Soundchecks: Billy Ray Cyrus, Swearwolf, Convocation, Kween Katt, Don Merckle and the Blacksmiths

Live music to catch this week

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COUNTRY | Billy Ray Cyrus
Wed. June 12
9:30 p.m.
$37.50-$75
Honky Tonk Saloon

We're not really sure what the hell is going on here, but we turned our backs for like five minutes and suddenly Billy Ray Cyrus is a thing again. We sort of thought he'd faded into semi-obscurity and celebrity-parenthood after selling a gajillion copies of his early-'90s album Some Gave All and the "Achy Breaky Heart" single, but dude is selling like the proverbial hotcakes again, thanks to his appearance on a remix of one of the most dominant hits in recent memory, the inescapable "Old Town Road" by rapper Lil Nas X. There's a lot to unpack here, most notably that Cyrus didn't actually appear on the original version of the song, and his appearance on the remix helped to make it a bigger hit. The song has also been the source of some controversy, because Billboard magazine disqualified it from being on the country charts because they deemed it not a "country" enough song. Controversy sells, though, and Cyrus was smart enough to capitalize on his second act by hitting the road. —Vincent Harris WEDNESDAY

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WEREWOLF PUNK | Swearwolf
w/ DUMB Doctors, Public Luxuries, Stefan Paul and the Electric Splash
Sun. Jun. 16
9 p.m.
$5
The Royal American

What would a werewolf do if it existed and wanted to play music? It would start a punk act called Swearwolf, obviously. "It's a pretty entertaining show," says Swearwolf. "There's a lot of humor involved, a lot of jokes, a little bit of audience participation — [I] usually get somebody on stage to do something stupid." Clad in a werewolf mask and armed with a ukulele, Swearwolf holds a rowdy stage show inspired by everything that the wolfman is interested in. "I've always been a fan of monster movies, monster rock, whether it be GWAR or Kiss or anybody that wears makeup and dresses up," Swearwolf adds. "To me, it's important to stand out." As a character, Swearwolf is a rude, drinking, and swearing creature of the night, with a sensitive side that comes out when he plays the ukulele. During some shows, Swearwolf brings someone on stage to dress in a Chewbacca mask while he serenades them. And while that sounds sweet, this musical lycanthrope has sustained several injuries (including a broken foot) on stage because he "gets carried away in the moment." What else would you expect from a punk rock werewolf with a penchant for stage antics? At the Royal American gig, Swearwolf will be accompanied by his brother Snarewolf on drums for a two-person set, as opposed to his full band. —Heath Ellison SUNDAY

Mononeon - PROVIDED
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  • Mononeon

HIP-HOP, SOUL, & MORE | Convocation
Benny Starr and the Four20s, Jermaine Holmes & the Soulful Congregation, Mononeon feat. Daru Jones
Mon. June 17
8 p.m.
$20-$25
Pour House

Charleston's Rodrick Cliche — whose most recent musical venture landed his Four20s band as part of Benny Starr's ensemble for upcoming LP, A Water Album — came up with the idea for Convocation, an all-star show happening two days before June 19, a day with multiple meanings this year. It's Juneteenth, a.k.a. freedom day for African Americans; it's Cliche's birthday; and it's the anticipated release day of Starr's LP, which was recorded live last fall at the Charleston Music Hall. Time to celebrate, right? So Cliche began reaching out to close friends and colleagues from near and far for the occasion. First up there's Mononean, a Tennessee bassist, experimental musician, YouTube sensation, and, as Cliche says, "a phenomenon." He was also the last bass player for Prince before the legend passed away. Now part of Ghost Note, Mononeon is an eclectic artist known for such songs as "Fart When You Pee." (Yep!) Next up, the lineup features New York's Daru Jones, hip-hop's most sought-out drummer. There's also New Jersey soul singer Jermaine Holmes, who Cliche has worked with as part of D'angelo & the Vanguard, and who's also part of Cliche's own Soulful Congregation. Monday, the day of Convocation, is also Holmes' birthday. Cliche says that details like these just kept falling into place, divinely. "I'm a spiritual cat, in the church and all that," he says. "I named it Convocation because we grew up going to church functions, and this felt like everybody coming together, almost like a Thanksgiving dinner." —Kelly Rae Smith MONDAY

RUTA SMITH FILE
  • Ruta Smith file

RAP | Kween Katt
Sat. Jun. 15
6:30 p.m.
Free
Vivid Event Center

Rapper Kween Katt has two reasons for her show titled the Make It Rain Bash. First, she's celebrating her birthday. Second, she's showing the city that Kween Katt is still around and on top of her game. "A couple of my fans and supporters wanted me to put something together to show that I am still doing music and just to have a place where everything that I have done could be in one area," she says. "From here, it marks the beginning of actually starting to tour." Since 2006, Katt has been a prominent figure in the rap scene, dropping several mixtapes, albums, and, most recently, a book. Since her first mixtape, Katt has added in more R&B to the music. She also notices that her world views, specifically with religion, has changed and its effect is seen in the lyrical content. "I would say my music has more self-awareness and self-care, and more togetherness, instead of separation, as far as religion goes," Katt says. "It's still storytelling, it's still fun, but it's more educational. You learn a lot listening to it." The one thing that hasn't changed is a sense of positivity in the music Kween Katt makes. —Heath Ellison SATURDAY

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AMERICANA ROOTS-ROCK | Don Merckle & the Blacksmiths
w/ Wombat Junction
Sat. June 15
9 p.m.
$5
The Sparrow

The only real connecting thread that runs through the music that singer/guitarist Don Merckle is making with his band, the Blacksmiths, is honesty. On his two releases with the band, Merckle can go from a heartfelt acoustic folk balladeer ("The Ballad of Lincoln Wray") to a wide-screen Springsteen-style rocker ("My Lord, My Lord") to a dark Appalachian murder-music specialist ("Murder on My Mind"). And his band can hang with him, whether they're providing smoky sax, burbling banjo, or a low-key rhythmic pulse. It sounds like a real grab-bag of styles on paper, and perhaps it would be if Merckle's unifying songwriting vision wasn't so strong. There are no pretensions in his compositions, and no wasted time; even the songs with layers of instruments have a sort of understated elegance. And Merckle's singing voice is clear and heartfelt enough to lend an accessibility to even his darkest, most desperate words. —Vincent Harris SATURDAY

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