album, but, sadly not the Willy Wonka cover album Primus did. —Heath Ellison SUNDAY

ZEPPELIN STUDIOS
  • Zeppelin Studios

MACABRE ROCK | DerPot
w/ Faction 15, Jupiter Down
Thurs. Feb. 7
8 p.m.
$7
Tin Roof

Although they've dubbed themselves "morbid" or "macabre rock," DerPot is as group of animated musicians, as indicated by their self-titled live album. Drawing influence from Zeppelin, Sabbath, and PBR, the group screams and riffs their way through a raucous set of hard rock tracks. "It's real heavy blues rock," says guitarist Dylan Wood. "We like to write real dark-themed music, use a lot of minor scales." DerPot stumbled upon the sound pretty organically, when Wood and bassist Jordan Miller mixed their blues and metal inspirations together. DerPot is piecing together their next album, currently untitled, which Wood expects to be out this summer. "We're going to emphasize more on structures and stuff like that," says Wood. The bassist explained that more instrumental sections and more thought-out compositions are planned for the new tunes. —Heath Ellison THURSDAY

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