The Gentlemen of the Road stopover tour started off as a rather simple concept. Mumford & Sons would invite a few of their music-playing friends to travel with them. They’d stop over for the weekend in towns they’d never been to before, towns they had no reason to visit. They would play two days’ worth of gigs for people they’d probably not ever played for before.It was just a small, scattered list of dates in BFE. NBD. Somewhere along the way, it became something much different. And much bigger. The “stopover tour” now looks much more like a takeover tour.
“It’s more about the town than the music,” was a sentiment you could hear echoed all over town. From the security guards to the people charging fans $20 to park in their driveway near the festival grounds. And that is an accurate statement.
When the Gentlemen rolled into Troy on the very last weekend of August they did, indeed, take over the tiny town. They did everything possible to put Troy’s best foot forward. The city center, with the fountain that turns pink in June for a strawberry festival, was closed down. WACO airfield was turned into a magnificent parking lot. Multiple school districts sent school buses to help transport music lovers from the parking lot to just a few blocks away from the festival grounds. You never had to wait for a bus, there were always plenty. Why can’t school districts work their own bussing schedules so fluidly? Even the Wendy’s in the next town stayed open until 2 a.m. in order to cater to Mumford fans.
Mumford & Sons ran Troy’s economy. The bakery served a limited menu and from the window hung loaves of bread shaped like mustaches – the international symbol for “Folk band.” A seemingly otherwise unused storefront became Mumford Market, which sold strawberry donuts and other festival essentials. Every storefront had a purpose, featuring window art of the four Brits in charge, of their acoustic instruments or of that omnipresent mustache (it was even painted on the streets). Aside from the Troy High School football field, which held the main stage and the bulk of fest goers, there were still two small stages downtown and another handful of street performers littering the crowded streets.
Heck, they even took over the Troy Police Department. For a town as tiny as Troy, they can’t possibly have very many cops and it seemed like nearly all of them were roaming around inside the closed-off festival area. You know that hard-assed vibe cops often get, especially when pulling security detail? Troy cops were the nicest (and best looking) unit to pull security at a concert I've seen. One of the highlights of the festival was watching an older (clearly drunk) woman swat an officer’s backside with her tambourine. He was quick to whip around and give her a quirk of the brow. When she gave him a grin and a wink, he laughed, wagged his finger and carried on. Later, as the woman and her tambourine flirted endlessly with one of the security guards, the TPD watched with grins and amusement. Nothing more.
And that bout of tambourine-assisted sexual harassment? Probably one of the worst crimes committed during the festival. One of the stage security guards remarked at how surprisingly low-maintenance the crowd was and one of the police officers on duty was quick to agree that the out-of-towners were exceptionally well-behaved. All of his calls had been to deal with locals — and even those calls didn’t seem like anything noteworthy or unusual for a festival environment.
Mumford & Sons fans know how to be polite when overtaking a city.
The festival repaid fans by taking over their nature. When they bought their tickets for the stopover date, they were sent a wristband, a fancy holographic ticket and a passport. The passport held info about last year’s first ever stopover tour, the band, the best restaurants and scenes to check out while in the area. And, just like a real passport, there were places to have stamped. Certain restaurants and stores had stamps. Every performer had a person in a booth at the back of the stadium with a custom stamp. People walked the festival grounds” with the rubber stamp, ready to bequeath another ink splotch on each passport. It was a race to get them all. A chance to maybe, just maybe, win a prize or learn something new.
What you really want to know about is the music though, right?
The festival may have been more about the town than the music, but the music was still what drew thousands of people to Troy’s gorgeous city streets. It was, after all, a concert, and the music that took over Troy’s stadium needs to be discussed.
Friday was a short day, with the festivities not kicking off until after everyone had time to show up after work. Of course, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the Friday night headliners, were the clear draw for fans on Day 1. The Zeros have traveled with Mumford & Sons before, most notably on their "railroad revival" tour, and even released their newest album on the Communion label, a pet project of Mumford’s piano player, Ben Lovett. Technically, the band is solid. The only difference between their records and their live performances is the sheer amount of energy they bring to the stage. The group has fun on stage and that fun easily makes its way into the crowd. But if you’ve seen one Edward Sharpe concert, you’ve seen them all. If you haven’t ever seen them, then you’re missing out.
Saturday was magnificent, loud and the best kind of exhausting you could imagine. A little after lunch, the stage came to life with the lovely Indie Brit Rock band Bear’s Den (who will be back in Ohio to play Cincinnati's MidPoint Music Festival at the end of the month). They might have only kicked off the day, but their talent deserved a later slot. After Bear’s Den came Nashville’s Those Darlins, headed by Jessi Darlin, a wisp of a girl with a set of dragon-sized lungs. Rubblebucket, from Brooklyn, showed up next and bestowed upon festival goers all their weird, twitching energy. They’re awesome, but putting them before the decidedly more mellow (but still oh-so-awesome) Justin Townes Earle seemed a little ill-placed. It felt a little like revving the engine of a Mustang when you’re still three stop signs away from an open country road. Justin Townes Earle was brilliant, of course, but very laid back, and Rubblebucket left everyone pretty amped. On the upside, Earle’s joke about the Westboro Baptist Church earned him laughs.
Mumford & Sons also imported their friends, The Vaccines. Also hailing from England, The Vaccines’ lead singer Justin Young previously recorded on the Communion label as Jay Jay Pistolet, a far more tame version of the vintage Rock that evolved to make The Vaccines what they are today. This new creation doesn’t seem to get quite as much love from Communion’s heads as some of their other friends and that’s really a shame. The Vaccines are with Columbia now and blowing up in the U.K., but still floundering in America. They’re brilliant, though, and crowds eat them up. They sound gritty and much more Punk Rock than anything on the radio right now, but they could very easily end up on those playlists. They bring an insane amount of sexual energy to the stage, too. Remember that old Almost Famous quote about the fans “getting off?” One guttural bellow from Young ignited a crowd full of shrieks. The end of The Vaccines meant half the crowd needed a cigarette.
Earlier in the day, one of the security guards said he’d worried the concert would be full of Bluegrass bands, something he hated. So far, though, he liked what he had heard. He had no idea that after The Vaccines, things were about to get real blue, real fast. Old Crow Medicine Show are old pros by now. Not only have they toured with Mumford & Sons previously, but they’ve also been around for ages. Maybe that’s why their concerts always seem similar. They’re a blast and, if you know all their songs, you’ll be hoarse by the end of their set. But, at the end of the day, nothing changes much from concert to concert … not even the between-song banter.
Somewhere during the Old Crow set an older, surlier photographer made a comment that I caught just the tail-end of. He either said “They’re better than this” or “I’m better than this.” The answer to both of those sentimentswas the same, however. “Clearly Not.” If Old Crow were better than doing a clone show in a tiny town, then millions of people wouldn’t be singing along to “Wagon Wheel” right now and thinking it was by Darius freaking Rucker. And, if that photog were better than that festival, well, he wouldn’t have been there. Oh, the egos.
Mumford & Sons finally took the stage just as the sun was sinking down past the stadium, though we’d seen them during the set before when they crashed a few Old Crow songs. The first time I saw them was in 2010 at Beachland Ballroom. They sold out the 500-person capacity room and joked their way through the entire set. Not much has changed in those three years except the size of the crowd. As I bought a pair of Vaccines underwear from the merchandise barn (because, why not?), one of the boys added a sincere moment. Winston Marshall (I think. I was really far from the stage by then and trying to size underwear) told the fans there were a lot of people in America that the band loved “very, very much.” And that there were a few dickheads, too. Whether playing to a crowd of 500 or 50,000, the guys of Mumford know how to make each group of people feel awesome. Even if it’s just knowing to say, “O-H!” and grin when the Ohio crowd screams back the usual reply of, “I-O!” After all these years, they still really get a kick out of that trick.
Their performance was great, too. But it seems pointless to tell you that. At this point, Mumford & Sons have become so famous, so overplayed on the radio, you’ve no doubt already made up your mind about those four mates from London. Either you love them or you hate them. End of story. For me, the answer is love. I can respect a well-informed adverse opinion on the matter, however. So I won’t try to change your mind.
I walked back to my car as the Yacht Club DJs began their cool-down set after Mumford & Sons left the stage. Troy was quiet except for the bands and the revelers and drunks (so it wasn’t very quiet at all). But the town has a peaceful vibe to it and the band has always had a respectful sense to themselves that together kept everyone in check.
Would I do it again? Yes. But do I still absolutely hate festivals? Yes. Would I recommend the experience to anyone that made it this far in my review? Without hesitation, I recommend that you go visit Troy. And I will always tell everyone I meet that Mumford & Sons puts on the best show around and you should witness it once in your life. Whether you decide to hold out for their next stopover tour or settle for their next arena show, that’s up to you. Or, if you decide to wait a decade until the fuss dies down and they’re back to playing places like the Beachland or Bogart’s, I won’t judge you. I already know those gigs will be just as amazing.
Megadeth can be considered one of today's legendary bands, not just in Metal, but in all of music. They are synonymous with a time period, moments in the lives of so many of their fans. They may have a different look than when the band was formed in 1983 but they are one of the founding fathers and would definitely find themselves on the Mount Rushmore of American Metal and can still fill festival stadiums all over the world. Megadeth have been doing their thing for almost 30 years and show no signs of stopping. They had released their fittingly named 13th studio album TH1RT3EN last year before they came to Cincinnati. They will return to Ohio as one of the main acts at next week’s Rock on The Range.
Over the past year, CityBeat spoke with band drummer Shawn Drover twice and lead guitarist Chris Broderick at Mayhem Festival about life on tour and what the future holds for the band. Megadeth's timeless sound continues on. Hear for yourself when the group performs on the Main Stage in Columbus Sunday night with Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie for the Rock on the Range festival.
CityBeat: I know you joined the band in 2008, right?
Chris Broderick: Yeah, the very beginning.
CB: What was it like the first time you played and jammed with Dave (Mustaine)?
Chris: It was a little intimidating at first I think. But one of the things that really happened was we had to get to work so quickly. We had to get so much done so fast.
CB: Because of the album and the tour right?
Chris: Well yeah because of the tour at the time. I didn’t really have time to think about what was going on. I was just working. I was trying to knock out as many songs as I could before we went on tour less than a month away. That was my focus really.
CB: You are a classically trained guitarist, right? Can you tell me, how do you think that prepared you for Megadeth and to play metal music?
Chris: Well I don’t know if anything prepares you for Metal music or Megadeth. But I do think it does give me a different skill set, one where I can look at more melodies and harmonies and construction of those types of the aspects of the music and apply what I’ve learned in classical guitar theory or classical theory to the Metal genre.
CB: That’s kind of what stood out to them, right, when they called you to join the band, because you did a lot of classically trained type work?
Chris: It’s hard for me to say. I know it was an influence on their decision, but I know that it was a recommendation of Glen Drover and Shawn Drover that encouraged them to call me.
CB: Good recommendations. They probably didn’t even have to ask.
Chris: And then some of the YouTube clips that I had posted also.
CB: I have been hearing so many bands that are picking people off YouTube. It’s really amazing, Cinderella type stories of people being picked up off YouTube videos.
Chris: Well, it’s one of those things that is awesome in a way because it gives the individual the power of PR, somebody that can market you and get you to the right people to get you a gig or get you the right contact. So it is kind of cool that way.
CB: What was your highlight from the Big 4 concerts?
Chris: It was probably the last Big 4 show actually in the UK. That was pretty huge. We got to play on stage with some of the original members of Diamond Head. Honestly, they weren’t my biggest influence. They were a little bit before my time. But because I am playing with so many people that they heavily influenced, it was instant respect on my behalf and their behalf. It was quite awe-inspiring to see Hetfield (James) kind of bowing down before him when he went to do the solo. It was awesome.
CB: What is it like on the road these days? Is it really clean living?
Chris: Yeah. It almost has to be because we have so much going on. I couldn’t do all this press and all the meet and greets and stuff like that. It works out pretty well for me too because luckily I never acquired a taste for that kind of that thing. I guess I am too Type A. I always want to be in control.
The lineups for 2013's PNC Summer Music Series on Fountain Square — featuring live music from different genres for free throughout the summer — have been coming out gradually. We're happy to announce the lineup so far for the Friday night "Indie Summer" shows (presented by CityBeat and the MidPoint Music Festival).
Look for the rest of the finalized lineups — for American Roots Tuesdays, Reggae Wednesdays, Salsa Thursdays, Saturday's popular Beats night (with Hip Hop, Dance and Electronica) and the acoustic-music-meets-wine-tastings "Sunday in the Grove" — later this week. Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine is also again presenting regular music programming this year, with Jazz on Wednesday, Bluegrass and Roots music on Thursday and R&B/Soul/Hip Hop on Fridays, plus a new Tuesday night feature, Dance Under the Stars, featuring dance lessons in a variety of styles.
The bad news? The Indie Summer shows kick-off on May 31 with the final show by fantastic Cincinnati Indie Pop band Pomegranates. The good news? It will also be the first show by Healing Power, Pomegranates' new name. The opener will also serve as a "release party" for great local Indie crew The Yugos. Christian altrockers Seabird will also use their Indie Summer show to celebrate the release of a new album, the band's first independent release after a couple of albums on Credential Recordings/Universal Music Group. Northern Kentucky rockers Dept. Store Alligators will also put out their new release in conjunction with their Aug. 16 appearance with Belle Histoire.
Local restaurant/club chain 4EG will host "Happy Hour" parties on Fridays as well, featuring various local DJs and drink specials from 5-8 p.m. Indie Summer concerts are open to fans of all ages and run from 8-11 p.m. all summer on the Square. Click here for details.
July 12: Plumb; more TBA
Aug. 9: Archers Paradox; (headliner to be announced on June 2)
In our local music column Spill It from the CityBeat issue out today, we announced the lineup for this year’s much anticipated MusicNOW festival, which includes a closing-night headlining appearance by Cincinnati-bred Indie music stars The National on May 15.
National guitarist Bryce Dessner is the brains behind MusicNOW, which began in 2006 and has featured unique performances by some of Indie music’s biggest names, as well as up-and-comers and those on the edgier fringe of modern Classical/Chamber music. Dessner’s Avant Chamber group Clogs has played the fest in the past, but this is The National’s first time at MusicNOW.
Cincinnati is not known as an Industrial music destination. Unlike San Francisco in the late ‘70s, Chicago in the mid-‘80s and Cleveland in the early ‘90s, the Queen City has never really enjoyed a love affair with the ever-morphing genre of all things dark, mechanical and dingy-sounding.
Ilan Kaim is the man who intends to change that.
This afternoon, the Facebook page of crucial, longtime MidPoint Music Festival supporters, Dewey's Pizza, announced the first handful of artists book to play this fall's MidPoint Music Festival. And, after early-bird discount tickets quickly sold out several weeks ago, the rest of the tickets are on sale now at mpmf.cincyticket.com.
The first batch of MPMF.13 performers is very representative of the bookings for MidPoint the past few years. You've got a Modern Rock legend, a few established acts, several current "buzz bands" and a few acts that, if past years' MPMFs are any indication, will be "buzz-worthy" by the time the festival rolls around, Sept. 26-28.
Here are the first 17 acts booked for MPMF.13, the 12th installment of the ever-growing music fest that utilizes various venues in Over-the-Rhine/Downtown. Below the list, you can check out a song by each artist on our first MPMF.13 playlist.
The Breeders (Dayton, Ohio)
One of the seminal bands of the "Alternative Revolution" in the ’90s, The Breeders are currently promoting the 20th anniversary, expanded reissue of their classic Last Splash album. Though the Dayton-based Deal sisters (Kelley of R. Ring and Kim of Pixies) have kept musically active since Last Splash, with outside projects and The Breeders, the world tour for the reissue is special because it reunites the Deals with the album's lineup — bassist Josephine Wiggs and veteran Dayton drummer Jim MacPherson, who also spent time with Guided By Voices. The Breeders are playing Last Splash in its entirety on the whole tour.
The Head and The Heart (Seattle, Wash.)
One of the top acts of the "Indie Folk" movement, The Head and the Heart formed in Seattle in 2009. An early, self-made recording the band sold at initial shows ended up becoming so popular, local record stores began stocking it and trying to keep up with the surprising demand. The recording began making the music industry rounds, leading to a bidding war for the band. They ended up signing to hometown label Sub Pop within about a year of forming. The group's self-titled album was released to critical acclaim in 2011. The band's warm, ear-grabbing sound has been used a lot on TV spots; you might recognize their "Lost in My Mind," which was the background music for the trailer for the big hit film, Silver Linings Playbook.
Warpaint (Los Angeles)
With an airy, mesmerizing take on Psych Pop, L.A. quartet Warpaint caught the attention of mad guitar genius John Frusciante, who offered to mix the band's Exquisite Corpse EP. That release and a successful CMJ festival appearance led to Warpaint's signing to the legendary Rough Trade imprint. The label released the album The Fool in October 2010 and the band went back to their relentless touring schedule, which included dates with the likes of The xx, Yeasayer and The Walkmen. The band is currently prepping a new LP.
Foxygen (New York, NY/Olympia, Wash.)
Foxygen is the engagingly adventurous duo of Sam France and Jonathan Rado, who formed the group as 15-year-olds in 2005 and self-released a dozen or so albums while learning to play as many instruments as possible. The band's skewered Art Pop (akin to that of MGMT) with retro-underpinnings has been drawing attention since the release of the Foxygen full-length debut for the respected Jagjaguwar Records, the Richard Swift-produced We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, at the start of this year.
Cody ChesnuTT (Atlanta, Ga.)
Singer/songwriter Cody ChesnuTT first came to a lot of people's attention as the lead vocalist on "The Seed (2.0)," a fairly big single off of The Roots' Phrenology album in 2002. That drove a lot of Roots fans to ChesnuTT's full-length from the same year, The Headphone Masterpiece, though what they heard on that album — an underproduced, ambling collection of demo-sounding tunes that surfed a wide range of genres with ADD-like abandon. A decade later, ChesnuTT has returned with a new focus, showcasing a balanced approach based in vintage Soul (vocally, he's quite similar to Marvin Gaye) and Rock & Roll, on the full-length, Landing on a Hundred.
Daughter (London, UK)
Originating as the "one-woman-band" recording project of singer/guitarist Elena Tonra, Daughter — now a trio, which Tonra's husband on guitar and drummer Remi Aguilella — mixes an Indie Folk base with subtle electronics, creating an emotive sound that can be whisper-quiet one moment and epically lush another. After a self-titled EP, Mumford & Son's Communion label released The Wild Youth EP. Often compared to Cat Power due to Tonra's vocals, last year, the band signed to the 4AD label, a fitting choice given the legendarily ambient sound that defined the label's artists in its early years. The label released the trio's debut, If You Leave, in March of this year.
METZ (Toronto, Canada)
Relentless in its sonic attack, Canadian three-piece METZ recalls a lot of the punchier Post Punk bands of the ’80s/’90s, drawing comparisons to Big Black, The Jesus Lizard and any number of acts on the (early) Sub Pop and Dischord labels. After a few years of heavy touring, opening for like-minded bands Death from Above 1979, Mudhoney and NoMeansNo, the band signed with indie label legend Sub Pop, which released METZ's powerhouse self-titled debut last year.
Kishi Bashi (Norfolk, Va.)
Starting his career as a violinist for artists like Regina Spektor and of Montreal, Seattle-born multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter K Ishibashi went solo — under the less-confusing moniker Kishi Bashi — and began touring. Making engaging Indie Pop touched by Classical/Chamber influence, the Joyful Noise imprint released his first full-length album, 151A, last spring. There's a pretty good chance you've hear Kishi Bashi before, even if you didn't know it — his jaunty, Shins-ish single "Bright Whites" was used in a wide-running commercial for Windows 8.
Julianne Barwick (Brooklyn, NY)
Julianne Barwick makes angelic Ambient music based entirely on loops. The Southern-born experimental artist — signed to Asthmatic Kitty Records — creates her compositions by using a loop station and crafting elegant layers of sonic haze, using mostly piano, her voice, some percussion and guitar. Barwick — who recently announced her signing to Dead Oceans and a new album set for August — is an up-and-comer in the Avant Garde/New Music world, recently scoring an invite recently to Yoko Ono's Meltdown Festival in the U.K.
Spectrals (Yorkshire, U.K.)
Spectrals was originally the work of one dude, British singer/songwriter Louis Jones (with just a little help from his brother on drums). Spectrals' wandering sound touches on everything from Nuggets-esque Garage to swaying, elegant Pop (threaded with reverbed-out, Surf-ish guitar). Jones signed to the Slumberland label in the States, which released his first album, Bad Penny, in 2011. For Spectrals' latest, the Sob Story album, Jones, for the first time, had some help from other musicians (who aren't related to him).The album is due June 18.
Dent May (Oxford, Miss.)
Singer/songwriter Dent May makes unabashed Pop music, the kind that forces a smile on your face regardless of your troubles. The Mississippi resident singed with Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label in 2008 and released The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele, which drew comparisons to the likes of The Beach Boys, The Turtles and Prefab Sprout. For last year's self-titled album, May put away the uke and decided it was time to dance. The album is a cooly eclectic collection of dynamic electronic Pop, retaining those classic Pop/Rock influences, but adding elements of Disco, Funk, R&B Electro.
Grandfather Child (Houston, Texas)
Grandfather Child was formed in Houston in 2009 by members of various other local bands. The group hit upon a compelling "formula," creating a kitchen-sink sound that is loaded with influence from R&B, Soul, early Rock & Roll and Gospel music, resulting in a pretty psychedelic vibe. The band is signed to New West Records, which released Grandfather Child's eponymous 9-track album last summer.
The Ghost Wolves (Austin, Texas)
With a blistering sound created by just two people — guitarist Carley and drummer Jonny Wolf (both sing) — The Ghost Wolves traveled many miles across the country to build a fan base one explosive show at a time. The group's debut was the raw and rugged In Ya Neck! EP, which showcased the Wolves' fuzzy take on stompin' Blues Rock expertly, like a two-piece version of The Cramps. The band is getting set to release its debut full-length, Man, Woman, Beast.
Jeecy and The Jungle (Detroit)
Known for their reportedly incredible like show, Detroit's Soul rockers Jeecy and the Jungle represent two sides of Detroit's music heritage, blending a modern-day Garage Rock energy with influence from classic Soul artists. Last summer, the band released its impressive five-track EP, Twist and Scream.
Caveman (New York, NY)
Caveman is an NYC quintet that makes atmospheric Indie Rock with the kind of soft-breeze effervescence found in everything from the best vintage "AM Gold" songs to Fleet Foxes. The band released its debut in 2010, CoCo Beware, built a following and signed to notable label, Fat Possum Records, which re-released the debut and also the recent self-titled full-length, which has been garnering great reviews.
Perfume Genius (Seattle, Wash.)
Perfume Genius is Mike Hadreas, a Seattle singer/songwriter and visual artist whose 2010 debut caught the attention of the Indie music press corps. Quickly signed to the esteemed Matador Records, Perfume Genius' latest is Put Your Back N 2 It, a gentle, intimate collection of spectral, folksy songs.
PHOX (Madison, Wisc.)
Slanted, sparse yet broad Indie/Folk/Pop band PHOX started turning heads this year with consistent touring and a knock-out appearance at South By Southwest. The band recently released its latest EP, Confetti, which also has a companion "video EP," featuring short films for every track that the group members made simultaneously with the musical recording.
We told you a few weeks back about the lineup for the MidPoint Indie Summer concert series on Fountain Square, featuring numerous (primarily local) Indie and Rock acts every Friday this summer from 7-11 p.m. Click here for the full rundown.
But there are many other popular themed nights returning this summer to both Fountain Square and Washington Park, which re-opened after a major makeover in time to introduce live music nights last summer for the first time. (Both spots are managed by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC).
Fountain Square's PNC Summer Music Series will have live music five days a week, while Washington Park will host three themed music nights this summer. All events are free and a great way to enjoy our city's central districts. The concerts begin at the end of May/start of June and run through the end of August/start of September. Be sure to check the official websites of both venues for any updates, additions or cancellations.
• Every Tuesday from 7-9 p.m., the Square presents "American Roots" night. This year, the lineup is the strongest its been, showcasing the best of Greater Cincinnati's rich Roots/Americana scene (as well as a few regional faves).
• Reggae Wednesdays return to the Square this summer, with wider-net bookings that include numerous regional and touring Reggae acts. Music runs every night from 6-10 p.m. and acts are teamed up with a DJ or DJ squad for each event.
Summer Splash Happy Hour with I Vibez
Summer Splash Happy Hour with I Vibez
Summer Splash Happy Hour with I Vibez
• Salsa dancers and music lovers will be happy to know that Salsa on the Square is returning this summer on Thursdays, running 7-10 p.m. As always, dance instructors will be on hand to give you pointers (if you need 'em). Music is provided primarily by some of Greater Cincinnati's finest Salsa/Latin music groups.
May 30: Son Del Caribe
June 6: Kandela
June 13: Zumba
June 20: Tropicoso
June 27: Grupo Tumbao
July 4: Clave’ Son
July 11: Kandela
July 18: Tropiscoso
uly 25: Grupo Tumbao
August 1: Zumba
August 8: Azucar Tumbao
August 15: Clave’ Son
August 22: Brian Andres & the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel
August 29: Son Del Caribe
• Before MidPoint Indie Summer on Fridays, local club/bar conglomerate 4EG (which operates several nightclubs in the area) will present 4EG Happy Hour from 5-7 p.m. Local DJs will spin every Friday (except for Aug. 2, when local cover band Snidely Whiplash performs).
DJ Ice Cold Tony
DJ Jake the Ripper
DJ Jesse the Ripper
DJ Tina T
DJ Will Kill
• One of the most popular nights on the Square during the summer is Saturdays' "Beats" night, booked by local promoter Self Diploma. The concerts run 7-10 p.m. and again feature an impressive mix of local and touring Hip Hop, Electronic and DJ acts. Among the national act highlights this year are Mod Sun, Hoodie Allen, Watch the Duck and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
After a successful inaugural summer of events last year, Washington Park brings back three music nights, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, plus several other entertainment offerings, including "Dancing Under the Stars," an every-Tuesday dance night, with lessons that focus on different types of dancing each week. (Click below for the concert lineups.)
After months of rising anticipation and weeks of weirdly intermittent and torrential rain, Bunbury's first day looked to be a winner. A great announced lineup, no precipitation in the forecast and nothing but sunshine expected for the day; against all odds, that's exactly what we got. But it wasn't the rain to come that presented a problem, it was the rain that had already fallen; the area on the Serpentine Wall that had perfectly pocketed the Rockstar Stage last year was completely swallowed by the rising Ohio River, and the stage had to be moved to the opposite end of the field housing the all important Main Stage. It turned out to be a pretty decent fix, all things considered.
After securing my Level Three media pass (which, in the hierarchy of accessibility, I think meant that if any band needed help moving equipment, I was obligated to roadie for them), I headed for the Bud Light stage for Public. I had done a story on them back in January; they were home for Christmas so given their proximity, they came to my house and we did the interview in my basement. My daughter had answered the door and let them in, and for weeks afterward she was telling her friends about the cute guys I had interviewed at the house. Public's teenage girl effect was fully evident at their Bunbury appearance, as squealy females shrieked their appreciation for every song, and randomly shouted "I love you!"s arced over the rather sizable crowd. The trio did songs from their self-titled EP, a new tune called "Honey Bee" and, taking a page from the infinitely talented and creatively twisted Richard Thompson, offered a thunderously blazing turn on Britney Spears' "Toxic." In the studio, Public has the sound of a ramped up Modest Mouse, but in the live arena, they definitely blister and kick a little closer to the Led Zeppelin vibe they claimed as inspiration during our conversation, adding a dollop of harmonic Pop to sweeten the deal. If teenage girls are any indicator — and they usually are — Public could be headed for Walk the Moon territory pretty quickly.
Next up, it was Alone at 3AM at the Lawn Stage. I love these guys; super solid, crunchy heartland Indie Pop/Rock that states its case without a lot of unnecessary flash or padding. The band had plodded along for close to seven years before solidifying a dedicated line-up behind vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Max Fender and bassist Joey Beck and moving forward; a good deal of growth occurred with the additions of Sarah Davis on keys and Chris Mueller on drums (and business savvy). That in turn lit a fire under Fender, leading to a pair of albums in the last three years — 2010's Cut Your Gills and last year's Midwest Mess.
For A@3's Bunbury slot, the quintet was showing off their new guitarist; Clay Cason's recent departure left a gap which has been admirably filled by Jake Tippey, taking a busman's holiday from his howling duties in the Frankl Project and proving every bit as valuable in a Pop/Rock context. The band roared through songs from their most recent albums, introduced a couple of new songs (Chris mentioned after the show that A@3 would be working on an EP, and then tracking a new full length for imminent release) and even dipped back into their debut album, City Out of Luck, for a spin through "Mexico." Max's gruff voice sits comfortably in the Paul Westerberg/Bruce Springsteen range and it's the perfect vehicle for expressing his blue collar love-and-life songs. Can't wait to hear the new stuff in the studio, kids.
Before setting out for the Rockstar Stage, I caught the opening of Ohio Knife, one of Cincinnati's brightest new entities. Initially a side project for the Chocolate Horse, vocalist/guitarist Jason Snell, guitarist Andrew Higley and drummer Joe Suer — who all played together in Readymaid as well — ultimately put the Horse in the stable to concentrate on the Punk-scrubbed Blues of Ohio Knife, and with good reason. The trio is a sweat-soaked hurricane in the studio (their 2012 EP was a marvel), but the live translation hits with the force and heat of a flamethrower in an ammunition dump, and it won't be long before the CEA nominees for Best New Artist wind up taking home some bling. Where are we with the full length, guys?
After a quick shot of Ohio Knife, it was time to motor to the other end of the festival to check out the Dunwells. The UK outfit fronted by, logically enough, the Dunwell brothers, has found a good deal of success with their debut album, Blind Sighted Faith, and its ubiquitous single "I Could Be a King." When they played the single, frontman Joseph Dunwell thanked Q102 for their support, but it bears pointing out that, WNKU has been beating the drum for the Dunwells for quite some time now (just as they had for the similarly Folk/Pop toned Mumford & Sons). That being said, the age of the crowd seemed to indicate that Q102's demographic was probably best represented here today, so perhaps the win should be scored in their column after all. However the commissioner decides to rule, the Dunwells put together a crisp and wonderfully vibrant set that pays homage to the West Coast sounds of the Eagles and CSNY. The one exception to that sonic blueprint is the aforementioned "I Could Be a King," which offers an irresistable Pop edge that shimmers like the best of Crowded House. When brother David Dunwell strapped on the old five string to play the hit, he noted wryly, "I think every Englishman should at some point come to America and stand in front of an American audience holding a banjo with no idea how to play it." I think he was being graciously self-deprecating. The Dunwells seemed to go down a storm and I think they would find a large and enthusiastic audience if they returned outside of the auspices of the Bunbury Festival. Quick note: If you see a Dunwells album titled Follow the Road in stores (for you youngsters, a building where your parents buy music) or online, it is actually a re-sequenced and remixed version of Blind Sighted Faith, with a few alternate versions tossed in for flavor.
I briefly considered heading over to the Bud Light Stage to see some of Everest (a pick from Bunbury worker bee extraordinaire Jacob Heintz), but opted to check out a bit of Tegan and Sara at the Main Stage before making a definite decision.
I've interviewed both Quin twins over the years — most recently, I talked to Sara the year after the release of 2009's Sainthood — and while I lean toward their early work as far as my personal taste is concerned, their last trio of albums have been fairly well stacked with radio-friendly Pop songs with the potential to reach a massive audience. The enormous turnout for their Bunbury set would seem to support their decision to go the pure Pop route, but the fact is that Tegan and Sara have been cultivating a large and diverse audience for the past decade and a half, and their synth-driven Pop direction was not enough of a departure to alienate any portion of their slavishly loyal fan base. Predictably, the bulk of their set was devoted to Heartthrob, along with faves from The Con and Sainthood; they also reached all the way back to 2002's If It Was You for "Living Room" and they threw in a cover of Tiesto's "Feel It in My Bones," on which they originally guested. As expected, the adrenaline and volume of the live experience ferments Tegan and Sara's sugary Pop confections into something with a little more bite. Even for those who weren't completely sold on their recent work (my hand is up), Tegan and Sara's live presentation could make you see the light.
After T&S, it was time to hit the Amphitheater Stage to see Buffalo Killers. If you missed seeing the James Gang in 1971, here's your chance. Because I'm old enough to have actually missed the James Gang (with Joe Walsh, that is; I was lucky enough to see the even rarer sight of the James Gang with Tommy Bolin. Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls …) that joke is only marginally funny. Luckily, Buffalo Killers have approximated the trio's fuzzy guitar assault and maniacally furious rhythm section here in the 21st century to give an indication of what Joe and the boys might have sounded like if they had stayed together a little longer and gelled a little better. And even though Buffalo Killers have managed to inject a bit of poppy sunshine into their bunker-busting sound, in the live arena the band still rumbles and shoots like a rhythmic Sherman tank. The Killers hit all of my teenage buttons (which were installed long ago and have never been fully deactivated, same as every man on the planet, I suppose) and any opportunity to witness their feedback-through-an-elephant-gun glory is a chance to time machine back to the days when electric dinosaurs roamed the earth and their squalling racket could be heard from sweaty and sparsely attended auditoriums to densely populated arenas. I love Buffalo Killers. They remind me that there is wisdom in remembering the past, joy in celebrating the present and excitement in anticipating the future.
After a brief stroll around the grounds to grab something to eat, it was back to the Amphitheater Stage for a healthy dose of Rock hard Americana with Those Darlins. The Nashville outfit has been down a Darlin since early last year when Kelley Anderson opted out of the band to pursue other musical projects (her new group, Grand Strand, got a good buzz after touring with Richard Lloyd last year), and her amicable departure has obviously changed the group's dynamic, particularly the absence of their signature three-part harmonies. The remaining Darlins — Jessi (Wariner), Nikki (Kvarnes) and drummer Linwood Regensberg — are carrying on with the-show-must-go-on determination; new bassist Adrian Barrera seems to be slotting in quite well and Those Darlins' core sound, along the lines of the Pandoras if they'd been influenced by Wanda Jackson and the Ramones, remains largely intact. Their Bunbury set did display a good deal more Rock and a good deal less twang than you'll find on their first two albums — 2009's Those Darlins and 2011's Screws Get Loose — and it's a safe bet that the new album they're currently working on will follow that blueprint as well. No one at the Amphitheater seemed too dismayed at the shift, particularly the hyperactive dance contingent in front of the stage. Two Darlins is clearly enough Darlins to make Those Darlins.
I bailed out of Those Darlins a bit early to make the long walk back to the Rockstar Stage to take in the Gypsy Jazz goodness of DeVotchKa. I've long been a fan of the Denver-based outfit (I came to them through 2004's How It Ends, fell in love with their version of the Velvets' "Venus in Furs" from the Curse Your Little Heart EP and adored their work in Little Miss Sunshine) but have never had the opportunity to see them in the flesh, and when I saw them on the Bunbury schedule, I knew there was little that could draw me away from their show. Luckily, their 9 p.m. slot meant they weren't programmed against anyone else, so the way was cleared for my first live DeVotchKa experience.
DeVotchKa lived up to and surpassed all advance billing with a set that walked the wire between frenetic and atmospheric but maintained high energy from start to finish. Even when they slowed the pace, there was an electric tension in their presentation that made clear something explosive could happen at any moment. And it usually did. All four members of the band — Nick Urata, Jeanie Schroder, Tom Hagerman, Shawn King — play multiple instruments so almost any sound is available to DeVotchKa, including theremin, boukouki, accordion, trumpet and Melodica. And Schroder does the heaviest lifting, either plucking with power and subtlety on her enormous upright bass or blowing away like Dizzy Gillespie on steroids into a gigantic sousaphone that looks as though it would be the punishment instrument for getting bad grades in high school band ("Okay, Baker, D in Orchestra, 10 solos with the death tuba..."). It wasn't a performance to analyze or interpret, it was a Gypsy Jazz soundtrack for a magic show, a feeling to wash over you like cool waves on warm sand, a Slavic Rock and Roll dance party. More than a few people on DeVotchKa's Facebook page declared it the best show of Bunbury's three-day weekend. It was most assuredly one of them.
Finally, it was time for fun. Not the fun that we'd been having all day at Bunbury, but the fun. that's topping the charts and recently played Saturday Night Live and won a couple of Grammys this year. Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of the band. I like their sound to a certain extent, it's energetic and entertaining and I really like Nate Reuss' voice. I actually interviewed him a decade ago when he was fronting the Format; ironically and perhaps presciently, he used the word "fun" a half dozen times to describe his band at the time.
At any rate, I hung around to see the show to be able to report how it was to my daughter, and because the band clearly doesn't take itself too seriously. When they accepted their Record of the Year Grammy for "We Are Young," Reuss said, "I don't know what I was thinking, writing the chorus for this song. If this is in HD, everybody can see our faces, and we are not very young." All in all, I was expecting a pleasant if unassuming concert experience.
And that's pretty much how it started, with the "Some Nights" intro, the title track to their sophomore album (it would show up in its entirety during the band's two-song encore, leading into "One Foot" from Some Nights). In fact, fun. performed almost all of Some Nights (save for "All Alright"), and over half of their debut album, 2009's Aim and Ignite, perhaps best represented by "At Least I'm Not as Sad (as I Used to Be)" and the nearly eight-minute closer, "Take Your Time (Coming Home)." Of course, they saved their anthemic signature singles for the second half of the set, first "Carry On" and then, two songs later, the epic Grammy-winning Pop of "We Are Young." Sandwiched in between though was a very charming version of The Rolling Stones’ "You Can't Always Get What You Want," an interesting lead-in to "We Are Young," a song that would seem to sport a diametrically opposed message. By the time fun. concluded with "Stars" as the second song of their encore, they had fired a confetti cannon (there was still yards of fun. confetti on the field when The National played Sunday night), performed the majority of their two studio albums and put on a show that proved they were worthy of their first-night-closing status. While I think they should remove the rather severe punctuation from their name, I have to say I was at least slightly converted toward a fun. lifestyle.