Tuesday, May 17, 2016

America’s Most Incredible Outdoor Concert Venues

With summer right around the corner, we’re spending more time outdoors. We’re planning camping trips, garden parties, picnics – and, of course, visits to America’s most incredible outdoor concert venues. Here are some places we’d love to hear our favorite bands play this summer:

Red Rocks AmphitheatreMorrison, Colorado
Although it was just officially declared a National Historic Landmark last year, Red Rocks has long been considered a national treasure. Rows of outdoor seating sit within a natural amphitheatre of giant red rocks that look like something out of a sci-fi film. Along with amazing acoustics, the landmark boasts an onsite museum displaying dinosaur fossils and other artifacts.

Cumberland Caverns McMinnville, Tennessee
So this particular venue isn’t technically “outdoors,” as it is in fact located underground – but how could we leave it off the list? Cumberland Caverns, a U.S. National Natural Landmark and Tennessee’s largest show cave, has been the subject of countless television shows and documentaries – and as soon as you see it, you won’t wonder why. The virtually perfect, natural acoustics and remarkable atmosphere make it an unforgettable concert venue.

Starlight TheatreKansas City, Missouri
Probably the most “manmade” venue on this list, the Starlight Theatre is no less stunning for it. In fact, the historic architecture of the place is what makes it so incredible. In 1925, Queen Marie of Romania paid a visit to Kansas City and to celebrate the occasion, the city organized a showcase of local talent – and the massive success of the event led to the construction of an outdoor concert venue that vaguely resembles a European castle. To this day it remains one of two self-producing outdoor theatres in the United States.

The Gorge Amphitheatre George, Washington
A 27,500-seat concert venue that has hosted some of the greatest international performers, The Gorge has got one of the most scenic stages in the world. It has won countless awards for its majesty and offers visitors sweeping views of the Columbia River, Cascade Foothills, Kittitas County, Grant County and the Columbia Gorge Canyon. Even if it wasn’t a concert venue, it would be worth the trip.

Jones Beach Theater Wantagh, New York
One of two major outdoor arenas in the New York metropolitan area, Jones Beach is beloved for its spectacular views of the sea – and for its whimsical history. The venue’s original design actually featured a moat and performers were brought to the stage by boat (there was even sometimes floating scenery.) And while it was originally constructed to host musicals, Jones Beach has since been the site of many popular events.

Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater Park City, Utah
If you’ve ever been to Utah in the summer, you know how beautiful it is – and this outdoor concert venue perfectly showcases its scenic splendor. It features a full calendar of events each summer season; from the Utah Symphony to the Bright Nights Outdoor Concert Series, there is something for everyone.

Kualoa Ranch Kaneohe, Hawaii
The Concert Pasture at Kualoa Ranch covers five acres of stunning scenery on the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. It can accommodate up to 12,000 concert-goers who, along with great live music, enjoy panoramic views of soaring, rainforest-covered mountains and the crystal-clear Pacific Ocean. The Concert Pasture is a popular venue for larger concerts and festivals; meanwhile, other parts of Kualoa Ranch, meanwhile, offer everything from zip line adventures to horseback riding.

Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park Live Oak, Florida
Nestled amid Spanish moss along the Suwannee River, the Spirit of Suwannee is a bit off the beaten path but more than worth the trek. It’s home to several major annual festivals and events; however, it manages to maintain a reputation for being a hidden gem – and allows all who visit to feel as though they have just discovered something truly special.

For more fun updates from the American music industry, be sure to keep checking back with us at HillTop Records – and enjoy the summer concert season!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Amidst the May Flowers: The Best Music Festivals in May, 2016

The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and it’s time to get outside! One of our favorite ways to spend time outdoors? By attending a spring music festival, of course!

Here are our picks for the best live music events happening this May:

Joshua Tree Spring Music Festival (5/12/2016 – 5/14/2016) in Joshua Tree, California
Did you miss Coachella this year? Well, here’s another opportunity to enjoy some great live music in the striking California desert. The spring edition of this year’s global music event (the fall festival happens in early October) offers three days of camping and fun along with the sounds of The Main Squeeze, Little Hurricane, The Accidentals, All Good Funk Alliance, and many more.

Montauk Music Festival (5/19/2016 – 5/22/2016) in Montauk, New York
Majestic coastal scenery surrounds this annual event, which this year is set to feature over 90 bands and performers. Over 100 shows will take place over four days and in various venues around picturesque Montauk. Visit the festival’s official website to see the full lineup of artists and list of participating venues.

Hangout Music Festival (5/20/2016 – 5/22/2016) in Gulf Shores, Alabama
A one-of-a-kind event that takes place each year on the sandy shores of Alabama, the Hangout Music Festival is part live concert and part beach party. This year’s lineup features The Weeknd, Calvin Harris, Florence + The Machine, Alabama Shakes, Lenny Kravitz, and other indie and hip hop bands sure to make everyone get up, brush the sand off and dance.

Bluegrass on the Bogs (5/20/2016 – 5/22/2016) in Hanson, Massachusetts
Now in its eleventh year, this music festival keeps getting bigger and better. It draws acoustic talent from around the Northeast region, with crowds coming together to celebrate their love of bluegrass music. There will also be artisan vendors, workshops, unique activities for kids, and much more – so gather up the entire family and head to the “bogs” of the Kiwanee and Rainbow campgrounds.

Meadowgrass Music Festival (5/27/2016 – 5/29/2016) in Colorado Springs, Colorado
No one does bluegrass quite like Colorado – so if you’re a fan, then you should definitely consider hitting up this event. It’s got a lineup of 20+ heavy-hitters including the Jeff Austin Band, Jackie Greene, The Barr Brothers and Mandolin Orange, as well as plenty of fun workshops, activities for kids, and food and beverage vendors.

Florida Folk Festival (5/27/2016 – 5/29/2016) in White Springs, Florida
Florida’s rich cultural heritage comes alive this spring with a three-day music festival celebrating the best of folk. This event has grown to become one of the state’s most prestigious, and it’s easy to see why: It’s got a fantastic atmosphere, lovely scenery (the festival takes place right along the Suwannee River) and wonderful music for all to enjoy.

Kentucky Reggae Festival (5/27/2016 – 5/29/2016) in Louisville, Kentucky
Kentucky might not be the first state that comes to mind when one thinks of reggae music, but don’t write this annual event off just yet. There’s plenty to love about the Kentucky Reggae Festival, from its Caribbean-flavored vendor market full of authentic Jamaican food to its lively children’s entertainment zone. There’s even free parking – and, of course, fantastic live music.

ROCKLAHOMA (5/27/2016 – 5/29/2016) in Pryor, Oklahoma
You’ve been to music festivals that celebrate a specific genre, or maybe even artist – but what about a decade? This incredible three-day event is all about the 80’s, from music inspired by those days (think Rob Zombie, Megadeth Collective Soul, Three Doors Down, P.O.D.) to themed vendor booths sponsored by popular brands and favorite beverages. One thing’s for sure: This will be a unique party.

Virginia Women’s Music Festival (5/27/2016 – 5/29/2016) in Kents Store, Virginia
A Memorial Day celebration unlike any other, the annual Virginia Women’s Music Festival honors women in the military with a fun-filled long weekend of camping, music, dancing and bonfires. The lineup this year features Indigie Femme, Someone’s Sister, Martine Locke, Devon Sproule, and more. Rent your tents early, as they are sure to sell out.

Sasquatch! Music Festival (5/27/2016 – 5/30/2016) in Quincy, Washington
One of the Pacific Northwest’s premiere events, Sasquatch! is known for drawing a crowd the size of its namesake. This year’s lineup features The Cure, Disclosure, Florence + The Machine, Major Lazer, M83 and more – so it’s safe to say that the show will probably sell out. After all, it does every year.

Didn’t see what you’re looking for? See if one of these upcoming music festivals is more your speed:

Main Street JazzFest (5/6/2016 – 5/7/2016) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Juneau Jazz and Classics (5/6/2016 – 5/21/2016) in Juneau, Alaska
Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival (5/12/2016 – 5/15/2016) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Carolina Roots Music Festival (5/13/2016 – 5/14/2016) in Statesville, North Carolina
Chesapeake Jubilee (5/19/2016 – 5/22/2016) in Chesapeake, Virginia
Belk Bluegrass Festival (5/20/2016 – 5/21/2016) in Belk, Alabama
Grand Junction Art and Music Festival (5/20/2016 – 5/22/2016) in Grand Junction, Colorado
Rock on the Range (5/20/2016 – 5/22/2016) in Columbus, Ohio
Hope Bluegrass Festival (5/21/2016) in Washington, Arkansas
Doheny Blues Festival (5/21/2016 – 5/22/2016) in Dana Point, California
Tri-State Bluegrass Festival (5/26/2016 – 5/29/2016) in Kendallville, Indiana
Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival (5/26/2016 – 5/29/2016) in Wind Gap, Pennsylvania
Atwood Music Festival (5/27/2016 – 5/28/2016) in Monticello, Mississippi
Northwest Folklife Festival (5/27/2016 – 5/30/2016) in Seattle, Washington
Augusta Music Fest (5/28/2016) in Augusta, Georgia
Best of the Best (5/29/2016) in Miami, Florida

For more information on events happening near you, visit FestivalNet.com – and keep checking back with us at HillTop Records as we bring you the latest news and updates from the American music industry!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Different Types of Drums

At once primitive and contemporary, drums have withstood the test of time across countries and musical genres. Cultures have carved them out of wood, sculpted them from clay, hammered them out of metal and molded them out of plastic – all to keep the rhythmic beat of their communications, rituals and entertainment. And just as their uses vary widely, so do the shapes and sizes of these instruments.

Here are just a few of the many types of drums out there:

Easily identified by its tall, narrow shape, the conga is a popular single-headed originally drum from Cuba. It’s typically used in Latin- or tropical-style music, and is also sometimes called a tumbadora. Congas are classified into three types: quinto, tres dos or tres golpes, and tumba or salidor.

Often associated with images of American college kids wearing tie-dye, bongos are actually Afro-Cuban in origin. The percussive instrument consists of a pair of small, open-bottomed drums – a larger one called the hembra and a smaller drum known as the macho.

Named after the Spanish word for “box” or “crate,” the Peruvian cajón drum resembles exactly that. It is squared (instead of rounded like most drums) and played by slapping the front and rear sides (which are frequently made of simple cardboard) with sticks, mallets or hands.

The first thing you’ll notice about a djembe drum is its striking beauty. Shaped like a large goblet and covered with (sometimes brightly colored) rope, it is frequently also adorned with intricate carvings or inlays. The drum is originally from West Africa, and the rope is no mere decoration; it actually serves to tune the skin stretched across the top.

What’s that – you don’t typically think of the tambourine as a drum? Well, it is. Like other members of the percussion family, it consists of a frame (usually wood or plastic) and a drum skin that stretches from end to end. Yes, there are tambourines that don’t have this skin – but they are still considered drums nonetheless.

No self-respecting drum kit is complete without a snare drum or side drum. It can be identified by its shallow, cylindrical shape – and, more importantly, the powerful, staccato sound it produces. Snares offer a great way to add drama or emphasis to a piece of music.

Like the name indicates, a bass drum produces a low sound – or, rather, a note of low definite or indefinite pitch. They vary in size but are typically quite large, and easy to spot from a significant distance – i.e. the very last rows of a concert. Bass drums are commonly used in a variety of popular musical genres.

Electronic or digital drums have recently hit the music scene in a big way, thus changing the way music is played and recorded. An electronic drum is actually an electrical device (a drum pad) that is struck by the drummer (with sticks or hands or brushes) to produce a selection of sampled or modeled sounds, instruments and effects.

For more interesting facts, news and updates from the American music industry, keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records.

Friday, April 1, 2016

April: The 2016 Music Festival Season Is In Full Bloom!

While April showers may bring May flowers, we don’t need to wait until next month to enjoy some great live music. Unlike many spring blooms, the 2016 music festival season is officially here and in full swing. Need proof? Keep reading…

Alaska Folk Festival (4/4/2016 – 4/10/2016) in Juneau, Alaska
It’s no secret that Alaska’s weather can become harsh during the winter months, and so outdoor events are not always in season. Residents of Juneau and surrounding areas wait all winter for the Alaska Folk Festival, which heralds the arrival of spring with three full days of live concerts, workshops, dances and activities.

Next Generation Jazz Festival (4/8/2016 – 4/10/2016) in Monterey, California
This is not your ordinary jazz festival. Instead of showcasing the talents of national and international jazz musicians who have already made their mark on the music scene, this event welcomes over 1,300 of the nation’s top music students to perform, form friendships, and fall in love with jazz. Attendees are invited to witness the greatest jazz ensembles, big bands, composers and vocalists of tomorrow – before they make it big.

Arkansas Folk Festival (4/15/2016 – 4/16/2016) in Mountain View, Arkansas
Now in its 51st year, this annual music festival just keeps getting bigger and better. Attendees love it not just for the live folk, mountain and bluegrass music (of which there is plenty!) but also for the laidback, quirky atmosphere. The town’s courthouse square is turned into a lively dance floor while unique features like a parade and window decorating contest make this event unlike any other.

Durango Bluegrass Meltdown (4/15/2016 – 4/17/2016) in Durango, Colorado
No one does bluegrass quite like Colorado – and if you’re a fan of the genre, you should not miss this event. World-class acts like Sideline, Chris Henry and Hardcore Grass, Wood & Wire, Songs of The Fall and Foghorn Stringband will be taking over notable venues around Durango, including the Durango Elk Lodge and Durango Arts Center.

Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival (4/15/2016 – 4/24/2016) in Indio, California
Coachella is a music festival that needs no introduction. Since surpassing record numbers a few years ago, the event has expanded to cover two full weekends of simultaneous music events. Whether you’re a fan of hip hop, alternative rock, electronic or indie genres, you’ll find your favorite (or new favorite!) bands here. And as if that weren’t enough, the festival also offers a ton of food and beverage vendors, interactive art exhibits, and unique activities to keep the party going.

Mid West Music Fest (4/16/2016 – 4/30/2016) in Winona, Minnesota and La Crosse, Wisconsin
The first thing that makes this music festival different from others is that it takes place in two different states. On April 16, live music fills the streets of Downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin; from April 28 to April 30, Winona, Minnesota takes over. Both towns combined create one of the largest festivals of its kind in the area, with a ride range of activities and a lineup that Al Church, Almighty American, Driftwood Bones, Dusty Heart, Gospel Machine and other beloved American performers.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (4/22/2016 – 5/1/2016) in New Orleans, Louisiana
The residents of New Orleans sure know how to throw a party, and this music festival is one of the city’s biggest events of the year. It’s got everything from a family-friendly zone for kids to extravagant costumes and parade floats left over from Mardi Gras. The food is incredible and the music just as great, with each day of the festival bringing a whole new lineup to enjoy. Don’t miss the Congo Square Stage, the Blues Tent or the New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage.

Stagecoach Country Music Festival (4/29/2016 – 5/1/2016) in Indio, California
What Coachella is to the indie crowd, Stagecoach is to country lovers. Fans flock in droves from all across the country to hear the latest and greatest – and this year’s lineup is no exception. It’s got Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, A Thousand Horses, Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, Dustin Lynch and so many more.

Didn’t see what you’re looking for? Maybe one of these April events is for you:

Big Muddy Folk Festival (4/1/2016 – 4/2/2016) in Boonville, Missouri
Springing the Blues (4/1/2016 – 4/3/2016) in Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Old Time Fiddle Contest and Festival (4/2/2016) in Cloverdale, California
Southern Fried Fiddles and Guitars Festival (4/8/2016 – 4/10/2016) in Moulton, Alabama
Marana Bluegrass Festival (4/8/2016 – 4/10/2016) in Marana, Arizona
Tampa Bay Blues Festival (4/8/2016 – 4/10/2016) in Saint Petersburg, Florida
World Rhythm Festival (4/8/2016 – 4/10/2016) in Seattle, Washington
Brooklyn Folk Festival (4/8/2016 – 4/10/2016) in Brooklyn, New York
Baton Rouge Blues Festival (4/9/2016 – 4/10/2016) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Wanee Music Festival (4/14/2016 – 4/16/2016) in Live Oak, Florida
Natchitoches Jazz and R&B Festival (4/15/2016 – 4/16/2016) in Natchitoches, Louisiana
Bud Light Reggae Festival (4/14/2016 – 4/17/2016) in Carrabassett Valley, Maine
Old Settlers’ Music Festival (4/14/2016 – 4/17/2016) in Austin, Texas
Tortuga Music Festival (4/15/2016 – 4/17/2016) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Austin Reggae Festival (4/15/2016 – 4/17/2016) in Austin, Texas
County Line Music Festival (4/23/2016) in Baldwyn, Mississippi
Tallahassee Jazz and Blues Festival (4/23/2016 – 4/24/2016) in Tallahassee, Florida
The Gilmore Keyboard Festival (4/26/2016 – 5/14/2016) in Kalamazoo, Michigan
Country Bluegrass Show (4/28/2016 – 4/30/2016) in North Platte, Nebraska
Reno Jazz Festival (4/28/2016 – 4/30/2016) in Reno, Nevada
Blues Spring Fling (4/29/2016 – 4/30/2016) in Mobile, Alabama
Las Cruces Country Music Festival (4/29/2016 – 5/1/2016) in Las Cruces, New Mexico
New Jersey Folk Festival (4/30/2016) in New Brunswick, New Jersey

For more information on upcoming events near you, visit FestivalNet.com, and keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records for the latest news from the American music industry.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

It Was a Group Effort: Surprising and Successful Musical Collaborations

With its long list of creative mashups and surprising guest appearances, 2015 may have been the year of the collaboration. However, the “all hands on deck” approach to music started decades before – and it doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon, either. And with good reason.

A successful single that features multiple well-known artists has the unique ability to combine fan groups into one big, happy family – especially when the artists in question traditionally stick to different genres. A collaborative project can combine opposing points of view and contrasting styles to create an entirely new sound that changes the way we view certain genres and even music as a whole. From a financial standpoint, the collaboration makes sense. And from a fun standpoint, well – the more, the merrier!

In no particular order, here are some of the many successful musical collaborations that have made waves, broken records, and gotten stuck in our heads.

“Under Pressure” (1981) – Queen and David Bowie
While the 80’s pop hit topped out at number 29 on the U.S. charts, “Under Pressure” was a smash sensation on its home turf. It reached number one on the U.K. singles chart, making it the second great hit for Queen after “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the third for David Bowie. Legend has it that the two artists decided to combine efforts after both feeling dissatisfied by their current projects. It just goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere.

“Walk This Way” (1986) – Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C.
Definitely one of the more surprising collaborations on this list, the combination of 70’s rock band Aerosmith and groundbreaking hip hop group Run-D.M.C. doesn’t seem to make sense – until you hear the song. Not only did “Walk This Way” help Aerosmith break into the mainstream, but it catapulted Run-D.M.C. into international stardom, winning several awards along the way.

“Lost in the World” (2010) – Kanye West and Bon Iver
Inspired by Bon Iver’s song “Woods,” hip hop innovator Kanye West approached the indie folk band about a collaboration. The result is a compelling reinterpretation of the original that combines the sweet melody of folk with the “get up and dance!” beat of a hip hop hit.

“Smooth” (1999) – Santana and Rob Thomas
When “Smooth” was released at the end of the 90’s, it immediately took the airwaves by storm. Fans of both Latin rock band Santana and the more mainstream Matchbox Twenty agreed that the song struck the perfect note between both genres – and the steady stream of awards (including three Grammys) that followed reinforced that resounding opinion.

“Say Say Say” (1983) – Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney
Could a collaboration between these two be anything less than amazing? “Say Say Say” was recorded in 1982 for Paul McCartney’s album Pipes of Peace and was so successful that the two decided to reunite to produce “The Girl Is Mine” for Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982.)

For more great music, be sure to check out the songwriters of HillTop Records – and stay tuned to this blog as we continue to bring you important updates, fun facts and educational tidbits from the world of American music.