Violent Femmes + Echo and The Bunnymen

Norfolk, Virginia (July 24, 2018)  – Packed into a sold-out NorVa music venue. The crowd is eagerly waiting for Echo & the Bunnymen to hit the stage. Smoke machines set the atmosphere for the 80’s post-punk rockers as they enter stage right.

Here in the U.S., Echo & The Bunnymen’s best-known songs are “The Killing Moon” and “Lips Like Sugar“. “Bring On the Dancing Horses” is also well-known as one of the songs on the soundtrack to the cult classic movie Pretty in Pink

Frontman Ian McCulloch tightly holds the mic on stand as guitarists Will Sergeant and Gordy Goudie strum familiar melodies also accompanied by Stephen Brannan on bass, Jez Wing on the keys and Nick Kilroe on drums.

The first song the night is the ever so popular 1987 favorite “Lips Like Sugar   from the self-titled Echo & The Bunnymen album.

Being posted front of the house; I was able to observe the crowd enjoy the band wholeheartedly.

People were lost in their own worlds dancing with all there might as if in some sort of trance. One lady never looked up from dancing until the band finished a song.

I see tons of couples and groups of friends singing along as the tunes continued.

“Lips like sugar
Sugar kisses
She knows what she knows
I know what she’s thinking”

Next up was Bring On the Dancing Horses, another crowd favorite. Wearing dark black sunglasses, Ian stares out into the crowd never moving too far from the microphone as the keyboard, bass, and guitar tones wash over the Bunnymen fans singing along;

“First I’m gonna make it
Then I’m gonna break it
Till it falls apart
Hating all the faking
And shaking while I’m breaking
Your brittle heart”

With just a few pauses between songs, the crowd was study and holding strong, unlike many shows that people constantly visit the bar. This was a show where I witnessed something I hadn’t really seen before. Of course, there are always people who show up to a show late but still want be up front where the action is. As they enter the back of the crowd, they tap and squeeze there way as close to the front as they can to get close to the band. They only may get past a couple of people before having to move horizontally to find a new possible opening. What was odd about the crowd tonight at The NorVa was that there was zero tolerance for these latecomers. There seems to be a mass understanding between strangers that the sold-out venue patrons have staked an early claim on where there were going to camp out for the night and enjoy the show.

As Echo & the Bunnymen ran through more of their catalogue with songs line Rescue – Crocodiles (Album), All That Jazz – Crocodiles (Album) and Nothing Lasts Forever – Evergreen (Album), I would see separate arguments break out in the crowd. Security would quickly address the problem as a circle of fans surround what seems to be a couple trying to push there way to the front all pointing them out to the quick-responding NorVa staff. First security would ask the people to kindly move back to the back of the venue or to the side. If the people refused they were more forcefully requested to move elsewhere or asked to leave the venue. 

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This same situation happened about three of four times. It was odd, but yet I found it pretty respectful that there was no physical fighting in the crowd and that the venue staff took the side of the people who had gotten there early to secure a better spot for the night.

“The greatest song I’ve ever written,” Ian said, about the song The Killing Moon from the 1884 “Ocean Rain” album

The driving bass lines warm my heart as the lyrics come in and the guitars twang.

“In starlit nights I saw you
So cruelly you kissed me
Your lips a magic world
Your sky all hung with jewels
The killing moon
Will come too soon”

The rest of the set provides great examples of the band’s talented history, including the up-tempo The Cutter from their Porcupine album after which the band said goodnight and left the stage.

“Conquering myself
Until I see another hurdle approaching
Say we can, say we will
Not just another drop in the ocean”

After a few moments of crowd cheers and retuning of guitars by stage techs, the band reemerged from backstage and closed their set with the song “Ocean Rain

“I’m at sea again
And now your hurricanes have brought down this ocean rain
To bathe me again
My ship’s a sail
Can you hear its tender frame
Screaming from beneath the waves
Screaming from beneath the waves…”

Set List:
Lips Like Sugar
Bring On the Dancing Horses

All That Jazz
Villiers Terrace / Roadhouse Blues
Over the Wall
Nothing Lasts Forever
Bedbugs & Ballyhoo
Seven Seas
Never Stop
The Killing Moon
The Cutter

Ocean Rain

Current line-up:
Ian McCulloch (vocals, guitar)
Will Sergeant (guitar)
Gordy Goudie (guitar)
Stephen Brannan (bass)
Jez Wing (keyboards)
Nick Kilroe (drums)

Liverpool, England

Ocean Rain Records



Violent Femmes

It’s taking quite a while for the stage to be reset for the Folk-Punk musicians known as The Violent Femmes. The group of fans I am standing beside are getting restless and chanting, “Let’s go! Let’s go! The security guard near us let us know everything is running behind for some reason, and about 15 minutes later the lights go dark resulting and a huge cheer. Just before, another couple of late show attendees is called out immediately as they pushed their way toward the front of the venue. Only to be met by security who usher them off to the side after some quick words.

As usual, photographers are now let into the photo pit but surprisingly after a couple of minutes there is still no sight of the band. Then faintly in the back of the club I hear some rhythmic banging noises. Some sort of percussion. I see the crowd behind me all staring toward the back right entrance of The NorVa.

The tribal sounds are getting louder and I hear fans starting to clap. Sure enough, it is Violent Femmes band members bassist Brian Ritchie on what looks like a recorder, drummer John Sparrow playing the snare drum that is hanging from a neck strap, singer Gordon Gano hitting a metal cowbell type instrument and Blaise Garza blowing notes on a very impressive sax type horn.

They bring their unique entrance to a quick close and start playing Prove My Love leaving the crowd dazed from all the excitement. Sparrow is rocking away on a combination of snare drum and a black metal cooking grill at the front of the stage as one of the gleaming horns of Dilemma glimmers in the background.

“What do I have to do
I’d do anything
I’d do it all, I’d do it all for you
I’d climb a mountain, I’d cross the ocean”

The audience can’t help but sing along and dance in place in this standing room only event. The next few songs featured Promise, Good For/At Nothing, and the acoustic guitar & bass filled Love Love Love Love Love which features unique tones from the Horns of Dilemma.

“Some say they know it when they see it
While others follow it blind
Some science appliances made it all calculated
It’s just a chemical imbalance in the weaker mind”

There are a few young people peppered throughout the crowd but attendance was a mostly 30 to 4o plus year old demographic clearly here to rock out to songs of fonder times. The punky folk riddled melodies kept the crowd’s attention all night, sparking their dance energy with favorites like Blister In the Sun that ended with the entire Norva floor singing acapella at the top of their lungs. I hear a lady exclaim to her husband, “ That is my most favorite song ever!” as her husband laughs and turns to me asking if I knew the lyrics also?

Throughout the rest of the set, Gordon and the rest of the band are exchanging smiles and corky smirks as I take their photographs and they interact with their very stoked fans. which is keeping the night’s energy positive and fun filled.

The chorus of Please Do Not Go has the entire venue belting out lyrics as if they were performing themselves.

By the end of the night, The Violent Femmes were squeezing out every last bit of dance from the fans that packed the venue for them. 

The encore song is “Add It Up” from the 1982 self-titled Violent Femmes album.

I still cant stop my mind from singing Oh, ma-mama, mama-mo-ma-mum, Oh, ma-mama, mama-mo-ma-mum, Oh, ma-mama, mama-mo-ma-mum!

Whether you are and old fan of the Violent Femmes or someone who has just found them by whatever means I am here to tell you if you go to their show, you will have fun. They just might make you want to sing, dance and bang on stuff.

Add It Up Productions

Catch them on tour:

The Violent Femmes:

Echo & The Bunnymen:

The NorVA:

Four Plane Tickets To Los Angeles

Norfolk, Virginia (July 8, 2018)The sun is setting in this Virginia waterside Naval town as I head to The NorVa for tonights show. The 100° heat wave from the week before is taking a dip into the 70’s for the weekend which makes the night even more enjoyable. Walking into The NorVa I arrive just in time to head up front for the beginning of American rock band Badflowers set, who are opening tonight for The Struts.

Badflower - Live at The NorVa 07-08-18
©Splice Magazine – photo by Ken Penn. Please do not alter images.

The crowd roars as the California based musicians come on stage and demand an early connection with the crowd. The fun and energetic stage presence of bassist Alex Esperitu caught my attention first, as he slung his bass around the stage without missing a note.

Singer/guitarist Josh Katz‘s, vocals wandered between powerful and melodic social messages in their song “Drop Dead” from the Temper album.

“Drop Dead”…
Quick, pose for the vanity!
Clack clack with your high heels!
Quit messin’ with the boys head!
Learn to love yourself, or drop dead

The title “Ghost” takes on the subject of suicide while being craftily embedded in a beautiful tempo.

I am impressed with the deeply emotional and descriptive lyrics. They remind me of goth rock legends The Cure who also wrap dark messages in beautiful rock melodies. The contrast is warm and cold at the same time and builds a quick bond with listeners who may have had similar life experiences.

”I felt a lot of pain but it didn’t stop my heart.” Katz sang … “I tried it like before and this time I made a deep cut.”

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The song structures accent the lyrics perfectly and that is being reflected in the audience’s response as each member of the band interacts throughout their set.

In my many years of going to live shows, I have witnessed bands that just play their songs and don’t make a connection with the crowd. Then there are bands like Badflower that give the crowd what they came for. 

Seeing lead guitarist Joey Morrow’s face peek through his long curly locks as he sang backing vocals on a few songs was a prime example of the passion on display for the people who came to see them.

The loud driving chorus of the recently released track Heroin compares a seriously heartbreaking relationship with the use of the powerfully addictive drug that ruins so many lives.

Other familiar crowd favorites sparked cheers including when they began to play “Soap from their 2015 first EP.

The band is composed of singer/guitarist Josh Katz, lead guitarist Joey Morrow, bass guitarist Alex Espiritu and drummer Anthony Sonetti.

Badflower is signed to Big Machine Records/ John Varvatos Records and was named Artist of the Week by Apple Music after the release of their EP Temper in 2016. Their debut studio album is scheduled for release in 2018.

Catch more of Badflower’s tour at these dates

©Splice Magazine – photo by Ken Penn. Please do not alter images.

Four tickets to the United States
About 30 minutes pass between the end of the Badflower set and the lights dim to start The Struts opening song. Hundreds of people scream with anticipation as the lights slowly fade back on.

Drummer, Gethin Davies enters stage right and the crowd again erupts.  Then bassist Jed Elliot enters the stage and waves to the front row who enjoyed the specialized attention. Next the band’s co-founder and guitarist Adam Slack walks on stage with a huge grin at the crowd’s reaction.

But the party really starts with one of today’s most entertaining frontmen comes on the stage.

Vocalist Luke Spiller enters stage right and The NorVa goes wild. Luke is wearing a orange pants and jacket outfit with long white fringe dangling from the arms and a black and gold sequined shirt underneath.

Think The Rolling Stones Mick Jagger meets Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and they create one well rounded super rockstar.

That singer is Luke Spiller

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His warm bubbly greetings set the mood for the rest of the night as the band starts to play the body shaking “Put Your Hands Up” from their 2014 Everybody Wants album.

This man’s style and demeanor embody what a rock musician should be. Confident, kind, and all-out entertaining. Not only can he sing but he can easily get the crowd to become part of the show. His seemly choreographed stage moves can only be described as amazing.

Soon I am excited to hear the lyrics come in on recently released sing “Body Talks” on Interscope Records.

Your eyes follow like a spotlight
Two eyes like the sun
Go ahead keep your distance from me
Soon you’re going to come

Your lips are a conversation
That face is a song
If it’s my imagination
Stop me if I’m wrong”

Throughout the show, Luke expresses the extreme gratitude he has for everyone coming to the shows on this tour. He stated, ‘“Back in the UK we released a new record last year and no one cared.” “Here we are playing the shows of our lives.”

Next, the band rocked through their 2017 anthem ”One Night Only” which had the sickest 80’s rock vibes that had the entire crowd rocking there heads to the chorus.

“I’ll give you one night only
For your eyes only
If entertaining’s what you want
Then honey, I’m the best
I know that we’re together
For all your pleasure
Forever, forever, forever
This is how we burn”

The Struts have some of the greatest chorus sing-alongs of modern times. For example, the next song of the night “The Ol’ Switcheroo” from the album Everybody Wants has super addictive lyrics that you cant forget.

Showcasing their very unique sound The Struts slowed it down a notch with “Let’s Make This Happen Tonight” (2014) Everybody Wants which has a 60’s vibe that makes me want to clap along. Fire (Part 1) a new song by the band, got the crowds hearts back pumping fast with Luke covering the entire stage from left to right and back again.

Huge highlight surprise of the night was a surprise cover song. Dancing in the Dark and toward the end Luke actually picked a lady from the crowd to come up on stage and reenact Courtney Cox’s part in the iconic video. That was a surprising crowd pleaser from the UK formed band.

The tambourine clad “Put Your Money on Me” (2014) “Everybody Wants” had hips shaking with lyrics like

“I know I’ve got a bad bad reputation
I’m not afraid to look a girl right in the eye
And so I’ll tell you for your information
Just know I’m not that kind of guy”

Once again Luke thanks the crowd for all their support. He asked if they come back to The Norva again would they all come to see the show to which the crowd cheers and claps. Luke says, “You know Dave Grohl recently was in the UK and doing an interview and he said that we were the best band there have every have on tour with them and he didn’t know why the people there didn’t give them more love.” (The Struts were the supporting act for The Foo Fighters 2017 U.S. tour.)

He said after the poor response to their record in the UK last year they just bought 4 plane tickets to Los Angeles.

The rest is history.

Encores followed showcasing the bands “Could Have Been Me” (Everybody Wants)

During a quick jam-like interlude between the rest of the band, Luke leaves the stage but moments later he returns wearing a gold sparkly outfit and hat,

Spiller tells the crowd he needs to get the last bit of dance energy out of them because the end of the show is near. He said, “You know we are making a music video soon with a very famous female singer, I can’t say who it is yet but it’s going to be amazing“.

He said, “We don’t have money for pyrotechnics or even confetti yet to throw all over but we have YOU, You are gonna be our fireworks. All of you!

Luke proceeds to ask everyone in the standing room only The NorVa floor to actually kneel down or sit before they start the next song. And the rocking intro to the bands “Where Did She Go” hit started he had everyone jump up on cue for their final dance.

“Oh oh oh give me the time
Give me the clock ’cause
I want it back the way it was”

Set List
Put Your Hands Up
Body Talks
One Night Only
The Ol’ Switcheroo
Primadonna Like Me
Kiss This
Dirty Sexy Money
Let’s Make This Happen Tonight
Fire (Part 1)
Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Put Your Money on Me
Could Have Been Me
Where Did She Go

Kiss This EP Virgin EMI April 7
Have You Heard August 2015 Interscope
Live and unplugged March 3 2017 Interscope

Catch The Struts on Tour at these dates

The Struts are:
Vocals – Luke Spiller
Bass – Jed Elliot
Drums – Gethin Davies
Guitar – Adam Slack

The Struts:


The NorVA:

The Roadshow 2018

Charlottesville, Virginia (February 16,  2018) – Kicking off the first night of their 23-city tour, Bethel Music, Zach Williams, Natalie Grant, Matthew West, Social Club Misfits and For King & Country gave Charlottesville a memorable night of worship.

The Rock & Worship Roadshow is Christian music’s most uplifting and entertaining concert series for the whole family. The Roadshow brings families together for an affordable and powerful concert experience with some of the biggest artists in Christian music today.

This tour would not be possible without the support of Compassion International.

Bethel Music

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Brian & Jenn Johnson are co-founders of Bethel Music, WorshipU, and have been integral in the production of over fifteen albums that have influenced the culture of worship across the global church. They are committed to raising a healthy family, cultivating community, and fostering unity among worship leaders from around the world. Brian & Jenn’s newest solo album, “After All These Years” will release in late January 2017.
Brian facilitates an atmosphere of faith in worship and has written anthems such as “Have it All”, “We Will Not Be Shaken” and “One Thing Remains,” which was awarded #1 song for ASCAP Christian Music and #1 Radio Single in 2013. Known for her powerful vocals and unique prophetic sound, Jenn has authored songs such as, “In Over My Head”, “Come To Me”, “God I Look to You” and “O Taste and See”.
Together they are passionate about raising up worshippers who take hold of their true identity and pursue intimacy with God above all else. There are advocates of living a lifestyle built on vulnerability, faithfulness, and connection to the community. Brian and Jenn reside in Redding, California, with their four wonderful children, Haley, Téa, Braden, and Ryder Moses. They continue to speak and lead worship at home and around the world.

Zach Williams

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Most recently he can add recording artist to the list. Zach is no novice to the music industry. He had spent a majority of his life traveling with various bands. It was while on the road that the Lord grabbed a hold of him and he decided to leave the rock star life behind.
After that, Zach transitioned into a position at the Refuge Campus of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas in which he still serves. It came as a shock when the opportunity to sign with Provident Label Group as a new Christian artist arose. Never in his wildest dreams did Zach Williams think that he would be in this place of writing and recording music in the Christian music industry, especially from years of hard living on the road while in a rock & roll band.
His personal testimony of receiving freedom in the Lord is so beautifully reflected in his debut single “Chain Breaker”. The song came from a place of wanting to reach people who had been struggling and it undoubtedly has. Over the course of its release in the summer of 2016, an influx of stories has been shared on his various social media pages by people who have experienced the life-changing power of broken chains.

Natalie Grant

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Six-time Grammy-nominated Natalie Grant is known for her powerful and soaring vocals, heart-gripping lyrics and passionate performances, and has remained one of the top-selling Christian & Gospel artists since her 2005 breakout RIAA Gold-certified album, “Awaken.” She has since gone on to have nearly 4 million in career sales. The Gospel Music Association has named her Female Vocalist of the Year 5 times and she has had multiple number 1’s on the Billboard singles and albums charts, including her most recent record titled, “Be One.”
More than just music and awards, Grant has built a relationship with her fan base on a personal level that goes well beyond the music. Regarded as real, authentic and transparent, that connection with people puts Grant at the top of the industry with fan engagement across all social media platforms.
Beyond her music career, Natalie is the author of several books, including a tween book series titled “Glimmer Girls.” Her fashion and jewelry line, NG by Natalie Grant, has seen great success, and most importantly she has used her platform to be an outspoken advocate for victims of human trafficking since 2005. She co-founded Hope for Justice, which identifies and rescues victims of trafficking and then provides them with complete restorative care. The organization now has 8 offices spanning 4 countries and 3 continents.
Though she is a Seattle native, Natalie makes her home in Nashville, TN with her husband, producer/songwriter Bernie Herms and their three children: twins Grace and Bella, and their youngest, Sadie.

Matthew West

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Matthew West is a four-time Grammy® nominee, a multiple-ASCAP Christian Music Songwriter/Artist of the Year winner and Dove Award recipient, and was awarded an American Music Award (2013), a Billboard Music Award (Top Christian Artist, 2014), a K-LOVE Fan Award (2016), and named Billboard’s Hot Christian Songwriter of the Year (2016). West also received a Primetime Emmy® Award nomination for Original Music & Lyrics for “The Heart of Christmas” from the film of the same name. In addition to his own recording career, he has co-hosted the K-LOVE Fan Awards three times and has more than 130 songwriting credits to his name, including cuts by Rascal Flatts, Scotty McCreery, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Mandisa, among others, and number one cuts by Casting Crowns and Danny Gokey. Selling more than 1.6 million albums to date (TEA), West’s discography includes acclaimed releases: Live Forever (2015), GRAMMY-nominated Into The Light (2012), The Story of Your Life (2010), Something to Say (2008), History (2005) and Happy (2003).
Well known for communicating stories through song, Matthew West has received thousands of stories from around the world. His latest studio album, Live Forever, continues that storytelling theme and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Sales Chart. He has obtained numerous No. 1 singles, most recently with “Grace Wins,” while achieving a record-setting No. 1 for 17 straight weeks at radio with “Hello, My Name Is” and “The Motions” for 15 weeks.
Adding author to his list of accolades, West has written five books to date: Give This Christmas Away, The Story Of Your Life, Forgiveness, Today Is Day One, and his newest release, Hello My Name Is. He is also passionate about providing hope and healing through the power of prayer and story, so along with his father Pastor Joe West he founded pop we, a non-profit ministry helping others to craft, share and live a more meaningful life.

Social Club Misfits

People often talk about the future of hip-hop music like it isn’t right now. As if the future were some far off paint splotch occupying our collective imagination. On the contrary, the future is now, and some aren’t afraid to take it where it’s going. Enter Social Club Misfits, the Miami duo who’s built a cult following on the strength of their provocative oeuvre and singular, quick-witted approach. Comprised of Marty and Fern, Social Club is the after-effect of two distinctive personalities meshing to create an invigorating sound. The self-monikered “Misfits” are disruptors in every sense, challenging norms and bringing other misfits along for the ride. With a host of projects and EPs under their proverbial belt (including the Billboard-charting full-lengths The Misadventures of Fern & Marty, Misfits 2, and US), Social Club Misfits has made a sport of pushing boundaries and redefining the possibilities of what faith-based music can accomplish. From headlining sold out tours across the country to spawning imitators the world over, it’s clear the duo has struck a chord with listeners from all walks of life. They have bypassed perceived gatekeepers in favor of carving their own lane and fueling their purpose. While some are content with moving wherever the current leads, Social Club Misfits has embraced their calling as leaders of a more intentional school of thought. The misfits are now. Their latest project, The Misadventures of Fern & Marty, released in early 2017. The duo’s yet-to-be-titled new full-length album hits February 2018.

For King & Country

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Soaring melodies, driving rhythms, theatrical instrumentation and personal themes are the heartbeat of two-time Grammy Award winners for King & Country. They’ve celebrated an RIAA Certified Gold album, their most recent Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong. and two Gold singles – their crossover hit “Fix My Eyes,” and “The Proof Of Your Love,” from the band’s debut album Crave.  The Australian brother duo raised expectations with their first release, winning Billboard’s New Artists to Watch for 2012. Since then, they’ve sold over 650,000 albums and had nearly 200,000,000 streams of their music. Their sophomore effort Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong. garnered unanimous critical praise with a #1 debut on iTunes, a headlining tour that included 28 sold-out shows and a 60-date arena tour.  They’ve performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! The Today Show, The Tonight Show, FOX and Friends and have songs featured on the Emmys, The Super Bowl, Sunday Night Football, U.S. Open, 7UP and more.

During Q&A session: from left to right: Zach Williams, Kristene DiMarco & Josh Baldwin of Bethel Music, Joel Smallbone (& son) from For King & Country, & Matthew West – Roadshow in Charlottesville, VA 2/16/18


Shaun Groves
Shaun Groves
Shaun Groves

Bethel Music:

Zach Williams:

Natalie Grant:

Matthew West:

Social Club Misfits:

For King & Country:

John Paul Jones Arena

Roadshow Mix – a Spotify playlist featuring your favorite uplifting songs from The Roadshow artists past and present as well as other faves. Start listening now at