Cincinnati's hard-touring Roots/Rock/Pop band 500 Miles to Memphis has made progressively more impressive albums over the years, culminating in 2010's masterful We've Built Up to Nothing, an epic showcase of frontman/founder Ryan Malott's razor-wire-sharp arrangement and songwriting skills. And, though it's hard to imagine the band being any tighter or more energetically entertaining in the live setting (despite a fairly high membership turnover rate), 500MTM's relentless tour schedule has made the band's shows practically flawless. In early May this year, the group teamed up with locally-based, internationally-known producer Erwin Musper to attempt to capture that magic in a bottle, recording 500MTM's performance at Newport's Southgate House for the band's first live album. Fittingly titled Live at the Historic Southgate House 5.7.11, 500MTM celebrates the just-released-album with — what else? — a live show at the Southgate. Americana/Country rockers Fifth on the Floor open the show up at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.
The release is a total D.I.Y. effort — it won't be released through the band's usual label, Deep Elm Records, nor will there be an official physical release. In fact, the only place you can purchase Live is through 500MTM's website here.
Malott explains to CityBeat that plans for the release were hatched right after We've Built Up to Nothing came out early last year.
"We toured 250 dates and figured we'd be tight enough by then to release a live album," the singer/songwriter/guitarist says. Despite the confidence, though, it was still a somewhat nerve-racking experience. "It's a tough thing to do because you only get one shot to record it. (But) it was a blast and I hope our fans enjoy it."
For the band's ever-growing fanbase outside of the Greater Cincinnati area, the album might even lead to pilgrimages to catch a 500MTM hometown show, which are usually a little different than what the more compact version of the group dishes out regularly on the road.
"Whenever we're on the road we're always talking about the Cincy music scene and the Southgate House," Malott says, "so it's kind of a cool thing for our 'non-Cincy' fans to hear. Most of the time when we're on the road it's a five-piece band and when we're home there a multiple musicians (and) guests sharing the stage."
The band isn't taking much of a break from the road now that the live recording is out there. Just off a weekend jaunt for shows in Iowa and Illinois, 500MTM heads to Terre Haute, Ind., tomorrow, then they play a string of dates in Wisconsin and Illinois before coming home to perform at the MidPoint Music Festival on Sept. 22 (the band's MPMF showcase is at Mr. Pitiful's on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine). Then they get a whole week off before revving up the van again and heading out for October shows in Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee and beyond. Tonight's Southgate show and September's MidPoint appearance are the only local gigs scheduled until at least around Halloween time. But at least now fans have Live at the Historic Southgate House to tide them over while the 500MTM fellas are out spreading their gospel nationwide.
Below is 500 Miles to Memphis' latest music video, a fun clip for the studio version of We've Built Up's "Barfly," which also appears on the live record. If your boss is not cool with "beer zombies," then this is NSFW (and you need a new job).