Epicenter 2020 Onsite Entertainment And Food Offerings

Epicenter 2020

Who is ready for Epicenter 2020 taking place at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 1, 2 & 3? Their massive lineup includes one of my main bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd, so you know I am not planning it missing it. Also, headlining for TWO nights is Metallica! I’ve never seen them before so I am pretty stoked to catch them, not once, but twice in one weekend! Other performances include Disturbed, Deftones, Godsmack, Volbeat, Staind, Papa Roach, David Lee Roth, Gojira, Chevelle and many more.

Epicenter 2020 Onsite Entertainment And Food Offerings

With less than two months until the kickoff of the incredible spring festival season from Danny Wimmer Presents, the independent festival producer has announced additional onsite entertainment and unique food offerings for the second year of Epicenter, May 1, 2 and 3 at its new home at Rock City Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC.

The 3-day destination music experience features an incredible lineup of chart-topping headliners and up-and-coming buzzworthy bands across the rock spectrum on four stages. The weekend includes one of the only chances to see rock legends Metallica in the U.S. in 2020 as they headline Friday, May 1 and Sunday, May 3, performing two different sets. Multi-platinum band Disturbed will headline Saturday, May 2. Additional must-see talent includes Lynyrd Skynyrd (in an exclusive 2020 North Carolina performance), Deftones, Godsmack, Volbeat, Staind, Papa Roach, David Lee Roth, Gojira, Chevelle, Cypress Hill, Rancid, Royal Blood, Anthrax, Dropkick Murphys, I Prevail, Alter Bridge and many more.

General Admission, VIP passes, and camping are available for purchase.  Passes are selling quickly so consumers are encouraged to buy now.

In addition to performances from top music artists, attendees at this year’s Epicenter can enjoy a variety of local and regional food and beverage offerings provided by Levy and DWP’s affiliate concessionaire Southern Hospitality Concessions LLC. Festivalgoers will be able to experience a variety of top-notch food offerings, from fan-favorite Island Noodles to a multitude of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options available from vendors on site serving up Carolina BBQ, wood-fired pizza, Creole, street tacos, mouthwatering burgers and more.

Fans 21+ can enjoy multiple specialty curated beverage experiences. Varietals from Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards (owned by Maynard James Keenan, co-founder of international recording acts Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer) will be available at the Caduceus Wine Garden, and the Heavy Tiki Bar will provide a shaded tropical oasis filled with killer cocktails. Additional drink options will be available all weekend from Bud Light, Jack Daniel’s and Deep Eddy Vodka.

At Epicenter, Danny Wimmer Presents is also proud to offer a collaboration with Metallica’s Blackened American Whiskey and Enter Night Pilsner. Blackened is a super-premium American whiskey blend, crafted by the late Master Distiller Dave Pickerell and finished in the earth shattering music of Metallica. The finest bourbons and ryes were hand selected to create something revolutionary—finished in black brandy casks and pummeled by sound. Enter Night Pilsner is Metallica’s collaboration with the rock stars of craft brewing, Stone Brewing. Blackened and Enter Night will come together under one roof to offer guests a one-of-kind musical festival experience. The massive Boilermaker pop-up will feature a Blackened & Enter Night Pilsner Boilermaker, as well as craft cocktails and ice-cold Enter Night Pilsner. This exciting collaboration marks the latest in a long line of amplified guest experiences only available through Danny Wimmer Presents music festivals. Learn more at http://BlackenedWhiskey.com.

Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation will also be present at the Boilermaker pop-up, sharing information about the foundation’s mission and giving fans a chance to donate.AWMH is a non-profit, philanthropic organization created by the members and management of Metallica,dedicated to creating sustainable communities by supporting workforce education, the fight against hunger, and other critical local services. 100% of donations go directly to local organizations that the Foundation supports. Please visit www.AllWithinMyHands.org for more information.

Additional Epicenter onsite experiences include:

Art Tent: New this year at Epicenter, this immersive art experience will feature world-renowned artists showcasing one-of-a-kind original pieces alongside limited-run poster prints only available for purchase at the festival. More information and the full list of artists will be announced soon.

Safe House presented by Demons Behind Me: A safe space within the festival grounds which offers festivalgoers who may struggle with PTSD, substance abuse, mental health issues, and more a place to retreat from the effects of the shows and the crowds, and gives them an opportunity to be with a supportive group.

FYE Pop-Up Shop: Hosting the ultimate fan & artist interactive experiences throughout the festival, FYE is the only place at the festival to get all your favorite band’s music — and maybe even get to meet your favorite Epicenter performers.

The Music Experience: An interactive exhibit featuring guitars, basses, amps, drums, keyboards and other electronic gear used by today’s bands. With contests, meet & greets and other interactive exhibits all day, this is an experience you don’t want to miss.

Zippo Experience: Zippo will be back in action at Epicenter with a brand-new look and a full stock of Zippo lighters, including limited-edition festival designs. Come by and check out their giveaways, snap a commemorative photo, get a free lighter fill or tune-up, and be sure to ask about how you can attend Zippo Sessions.

Fxck Cancer/Dyin 2 Live: Fighting cancer by raising awareness and educating about early cancer detection. The Dyin 2 Live wish-granting program looks to enrich the lives of those fighting cancer by offering them an experience that will bring joy, hope, inspiration, and courage into their lives.

Take Me Home: A not-for-profit, volunteer-based foundation that has been saving the lives of homeless animals since 2001 by helping to fund mobile veterinary hospitals in under-served areas and supporting local animal charities. Come by the booth to help out our furry friends by buying a shirt, signed merchandise, or entering a raffle at www.takemehome.tv.

Epicenter sponsors include Bud Light, Jack Daniel’s, Deep Eddy Vodka, Zippo, FYE, Mortus Viventi, The Music Experience, Demons Behind Me, Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Diamond Resorts, ESP Guitars, Take Me Home and Fxck Cancer.

Rock City Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway is located at 7301 Bruton Smith Blvd. in Concord, NC, just outside Charlotte, and less than two hours from Raleigh/Durham, Columbia and Greensboro.

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Eli Young Band’s Mike Eli Talks About “Love Ain’t” & “Break It In”

eli young band
Photo Courtesy John Shearer

With megahits like “Love Ain’t,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and “Crazy Girl,” the Eli Young Band is one of the best country acts out today. They have a long track record of producing tunes that are both catchy and relatable, thus garnering the band multiple awards and nominations including Song of the Year and Group of the Year. If you haven’t gotten to catch the Eli Young Band live, you have several chances locally this weekend. Read on to learn about their inspirational “Love Ain’t” video, new single, “Break It In,” and how that particular song applies to both their lives and careers.

Mike Eli Talks “Love Ain’t”

EPR: So first I’m going to ask you about the video for “Love Ain’t” and what was your inspiration? I mean what made you guys decide to cover that subject matter?

Mike Eli: We do a lot of work with the Wounded Warrior [and] we were brainstorming. We wanted to find kind of the ultimate love story because “Love Ain’t” is obviously a song about what love is. We wanted to find that ultimate love story, whatever it might be, whether or not it’s something that we create in a video format. And at the time we were working with the Wounded Warrior Project and talking about what we’re doing with the single and they said, “You know what? Let us let us look around because we may have something.”

So they started streaming us some of the footage of Taylor and Danielle Morris and we were incredibly moved by what we saw and what we were told about them and it kind of just started snowballing after that. It was such a huge opportunity to be able to be a part of telling their story to a lot of people who didn’t necessarily know…a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of these men and women, when they come home from serving their battles, a lot of relationships don’t survive. The Wounded Warrior Project and a lot of organizations out there do their best to help families and circles survive from the war.

EPR: Yeah, they do seem like such a wonderful and dedicated couple and it’s really amazing to see what they’ve been through and how they’re able to, you know, work through that together.

Mike Eli: They are every bit as awesome as you think they are.

eli young band
Photo Courtesy Cal Quinn

Eli Young Band And Their College Days

EPR: Well, okay, so to switch subjects, you guys started as a college band, is that correct?

Mike Eli: That is right. We started the band in North Texas, back in the day. In the beginning we were, obviously this was a hobby and really an outlet for us to be able to make music while we were getting our degrees and it turned out that we were able to continue.

EPR: So did you all meet in college because I know that two of you did for sure but was that the case for all of the band members?

Mike Eli: Actually yes. So James and I ran into Jon and then Chris which is part of the story. The other three guys had met prior to that, and had kind of started jamming and making music together before we started the band. and I started college ’99 and they had been jamming together and I said, “Hey man, I sing. Maybe I can join in.”

So James and I had started writing music, a few songs, and so we started kind of playing acoustic at some of the local places in Denton [Texas] where we started the band and it was working until October of 2000 when the other two guys jumped on stage with us and they played about four songs, and it all snowballed from there. ‘

Mike Eli On “Break It In”

EPR: That’s really cool that kind of fate brought you guys together like that. A lot of groups can’t stay together that long because they just can’t get along. Being that y’all met in college and have been through a lot together, can you tell me how that applies to your single “Break It In?”

Mike Eli: Yeah, I mean, I think that “Break It In”, is one of those songs that is an incredibly appropriate song for where we’re at in our lives and our career. We feel like we’re kind of just drinking this thing in. You know, I think over time, we’ve figured things out and we’ve become better musicians, better performers and better entertainers and we kind of feel like we’re hitting our stride 20 years later. And there’s not an awful lot of bands that can can feel that way as far as being the same four dudes making making music together.

On The Road & Time Off For Christmas

EPR: Will you get to take any time off for Christmas?

Mike Eli: We will. Yeah. This is our last weekend and we’re ready to play our show in Charlotte and then we are off for about a month.

EPR: That’s great any big plans?

eli young band
Photo Courtesy Cal Quinn

Mike Eli: Yeah! A whole lotta Christmas and some traveling and family and those things that we’ve been neglecting too much over the first of the year. So we’ll be playing some catch up will be a lot of with that. That will be a lot of what that month is all about.

EPR: You already mentioned the show in Charlotte. But you also have a show in Greensboro this week. Do you want to tell me about your shows and what people can expect to see?

Mike Eli: Obviously, the show, will be revolved around the hits, but we play a lot of those old songs that maybe just the fans who have been with us a long time will know. will find that maybe you know. So, it won’t just be the radio hits. It will be a lot of the stuff that the hardcore fans that have been with us and supporting us for a long time will know.

It’s an old school rock’n’roll show. We’re a band that’s very rooted in old school rock and roll and I think that when people come to our show, that’s what they see. You know, we’re just getting up there and turning our amps up and having a good time. And we really feel like that we’ve hit our stride and the shows have just been a ton of fun and and hopefully people come out to just have a really good time.

Catch the Eli Young Band TONIGHT at Cone Denim Entertainment Complex in Greensboro, TOMORROW NIGHT at The Fillmore Charlotte and at House Of Blues in Myrtle Beach on SATURDAY. Check out the rest of their touring schedule here.

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Check Out The Epicenter 2020 Full Lineup [5/1-5/3]

Epicenter 2020 Full Lineup

The full lineup for Epicenter 2020 has finally been announced. The music festival will be taking place from their new home at Rock City Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway! Metallica will be headlining for TWO nights and one of my favorite bands ever, Lynyrd Skynyrd, will also be there in what will be their exclusive 2020 North Carolina performance! Weekend and Single Day Tickets and Camping are currently on sale. Read on to check out the rest of the lineup!

Check Out The Epicenter 2020 Full Lineup

The music lineup has been announced for Epicenter 2020May 1, 2 and at Rock City Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. As previously announced, rock icons Metallica will headline Friday, May 1 and Sunday, May 3, performing two different headlining sets. Multi-platinum band Disturbed will headline Saturday, May 2. The diverse and massive music lineup for Epicenter also includes Lynyrd Skynyrd (in an exclusive 2020 North Carolina performance), Deftones, Godsmack, Volbeat, Staind, Papa Roach, David Lee Roth, Gojira, Chevelle, Cypress Hill, Rancid, Royal Blood, Anthrax, Dropkick Murphys, I Prevail, Alter Bridge and many more.

As previously announced, Metallica–recently named the world’s biggest all-time touring act by Pollstar–will exclusively headline all five Danny Wimmer Presents hard rock festivals in 2020 in a unique collaboration unprecedented for any American festival promoter or band. Epicenter is the first performance in this festival series.

Metallica isn’t just another headliner. When Metallica takes the stage, it’s an event. It’s an experience. That’s the same standard we’ve set for every DWP festival – from the first band to the last band, and everything that happens in between. I can’t wait to bring the biggest band in the world to the biggest rock festivals in America,” says Danny Wimmer, founder of Danny Wimmer Presents, the largest independent festival producer in the U.S. “Metallica paved this road that we travel. How many artists on the bill at these five festivals first picked up an instrument, or first started a band, because of Metallica?”

Epicenter moves to its new home at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2020. “We’re pleased to announce that Epicenter is moving to Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Rock City Campgrounds,” says Danny Wimmer Presents CEO Danny Hayes. “The new location offers plenty of nearby lodging, increased camping, and convenient travel options. The number one request we received from the fans was to move the festival to Charlotte…and we listened.”

The 3-day destination music experience will feature a massive lineup of top rock acts performing on four stages, along with a wide variety of food and beverage offerings, and various camping options and amenities, with General Admission, VIP tickets, and camping available for purchase now at https://EpicenterFestival.com.

The current music lineup for Epicenter is as follows (subject to change):

Epicenter 2020 Full Lineup

Friday, May 1: MetallicaGodsmack, Papa Roach, David Lee Roth, Royal Blood, I Prevail, Ghostemane, Ice Nine Kills, The Darkness, Starset, Sick Of It All, Agnostic Front, ??? ??, New Years Day, Bones UK, Fire From The Gods, 3Teeth, NASCAR Aloe, Joyous Wolf, Killstation, Stitched Up Heart, Hero The Band, Through Fire

Saturday, May 2: Disturbed, Lynyrd Skynyrd (one of the band’s final appearances ever, as part of their Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour), Staind, Chevelle, Cypress Hill, Anthrax, Alter Bridge, Code Orange, Of Mice & Men, Saint Asonia, Jinjer, Crown The Empire, Anti-Flag, City Morgue, The Chats, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Clint Lowery, Brkn Love, Brutus, Toothgrinder, Brass Against, Selfish Things, Zero 9:36, Like Machines

Sunday, May 3: Metallica, Deftones, Volbeat, Gojira, Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, Hellyeah, Bad Wolves, Hollywood Undead, Sleeping With Sirens, Power Trip, The Amity Affliction, Des Rocs, Goodbye June, Airbourne, Stray From The Path, Plague Vendor, Ego Kill Talent, Higher Power, Skynd, and more

Festival entry begins at 11:30 AM each day.

At EpicenterDanny Wimmer Presents is proud to offer a collaboration with Metallica’s Blackened American Whiskey and Enter Night PilsnerBlackened is a super-premium American whiskey blend, crafted by the late Master Distiller Dave Pickerell and finished in the earth shattering music of Metallica. The finest bourbons, ryes and whiskeys were hand selected to create something revolutionary—finished in black brandy casks and pummeled by sound. Enter Night Pilsner is Metallica’s collaboration with the rock stars of craft brewing, Stone BrewingBlackened and Enter Night will come together under one roof to offer guests a one-of-kind musical festival experience. The massive Boilermaker pop-up will feature a Blackened & Enter Night Pilsner Boilermaker, as well as craft cocktails and ice-cold Enter Night Pilsner. This exciting collaboration marks the latest in a long line of amplified guest experiences only available through Danny Wimmer Presents music festivals. Learn more at http://BlackenedWhiskey.com.

Camping at Epicenter will let patrons keep the rock n’ roll party going all weekend long, with campgrounds open from Thursday, April 30 through Monday, May 4. All tent and RV campers will have access to showers, portable restrooms, food and drink vendors, charging stations, information, and medical services.

VIP tickets include dedicated entrance lanes into the venue, access to the VIP hang area, VIP-only viewing area of the two main stages, access to the VIP tent, a commemorative Epicenter VIP-only laminate, and RFID wristband. The VIP tent is a shaded hang space with dedicated premium bars and comfortable furniture, featuring live audio/video streams of the two main stages, air conditioned flushable restrooms, dedicated merch stand for convenient shopping, dedicated food and beverage offerings (for purchase), and private locker rentals (for purchase).

At Epicenter, fans 21+ can enjoy multiple specialty curated beverage experiences. Varietals from Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards (owned by Maynard James Keenan, co-founder of international recording acts Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer) will be available at the Caduceus Wine Garden, and the Heavy Tiki Bar will provide a shaded tropical oasis filled with killer cocktails.

Rock City Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway is located at 7301 Bruton Smith Blvd. in Concord, NC, just outside Charlotte, and less than two hours from Raleigh/Durham, Columbia and Greensboro. Visit www.CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com for directions and additional venue information.

Get tickets to Epicenter Music Festival here. And be sure to check out my recap of Epicenter 2019 here.

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Artists You Need To Watch: Travis Denning

Travis Denning

Over the years, I have been to Coyote Joe’s in Charlotte I have no idea how many times. I have seen so many artists there that I couldn’t even begin to name them all. Coyote Joe’s is a bar that I consider a staple for up and coming artists and those who are winding down from the huge arenas after a meteoric career. So, Saturday night I rolled out to the Charlotte music venue again, this time to catch Travis Denning’s show.

Artists You Need To Watch: Travis Denning

Who is Travis Denning, you might be asking? I first became acquainted with him when he was on the roster for this year’s Carolina Country Music Fest. I saw his name, looked up a few songs to familiarize myself, and instantly fell in love with “After A Few.”

 

After A Few – I think we all know the drill. We break up with someone that we know is bad for us, then we run into them out somewhere, in this case a bar. We fall back into conversation, reminiscing, and then we end up right where we don’t want to be, back with that person that is so wrong for us – and hurt all over again.

This song is super relatable with a catchy hook that I just can’t get out of my head. And the fact that Travis Denning looks like the adorable boy next door, instead of some jerk just using the girl, helps to make his delivery and credibility perfect. Oh, and he confirmed that wholesome image by dressing up like Captain America for Halloween. I rest my case.

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AVENGERS…..assemble. Thanks for the party @hardy

A post shared by Travis Denning (@travisrdenning) on

 

I think Travis Denning will be big. And the fact that he is touring in 2020 with Dustin Lynch doesn’t hurt. Check out Travis Denning’s tour dates and go see what all my fuss is about. You can thank me later.

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Things To Do This Weekend: See Les Miserables In Charlotte

Les Miserables
Les Miserables: Mary Kate Moore as Fantine

It’s almost the weekend and we don’t have to give this week to the kiddos and Halloween [Happy Halloween, by the way]. The kids get today. That’s it. This weekend can be yours! So here’s what you need to do. Get dressed up, go out to dinner with your friends and catch Les Miserables at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, NC. You can thank me later.

Things To Do This Weekend: See Les Miserables In Charlotte

Tuesday night, my friend Leigh and I did just that. Neither of us had seen Les Miserables on the stage previously. And I really knew very little about the plot of the musical except what my friend, Jason, told me: that a man’s life was forever changed after he stole a loaf of bread to feed a child.

Les Miserables
Les Miserables: Allison Guinn as Madame Thenardier

Cameron Mackintosh presents the new production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Tony Award-winning musical phenomenon, Les Misérables, direct from an acclaimed two-and-a-half-year return to Broadway. With its glorious new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, this breathtaking new production has left both audiences and critics awestruck, cheering “Les Miz is born again!” (NY1). Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Featuring the thrilling score and beloved songs “I Dreamed A Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” and many more, this epic and uplifting story has become one of the most celebrated musicals in theatrical history.

Les Miserables may have been written by Victor Hugo in the 19th century, but the story still resonates. Poverty is an issue that is, unfortunately, quite prevalent today. And the punishment and “invisibility” to other members of society that can often come with an impoverished existence is something that we may never overcome. Why is it that the people who have often feel like the people who have not deserve their placement in life? Why is it that the people who have often feel that their fortunate placement in life at birth has more to do with their rights than sheer luck?

Les Miserables
Les Miserables: Josh Davis and Nick Cartell

Instead of giving a hand up and out of poverty, we often punish those that are poor with anything from late fees [more money they don’t have] to punishments that are both biased and disproportionate to the actual crime committed. These “deterrents” often drive the convicted, and also their family, further into poverty, thus producing a virtually impossible to break cycle of recidivism. It’s hard to change your life when the system seems to work against you.

Les Miserables
Les Miserables: Jillian Butler as Cosette

The themes of Les Miserables are relevant today and the music will break your heart. When Fantine tearfully sings, “I Dreamed A Dream,” how many of us can relate? We’ve all experienced heartache, sadness, loss and desperation. And many of us have felt utter hopelessness at some point in our lives, as well.

Through all of the heartbreak and loss, in the end, Les Miserables is a story about hope and redemption. Though life can sometimes seemingly beat us into submission, there is still always the possibility for change just around the corner. Most of the characters in Les Miserables have no material possessions. But what they do have is hope. Though “..life [may have] killed the dream I dreamed,” it will never stop me from dreaming a new one.

See Les Miserables now through November 3rd at Ovens Auditorium. Get tickets here.

Les Miserables
Les Miserables [Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy]

Things To Know Before You Go

Ovens Auditorium has convenient parking in a lot right beside the building. I had not been to Ovens Auditorium prior to this night and was glad for the ease of parking as that is not always the case in cities. One of the parking lot security guys also told me that Ovens Auditorium has been in operation since 1955.

Learn about how you can support Blumenthal Performing Arts through donation here.

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Viva Chicken Opening In Winston-Salem 10/30

Viva Chicken
Viva Chicken: Arroz Chaufa & Sweet Potato Fries

Yesterday I took my nephews, Bradley and Preston, for a day out in Winston-Salem. We were heading there, specifically, for the soft opening/launch party of Viva Chicken, the new Peruvian Chicken restaurant that will be opening in Winston-Salem on Wednesday. I had never had Peruvian chicken before and neither had my nephews, so we were pretty excited to experience it for the first time.

Viva Chicken Opening In Winston-Salem 10/30

Viva Chicken is a Peruvian Rotisserie Joint specializing in Pollo a la Brasa. Their menu is fresh, flavorful, and packed with inspired recipes that will transport your taste buds to the streets of Peru. Viva Chicken is not only hip and healthy, it’s quick and convenient and a great spot for dine-in or takeout.

As I said, Bradley, Preston and I had never tried Peruvian food before, so ordering was an adventure. Viva Chicken’s menu is really descriptive, though, so even if you are a Peruvian novice, you still get a pretty good idea of what you are getting in advance.

Viva Chicken
Viva Chicken: Arroz Chaufa

I ordered the Arroz Chaufa [Peruvian Fried Rice] – Jasmine Rice, red peppers, green onions, red onions, egg, soy sauce and ginger. I also ordered Sweet Potato Fries. I really wanted to order one of their Signature Juices but couldn’t decide which, so I asked the cashier to decide for me. I ended up with the Chicha Morada [Peruvian purple corn, cinnamon, clove, pineapple, apple, lime], which we all agreed tasted a bit like pumpkin pie – I am thinking because of the cinnamon and cloves.

Viva Chicken
Viva Chicken: The Great & Cilantro Infused Rice

Bradley ordered a sandwich called The Great [Pulled rotisserie chicken, lettuce, tomato and onions, rocoto mayo]. He also added Jalapeno Bacon and he got it on ciabatta bread. For his side, he chose Cilantro Infused Rice. Everything we tried was great but the cilantro infused rice was my personal favorite thing of the whole meal, along with my Signature juice.

Viva Chicken
Viva Chicken: Cilantro Infused Rice

Preston also ordered The Great but he ordered French Fries for his side. Admittedly, I am not that big of a french fry person, but Viva Chicken‘s are really good. Viva Chicken has 3 sauces that you can choose from and we tried all 3 for the French Fries and the Sweet Potato Fries. I liked them all but my personal favorite one was Aji Amarillo [the yellow one]. The sandwiches are pretty big and Preston wasn’t able to finish all of his. Both boys also had Cheerwine with their meals. Even though Cheerwine is from North Carolina, it isn’t all that easy to find in restaurants, so they were pretty excited about this.

It was a beautiful day so we sat outside on the open air patio. Of course, there is lots of indoor dining space, too, for those days when the weather is not as inviting.

I feel like the prices are pretty cheap for the area and you get a nice portion of food that tastes great for your money. There are a few more expensive items on the menu but you could easily eat there for less than $10 a person.

I had leftovers and the boys argued over who got to eat the rest of my Arroz Chaufa. Um, what about me? Haha! I did let them take my leftovers, though, because I am as awesome aunt, naturally.

Viva Chicken

Viva Chicken is located at 3493 Burke Mill Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27103 and opens to the public on 10/30. Check out their full menu here! Try it out and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below or on social media!

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“Mary, Queen Of Scots” At Piedmont Opera + Tips For First Time Opera Attendees

tips for first time opera attendees

I love music. What I find funny is that, since I was an on air personality at a country radio station, I have run across many people that mistakenly assume that ALL I like is country music. And that is not even remotely close. I think my musical tastes are pretty well rounded and I like at least a few artists in in most any genre from Bluegrass to Rap.

“Mary, Queen Of Scots” At Piedmont Opera + Tips For First Time Opera Attendees

Here’s an example: in high school, I went on a trip to Canada and saw “Phantom Of The Opera” off Broadway and I was mesmerized. I came home and immediately found the Broadway soundtrack and played that poor cassette into the ground. “The phantom of the opera is here inside your mind…”

tips for first time opera attendees

Fast forward to the present where I found out that the Piedmont Opera was doing a production of “Mary, Queen of Scots.” Since “Phantom Of The Opera” is the closest thing to an opera I have ever actually seen, I really wanted to expand my cultural repertoire and check this out.

tips for first time opera attendees

Freedom. After 18 years of being held prisoner by Queen Elizabeth, her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots breathes fresh air. Believing herself to be the true heir to the throne, Mary has been imprisoned first for plotting against her cousin, and ultimately for attempting to murder her. This day of freedom turns to condemnation as these empowered women have a momentous meeting.

My Thoughts On “Mary, Queen Of Scots”

On Friday night, I took myself to Winston-Salem. I went shopping and then to the Piedmont Opera’s production of “Mary, Queen of Scots” [starring Yulia Lysenko as Elizabeth I and Jodi Burns as Mary Stuart] at the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem, NC and I thoroughly enjoyed my evening. I don’t know all of the proper terminology to describe my opera experience sufficiently to you, but I did attend the opera pre-talk so that I can start educating myself. If given the opportunity, I think you should always choose to learn. You are never too old to expand your horizons and to expose yourself to new things. You never truly know what you will like until you try it. And I absolutely loved the opera! The singing was amazing, I mean next level amazing. The costumes were gorgeous, the educational experience beforehand was interesting and I had a great experience overall that I hope to get to do again really soon.

tips for first time opera attendees

Tips For First Time Opera Attendees

Don’t let your not having previously experiencing something stop you from ever experiencing that thing. That’s absurd. I had many questions before I went to the opera, but I really wanted to go and I did not let my questions stop me. Let me share some tips for first time opera attendees with you so that hopefully I can alleviate any fears you might have before going to the opera yourself.

  1. Is there parking near the Stevens Center? Yes, there is. I parked in a nice garage about 1 block away and paid for my parking in advance with my card. The machine takes cash, as well, so it’s super convenient. The deck was not crowded and I was able to easily pull away after the opera as my parking was already covered.
  2. Do people dress up for the opera? Yes, many do. Most men were wearing suits and ties, but I did see a few in nice pullovers or button down shirts. Many of the women were in cocktail dresses, but many were also dressed business casual. I was wearing a nice top, leggings and slip on shoes and felt completely comfortable. I do not recommend wearing jeans, tshirts, or other super casual clothing.
  3. Is the opera in English? I am sure that many of them are, but “Mary, Queen of Scots” was in Italian. However, there was a screen above the stage with the dialog in English for you to easily follow along. No, it was not running super fast like you sometimes experience with movies with subtitles. I find that stressful. I think the opera subtitles shared just what was necessary so that you could follow along and still be engaged with the production taking place on the stage.
  4. Can you donate to Piedmont Opera? Yes you can! Click here to learn how you can make a tax-deductible donation to the Piedmont Opera.
tips for first time opera attendees

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8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival

A couple of weekends ago, I went to the inaugural Epicenter Music Festival [RIP Carolina Rebellion] in Rockingham, NC. It was my first time camping at a music festival and I really enjoyed the chance to experience it. Even though much of the festival was shut down due to severe weather, I met all kinds of cool people and also some weirdos as one typically does at any public event. It was definitely the music festival where I learned the most and I wanted to share these things below for those of you who may be venturing out to your own festivals this summer.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival

I Really Dig Motionless In White – I had never heard of the band, “Motionless In White” before this festival. But they looked cool and I thought I would catch their show and see what I thought. When they started singing “Necessary Evil,” I was like what…. they totally sampled Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party.” I really enjoy when acts do that and do it well. So, when I got home, I listened to that song a few more times and have to say, I really like it. Though I didn’t get to see many acts at Epicenter Music Festival, Motionless In White was definitely my favorite.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival
Rob Zombie [photo courtesy Darren Menius]

It’s Better To Bring Your Own Bathroom Facilities To A Festival – Porta potties are naaaaaaasty. And they are even nastier when people have been drinking. Waking up in the middle of the night having to pee is bad enough. But how many of you can guarantee you can walk like a mile away to the nasty porta potty before you have an accident? That doesn’t seem like a game I want to play. Also, showers at Epicenter Music Festival were $10 each. Mama don’t have that kind of dough. So solutions needed to be found.

I avoided all this drama by bringing my own way to bathe and use the restroom thanks to my friends at Bass Pro Shops! I had a really cool set up with the PUP [Portable Pop Up Tent] so the bathroom facilities weren’t in my tent. It was super easy to set up – I did it all by myself in just a few minutes. I staked it down and it held up great when the storm hit [more on that in a minute], receiving no damage at all.

Inside the pop up tent, I had a Cabela’s Camp Commode Camping Toilet. It just unfolds and you hook a bag under the bottom and go. I used the WAG Bag Kit. These bags are filled with something similar to kitty litter, I imagine, that turns whatever you do into a solid. When you are done, just throw the bag in the trash and that’s that. No getting lost in the middle of the night, trying to find a porta potty.

I highly recommend getting one of these set ups from Bass Pro Shops. Check out the rest of their camping gear and please let me know of other great camping supplies that this novice camper needs to pick up for my next music festival.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival
Photo courtesy Darren Menius

I Should Have Left My House Earlier – Epicenter Music Festival officially started on Friday [5/10] but you could get to the camp site on the Thursday before and take part in pre-festival fun [music, etc]. I fully intended to leave bright and early Thursday morning to head to Rockingham, but my neighbor was getting a roof put on her house and the noise was driving my dogs nuts so I didn’t want to leave them like that.

I finally left my house about noon on Friday. And this was a decision I would later regret. I stopped to pick up some things on the way and ended up making it to within 5 miles of the festival at 3:15pm, where traffic came to a complete stand still. By the time I got to Will Call to pick up my media passes and then to the camp site, it was 10:30 pm that night! I could have still seen Korn, but I was just too tired to bother at that point. I still had a fun day, though, as people seemed pretty chill in the stand still traffic. Several people were just walking around, chatting it up with others still in their cars. So I wasn’t “alone” for 7 hours. But it would have been better had I made better decisions. Though I have been to music festivals in the past, this was my first time camping, and this was a learning experience in better time management and decision making.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival
Killswitch Engage [photo courtesy Darren Menius]

There Is No Good Way Into Epicenter Music Festival – Having said that about my poor time management skills, I want to add that there is only one road into the festival grounds. One. So, of course, it wasn’t all my fault it took so long to get into the festival. I have seen many, many people talk about how Epicenter Music Festival should have planned for this traffic. I have to say though, this festival is at Rockingham Speedway. If they never worked on building better infrastructure when the race was still there, I am doubting they will now, so this may just be what we have to work with. So, again, it comes back to me leaving the house earlier.

Female Solo Travel Is Awesome – I set up my own tent [except for the top part – a kind gentleman in the tent next to mine got that for me]. It was my first time setting it up and I was making a simple mistake so I anticipate no more problems here forward. I packed my own car. I set up my own shower tent. I drove myself to the festival and took care of myself the entire weekend. All of this I did by myself, without having to wait on anyone else who might be late, without having to worry about what someone else wants to do, without having to think about anyone else at all. I have to admit, it was one of the most fun trips that I have ever taken because I could just do whatever I wanted without worrying about someone else and their needs the entire time. I just did me.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival
Photo courtesy Darren Menius

Always Strap Your Tent Down – When I set my tent up Saturday morning, it was beautiful and sunny. I am not an experienced camper [yet] so I consulted one of my neighbors asking if I should stake the tent down. He said that he didn’t feel that I needed to if I had heavy things inside weighing it down. So, I had a cooler in there a few other things and I thought that would be ok. It was not.

When the storm hit later that night, I almost lost my tent. Seriously, I caught it just as it was about to fly away. I then got out of my car [all this in the middle of the storm, of course] and tied the tent to my car door. Then I had to hang my arm outside of my car for like 10 minutes holding on to one of the tent rods to make sure it didn’t go adios. I have to say, my tent, given all of my idiocy [aka learning experience] held up like a beast! It suffered no damage at all! I highly recommend the Coleman 5-Person Instant Dome Tent for any of you inexperienced campers like me. You will make mistakes. You want the tent that can take it. Trust.

Frozen Apples Are The Bomb – I packed all of my own food for Epicenter Music Festival. Trying to keep in mind that things need to stay cold to last, I decided to freeze some apple slices before packing them in the cooler. I am not a huge apple fan, but I will definitely freeze some for my camping trips in the future. They are ridiculously tasty and refreshing on a hot day. Apples are WAY better frozen. Yum.

8 Things I Learned At Epicenter Music Festival
Foo Fighters [photo courtesy Darren Menius]

There Is No Safe Place When Severe Weather Strikes – Epicenter Music Festival was evacuated on Saturday night due to incoming severe weather. I have to admit, the sky didn’t look all that threatening when the warning came over the loud speakers, cutting off Black Label Society about 2 songs in. But I did as I was told, evacuating the festival and going back to my car as instructed.

Then all hell broke loose. Some say we had a tornado nearby. I don’t know about all that, but I do know that we had one crazy thunderstorm. I spent 10 or so minutes holding onto my tent for dear life while many others weren’t so lucky. There are some people who are now blaming Epicenter Music Festival for their inability to see bands [i.e. Tool] later that night. Personally, I am not going to die to see anyone. I really, really, really wanted to see Bush, who was supposed to play in the time slot during the evacuation but that’s the way it goes. Perhaps I will get my chance some other time.

I feel like if you are at a music festival [or any huge gathering of people] you are choosing to take certain risks. That’s just the way it is. Epicenter Music Festival can’t control the weather anymore than I can. And, even if I were at home, I couldn’t guarantee my safety if a tornado struck. It’s just reality. If we can’t live with this, then perhaps a music festival isn’t the place for us.

Check out my interview with 311’s Nick Hexum here.

Check out more of Darren Menius’ pictures from Epicenter Music Festival here.

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311’s Nick Hexum Talks New Album “Voyager” & Epicenter Music Festival

311's Nick Hexum Talks New Album "Voyager" & Epicenter Music Festival

Epicenter Music Festival is next week and 311 will be there, bringing massive hits like “Down” and “All Mixed Up” and perhaps new material off of their upcoming album, “Voyager” (out June 28). Singer and guitarist, Nick Hexum, talks to us today about their new album, the origin of their name, Epicenter Music Festival and much more.

311’s Nick Hexum Talks New Album “Voyager” & Epicenter Music Festival

EPR: 311 got their name due to a streaking incident involving one of the then bandmembers, that got him arrested. Was it a dare? Did his buddies come to his rescue or just let him think about what he had done?

Nick Hexum: Well, only P-Nut was there but as I understand it, it was daytime shenanigans because there was no school that day.  It was spring and the pool was closed.  Someone was dared to jump the fence and skinny dip. He got caught and was brought home to mom, naked, cuffed, and given a “311” ticket!  (“311″ being Omaha police code for “indecent exposure”).

311's Nick Hexum Talks New Album "Voyager" & Epicenter Music Festival

EPR: 311 has been around for many years when the majority of bands that were coming up about the same time are long gone. What is your secret to not losing that artistry and creativeness that makes it still possible to perform and make quality music?

Nick Hexum: For me, I work hard to keep that sense of wonder about exploring new music. That means you keep exposing yourself to new stuff and not become the grumpy old guy that only likes the old stuff. We stay excited about music and that makes it exciting to listen to. Cannabis helps keep that youthful sense of wonder!

EPR: Early in your career, 311 lost all of their equipment in an RV fire. How did you not just say “forget this!” and pack it up then?

Nick Hexum: Because we had a gig the next night! And then like six more left on the tour. So, we just needed to borrow instruments and amps to get through it. We rented a car on my credit card and made it back home. Then, I found a guy to lend us money to buy a much safer RV and some new gear.  Our record company didn’t offer to help us so we had to do it ourselves.  That’s ok they got their comeuppance. But no, we never considered giving up. We were having way too much fun!

EPR: What can you tell us about your new album, “Voyager” coming out later this year?

Nick Hexum: I feel it is another exciting step forward. We boldly go into some new territory! I think the title “Voyager” is quite fitting because we see ourselves as musical explorers.

EPR: Do you hang around to watch the other bands at music festivals?

Nick Hexum: Yes, we’ve made so many great friends with other bands. I love to watch other bands to get inspired. There is some kick-ass heavy music on Epicenter Fest!

Catch 311 at Epicenter Music Festival [5/11] and check out the rest of their tour dates here.

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Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

Recently we got the chance to talk with Catherine Britt. If you don’t know her, you are missing out. This spitfire moved from Australia to the US at age 17 to chase her musical dream – alone. Did I mention that she had never been here before? Fast forward to 2010, when she won the CMA Global Artist of the Year award. Read on to learn more about this amazing woman from the land down under.

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

Catherine Britt: I’m in the US for about 3 1/2 weeks total.

EPR: And then you will be back in Australia doing a tour later this summer?

Catherine Britt: Yeah, I’ll be back on the road over there. We pretty much tour all year round in Australia. Then come over and do something in the States as well.

EPR: You moved to Nashville at like 17, right?

Catherine Britt: Yeah, I was 17 when I first come over, around 2002. I was here about 6 years, then I realized that I wanted to go home and sort of figure out what to do next. Then I moved back to Australia and played over there and come back and forth.

EPR: Had you ever visited the US before you decided to move here?

Catherine Britt: No, I just left school and we weren’t really a family to travel much overseas. We did a couple little sets but mainly in Australia. No, it was a big move and about as far away from my family and everything I do as I could get. It was pretty extreme to move over here.

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

EPR: So what did your family think when you approached them with the idea of basically moving halfway around the world to someplace you had never been?

Catherine Britt: Well the first time that I came over, I asked my dad to come with me because I was too young, actually, to sign a contract. He had to come and sign on my behalf, as like a parent/guardian, I guess, on the contract. In the end, he kind of got a vibe for it. I didn’t really know it at the time but he said that he was really sad. And I knew that he sort of lost control over everything. You know, his baby was growing up and going off to do what I was meant to do. So there was not much that he felt like he could do about it. Now that I am a mom, I can’t imagine what that would have been like for him. At the time, I was just in my own world and really focused on what I wanted to do. I didn’t really even think about it when I was 17.

EPR: We are really brave when we are teenagers.

Catherine Britt: I don’t know if I was brave or stupid. I just sort of went, “Sure, let’s go.” I suffered the consequences of that. I was incredibly homesick and I really struggled a couple years with some pretty serious mental illness, with depression and stuff. I didn’t really think it through, I guess. But when you’re offered an opportunity, you’ve got to take it and see where it leads you. And it led me to where I am today, where I am meant to be.

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

EPR: You are an extremely busy person. You work in radio, too, but you also contributed a lot of time to a magazine, as well, as editor and owner, right?

Catherine Britt: Yeah, we recently sold it, it was a music magazine, Rhythms. It was like a blues and roots, cultish magazine that’s been around forever. We took it into it’s 25th year. I had it for a couple years and then moved it on to the next person. It was an experience, that I won’t do again [laughs]. It was pretty full on. It was a little family business, really. Me and my husband did the day to day stuff and my mom and dad did everything else. And then my brother ran the website. It was pretty full on. I’m glad I did it but I’m kind of glad to be down the track from it as well. It was all consuming, a 24/7 job.

EPR: Since you don’t know if you will do that again, do you know if you will be involved with the magazine anymore at all? Or are you just cutting ties completely?

Catherine Britt: I haven’t been so far. When I walked away, I made a clean break, but I can always come back to it. I love writing, especially about music. It’s really easy for me, to write, from a place that is very passionate for me. I always found that really easy to do but I needed a break from it for a little bit. But maybe, I’m not ruling it out.

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

EPR: You won the 2010 CMA Global Artist Of The Year. That is huge! What was that like?

Catherine Britt: Yes! I didn’t really expect it, to be honest. It was pretty weird. I’d just sort of moved back to Australia and was still finding my grounding back there and figuring out what to do next. Yeah, they told me that I had won that award and it was being announced at CMAFest. It was a great honor, obviously, after the 6 years of experiencing being over here and everything that I had done. It was really nice from your peers in the industry. It was definitely a really nice feeling.

EPR: You talked about your fight with depression at times. Also, you have been sick, but you kept on working. Do you think that helped in your healing process?

Catherine Britt: Yeah, I think that was my coping mechanism. I was in the middle of a tour, actually, when I was diagnosed. I just released a new album and I found a lump a week later. So, I was going to doctor’s appointments in between touring and literally went and got a biopsy and then went back on tour and was basically called back in when I got home. When I got back I found out that I had breast cancer.

After I got over the shock of it all, I decided I was going to power through and not let it slow me down and change my life. I didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t want to become the person who became her illness. I struggled through going to work and was actually going through chemo and that was really hard. I was really, really tired and it changed everything, obviously. It changes your appearance and my hair fell out and, being a performer, that was interesting, so I struggled a lot with things like not having eyelashes and having to go onstage to perform and trying to glue fake eyelashes on to my eyelids and stuff like that. So it was terrible but, for my mental health, I think that’s what I needed to do.

Catherine Britt On Moving To The US & Her Battle With Cancer

EPR: I am so glad that you are doing well today. You have a new album out. Would you like to tell us a little about that?

Catherine Britt: So this record is “Catherine Britt and the Cold, Cold Hearts.” It’s my band, back in Australia. It’s just a bunch of songs I wrote, basically, since the last record, and all that happened in the last 3 years. It influenced a helluva lot of very, from the heart, songwriting, I guess you could say. So, it’s a lot of life changing stuff, getting married, having my little boy, beating the cancer, as well. It kind of came out in all the songs. It’s a positive album I’m really proud to put it out into the world and I’m really stoked to have new songs out there.

See Catherine Britt TONIGHT at Muddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall in Winston-Salem and check out the rest of her tour schedule here.

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