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Listen Tuesday nights, starting at 9 Eastern. Musical Conversations is a conversational radio show, centering on music. Quite often there are guests, whether they be in house or phone interviews, they're talking music. From local and regional bands from around the Charlotte, North Carolina area, to national and international musicians, promoters, managers and those of influence in the music industry, all are welcome on Musical Conversations and at one point have been guests.

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Charlotte Live Limelight is an article written by Stan Cocheo and published in Crowd Surfer arts and entertainment magazine , which is free and available all around the Charlotte, NC region. This is an archive of those articles. Charlotte Live Limelight is commentary and observations about the music scene, primarily, yet not limited to the Charlotte, NC, region.

“How about a feature of a band?”

Written by Stan Cocheo on . Posted in CLTLL

cllHaldenVangOkay… Being that I not only write the Charlotte Live Limelight article, I also do Musical Conversations on Plaza Midwood Community Radio ( – Saturdays at 2pm ). I’ve had the opportunity to not just see bands perform, I also interview them as well. That’s what Musical Conversations is about. Recently, I saw a band perform an acoustic set, then on two other occasions I saw them play (and plugged in), then got to sit down with the front man and talk music, influences and everything else, at length and in detail. Jake Haldenwang of his band, Halden Vang, sat in and we talked. Musical Conversations allows for the extended conversation style interview that I’ve not heard anyone else be able to do. This will air on April 18th on PMCR.

by Stan Cocheo

The acoustic performance was at Iron Thunder Saloon, near Concord Mills Mall. I’ve always felt that when you take your music and turn it around, retell it on acoustic instruments, that you’ve got not only a good grasp of your music, you’re also expressing your creativity and ability as a musician. When Halden Vang performed an acoustic set and still had the place enrapt by the performance, that’s when I knew I had to see more, see another performance, see them plugged in. My feeling about when a band takes their music and presents it toned down and acoustic is one that is obviously shared by others, otherwise that performance television show, Unplugged, wouldn’t exist.

Next time I saw Halden Vang, it was at the Rockin’ Kids First benefit show in December at Amos’ Southend. Though there were many other bands on the bill, it was an all day affair after all, Halden Vang stood out and rocked, quite comparably to other bands that would be considered headliners, such as Grey Revell’s Roman Candles and Grown Up Avenger Stuff. Even to the point of overcoming an equipment failure, the band kept on. That means to me that the key isn’t solely with the one that the band is named after. It means that the other two, as it is a three piece band, also have the wherewithal and stage presence to overcome any adversity. That to me is where a band’s potential lies. Halden Vang, in addition to Jake Haldenwang on guitar and vocals, also has Jordan Mattacchione on bass and backing vocals, and Andrew Marcadis on drums and backing vocals.

Two more shows very recently. One was a send off fan appreciation party at the Evening Muse. This time they played only two songs from the EP, “How About Now”, and then did two cover songs. The older pieces were strong and kept the packed room engaged, yet still had the element of freshness and that’s because the material is strong. The new songs also fall into that category, this performance was to showcase that work, and what I witnessed was an evolution of the band as songwriters and musicians. The emotion that pours out of not just Jake, also the entire band when they’re on stage, is palpable and fills the entire room. This is especially the case with their choice of covers, “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, which they blueseyed up, and also “Purple Rain” by Prince. This was a night of amazing music.

So their music is based in the blues, yet with a heavy rock feel. Some of my personal favorite bands are three pieces and I’m always amazed at how they create such a full sound. Halden Vang not only does that well, the filling out the sound, there’s also the delicate element that is key to the blues. The thing is that I can’t call them a blues band. Yet, they’re more than just a rock band. When each member has a good singing voice that is distinct from the other members, you’ve got great harmonies and the ability to present various vocal stylings that often occur within the same song. With today’s musical landscape, having a distinct sound is important, also having the ability to be diverse really makes for a strong band. With the variety of styles to pull from and present, the best description I’ve heard of their music is by Jake himself, and that’s that they’re “Retro-Relevant”. Meaning that they bring in an almost lost sound from a few generations worth of great music, and yet still keep it relevant to today.

Most recent performance I caught of Halden Vang was again at Iron Thunder. Besides having to wait until the game was over, they performed for a good solid three hours or so. The length of their performance allowed them to explore music that they’d just worked on and some music they had just worked through – meaning some originals and some covers. As in earlier in the week they worked out how to perform songs like “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”, most popularly done by Led Zeppelin (very few know it’s originally a Joan Baez song – Jake knew that though which impressed me further). The Iron Thunder Saloon, though it’s a bike bar, it’s also a sports bar and what got me was their performance stopped the place in its tracks.

The recent Musical Conversation that I had with Jake Haldenwang covered his introduction to music, initially the blues. Also we talked about performances, he’s shared the stage with Buddy Guy and Derek Trucks. The tough question for me to ask was what is “it” that everyone says he’s got, after all, he’s only 19. It’s an answer I anxiously await discovering when they have their new album finished. Tentative target is before the end of the year. By the looks and sounds of their live performance, it’s going to be well worth the wait. The most effective thing about music, and any kind of music, is the emotion poured out during the performance. Halden Vang, as a whole band, rocks it out on a level that only true inspiration can achieve. Find them on the usual Internet suspects, listen and then get out to see Halden Vang. They continue to play in the area. Their live show is very difficult to describe, from the passion in the playing and songwriting, to the full on performance, I’ve been stunned

More about the venues.

Written by Stan Cocheo on . Posted in CLTLL

This is a work in progress. It is acknowledged that there are places missing. This is all my opinion, not the rhetoric of the places listed. ~STAN

B. NC Music Factory
Large audience music venues like the Charlotte Fillmore and the Uptown Amphitheater. Also a lot of smaller bars and taverns, some of which have live music occasionally.

C. NoDa (North Davidson)
Chop Shop: An old converted warehouse that has two stage rooms with full soundboard & lighting. Larger rectangular room with the bar has the big stage, yet the other room has the taller stage. Well designed sound & lighting. My experience is that it’s great for multiple band shows to fully take advantage of the two stages.

Evening Muse: Small place that has some of the best sound in Charlotte. I’ve seen most genres of music there yet I find it’s great for an acoustic guitarist or mellower band. That’s not to say the Muse doesn’t rock.

Neighborhood Theatre: Converted theaters make for great concert halls. They’ve taken what looks to me like the shop next door and turned it into their bar area, offering additional side stage seating & also houses another, albeit smaller stage.

G. Plaza-Midwood
Petra’s Piano Bar: Petra’s is a very welcoming place by all definitions. Not as small of a bar as it seems, there are corridors to other rooms, back patio and more.

The Rabbit Hole: See the review on the other page.

Snug Harbor: Good place for music that maintains the local bar feel. Back patio bar away from the bands in the main room & front patio allow for conversations. Thomas Street Tavern: An eclectic tavern (as in they also serve food) that also has live music.

Tommy’s Pub: Neighborhood bar that includes a side room for live music. Its charm is that it may be the smallest live music venue in the Charlotte area.

Thirsty Beaver: Classic Honky Tonk, beer, pool and good people behind the bar, Johnny Cash fans will feel quite at home. (NMFH said)

F. Elizabeth
Crown Station: Another small neighborhood bar style place that also offers live music.

Double Door Inn: One of the oldest blues clubs,The bar and stage are in the main room with a back room for pool and other games. The sound is wonderful as it is essentially an old wood structure house converted into a venue.

Visulite Theater: A former art deco theater converted into a music venue, with tables and stools for seating, plus a lower pit area to get closer to the performers.

E. Amos’ Southend: A larger concert venue fitting between local and national level acts.

H. Tremont Music Hall: Larger venue, two stages fitting local to touring bands.

D. Uptown
Belk Theater: A large proscenium stage balconied theater.

McGlohan Theater: Small former church converted into music venue.

Knight Theater: A newer performance hall that recollects old theater styles, yet updated.

I. Comet Grill: A music place that serves food or a food place that has live music? You decide. Small, cozy, has a balcony second floor that wraps around and gives a good view of the stage and bar.

A. Milestone Club: The oldest punk club quite possibly in the entire world, it looks and feels that way. Bar area separate from the main room and an outside patio (smoking lounge). The largest number of band stickers on the walls detailing the history of live music performances, or so it seems.
K. Oven’s Auditorium: A large Wtheater seating proscenium stage style venue.

J. Smokey Joe’s Cafe: Initially I thought it was a barbecue place, though they do serve food also, that’s not the key feature. A good place to hear live music and by way of acoustic anomalies, the volume drops when you’re at the bar.

What about the venues?

Written by Stan Cocheo on . Posted in CLTLL

LiveLimeLight“What are these music venues like that are listed here in Crowd Surfer?” One of the hurdles of getting into the music scene is that when you go to an unfamiliar venue, you never know what type of place it is you’re walking into. One of the mission statement points of Live Limelight is to give an honest and unbiased look at the venues around town where music is performed and heard. Example being that if you think you’re walking into one type of place and instead it’s another, you’re going to be in for a shock. That’s the case whether you like both kinds of places or not, if you’re not prepared for what a venue is like, it will taint your impression. To alleviate any discomfort, I thought to continue the tradition of venue reviews as Charlotte Live Limelight. This is an introductory primer for the venues in the Charlotte region, and in no way is this a complete list. The mission continues with the intent of making sure that you, the reader of this, is informed and ready to get out and experience some of the amazing live music being performed by not just the local bands in town, also bands that tour through the Queen City. Charlotte’s music scene is amazing and the venues that support that scene are as diverse as the bands that play.

rabitholeSo let’s check out the new place, The Rabbit Hole. Having just had its “soft opening” on February 6th, I thought I’d head there the week afterward to check it out. Walking in the front door, you’ve got the game room to your left and the main room in front and to the right. Capacity appears to be just over 300. The main room houses the stage and the sound board/DJ booth, and also the only bar, though that bar runs the length of an entire wall. The stage is against the front wall, with a window behind it, which is a good layout when you consider that the sound is pumped toward the center of the room from both the front and the back. Speaking of sound, it’s loud yet not ear piercing. When I went there it was acknowledged that they were still tweaking the room for optimal sound, yet my only complaint was it seemed a struggle to communicate with the bar staff, though patrons can hear them. A good staff, which they have, can always tell what someone wants, sometimes prior to them asking and this complaint appears to be something that will be rectified when they finalize the tweaking of the sound system. Though there’s nothing on draft, the beer selection is good, as well as the mixed drinks.

Being in the Plaza Midwood area, there’s parking around, just make sure you read the signs and do not park where you’re not allowed. Even with all of this parking in the neighborhood, The Rabbit Hole also as ample parking itself. This place is comfortable, clean and classy, yet still retaining the rock vibe. The night I was there to review, I noticed a very nicely diverse crowd, all of whom appreciated not just what the bar had to offer, also what the musicians were expressing.


The Best of 2014

Written by Stan Cocheo on . Posted in CLTLL

The Best of 2014 to me is that it’s over. It ended for too many and that’s the worst. Some great musicians, music lovers and those influenced by the music were lost this year. So many that I can’t even begin to compile a list as I’ll miss someone. I miss them all, even if I did not know them personally or very well, I do feel their influence on the music scene. So that’s my worst of 2014, it’s that so many have died.

Now, as far as music goes? What’s the best of? Nationally & Internationally:

1. David Crosby – Croz

2. Ian Anderson – Homo Erraticus

3. Pink Floyd – The Endless River

4. The Slambovian Circus of Dreams – A Box of Everything.

5. Lunatic Soul – Walking on a Flashlight Beam

6.The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger – Midnight Sun

7. Beck – Morning Phase

8. Yes – Heaven and Earth

9. Michael Stanley – The Job


My opinion is that outside of these it was a mostly bland year musically, until you get down to the local level. So, here’s my best of list from our friends and neighbors in the Charlotte region:

1. Hostile Witness – The Tribute To Chris Piegler
2. Grey Revell’s Roman Candles, The Happy Infinite,Volumes 1, 2 & 3.

3. Halden Vang – How About Now

4. Shannon Lee – Crystal Butterfly

5. Deep Sky – 7

6. Michael Tracy – Hopeful [The Atlanta Sessions EP]

7. Time Sawyer – Disguise The Limits

8. Bloody Hammers – Under Satan’s Sun

9. Avalon Steel – Ascension

“What a great music scene we have here in the Charlotte region,”

Written by Stan Cocheo on . Posted in CLTLL

LiveLimeLight“What a great music scene we have here in the Charlotte region,” he stated. After I stopped laughing, my response was, “What the hell are you talking about?” This was the start of one of those late night conversations that would go deep and not just alter my perspective, it would also be life changing. Why was my reaction one of disparagement and humor in what was a sincere observation? The same reason that Crowd Surfer Magazine exists. I could find no resource that would tell me who the bands are, where they play, and what those venues are like. That conversation was the beginning of what became Live Limelight.

Steve Coombs and I talked late into the night about music and everything else. Then, at one point, he made that statement. From where I stood, having lived in Charlotte for more than ten years at the time, I had no idea whether what he was saying had any validity or, I’m happy to now say, was really an understatement. The question arose as to where one would find out information on the local music scene, especially since nobody else seemed to be paying attention. The conversation started back in late 2009 and moved throughout 2010. As the conversation grew, it included a third person, Jodi Smith. We pieced together an idea of creating a web-based resource for this type of information, by way of blogging articles that reviewed the venues and the bands that played there. Steve, a photographer as well as master web designer, served in both those capacities, meanwhile Jodi and I wrote. The three of us together (a key point as it was always the three together) developed the idea that grew to become Live Limelight. We would go seek out the musicians, take their pictures and write about their performances. We’d be asked to write good things and our responses were always, “then don’t suck”. On the Live Limelight web site, the articles used a he said/she said layout with Steve’s pictures down the center. This presented different perspectives about the performances and truly represented a good idea of the experience. Steve’s photographic skills were such that, “you could hear the band just by looking at his shots”. I hope to be able to prove that statement to Crowd Surfer readers at some point.

The Live Limelight mission was simple, support the local music scene by presenting the experience of being at the shows as directly and honestly as possible. We discovered that when someone says that there isn’t something like a music scene in any particular city, it’s that they’ve not taken the time to explore and experience what usually is right there in front of them, if they’d get out and open their eyes and ears. Prior to working on the Live Limelight project, I had no idea what a NoDa was, least of all that it was a neighborhood. I also couldn’t figure out why there was a road named “The Plaza” that ends in an area called Plaza-Midwood, yet there isn’t a road named Midwood around. Yes, I know, there’s a Midwood Place, though you can’t really justify that tertiary street for giving the area the name. I had no idea that there were so many music venues, and great ones at that, or how extensive and diverse the music scene happens to be. Granted, and admittedly by many that have watched it from the inside, the music scene in Charlotte has undergone a great revival over the past few years. This means to me that what we were doing as Live Limelight was an essential need that tied into that growth. Not saying we did anything other than report on it, truly the scene would have expanded without us, it’s nice to have had it on record is all I’m saying.

All of this was thanks to Steve Coombs. He’s the one who started the conversation and pushed and pursued the creation of Live Limelight. Sadly, Steve passed away early in 2014 due to complications stemming from COPD, a disability he had been dealing with all his life. I miss him greatly and dedicate this article and really all my subsequent ones to Steve. Without him I guarantee my life would be different and I thank him. And also, without Steve, there was no way that Live Limelight could continue as it had been. The three of us who were Live Limelight had discussed the future and we all wanted it to grow. Steve’s wish was that it move to print at some point. A physical documentation of what’s happening in the Charlotte region on a local music level, with an occasional nod to larger name acts touring through. I’m pressing on. I’m rebranding Live Limelight to be specific in location, so it’s Charlotte Live Limelight. I’d like to acknowledge the fine graphic work of Austin Caine for the logo design. Thanks also to Jodi, without whom Live Limelight may never have gotten a name. And thanks to all the bands we’ve reviewed, photographed and spoken with.

Steve also told me about Plaza-Midwood Community Radio (, pushing me to turn what was a broadcast web stream of me and a friend talking music into Musical Conversations, a full interview style Internet radio show. As of this writing, I’ve interviewed over fifty local bands and about twenty-five national and international musicians and people involved in the music industry.

Charlotte, North Carolina, has a great music scene and I know this as a fact as I have personally experienced it. Now I’m going to make sure that others know as well. So, Charlotte… let’s hear some music!