Home - Blogs - Staff Blogs - Latest Blogs
by Mike Breen 10.08.2015 22 hours ago
Posted In: Local Music, Live Music, Music Video, New Releases at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

WATCH: Alone at 3AM’s “I’m Dying” Music Video

Greater Cincinnati roots rockers reveal clip for track off of new album ‘Show the Blood’

Over the past year or so, Northern Kentucky’s SofaBurn Records has risen to become one of the more notable independent record labels in the region. The imprint has helped draw national attention to locally-produced gems like singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell’s amazing OH/KY album, and it has also released various singles featuring area artists like Buffalo Killers and R. Ring (featuring Kelley Deal and Northern Kentucky’s Mike Montgomery). Tomorrow (Oct. 9), the label is putting out the latest from former SubPop recording artist and Kentucky native Daniel Martin Moore; you can listen to Moore’s Golden Age (produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James) now via the Wall Street Journal’s website

Another great local band that is part of the SofaBurn roster is Alone at 3AM, the soulful and melodic Roots Rock crew fronted by singer/songwriter Max Fender that has been kicking ass for the past decade and a half-plus with consistently excellent releases showcasing Fender’s compelling songwriting abilities. 

Alone at 3AM’s fantastic new album, Show the Bloodwas released by SofaBurn last month and it has already scored some glowing reviews, including one from Roots Rock/AltCountry bible No Depression, which called the LP “a superb album from the first to the last track.” 

This Saturday, Alone at 3AM is playing a free show at Northside’s Comet to support the new release. The 10 p.m. show also includes sets from Northern Kentucky’s A City on Fire and Joliet, Ill.’s Death and Memphis. 

Ahead of the show, the band has unveiled a new music video for Show the Blood track “I’m Dying,” a Heartland Rock ear-worm that Springsteen/Petty fans should instantly fall in love with. (The track was premiered on Guitar World’s website back in July.)  

The “I’m Dying” video is a no-nonsense clip shot in Northern Kentucky. "This video is just a little window into what life is like in Dayton, Ky., where I wrote the album,” Fender says. “(We) had lots of fun shooting it with Sarah (Davis, Alone at 3AM harmony singer and keyboardist).” 

After the show at The Comet, Fender is setting off on a European solo tour with labelmate Pinnell. Click here to keep tabs on the latest Alone at 3AM happenings. 

by Nick Grever 09.21.2015 18 days ago
Posted In: Local Music, New Releases at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Casino Warrior Unleashes ‘Centaur’

Area rockers introduce themselves with heavy debut EP

Casino Warrior is a name that many local music fans aren’t aware of. So far, the quartet (bassist Kevin McNair, vocalist and guitarist Miguel Richards, guitarist Billy Buzek and drummer Chad Wolary) has only played two real shows, one of which was its recent EP release party. But rest assured, based on the strength of the band’s live performance and its new, riff-laden, five-track release, the name will become much more recognizable quickly.

Centaur EP follows in the same vein as other Rock/Metal hybrids that are currently dominating many a longhairs’ playlist. If the likes of Red Fang, Black Tusk, Orange Goblin or old The Sword cause your skull and brain to repeatedly high five, then the Centaur EP is right up your alley. Richards and Buzek’s guitar leads show considerable chops; there are enough riffs in these five songs to warrant several back-to-back play-throughs just to unravel the heavy layers. Guitar nerds will be overjoyed; the rest of us will just bang our heads until we get a nosebleed.

Of course, riffs are great, but unless the floor tremors and eardrums pop, the Metal equation is only halfway completed. That’s where McNair and Wolary come in. McNair’s low-end rumbles through the mix and sets up shop in your chest. Playing this record at a high volume (as if there was any other allowable setting) is liable to shake things off the wall. Beware of any loose china or pictures of grandma that you may have sitting around your sound system. Wolary’s skin work rounds out the quartet and he brings the thunder; at times, it sounds like Zildjian gave the Incredible Hulk a gear sponsorship. And Hulk definitely smashes.

Richards’ vocals walk a fine line between ’70s Rock clean singing and the current-day growls. Each chorus and verse is delivered with a ferocity that makes the lyrics even more hilarious. I cannot wait for more people to get their hands on the album, learn the words, and yell “Horse balls!” when Casino Warrior performs “Centaur” at its next gig. In fact, each song on the EP is as ridiculous as the last. When your subject matter involves chupacabras, pterodactyls and the aforementioned centaurs, things are bound to get a little weird.

Of particular note is the song that Casino Warrior closed its EP release show with — “Pig Roast.” The track starts with a tribal rhythm from Wolary that’s worthy of accompanying a Fury Road war party, along with a bassline gut-punch courtesy of McNair. Shortly thereafter, Richards and Buzek join in with an earworm of a riff and Richards’ beefiest vocal delivery on the record. His ode to our great city demands attention before the band transitions to an extended outro that allows Richards and Buzek to show off their soloing abilities. And, what do you know — they’re amazing at more than just riffing.

As a whole, “Pig Roast” exemplifies what Casino Warrior is capable of. The band has a rhythm section that lays a rock solid foundation of groove upon which the guitars build a temple to the Riff Lords of old. The songs are more than the sum of their parts — and their parts already have quite a few big numbers involved. The guys have created a rare release that is musically serious, but still fun; heavy, but still accessible. 

If you’re a Cincinnati Rock and/or Metal fan, do yourself a favor and jump on the Casino Warrior bandwagon now — it’s about to get much more crowded.

by mbreen 09.10.2015 29 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Festivals at 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Foxfire, Longstone Fests Spotlight Local Music and More

A pair of music festivals just northeast of downtown Cincy feature wide array of local talent

With the summer music-festival season winding down and Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival just two weeks away (did you pick up this week’s CityBeat for official guide, right? If not, you can find info here), you might think there’d be a music-fest lull this week. But two (very different) festivals northeast of Cincinnati are keeping the vibe alive this weekend — the Foxfire Freedom Festival in Morrow, Ohio, and the Longstone Street Festival in Milford, Ohio. 

The Foxfire fest, dubbed a “music and sustainability festival,” takes place Friday and Saturday at Morgan’s Riverside Campground & Cabins in Morrow, along the Little Miami River (you can even go canoeing if you’re up for it!). The $45 two-day ticket, available at the gate, covers camping Friday and Saturday night (one-day, non-camping tickets are $15). Foxfire will feature vendors and information related to being an environmentally-friendly citizen (the “sustainability” mention), with live music from several area Roots/Americana/Bluegrass performers, as well as acts that play other genres (or a fusion of several). 

Friday’s Foxfire lineup kicks off at 6 p.m. and features Dead Man String Band, Easy Tom Eby, Jared Schaedle, Joe Wolf, Heather Hamlet and Richard Cisneros. On Saturday, music begins at noo. The Saturday lineup features Common Center, Baoku Moses And The Image Afro-Beat Band, Lawson Family Reunion, Simply Dan String Band, Aaron Hendrick Trio, Black Mountain Throwdown, Adam Singer, Little Miami String Band, Allen Talbott, Blue Caboose and a songwriters-in-the-round session with Greg Mahan, Wolfcryer and Achilles Tenderloin. 

Click here for links to more info on all of the artists. 

More on the campground can be found here. And further info on the Foxfire Freedom Festival is available at the fest’s official site and Facebook page.

The Longstone Street Festival takes place Saturday along Main Street in Milford’s historic downtown district. The annual free event celebrates Milford with various food and arts and crafts vendors, plus a stage featuring a variety of musical acts all day long. This year, the music starts at noon with My Brother’s Keeper (featuring Andrew Hibbard). Other Longstone performers include Seabird, Harbour, Along the Shore, Taylor Shannon, Shiny and the Spoon, Daniel in Stereo, Static Wonder and a band featuring students from the School of  Rock Mason. 

For full details (including info on vendors, kids’ activities and more), visit longstonestreetfestival.com. The times the various performers are playing the Longstone Street Festival can be found at the event’s Facebook page, which also includes music and video samples of several of the artists. 

The Foxfire Freedom Festival and the Longstone Street Festival are both open to all ages and are family friendly.

by Mike Breen 08.31.2015 38 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music Video, Music News at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cincinnati at the VMAs

This year’s spectacle-of-an-awards-show on MTV had some Cincinnati flavor courtesy of Eric Nally and Walk the Moon

I tried to watch last night's Video Music Awards on MTV, but it was such an awkward and confusing clusterfuck, I couldn’t take much of it, flipping through for a few moments before moving on out of embarrassment for the people on the screen. I usually like when awards shows are a little chaotic (and the VMAs are known for their often-desperate attempts to be “not your mama’s awards show”). And I actually have always enjoyed the pop-culture pageantry of awards shows in general. But on last night’s VMAs, the annoyance factor was so high, I couldn’t even watch it on a “so bad you can’t look away” level. It made me anxious and uncomfortable, like watching someone fumbling over their words and breaking down while giving a speech in public (kind of like Kanye on last night's show). 

It wasn’t really even the performances that made it so unwatchable (most were pretty solid for what they were). It was all of the in-between absurdity that made it so cringe-worthy.

Speaking of performances, some Cincinnati artists did well on the big stage. Walk the Moon has become so experienced with these kinds of high-profile appearances that it wasn’t surprising the band’s umpteenth performance of “Shut Up and Dance” was flawless. Airing during the opening of the pre-show “rainbow carpet” portion, I found myself thinking (as I do whenever I hear the hit on the radio), “You know, they have other songs, including a new single?” “Shut Up” was considered a “song of the summer” contender, though it’s been on the radio for like 15 years (OK, it was released as a single in September of 2014, but still). Then the band played the new single, “Different Colors”! And MTV promptly cut them off. (Even “Shut Up” was interrupted mid-song so the pre-show hosts could introduce the program, the clumsiness of which ended up being indicative of the overall mess the VMAs turned out to be.)

The weirder Cincinnati-related appearance came during Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ performance of their new single, “Downtown.” I was not aware of the guest artists on the song (OK, I was not aware they had a new song), so I turned it on just as Hip Hop legends Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz were rapping while walking down the street, thinking it was some cool old-school tribute the awards show was presenting. Then Macklemore came on and I reached for the remote, still unable to figure out what was going on. Then Eric Nally from late Cincinnati greats Foxy Shazam joined in, singing the chorus and doing some of his trademark stage moves and I officially thought I was just having a dream. 

Nally did a great job and he caused a lot of buzz online, mostly of the “Who was that guy?” variety (when the single was released last week, a bunch of idiots rehashed the “Eric Nally is racist” stories from back in 2013 when Foxy Shazam released the single, “I Like It.”)

It’s weird mash-up of a song, parts of which I like, while other parts I find tremendously aggravating. Which is kind of what the VMAs were. Is this the present state of popular youth culture? Throw a bunch of unrelated stuff together, put it in a blender and then just stare at the blender, not caring or knowing what the end result is? 

MTV/Viacom had something called the O Music Awards for a few years recently, honoring things like “Favorite Fuck Yeah Tumblr,” “Favorite Animated Gif,” “Best Tweet” and “Best Artist With A Cameraphone.” The O Awards ceremony seemed unscripted and filmed without any director whatsoever. It doesn’t appear the O awards are still a thing; perhaps last night’s VMAs were a sign that the network is turning its long-running awards program into the Os? 

The VMAs were largely just a big WTF moment that people would talk about/complain about/make fun of online. Which is probably exactly what MTV was going for and, scarily, perhaps the shape of youth-oriented entertainment to come. 

by Sarah Urmston 08.21.2015 48 days ago
Posted In: Playlist at 02:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Your Weekend Playlist: August Vibes

Old, new, weird or blue – I can’t get enough. 

“Thunder Clatter” – Wild Cub

This hand-clapping, shoe-tapping goodness is by far one of the best new jams I’ve came across, making it impossible to skip when it comes up in my track library. It’s upbeat, it’s joyful, and you’ll find yourself singing the final phrase, “I feel it all in the center of it all, you’re the love of my life — the love of my life” over and over again because it’s so damn catchy. (Not to mention, sweet as a peach.) Wild Club is an American Indie group that defines itself by the brand of '80s-inspired Electro-Pop, with “Thunder Clatter” becoming their most successful track. Listen for yourself and see why.

“My Wrecking Ball” – Ryan Adams

Hands down one of my favorite artists of this lifetime. I first discovered Mr. Adams when I got stranded in Arizona after Cincinnati got hit with the blizzard of the century, and I couldn’t find a flight home. (Not complaining.) I gratefully sat outside in the desert air reading Brain On Fire, in which the author talks about how her best-kept memory was hearing Ryan Adams play. And I soon learned for myself about this man — not only known as a beyond talented musician, but his approach on stage is ridiculously comedic, with a touch of thought and wisdom. “My Wrecking Ball” live at Carnegie Hall is one of my favorite tracks to play. It’s a stunning song filled with so much life, and at the very end he draws a laugh from the audience after dropping his hands onto the keyboard and saying, “I really can’t fucking play this thing at all.”

“Nocturne” – Wild Nothing

I’m starting to notice this bouncy, '80s theme in a lot of contemporary music lately, and this song is perfect example of that exact vibe. It’s a track that’s meant to fade in and out of style, with pops of a deep, deep echoing voice flowing after each verse. Not to mention, the guitar is incredible. Lead singer Jack Tatum’s unique voice and song structure creates a sound that can almost be heard in any setting. I choose Wild Nothing for drives to work, writing at my desk or even when I eat dinner on my couch. No matter what the setting, this song easily fits.

“Drag” – Day Wave

If the artist Day Wave had to go by one phrase, it would read: “I fucked up but I don’t really care.” It’s a quick beat with softly voiced lyrics, giving off the vibe where you want to dance along but also emotionally feed into what they’re saying. Day Wave’s latest track “Drag” is easily heavy on the sounds, and although the lyrics are quick, they’re so simple to catch on to. It’s repetitive without driving you crazy. And sure, it ends before you know it. But that’s all the more reason to play it over again and again and again.

“You Really Got A Hold On Me” – She & Him 

Zooey Deschanel (She) and M Ward (Him) have seen individual success within their own careers, but together they turn out to be a surprisingly perfect duo. “You Really Got A Hold On Me” is one of the best examples of how these two artists compliment one another best as Ward’s voice echoes behind Deschanel’s elegant, classic sound so delicately. This song makes it easy to get swept away into a sway with someone you care for, and them swaying you right back. It’s meant to be her unhealthy yearning for him, and the lyrics go, “You treat me badly…I love you madly.” We’ve all been there…right?

by Sarah Urmston 08.13.2015 56 days ago
Posted In: Playlist at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Your Weekend Playlist: Bootstraps

With vocals as scratchy as sandpaper and an instrumental rock sound, Bootstraps are killing it with their soundtrack — their only soundtrack, to be exact.

Bootstraps are unique while maintaining a bit of what you’ve heard before. Lead singer Jordan Beckett’s voice is similar to Ray Lamontagne, while the overall sound resembles something along the lines of Coldplay. Explosions in the Sky’s strong yet delicate instrumentals play a part in the vibe this intimate band gives to their listeners.

Based in Los Angeles, Bootstraps’ admiration for California does not go unnoticed in their tracks. “OH CA” speaks for itself, while the rest of the jams have a majestic, passionate sound that carries you away to the oceans of Cali and the scenic roads that lead you there.

Personally, I’ve found Bootstraps to be a beautiful soundtrack for writing, reading and connecting deeply with your own emotions. (That’s right. ALL the feels.) My good friend Amanda with similar music taste commented on this newly discovered band and said, “I want to drink bourbon and sit and in a dark, rich, old bar while I listen to them.”

I couldn’t agree more.

My boyfriend pointed out that “their echo sounds like they are in the room next to you,” and although he wasn’t a fan of that, I absolutely was. If a band can prove to the listener that they sound that good in a live setting, then they are one hell of an artist, filled with the kind of talent that lacks a heavy amount tweaking. 

Bootstraps made their mark in my book. Even though their songs remain at a mostly slow pace, I still find myself turning them on even at my happiest moments.

They’re just that good.

by Sarah Urmston 08.07.2015 63 days ago
Posted In: Playlist at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Your Weekend Playlist: Volcano Choir, Repave

If I could choose one album to listen to for a month straight (because, let’s be honest, the whole “rest of your life thing” is far too unrealistic), I would choose Repave by Volcano Choir.

A buddy of mine showed this album to be about eight months ago. He was going through some pretty tough stuff at the time, and he couldn’t get enough of this album filled with sorrow, power and beauty altogether. Repave consists of tracks that can almost make listeners feel as if it was written specifically for them, and I understood immediately why he was so drawn to it.

Justin Vernon (best known as Bon Iver) took a different turn with the Volcano Choir project, breaking away from the sound of his album For Emma, Forever Ago, and the more tranquil sound Bon Iver brings to the table. According to a Pitchfork interview, Volcano Choir is supposed to be “fun.” This concept immediately causes me to smile, because as deep and emotional a man Vernon is in comparison to his previous work, it just makes sense.  

Although I said I would choose to listen to this album for an entire month straight, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be going through a tough time in your life to enjoy it. It’s beautiful in an elegant way, when the (sound) waves crashing into shots of orchestrated sounds that rise up as the track time elapses. Their album cover of a rocky ocean simply speaks for itself. Although it isn’t clear whether or not the dark skies symbolize before or after a storm, I personally imagine it as both. These songs begin with slow rhythms, delicate strummed guitars and a light tapping on the drums. Some even begin with a voice alone. But at some point, it escalates. It kicks your ass, emotionally. And just like the worst things we may face in life, the storm ends. And it slowly, but gracefully, falls.

Whether you’re a Bon Iver fan or not, this album is nothing like what you’d expect, yet, everything you’d expect. Play it over and over again. Face your storm. And rock the fuck out when you do.

by Mike Breen 07.31.2015 70 days ago

MidPoint Music Festival Adds More Acts, Venues

The 14th annual MPMF schedule is now available

The 2015 edition of the MidPoint Music Festival (owned and operated by CityBeat) is less than two months away, returning to various venues in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Sept. 25-27, and this morning organizers announced the release of the schedule and a few additional performers. 

New artists added to this year’s 14th annual event include The Besnard Lakes, Heaters, The Moth & The Flame, Alberta Cross, The Glazzies and Left & Right. A few more local acts — Mad Anthony, Bulletville and Culture Queer — were also added to the roster. Widely-acclaimed Cincy-area rockers Buffalo Killers will also perform at this year’s MidPoint. You can catch a preview when the group headlines a free show tonight on Fountain Square, part of the MidPoint Indie Summer series. The band is joined by Ohio Knife, Pop Goes the Evil and Go Go Buffalo for tonight’s 7 p.m. concert. 

The festival also announced new venues for this year’s fest. Woodward Theater and Maudie’s, plus an outdoor stage at the corner of 14th and Sycamore streets, join previous venues Washington Park, Taft Theatre’s Ballroom, The Drinkery, Mr. Pitiful’s, MOTR Pub, Christian Moerlein Brewery and Arnold’s to host this year’s 120-act lineup. 

Get a look at the schedule so far right here. Tickets are available here. And more info on today’s announcement can be found here. All details can be found at mpmf.com

by Sarah Urmston 07.30.2015 70 days ago
Posted In: Playlist at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
throw it back

Your Weekend Playlist: Throwing it Back

Even if you weren’t around for Mick Jagger when he became a Rock & Roll legend, or to hear Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” at Woodstock Music Festival, you still most likely know about it. The '60s and '70s were two of the most influential music decades of all time — a time we still appreciate this many years later, and will continue to during the years to come.

Much of my appreciation for music today comes from what I’ve heard from the past. (Thank you, Mom and Dad.) Knowing where you are often relies on knowing where you came from — a totally cheesy saying that is completely relevant to the development of music as much as your own life.

But seriously.

John Mayer’s biggest influence was Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. Kings of Leon was inspired by Neil Young, CCR and The Allman Brothers Band. Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) was fascinated with the lyrics of Bob Dylan, believing his voice paired as a good sound with his words.

Almost every great artist can root back to what inspires them, and sometimes we overlook that little detail which makes them our favorite contemporary musician.

This playlist is filled with just a handful of my favorite artists I wish I could travel back in time to see with my own eyeballs. But cranking up the volume extra loud and dancing in my kitchen will have to do for now.

Led Zeppelin because Robert Plant is the man. And for crying out loud, why NOT?

Pink Floyd because everyone needs a little dose of psychedelic. Or a lot of it.

The Rolling Stones because Mick Jagger has been kicking ass since he was 15 years old. 

Creedence Clearwater Revival because you may have seen the rain, but who will stop it?

Elton John because he’s my favorite human being that ever lived. “Tiny Dancer” makes me want to be Penny Lane from Almost Famous, singing my heart out on a bus with a band and their groupies. (But that’s just me).

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers because they’re the perfect blend of driving in the summer and smoking weed in your basement.

*Notice there are no Beatles on here. Sure, they began the “British Invasion” after breaking into the U.S. music scene in 1963, causing one of the wildest movements in music history. However, they get enough credit almost everywhere else and don’t necessarily fit into the Rock & Roll I’ve chosen for this playlist.


by Sarah Urmston 07.23.2015 77 days ago
Posted In: Playlist at 11:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
monthly favs

Your Weekend Playlist: July

Monthly favorites I can't get enough of

Everyone gets hooked on a handful of songs they can’t seem to skip over during a period of time. Well, these are mine from the month of July.

“Crystals” – Of Monsters and Men

This song kicks complete butt. The heavy drum intro leads into the crashing of symbol waves throughout the entire track, while lead singer Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir’s voice carries the powerful lyrics along the melody. This entire album is unique to their previous style, developing lyrics on a more honest and open level. Seriously, listen for yourself.

“Red Eyes” – The War On Drugs

This retro Indie Rock band from Philly wraps their beat around modern-meets-’80s music, especially their on this, their most popular jam. The impeccable beat is bob-your-head worthy, in addition to the powerful voice of the longhaired lead singer Adam Granduciel. Such a cool dude.

If you’re taking a long drive through the night with flickering highway lights passing your cracked windows and a chill in the air blowing through ever so slightly, you’ll easily feel like you’re racing back through time. It rocks so hard you’ll find it hard to skip.

“Soul Is Fire” – Elliot Root

I dare you to play this at your desk and try not to tap your foot (I tried, and it’s pretty impossible).  Scott Krueger’s upbeat and unique voice is enough to turn any song into a party, especially this particular jam. It’s catchy, it builds and it’s just plain fun. Elliot Root got their own roots in the heart of Nashville, Tenn., but they’re not what you’d expect from the South. Give them a listen and dance around with your shoes off. It won’t be hard.

“Delilah” – Florence + The Machine

Delilah” is one of Florence + The Machine’s many singles sung by the beyond-badass Florence Welch and those incredible pipes of hers. This single, and two others that were released prior, are now featured on their latest album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. The entire album just continues to follow up with Welch’s tough-as-nails attitude and lyrics, giving women the sense of ability and power they should all possess. Not to mention it makes you want to dance.

“Wolves” – Phosphorescent

We all remember 2013’s “Song for Zula,” right? Turns out Phosphorescent has other hidden gems, and I choose to listen to this gentle tune before I close my eyes for the night. It’s simple, genuine and repetitive in a way that doesn’t feel that way. The unique use of a ukulele as a long introduction pieced together with a soft, electric guitar and the thick sounds of an accordion subtly enter into the center of the song. Matthew Houck’s sad and sincere voice has that “cabin in the woods” vibe to it, similar to Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. It’s overall a beautiful piece, even if it took me this long to discover it.