By Caleb Calhoun

Natural Born Leaders EP Release at Asheville Music Hall

It’s official, the Natural Born Leaders are Asheville’s worst kept secret. Ask people in the industry and they don’t know, but talk to the cats on the street and you hear it over and over again.

With an innovative approach to releasing music and a play anywhere once, but not often approach to booking, they have created a massive grassroots following in this town. Still, releasing songs one video at a time and crafty planning only goes so far if you don’t have the musical chops to back it up.

Natural Born Leaders have the chops and some, and with this their first EP to be released across platforms this Saturday, they look set to keep building on their current success. Not that you should expect album format music in the future.

“We don’t plan on releasing a full length album any time soon, if at all,” front man Mike Martinez tells me, “but we will be always releasing something… every few months we want to be putting something new out there. If you look at Chance the Rapper, he is a prime example of just releasing singles and that is how he got where he is.”

The truth is, from meeting each other, to meeting their producer, to building a fan base, every step along Natural Born Leader’s way has been serendipitous. Some of the meetings were happy accidents, some a little more intentional, but in the long run all of them turned out to be fortuitous for the band.

“It’s so weird…” Martinez explains. “Not that we haven’t had to put effort into it because we have, we work hard as fuck, but as soon as we made up our minds that this is what we wanted to do, everything has fallen in place.”

With a solid EP that has already seen it’s share of national press this is a can’t miss show. NBL isn’t on til late, but the openers are outstanding… if you aren’t already headed to Jane Kramer or Brie Capone this would be a good night to post up at Asheville Music Hall and let Mike T. and the rest of the crew their take good care of you.

French Broad River Festival

If you have never been to French Broad River Festival all I can say is that there is no time like the present. A mere 40 minutes outside of Asheville in beautiful Hot Springs, this is absolutely one of my favorite festivals going.

Family and freak friendly, there isn’t another festival or gathering in the country that offers this exact vibe. Furthermore, their booking is always on point. This year is no exception.

With nationally acclaimed local rockers Emma’s Lounge, Bluegrass wonder-kid Billy Strings, Asheville’s own thrash-grass savant band Jon Stickley Trio, Jeff Austin’s Grateful Ball, The Travelin’ McCourys, and Hipgnostic among others, even if you can only stay one day it’s worth the price of admission.

Furthermore, this festival is the equivalent of the corgi breed of dog, in that it is exactly the right size. With all the energy and marquee star power of a bigger festival and all of the convenience of a small one, this festival is Goldilocks approved. The weather looks great, and the river keeps a talking. I’m going to go out there and listen to what she has to say.

Screaming J’s at The Salvage Station

There ain’t no boogie like a Screaming J’s boogie, and their ain’t no yard like the Salvage Station’s back yard meaning this should be another one for the record books.

With a cult following and an unbelievably feel good vibe this three-piece honkey-tonk dance band brings it every time they play. LEAF is right around the corner and they have been back on the road for a while, so they should be in top form.

If you like to let loose and dance, if you like new friends, and if you enjoy piano driven rock and roll this is always an excellent bet.

Masseuse at The One Stop on Thursday

I know this is supposed to be a strictly local piece, but every once in a while you have to break the rules for an OG friend and badass like Jeff McSpadden. The renowned percussionist is back at it with the band Masseuse and they will be bringing their electronic improvisation to The One Stop on Thursday night.

This is a show featuring some of the most badass musicians from our sister city on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These guys produce intense grooves and deep rhythms that bring just enough electronica to add spice while this band, nonetheless, gets most of it’s sound live from “traditional” instruments.

Beyond all of that they are really excited to be back in Asheville. McSpadden tells me over the phone, “I love Asheville I am super stoked to be there. Every time I play Asheville it’s an amazing time, specifically at The One Stop. I’ve seen people twerk in the streets to sirens as fire engines were passing and I think that says a lot about the city and how people like to get down.”

Jane Kramer at Diana Worthem

I can’t skip this one. I know this has been written about by everyone else in the town and I’m not here to reinvent the wheel, but if you haven’t heard Jane Kramer, you really should. With some of the most moving, vulnerable lyrics of any songwriter on the East Coast and backed by a stellar ensemble featuring Billy Cardine and the members of Free Planet Radio, this is sure to be a lovely evening of moving music.

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