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Upcoming Concert Reviews of JJ Grey, Mofro and More...

More Concerts of Note

By · April 18th, 2007 · Sound Advice
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  Lightning Bolt
Lightning Bolt



JJ GREY & MOFRO WITH BACKYARD TIRE FIRE

Wednesday · Southgate House

A little bit Country, as in Southern culture. A little bit Ghetto, as in raw doggedness. That's the total half-and-half honest truth of JJ Grey & Mofro and the band's latest release, Country Ghetto.

As with their previous two albums, producer Dan Prothero has masterminded another tour de force in Country Ghetto. New to the scene is Bruce Iglauer of Blues label Alligator Records (born and raised in Cincinnati's very own North Avondale neighborhood). When he threw Alligator's name in the "label" ring, JJ took to his Blues acumen as well as his sincere support for the band's vision.

A peculiar pick to lead off the album, "War" epitomizes the underlying angst and hypocrisy of human nature. "It's about the war in our own minds, the mental war that we all sort of fight ourselves to be good people (while) at odds with the animals that we really are," Grey recently explained.

War or no war, Adam Scone's spellbinding organ solo in this Southern ballad could be hailed as "The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's Best Organ Solo of All Time." Orchestral strings weave around "Circles," while soulful horns rhythmically pick-pocket individual voices in "Tragic." And those womanly backing hot pipes throughout the album can only do a man good!

"Country Ghetto" and "Turpentine" embody Mofro's fused benchmark of Southern Soul/Country/Blues/Swamp Funk. "The Sun Is Shining Down," however, is closest to JJ's heart. "The song is a conversation between my grandmother and my grandfather in their last minutes together," he said somberly. "It's my favorite song (that) I ever did."

That being said, it also makes for a most challenging live performance. For those difficult times, something beyond the sun is shining down on JJ: "All these things remind me that you don't have to go very far to feel alive."

Before the show, tune in to WNKU (89.7 FM or

  Lightning Bolt
Lightning Bolt



JJ GREY & MOFRO WITH BACKYARD TIRE FIRE

Wednesday · Southgate House

A little bit Country, as in Southern culture. A little bit Ghetto, as in raw doggedness. That's the total half-and-half honest truth of JJ Grey & Mofro and the band's latest release, Country Ghetto.

As with their previous two albums, producer Dan Prothero has masterminded another tour de force in Country Ghetto.

New to the scene is Bruce Iglauer of Blues label Alligator Records (born and raised in Cincinnati's very own North Avondale neighborhood). When he threw Alligator's name in the "label" ring, JJ took to his Blues acumen as well as his sincere support for the band's vision.

A peculiar pick to lead off the album, "War" epitomizes the underlying angst and hypocrisy of human nature. "It's about the war in our own minds, the mental war that we all sort of fight ourselves to be good people (while) at odds with the animals that we really are," Grey recently explained.

War or no war, Adam Scone's spellbinding organ solo in this Southern ballad could be hailed as "The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's Best Organ Solo of All Time." Orchestral strings weave around "Circles," while soulful horns rhythmically pick-pocket individual voices in "Tragic." And those womanly backing hot pipes throughout the album can only do a man good!

"Country Ghetto" and "Turpentine" embody Mofro's fused benchmark of Southern Soul/Country/Blues/Swamp Funk. "The Sun Is Shining Down," however, is closest to JJ's heart. "The song is a conversation between my grandmother and my grandfather in their last minutes together," he said somberly. "It's my favorite song (that) I ever did."

That being said, it also makes for a most challenging live performance. For those difficult times, something beyond the sun is shining down on JJ: "All these things remind me that you don't have to go very far to feel alive."

Before the show, tune in to WNKU (89.7 FM or wnku.org) at 2 p.m. Wednesday for an on-air interview with JJ Grey. (Sara Beiting)

"EARTH DAY 2007" WITH THE SMITHEREENS, PLUS PEPPERTOWN, ELLERY AND SCREAMING MIMES

Saturday · Sawyer Point

Musical nostalgia can be a difficult feeling to manage. Are you reacting to the actual quality of the music itself or wistfully remembering a time long gone and fondly recalling an unrealistic memory of the soundtrack of your youth through the distorted filter of time?

The Smithereens are one of those bands that can pass that test easily, as they're one of the few acts that created a catalog of music both memorable in its time and worthy of nostalgic reflection. Forming over a quarter century ago, the New Jersey quartet's dark, jangly melodocism was an upbeat counterpoint to their lyrical cynicism, which was delivered and personified by singular frontman Pat DiNizio, whose moodily distinctive vocals were the band's centerpiece. The Smithereens began in 1980 when high school friends Jim Babjak, Mike Mesaros and Dennis Diken placed a classified in a local music magazine for a vocalist, which was answered by DiNizio. Their 1980 debut EP, Girls About Town, and its 1983 follow-up full-length, Beauty and Sadness, gave them a local reputation and little else, forcing them into playing cover gigs and serving as a backing band for oldies acts.

In 1985, DiNizio sent a tape to Enigma Records that resulted in a contract. The band's debut for the label, Especially for You, nearly cracked the Top 50 and they got some recognition for the song "Blood and Roses," which appeared in the soundtrack for the low-budget film Dangerously Close. For the rest of the '80s and into the '90s, the Smithereens expanded on their Beatles-on-Heavy-Metal scope, scoring a Top 40 single in 1989 with the incomparable "A Girl Like You."

Their fortunes waned at Capitol (where they'd upstreamed after Enigma's demise), they were virtually ignored at RCA (which released the excellent A Date with the Smithereens) and the Grunge movement of the mid-'90s undermined their Pop sound. Although DiNizio began a solo career in 1997 and embarked on an interesting "living room tour" (he played here memorably at former Spiderfoot singer Jason Hill's home), The Smithereens never went away completely, eventually releasing God Save the Smithereens in 1999.

Earlier this year, The Smithereens released Meet the Smithereens, a fascinating track-by-track recreation of The Beatles' U.S. debut album, Meet the Beatles. Word is that the band is working on an album of new original material that could be out this summer. There isn't much about the '80s worth getting misty over, but The Smithereens are living proof that the decade wasn't a total loss.

The Smithereens' free outdoor performance at Sawyer Point downtown is part of the annual "Earth Day" celebration, presented by the Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition (see the event guide inside this week's issue). The fun -- which includes family-friendly activities and educational presentations -- starts at 1 p.m. and the musical lineup (Peppertown from Bright, Ind., plus locals Screaming Mimes and Ellery) kicks off at 2 p.m. (Brian Baker)

LIGHTNING BOLT WITH BURNING STAR CORE AND WHITE MICE

Sunday · Southgate House

Even in this era of Blues/Rock duo chic, Lightning Bolt has something unique to offer, most notably a long timeline. The twosome initially began in 1994 with bassist Brian Gibson and drummer Brian Chippendale, both of whom were students at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, but the duo swelled to a trio when guitarist/vocalist Hisham Bharoocha joined after Lightning Bolt's first show.

This configuration remained for two years until Bharoocha departed to become the drummer for Black Dice; rather than replace the guitarist, Gibson and Chippendale elected to continue as a bass/drum duo. Lightning Bolt's thunderous Noise Rock clearly owes a debt to Japanese freneticists like the Boredoms and the Ruins, but the band is equally influenced by the Avant Jazz experiments of Sun Ra, all of it played at top volume and through/with a variety of effects, from Chippendale's vocals delivered into a telephone receiver microphone (generally a hands free unit attached to the quilt-like hood he wears in performance) filtered through an effects processor to Gibson's vast array of effect pedals and his use of cello tunings and a bizarre combination of bass and banjo strings.

Lightning Bolt's live appearances are naturally every bit as odd as the duo's sonic construction, often played at hastily arranged guerilla gigs and almost always presented with Gibson and Chippendale grinding out their soundtrack from the middle of the audience rather than from the lofty isolation of the stage.

With five albums (their sixth, Funny Farm, is in the works and tentatively scheduled for release later this year), a handful of singles, a virtual catalog of compilation tracks and a 13-year history, Lightning Bolt is one of Rock's rarest commodities: an experimental band that's neither succumbed to novelty nor compromised their conceptualism for a broader audience. (BB)

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