I've yet to hear the new Guns N' Roses record — well, besides the overblown/overproduced first single — but apparently a dude in the Chinese government has.
Under the Streetlamp is a new act storming the nation that presents audiences with a vocal performance spotlighting what they call the "American Radio Songbook." The ensemble took its classic approach and turned it into a full production that has been drawing packed houses all over. Under the Streetlamp is currently barnstorming across the country on the heels of its PBS special and debut self-titled album, which showcases UtS's strong Doo-Wop/Pop/Motown/Rock & Roll-oldies sound.
CityBeat recently spoke with one of the vocalists, Michael Ingersoll, of Jersey Boys fame, and discussed the rise and evolution of the group as well as where the sights are set for the future. Under the Streetlamp performs at the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center on Sunday night.
CityBeat: You guys have been around for a couple years but you are a fairly new group. Can you tell me the story of how Under the Streetlamp formed?
Michael Ingersoll: Absolutely. The four of us met when we were doing a play called Jersey Boys. Chris Jones and I did the first national tour of Jersey Boys and then he went off on his way and I met the other two fellows in Chicago and we did the production there. While we were in Jersey Boys, on our nights off we were putting together these concerts for clubs and local theaters to sing other music besides musicals, like things from The Beach Boys, The Drifters, The Beatles and songs like that.
After the show closed in Chicago, the momentum for us was actually following this band; this "side-gig" took off so we decided to pursue it rather than pursuing our individual career as actors. So we took advantage of that momentum and submitted a five-minute demo of what we were doing to (PBS outlet) WTTW in Chicago and they said they were interested in helping us develop this project.
That is the really short version. Once PBS was on board, we were able to book a 27-city tour, which is pretty ambitious for a new group.
CB: What is the biggest difference between performing in Jersey Boys on stage and the Under the Streetlamp group?
MI: Well, Jersey Boys, first and foremost, is a musical with a story and a book. We are a band; we are a concert. There is nothing Broadway about us at all. We have full artistic control over everything we do. This is a project that we guide. This is a project that we own.
That was really one of the big motivations for doing this because our acting careers where we were doing pretty well in the acting business.
It is a concert and we have a lot of fun with each other. We have a lot of the fun with the audience. We take the music very seriously but we don’t take ourselves very seriously at all and the audience seems to enjoy that.
CB: I have been listening to the album this weekend. How did you pick these particular songs to perform or put on the album?
MI: The four of us — each of us is a lead singer. It is actually pretty rare for a band to have four lead singers. We wanted to lead with our strengths, our individual personality.
Michael Cunio, for example, has a crazy high singing voice so he did Etta James “At Last” in Etta’s original key and it is always a big surprise to the audience when it is coming. Chris (Jones) has got a very powerful, kind of balladeer voice so we sing “I Come For You” for him. I am kind of a Folk Rock/Rockabilly guy. Shonn (Wiley) is an incredible tap dancer and Broadway showman so we do “When You’re Smiling” for him.
So basically we just chose the songs as it suited our strengths and flowed for the evening. We also chose artists that are in that same genre that we learned when we were in Jersey Boys. So that’s where we get The Beach Boys and The Drifters and The Beatles.
Our music is fun, it is life-affirming, it is joyful, it makes people feel good. That is probably the biggest criteria for how we choose.
CB: I know your family was an influence musically to you growing up. I also know that you are from Dayton, so you are a local to us. Did you have a good music program in Dayton growing up or did your family give you private lessons? How did you develop musically?
MI: Well, there are two major factors. My grandfather was a professional Jazz pianist and so there was always music around in that environment. He taught me to play piano by ear and really get into Jazz primarily.
There is also an amazing arts program called Muse Machine in Dayton, Ohio. It is a program where kids come from all over — high schools from probably a 30-, 40-, 50-mile radius and every year they put on a musical and they bring in Broadway caliber directors and choreographers and producers. I was lucky enough to be cast into one of those shows and that is really where my interest exploded in performing and what led me to go to college and study acting.
Check out the Muse Machine website, you can learn all about it, it is an amazing organization. I would credit them with the biggest influence, the biggest push.
CB: You are on the road now. You said you were doing 27 cities, which is a lot to take on. Is there anything about home or here you miss when you are on the road?
MI: Obviously my family is there, but who doesn’t miss Graeter’s ice cream and Skyline Chili and the Cincinnati Reds. I love those things. Those are the things I do as soon as I come back. I usually go to Skyline Chili and Graeter’s and try to catch a Reds game. I am a huge Reds fan and Bengals fan. I live in Los Angeles now so I miss the change of seasons in Ohio, but (there are) good, friendly folks there and it was a wonderful place to grow up.
Cincinnati has a vibrant and rich arts community so we just can’t wait to play. I also did a year at the Cincinnati Shakespeare (Company). That was my first actual professional acting job to work there for a year, so I got my start in Cincinnati.
CB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
MI: I think that we are on track to be a top tier act in the Adult Contemporary market, with Michael Buble, Norah Jones, Diana Krall and artists like that. I think we have a product that makes people happy. I think we have a got a very powerful team with PBS and our management. We are determined to take this to as many people as will possibly let us do it. We are doing every single thing we can to make sure we are here to stay. As long as we make people happy, we are optimistic that will happen in big ways.
CB: You said you play piano, but do you guys play any instruments during the show or is it just singing?
MI: No, we are four singers and we have a seven-piece band of incredible world-class musicians. These are folks that have played with Sinatra and Frankie Valli and huge, huge names. We have a rhythm section and then three horns. That horn section helps kind of give it that "streetlamp" character. It helps with that distinctive sound.
CB: Tell us, in summary, what can the fans expect to see in the show?
MI: There is a lot more music we perform live than on the DVD for the folks that are familiar with us from PBS. There is a lot more music and people come away from it often saying, “I can’t believe I laughed that much” or “I didn’t expect the show to touch me emotionally like it did.”
I think people are going to laugh a lot. Hopefully they get up and dance a lot. When they leave, hopefully they feel better than when they came in from listening to this great, joyful music performed by people who really care about them having a good time.
And also, if you have got time, just check out the Under the Streetlamp Facebook page because our fans comment on there after every single show, and really their comments, and there are tons and tons of them, say it all.
CB: That was one of my next questions — are you guys using social media to promote the band?
MI: Absolutely. We have a great website and great designer. We use Facebook, we use Twitter. Any way that we can possibly interact with our fans, we do so. We answer our own e-mail. We maintain our own Facebook page. We spend a lot of time talking to our fans. Anybody that writes in and asks us a question or comments on Facebook, we interact with.
Without them, we are nobody. We make sure they not only feel welcome at the shows but feel welcome in the cyber universe 24/7.
CB: What music are you currently listening to or what is inspiring you right now?
MI: It is funny, a lot of the music that I listen to outside of the band is not music that has anything to do with what we do.
CB: That is pretty common though. I talk to Metal people all the time and they never listen to Metal music. It is really an interesting dynamic. I always find it interesting to see what people really listen to when they are not playing.
MI: Right now I am listening to Foo Fighters latest album, Wasted Life, (and) Ben Folds latest album.
Whether you call him Beelzebub, Satan, the Prince of Darkness, Mephistopheles, or just the plain ole devil (it’s all about your preferred nomenclature, man) there is no denying the big guy downstairs has been a huge influence on Rock & Roll.
There have been a plethora of songs written about the dark lord (no I’m not talking about Voldemort, you posers) but the real question is — what are Satan’s favorite songs about himself?
So, like the top-notch investigative journalism team we are at the CityBeat music department, my editor Mike Breen and I bought some pig’s blood, drew a pentagram on the floor, lit some candles, recited some Latin and summoned the fallen angel himself.
After a long discussion on various human subjects — how Mitt Romney is in fact not the antichrist, but just an idiot; the state of Gene Simmons' soul and why he is going to hell (apparently, it’s not for his satanic look or the thousand acts of pre-marital sex, but for turning KISS into the biggest whore in the music industry) — Mephistopheles disappeared back into the hell mouth as quick as he came. (Who said real journalism was dead?)
Yet, left in his place was an evil list compiled by the demon of his Top 10 favorite songs about himself, with the instruction to print them without changes. (Satan’s actually a very polite guy but super narcissistic.) So, in honor of his wishes (and extra conscious of our agreement that riches will be bestowed on CityBeat if we completed the task), here are the Top 10 songs about Satan.
10. “Baptized in Flames” – Skeletonwitch
You ever wanted to know what Antichrist’s birth would be like? If so, you’re in luck because Athens, Ohio, natives Skeletonwitch give us a pretty vivid description of the scene.
Minus the death of the mother, inverted crosses burning, men dying and the overall end-times vibe, this birth isn’t all that different from a normal one. But let’s be honest, no matter who’s being popped out, the birthing process is pretty disgusting.
9. “Super-Charger Heaven” – White Zombie
If I had never seen an interview with Rob Zombie (he seems like a really nice guy), I would truly believe this guy had some serious demonic connections. From his grade-A horror films to his music riddle with witches, blood rituals and general spine-chilling terror, he is the poster child for all things evil.
Although his later solo work is a little campy at times, White Zombie always brought the hellish vibe to their brand of Groove Meta and they showcased it no better than on their 1995 single, “Super-Charger Heaven.”
8. “Beezleboss” – Tenacious D
Did you know it’s in the demon by-laws to never turn down a rock-off challenge? I didn’t either. Not until the cataclysmic disappointment, “Pick of Destiny,” came out in 2006 at least.
Even though this movie was shittier than the end of The
Human Centipede, Satan’s gut-busting drum solo (although impressive) wasn’t
enough to outmatch Tenacious D’s power of Rock and friendship, not only saving Kage’s
eternal soul (and anal virginity) but sending the devil back to hell and
finally finding a way to pay their damn rent. (Satan says he found it "cute" that the band would write a fictional song about defeating him and picked this song because he's angling for a part in Kung Fu Panda 4 with Jack Black.)
7. “Con Clavi Con Dio” – Ghost
Sweden probably isn’t the first nation you think of as a hotbed for satanic music (I know, ABBA was scary but definitely not satanic), but when Ghost’s Opus Eponymous came out in 2010, the band took another step towards making that a reality.
This whole album is just one big love letter to the prince of darkness and the first four lines of “Con Clavi Con Dio” says it all: “Lucifer/ We are here/ For your praise/Evil one.”
Overall, I don’t know what’s creepier — this band’s all-inclusive scare factor or their borderline stalker obsession with Satan. (Lucifer, if you’re reading this, you may want to consider a restraining order against these guys. I know they’re from Sweden, but I don’t think they are messing around.)
6. “Mean as Hell” – Johnny Cash
Besides making a star out of Honey Boo Boo and working as an investment banker on Wall Street, Satan says all he really ever wanted was a land to call his own. So God, like the sly dog he is, tried pull a fast one on his old nemesis, giving him the poorest land he had, the Rio Grande.
The Devil, being the mean son of bitch that he is, took God’s offering and riddled the area with scorpions, thorn trees, tarantulas, rattlesnakes and 110-degree weather, making the best hell on earth he could (take that God!).
In the end, Satan proved God wrong, but what’s more interesting is — who is meaner, Johnny Cash or Satan? Sure, Satan made the Rio Grande hell on earth, but Cash lived in it. My money’s on the “Man in Black.”
5. “Sympathy for the Devil” – The Rolling Stones
The devil has been a busy man over the years. He was “’Round when Jesus Christ/Had his moment of doubt and pain” and “Held a general's rank/When the Bliztkrieg raged/And the bodies stank.”
Even though I’m not that particularly puzzled by the nature of his game (am I the only one seeing the trend of death here?), it’s definitely one of the most iconic and politically-driven songs Satan ever inspired.
4. “The Oath” – Mercyful Fate
Kind Diamond is like the satanic equivalent of Pat Robertson. Sure, this guy isn’t actually a Satanist but over his illustrious career, his distaste for organized religion, overtly satanic lyrical content and general creepy demeanor has surely put him in good standing with the minions of hell’s army and their general.
I really could have picked almost any song from the King Diamond catalog, but this one — from the band he fronts, Mercyful Fate — really showcases his unconditional love for Lucifer. Really though, Diamond’s undying love for Satan is only comparable to the love Ryan Seacrest has for hair gel and being a douche. If the song weren’t so damn evil, it would almost bring me to tears.
3. “Hell Awaits” – Slayer
As if this song wasn’t scary enough running normally, apparently if you play “Hell Awaits” backwards, about two minutes in there is a hidden message that repeats "join us" over and over again. Joining what exactly, I’m not sure. Slayer fans? An indoor soccer league? The wait staff at the Olive Garden? Who knows?
What’s really funny, though, is that people freak out when they hear Slayer has a “satanic message” when you play it backwards. Really? If you listen to the song forward, the “satanic messages” are even more explicit. Jeez people, the whole thing is about Satan! It’s Slayer, what do you expect?
2. “N.I.B.” – Black Sabbath
Aside from “Sympathy for the Devil” this is the only other song on this list written from the perspective of Lucifer. Besides the monster riff and Black Sabbath general early awesomeness, what makes this track phenomenal is that it's about Satan falling in love and trying to become a good person.
Though knowing that information makes this song seem a little less evil and is slightly reminiscent of a Joss Whedon plotline (no dig there, it’s just true), it exemplifies why Black Sabbath will always be the best Metal band of all time — its creativity.
Personally, I wish Ben Gibbard would do one of his so cute (it makes me want to puke) acoustic covers of this song so I can play it at my wedding (like that’ll ever happen).
1. “Number of the Beast” – Iron Maiden
I’ve always been a bit confused when it comes to the actual logistics of this song. I mean, did he see this satanic ritual happening or not? My personal belief is that Steve Harris (lead guitar/writer) took one too many hits of LSD, watched The Omen II and had the most terrifying trip known to modern man.
Either way, “Number of the Beast" solidified Bruce Dickinson as Maiden's new lead singer (even though I’m more a Paul Di’anno fan myself) and made Maiden titans in the Metal genre.
Remember — I’m just the middleman here. If you have a problem with this list, I’m sure Satan would be willing to hear you out. (Here’s his contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: This morning I sent Blake's write-up to Satan for approval (we usually don't do that, but, hey, it's Satan), he responded with a curt, all caps message: "WHERE IS MY FAVORITE BAND HOGSCRAPER!!! I WILL BRING YOU DOWN HERE EARLY IF YOU DON'T ADD MY THEME SONG!!! THANKS!!! HAIL ME!!!" He's referring to the mysterious, undead Cincinnati "Satanic Bluegrass" band Hogscraper and I can only assume his "theme song" is the one below. When I texted him just before posting I informed him that Hogscraper was back from the dead and headlining this Saturday's "Grand Opening Redux" concert at the new Southgate House Revival. "NO SHIT. I'LL BE THERE WITH SCARY BELLS ON. PRE-GAMING @ HOOTERS BEFOREHAND IF YOU WANNA HANG OUT!"
So what the heck happened at the concert by the always dazzling Neko Case at the Taft Theatre last night? Case's biggest show ever in the Cincinnati area was musically solid, but didn't go as smoothly as planned thanks to flared tempers, the proliferation of smartphone cameras and some angry and/or obnoxious audience members. It's safe to say that you can add Case to the increasingly growing list of performers who are losing their patience with omnipresent smartphone use at concerts.
Case is fairly prolific with her Twitter account, but her tweets from yesterday showed no clear indication of the kerfuffle. Earlier in the day, she praised Iris Book Cafe for their hospitality and good grub and, post-show, she tweeted "Thank you, Cincinnati, you are kind folks," followed by some heart symbols. (Sarcasm?)
CityBeat contributor Keith Klenowski was there to photograph the show (not on his phone; he was credentialed) and says the problems started during the second song of the night, when Case stopped the show and asked everyone to stop taking photos with their phones because the flashes were bothering her. Things calmed down, people seemed to oblige and the show picked up again.
Several songs later, according to Klenowski, Case stopped the show again and appeared to be talking to a fan near the front of the stage about putting their phone away. Case made a comment about happily refunding tickets, adding, "Just put away the cameras. It isn't going to kill you, but it might kill me" and "You can boo and call me a spoiled Rock star. I am." Case claimed there were signs about cameras posted around the venue, though Klenowski says he didn't see any.
Case's reaction was met with a mix of cheers and boos; some people got really bent out of shape about her protestation. "I (saw) people put on their coats and walk out," Klenowski says. "One guy (flipped) her the bird and storms out."
He says that not long after the second stoppage, a woman came down the aisle towards the stage and took a photo before immediately being escorted out by security. Before the band returned for an encore, Klenowski says he saw another skirmish that involved a man arguing with security as he was being kicked out.
"Neko looked tired and even admitted at the start that it was time to wake up or something like that," Klenowski says, adding that the singer was apologetic to the non-heckling/non-photo-taking fans throughout the show and at the end of the night. "I got her frustration, but I have never seen anyone threaten to leave and stop a show because of it."
After shooting the rapids of downtown’s Friday night to get to the Sundresses’ affair (in which I played the part of the kayak), it was my fervent hope that the skies would clear and remain free of precipitation for MidPoint’s final slate of shows on Saturday. It certainly looked good at 7:30 p.m. as I sat in the car going over my schedule before hitting the sidewalk. Who knew then that the metaphorical storm clouds generated by Cadillac Ranch would be bigger than the literal batch that Mother Nature whipped up for us midway to the end of MidPoint?
Hunter Hayes is one of the fastest growing, most unstoppable forces rising in Country music. At just 20 years old, he recently released his debut self-titled studio album featuring the hit single “Storm Warning." In less than a year of truly being a part of the Nashville music scene he has found himself on tour with superstar acts Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts and he will be taking the main stage at the CMA Music Festival next month in one of their nightly concerts in front of 70,000+ in attendance.
CityBeat spoke with Hayes by phone recently and discussed his uniquely introspective writing and recording process as well as his passion for the fans that come out to each of his shows. Hunter will be performing at Bogart’s Friday night. It's a great opportunity to see an act that could be headlining stadiums and arenas very soon.
CityBeat: What made you decide to play all of the instruments and parts on your debut album? Do you plan to do this again on the next album?
Hunter Hayes: There is this part of my brain that I got from my Dad that is really technical, that loves technology, I guess, like fixing stuff — not fixing stuff as much as messing with it. I think that became an outlet for me. The more time I spent making music and writing the more I loved the technical side of it.
One Christmas, I asked for a 8-Track recorder and I got it and I didn’t come out of my room for like three years after that. I literally learned more instruments and spent all my time on this machine making demos and I just started building my own recordings. I didn’t know for sure but I felt inside that was the only way these songs were going to become completed and it became a way of working.
I continue to write during that process. When I moved to Nashville, I started songwriting and every time I would write a song with somebody I’d go home that night and I’d start working up a demo. It just became a way I love to work and now is the only way I know how to work. I have sat in a studio across the looking glass with some of the most phenomenal musicians in Nashville and I sit there and I am a very shy guy, naturally. I am naturally very reclusive so when I get nervous around songwriters, I am very intimidated and I don’t share my thoughts a lot like I probably should. I kind of defer to someone else. So we decided to do the record this way because they knew I was comfortable working that way and there is something cool that happens when you start recording the song playing all the instruments. It is a very minute thing but you will notice the consistency in the emotion.
And by no means do I consider myself a professional player of any of the instruments I played on the record but I guess I was fluent enough to get where my mind wanted these songs to go with what I wanted to hear for these songs. I was able to translate it from the same heart I wrote the songs.
CB: What is your favorite song you have ever written and why?
HH: Oh God … to put it in perspective for you, we had 70 songs I wrote specifically for this record that we were considering. So, it is nearly impossible to pick a favorite.
I have to say I was really fortunate because I had a big say in what songs went on this record. I actually picked all but one. This one song on the record, it is not that I don’t love it, but it is so out of character for me, I was worried about putting it on the record because I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea, because it is a very bitter song.
I chose the songs on this record carefully but emotionally. I am definitely attached to every single one of them on this record. I could say that I love everything — “Wanted” “Love Makes Me” “Somebody’s Heartbreak” and “Storm Warning.” I was very adamant about having a song like “Faith,” I wanted “Cry With You” on the record. I’m close to all the songs on the record.
I think my favorite song I have ever written is probably the one I wrote yesterday and that is always the case. Any time I write a new song, I am jazzed about it for like 24 hours and then I am over it and want to write another one.
CB: That makes sense. How does it feel to be one of the main acts at LP Field at CMA Festival this year?
HH: It’s unbelievable. Last year, I was stoked to just play on a stage in front of the Bridgestone Arena. It was a great turnout and everybody knew my name, which was amazing. I had just wrapped up six weeks on the radio tour. The song had literally just started playing on the radio and there were already tons of people singing along to “Storm Warning” that day and that blew my mind. It was a time lapse thing. I started my radio tour with this big full band showcase in Louisiana. And we initiated it with this full band big showcase for all the industry to come down and make a day out of it.
Then I went out by myself on this radio tour. I would go to these stations. I would literally bring a little mobile studio and I would build “Storm Warning” for them, and they would get their own version of “Storm Warning” by the end of the day. We did that for six weeks straight. I went home only one day, for Mother’s Day. It was just this crazy schedule.
Fast forward six weeks ahead, I come back to Nashville to play my second ever full-band gig with the band and we were playing to a crowd that was singing along to almost every song. It was really impressive and it was just mind-boggling. It is amazing what a year can do.
I am grateful that they considered me for this spot on LP Field. I have sat in the audience to watch shows there many times so it is really cool to be a part of it this time on the other side.
CB: I have seen your show several times. One of the things that always strikes me when you play is that the girls love you. Have you had any crazy fan experiences?
HH: No, not really. I will say we have a lot of fans that we see many times, a lot of repeat fans, which always makes me feel good. When someone sees a show and wants to see another one, that makes me feel like I am doing something right.
It is so funny, they will come up during the autograph signings and say “I promise you I am not stalking you.” I am like “I don’t mind! I am honored that you have taken the time to come to more than one show.” There is this one girl who has driven thousands of miles and she is always almost apologetic about it, and you don’t even know how much that makes my day. When I see her car in the parking lot and I know she is coming, that makes me feel like I am doing something right. It literally gives me a feeling I can’t describe to you.
We have a lot of fans that are doing that. We have a lot of them who have met at our shows and have become best friends and they go everywhere together now. I just feel this unity at our shows, especially the "Most Wanted" shows, the headlining shows I get to do. They are smaller venues right now and they are growing. Tonight we are doing like 1,000 seats or something like that, but it is amazing this close feeling I feel with everyone in the room. I get to chit-chat with them during the show and goof off with them and it is fun. It is a blast. I am glad to say I have fans.
Motley Crue’s infamous bassist Nikki Sixx took up photography in 1989 as a way to help have an outlet to stay clean from his well publicized drug and alcohol abuse. His new book, This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography And Life Through The Distorted Lens Of Nikki Sixx, came out this week as a showcase of his photography and personal stories from the past few years.
Slipknot is the heaviest of Heavy Metal. They are strong artists because they are the epitome of a group. Their masks and costumes on stage present a uniformity that makes them who they are. They refer to themselves as “The Nine” even though they are now eight after the passing of their bassist, Paul Gray. The wildly popular band are wrapping up touring on their fifth album All Hope is Gone which has gone platinum, a great success in today’s age of music, with Mayhem Fest along with other great Metal acts like Motorhead and Anthrax.
CityBeat: You guys are crazy on stage. Have any band members ever been hurt?
Shawn Crahan: Every day.
CB: Really? Like Ibuprofen or doctor?
SC: Right now I have been sucking anywhere from 10 to 40 cc’s of blood out of my knee every five days.
CB: Have you calmed down because of it?
SC: No, I had surgery from a jackass move in a tour in Australia about five months ago. I jumped off my lift, smashed my knee pretty good, my meniscus and everything. So I had to have surgery. I had surgery just up to the exact date when the first Mayhem show was starting. I had no time to really rehabilitate. I didn’t even do physical therapy. It’s not an excuse; I just didn’t get it done. So the first day I paid the price. It’s all good because I have kept all the blood. I have it all. I have all the syringes and everything. So I make art. I’ll have a nice art piece of my pain. But everybody goes through something every day. Sid’s dealing with some sort of hernia and some sort of shoulder stuff that he has to get an MRI for right now.
CB: I see your photo on your pass with your leg brace.
SC: Actually that is the day I had surgery. I hate to admit it but I’m on a lot of morphine in that photo. I walked out to the car and took a picture. As you see I have a cigar and a GG Allin shirt on. I took him with me to the surgery. I turned around and was out. I had to get a picture. I don’t know, somebody found it and made it my pass.
CB: You guys have different uniforms every tour. What is the process to go about designing them or picking them?
SC: I am kind of the visionary, so to speak. That doesn’t mean visionary of the overall whole thing. I take a lot of responsibility in evolving everything. Right now, since our bass player passed away, we are reminiscing a life spent. We toured last summer, and we re-made our very first coveralls and brought out our first masks in remembrance to remember where we came from and celebrate his life. The current ones are a mixture of our first album and our second album. His number was number two and he had a really big part in that record as he did all records. We thought we’d give the American kids something special. Usually right now if Paul wouldn’t have passed, we would almost be getting done with our fifth record album cycle, getting ready to go home from it. This kind of stuff is all kind of inspired by him a little bit because we don’t have a new album and we just are kind of sharing in this thought process with our fans together. We don’t see him on stage; they don’t see him on stage. We go through it together.
We are getting ready to end that thought process of sharing that loss together. It doesn’t mean there is an ending to something and a new beginning. There will never be a new beginning. There will always only be nine. But we have toured Europe, we have toured South America, Australia, and now America with this thought process of sharing this loss together. We will end that, that sporadic touring of understanding that he is no longer with us. Then we will take some time off, write a record, record a record, pre-prep tour, go out on tour, drop a record and then support that record. But there will always be nine. I don’t know if there will ever be another person on stage. There probably could be a bass player behind us. I don’t know and I don’t have to think about it because it’s a long way off.
CB: How did you get the numbers?
SC: The numbers kind of just fell into place. It’s kind of a weird thing. Back when we started we were going to wear a mask and I started wearing coveralls so we all started wearing coveralls, then there were so many of us, we put our bar code on the back. Then we wanted numbers — I wanted numbers. It was kind of ironic, because everyone fell into a number. I wasn’t going to tolerate any other number than six. Like if someone was going to fight me for it, I was going to fight to the death for it, but nobody wanted it. Joey wanted to be number one, Paul wanted to be number two, the original guitar player, and the other drummer three. Mick, he is like “I have to have seven. Fuck everyone. It’s my lucky number.” Corey was like, “I want eight, infinity.” When Sid joined the band, “I am not a number. I am zero. I am filth.” It was kind of magical, honestly. The masks were more of a representation of what you wanted to present as yourself. It was one’s finding one’s self, but the numbers were almost assigned to us subconsciously. It was really a kind of cool thing. I remember I usually try to go last, I am the oldest but an only child, so I like fight to the death for what I want. Because of that, I try to put myself last because it is healthy for me and I let people do what they have to do, and I usually get what I want by doing that. It is kind of like when we are recording a record, if we are all living together, I let everyone find their room and I take what’s left, and I that ends up being the place I belong, not because I have admitted to myself that I should be there but I end up there going, “I love this. This is where I should be.” It is kind of knowing your brothers and knowing everything, but it is healthy for me to practice that.
CB: Do you get hot in the masks on days like today?
SC: No one but the nine will understand that sort of submission. The only way I can explain it is when it is all done and you take it off and look at the mirror and you look at yourself you know that as you walked into the church of the Knot, onto the altar of the Knot, giving the sermon of the Knot to the congregation of the Knot, and when you are done and the doors are shut and you came back and you take off the attire, you look at yourself and you know that you gave 190 percent of your life lived today and there is nothing more than that. Even if I don’t have time to call my wife, even if I don’t have time to be creative on my computer, or I am lazy, or I am not getting anything done. One thing I know is I give 190 percent on stage and when I take it off and look at myself and know that I am alive and that I did it and I pulled through that, it is not even a good feeling, for me it is like salvation. I only do this because I am looking for peace. With peace comes war, and I am at war with myself. I have been since I was born. I love music, and I can’t imagine life without music. My wife is always there for me. My kids are there for me, but they are their own people. The one thing that has always been there for me is music. Before I met my wife there was music. If my wife were to pass or something there would be music to help me through that. That’s not going to happen but I am saying music has always been my life. I owe everything to it.
CB: In the beginning, you guys wanted to remain anonymous by using the masks. You have liked being anonymous through the years, but now people know who you are. Do you still feel like it is necessary?
SC: It was kind of a trick because so many people in the beginning wanted us to fail because we are so great. We have been blowing up since day one because a good idea is a good idea and a good song is a good song and a good band is a good band with a performance. So, part of the vision was everyone wanted to know who was behind the mask and that was probably the least most important thing ever. Why ask that? Why not ask how that came about or why this came about or what is behind this? Not what is behind the mask? It is music people are into and music the kids are buying. Rarely do they even get to spend a night with us. It is usually in the car or in their headphones. So why ask that question? So slowly, it wasn’t until the third record, I did a documentary called Voliminal: Inside the Nine where when I showed behind the scenes footage, I blurred out people’s faces, but when I did interviews, I would do nothing but faces. By our third record, people didn’t care what we looked like anymore. They liked us better with the mask on. I always knew that would happen. There was never a conscious decision of trying to be out of the limelight without knowing who I am. Let’s talk about the music, let’s talk about the lyrics, let’s talk about the why’s not who is behind the mask, because I don’t wear a mask. I don’t wear a mask at all.
CB: Do you guys write together?
SC: We write together. There are core writers.
CB: There are a lot of you.
SC: That again is a special way. There are core writers. There are people that plant the seeds, and there are people that water it and we all watch it grow and we all groom it and help it become what it can be. That is something that can rise to the light of day. So we all write, I am not a percussionist so to say but more of a paganistic, ritualistic. It is more, I won’t say anger as much as it is ritual to put behind it. I want to drive what is being written and I only want to drive what needs to be driven. I don’t necessarily have to put my mark or my scent on every single little thing and be over everything. I just want to drive what needs to be driven and it works best that day. I don’t have to be involved from day one. I have always loved the music we write. There is no reason to mess with the will, the roles.
CB: Any regrets?
SC: No, no regrets. To have regret would mean to have to do it differently and if I did it differently then I wouldn’t be here today. There is no reason to think about regrets. Yesterday is lost potential. It is only a memory for tomorrow. Good or bad, it is what it is. There is no changing it. There is no touching it or molding it. There is no reason to look upon it — it is a memory. It can be a good memory, it can be a bad memory, but you shouldn’t spend too much time. You just learn and you move on. I don’t have any regrets. I wouldn’t change anything. I would do it all over again just the way we did it. You come into a venue like this and you are like, “This is what I am dealing with today.” Tomorrow you will be in a completely different situation, and that is what you are dealing with. That is half of what you learn of the greatness of what you are doing because of art. You can’t always expect to have what you want. The point is, we are in Cincinnati. We are here to play for the people. It doesn’t really matter what color the door of the bathroom is or where the showers are or what the circumstances are. We are just here to play. We’ll get on the bus and do it again.
CB: The band members have a lot of side projects going on. Is that cool with everybody in the band?
SC: Yeah. It probably was weird in the beginning because we are so focused on the Knot but I think it was accepted quickly because everybody in the band is so creative on all different levels. It could even be the level of staying home and doing nothing and allowing everybody to do what they need to do creatively to get it out allows everybody to be better for this. It took a little time to understand that, but why wouldn’t it? We are all working for this. If I explained to everybody what it took to get here, I don’t think they would really understand how much work we really put into making it happen. The work was unbelievable. I could tell stories people wouldn’t understand the things we had to implement to make this work. The side projects are good. I wouldn’t even call them side projects. I take Stone Sour very seriously. It is their own band on its own merit. It has its own fan base and they do very well. I would never call it a side project. It would be kind of insulting to Corey and Jim and the other guys in the band because they have worked so hard to make it what it is which is a band. My stuff is more of a side project because I jam because I have to. Since we have started, I have had three bands. None of which have done shit which I don’t care because I just love to play and haven’t repeated myself. I did a Pop record. I did a kind of Hard Rock record. I did a Psychosis Rap record. Ever since Paul passed, I am just kind of focusing on my art a bit, kind of burnt out on music. Side projects are elements of letting people be themselves where they can’t necessarily bring that entity into this thing called Slipknot. It’s healthy.
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.