When: Thu., May 29, 6 p.m. 2014
From Hopscotch and the International Bluegrass Music Awards to New Year's Eve and the African-American Cultural Festival, Raleigh City Plaza—a jewel of the city's decision to reopen Fayetteville Street to traffic—has become one of the summer's most consistent concert venues. As free programming grows, Oak City 7 has emerged as its most steady draw.
A privately funded series that balances upcoming locals with sometimes-backsliding touring draws, Oak City 7 launches its third year on Thursday. Headliner Atlanta Rhythm Section achieved minor radio success during the '70s with a commercially friendly if staid take on the more rough rock of The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The five-piece only features its original drummer and vocalist these days, but they know enough to stick to the heyday singles—"Imaginary Lover," "I'm Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight" and "So Into You."
But Oak City 7 often counters lackluster headliners with more exciting openers. This is no exception: Greensboro's Roseland leans to the softer, more easygoing side of the '70s, with harmony-heavy, pop-inflected folk-rock recalling Crosby Stills Nash & Young. Bilingual singer-songwriter Bobby Bryson is a spirited performer, sidestepping folk-pop tedium with onstage gusto. Chapel Hill's Wichita Falls are the true highlight here, with raw, hooky indie rock that seems to teeter on the brink of spiraling out of control. Eric + Erica, recent transplants from Oakland to Durham, charm with graceful indie pop. One Tribe Rhythms facilitates a participatory pre-show drum circle, so show up early at your own risk.
The series continues bi-weekly through August, trading Thursdays with the new Pickin' In The Plaza. The headlining mix veers between touring acts (hard rock vets King's X, '90s power pop revivalists The Posies, alt-rock hitmakers Fastball) and locals such as the tradition-rooted, modern-minded West African ensemble Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba. Again, pay attention to the openers, especially the elegant country of New Reveille, the jazzy hip-hop of The Beast and the sprawling Americana of JKutchma & The Five Fifths.
You'll be able to get a taste of more than just local music, too, as food trucks and area breweries will be on site for dinner and drinks. —Spencer Griffith