Wake The Bear
(Cincinnati) Alternative Rock
When Scott Cunningham found himself alone after the dissolution of Promenade, he decided he liked the solitude and channeled his creativity into a one-man project he christened Wake the Bear. In studio, he's an octopus, especially on his latest solo epic Player Piano (inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's debut novel), but onstage it's just one Bear with an acoustic guitar, a keyboard and backing tracks. That, as it turns out, is all that is required.
Dig: Brendan Benson and Beck and Ray Davies and Bowie all contributing DNA to a Petri-dish side project.
The Segway Room
Friday, Sep 25, 10:00
(Northern Kentucky) Pop/Rock
With a sound tailor-made for Pop/Rock radio, this young area band has already lived a couple of lifetimes in its short time together. The group had to take a lengthy break when drummer Nate Staggs was diagnosed with cancer. Rather than wallow, the band reconvened a couple of years ago with a new sense of purpose, pumping out a few albums, touring the entire country and securing influential management. They've also dedicated themselves to raise money for cancer-related charities. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger? Watson Park lives that. Don't expect them to be unsigned this time next year.
Dig: Copeland, Love Drug, Brand New, Brand New
Thursday, Sep 24, 10:00
(Chapel Hill, N.C.) Indie Rock
Western Civ might have been spawned in Alabama, but they are natural sons of their new environs in Chapel Hill. Off-kilter Pop made up of fuzzy guitar textures, compelling melodies, skittering time signatures and strident vocals, all mixed with equal reverence and coming together with hair-raising results.
Dig: The New Pornographers if they'd been raised like veal on Pavement, Built to Spill and Superchunk.
Blue Wisp Jazz Club: Thursday Sept. 24 9:00
Where They Landed
(Cincinnati) Experimental Ambient Jazz
Take the more frenetic bits of Weather Report and the quieter passages from The Mars Volta and blend it with an ear toward experimentalism and you have Where They Landed. And to paraphrase the great Buckaroo Banzai, no matter where they landed, there you are.
Dig: Classical melodicism lab Jazz curiosity = Ambient Space Jazz.
Courtyard Cafe On Main
Thursday, Sep 24, 8:30
With some of the most impressive pipes you'll hear in the Cincinnati music scene, singer/songwriter Whitney Barricklow and her band make organic Pop Rock. Well, they did. Following a serious car accident involving friend and Whitney B Band bassist Chris Walker in 2007, Barricklow took a step back after the accident, reflected and wrote songs and gradually began to perform again, at first as in a duo format. Barricklow is looking forward to working on music more regularly, with plans for a new CD, a collection of past recordings and full-band shows.
Dig: Fiona Apple minus the melodrama, The Sundays with a few shots of soul.
Madonna's Bar & Grill
Friday, Sep 25, 11:00
William F. Gibbs
(Greenville, S.C.) Rock/Soul/Pop/‚%u012EAmericana
There are innumerable American music styles touched on between the grooves of singer/songwriter Willliam F. Gibbs' debut My Fellow Sophisticates, but somehow Gibbs is able to harness everything and hone it all into a sharp Pop point, never losing his own distinct sound amidst the diversity. The album has received glowing reviews from Pitchfork, Crawdaddy and Paste, a survey of which reveals such disparate comparisons as Tom Waits, Bing Crosby, T-Rex, Howlin' Wolf, Al Green, M. Ward, George Harrison and Cab Calloway. All legit touchstones, but Gibbs' defiantly makes it all his own.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Dirty Afghan Whigs-type Soul, Cold War Kids hire Robbie Fulks to produce.
Arnold's Bar and Grill
Saturday, Sep 26, 12:00
(Kent/Cleveland, Ohio) Funk/Pop/Soul
Named ‚Best Original Band, by Cleveland's Scene weekly, this six-piece sports an incredibly soulful frontman, funky guitars, a horn section and an airtight rhythm section. Winslow's sound is steeped in old-school Soul grooves and ideas, but there's something refreshingly non-retro about the band. The group moves from hard-hitting Funk to passionate balladry without blinking an eye. This timeless approach has led to show dates with everyone from Incubus and OAR to Lupe Fiasco and GZA. Should be a blast in the live setting.
Dig: Marvin Gaye, Terence Trent D'Arby, The Dap-Kings.
Havana Martini Club
Thursday, Sep 24, 11:00
These riff-riders sound tailor-made for Rock radio, easily able to give the likes of new-schoolers like Seether, Papa Roach, Buckcherry and Three Days Grace a serious run for their money. A tight, powerful band helps, but it's Within Reason's ability to craft powerful, memorable melodies that points to a promising future. Fun fact: the band appeared and performed on the CW's One Tree Hill!
Dig: Hinder, Avenged Sevenfold and Shinedown.
Mainstay Rock Bar
Saturday, Sep 26, 8:00
(Fort Thomas, Ky.) Indie/Roots/Folk
Wonky Tonk is unique singer/songwriter Jasmine Poole, who takes the whole Folk music idiom, pries it into the sky with a crane and drops it right on top of the 21st century, cracks and all. Poole, who is playing with backing musicians who provide mandolin, fiddle, banjo and other trad instruments, has a great voice and charming wit, referencing everything from Sarah Palin and Bob Sumerel Tires in her ramblin tales.
Dig: Woody Guthrie run through a Freak Folk filter, Moldy Peaches with actual musical ability.
Madonna's Bar & Grill
Friday, Sep 25, 9:00
(Cincinnati) Slanted Roots Rock
Wussy just keeps getting better with age, the quartet's latest album (which is curiously self-titled) for local Shake It Records is its best yet, a fascinating collection of songs that penetrate deeper than ever via Chuck Cleaver's and Lisa Walker's tension-riddled tales of relationships in various degrees if disrepair. The quartet's growth as sonic sculptors is just as impressive: the album-opening one-two of ‚Little Paper Birds, and ‚Gone Missing, reveals a textured, atmospheric approach only hinted at on the band's previous efforts. And the addition of former Staggering Statistics drummer Joe Klug only adds to Wussy's expanding use of dynamics, the most important of which remains the unique dichotomy, both visually and musically, of its lead couple.
Dig: Richard and Linda Thompson backed by Yo La Tengo, a Lars Von Trier film adaptation of a Southern gothic novel.
Saturday, Sep 26, 11:00
(Louisville, Ky.) AltCountry/Pop
This energized Louisville band sounds like it puts on the kind of live show that you go to and wake up the next day bruised, hungover and happily basking in the debauched afterglow. The band has a Stones-y swagger, a vintage soulfulness and a good sense of what it takes to be an awesome Roots Rock band.
Dig: The Black Crowes show their Country side, Steve Earle, beer in the morning.
Saturday, Sep 26, 12:00
The Young Republic
The Young Republic is an Indie band whose members are actually quite accomplished on their instruments and utilize seemingly the entire history of popular music in their songwriting. By no coincidence, the group formed five years ago when they met as students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. But this isn’t flashy, look-at-me stuff — the range of influences (Classical to Jazz, old-school R&B to Blues) are subtly displayed, distilled into the band’s own distinct sound, and all that experience is used solely to serve the song. The band records for the U.K.’s End of the Road Records and is planning another tour across the pond later this fall. The group’s next release is Balletesque, due in early October.
Dig: Cold War Kids, The Raconteurs, Arcade Fire doing chilled out Beatles covers.
Fountain Square: Thursday Sept. 24 6:15 (free)
Blue Wisp Jazz Club: Thursday Sept. 24 12 midnight
You, You're Awesome
Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, bands like The Human League and the Units were making a blend of piledriving Rock and Electronic Synth Pop with undertones of New Wave, Jazz and cartoon music. You, You’re Awesome references that period with a sense of whimsy rather than a sense of history, making grinning dance monkeys of us all.
Dig: Ween is the therapist, the Residents are the patient, primal Raymond Scott channeling is the treatment.
Contemporary Arts Center
Saturday, Sep 26, 10:30
Yourself and the Air
(Chicago) Indie Rock
Yourself and the Air are clearly guided by the mopey anthemics of Robert Smith, but they also have an affinity for the guitar squall of the Jesus and Mary Chain and the glittery Pop insistence of Modest Mouse. What comes through it all is YATA's comfort in exploring the tension in triangulating those three slightly disparate concepts and crafting their own whisper-to-a-scream Pop outlook.
Dig: The Cure on Prozac, The Shins tributing Modest Mouse.
The Lodge Bar
Saturday, Sep 26, 12:00
Shayna Zaid and the Catch
(New York City) Acoustic Pop
Shayna Zaid pretty much had success right out of the gate. The Malaysian-born Zaid met guitarist Joel Dean at Berklee in Boston and the two found they had a good writing chemistry. A few years later, the duo's debut scored big buzz, even landing eight of its tracks on the soap opera The Young and the Restless. The twosome's second album became a smash in Malaysia, but around then their sound began to evolve from an R&B/Pop feel to Modern Folk. Dean and Zaid recruited a full band and released a self-titled EP earlier this year. Despite the change of scenery and sound, the group continues to rack up accolades all across the country.
Dig: Imogen Heap, Regina Spektor, Yael Naim.
Fountain Square: Thursday Sept. 24 5:00 (free)
Javier's Mexican Restaurant: Thursday Sept. 24 10:00
The Zest of Yore
(Austin, Tex.) Indie Pop/Rock
The list of influences on the Zest of Yore's MySpace page is damn near as long as the reviews singing their considerable praises. But the boys had me right from the top of the page when they name-checked Guided By Voices and The Move. There are shadows of all the others on their self-released Quality of Life disc (The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Cheap Trick, Big Star), but Zest of Yore is clearly all about translation and not mimicry. Original and cool with scads of roaring Pop chills and thrills.
Dig: GBV's Power Pop Delivery Service, with vintage trucks driven by Matthew Sweet, Roy Wood and Sir Paul.
Saturday, Sep 26, 9:00