Asheville Music Weekend: Jahman Brahman, Jane Kramer and Ben Phan, more


Jahman Brahman/ photo by Sandlin Gaither

By Caleb Calhoun

Jahman Brahman at Asheville Music Hall FREE! Friday Night

My interview with Justin Brown (of Jahman Brahman) starts at 9 p.m., but by 9:30 it is less of an interview and more of a mutual bitch fest. We are commiserating with each other about our love lives, or lack thereof, and the difficulty in finding someone who isn’t too scandalous. We’re also connecting, realizing that our teens and 20s were scattered – buckshot lives – and that our 30s have led us to a place where women and relationships are no longer our motivating factors.

According to Justin – and honestly he is speaking for both of us on this – it has only been in his 30s that music, for the sake of music, has become enough. Not that he wasn’t in tune before, or his goals were muddied or selfish. It’s just that in your 20s, your head is bouncing all over the place. Eventually you settle in and focus on what matters most.

All that could very well apply to Jahman Brahman.

“We have done a lot of fruitless touring over the last fourteen years,” Brown says. “We have seen every type of room there is. Nice rooms, good rooms, full rooms, empty rooms. Now we’re stepping back and thinking a little smarter because a lot of that time was wasted and the most valuable commodity you have as a band is time,” he says.

“That is where I am at right now. Just trying to get this thing to look like a business, after all these years. We are adults now, and what does that look like?”

Spoiler alert: Brown does answer his own question. And what it looks like is growing up. What it looks like is evolution. Jahman Brahman, a band that was built on touring for more than a decade, has found a new direction. Truth be told, it all started with a new drummer.

“Lo and behold, I remember this older dude (Brian Smith) I met a festival, and he was telling me about this cool studio he had in his basement,” Brown explains. “He used to own Clear-Sonic, but now that he is retired it was like ‘Maybe his dream can fit with our dream.'”

“We have been working at it the last six months and there is a lot of stuff that comes with playing with somebody that is older and trying to figure each other out. The road will slow all that down, the road puts you at your best for that day, but now we are trying to get out there with something we have really put a lot of love into.”

One of the big keys for them was to get off of the road and into the practice room. While there are opportunities while touring for the deep connection you need to keep a band fresh (Brown suggests acoustic moments by a river while traveling), it’s difficult to keep up the energy on stage and with each other at the same time.

By spending more time together, and less time playing out dates that hadn’t been promoted or put together correctly, Jahman Brahman hopes to add a new dimension to what they do.

“I think we are going to tour but I envision doing smarter tours,” Brown tells me. “You can have a million shows and get paid for all of them and it doesn’t matter. We aren’t just trying to make money, we are trying to reach the people with our message.”

With fewer dates on the schedule, Brown lets me know that they are treating each show like a recording session, as if they only get one shot at it. That should make Friday night’s hometown show at Asheville Music Hall one for the record books.

Jane Kramer and Ben Phan at Grey Eagle Saturday Night

Saturday brings together two of my favorite song writers sharing one band. Ben Phan‘s Soul Symphony will be the backup to both he and Jane Kramer.

Phan, who was nicknamed “Shredder” during his time on the Pacific Coast Trail for his abilities on the guitar, and Kramer, one of our most noted songwriters, are teaming up (not for the first time) to bring us an incredible and varied show.

Although both artists make their hay as songwriters, the style of music they play couldn’t be any more different. While Phan is more of an indie style folk singer, Kramer is that good, dirty country… you know, the kind the radio won’t play for you.

If thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies are interesting to you, then you should be interested in this. If I miss you Friday night at AMH, I’ll catch you here.

Crosstown Traffic

I told you kiddos this week was going to be ridiculous and I wasn’t kidding.

Thursday night is Phuncle Sam out at Pisgah Brewing and, if you haven’t ever seen Phuncle at Pisgah well, I don’t even know what to tell you. With the home-town Black Mountain crew, the Asheville deadheads, and the Warren Wilson young-uns, I don’t believe there is a better place to see this band.

Also Thursday night over at Upcountry is there weekly songwriter series, this one featuring three local badasses: Dave Desmelik, Spiro Nicolopolous, and Woody Wood.

Friday night, another of my favorite songwriters in town, Alexa Rose, will be at Catawba South Slope while The Resonant Rogues will be at The Mothlight. (Also, if you are into comedy Reasonably Priced Babies will be performing at Ambrose West.)

Saturday night, and I know we never talk about The Lobster Trap as a venue, but if you want some pricey, tasty food, and some great tunes, Sean Mason Trio will be providing the dinner music to help your food along.

Of course there is also Tina and Her Pony playing at Mothlight, as well as Laura Blackley and the Wildflowers playing at Pillar.

Late night, at MG Road, is DJ Lil’ Meow Meow busting out tunes to keep you dancing far into the morning.

I hope I see you out somewhere, but if not, I just hope you get there!