Music Tonight: Tonight’s the last time you’ll be able to catch Cincinnati-based trio The Rubber Knife Gang in town for a while. But it’s not for any kind of hiatus — no rehab or plastic surgery or whatever it is bands do on such breaks. Quite the opposite. It’s because the band is jumping on a plane in a few weeks and heading overseas to spread RKG’s soulful Americana/Roots/Bluegrass sound. Tonight, the Gang joins Nashville’s Grace Adele and the Grand Band for a free, 10 p.m. show at MOTR Pub. The two acts reteam for a Columbus show this weekend, then RKG hops on a plane for Belgium, where the threesome will play two weeks’ worth of dates through mid-September (with a few shows in Germany and the Netherlands sprinkled in). The Gang even made tour t-shirts for the occasion (check ‘em out here).
It’s just one of the triumphs the hard-working crew has experienced in the past couple of years. Beginning with the release of its 2008 debut, A Rubber Knife Life, RKG’s buzz has gradually grown from local murmurs to global gushing. The band’s masterful 2010 release, Drivin' On, raised the stakes, garnering even more radio and press love. The rabid attention from overseas — where traditional American music has a fairly large, deeply passionate cult of fans — raised the band’s profile significantly, enabling RKG to book the Belgium tour.
The group’s music and résumé has also led to a big domestic show coming up after the tour. RKG has been selected to play the Mast Farm Inn Emerging Artist Series alongside some of the hottest on-the-verge Roots acts going. The show is a part of the big International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass showcase/conference, which draws fans, artists and industry movers and shakers from across the planet for gigs, workshops and more. RKG plays the event Sept. 28 at the Hard Rock in Nashville.
Here’s a clip of the band performing “Tennessee Mountain Girl” from the latest album, live on Red Barn Radio out of Lexington.
• Another celebrated Americana/Roots-affiliated performer is also playing in Cincinnati tonight, helping to kick off the 10th annual Stanley’s Summer Music Festival at Stanley’s Pub in Columbia-Tusculum. Cincinnati favorites the Rumpke Mountain Boys open the fest (which goes through Saturday) at 9 p.m., followed by Great American Taxi, the project formed by singer/guitarist/mandolinist Vince Herman of progressively rootsy Jam scene faves Leftover Salmon.
Stanley’s Summer Music Festival continues Friday-Saturday with an eclectic range of jammy local bands, showing the increasingly varied tastes welcomed in the improv-encouraging Jam scene, from rootsy, rocky acts to the Friday-headlining Skeetones’ intriguing Electronica reconstructions. Rounding out the bill Friday: Shotski, Headband and Manifest Station.
Saturday night doesn’t get any less diverse, with performances by The Clifftones, Jerry's Little Band, Revenge Pinata and Freeform Connection.
The Friday/Saturday shows begin at 6 p.m. Admission is $12 for each night (including Thursday) or you can buy a Friday/Saturday pass for $20. For advanced tickets, click here. Here’s Great Amerian Taxi doing “American Beauty” in a music video filmed during its tour of the northwest last spring:
(Leave your suggestions/promote yourself or your favorites by telling everyone about your favorite music event recommendations for the day in the comments below.)
Momentous Happenings in Music History for Aug. 18
On this day in 1984, George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” went to No. 1 in the U.K. and gave Michael the distinction of being the first artist to top the singles chart as a solo artist and member of a group (Wham!) in the same year.
But it gave the world an even bigger gift:
Born This Day: Musical folks sharing an Aug. 18 birthday include Folk singer and early Woody Guthrie collaborator, Cisco Houston (1928); bassist for New Zealand New Wave band Split Enz, Nigel Griggs (1949); “She’s Like the Wind” vocalist Patrick Swayze (1952); drummer for Grunge godfathers Mudhoney, Dan Peters (1967); lead MC in House of Pain and later AltFolkRap artist Erik Schrody, better known as Everlast (1969); and Electronica legend Richard James, better known as Aphex Twin (1971).
James, a native of England, is often described as one of — if not the — most influential modern electronic composers and artists. Part of that is due to his unwavering desire (need?) to innovate and explore. As a teen interested in electronics and circuits, he became a DJ, eventually working his own music into mixes. He began making Acid House and Techno, but James continually looks for new territory to explore, dig up and re-plant, eventually tinkering with everything from Eno-esque Ambient music and Electronic Pop to Jungle, Breakbeat and Drum & Bass to Avant Garde works that are genre-defying/-smashing and help make Aphex Twin a sort of modern-day equivalent to boundary-ignorers and pioneers like John Cage and Philip Glass, who was commissioned by James to create an orchestral version of his track, “Icct Hedreal.”
James — who has also innovated in the non-compositional side of electronic music, using and manipulating the latest technology as well as older equipment and software — has helped shape the face of IDM, a term (“Intelligent Dance Music”) he and others hate. But James was a part of Warp Records (his early label home and source of most of his music not released through his own Rephlex imprint) and the label’s groundbreaking “Artificial Intelligence Series” releases.
James came up with his own genre name to describe his work, as well as the music of other artists who have recorded for Rephlex Records — Braindance (which, really, sounds worse than IDM, but I guess when you are so innovative, you can call your music whatever you want). Here’s how Braindance has been described in the label’s promo materials: “Braindance is the genre that encompasses the best elements of all genres, e.g traditional, classical, electronic music, popular, modern, industrial, ambient, hip hop, electro, house, techno, breakbeat, hardcore, ragga, garage, drum and bass, etc.”
Though relatively quiet these days, many believe he’s recording under the name The Tuss (he denies it). James — who has released work under more pseudonyms than a mafia boss in hiding — is probably still best known for his crossover breakthroughs, when he dented the U.K. psyche (instead of just the Dance and Electronic music worlds) in the mid-’90s with singles like “Come to Daddy” and “Windowlicker.” Those tracks in particular stuck in large part due to the amazingly creepy, surrealistic music videos James made with director Chris Cunningham.
So for James’ 40th birthday, we give you the “Daddy” and “Windowlicker” clips. Watch if you dare. Probably NSFW. And keep a hand on your volume if you watch it at work.
(Photo by Anne McCarthy)