Music This Saturday: In 2006, Fountain Square underwent a renovation, not only in a physical sense but also in the way the heart-of-the-city’s space was used by citizens and visitors. The 3CDC group behind the refurbishment greatly expanded the number and quality of events presented on the Square. The biggest part of the expansion focused on live music events, so it made sense that, to celebrate the “reopening” of Fountain Square, several big-name artists performed at the relaunch celebration, including OK Go and Los Lobos. Kicking off the festivities was Hip Hop star Talib Kweli, who performed with Cincy breakout Hip Hop artist Hi-Tek. Saturday, Talib is back for another free performance on the Square, this time as part of the every-Saturday “Slam!” concert series, organized by local promo crew Self Diploma.
For the second time in the past few years, CityBeat was blown off by the Talib camp when we requested an interview. But we ain’t (that) mad at ‘em. Kweli — out supporting his latest release, Gutter Rainbows — is one of the most successful “conscious” MCs of all time, with amazing lyrical skills and a masterful flow. Talib will be back in town in September to play Bogart’s with Black Star, his side-project with like-minded MC Mos Def that has become legendary in Hip Hop circles despite (or maybe because of?) the fact that they’ve released only one album to date — 1998’s debut Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star.
Talib will be joined by local artists Vincent Vega, Joseph Nevels and Trademark Aaron, who is promoting a new video and single from his sophomore album release, due at the end of the summer. The fun starts at 7 p.m. Here’s the music video for Talib’s “Cold Rain” from Gutter Rainbows:
• Is the Macy’s Music Festival the Jimmy Buffett concert for African-Americans in Cincinnati? Both are once-a-year happenings that are like official holidays for attendees. Both involve a lot of pre-game preparation, as concertgoers plot out ahead of time the perfect outfit and accessories. And both feature essentially the same music every year. The main difference I see is that, at the Macy’s Fest, the music is better, the people dress much nicer and getting blind drunk isn’t the main purpose for attending.
The Macy’s festival began in 1962 as the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival and, while it has changed names and locations several times, the annual event seems to consistently draw more and more people every year, from Greater Cincinnati and all over the U.S. The event — which seems to feature a rotation of grown-folk R&B favorites ever year, plus a few newcomers sprinkled in — concludes Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.
While Friday’s lineup featured many of those old-school acts that seem to play the fest every year, Saturday’s lineup has just one — Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. The young whippersnappers who round out the bill include KEM, Keyshia Cole and Laura Izibor, but you can add El DeBarge to that list, too, because in many ways he is a “new” artist all over again. The ’80s star surprised everyone with the strength of his 2010 comeback album, Second Chance, his first in 16 years. The title — and gap between albums — was the result of DeBarge overcoming some serious drug problems that have plagued him most of his life. He slipped earlier this year and checked into rehab (so, really, this is his third chance), but his appearance at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans earlier this month was reportedly very strong and well-received.
Here’s El’s comeback tune/title track/motto, “Second Chance":
• Other Recommended Saturday Shows: The fantastic local Folk Rock band Josh Eagle and the Harvest City celebrate the release of their new album, A Good One is Hard to Find, at the Southgate House. Show starts at 9 p.m. and the $10 admission gets you a free copy of the release. Kelly Fine, The Cliftones and Fair City Lights open. … Southern Rock meets Jersey Rock at Kettering’s outdoor Fraze Pavilion Saturday when .38 Special and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes team up for a 7:30 p.m. concert. Tickets are $25-$40. … Local singer/songwriter/artist Maurice Mattei’s new album with his band The Tempers gets a CD release party at York Street Café.
Music This Sunday: While Jesco White doesn’t technically qualify as a musician, it seems like a big chunk of his cult following is made up of musical folks (that’s how I heard about him, anyway). White is “performing” Sunday at the Southgate House and your guess is as good as mine as to what to expect from “The Dancing Outlaw.”
If you’re unfamiliar with White, it’s not an easy thing to accurately explain. White is an Appalachian folk hero, the kind of oddball “local legend” every town or neighborhood seems to have. Only, thanks to a trio of documentary films centered on his rocky life, Jesco’s local legend grew into a cult international one. Jesco’s father was renowned as one of the greatest “mountain dancers” (an Appalachian spin on clogging) ever and his son’s troubled life (mental illness, drugs, run-ins with the law, poverty), the documentaries suggest, is the result of Jesco trying to live up to his paw’s legacy.
Jesco’s ticket to widespread recognition came in 1991 via a documentary, Dancing Outlaw, for a PBS series. That film was bootlegged and shared widely, spreading the legend of Jesco like wild brush across the country and beyond. In ’99, the same director produced Dancing Outlaw II: Jesco Goes to Hollywood, which followed Jesco as he traveled to L.A. for a guest role on Roseanne. In 2009, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia was released, spreading the spotlight around to include the entire extended family.
Jesco’s success is largely based on how funny he is in the films, but parts of those unflinching looks into life in rural Appalachia are, at their core, really sad. There’s a bit of a “Look at that crazy hillbilly!” thing that has accounted for his success. But the films were made with some heart and only occasionally feel like exploitation. Either way, Jesco is certainly a fascinating man and, though not because of his dancing exactly, he has at least surpassed his father in terms of fame.
No one is ever sure what to expect from a Jesco live appearance, which are rare occurrences. A review of his show in Cleveland said there was an episode of the cartoon Squidbillies projected behind him, Jesco pounded whiskey shots between songs/routines and he had to be coached from the side of the stage by his manager. Oh, and he passed a giant jug of homemade moonshine around the audience. He’s been known to not show up for gigs, but if he makes, if nothing else, it will surely be a memorable experience if you attend.
Tickets for the 9 p.m. show are $13 in advance or $16 day of show. A couple of music acts will accompany Jesco’s performance — traditional, comedic Country singer/songwriter Roger Alan Wade (the cousin of Johnny Knoxville, who produced the most recent Jesco doc) and Pick Up the Snake, a Knoxville-based Metal band whose appearance on the bill seems to make no sense at all. Which, in this case, mean that it makes absolutely perfect sense. (Be sure to check out musical stuntman Scotty Karate, whose off-the-wall musical approach and performance style is sure to fit right in with the sensibilities of Jesco’s fans, in the venue’s Juney’s Lounge.)
For the uninitiated, here’s a taste of the Jesco experience via the trailer for the DVD release of the first documentary: