Last night at the Madison Theater in Covington, CityBeat hosted the 19th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, honoring Greater Cincinnati’s rich music scene. Check out this week’s CityBeat for a full wrap-up. In the meantime, here’s who won what:
World Music/Reggae: The Cliftones
Jazz: Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra
Singer/Songwriter: Kate Wakefield
Country: Taylor Shannon
Punk/Post Punk: Tweens
Indie/Alternative: Us, Today
Electronic: Black Signal
Blues: The Whiskey Shambles
Bluegrass: Rumpke Mountain Boys
Folk/Americana: Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle
Hard Rock/Metal: Casino Warrior
R&B/Funk/Soul: Krystal Peterson & the Queen City Band
Hip Hop: Buggs Tha Rocka
Best Music Video: Molly Sullivan – “Before”
New Artist of the Year: Dawg Yawp
Best Live Act: The Cliftones
Album of the Year: Honeyspiders – Honeyspiders
Artist of the Year: Jess Lamb
If you can’t make it out to this Sunday’s Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony at the Madison Theater, you can still watch the performances and see which local musicians won by watching this year’s live stream, brought to you again by the folks at ICRC-TV.
Starting at 6:45 p.m. the show, featuring performances by The Slippery Lips, The Whiskey Shambles, Rumpke Mountain Boys, Noah Wotherspoon Band, Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Shuffle, Abiyah and Jess Lamb, will be simulcast on YouTube. You can watch below:
The show will be rebroadcast television on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. (channels TBA; we’ll keep you posted).
If you’re attending this year’s event in person Sunday, doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are available in advance here and also at the door. Click here for more info.
CityBeat was on-board for all the fun of the seventh annual ShipRocked cruise, sailing from Miami to Costa Maya, Mexico last week. The cruise provides a unique experience for diehard rock fans to get up close and personal with their favorite bands on the high seas.
ShipRocked is made up of a tight-knit group of fans called “ShipRockers” They are divided into two categories: Survivors who have endured previous ShipRocked cruises, and first time cruisers called Newbs.The ShipRocked group of friends stays in touch with each other year-round through a Facebook forum where cruisers can support each other and reminisce about their amazing cruise experiences.
Diehard Shiprockers start a day early on Sunday night at the official pre-party at the Clevelander Hotel in South Beach, where fans saw performances by The Dead Deads and a surprise acoustic performance with Joe Hottinger and Lzzy Hale from Halestorm.
Halestorm kicked off the party playing “Apolcolyptica” off their new album, Into the Wild Life, and continued to play their hits for an hour as the Norwegian Pearl sailed away from Miami.
While on board, fans saw live music everyday from 1 p.m. until 2 a.m. These fans go from show to show with no nap in sight to see all of the bands perform live. Every band performed two to three shows while on-board to give each person a chance to see every show. Bands included Halestorm, Five Finger Death Punch, Seether, Nonpoint, HellYeah, Stitched Up Heart, Red Sun Rising, Helmet, 10 Years, Avatar, We Are Harlot, Doll Skin, The Dead Deads, and many more.
Besides the non-stop Rock, other activities also take place, like Deck Wars, where fans competed against each other with members on Nonpoint band teams. Some activities were canceled due to the high winds at sea, but there was always something to do between your favorite band performances. Whether you started your day with Rock & Roll yoga, participated in scavenger hunts or tried your hand at late night karaoke.
Cruise ships in general are pretty fancy, so you really never get over the sight of dudes with mohawks and huge tattoos sipping beverages and eating their four-course meals on fine china.
On Tuesday, Avatar performed as the sunset over day two. Avatar was the most fan-requested band to be added to the ShipRocked lineup and the Swedes did not disappoint. Their high energy show kicked off a night of music that included We Are Harlot, Seether and an on-fire set by HellYeah on the deck that may have been the loudest of the week.
Band members can be seen all throughout the boat taking photos and talking to fans. All bands also participate in meet and greets, where fans can meet and take a photo with their favorites on Tuesday and Thursday.
The cruise pulled into Mexico on Wednesday and cruisers could disembark for a beach-party option in Costa Maya, where Like a Storm led beach wars and fans could relax with an open bar on the beautiful Mexican sandy beaches.
One of the highlights of Wednesday night was seeing The Stowaways perform. The Stowaways were assembled by Danny Hill with guitar axe throwers like Dave Ellefson of Megadeth/Metal Allegiance, Oli Herbert from All That Remains and Bumblefoot. The band pulled in as many artists onboard as possible and practiced for many hours on Monday and Tuesday to pull off a show that highlighted everyone on stage. Special tribute was made to Scott Weiland and there was also an all-hands-on-deck finale tribute to Lemmy Kilmister and Motorhead.
There were weather issues that forced the cruise to move live performances scheduled for Thursday indoors. Five Finger Death Punch was one of the cruise headliners that was supposed to close out the whole event on the pool deck stage. In true ShipRocked family fashion, when the storm rolled in the band stepped up immediately and said they would play two back to back shows inside the Stardust Theater so that all fans could see the final show. The band played until 2 a.m. to make sure everyone could close out the party in true Metal fashion.
For Amy Harris' photos from 2016's ShipRocked, click here.
I first encountered the phenomenon that is Josh Eagle on a warm August evening four and a half years ago. We were meeting for an interview to discuss his then new album with his band, Harvest City, A Good One is Hard to Find.
When I located him at Northside Tavern, he was seated in a corner of the patio, engrossed in a book, something lofty and cool as I recall. Before we'd said a word to each other, my initial impression of him was that he seemed like a homegrown Jack Johnson, a hippie surfer boy that had somehow been incongruously dropped, like David Bowie's man who fell to earth, in the landlocked limbo of Ohio. But as he wove his tale of creating his own unique brand of Americana/Roots/Folk and, by proxy, his life, it struck me — he was no stranger in a strange land. He recounted a boozy evening that spontaneously led to a stint on an organic raspberry farm in Hawaii, and how that experience blossomed into the epiphany that he had merely traded one paradise for another. It was clear his home had given him the inspiration, the brushes and colors with which to work, and his songs became the canvas onto which he could interpret and transfer his feelings about his real life experiences and the ephemeral melancholy and joy that resulted from them.
I went into the inteview as a big fan of the music, and left an even bigger fan of the man who made it.
Josh and I have subsequently crossed paths innumerable times, at MidPoint, Bunbury, the CEAs, local shows (his own and other bands) and at Class X Radio, where he guested one evening in 2013 to promote his self-titled third album before heading north to play a gig. Every time he and I have found ourselves in the same vicinity, the outcome was always the same — "Great to see you" pleasantries and personal updates, followed by a conversation that typically factored in triumphs, misfortunes, advances and reversals, all discussed with Josh's sublime sense of humor and the irrefutable logic that the bad times would pass and the good times should be savored while they lasted.
At his most downcast, Josh has always been optimistic, hopeful and upbeat. Those are the qualities that I will personally miss the most when Josh and his girlfriend Jacqueline Hull leave Cincinnati to begin a new leg on life's grand tour in one of the most adventurous locales on the planet, New York City. Jacqueline's marketing job has made her an offer that makes the relocation incredibly attractive, and Josh will do what he does best, which is make music and find work to fill the gap.
Before Josh and Jac's departure on Feb. 5, the pair will be hosts and stars of their own farewell tribute at Newport’s Southgate House Revival this Sunday at 2 p.m.tmp_1453480629691 It promises to be a raucous and emotional event.
"It's actually going to be in the afternoon, because I wanted kids to be able to come, like a family day," Josh says over lunch at Melt in Northside. "I want people to feel so warm and fuzzy that they're losing their minds, and what better way than to have the kids."
The possibility of a New York move came up last year when Josh did a bit of world traveling and he and Jac spent a few days in the environs of New York.
"I've always wanted to live in a place like that," Josh says. "I went to Paris, Barcelona and Madrid this past year, and you can't just pop into CVG and go straight there, you've got to go to a big hub. So when we got out at JFK, we decided to stop there for five days. We were like, 'Ha ha, we could do this,' joking around a little bit, not really considering it an option. But we knew our time had passed in Cincinnati. We felt like we had made great friendships and done great things here, but what else is out there for us?"
The gauzy NYC fantasy became an attainable reality when Jac discussed the idea of a transfer with her employer, and an actual offer turned the joke into a plan.
"Then it was like, 'What's Josh going to do?,’ ” he says. "I'm going to continue to do what I've always done — write songs, release albums, write stories and try to make it work. And usually I have. It's been great, it's been fun for me. But today I applied for a job at the Brooklyn Brewery, because I've got to have something else besides the arts that pays way too much to the landlord. But we're beyond excited."
Josh and Jac recently made an exploratory trip to New York to check out the housing situation and, against all odds, wound up finding an apartment in Brooklyn. With that part of the equation solved, the pair returned to Cincinnati with a rather strange sensation.
"We feel like that's our home already," Josh says. "We came back and we were a little melancholy. It was like, 'We just left our home. We just paid the guy a couple grand and we came back here. This feels weird.' But we're pumped, we're excited for the opportunities. To me, it's one of the greatest and definitely most diverse cities in the whole world."
Josh has several New York music contacts and plans to get settled and then continue to cultivate those relationships in order to re-launch his career. It's an odd construct for the singer/songwriter, essentially going back to square one with his music.
"First I've got to make sure that every place I play has a backline, which a lot of them do. I researched this," Josh says with a laugh. "I'm not going to be bringing my PA and my amp everywhere I go. I'll be pretty much guitar and harmonica in hand and I should be good to go. I'm really just reaching out in that way, and then seeing what other people want to play. I feel like I'm really starting from scratch again, but in the way I did when I was 15, 16 and I was figuring all this out. I've got a good amount figured out, and how to do it, it's just making the right contacts, and finding people that I like and that like me. Both sides. And Jacqueline and I have been singing together for the past year so if she'd be into continuing to do that, we'll continue to write songs together."
In the nearly three-year gap since his eponymous 2013 album, Josh has compiled somewhere between 20 and 40 new songs, which are in various stages of completion; somehow in the next couple of weeks, he's planning on doing some recording with the Harvest City's Tommy Cappel and The Ready Stance's Wes Pence. Last year, he and Jac assembled a video crew, cooked everyone dinner and the the crew shot the two of them singing their songs at their kitchen table, which they logically titled The Kitchen Sessions. The results are available to view on YouTube.
Josh has also devoted time to writing short stories, and has some unique ideas on how to distribute them into the wider world.
"My original idea was, instead of just doing a record, 10 songs and there it is, to do two songs a month, with a short story," Josh says. "Sadly, with the whole Spotify crap, it seems like people are doing bits of songs. Not that I want to give up on the idea of a full album, but this is just an experiment to see how receptive people would be to do that for six months. Twelve songs, and six stories. Is that the right math? I'm not a calculus professor."
To begin, Josh is planning to present the songs and stories independently and gauge the interest level. If it's sufficient, he'll look at the possibility of a publisher.
"I'll see how I feel about it and how other people feel about it first, before going into vast landscapes," Josh says. "But I'm having fun trying out the short story thing. Might as well do something with them. I'm sick and tired of reading them, that's for damn sure."
Josh and Jac's send-off show at the Southgate is shaping up to be a star-studded affair, with former members of the Harvest City and a slate of special guests lined up to bid the couple a fond if somewhat tearful adieu.
"My pals are coming, and it happens that they're really good," Josh notes. "Mark Becknell, who plays with Queen City Silver Stars and Frontier Folk Nebraska and does his own solo stuff, which is fantastic. Jeremy Smart, original guitar player for Harvest City, will be there and Matt McCormick, who used to play with Shoot Out the Lights and he's with Frontier full-time. That'll be the core. Then Joe Mitchell from the Mitchells will be coming in, David Faul from the David Faul Band, Travis (Talbert) and Michael (Hensley) from Frontier Folk. 2 p.m. is when (openers) The Mitchells will start, they'll do a set, Jacqueline and I will probably do some solo Kitchen Sessions stuff, and some fun covers. It's going to be a bittersweet day, for sure. A lot of 'Hey, haven't seen you in awhile, great to see you, goodbye.’ ”
Two weeks later, the pair will head east.
"I'll put the dog in the front of the cab and the cat on my lap and load our stuff in the U-Haul and bounce," Josh says. "We've been here a long time, but we've got that itch."
And with that, Josh will begin writing a new chapter in his big book of What Next. His time in Cincinnati has been fruitful, to be sure; he's recorded three well-received albums, two with Harvest City, his songs have been placed on Stalker, House and American Pickers, he took home the Singer/Songwriter Cincinnati Entertainment Award in 2012, and he's sitting on a pile of songs that could be the album that breaks him big, in New York and beyond. Not that he's fishing on that side of the boat, mind you. As he has always done, Josh Eagle will take things exactly as they come, he'll ride the crest of any wave the universe challenges him with and he'll ultimately coast safely into shore. Maybe he's a hippie surfer boy after all.
Madonna performed in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday for the first time ever. "The Material Girl" took the stage at the KFC Yum! Center around 10:30 p.m., but fans didn’t seem surprised, since the tour has had late starts each night. The tour stop is one of 64 cities on her Rebel Heart Tour.
Madonna has been the “Queen of Pop” for three decades. Most everyone would agree that she paved the way for all of the current reigning Pop stars, including Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Rihanna and she proved that she still reigns supreme on Saturday night in Louisville. She appeared on the heart-shaped arrow stage in a grand Samurai-themed setup and immediately let everyone know “I’m Madonna Bitch!” as only Madonna can.
"The Rebel Heart Tour" is filled with spectacle: a host of top dancers and elaborate stage design and set pieces, with Madonna at the center of it all. Even with the grand stage setup that takes 23 semi trucks to pull off, she remains the focus, with her over-the-top personality highlighting her art and athleticism.
The show features four themed sets clocking in at around 30 minutes each, with seamless transitions. The show opened with "Japanese inspired Samurai performance" theme, followed by "Rockabilly Meets Tokyo," "Latin Matador Gypsy" and "1920s Flapper," and each was defined equally by the music, costuming and choreography.
The music reached all the way back to 1980s “Holiday” era, but seemed to disappoint some fans because she doesn’t play the original arrangements of her classics. Most of the show highlighted her most recent album, Rebel Heart. Older songs, like "Material Girl" and "Dress You Up," were reinvented for the stage performance so that they could be inserted into the different themed sections of the show.
“Like a Virgin” was performed by a solo Madonna on stage, but took an EDM/Hip Hop turn for the worse. "Like A Prayer" and "True Blue" were both stripped down to their basic elements. “True Blue” was played as an almost acoustic song on a ukulele sitting on her Rockabilly Car Shop stage setup,
Madonna still rides the line between overtly sexual themes on stage and providing a show to which one could bring the whole family. During a few interludes she spoke directly to the Kentucky audience and at one point saying “In the words of Colonel Sanders, my six-pack is finger licking good” as her dancers all showed off their six-pack abs for the crowd. Sex was also a main theme for one set change, as the amazingly talented dancers performed acrobatics on beds in front of the big screen images that looked straight out of the Truth or Dare movie.
The show was a time capsule that took fans through albums that fill 30 years of Pop Music. Madonna showed everyone that she is still on top and, in her words, “Nobody fucks with the Queen.”
Guitarist Coleman Williams can barely see through his
overgrown hair as he leans over a 12-string guitar while he strums out “You
Knew This Was Coming” for local electronic act Dark Colour’s upcoming Animal EP. The song is the last to be
complete after two days of recording in Over-the-Rhine’s Sabbath Recording.
Williams lays down the finishing touches.
For Sabbath Recording, late-night music means polishing tunes with intricate
details that dramatically transform songs, such as the 12-string guitar that
helped turn the aggressive, almost chaotic “You Knew This Was Coming” into a more
Poppy dance track reminiscent of Depeche Mode.
Jacob Merritt, also of the Pomegranates, came up with the idea for Sabbath when
he discovered a love for recording while in college about 10 years ago. Though
his interest in recording was put on hold while the band took off, Merritt
began investing in instruments and gear for a studio and started hunting for
the perfect space when things began to wind down.
“If you work from that place, I think the other things are likely to fall into
place sonically or musically,” Karns says.
Merritt says he tries to make artists very comfortable and eliminate any
awkwardness from working with someone new. At Sabbath, the day always begins
with time to ask questions, read from a thought-provoking book and have
meaningful conversation meant to open the artists up.
“Bands consistently comment on how much more connected they feel with their
bandmates,” Merritt says. “If you aren't communicating as best you can, you
might be missing out on your best creative work. I really love seeing musicians
grow as songwriters and thinkers during their time at the studio.”
The goals of Sabbath Recording are just like the name suggests — it is a place
where artists can take time to rest, disconnecting from the stresses of
everyday life in order to focus on something they enjoy. To symbolize this,
artists leave their shoes at the door as they walk into the studio designed to
be a place of healing.
“Before starting, I always ask the artist if they love the songs, or their
voice, or instrument or whatever we will be working on that day and have them
respond,” Karns says. “It's small, but sometimes just saying aloud, ‘Yes, I
love my voice,’ can be a great way to internally prepare for the day.”
The intimate, uplifting recording sessions are what make Sabbath unique among
other studios and opportunities for musicians in Cincinnati. The team’s
dedication to giving every artist the best experience possible is evident in
even the small things they do, from strategically structuring sessions to
keeping the studio stocked with drinks and a snack pile so artists don’t have
to leave in search of nourishment.
“Jacob and Isaac put their hand in the creative direction of the music because
they feel so involved with the projects they bring in there,” says Dark Colour
vocalist Randall Rigdon. “Their connection with the artists set them apart from
other studios, where engineers can tend to act more exclusively as
In the two years that the studio has been open, artists from all over the
country have checked in. Merritt says they are open to working with anyone — and
taking the time before and during sessions to really understand who they are
While Karns is currently putting the finishing touches on Dark Colour’s Animal, which will be released with the
Montreal-based label Kitabu Records this spring, he is also excited to finish
up the quirky, trippy lounge-Punk debut album from S.R Woodward. Karns is also
developing a narrative-driven, collaborative experimental podcast project.
On Jan. 31, 2016, the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards winners will be announced at the 19th-annual ceremony/show/party at Covington’s Madison Theater. Today we are happy to announce the nominees for the CEAs, which are presented by CityBeat and honor Greater Cincinnati’s rich and eclectic music scene.
Again this year, the public was invited to submit nominee suggestions via an online ballot; a list of the top vote-getters in each category was given to members of the CEA nominating committee for consideration. The committee, which features local music writers, club owners, radio DJs and others, helped decide the final slate of nominees in the genre categories, as well as categories for Best Live Act, Singer/Songwriter and Best Music Vide (which are open to all genres). Public vote decides the winner of a majority of the categories; the nominating committee determines the winner of the Critical Achievement categories (Album of the Year, New Artist of the Year and Artist of the Year).
This year’s nominees include several artists who have previously been nominated (or won) CEAs, as well as numerous first-time nominees. Walk the Moon have scored two Artist of the Year CEAs in past years and return to the category after exploding internationally with its ubiquitous, Platinum-selling hit “Shut Up and Dance” and Talking is Hard album (both released towards the end of 2014). Singer/songwriter Jess Lamb, who kicked off 2015 by appearing as a contestant on American Idol (and is a previous CEA performer and nominee), earned five nominations, including her first Artist of the Year nod. Artist of the Year nominee Wonky Tonk (the Indie/Country guise of Jasmine Poole) also earned nominations in the Singer/Songwriter, Best Music Video and Country categories, following a 2015 that saw her Stuff We Leave Behind album earn widespread national acclaim. Perennial Hip Hop nominee Buggs tha Rocka, who has been working with indie Hip Hop legend Talib Kweli’s Javotti Media label and played the 2015 A3C Hip Hop fest in Atlanta and Cincinnati’s own Ubahn fest, earned his first Artist of the Year nomination.
First-time CEA nominees this year include Country artist Taylor Shannon, Jazz player/composer Brad Myers, Metal newcomers Casino Warrior and jazzy Soul/Pop ensemble Krystal Peterson & the Queen City Band.
The New Artist of the Year category (as well as other promising new performers) will again be spotlighted at CityBeat’s Best New Bands showcase at Bogart’s on Jan. 16. This year’s New Artist of the Year nominees are Dawg Yawp, Coconut Milk, The Skulx, Go Go Buffalo, JSPH and Mutlimagic. New Artist nominees from the 18th-annual awards program returning to the CEA ballot this year in a big way include Leggy, Honeyspiders and Noah Smith.
Public voting opens at noon on Monday, Dec. 21 here.
Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers
The Missy Werner Band
Rumpke Mountain Boys
Comet Bluegrass All-Stars
My Brother’s Keeper
Arlo Mckinley & The Lonesome Sound
Willow Tree Carolers
Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle
Honey & Houston
Elementree Livity Project
Queen City Silver Stars
Alone at 3AM
Zebras in Public
Lift The Medium
Wonky Tonk (Jasmine Poole)
Royal Holland (Matt Mooney)
Daniel Van Vechten
Daniel in Stereo
The Slippery Lips
Noah Wotherspoon Band
Silver Pockets Trio
Johnny Fink and The Intrusion
The Whiskey Shambles
The Almighty Get Down
Krystal Peterson and the Queen City Band
The Perfect Children
The Cincy Brass
Freekbass & the Bump Assembly
Dan Karlsberg and the ’Nati Six
The Faux Frenchmen
Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra
Blue Wisp Big Band
The Hot Magnolias
Buggs Tha Rocka
Best Live Act
The Whiskey Shambles
The Slippery Lips
Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle
Best Music Video
Molly Sullivan - "Before”
Jess Lamb - "Memories"
Automagik – “Pop Kiss”
Playfully Yours – “Colorvision”
Puck – “Ruined”
Electric Citizen – “Light Years Beyond”
Wonky Tonk – “Denmark”
Zebras in Public – “John Doe”
Critical Achievement Awards
Album Of The Year
Honeyspiders – Honeyspiders
Us, Today - T E N E N E M I E S
Dawg Yawp - Two Hearted
Honey & Houston – Barcelona
Jess Lamb - Circles
Noah Wotherspoon Band – Mystic Mud
Dan Karlsberg - The ’Nati 6
The Sundresses – This Machine Kills
New Artist Of the Year
Go Go Buffalo
Artist Of The Year
Walk the Moon
Buggs tha Rocka
David Rhodes Brown's Warsaw Falcons and Nick Dellaposta's To No End could not possibly be any further from each other on the musical continuum.
The Falcons, recently reborn with the classic lineup of Brown on guitar/vocals, the thunderous John Schmidt on bass and the irrepressible Doug Waggoner on drums, are Rockabilly personified, heavy on the Rock and hypercaffeinated to the point of heart palpitations.
At the other end of the spectrum, Dellaposta's To No End is a Prog-tinted Blues unit with a propensity for lilting atmospherics and visceral Pop/Hard Rock anthemics.
Oddly enough, both bands are touting new releases, and each one is, in different ways, associated with a legendary entertainment figure. The Warsaw Falcons' new EP, Warsaw Falcons Live with Bobby Keys, features the work of the saxophonist sharing the title, one of Rock's most travelled and compelling sidemen who boasted near-membership with The Rolling Stones and sessions with Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Carly Simon and three of the four Beatles, among many others.
To No End's new video for the track "Twisted Knives" from its third album, Remora, features the on-screen talents of Michael Parks, one of Hollywood's most versatile and durable actors whose television credits include Then Came Bronson in the late '60s and Twin Peaks in the '90s, and who has since become part of Quentin Tarentino's ensemble of reliable players.
The Warsaw Falcons' latest archive release is a five-song excerpt from a live recording done at Top Cat's in Clifton in the very early '90s. Keys, already a fixture in the industry (his iconic blowing was all over the Stones' Sticky Fingers, one of Rock's acknowledged masterworks), had played with Brown in Nashville and had become a semi-official member of the Falcons, eventually guesting on their 2003 album Right It on the Rock Wall.
At the time of the Top Cat's gig, Brown had just returned to Cincinnati to care for aging mother, and had reassembled the Falcons for occasional in-town performances. Bassist John Schmidt reclaimed his spot with the band, while guitarist George Cunningham and drummer Maxwell Schauf rounded out the quartet.
For the Top Cat's recording, the Falcons blew through a jumped-up set of band faves with Keys, visiting from Nashville to lend his towering sax fills. Although there was a good deal more material delivered at the Top Cat's set, the five tracks on the EP represent the songs where Keys was most directly and completely spotlighted. And Live with Bobby Keys might well stand as the most incendiary and pulse pounding 22-and-a-half minutes released this year.
The release starts with the rafter-rattling thrash of "Jello Sal," a five-minute Rockabilly workout featuring Brown's distinctive vocal rasp and his and Cunningham's slinky yet muscular guitar gyrations, grounded by Schmidt's bedrock solid bass and Schauf's technicolor timekeeping. On the EP’s second track, "Sometimes," Keys intros the song by thanking the Falcons for inviting him to the gig and pledging his admiration for Cincinnati and its desire to Rock and Roll.
"That's what we do," Keys declares in his authentic Texas accent. "Rock and roll!"
What follows is the Falcons' version of a ballad, a slow-cooking slab of meaty, bluesy Rock that gives way to its primal impulses and howls with blood-boiling intensity, even as the band maintains an almost laconic pace. Brown and the Falcons mix a jaunty Blues stroll with an effervescent Chuck Berry bounce on "You Can't Do That to Me," switching to spy-theme noir for the insistently smoky and sultry "Two Cigarettes in the Dark" and finishing with a pulsating version of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels' classic cover of the Righteous Brothers' "Little Latin Lupe Lu," with Brown doing his best hip-twitching, lip-hitching impression of Elvis while the band kicks up its heels and swings with deliberate abandon.
Through it all, Keys — who passed away last year at age 70 — does what he always did best; find the emotional heart of the songs and then play the living hell out of them. Keys had the intuitive gift to know when to serve as a brilliant supporting accompanist or elevate his position to an equal partnership in the arrangement, as evidenced by his call and response lick-trading on "Jello Sal." Brown says there may be more recordings of Keys in the Falcons' extensive and as-yet largely unplumbed archive. Based on the results of Live with Bobby Keys, which was officially be released at a Thanksgiving Eve extravaganza at the Southgate House Revival, we can only hope there's a lot more.
Meanwhile, To No End's new release, Remora, the band's third album since forming in 2012, is not only musically dichotomous from the Falcons' EP, it's quantitatively different as well, with an additional 11 tracks over two discs. But, as noted, the one area where the two bands intersect is in their use of a celebrity guest to enhance their presentation.
With TNE, it's the presence of famed actor Michael Parks in the band's video for "Twisted Knives." TNE frontman Nick Dellaposta secured Parks' services for the video through Dellaposta's lifelong friend Josh Roush, whose journey is the subject of "Twisted Knives," perhaps the most personal and deliberately direct song he's ever written.
A decade ago, Roush departed Ohio for Los Angeles, where he has worked in the film industry in various capacities, which led to a position last year on the set of director Kevin Smith's horror film Tusk. During production, Roush met and became friends with Parks, who had a role in Tusk. When Dellaposta invited Roush to partner up to produce the "Twisted Knives" video (the two had worked together on TNE's first video, "Somethin' Wrong with You"), the pair decided to ask Parks if he would be interested in appearing the video, which is largely made up of eerie atmospheric footage that Roush has shot himself over the years.
As for the rest of Remora, Dellaposta takes To No End further down the similar path he and the band explored on last year's excellent Peril & Paracosm, which blended the Kenny Wayne Shepherd-meets-Warren Haynes
Blues direction of the band’s debut with a blistering ’70s Hard Rock energy. In addition, Dellaposta has divided Remora into a pair of 30-plus-minute sides that are stylistically distinct. The harder Side A is subtitled “The Underworld,” while the gentler and more contemplative Side B is themed “The Great Unknown.”
“The Underworld” songs clearly follow Peril & Paracosm's general blueprint, with Dellaposta and guitarist Grant Evans soaring and scorching with the intensity and focus of '70s guitar heroes like UFO's Michael Schenker and Budgie's Tony Bourge, polished to a contemporary but never overproduced shimmer. The opener and ostensible title track, "The Afterlife II (The Underworld)," is a perfect example of Dellaposta's modern Blues/Hard Rock translation, a riff-laden celebration of the forms painted with a new brush. The guitars careen and howl while the rhythm section of bassist Eli Booth and drummer David Nester provide a sturdy but flexible foundation for the song's shifty mood swing between jaunty minor key melodicism and darkly menacing wordplay.
Elsewhere, "Shatter" starts out with the reflective quiet of an O.A.R./Red Wanting Blue ballad but becomes more forceful and expansive as the song unfolds. "Everybody Talks" offers an indiosyncratic New Wave clockwork guitar motif that displays an interesting new songwriting wrinkle for TNE, while "Like Hell" and "Play That Card" show that Dellaposta's heart will never stray too far away from his KWS/Gov't Mule roots — even if they come out in fascinatingly different ways.
Remora's second "side," “The Great Unknown,” dials down the volume but not the songwriting intensity. Two songs from “The Underworld,” "Twisted Knives" and "Trash Day," are reprised on the second disc, with "Twisted Knives II" presented in an almost Folk/Americana light. "Trash Day" is similarly counterpointed between the pummeling Zeppelinesque boogie of “The Underworld” version and the lilting yet still powerful take of "Trash Day II.” And for sheer beauty, look no further than the acoustic heart-tug of "Hinterland Empire," a gorgeous evocation of The Beatles' classic "Blackbird."
While Remora's 16 songs would have fit comfortably onto a single CD, Dellaposta was clearly more interested in thematic continuity than production costs. Rather than interspersing Remora's more sedate songs with its amped-up fist-pumping anthems, Dellaposta and To No End show two different sides of themselves to suit your listening moods, further proof of his thoughtful creativity and amazing talent.
Warsaw Falcons’ Warsaw Falcons Live with Bobby Keys is currently only available at live shows (look for copies in brick-and-mortar, local-friendly record shops soon). Click here and here for show updates and more.
That old trope about doers doing and non-doers teaching holds no currency with saxophonist Dave McDonnell. The Chicago native relocated to Cincinnati six years ago to complete his doctorate Jazz studies at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which ultimately led to positions at UC and the University of Dayton, teaching both music and music technology.
At the same time, McDonnell never abandoned his love for performance, composition and recording. Early in his Jazz career, McDonnell divided his time between waiting tables, teaching private music lessons and playing in an impossible number of bands; he even worked with Elephant 6 icons Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control (studio sessions with the former, touring with the latter).
Family life and academic rigors forced McDonnell to dial down his band participation — he currently works with Michael Columbia, Diving Bell and Herculaneum — but his reduced roles also provided him the impetus to resume exploring his own work, leading him to assemble a coterie of friends and bandmates from his Chicago experience (guitarist Chris Welcome, bassist Joshua Abrams, drummer Frank Rosaly, vibraphonist Jason Adaiewicz and cellist Tomeka Reid) and form the Dave McDonnell Group.
Utilizing a blend of crafted and precise composition and free-form improvisation, McDonnell created a masterful and acclaimed debut album, last year's the dragon and the griffin. The album was by turns contemplative and explosive, but always guided by the spirit of Ornette Coleman's similarly constructed pieces, where the tunes' purposefully written passages set the tone and established a foundation and framework for the band's circuitously invigorating spontaneity.
Just a little over a year and a half later, McDonnell and his Group (a version of which features Cincinnati players for area live shows) have returned, once again eschewing upper-case titling and stodgy tradition on the appropriately christened the time inside a year, his debut for esteemed Chicago Jazz label Delmark. While McDonnell adheres to his winning compositional-vs.-improvisational strategy on the time inside a year, he also adds a new wrinkle with a slightly older piece from his canon, namely his three-movement suite "AEpse," which grew out of his doctorate studies at CCM and which he debuted in Chicago two years ago.
"AEpse" stands in contrast to the grooves, shifting rhythms and dazzlingly intricate harmonics of the rest of the time inside a year. "AEpse," as a three-part, 11-minute piece of music, explores a chilly soundscape of electronic expanse, appointed by Reid's mesmerizing cello incantations, which drift through McDonnell's constructed atmosphere like smoke in a virtual opium den. But rather than present this sonorously beautiful piece as a whole, McDonnell chose to intersperse the three "AEpse" movements within his gyrational Bop tracklist, allowing them to serve as way stations along the album's journey.
And what an impressive journey it proves to be. Opening with the quietly propulsive "Bullitt," moving into the slinkily engaging and sensual "Vox Orion" and on to the jaunty "The Contract with Bees," McDonnell displays his considerable skills as both a powerful frontman and a generous bandleader, jumping to the fore with appropriately frenetic flurries of notes or delicately woven passages, or yielding the floor to Adasiewicz's fluid and enchanting vibraphone runs or Welcome's always brilliant guitar contributions, all of it made possible by the gymnastics of Abrams and Rosaly's limber and diverse rhythm section.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the swinging, shattering "Baker's Man," which begins and ends with the band in unison on the song's loping theme and fills its center with a dissonant Sun Ra/Zappa/Beefheart explosion of sounds and ideas. As atypical as it is sonically to the rest of the time inside a year, it perfectly points up McDonnell's incredible compositional skills and DMG's extraordinary ability to go completely off the map and then return to the radar in a fraction of a heartbeat.
Cincinnati has enjoyed a long and storied Jazz tradition, spawning some of the most profoundly talented and inventive players in the country, but even its most revered alumni must be sitting up and taking notice of the jaw-dropping accomplishments of Dave McDonnell and his innovative and musically curious Jazz collective. Clearly McDonnell's depth and breadth of experience informs every second of the Dave McDonnell Group's incredible output, but it is the application of that experience to his own work that is so consistently impressive. Two years and two albums in, and the anticipation of where DMG might head next is palpable and exciting.
THE DAVE MCDONNELL GROUP, with guitarist Brad Myers, bassist Peter Gemus and drummer Dan Dorff, plays Urban Artifact on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Greater Cincinnati is now home to several major music events. Summer festivals like Bunbury and Midpoint capture a lot of the public interest and fill downtown for days at a time. But for fans like me who prefer their music with a bit more bite, there’s really only one fest in the area that matters — Ironfest. The two-day event, now in its sixth year, is held at Newport’s Southgate House Revival to honor the late “Iron” Mike Davidson, a local musician whose passing inspired the festival’s creation. I may have gone to a Midpoint show or two this year (Jameson makes memories hazy), Ironfest is the one event that I truly look forward.
The founder of Ironfest, John Gerhardt, created the show to raise money for Davidson’s family and he is steadfast in his goal. Tickets for the event are $5 online or $10 at the door for each night, and I suspect that price will stay the same for years to come. With over 50 bands on the bill, the price-to-band ratio obviously can’t be beat, and that’s just how Gerhardt likes it. The low-price mantra even carries over to the merch. An Ironfest shirt will set you back $5 and items like hoodies and hats are also reasonably priced. Even the pizza that’s brought in to help soak up the booze is free, with only a donation requested.
While the fundraising tradition that built Ironfest continues, the festival itself has grown immensely over the last few years. Gerhardt works all year to bring together local and regional talent to fill the house’s three stages, and this year’s lineup was the most eclectic and vast group of bands fans have seen yet. Groups came from Cleveland, Dayton, Chicago and Boston to be a part of this year’s Ironfest, and the genre mix was as wild as ever.
The majority of the bands fell into the heavier genres of Rock & Roll, Punk or Metal, but this year saw Industrial music (Chicago’s Hide), an experimental string music (Kate Wakefield) and Electronica (Black Signal) represented, amongst many other styles. To say that a fest has a little bit of everything is an advertising trope nowadays, but having this kind of diversity in one house over a two-day period is pretty damn impressive. Especially when walking from one room to the other provided massive swings in sound each time you transitioned. The lineup was spread out in such a way that if you truly wanted to see every band (a daunting task to be sure), you could give each group at least some of your time.
As music journalist, Ironfest makes my job easy. With so many great bands onstage at once, there’s bound to be some that I haven’t heard or a young band who’s just starting out. Buying several CDs in one night may hurt my wallet, but my ears couldn’t be happier. Thanks Hide, Good English, Tiger Sex and The Skulx for all making one hell of a first impression on a grizzled veteran (which is a fancy way of saying the drunk guy whose neck is sore from head-banging this weekend).
That isn’t to say that returning bands were slouches this weekend either. There were a ton of amazing performances, but a few are worth a special mention. Valley of the Sun played its first show in months in Southgate House’s Lounge and promptly blew eardrums with a six-song set that featured three new tracks from the band’s upcoming release. The Honeyspiders released its highly-anticipated debut album in conjunction with their Ironfest appearance and offered something special for fans of the Harrison brothers’ previous band when they were joined onstage by former Banderas guitarist Jesse Ramsey (in town playing with his new band, Punching Moses) to perform an old Banderas track to round out the set.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dirty elephant in the room. With Mainstay Rock Bar’s closing late last year, Cincinnati filth mongers Dandelion Death no longer had a place to hold its yearly show. So when the group were added to this year’s Ironfest lineup, there’s was much rejoicing. When the band took the stage to close out Saturday night in the Sanctuary, the room was full of people who had no idea what they were in for. But those of us who did got to see a Dandelion Death at its most ridiculous, with a stage large enough for the band and its female companions to actually fit on. While Mainstay’s center stage pole was sorely missed, it didn’t hinder any of the ridiculous Metal that only Dandelion Death can get away with.
While Ironfest may be built on a very Metal foundation, for many, it is about more than the music — it’s about community. For anyone plugged into Cincinnati’s Rock scene, Ironfest is akin to a high-school reunion, except everyone’s drunk and people are actually having fun. The sheer number of musicians in the house leads to tons of Rock & Roll run-ins with longtime friends. At times, it’s hard to go outside for a smoke or grab a drink at the bar because walking the 20 feet to either location involves stopping, saying hi to an old friend and catching up. By now, my friends know to just abandon me if I stop on the way to a destination; I’ll catch up eventually.
Ironfest started as a way for one friend to honor the life and memory of a fallen buddy and, at its core, that is what Ironfest still is. But in the past six years, Ironfest has grown into a massive beast that many music fans eagerly look forward to year after year. Those that knew “Iron” Mike speak of the man with nothing but the upmost respect and fondness. His passing truly rocked those who knew him and Ironfest’s origination becomes obvious if you hear just one of his friends speak about his legacy. While I never knew the man, every year I thank him, because his memory spawns an amazing event full of amazing bands and people, and personally brings me so much joy. So cheers to you, Mike; I may not have known you, but I really wish that I did.