Louis Langrée is well aware of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's rich history. The CSO's freshly minted music director also knows part of that history includes the nurturing of contemporary composers and their often unconventional works.
Enter MusicNOW, Bryce Dessner's 9-year-old festival of adventurous sounds. (Read our conversation with Dessner here.) This year's sonic extravaganza includes the CSO's take on new pieces by such esteemed composers as Nico Muhly and David Lang, as well as the title work from Dessner's new Classical album, St. Carolyn by the Sea.
CityBeat recently connected with the genial Langrée — who spoke in self-described "primitive" English by phone from Paris — to discuss the CSO's collaboration with MusicNOW.
CityBeat: Before we get into MusicNOW, I'm curious about your initial impressions of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Why were you interested in coming on as music director?
Louis Langrée: The fame the orchestra is really big. Everybody knows it's a major orchestra. But then making music with them was a completely different experience because, yes, they have the qualities of all major American orchestras — precision, clarity of the attack of the situation. But they have also from their heritage, in their DNA, this German conception of sound, that you build the sound from the base of the harmony. That means the density of the sound is something absolutely remarkable, and that's rare in the United States. I think it has to do with the tradition, the roots, of this orchestra and also, of course, about the quality and the spirit of the musicians, which is really wonderful.
CB: Why were you interested in collaborating with MusicNOW and taking on a festival of contemporary music?
LL: One of the strengths of the orchestra is to have supported and commissioned and performed contemporary music from their very early age. Having given the American premiere Mahler Third, Mahler Fifth, Stravinsky coming to Cincinnati before he was considered a giant, having premiered (Aaron Copland's ) "Lincoln Portrait," having commissioned (Copland's) "Fanfare for a Common Man" and many other pieces and many more recent pieces. That's why I wanted to open my tenure as music director with eighth blackbird and Jennifer Higdon concerto piece. It shows that we should support, play, commission and perform contemporary music — and, of course, contemporary American music.
CB: What was it like collaborating with Bryce?
LL: Meeting Bryce was a wonderful. His French is perfect. Especially compared to my primitive English. (Laughs). I like his attitude in making music and experimentation. And any strong institution should be also a place of experimentation. Music is not something you put in a museum. It's alive. And then we should perform contemporary music like Classical music and perform Beethoven music, not forgetting that he only composed contemporary music. All the composers — Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bartok — composed contemporary music, so we have to continue it. He's very focused and concentrated, but on the other hand the spectrum was quite bright. I think we have arrived on wonderful programs — very challenging, but very exciting.
CB: What makes him unique as a composer?
LL: He knows how to make an orchestra sound. It's a very clear and precise writing but at the same time there is so much flexibility in the variations of colors written and the flow of the music. It's always quite exciting to study a piece and hear it. Having the privilege of working with the composer is something wonderful because there are so many questions I would like to ask of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and of course it's impossible. So being able to ask the composer and to hear his answers is just wonderful.
Bryce is someone who has great harmonic taste, and I think for the orchestra it's wonderful because you can express yourself much easier. I think he's very much like his music — a very welcoming man, a very open, very luminous person. I see that in his music, which is not always the case with composers. With him, I get the feeling he's one with his music.
CB: How has the orchestra responded to playing these new, sometimes challenging pieces?
LL: Any new piece you don't know what to expect. What I've found is that these musicians are very open-minded, they are very generous and positive in their attitude and are eager to try any new experience. It's a privilege to perform these two concerts of new music, but it's also very challenging, so you have to be very practical.
CB: And what's the experience been like for you?
LL: It's a great responsibility when you conduct a piece, but it's also a great privilege that today's major American composers are willing to write for us. To be sharing this experiment and experience in concert, to be a part of MusicNOW, is really something beautiful.
MusicNOW's 2014 festival begins tonight and continues tomorrow. Visit musicnowfestival.org for tickets and full programming details.
The weekend after the big Bunbury Music Festival at the Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove parks along the riverfront, another festival by the same fest organizers, Buckle Up, is set to make its debut. This morning, the full lineup and schedule for the Country/Americana fest was announced.
Friday, July 18: Alabama, Eli Young Band, Jamey Johnson, Marty Stuart, Ashley Monroe, Eric Pasley, Chris Janson, The Cadillac Three, Sturgill Simpson, Old Dominion, The Railers, Son of Fathers, David Fanning, Jamie Lynn Spears, Joshua Scott Jones, Pistol Holler, Jeremy Pinnell & The 55's, Sara Haze, Phillip Fox Band, Tyler Childers & The FoodStamps, The Dan Varner Band, Ashley Martin, Kaitlyn Baker, Alexis Gomez, Lonesome Jared & The Heartattacks, Messerly and Ewing, and Andrew Hibbard
Saturday, July 19: Willie Nelson / Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Old Crow Medicine Show, Emmylou Harris, Drive-By Truckers, Kristian Bush, Houndmouth, The Lone Bellow, The Spirit Family Reunion, Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, Joe Pug, Lera Lynn, Natalie Stovall and the Drive, Caitlyn Smith, The Tillers, Tall Heights, The 23 String Band, Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle, Kentucky Timbre, Coralee and the Townies, Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome, Al Scorch, Shiny and the Spoon, The Carolines, Dean Fields, and Wild Carrot
Sunday, July 20: The Band Perry, Thompson Square, David Nail, Corey Smith, Dylan Scott, Sam Hunt, Blackjack Billy, Dallas Smith, JT Hodges, Chase Bryant, Logan Brill, Lyndsey Highlander, Abigail Rose, Noah Smith, Ruth Collins, Bobby Mackey, Straw Boss, The Kentucky Struts, Ty Bates, Carly Pearce, Jetset Getset, Honey & Houston, Zack Dubois, and Max Fender
Tickets for the Buckle Up Festival are available now ($55 for one day/$130 for a three-day pass, but prices go up after Memorial Day). For tickets and more info (including the daily schedule), visit buckleupfestival.com.
The release of the self-titled debut album from Cincinnati trio Tweens is just about a month away now. The music site Stereogum recently premiered the trio’s first music video for new album single, “Be Mean,” a great introduction to the band’s classic-Pop-meets-classic-Punk style (or “Trash Pop,” as they like to call it).
The buzz around Tweens, which scored the “New Artist of the Year” award at the 2014 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, continues to grow across the nation, with more and more music press and online outlets heaping praise on the both the band's recordings and live shows. That buzz should be almost deafening when Tweens’ debut LP is finally released on April 8 through Frenchkiss Records. The band’s usually packed tour schedule is about to get extra-busy with the new release just on the horizon, beginning with a head-spinning six performances during next week’s South By Southwest music fest/conference in Texas.
Click here to read CityBeat's most recent interview with Tweens.
Last night, music fans at venues in four cities around the region (Newport, Columbus, Indianapolis and Lexington) got a sneak peek at some of the artists slated to appear at this year’s Bunbury Music Festival, which returns to Cincinnati’s riverfront parks July 11-13.
Last night, fans at the launch events tweeted out some of the lineup as it was announced (and some smart ass started a fast-spreading rumor that Vampire Weekend was playing; they are not). This morning, the lineup was released to the general public. It was previously announced that Fall Out Boy, Paramore and New Politics would be bringing their summer tour to Bunbury; those groups are scheduled to play the fest on July 12.
Here are the local and national artists that will be joining them at Bunbury’s third annual event (an additional headliner will be announced soon):
The Flaming Lips
Young the Giant
Fitz and the Tantrums
Red Wanting Blue
The Lighthouse and the Whaler
Fly Golden Eagle
Lamps and Voids
Family and Friends
Let It Happen
Kopecky Family Band
G.Miles and the Hitmen
Brent James & the Vintage Youth
The Fanged Robot
The Upset Victory
J. Roddy Walston & The Business
Lily & Madeleine
Brick + Mortar
Yellow Paper Planes
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Here Among the Mountains
Bronze Radio Return
Daniel in Stereo
Today is the last day to buy Bunbury tickets at their current rate; the prices increase at midnight. Right now, $130 gets you a three-day pass ($325 if you’d like the VIP experience) and one-day tickets are $55.
A satellite event to the Cincy Blues Society’s huge outdoor, summertime Cincy Blues Fest, the Winter Blues Fest — which returns to The Phoenix (812 Race St., Downtown, thephx.com) tonight and tomorrow — has truly grown into its own. This year’s lineup features two of the fest’s biggest national headliners yet.
Celebrated Blues/Rock singer/guitarist Tinsley Ellis performs in the venue’s third floor Grand Ballroom on Friday at 9:45 p.m. Check out Ellis’ “Kiss Of Death,” from his recently released Midnight Blue album, below:
Accomplished singer/songwriter Janiva Magness performs in the Grand Ballroom on Saturday at 9:15 p.m. (For more about Magness, read Brian Baker’s preview from this week’s CityBeat). Here’s a clip of Magness and her band performing “I Won’t Cry,” which won her and co-writer Dave Darling “Song of the Year” honors at the Blues Music Awards (one of many Mangess has won over the past several years).
Below is the full lineup (subject to change). Click each artist’s name for more info.
Third Floor Grand Ballroom
6:30-8 p.m.: G. Miles & The Hitmen
8:15-9:30 p.m.: Greg Schaber Band
9:45-11:15 p.m.: Tinsley Ellis
11:30-12:45 p.m.: The Blue Birds
Second Floor Cincinnati Room
6:30-7:45 p.m.: Bob Dellaposta
8-9:15 p.m.: Jimmy D. Rogers
11 p.m.-12:45 a.m.: Dave Muskett Duo
Second Floor Archway Ballroom
7-8:15 p.m.: Blue Sacrifice
8:30-9:45 p.m.: The Juice
10:00-11:15 p.m.: Leroy Ellington Blues Band
11:30 p.m.-1 a.m.: The Blues Merchants
First Floor Presidents Room
6:15-7:45 p.m.: The Heaters With Ben Levin
10-11:15 p.m.: Ralph & The Rhythm Hounds
11:30 p.m.-1 a.m.: Ducttape & Dynamite
3rd Floor Grand Ballroom
6-7:30 p.m.: The Tempted Souls Band
7:45-9 p.m.: Doug Hart Band
9:15-11:15 p.m.: Janiva Magness
11:30 p.m.-12:45 a.m.: Johnny Fink & The Intrusion
Second Floor Cincinnati Room
6:30-7:45 p.m.: Brian Wallen
8-9:15 p.m.: Greg Schaber (Solo)
9:30-10:45 p.m.: TBA
11 p.m.-12:15 a.m.: The Twirlers
Second Floor Archway Ballroom
6:30-8 p.m.: Blues In The School Band
8:15-9:30 p.m.: Chuck Brisbin & the Tuna Project
9:45-11:15 p.m.: The SoulFixers
11:30 p.m.-12:45 a.m.: Jay Jesse Johnson
First Floor Presidents Room
6:15-7:45 p.m.: Little Red & The Rooster
8-9:15 p.m.: Ricky Nye Inc.
9:30-10:45 p.m.: Brad Hatfield Band
11 p.m.-12:45 a.m.: The Noah Wotherspoon Band
Tickets can be purchased in advance at cincybluesfest2014.brownpapertickets.com. Prices are $20 for one night or $32.85 for a weekend pass (there are smaller-than-usual service fees through the ticketing site). There will be food available and full-service bars throughout the venue.
Visit cincyblues.org for the full schedule, artist details, ticket links, deals for special room rates at the nearby Garfield Suites Hotel and more.
Word has been trickling out over the past few weeks about a new Country music festival in Cincinnati, organized by Bunbury Music Festival founder Bill Donabedian. Today, the first four artists slated to appear at the inaugural Buckle Up Music Festival were announced. The festival is set for the weekend after Bunbury — July 18-20 — and will use the same grounds at Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove along the Ohio River. (Think of it as Bunbury’s version of Coachella’s Stagecoach fest.)
The lineup will feature “upwards of 80 performers” and include both modern, commercial Country acts and variations on the Country theme — “folk, bluegrass, Americana, roots rock and more,” according to the press materials — something the initial lineup announcement reflects.
Legendary Country act Alabama (which for many years used the controversial Confederate Flag in its artwork, years before Kanye decided to reclaim it) and current Country hitmakers the Eli Young Band will be joined by up-and-comers J.T. Hodges (whose music has been described as “Country Soul with some Rock N’ Roll”) and eclectic Brooklyn-based Americana trio The Lone Bellow, which performed last November at Cincinnati’s 20th Century Theater (read CityBeat’s preview here).
This morning, the annual Bunbury Music Festival, coming up July 11-13 and returning to Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove along the Ohio River, announced the first acts for this summer’s event. Fall Out Boy, which won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Alternative Band last night, will be joined at the fest by consistent Pop/Rock hit makers Paramore (who were up against FOB for that People’s Choice Award and are doing a co-headlining tour with the band this summer, something that leaked early, allegedly angering Paramore) and up-and-coming Danish alt-rockers New Politics (also on the FOB/Paramore jaunt).
The full lineup for the Bunbury Music Festival is scheduled to be announced next month. Tickets are on sale now; below are details:
One-day, Any-day: $55.00 (U.S.) Buy on layaway until January 31, 2014
Three-day: $130.00 (U.S.) Buy on layaway until January 31, 2014
Three-day VIP: $325 (U.S.) Buy on layaway until January 31, 2014
Hotel and Ticket Package: Buy one three-day, get one free. Book now
Please note that ticket prices will increase after February 15 and again after July 1.
Also this morning, it was announced that The Afghan Whigs, one of the best musical exports to ever come out of Cincinnati, are returning to the road in 2014 to play (at least) the Coachella festival in California this summer. (The full Coachella lineup, which was released this morning and includes Arcade Fire, OutKast and The Replacements, can be found here.) Sounds like a good fit for this year’s Bunbury lineup, too.
This weekend brings the uniquely “underground” Ubahn Fest to downtown Cincinnati. The two-day music festival (its name a play on the German word for underground rapid transit systems) features a mix of Electronic music, DJs and Hip Hop artists, including many local and regional performers. Ubahn is a collaboration between the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, branding/”social intelligence” agency AGAR and Self Diploma, one of the leading independent event promoters in the region, presenting the popular every-Saturday music series on Fountain Square during the summer (among other events).
While Cincinnati has its share of music fests, this is a rare one that focuses on EDM and Hip Hop. Even more unique is the festival’s setting. Ubahn takes place in the tunnels of the vacant Riverfront Transit Center, located beneath Second Street and running between the Bengals stadium and Broadway. For fest-goers, the entrance is at 220 Central Ave., between Pete Rose Way and Third Street.
Along with the local/regional talent, Ubahn features two huge acts to top the bill each night. Friday’s headliner is A-Trak, one of the leading DJs/turntablists around, working frequently with Kanye West, doing production work and remixes for an array of artists, forming the popular duo Duck Sauce with Armand Van Helden, collaborating with the likes of Travis Barker, Jay-Z and Danny Brown and co-founding the esteemed Electronic/Hip Hop label, Fool’s Gold. A-Trak was featured on the cover of Billboard’s 2012 Dance music issue alongside Skrillex and Diplo.
Here is a clip featuring footage from A-Trak’s huge Bonnaroo set this year:
Saturday’s headliner is singer/songwriter/producer Mike Posner, who has built a large following with his memorable brand of eclectic Electro Pop. Posner has also found success working with a wide range of artists — everyone from Big Sean and 2 Chainz to Justin Bieber and Big Time Rush — as a producer, songwriter and/or guest artist. Posner’s much anticipated new album, Pages, is due next year.
Here’s the clip for Posner’s 2013 single, “The Way It Used to Be”:
DJs, EDM and Hip Hop artists from across the region joining A-Trak for Friday’s festivities include DJ Davey C, DJ Prism, The Animal Crackers, Erik Barnum, The Natives, Sh3llz, Eazy El Loco, DJ Vizion, Panzer, Disco Joe, DJ Worldpeace, DJ Fursur and Briz-Rain.
Cincinnati’s Puck also appears at Ubahn on Friday. The MC released a music video for his track “Outside” last month:
Another local MC performing Friday is Trademark Aaron, who kicked off the summer with a great new EP, For the People. More recently, Aaron posted the short film made to accompany a new track called “Shake,” featuring Sleep of 2 Man Cypher (Sleep performs Saturday at Ubahn):
Saturday’s lineup is rounded out by local and regional acts like Cal Scruby, K.M.F., CJ Townsend, Those Guys, Big Cam, DJ Donkis, DJ Magnificent, DJ Drowsy, Sleep, Nuk, Nick Youngerman and PRJR.
Cincy “new wave Hip Hop” act Valley High will also appear at Ubahn on Saturday. Here is their recent video release for the track “8 Ball”:
And here’s a recent track from local progressive Electronicists Black Signal called “Sai Pei.” The trio is also playing Ubahn on Saturday:
Another local Saturday performer is Hip Hop artist Buggs Tha Rocka who recently announced that modern Hip Hop legend Talib Kweli will executive produce his next album. Before that, Buggs will release a new mixtape next month. The MC recently posted the freestyle track “Gold Bars in Tha Safe,” which you can listen to and download below:
Though eclectic enough to be considered “AltCountry,” Terminal Union captures the heart and soul of vintage Country on Making Arrangements. What puts Terminal Union ahead of many of their peers — and makes these songs so riveting — is the emotional weight the frontmen inject into the writing and performances. Being able to make an immediate emotional connection with listeners is not something you can learn; it's innate.
On the song "Magnificent Sounds," the group pays tribute to another pair of artists who also came off as instinctively talented and able to bring a soul-stirring levity to practically every note played, seemingly effortlessly — Miles Davis and Townes Van Zandt. Veteran local musician Michael "Mad Dog" Mavridoglou provides some bonus passion with his warm Jazz trumpet riffs on the track, which somehow sounds completely at home in the band's Country/Roots context.
Elsewhere, highlight tracks like “Comeback Kid” and “Devil’s in the Details” have the power of Steve Earle in peak form, while the piano-buoyed “One of the Ones” and “I Fell You” are wonderfully composed ballads that defy genre classifications — they are simply amazing, timeless songs.
Preview a pair of songs from Making Arrangements below. Visit terminalunion.com for more on the band and see them live this Saturday at Newport's York Street Cafe, where the group will be participating in the One More Girl on a Stage benefit show.
The CincyPunk Fest got its start in 2003, organized as an offshoot of Adam Rosing’s CincyPunk website. Since then, Rosing and the festival have raised tens of thousands of dollars for area charities and presented an increasingly eclectic lineup for its increasingly large audience.
The festival returns tonight and tomorrow, utilizing the three stages at the Southgate House Revival in Newport, Ky., and featuring 35 performers, many from the Greater Cincinnati area, but also some top-notch national acts, like Diarrhea Planet and Pissed Jeans.
After a decade, it probably doesn’t need to be repeated, but just to reiterate – Cincy Punk Fest is not a Punk Rock festival. The lineup includes everything from Indie Rock to Americana/Folk to Soul to straight-up Rock & Roll, with a handful of acts you could legitimately label as Punk. It reminds me of the CBGB's "Punk" movement of the ’70s, when bands like Television, The Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie were all lumped together under the genre tag, though they really couldn't have been more different, sonically. Like fest performers Frontier Folk Nebraska (who are neither Folk nor from Nebraska), CincyPunk Festival (which also isn’t in Cincy) has established itself and doesn't appear to be in any hurry to change its name to reflect the increasingly diverse lineups. Which is kinda Punk, so it all works out.
Tickets to CincyPunk Fest XII are $15 per night; advanced tickets are available here and here. The proceeds this year are being donated to the Save Our Shelter Dogs Rescue in Northern Kentucky. Music starts at 8 p.m. both nights. The event is open to fans 18 and up.
Below are Friday and Saturday's lineups:
And here are a few clips that give a good sense of the variety that can be found at the festival.