Music roundup: Billy Strings plans Dec. 9 show in Stoughton

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By Bill Livick/Special to The Gazette
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Dispatch, 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, Barrymore Theatre, 2090 Atwood Ave., Madison. Tickets: $36-$56. Call 608-241-8633.

Dispatch, a rock trio led by head songwriter and frontman Chad Stokes, heads to Madison in support of its sixth studio album, “America, Location 12.”

The band was established in Boston as a college-aged acoustic rock trio, with Pete Heimbold on bass, Brad Corrigan on drums and

Stokes on guitar and lead vocals. The group had been grinding out up-tempo ballads in small clubs around Boston and New York City for four years when it got an invitation in 2000 to perform at Pomona College in California—a place the band had never visited.

At the show, hundreds of fans showed up knowing the band's music by heart after have heard it on Napster, the now-famous peer-to-peer file-sharing program that kick-started the revolution of online music.

Dispatch continued to perform until 2004, when the group broke up so its members could pursue solo projects. The trio reunited in 2010 and released a fifth album, “Circles Around the Sun,” in 2012.

“America, Location 12,” is a politically oriented collection that makes a sharp critique of America under President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress. It addresses such contentious issues as the country's gun culture, the opioid-addiction epidemic and building walls to prevent immigration.

Billy Strings, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9, Stoughton Opera House, 381 E. Main St., Stoughton. Tickets: $25. Call 608-877-4400.

Born William Apostol and raised in a small town in Michigan, Billy Strings is a 24-year-old solo performer and band leader who has shared stages with bluegrass royalty while crisscrossing the nation playing high-energy, jaw-dropping sets at festivals.

Strings, now based in Nashville, learned music from his father, who learned it from his father, who learned from his father before him. That explains why Strings' songs, articulation and entire approach sound authentic and steeped in tradition.

Strings' father, Terry Barber, is an amateur bluegrass picker who bought his son his first guitar when the boy was 4. The youngster was raised on his dad's music and later played in a metal band in middle school.

By the time he was in high school, Strings had experimented with drugs and graduated only after dropping out of school twice. After high school, he moved to Traverse City, Michigan, and found a mentor in veteran player Don Julin. The pair performed as a team until Strings struck out on his own in early 2016 and headed to Nashville. He released his debut album, “Turmoil & Tinfoil,” in September.

Strings has played on stage with the likes of Del McCoury, David Grisman, Larry Keel and Sam Bush, and he has wowed audiences at festivals across the country. He won the International Bluegrass Music Association's 2016 Momentum Awards Instrumentalist of the Year for guitar, banjo and mandolin, and he also was voted No. 1 in The Bluegrass Situation's Top 16 of 2016.

Alter Bridge, 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, Orpheum Theater, 216 State St. Madison. For tickets, visit LiveNation.com.

The Florida-based hard-rock band Alter Bridge has been active since 2004 and released is latest album, “The Last Hero,” last year.
The album was written by band members Myles Kennedy (on lead vocals) and guitarist Mark Tremonti, who found time to write the material in between engagements with other projects. The band completed recording the album in the spring of 2016 and released it in October.

“The Last Hero” is the band's fifth album and the first to reach the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart since Alter Bridge's 2004 debut, “One Day Remains.”

The band's modern, classic-rock music is often described as “bombastic” and “overblown,” terms that are suitable, and perhaps necessary, for an arena-size audience.

The Guardian newspaper, in an October review of the band's performance at Albert Hall, wrote, “If there's one thing Alter Bridge does well, it's explosive bombast—you half expect to spend the evening dodging chunks of ceiling, as already overblown songs are pushed to new limits of sonic excess. The effect of this extra noise, however, is stunning.”

Ian Bagg, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, and 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 8-9, The Comedy Club on State Street, 202 State St., Madison. Tickets: $10-$15. Call 608-256-0099.

Comedian Ian Bagg moved to New York City from his native Canada in 1996 and became a regular at the Comic Strip and the Comedy Cellar in New York.

He quickly landed three appearances on the “Late Night With Conan O'Brien” before moving to Los Angeles in 2000. Before leaving New York, he performed at the Aspen Comedy Festival and the Montreal Comedy Festival as well as doing stand-up spots on “HBO Showcase Comics” and his first small film role in Tim Robbins' “The Cradle Will Rock.” He was also a regular member in the sketch group The Milk Duds.

His feature in 2007, “Comedy Central Presents Ian Bagg,” also was a big hit. The same year, he made a second appearance at the Aspen Comedy Festal and filmed an HBO special, “A Comics' Climb with Ian Bagg.”

Bagg was asked by The History Channel in 2008 to be a part of the special “History of the Joke.” He has performed in China, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and North America.

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