Ashvegas contributor Caleb Calhoun takes a look a some of what’s happening on the Asheville music scene this weekend.
One of the pillars of the new-school mountain hip-hop scene, SIYAH (which stands for Struggling Improves Your Ambitious Hustle) will be spittin’ the flow at Sly Grog Lounge this Saturday night.
“I feel like the the hip-hop scene (in Asheville) is healthy and growing,” SIYAH explains. “But there is still room to grow. I’ve been in NC since 2004, all of it in the 828, and even now I’m really just starting to realize how much talent there is here.”
The truth is, Asheville, for all it’s small market size and tiny geographical footprint, is on it’s way to becoming the San Antonio Spurs of the national music scene.
“(In hip-hop) you have your big scenes: Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, Detroit,” he delineates, “but there are enough dope artists here to have that kind of scene. The lyricism and bars and cyphers, I mean, I ain’t a cypher or a battle rapper, but there are some great ones here.”
“I’m meeting people like Free the Optimus, Spaceman Jones, Resonate, PTP, Kilo Fresh, SK the Novelist,” he continues. “I’ve been in North Carolina for almost 15 years now, my whole time in the 828, and I am just starting to realize how much talent there is here.”
I was first introduced to SIYAH through Xpand Fest when my buddy Chad snagged a demo of his music for play on our former radio show. Immediately we put him in rotation, and the response was amazing. We were getting calls from musicians and music fans all over the state asking who this was and where they could find more of his music.
Unfortunately, if you don’t live in Asheville, until now you have only been hearing his music through his recorded tracks (Steadfast, his new EP which dropped last November is available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Music), but that is something that will be changing in the near future as well. Yet even as SIYAH looks outward to more networking and collaboration and travel, there are still circumstances beyond his control that have cost him opportunities and exposure.
Old habits die-hard, and even in a place as progressive and open as Asheville, the color of your skin can cost you jobs.
“Hip-hop can be scary and, not to be too blunt or anything,” he confides, “but you might see more white rappers on stage here and not black guys. There is this feeling here that they (venues) might find a bigger crowd that way. There is some of that, but then, as a whole, there is just so much potential here and so much room to grow.”
Having been following line-ups for the last couple of years it’s hard to disagree, as I have consistently seen white rappers, sometimes not even truly Asheville local (from places like Brevard, Morganton, Charlotte and Greenville), slated as openers for national hip-hop acts.
Still, it’s not like SIYAH is letting that steal his joy or take away his platform.
“There is so much untapped talent here. I would love to see us all keep elevating, keep growing,” he tells me. “I want to push myself, not just for me, but to also open doors for other acts so we can all be getting gigs. So we can all be selling cd’s and getting streamed. I just want to see us all flourish.”
This vibe, which is so clearly demonstrated by SIYAH’s ethic, is reflected throughout the local hip-hop scene. And that’s why it will continue to grow.
Travers Sunday Jam at Pisgah Brewery
Two things I am thinking as I write these words: Firstly, I sure do love the Travers Brothers (McIsaac and Clark included because, let’s face it, these are the brothers they all have chosen). Also, how is this the first time that I’m writing about Pisgah Brewing Company in this column?
Anyway, this is a band from Black Mountain hosting a weekly open jam at one of the most iconic venues in the area. There are musicians across the Southeast who aspire to one day play on that outdoor stage, and every Sunday night, if you play an instrument and have some cajones, you can share it with some of it’s most seasoned veterans.
The best part is that these guys are loving, caring people who want to see others succeed. They want you to bring your instrument out and they want to jam with you. Like Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs (that’s twice if you are keeping score at home) their talent makes everyone around them a little bit better.
They also happen to be friends with some of the most bad-ass musicians and they bring them in as special guests every week. This week is Frank Bang, next week is moe. (sort of), and the 29th is Jeff Sipe and Billy Cardine. That is a pretty solid lineup, although the one in the middle is outside, and it’s not an open jam, and Travers Brothership is actually opening, and it costs money. But every other week you can come out, bring your guit-stick or fiddle or mandolin or sitar or hurdy-gurdy or whatever, and play it on stage with some of the best musicians in this town.
Or you could sit at home and watch TV. I mean, don’t let me tell you what to do.
Odds and Ends
Marcel Anton Group will be at Pisgah Brewing Company on Saturday night. The celebrated musician and poet from New Orleans has called Asheville home for several years now and his simple presence in this town elevates the music scene. He is a virtuoso on the guitar and a master of composition. If you are out that way, or if you have gas money to get there, I highly recommend this show.
Empire Horns Coming to Funk You
Friday night at Asheville Music Hall, Funk You, hailing from Georgia, will be playing. Playing with them will be the horns from Empire Strikes Brass, Asheville’s premier brass band. There isn’t much else to say except that you should stretch well before they start playing so you don’t pull something because, trust me, your ass is going to be shaking all over the place.
Caleb Calhoun is an author, poet, and journalist living on south slope with his woodland mermaid Dr. Gonzo. You can reach him at [email protected]
Correction: Travers Brothership, has played on outdoor stage 2 or 3 times, and also FYI . Sunday Night Jam is free to Jam every Sunday.
Thanks Momma Travers
Correction Travers brothership has played on the outdoor big stage 2 or 3 times.