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by Deirdre Kaye 04.02.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Review: Alison Krauss at Taft Theatre

Some musicians get jaded and cynical when they become mostly known for only a handful of songs that aren’t even necessarily the best examples of their work. When this happens, bands sometimes fall entirely on their most popular songs and use them as a crutch. Or they shy away from playing them at all. 

Alison Krauss and Union Station may have earned their biggest media coverage and added the most fans when they were featured on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack, but they’ve released far more music than just that handful of songs.

After being in the music business for over 20 years, the gang know how best to handle appealing to their most faithful fans as well as their soundtrack buddies. At the Taft Theatre March 31, the ensemble played the best songs from its newest album, Paper Airplane, and quite a few older favorites. Because so many members of Union Station have careers outside the band, the night also featured a few solo performances. Alison sang “Let Me Touch You for Awhile” and Dan Tyminski played the “singing voice of George Clooney” when he revived “Man of Constant Sorrow.”  Dobro legend Jerry Douglas even played a little bit of Paul Simon – a sneak peek at his forthcoming album, perhaps?

The group also had to appease concert goers who may only know Alison and the boys from the O Brother songs or her duet with Brad Paisley. They did this with an encore full of those well-known hits. Included in that mix were two verses of “Down to the River to Pray” and the last verse of “Whiskey Lullaby” (with just Krauss backed up by her bassist). All of those songs, by the way, were played with instruments unplugged as the members leaned in around one vintage microphone.

The night was enjoyable for fans on any part of the dedication spectrum. The band members teased each other and had fun together on the stage and their smiles were, as cliché as it sounds, contagious. The music Saturday night couldn’t have sounded any better if you were listening to the group's albums through a sweet-assed Bose system. They performed flawlessly.

 
 
by Mike Breen 10.22.2013
Posted In: Local Music, Music Commentary, Reviews at 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: Dark Colour - 'Prisoner'

In Electronic music, the punkish encouragement to “just jump in and see what happens,” regardless of proficiency, resulted in the creation of Krautrock, Hip Hop, Synthpop, New Wave and many other styles. Some of the top innovators of those genres were driven by a “naïvite” that added a more “human” element (going against the common critique that all Electronic music is cold and robotic). Today, with the hugely increased access to affordable tools to create Electronic music, that more exploratory approach is back and thriving, resulting in innumerable subgenres and an unending stream of adventurous bedroom artists.

Cincinnati’s Randall Rigdon, Jr., is one of those bedroom maestros. Using the name Dark Colour (fleshed out with other musicians in a live setting), Rigdon doesn’t let all of those subgenres distract him, instead embracing a variety of Electro styles and putting them together in his own personalized way. The results are delectable.

Dark Colour’s recent full-length debut, Prisoner, is reminiscent of hearing things like New Order, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT or Neon Indian for the first time. Rigdon has solid writing and lyrical skills, but it’s the multi-hued textures, kaleidoscopic array of synth sounds, endearing beats and a shifting ambiance (showcasing his deft ability to create distinct moods) that set Dark Colour apart from the EDM pack.

Prisoner (which follows 2011's debut EP, Memories, a release that was pulled from shelves after a dispute over an uncleared sample) ranges from Ambient dreamscapes and artsy Indie Electronica to funky Chillwave and bubbling Electro Pop, with many tracks containing multiple elements of each. Frequently slathered with a trippy glaze of effects, Rigdon’s melodies are most often delivered in either a hushed, spectral murmur or a whirling falsetto, while the eclectic, always-danceable beats have a surprisingly live feel, even when resembling something conjured from an ancient drum machine. There’s also a refreshing lack of current dancefloor trends; not that it would kill the album, but dropping in a grinding Dubstep groove, for example, would totally break its often hypnotic spell.

On Prisoner, Dark Colour makes digital music with an analog heart, instantly catchy Electro Art Pop that never panders and frequently surprises.

Learn more about Dark Colour here and give a listen to Prisoner below.

 
 
by Mike Breen 05.02.2013
Posted In: Local Music, Live Music, Reviews at 11:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Tracy Walker Releases First Album in 10 Years

Veteran Cincinnati singer/songwriter presents "listening party" tonight in Oakley

Tracy Walker has been such a consistently popular presence on the live music scene, it’s hard to believe the Cincinnati singer/songwriter hasn’t put out a new release in a decade. Ten years after her excellent sophomore album, All This Time, Walker finally entered the studio with super-producer Erwin Musper and, now, she is ready to start celebrating her third full-length release, Coetaneous Vibrations. The album is available for download now through Walker's site here (under the "Music" tab) or you can order a hard-copy CD from CD Baby here.

Walker has the kind of voice and writing talent that just feels natural, so recording her might seem like an easy job. But Musper, as a really good producer should, truly pulls a lot out of Walker, showing her to be an even more dynamic artist and performer. Previously, Walker’s recorded material was always hard to describe, with elements of Folk, Pop, Soul and Rock dancing together for her own singular style.

But on Vibrations, Musper fleshes out many of the tracks with a classic Soul/R&B vibe, enlisting some top local players to create the crisp musical backdrop to Walker’s spine-chilling vocals and songs (a handful of which were re-recordings from prior releases).

Opening track “All My Life” has the vintage punch of seminal Soul artists from the ’60s and ’70s (and many of today’s revivalists), complete with a punctuating horn section, while the ballad “Blue” drips with emotion over a slow-burning Blues groove and tracks like “Hard Way” and “Brand New Life” are more upbeat and Pop/Rock-like, suitable for radio airplay.

Tonight at 6 p.m., Walker will host an album release/listening party at The Art of Entertaining (2019 Madison Ave., Oakley). The event will include snacks, wine, beer and live acoustic music from Walker. Tickets are $30. Seating is limited; for reservations, call 513-871-5170. You can also catch Walker live around town in the coming weeks. Visit tracywalker.com for local dates and more info on Coetaneous Vibrations.

Here's the new album's lead-off track, "All My Life," which appeared in an earlier form on Walker's 1998 solo debut, Naked:


 
 
by Deirdre Kaye 02.02.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 04:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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The "Live Music in a Movie Theater" Experience

Big-screen broadcast of Goat Rodeo Sessions live proves entertaining, but not as much as the real deal

The men of Goat Rodeo Sessions played an entire world tour on Tuesday night. And not once did Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Stuart Duncan or Edgar Meyer let on that they were tired. That might have something to do with the fact that they never left Boston.

Any time a band puts out a new album, the follow-up step is to schedule a tour. With an album as well-received as Goat Rodeo Sessions, the supergroup owed it to their fans to let them hear and see it performed live. But what happens if the album is made by four people with four separate careers? Even a week-long tour might be hard to pull off.

Enter Fathom. Fathom earns money and saves arts lovers hard-earned cash by turning select movie theaters into performance venues. They present both one-time events, like the Goat Rodeo Sessions performance, and also series, like the entire Metropolitan Opera concert season.

Read More

 
 
by Brian Baker 06.15.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Reviews at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Review: Gossip's 'A Joyful Noise'

Over the past dozen years, Beth Ditto and Gossip have finetuned their lo-fi Indie Rock presentation into a wild pastiche of fist-pumping Punk, funky Soul/Pop and Indie Dance Rock, with a stage component that blends campy theater of the absurd with thrift store chic. Ditto and guitarist Nathan Howdeshell have never forgotten their Arkansas roots but have masterfully absorbed the musical zeitgeist of their Northwest environment and assimilated it into their broad range of oddly complementary influences, particularly on their 2006 breakthrough Standing in the Way of Control and their 2009 hit Music for Men.

On A Joyful Noise, Gossip’s fifth and finest album, the band and producers Mark Ronson and Brian Higgins have crafted a set that blends a soaring Gospel vibe with a slamming Indie Rock foundation and accessorizes it with bristling Dance Punk and washes of Electronic atmosphere.

The opening salvo of “Melody Emergency” finds Ditto warbling with Kate Bush’s intensity and Lene Lovich’s chirp while Howdeshell cranks out glammy chords worthy of Marc Bolan and drummer Hannah Blilie nails down the perfect groove. The trio immediately veers into should-be-a-mega-club-hit Dance Pop territory with the dramatic and anthemic “Perfect World,” a track that Madonna would embrace but could never pull off, and the funky Electropop novelty of “Get a Job.”

With typical bravado and style and an impressively evolving maturity, Gossip push the aptly titled A Joyful Noise in a dozen different directions while maintaining a firm grip on their own malleable sonic identity.



 
 
by Jeff Roberson 04.26.2012
Posted In: Festivals, Live Music, Reviews at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Merle Fest 2012: Getting Psyched

(Editor's Note: CityBeat's annual coverage of music festivals around the country started off its 2012 campaign with Emily Maxwell's write-ups from South By Southwest in Austin in March. But our coverage picks up in earnest — ahead of the barrage of late spring/summer fests — with this week's dispatches from North Carolina's MerleFest. Local musician Jeff Roberson will be filing reports and uploading photo galleries from the event all weekend. The fest kicks off tonight and below is Jeff's first report from the field. Get a look at the MerleFest lineup and more here.)

Weds April 25: Super 8 Motel, Hillsville, Va.

Welcome to the 25th MerleFest. Well, not yet, as I'm holed up in a motel in Hillsville, Va. thrilin' and chillin' to Vin Diesel and The Rock tearing up Brazil. I will arrive at Merle Fest tomorrow morning. As a preface, I thought I'd drop some MerleFest facts on you all. In the biz, this is known as regurgitating the press release. Well, not really, it's letting the PR folks do your work for you, and what the hell is wrong with that? Nothing, that's what.

MerleFest is a music and mountain heritage festival dedicated to the memory of Eddy Merle Watson, the late son and musical partner of legendary guitarist Doc Watson. Located in the foothills of the Blueridge Mountains in Wilkesboro, NC, on the campus of Wilkes Community College just down US 421 where, in 1866, ol' Tom Dula (in western NC parlance, that's pronounce "doolee") killed his fiancé Laura Foster (yep, as you can see, already ankle deep in old timey mountain mojo).

The festival features more then 90 acts of mountain, Bluegrass, Cajun, various forms of acoustic Blues, the occasional Alternative Country, all kinds of synthesis of the aforementioned musical styes, and, for some reason, last year, a washed-up Arena Rock act more suited to A Taste of Blue Ash — aka The Doobie Brothers. Go figure. There are also local non-profits selling food, dozens of vendors selling everything from Red Dirt T-Shirts to hippy garb and the Heritage Tent where accomplished crafts people demonstrate and sell pottery, carved bowls, musical instruments, hand tooled leather goods and split oak baskets.

Over the next four days, I'll be telling you about the music, people and crafts — the people playing, attending and exhibiting at MerleFest. I won't be paying much attention to the big nighttime acts. They don't particularly interest me. I'll be writing about the lesser known, regional acts like Blind Boy Chocolate, old timers like Roy Bookbinder and other bands I stumble across as well as my favorite 2011 Merle Fest experience — participating in a workshop on the Sacred Harp-style of congregation singing.

Did I mention it's alcohol and tobacco free? That's a bug and a feature.
 
 
by Brian Baker 03.28.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Reviews at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Review: The Mars Volta - 'Noctourniquet'

From the moment Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala left At the Drive-In to form The Mars Volta over a decade ago, the duo and their co-conspirators have made a conscious effort to challenge even their staunchest fans and completely confound their easily befuddled critics.

Finding their general direction somewhere in the floating nexus of Neo Prog, Metal, Math Rock, Fusion, Psychedelia, Electronica, Space Rock and Latin American music, The Mars Volta has applied their dizzyingly complex genre formula to straightforward album structures, song cycles and full blown concept albums with a constant eye towards disrupting music’s status quo, whatever that happens to be at any given moment.

The Mars Volta’s sixth full length, Noctourniquet, comes after a somewhat fractious period in the band’s history. Rodriguez-Lopez reportedly finished the music three years ago and argued with Bixler-Zavala about the time he was taking on lyrics and vocals; Rodriguez-Lopez eventually concentrated on his solo work as an alternative.

Noctourniquet finds The Mars Volta pursuing a sound they’ve characterized as Future Punk, a simplified (for them, anyway) version of their standard musical calculus. “Empty Vessels Make the Loudest Sound” is nearly a gorgeous Pop ballad with Pearl Jam’s heart and Metallica’s verve, while the album’s first single, “The Malkin Jewel” (listen below), has the reeling barroom swagger of Nick Cave covering Kurt Weill. Like 2009’s Octahedron, Noctourniquet offers moments of relative reflection (“Lapochka,” “Trinkets Pale of Moon”), serious intent (“In Absentia”), head spinning polyrhythms (“Molochwalker”) and blistering intensity (“Zed and Two Naughts”).

If Nocturniquet represents any kind of compromise for the Mars Volta, it has clearly been accomplished on their own singular terms.



 
 
by Deirdre Kaye 10.07.2013
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: Phoenix and The Vaccines at LC Pavilion (Columbus, Ohio)

Justin Hayward-Young stole my soul.

When The Vaccines stormed onstage at the LC Pavilion on Oct. 3 to open for Phoenix, they rained a holy hell of guitar and vocals down upon their fans. And the people drowned in their own admiration for the band. Why? I firmly believe that The Vaccines are what Rock should be but hasn’t been for a long time. They don’t look like professors, duck their heads nervously at cheers or aim to take over a singing contest. They’re grungy — even sloppy at times — and they know how to be (or at least try to be) Rock Stars.

Hayward-Young has an overwhelming stage presence. Every move he makes seems to beg for attention and yet it all seems so visceral and unplanned. There’s nothing staged about his guttural cries or his playful cuddling of a frantic sound-tech. As hot as any guy is with a guitar hanging around his body, he is best when he’s instrument-free and unrestrained. Untethered from an amp, he’s loose and limber with flailing legs and arms and a floppy, flying head of hair. His actions are reminiscent of Rock Gods, his looks are the epitome of Grunge, his music oozes Punk spirit. And his voice? Dear God.

The Vaccines touched me. I felt it. Not in the blurred lines of Robin Thicke kind of way or in the Holy Ghost-spiritually-moved me way. I felt Hayward-Young’s baritone in my ears, my chest, my gut. I felt the band’s silly "Oo"-ing in my lips when I puckered up and cooed along. I felt the thrust of guitar in my hips and my feet when I realized I was dancing against (and perhaps inadvertently humping) the barricade.

I am still breathless. I am still sweaty. I may have bounced in my seat all the way home from Columbus.
That said, please do not write-off this enthusiasm as fan-girling and something to ignore. The Vaccines have been on my radar for a few years now and I’ve liked them well enough. Without a doubt, though, they are the kind of band that warrants seeing live. They bring an atmosphere with them that one must take part in to truly appreciate The Vaccines’ style. No one can say Nirvana or The Clash were better on an album than at a gig. Rock music isn’t meant for stereos or car rides. Sure, CDs (shut up, audiophiles) can help or create a mood. However, the live atmosphere greatly improves Rock … especially the grungy, Punk-infused Rock made by The Vaccines.

It’s all so good, so enchanting, so consuming and overpowering when you hear it live. When it came crashing to an end, I swear I could feel the vacant spot where my heart had once been. They’ve carried it off to wherever they’re going next.

Luckily, I didn’t need my heart to have a good time with Phoenix.

You know how there are “break-up songs” but then there are also completely normal songs that you can no longer emotionally stand to listen to anymore? I think the same happens with bands. Sometimes a break-up or bad era in your life can ruin a band in the future.

The guy who introduced me to Phoenix blackened my heart. By that I mean he ended things in such an awful way I ended up too mad to be broken-hearted. He ruined a couple bands for me.

But Phoenix is much too good for that. They’re better than any relationship, almost as good as sex. I already knew this. Their concert, though, solidified everything. Phoenix kicks exes in the groin, fills voids with bright, colorful lights and pounding beats and sends jilted lovers dancing in circles with middle fingers in the air. Lead singer Thomas Mars says you must “dansez” and dance you will.

LC Pavilion is far from a big venue and Phoenix could have easily gotten away with the bare minimum of flash. Apparently, the Parisians believe in the “go big or go home motto,” though, because they went all out. From the stories-high video screen behind them to the perfect (PERFECT) lighting sequences and color tones, they turned their music into an entire show, set a different atmosphere for every song and seemed just as into the mood they’d created as the thousands of fans screaming their heads off and dancing away their worries.

They put out energy and received it right back from their fans. It was utterly refreshing to watch as the six guys of Phoenix eat up the attention and love with shit-eating grins on their faces, dance around like twitching maniacs and seem genuinely happy that America has finally caught onto them. They might have the set design of a band like Muse or Coldplay, but they lack the ego. They know just how cool and remarkable it is for such average guys to make a whole room of people go wild with their far-from-average music.

They get even better, too. Despite all the bright lights and flash, they still found ways to connect with the crowd. Namely by throwing Mars into the thick of it. First, he stood at the barricade, singing his soul out while fans petted his every inch and tousled his hair. Later, during what had to have been the longest and best encore ever, he sat down on the barricade and sang a slower song. The next thing the audience knew, he was pushing his way to the back of the room, up onto the LC Pavilion’s slightly elevated mezzanine area and then working his way across to the other side. For a while, all I could see was the reddish-orange mic cord rolling ever closer to me. Then I touched Thomas Mars when he passed beside me. (However, I said, “Thanks” instead of “Merci.” Je le regrette.)

The night ended with Mars and Co. pulling a few dozen fans onto stage to dance and shake through the last few lines of the song. And then they were gone.

And I was gone. The Vaccines stole my heart and Phoenix turned my body into a damp nothingness. I was ready to drive to Nashville and do it all over again the next day. Sadly, it was sold out. Good, though. They deserve it.

 
 
by Blake Hammond 08.02.2013
Posted In: Reviews, Local Music at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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REVIEW: Those Guys' 'For Good Reason'

When I interviewed Cincinnati's Those Guys earlier this year, I saw an endless amount of drive and potential coming from a group of kids who loved making Hip Hop music. What I didn’t see was an identity. Their song “You Ain’t Know” had shown that they had the talent to become something more and the video that accompanied the track garnered the group a lot of internet attention. But the question still remained — could they find the same success without mimicking themselves or blowing up another vehicle in their next video shoot?

For Good Reason answers this question with a resounding "Yes!" In only eight tracks, coming in under a half-hour, Those Guys transformed themselves from just a local group of rappers to a legitimate Hip Hop duo on the brink of something greater.

The track “Madness is the Method” not only exhibits Jova’s ever growing ability as a producer, transitioning from a very minimalistic style beat (reminiscent of a Chuck Inglish production) to a Hip Hop club-banger by the end of the song, but also shows a new side of J-Al. He doesn’t come in until the last minute of the song, but in that short period of time he exhibits a hunger and fire (almost angry, but in a good way) that he has never shown before. It’s almost as if he sees every verse as being his last chance to “make it” and if he keeps that up, that time will come sooner than he thinks.

But don’t think for a second that because Jova has been working extensively on his producer game that he has let his lyrical practice fall by the wayside. On “The Crisis,” he spills his guts for two straight minutes in what is one of the most open and honest songs I’ve heard, not just from the Cincinnati Hip Hop scene, but from any Rap group in general. It’s a painful, truthful, tear-jerking lyrical confession over a beautiful piano that leaves the listener feeling inspired and connected.

The entire album is solid, but the true gem is the first track, “Dear Kanye.” This song is a culmination of all the hard work  the group has put in over the last year. The production has a smooth, almost Electronic Hip Hop feel to it and ends with more samples than a trip to IKEA.

The verses provided by both Jova and J-Al are smart yet still captivate the listener. More importantly, neither rapper outshines the other on this track. In every great tag-team there always seemed to be one person that carried the group (i.e. Shawn Michaels to Marty Jannetty, Bret Hart to Jim Neidhart), but Jova and J-Al have seemed to find that Road Warrior mentality, one working off another. (All nerdy wrestling references aside, they really mesh perfectly on this cut.)

The hook is where they’ve taken their work to another level. It's obvious this song is an ode to Kanye West (duh), but they found that perfect medium of being influenced by him while not jacking his style or flow. It’s as if making a song about someone who has influenced and inspired them as artists has helped them find their own identity in the process.

As I stated before, “You Ain’t Know” was a great creative jumping off point for the career of Those Guys. While other artists would have become complacent and tried to recreate that moment over and over, For Good Reason is an artistic step forward into the long career that lies ahead for the group.


 
 
by P.F. Wilson 11.15.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews, Local Music at 04:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Review: LIGHTS at 20th Century Theatre

Over the summer, a video turned up on YouTube of Canadian chanteuse LIGHTS doing an acoustic cover of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” for Britain’s Secret TV. While her bubbly personality was evident, she did look tired and her voice was not at its usual strength. Fans wondered if the rigors of touring were taking their toll.

But there were no such concerns Wednesday (Nov. 14) night when LIGHTS played at the 20th Century Theatre in Oakley. Winding down her Siberia tour, the Toronto native sounded absolutely amazing.

Two things are sometimes forgotten in the electronic swirl of LIGHTS’s musicshe can sing and she can write. Vocally she was at the top of her game Wednesday. Parts that were sung in a more wispy tone on her two albums were belted out with force, topped with high notes that hadn’t come out in the studio versions.

And, oh yes, the writing. Proving she has both vocal and songwriting skills, LIGHTS excused her band mid-show to deliver a piano-and-voice-only version of “Saviour.” Showing it’s not all done with machines (as she did on her 2010 acoustic EP), LIGHTS delivered a tune that, like her others, can stand apart from the technological wizardry. In between scaling her vocal range, she invited the audience to sing along, which they did enthusiastically (the track was an Alternative radio hit in 2009).

LIGHTS has always toured with a band, pulling a page out the the Thompson Twins’ playbook from back in the day. Chief Twin Tom Bailey always reasoned that it was just more visually pleasing to see musicians on stage and not just three band members bopping around to sequencers and backing tapes. Sonically it helps, too, of course, as the players can improvise and add new dimensions and dynamics to familiar songs. Indeed, one of LIGHTS’s keyboardists even broke out a guitar for one song, playing the keyboard lines on that instead of his synth.

The Arkells from Hamilton, Ontario, opened the show with their brand of Canadian Alt Rock. Lead singer Max Kerman told the crowd that his hometown was the best Hamilton in the world, not the Ohio city just up I-75. The crowd got the joke, which sort of surprised and bemused Kerman.

“I was expecting some boos for that,” he said before the band launched into “Pulling Punches.” The Arkells provided a nice counterpoint to the main act’s fine, occasionally dub-steppy Synth Pop and the group seemed to have several fans of their own in attendance.

LIGHTS returns to Canada at the end of this run of shows, where she will spend the holidays with her new husband, Blesshefall frontman Beau Bokan. The Arkells will support their countrymen The Tragically Hip throughout the winter.

 
 

 

 

 
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