Soundchecks: JOHNNYSWIM, David Higgins Band, the Lost Cosmonauts, Conor Donohue, Mike & The Moonpies

Live music to catch this week

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MELODIC POP-ROCK | JOHNNYSWIM [RESCHEDULED]
Originally Tues. Sept. 3, rescheduled for Thurs., Oct. 24
8 p.m.
$35
Music Hall

Moonlight, the new album by JOHNNYSWIM, the Los Angeles duo of singer Amanda Sudano and singer/guitarist Abner Ramirez, feels like the work of a band coming into their own. The duo's third full-length kicks off with a wide-screen, Sia-style epic pop number with a skyscraping chorus called "Bridges." It then proceeds to offer a kaleidoscopic view of the band's range, including choppy-but-melodic indie-rock ("Souvenir"), intimate acoustic balladry ("Long Gone"), skeletal, electronics-tinged dance pop ("Lost In Translation") and a pulsing Latin influenced gem ("Marietta"). Perhaps the biggest surprise on the album is its centerpiece, a song called "The Last Time." If you didn't come to the new JOHNNYSWIM album expecting a gigantic, percussive showstopper, featuring former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald on shivery backup vocals, then this tune will definitely be why you stay. Listening to McDonald's voice merge perfectly with Sudano and Ramirez's vocals is a unique experience to say the least, and it's the kind of thing that only an experienced band could get away with. We often look at a band's third album as the one that makes their strongest artistic statement, and perhaps the point at which they start providing variations on their sound. Moonlight makes a statement in spades. It's a comfortable mix of the duo's core strengths, meaning their knack for pop hooks and strong vocal harmonies, with a newly polished studio approach that doesn't sand away any of their grittier characteristics. With a platform like Moonlight to build on, JOHNNYSWIM is seemingly in a position to go in all sorts of directions next time out. —Vincent Harris TUESDAY

JOSH WILSON PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Josh Wilson Photography

Pop-Rock Covers | David Higgins Band
Fri. Sept. 6
10 p.m.
$5
The Windjammer

In a tourism-centric town like Charleston, the lucrative call of the cover band circuit beckons to many musicians. Whether you find three-hour bar gigs abhorrent or amusing, there's no denying that they are an intrinsic part of the music culture of any scene. And for musicians, like the David Higgins Band, the cover band craft becomes its own kind of art form. As a frontman, Higgins has the undeniable vocal chops to slide elegantly through most mainstream pop-rock material with his Gavin DeGraw-indebted vocal style and keyboard adeptness. His backing players skillfully translate all of the base material into louder and crunchier, although still sharply defined, party music that makes them sound like the very definition of a "professional" good-time. Higgins and company have been so successful in their cover band exploits that they've found a foothold not just in Charleston, but as a corporate and wedding band-for-hire across the country, with over 1,500 shows notched on their belts over the course of their first five years. While Higgins also has his original music band, Adelie, to function as a creative outlet, there's something undeniably empowering — and fun — about making the cover band thing the very best it can be. And at a venue like The Windjammer, where the party-on-the-beach-vibe is irresistible, the David Higgins Band is just going to feel right. —Kyle Petersen FRIDAY

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ROCK | The Lost Cosmonauts
w/Black Power Mixtape
Sat. Sept. 7
9 p.m.
Tin Roof

Rock is a term so broad in scope that, as a genre, it's not so much a specific sound but more of mission statement. The Lost Cosmonauts join a long, heralded line of concept oriented bands that lend to the more obscure, psychedelic notions of culture. "Space is a fascinating subject, and there are conspiracy theories floating around that the Soviet Union had manned undocumented space missions before they ever acknowledged sending a person into space. Allegedly all these previous missions were covered up by the Soviets because no one returned alive, and that there were 'lost cosmonauts,' abandoned on ships floating somewhere in space," says guitarist/vocalist, Chris Patterson. The name is a concept so incredibly far out that it seems appropriate to find that obscurity and uniqueness in their approach to playing music. "Our influences are primarily rock 'n' roll bands. That leaves it pretty open, but specifically bands who are or were doing interesting, different things with the music during their time. Harmonies, different time signatures, that kind of thing. Being creative and not just sticking to the standard 3-minute radio song format. Anything that can hold our attention, surprise us, make us think musically or otherwise." The band is gearing up to unveil the music and the concept for the first time at another local favorite, an incredibly welcoming and diverse Charleston music venue. "Really excited about getting back on the stage after a few years of being away, and thankful we have a venue who booked us, sound unheard. So that will be the big reveal to the public for Lost Cosmonauts." —Jeffrey Wilson SATURDAY

JOSH HAILEY
  • Josh Hailey

ROCK | Conor Donohue
w/ Grace Joyner, Rose Cangelosi, and SLUGS
Sat. Sept. 7
9 p.m.
$5
The Royal American

The always awesome Royal American is hosting singer-songwriter Conor Donohue for another show in the Lowcountry. Donohue is known to venture toward this neck of the woods and is a long-time collaborator with several Charleston musicians. His latest record, Let Love Contaminate, dropped earlier this summer and breaks from his rootsy style for a bopping rock 'n' roll sound. There is some obvious Beatles influence in there. Donohue will be supported by the likes of Grace Joyner, Rose Cangelosi, and SLUGS. Fellow singer-songwriter Grace Joyner's sound dwells somewhere between Stevie Nicks' black veil and the sun-drenched synths found in some of HAIM's work. Her single "Dreams" has found its way onto the CW's hit teen drama Riverdale. Drummer and vocalist Rose Cangelosi brings an interesting element to the lineup. Imagine if the Cranberries banged all their tunes out in the dance halls around town — effortlessly cool. From Los Angeles, SLUGS make a big sound that's aggressive and friendly at the same time. Their grooves are dangerous and they're ready to throw it in your face. SLUGS is incredibly dynamic and they leave an impression. —Henry Clark SATURDAY

BENJAMIN YANTO PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Benjamin Yanto Photography

COUNTRYPOLITAN | Mike & The Moonpies
w/ Tennessee Jet
Sun. Sept. 8
9 p.m.
$10
Pour House

Mike Harmeier, of Mike and the Moonpies, says that he always wanted to base his band on a certain brand of honky-tonk songcraft that had supplied the soundtrack to his childhood in Tomball, Tex. To illustrate his point, he throws around names like Strait, Paycheck, Jennings, and Black, saying that each have come to hold meaning for him in both a personal and professional sense. As with those legendary role models, Harmeier, too, craved more than just local notoriety for his act. "We started out playing in dance halls that would be double-booked with some other band, or where bar fights would erupt mid-set for no apparent reason, but we've really come to town, so to speak, here lately." He's referring to the breakout success of the group's 2018 LP, Steak Night at the Prairie Rose, that led to an international tour for the Moonpies, which in turn landed them at Abbey Road Studios to record their most recent album, Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, in collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra. "Unfortunately," Harmeier admits, "we only had two days to get in there and really get to work. So, we've had to process the significance of the whole Abbey Road experience after the fact." Mike and the Moonpies will be showcasing their distinctive blend of countrypolitan, Texas swing, and other outlaw sounds when they ramble into Charleston Pour House this week. —Kevin Wilson SUNDAY

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