Thursday, February 15, 2007

Here's a chance to catch two of the area's hardest-working and most respected musical acts. Richmond-based quintet Fighting Gravity will perform in a rare acoustic setting, while the coolest rock chick of Denton, Md., Niki Barr, will perform with her quartet weeks before leaving on a tour to entertain the troops.

Fighting Gravity's most recent CD, "Blue Sky & Black," serves as testament to the perseverance of a talented band that has faced the hard realities of the music business head-on.

Born from the remains of a ska outfit known as Boy O Boy, Fighting Gravity released "Forever = 1 Day" in 1996 and steadily toured to become a staple of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic live scene -- occasionally reaching as far as Tokyo or Honduras.

A feature on the band in Rolling Stone magazine caught the attention of Mercury Records, and a recording contract promised good times, but . . . the debut was shelved when Mercury was dismantled during an industry merger.

Fighting Gravity took over, returned to touring and songwriting and released two live albums, "Hello Cleveland" (2001) and the acoustic "Under The Radar" (2002), selling 300,000 records on its own.

Next, the band was signed by a division of Atlantic Records and entered the studio with friend and producer Jim Ebert (Marvelous 3, Everclear). But this label, too, folded before the album could be released, and it took the band more than a year to achieve ownership of the master tapes, which became the basis for "Blue Sky & Black."

After a hiatus, Ebert and the band came out with 11 new tracks and a bonus CD of the acoustic demos that served as the album's blueprint.

Fighting Gravity opened 2007 with a bang, playing with musical pals the Dave Matthews Band, Barenaked Ladies and O.A.R. on the IZSTYLE Winter Tour, a concert series aimed at raising awareness of alternative energy sources.

With a similar commitment to good music and good causes, the Niki Barr Band has been making a name for itself in the region, led by a powerhouse performer who has been a professional musician since she was 16.

Now in her early 20s, Barr has an energy and attitude that will warm the heart of any Joan Jett or Pretenders fan.

She has three independent CD releases and has written songs with some of the hottest composers in the industry, including Butch Walker (Pink, Avril Lavigne), the Matrix team (Jason Maraz, Liz Phair) and Ebert, who produced her recent release, "Go."

Although on stage from her youngest days -- child dancer, teenage actor, guitarist since age 13 -- Barr may have her most appreciative fan base among military men and women for whom she has performed regularly as part of the Armed Forces Entertainment Network.

Barr's tours have taken the group to Japan, Alaska, Singapore, Germany, Great Britain, the Balkans and the Middle East. Next month, the Niki Barr Band will begin a nearly month-long stint to Southwest Asia, bringing original songs and a catalogue of Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin covers to those in need of some hard rock R & R.


The Barns at Wolf Trap is at 1635 Trap Rd. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased athttp://www.wolftrap.orgor by calling 877- 965-3872.

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