Homegrown sounds and cool vibes run deep in the Queen City. Charlotte is home to an ever-growing pool of unique musical talent, from singers and songwriters to full bands and instrumentalists. We’ve taken a look at some well-known names, up-and-coming talents and a wide diversity of genres to feature in our “Queer Music” issue. The bands and their members and singers are as diverse as their genres — with an affirming mix of LGBT and straight ally performers. With all this diversity, there’s one running theme that binds them all together — their love for their local communities and their passion for music.
Members: Bertshalyn Bailey as singer/songwriter and keyboardist (Honey Bee Bailey), Howard Jackson, drummer (Howie) and Marcus Cooper as Lead Guitarist (Kat Daddy)
Founded in 2014, MoJoMuzik Experience got its start with lead singer and songwriter Honey Bee Bailey performing Sundays for Chi Psi Omega Fraternity Open Mic Nights at the NC Music Factory’s Wet Willie’s. The band performs a mix of it all, including neo-soul, R&B, old school, reggae, hip-hop and pop, inspired by John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Chuck Brown, Jill Scott and India Arie. Bailey always hopes the band’s audience takes away a great experience, saying: “I always hope that they first walk away saying they had a great time. They heard their favorite tunes and got to dance or snap their fingers. Music incites so many emotions so through my performance I hope that it encourages, heals and unites the listeners.” See the band perform next on June 28 at Red@28th in NoDa.
Dust & Ashes
Members: Heather Himes, Alea Tuttle, Tiffany Goodman, Jude Salinas
This Americana band, which plays a mix of folk and old country, got its start in October 2014. Himes, the band’s gender queer lead, says she was inspired by a vast list of diverse artists, including Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Ryan Bingham, Brandi Carlile, Scott Avett, Dallas Green and James Vincent McMorrow. Salinas jumped into the band just one month ago and says she is a classically trained flutist; her inspirations include classical greats like Mahler and Brams. The band has been whipping up a growing fan base, performing frequently at Snug Harbor, Evening Muse, Double Door Inn, Hattie’s Taproom and more. They say they recently auditioned to perform at Charlotte Pride. Himes says their music is unique and meaningful: “Our four-part harmonies and very genuine raw lyrics are the two things people are most taken with. The lyrics are for the most part about my life experiences and growing up as a queer kid in the Bible Belt South. The rejection, confusion and challenges it brought and how I’ve journeyed into a place of self love and acceptance in spite of those things.” Additionally, she wants her queer audiences, especially, to walk away with a stronger sense of southern and gay pride. “I didn’t think the two could coexist, but thank God they are beginning to,” Himes says.
Members: Crystal Crosby and Zoltan Von Bury
Formed in the summer of 2013, Crosby and Von Bury joined forces when Von Bury was looking for a female vocalist. The indie rock/gypsy soul band says most people describe them as “dark funk,” but Crosby says it’s hard to pin down. “With our sound spanning so many generations, genres and planes, the only way to describe us is to experience us,” Crosby says. “We bring love, but our way. We may be the bad guys, but don’t tell nobody.” They’ve performed at Tremont Music Hall, The Rabbit Hole, Tommy’s Pub and other venues. The two’s inspirations take a full range from their childhood musical experiences to loves for late 70s and 80s acts like Joy Division, Depeche Mode and others. Von Bury wants their audiences to connect with the music itself, saying, “I hope our audience sees the real deal, unﬁltered, unpolished. I hope they are really listening because we are telling the untold story. Our songs stick with you, you will feel it when we play live.”
Malachi’s art is a mix of singer, songwriter, comedian, drag performer and more. A performance with Malachi is unlike any other. He first got his start in 2006 at Club Myxx, where he says “many of Charlotte’s best urban performers got their start,” adding, “Club Myxx was my first ever club talent show. I was totally booed off the stage in the month of December. I came back in January and rocked that building and the rest is history.” Malachi’s claim to fame, perhaps, is his parodied twists on well-known pop hits. Though it’s comedic, Malachi says the artistry is still strong. “My music is unique and even though it’s a parody the musicality is there! The attention to harmonic detail and perfection is what I strive for,” he says. “I’ve always said, ‘Just because it’s a parody or it’s vulgar doesn’t mean it can’t sound amazing.’ And the live performance is crazy mix of a singing, rapping, butch queen up in pumps drag queen explicit type Weird Al. It’s a performance that is very unique that you won’t find very often, if ever.” Malachi performs regularly at The Scorpio, The Bar at 316, Cathode Azure and Snug Harbor. He performs next at The Scorpio on June 20 and was recently announced as an emcee for this year’s Charlotte Pride Festival main stage.
Members: Josh Faggart, Shaun Olson, Scott Weaver
Miami Dice formed one year ago, the coming together of two talents, Faggart and Olson, from the band Cement Stars and Scott Weaver of Babyshaker and Snagglepuss. The band describes their sound as “Italo Disco” and “Chill Funk.” Weaver, whom many also know from his DJ gigs and the popular Thursday night Shiprocked! parties at Snug Harbor, says Miami Dice has a “wide crossover appeal” among all communities. “We try to bring a sense of style to the band,” he says. “You can dance or just chill listening to Miami Dice.” Their inspriations include everyone from Stevie Wonder to Glass Candy. Weaver, who takes on the band’s trumpet, vocals, percussion and synth, says he wants audiences to walk away with “a good feeling, a song in their head, the desire to seek out and listen to our music, and the inspiration to make their own.” When he was young, he was drawn to music the very first time his parents took him to see The Carpenters. “I wanted to get up there and sing with them,” he says. “Later, [it was] the dawn of MTV. Once I saw Adam Ant and Blondie, I was hooked.” The band performs regularly across town, with upcoming performances on June 19 at Discovery Place’s Science on the Rocks and June 27 at The Chop Shop for CLTURE Fest.
With a mix of Americana, rock and soul, Neigenfind has been drawn to and performing music since he was five. “It was something internal I think,” he says. “From the moment I heard music on the radio, I knew I had to find a way to do it, too.” He started professionally when he was in college and today performs across the city, including venues like Krazy Fish, Aria, Dean & Deluca, Napa, Petra’s and others. He’s inspired by Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Sam Cooke and Prince, and says, “I bring an element of ‘old soul’ to the table that I’m not sure most people my age have — or so I’ve been told.” Neigenfind wants his audience to hear his music and find something that resonates with them. “Getting a group of people to share an experience is a pretty profound thing and in those moments something bigger happens whether the audience realizes it or not.” Learn more about his upcoming performances via his website.
Whitesell and Lauderbaugh began recording their first album in 2013. Whitesell, who takes on vocals, songwriting and keyboard, teamed up with Lauderbaugh, who takes the lead on guitars and percussion in the Adult Contemporary band. Whitesell says his music is autobiographical. “Sometimes I record comical songs about keyboard warriors, others deal with serious topics such as my struggles with AIDS and cancer,” he says. But it’s always best when “avid listeners” own his music for themselves, he says. Whitesell has been playing piano since he was three and singing since he was 14. His inspirations include Coldplay, Ray Lynch, Walter Afanasieff, Thomas Newman, Howard Shore and Sergei Rachmaninoff. The two don’t often perform publicly together, but they have cut an album, “Weight of the World,” available on iTunes and Whitesell’s website. Whitesell says they are unique: “ We are also a full-service band to singer/songwriters who wish to record an album with full instrumentation and vocals. Our differing musical experiences and training mean that we can provide musical backing for just about anyone.”
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About the QC’s music scene
We asked our featured artists this issue to give us some of their thoughts on Charlotte’s music scene — positive takeaways or things they think are missing. Here are some of their thoughts.
Charlotte is where I got my start and in that start my nerves got the best of me but Charlotte music scene has always shown me love. Free music events for artist to display their work.
— Honey Bee Bailey, MoJoMuzik Experience
This city seems very aware of our physical health and is so proactive in that way. We eat organic, we bike and yoga our brains out. But the inside stuff, matters of the spirit and heart seem neglected. I believe music can restore people internally sometimes.
— Heather Himes, Dust & Ashes
I’m new to town, but from what I’ve seen, I don’t think it’s missing much. Coming from Los Angeles where everything and everyone is made of plastic (not in a literal sense) it’s super refreshing to come to a city where there’s lots of people who are working diligently to better the thriving music/arts scene. There’s great venues here with lots of incredible bands/solo artists performing all the time, get off Instagram and go see them!
— Jude Salinas, Dust & Ashes
I love Charlotte’s music scene. It’s thick with community and creativity. Roll into any open mic and you will surely find support amongst the privileged and the feral children, alike. The only thing missing are more and more fans. Shocking how so many people, not all, will drop so much at the movies or chain coffeeshops but won’t get out and experience live music. It’s not sexy. I’d love to see bigger or national acts frequent venues here. Many seem to drift past us, opting for other smaller towns to play in instead and I’m too new back from So. Cal. to track why but I’m working on improving relations between venues, bands and fans because like everyone else here, I love the city The Queen has become!
— Crystal Crosby, Lovesucker
Many things are missing, smaller good-sounding venues, more bands that are taking chances, literally doing something different that makes the average music fan want to leave their house and engage in something new and exciting. Too many trend jumpers, but that seems to be in every scene.
— Zoltan Von Bury, Lovesucker
Charlotte’s music scene is missing more collaboration between producers and artists. I think people don’t know who or what is around. The positives are that there are some amazing talents within the Charlotte music community!
Personally, I have always been a fan of female-fronted, or all-girl bands, so for me, there’s always more room for that. Also, politically outspoken and active bands are important. I do think that there’s more diversity and quantity of really good bands in Charlotte, as well as venues, than ever, and that’s a great thing!
— Scott Weaver, Miami Dice
I think the music scene in Charlotte is a small but supportive one. There is some major talent in this town and the older generation of musicians here are accessible and generally willing to help guide young cats like myself.
— Rolfe Neigenfind
I am glad for the venues, particularly in NoDa, but I wish there were more indie opportunities in the South Charlotte area other than playing in the back of restaurants.
— Scott Whitesell