Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' Blues- and Folk-tinged sound is a wake-up call to the shift in the music quality that is overtaking American Rock music right now. The band continues to promote its 2010 self-titled album, which has given them their biggest spike in popularity, in part due to hit single, “Paris (Ooh La La).” Her current Country collaboration with Kenny Chesney, “You and Tequila,” is also getting heavy radio play right now. CityBeat spoke with Potter to preview her appearance in Cincinnati Friday at PNC Pavilion.
The fruitcakes have been throw away, the eggnog is spoiled, the big ball dropped, the champagne is gone and we’ve all had time to reflect on 2008. Now, chin up, sport — it’s time to start looking ahead to 2009 and what lies ahead for Cincinnati’s local music scene.
If the first release of 2009 (well, the first to cross my desk anyway) is any indication, we’re in for another great year for locally crafted CDs. The “New Year’s Eve baby” of the local CD world comes from newcomers Hazle Weatherfield, a promising trio that celebrates its debut release with a show this Saturday at The Mad Hatter in Covington.
The last time Slug felt as sick and contradictive as this was the last time he played a show in Cinci. He and the other half of Atmosphere, DJ/producer Ant, haven’t played one since, save a Scribble Jam or two. But the last headlining show that Atmosphere played in Cincinnati was nearly seven years ago. If you’re an Atmosphere fan, then you’ve heard the various references to Top Cat’s and that show. As someone who was there, I remember it being just about as tragically awesome as Slug does, just from a different perspective.
OK, so which Babylonian weather deity did we collectively blow like a $5 crack whore to assure us of an entire weekend without getting firehosed by the kind of precipitation generally associated with tropical monsoons? Because I want to get his number in our rolodex for next year. Another absolutely gorgeous night for another spectacular evening of musical diversion and awesomeness. That’s right, awesomeness.
Ted Nugent has been putting audiences in a stranglehold since he started touring nationally in 1967 with his crazy, energetic Rock & Roll. He's probably best known musically for giving us unbelievable, unstoppable guitar riffs, like the one featured in his smash hit “Cat Scratch Fever.” But he's probably more recently known best for his off-stage actions and antics. The outspoken Nugent is a confident free-spirit who prefers hunting wild game with big guns and lobbying for patriotism and his Second Amendment rights than blending into society's status quo.
One of the coolest, more unique musical experiences to be had in Cincinnati is at the concerts presented by The Loft Society, an on-the-down-low, speakeasy-like venue housed in the top-floor loft of an apartment building on Calhoun Street in University Heights (next to Mayra’s restaurant). Programmed and hosted by Al Williams, the Loft has been featuring artists on the more exploratory side of Jazz (with occasional guests from other genres) for the past two decades. The atmosphere is relaxed and communal and set up as a great listening experience first and foremost (obnoxious chatter during performances is strongly frowned upon). If you’ve yet to visit, Saturday’s “A Tribute to MLK” concert is a great place to start.
It was an eerie evening leading into the MidPoint Music Festival 2010’s kick-off night Thursday. A gigantic, gorgeous sunset was soon followed by a huge, neon-lit moonrise, which guided my path down the highway to the festival. Once downtown, the streets resembled their usual non-weekend selves — nearly empty, save a couple of neighborhood locals scrambling about. And, while the threat of rain is usually the weather event MidPointers fear most, tonight’s air was dry, humid and record-breaking hot. Who would have thought a music festival on the first weekend of the fall would be met with 95-degree temps (in the daytime, at least)?
Bret Michaels is a one of a kind crossover superstar who has transformed himself from hard rocker to big partier to reality television star. Best known for his nearly 30 years with rockers Poison (giving us such Rock & Roll staples as “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”, “Talk Dirty to Me” and other arena mega hits), in 2010, Michaels’ life took a dramatic turn when he was faced with multiple emergency surgeries. The first was to remove his appendix and then a sudden life threatening brain aneurysm led to brain surgery. He bounced back by winning Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, continuing solo music tours across the country, completing a summer tour with Poison and Motley Crue and plotting more television projects.
CityBeat spoke with Michaels this week in advance of his pre-Super Bowl party concert tomorrow in Indianapolis. He performs Friday at 9:30 p.m. in Indianapolis, helping open the Super Bowl Village and get fans in the right spirit for the big game next Sunday. (Friday’s concert is free; click here for more info.)
Music Tonight: Tonight’s the last time you’ll be able to catch Cincinnati-based trio The Rubber Knife Gang in town for a while. But it’s not for any kind of hiatus — no rehab or plastic surgery or whatever it is bands do on such breaks. Quite the opposite. It’s because the band is jumping on a plane in a few weeks and heading overseas to spread RKG’s soulful Americana/Roots/Bluegrass sound. Tonight, the Gang joins Nashville’s Grace Adele and the Grand Band for a free, 10 p.m. show at MOTR Pub. The two acts reteam for a Columbus show this weekend, then RKG hops on a plane for Belgium, where the threesome will play two weeks’ worth of dates through mid-September (with a few shows in Germany and the Netherlands sprinkled in).
On Wednesday night in Columbus, radio station 99.7 The Blitz had a one year anniversary party and invited hundreds of fans to an appreciation party at the LC Pavillion to give feedback on the station and meet the members of the Blitz on-air team. Die hard Blitz fans were surprised with a live performance from one of the most popular bands on the station, Bobaflex. Bobaflex did an hour high energy set for the intimate crowd performing their hits like “Bury Me with Your Guns On.”
Bobaflex is an independent metal band from West Virginia that has been grinding through the music business since 1998. Over that time, they have released four albums and been on tour with National acts like Disturbed, Filter, Sevendust, among many others. In their thirteen years, they have gained a cult following centered in Ohio and West Virginia.
CityBeat caught up with Shaun McCoy, a vocalist, guitar player, and charter member of the band before the show to discuss the single that is gaining steam across Ohio in radio play and their unconventional view of the music business. Shaun’s anti-establishment view pairs with his innovative ideas to show where he envisions the music business is heading. This is seen in the upcoming release of their fourth album, Hell in My Heart.
CityBeat: I know you guys have the new album, “Hell in My Heart,” The 15 track album that came out in February.
Shaun: Well, it’s technically not out. There was some confusion about it. And now we’re re-releasing it this summer with some extra tracks. But we still have a few copies on us. We pulled it offline and stopped ordering it until this summer. We are looking at distribution deals with some investors. So we’re almost going to do our own label which is the safest thing to do these days. And using other people’s money because we don’t have that much. So we are almost doing the label thing but having more control in the band. And working with an investor or partner but not with an evil corporate label that’s going down the tube anyway.
CB: You guys have been pretty vocal about being independent and doing this on your own because you have been in the business a while. You’ve also talked about your management team and how they’ve helped out. What’s the process to go through to get the album out on your own?
Shaun: Well people are still holding onto the old, it has to be in the stores which is going to be over in the next five years. You still have to play that game and have an official release. So, we had a couple label deals on the table. They were a no-win situation for the band. So we kind of balked at them. And now, we’re doing a distribution deal. Which you’re not locked in legally with them. They just put it out in the stores and you just kind of pay for shelf space. You do all the marketing and promotions yourself. It’s up to you to promote the album. They just put it in the store. You get a way higher split on the album. You get a majority of the money and you keep the bailments. So basically they’re just a service. We took a long time picking a good distribution company because many are in trouble right now. I think we’re in talks right now with Mega Force and they may distribute us. The band ran into marketing and promotions trouble when we paid for it ourselves and it nearly killed us. So we are looking at the option of using an investor to make it easier on the band and split things down in different percentages and have someone else’s money and do like a label does and have someone else do all the promotions and marketing. And they get a piece for putting that much in and investing in the band. But still it will be a band-friendly contract. It’s not going to be a big corporate Atlantic Records thing where they get 12% of your record and you don’t see royalties for three years.
CB: Is that what the April 20th show is partly about? Are you looking for investors at the showcase?
Shaun: Yeah. I think CDs are like 8-Tracks in a few years. I mean kids don’t want to buy them unless they want something physical to be signed. That’s really it. Adults buy CDs. And it kind of kills me we still have to put it in stores because times are changing and we like to be ahead of the curve. But we’ll play that game for this album and put it in stores. It also opens up radio and touring options. People are still using that as a form of legitimacy. So we have to put it in stores. That’s the way it’s going to be. I’d prefer to have it online and at shows and you’d have to come to the shows to actually purchase it. And that would make the shows better. We’ll have it at shows but right now we have to play the CD game so we’re going to distribute it. There’s nothing finalized, now we’re in talks but nothings done but you can say we’re in talks with Mega Force for distribution.
CB: How long have you been doing this? I know you and your brother started this together.
Shaun: Legitimately, we started in ’98 but full force and making it a profession and barely working a job or not working a job and putting a 100% into from about 2003 until now.
CB: So now it’s full time for all of you.
Shaun: Yeah. Absolutely. It’s been full time for about six or seven years since we signed with TBT, our old label who went bankrupt. Once we got with them it was a full time job.
CB: If you weren’t in a rock band, what would you be doing?
Shaun: Wow, if I weren’t in a rock band, I’d probably turn to a life of crime to make a living. I’m 40 hours short of an advertising degree. I owe the government out the ying-yang. Either I’d be a criminal or I’d just work at Lowe’s.
CB: So you guys have this interesting thing where you let everybody sing. Do you get pushed to try to pick a lead singer or do people give you pressure around that or do people accept that this is how you are going to do it?
Shaun: Early on, when we had a record deal on the table, they actually liked that idea. Years ago, people asked, “Well who’s the lead singer?” Well nobody, we switch off and on. Even our bass player is singing lead on some songs. Well now, if they’re talking to me they say “Well you’re the lead singer.” Or if they’re talking to my brother “Oh you’re the lead singer.” It’s one of those deals. We kind of squash it. It’s whoever song it is. I’m a big KISS fan and I always like Ace songs best and he only sang a handful of them. That’s where we got the idea from. I’m a big Eagles fan and I like any band that has versatile lead singers. It makes the album more eclectic and it makes for better ideas. You don’t get bored or get stuck in a rut when you have three different guys and all three have a little different vibe. That helps for sure.
CB: Have you met KISS?
Shaun: I would like to meet KISS. I have not met KISS. Well, who have I met? We met Dave Mustaine of Megadeath. And that was a big deal. I met all of Anthrax, all of original Anthrax. That was cool. We have toured with Mudvayne and Sevendust but I would love to meet KISS. Absolutely one of my favorite bands.
CB: Have you ever been star struck when you met somebody?
Shaun: Yes, Jonathan Davis and Korn walked into our dressing when we were opening for Mudvayne and Sevendust and we were the openers in the Nokia Center in Dallas. Jonathan Davis had his dressing room across from us and we decided to leave him alone since he was a huge star. I was getting my tattoo worked on drinking and he walked into our room out of nowhere. I was like “What!” He said “Hey this where the party’s at. I smelled weed, I hear drinking and partying. I see you’re getting a tattoo. Does that hurt?” I was like “Noo!” I said “Thanks for having us on the show.” And I shook his hand. He said “Great having you on the show. I’ll see y’all around.” Then he walked out. Then everybody couldn’t even talk and were like “Oh my God! Jonathan Davis just walked into our room.”
CB: Yeah, I’ve interviewed Fieldy and Ray from Korn. They’re great guys.
Shaun: Absolutely. He was really cool to us. That’s the thing with the bigger tours, I’ve never really met an asshole rock star that wouldn’t talk to me or made a rule to “Don’t look at me, especially when I’m eating.” I’ve never seen that yet. That hasn’t happened on the bigger shows like Papa Roach or Megadeath.
CB: One of the things I always say when I’m doing interviews is the bigger the rockstar I talk to the more down to Earth they seem. It’s kind of been the exact opposite of how I envisioned it. Everyone is usually very nice and very down to Earth. One of the theories is that everybody has been at the bottom of this industry and worked their way up and people appreciate it a lot when you do make it and do well. Have you ever had any boyfriend or husband issues on the road?
Shaun: Well yeah, it’s happened. We’re really cool guys, we’re cool with the fans. But there have been weird situations where somebody’s girlfriend has liked someone in the band and then they come up and we don’t know them personally and the guy never comes to a gig again and sends us an e-mail, “I can’t believe you did this to me.” I don’t even know who they are or don’t even know their name. Our ex-guitar player used to have issues with that. He always had people showing up to gigs looking for him. Many times it was due to Facebook and Myspacing and meeting girls. But I personally try to be cool to the fans and I, personally have not or very minimally had that. It’s always been light and nobody’s said anything bad. I’ve had a couple guys try to steer me away from girls via Facebook or Myspace, mainly Facebook. And say, “That chick is trouble man.” And I say, “I don’t even know you man. Why are you contacting me.” I had a guy recently tell me a girl was dangerous. And I was like, “Dangerous? What is she, Al Qaeda? She’s 120 pounds. What are you talking about? Does she have a gun on her? Does she carry a knife and stab people?” I just ignored it. It’s really not too bad. Just our ex-guitar player. And all the guys at this point in the game have girlfriends. I’m the only one who doesn’t. So, on that front, I can’t say it happens too often.
CB: Well I think dating is scary these days anyway. Just meeting on Facebook or Myspace. You talk about music changing. Dating is definitely changing.
Shaun: Oh my God! In the band, you always have some nutball or weirdo a little bit. Or I’ll get stalked multiple times where I can’t get on Facebook without a thing popping up “What are you doing? Why haven’t you called me?” I’ve had that happen several times. I had an older lady, like forty years old, who showed up to gigs crying. She was a nice lady at first and really cool and ran merch for us. I thought she was a forty year old redneck mom who’s not gonna rob us. So we let her sell merch for us. Her and her daughter followed us all over the country spending so much money to follow us to gigs. I’m like “I guess they really like the band.” And they bought us beer. She was married and she started sending me weird lovey messages like “Oh Shaun I love you as deep as the ocean is blue.” So I sent her a message saying she was making us uncomfortable and chill out a little bit. A year later she started it again. She sent me these weird messages, “Oh you don’t know how much I think about you.” I finally told her that “You’re creeping me out.” Then I got this huge message of evil after I told her she was creeping me out. “Who are you to judge?” Then her son called me. And her family was “Why are you being mean to my family?” And I’m like “You’re mom is creeping me out.” It went on forever. Finally I had to quit speaking to her or looking at her. She still showed up to gigs in the front row and call out “You don’t know what you meant to me?” I’m afraid the people would think something is going on and she’s crying at the gig. She would text me for a while and I would never text her back. She got my phone number somehow. Her texts were like I was answering her calling me baby and honey and I wouldn’t answer her and she would send me, “Baby are you sleeping?” and I haven’t answered her but she would answer back like I was talking to her but never was. That was scary. That was weird. Then I found out she pulled a gun on her ex-husband. So that’s when I told the band she had a weird past and was creeping me out. There were a couple gigs that I said they had to keep that lady out of the building. That’s one of several stories.
CB: Wow. So, did somebody inspire the song, “Vampire”?
Shaun: The song, “Vampire,” my brother wrote about a needy girlfriend who wouldn’t leave him alone and needed so much attention and was draining his life and sucking his life force out of him. He’s had a few that were very needy. Read my mind all the time draining like a vampire sucking his soul away. That’s what that song is about.
CB: I’m sure she was really pleased that’s what inspired the song. Does she know?
Shaun: The girlfriend? No she doesn’t. There’s several songs about her. “Playing Dead” is about her too. He doesn’t really tell anyone about her. He’s writing about the same stuff I think in that song.
CB: Some of the best songs come out of bad relationships. Some people I talk to that say they should never get married or never get in a good relationship because they think the band will fall apart.
Shaun: Yeah, we’ve all been divorced. I’m currently separated and getting a divorce. We’ve been separated for two years. She’s had like two boyfriends. We’re good friends and everything but it was definitely hard to keep the marriage together being on the road so much. We had a child together and it was tough. There’s a song called, “On That Night”, and that’s about being betrayed by someone you loved which we’ve never really delved into too much in the past. And this album, it’s like all the things that went on during TBT’s bankruptcy and then we were owned by a bank for a year. It was hell getting a record together. We didn’t have the rights to do it. We thought of everything that happened the last few years. Jared’s song was about his and his ex-wife divorcing. There’s definitely some reality in this record.
CB: Sometimes those are the best songs.
CB: Do you guys write everything yourself?
Shaun: Yes. we worked with songwriters on a couple that weren’t singles. On this album, we definitely collaborated on everything with each other. On a couple songs, I might write the scale or my brother or Jared might but then everybody comes in and puts their ten cents into it.
CB: Where do you guys usually write together?
Shaun: Well we usually get a rehearsal spot or sometimes we’ll put it together at home. We have a nice rehearsal spot with a studio in it. We’ll just sit down from noon to five and go over the set list and some rifts. Everybody will critique everybody’s other songs. And go over them and hammer them out. We’re at the point that we’re mature enough no one will have their feelings hurt when someone doesn’t like someone else’s idea. You either like it or you don’t. We write songs a lot faster now. We know each other so well. There are still some bastards that you have to hammer out that just aren’t right but a lot of the songs come together pretty quick.
CB: Do you guys still live in West Virginia?
Shaun: Yes. I lived in Ohio for a while. Then now I live in West Virginia. Jared, I think lives in Ohio with his girlfriend. The others live half the time with their girlfriend in Ohio and the other half in West Virginia.
CB: I heard about you guys in Columbus. There’s a huge buzz about Bobaflex in Columbus. I thought you were from Columbus.
Shaun: That’s our biggest spot. That’s one of our favorite spots to play. We owe everything to Columbus and West Virginia.
CB: I was hoping you’d be at “Rock on the Range.” That’s one of my favorite festivals to shoot and go to.
Shaun: We were supposed to. We still have the number one requested song in the city. I don’t know what his prejudice was, the guy running it. He said “Oh you won’t draw 2000.” And neither does Egypt Central. We’ll draw about a 1000. Anywhere from 700 to 1000. I know all the promoters in Columbus and we outdraw all the bands when they’re out by themselves. To say all the lower bands outdraw us on “Rock on the Range” is a lie. That’s not true. I don’t know why they won’t have us on.
CB: Well sometimes they try to mix it up and want some new people.
Shaun: Yeah. And it also goes back to that release date. We don’t have a new CD in stores, not gonna be on there. We’re on the old model forever until there are no CDs left.
CB: I love the song “Bury Me With My Guns On.” I thought it was amazing that the song is all over the radio. Then I heard that you had no label and doing everything yourselves. I found the story to be so interesting from the music industry perspective. I hear the song in Cincinnati, I hear it in Columbus, I hear it in Cleveland. So you guys are doing a good job getting it out there on the radio.
Shaun: We’re number 50 on the rock charts right now and we’re paying a radio promoter like a label would. We are paying them to keep pushing it. That’s where we’re at right now. We’re on a teeter-totter at this point. We’re getting a game plan together quickly this week and next week to get this record out.