Cincinnati Garage Rock heroes The Greenhornes seemed headed for big-time success, a gradual build-up that ultimately found them recording for the V2 label with Power Pop cult fave Brendan Benson producing, having songs placed in Jim Jarmusch movies and playing to gigantic arena/stadium-sized crowds touring with The White Stripes.
But the band’s momentum was halted when Jack White decided their rhythm section (drummer Patrick Keeler and bassist Jack Lawrence) was so good, he’d like to work with them.
After months of rising anticipation and weeks of weirdly intermittent and torrential rain, Bunbury's first day looked to be a winner. A great announced lineup, no precipitation in the forecast and nothing but sunshine expected for the day; against all odds, that's exactly what we got. But it wasn't the rain to come that presented a problem, it was the rain that had already fallen; the area on the Serpentine Wall that had perfectly pocketed the Rockstar Stage last year was completely swallowed by the rising Ohio River, and the stage had to be moved to the opposite end of the field housing the all important Main Stage. It turned out to be a pretty decent fix, all things considered.
After securing my Level Three media pass (which, in the hierarchy of accessibility, I think meant that if any band needed help moving equipment, I was obligated to roadie for them), I headed for the Bud Light stage for Public. I had done a story on them back in January; they were home for Christmas so given their proximity, they came to my house and we did the interview in my basement. My daughter had answered the door and let them in, and for weeks afterward she was telling her friends about the cute guys I had interviewed at the house. Public's teenage girl effect was fully evident at their Bunbury appearance, as squealy females shrieked their appreciation for every song, and randomly shouted "I love you!"s arced over the rather sizable crowd. The trio did songs from their self-titled EP, a new tune called "Honey Bee" and, taking a page from the infinitely talented and creatively twisted Richard Thompson, offered a thunderously blazing turn on Britney Spears' "Toxic." In the studio, Public has the sound of a ramped up Modest Mouse, but in the live arena, they definitely blister and kick a little closer to the Led Zeppelin vibe they claimed as inspiration during our conversation, adding a dollop of harmonic Pop to sweeten the deal. If teenage girls are any indicator — and they usually are — Public could be headed for Walk the Moon territory pretty quickly.
Next up, it was Alone at 3AM at the Lawn Stage. I love these guys; super solid, crunchy heartland Indie Pop/Rock that states its case without a lot of unnecessary flash or padding. The band had plodded along for close to seven years before solidifying a dedicated line-up behind vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Max Fender and bassist Joey Beck and moving forward; a good deal of growth occurred with the additions of Sarah Davis on keys and Chris Mueller on drums (and business savvy). That in turn lit a fire under Fender, leading to a pair of albums in the last three years — 2010's Cut Your Gills and last year's Midwest Mess.
For A@3's Bunbury slot, the quintet was showing off their new guitarist; Clay Cason's recent departure left a gap which has been admirably filled by Jake Tippey, taking a busman's holiday from his howling duties in the Frankl Project and proving every bit as valuable in a Pop/Rock context. The band roared through songs from their most recent albums, introduced a couple of new songs (Chris mentioned after the show that A@3 would be working on an EP, and then tracking a new full length for imminent release) and even dipped back into their debut album, City Out of Luck, for a spin through "Mexico." Max's gruff voice sits comfortably in the Paul Westerberg/Bruce Springsteen range and it's the perfect vehicle for expressing his blue collar love-and-life songs. Can't wait to hear the new stuff in the studio, kids.
Before setting out for the Rockstar Stage, I caught the opening of Ohio Knife, one of Cincinnati's brightest new entities. Initially a side project for the Chocolate Horse, vocalist/guitarist Jason Snell, guitarist Andrew Higley and drummer Joe Suer — who all played together in Readymaid as well — ultimately put the Horse in the stable to concentrate on the Punk-scrubbed Blues of Ohio Knife, and with good reason. The trio is a sweat-soaked hurricane in the studio (their 2012 EP was a marvel), but the live translation hits with the force and heat of a flamethrower in an ammunition dump, and it won't be long before the CEA nominees for Best New Artist wind up taking home some bling. Where are we with the full length, guys?
After a quick shot of Ohio Knife, it was time to motor to the other end of the festival to check out the Dunwells. The UK outfit fronted by, logically enough, the Dunwell brothers, has found a good deal of success with their debut album, Blind Sighted Faith, and its ubiquitous single "I Could Be a King." When they played the single, frontman Joseph Dunwell thanked Q102 for their support, but it bears pointing out that, WNKU has been beating the drum for the Dunwells for quite some time now (just as they had for the similarly Folk/Pop toned Mumford & Sons). That being said, the age of the crowd seemed to indicate that Q102's demographic was probably best represented here today, so perhaps the win should be scored in their column after all. However the commissioner decides to rule, the Dunwells put together a crisp and wonderfully vibrant set that pays homage to the West Coast sounds of the Eagles and CSNY. The one exception to that sonic blueprint is the aforementioned "I Could Be a King," which offers an irresistable Pop edge that shimmers like the best of Crowded House. When brother David Dunwell strapped on the old five string to play the hit, he noted wryly, "I think every Englishman should at some point come to America and stand in front of an American audience holding a banjo with no idea how to play it." I think he was being graciously self-deprecating. The Dunwells seemed to go down a storm and I think they would find a large and enthusiastic audience if they returned outside of the auspices of the Bunbury Festival. Quick note: If you see a Dunwells album titled Follow the Road in stores (for you youngsters, a building where your parents buy music) or online, it is actually a re-sequenced and remixed version of Blind Sighted Faith, with a few alternate versions tossed in for flavor.
I briefly considered heading over to the Bud Light Stage to see some of Everest (a pick from Bunbury worker bee extraordinaire Jacob Heintz), but opted to check out a bit of Tegan and Sara at the Main Stage before making a definite decision.
I've interviewed both Quin twins over the years — most recently, I talked to Sara the year after the release of 2009's Sainthood — and while I lean toward their early work as far as my personal taste is concerned, their last trio of albums have been fairly well stacked with radio-friendly Pop songs with the potential to reach a massive audience. The enormous turnout for their Bunbury set would seem to support their decision to go the pure Pop route, but the fact is that Tegan and Sara have been cultivating a large and diverse audience for the past decade and a half, and their synth-driven Pop direction was not enough of a departure to alienate any portion of their slavishly loyal fan base. Predictably, the bulk of their set was devoted to Heartthrob, along with faves from The Con and Sainthood; they also reached all the way back to 2002's If It Was You for "Living Room" and they threw in a cover of Tiesto's "Feel It in My Bones," on which they originally guested. As expected, the adrenaline and volume of the live experience ferments Tegan and Sara's sugary Pop confections into something with a little more bite. Even for those who weren't completely sold on their recent work (my hand is up), Tegan and Sara's live presentation could make you see the light.
After T&S, it was time to hit the Amphitheater Stage to see Buffalo Killers. If you missed seeing the James Gang in 1971, here's your chance. Because I'm old enough to have actually missed the James Gang (with Joe Walsh, that is; I was lucky enough to see the even rarer sight of the James Gang with Tommy Bolin. Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls …) that joke is only marginally funny. Luckily, Buffalo Killers have approximated the trio's fuzzy guitar assault and maniacally furious rhythm section here in the 21st century to give an indication of what Joe and the boys might have sounded like if they had stayed together a little longer and gelled a little better. And even though Buffalo Killers have managed to inject a bit of poppy sunshine into their bunker-busting sound, in the live arena the band still rumbles and shoots like a rhythmic Sherman tank. The Killers hit all of my teenage buttons (which were installed long ago and have never been fully deactivated, same as every man on the planet, I suppose) and any opportunity to witness their feedback-through-an-elephant-gun glory is a chance to time machine back to the days when electric dinosaurs roamed the earth and their squalling racket could be heard from sweaty and sparsely attended auditoriums to densely populated arenas. I love Buffalo Killers. They remind me that there is wisdom in remembering the past, joy in celebrating the present and excitement in anticipating the future.
After a brief stroll around the grounds to grab something to eat, it was back to the Amphitheater Stage for a healthy dose of Rock hard Americana with Those Darlins. The Nashville outfit has been down a Darlin since early last year when Kelley Anderson opted out of the band to pursue other musical projects (her new group, Grand Strand, got a good buzz after touring with Richard Lloyd last year), and her amicable departure has obviously changed the group's dynamic, particularly the absence of their signature three-part harmonies. The remaining Darlins — Jessi (Wariner), Nikki (Kvarnes) and drummer Linwood Regensberg — are carrying on with the-show-must-go-on determination; new bassist Adrian Barrera seems to be slotting in quite well and Those Darlins' core sound, along the lines of the Pandoras if they'd been influenced by Wanda Jackson and the Ramones, remains largely intact. Their Bunbury set did display a good deal more Rock and a good deal less twang than you'll find on their first two albums — 2009's Those Darlins and 2011's Screws Get Loose — and it's a safe bet that the new album they're currently working on will follow that blueprint as well. No one at the Amphitheater seemed too dismayed at the shift, particularly the hyperactive dance contingent in front of the stage. Two Darlins is clearly enough Darlins to make Those Darlins.
I bailed out of Those Darlins a bit early to make the long walk back to the Rockstar Stage to take in the Gypsy Jazz goodness of DeVotchKa. I've long been a fan of the Denver-based outfit (I came to them through 2004's How It Ends, fell in love with their version of the Velvets' "Venus in Furs" from the Curse Your Little Heart EP and adored their work in Little Miss Sunshine) but have never had the opportunity to see them in the flesh, and when I saw them on the Bunbury schedule, I knew there was little that could draw me away from their show. Luckily, their 9 p.m. slot meant they weren't programmed against anyone else, so the way was cleared for my first live DeVotchKa experience.
DeVotchKa lived up to and surpassed all advance billing with a set that walked the wire between frenetic and atmospheric but maintained high energy from start to finish. Even when they slowed the pace, there was an electric tension in their presentation that made clear something explosive could happen at any moment. And it usually did. All four members of the band — Nick Urata, Jeanie Schroder, Tom Hagerman, Shawn King — play multiple instruments so almost any sound is available to DeVotchKa, including theremin, boukouki, accordion, trumpet and Melodica. And Schroder does the heaviest lifting, either plucking with power and subtlety on her enormous upright bass or blowing away like Dizzy Gillespie on steroids into a gigantic sousaphone that looks as though it would be the punishment instrument for getting bad grades in high school band ("Okay, Baker, D in Orchestra, 10 solos with the death tuba..."). It wasn't a performance to analyze or interpret, it was a Gypsy Jazz soundtrack for a magic show, a feeling to wash over you like cool waves on warm sand, a Slavic Rock and Roll dance party. More than a few people on DeVotchKa's Facebook page declared it the best show of Bunbury's three-day weekend. It was most assuredly one of them.
Finally, it was time for fun. Not the fun that we'd been having all day at Bunbury, but the fun. that's topping the charts and recently played Saturday Night Live and won a couple of Grammys this year. Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of the band. I like their sound to a certain extent, it's energetic and entertaining and I really like Nate Reuss' voice. I actually interviewed him a decade ago when he was fronting the Format; ironically and perhaps presciently, he used the word "fun" a half dozen times to describe his band at the time.
At any rate, I hung around to see the show to be able to report how it was to my daughter, and because the band clearly doesn't take itself too seriously. When they accepted their Record of the Year Grammy for "We Are Young," Reuss said, "I don't know what I was thinking, writing the chorus for this song. If this is in HD, everybody can see our faces, and we are not very young." All in all, I was expecting a pleasant if unassuming concert experience.
And that's pretty much how it started, with the "Some Nights" intro, the title track to their sophomore album (it would show up in its entirety during the band's two-song encore, leading into "One Foot" from Some Nights). In fact, fun. performed almost all of Some Nights (save for "All Alright"), and over half of their debut album, 2009's Aim and Ignite, perhaps best represented by "At Least I'm Not as Sad (as I Used to Be)" and the nearly eight-minute closer, "Take Your Time (Coming Home)." Of course, they saved their anthemic signature singles for the second half of the set, first "Carry On" and then, two songs later, the epic Grammy-winning Pop of "We Are Young." Sandwiched in between though was a very charming version of The Rolling Stones’ "You Can't Always Get What You Want," an interesting lead-in to "We Are Young," a song that would seem to sport a diametrically opposed message. By the time fun. concluded with "Stars" as the second song of their encore, they had fired a confetti cannon (there was still yards of fun. confetti on the field when The National played Sunday night), performed the majority of their two studio albums and put on a show that proved they were worthy of their first-night-closing status. While I think they should remove the rather severe punctuation from their name, I have to say I was at least slightly converted toward a fun. lifestyle.
Before its current successful run of reunion concerts across the globe, The Afghan Whigs played its final live show at a New York City club called Hush on Sept. 29, 1999. But that was a private concert. The Whigs last public appearance was Sept. 25, 1999, at Cincinnati's Bogart's with special guests Howlin' Maggie. (The set list featured a large chunk of final album 1965, as well as lots of dips into cover tunes and snippets, including opener "The Boys Are Back in Town," and dashes of "Superstition," "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," "Little Red Corvette," "People Get Ready," "Hot for Teacher," "All You Need is Love" and Madonna's "Express Yourself," among others.)
Today it was announced that The Afghan Whigs will return to the scene of the crime and perform their first hometown show in over a decade on Oct. 25 at Bogart's, one month and 13 years after that final concert. Tickets are $33.50 ($45.86 with fees). The fan pre-sale starts this morning at 10 a.m.; tickets go on sale to the general public this Friday at 10 a.m. Click here for info. (Check The Afghan Whigs' official site for a password to get in on the pre-sale.)
Though the neighborhood has changed a lot since The Whigs roamed the earth originally, the band returning to Corryville is fitting. While frontman Greg Dulli would eventually bring his band The Twilight Singers to Newport's Southgate House frequently, Bogart's was the Whigs hometown concert home. Before that, the group played many shows at long-since-shuttered Sudsy Malone's across the street from Bogart's, while it and Top Cat's just a few blocks up the street were the sites of a few epic "secret shows," warm-up gigs for tours where the band would perform under a pseudonym like The Havana Sugar Kings or Gato Negro.
Update: The fan pre-sale password for Bogart's is uptownagain. Use it here starting at 10 a.m. today.
Update2: The pre-sale is now at noon today, according to the ticketing site.
With Forecastle and Lebowski Fest both celebrating their 8th anniversaries this weekend in Louisville, Ky, it’s hard to believe there’s room at the inn! But I found the Motel 6 just north of town, across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Ind., that did indeed have a vacancy for me. Almost immediately after checking in, I get a call from my old partner in crime, my once and future Bonnaroo buddy, photographer extraordinaire Keith Klenowski. He’s waiting for me at 5th and Main in downtown Louisville by the main entrance to this year’s Forecastle Festival.
Up-and-coming underground rapper Chris Webby performs tonight at downtown club Play. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $20 at the door. The show is open to all ages. Guests include GMB, Nynewest and hosts DJ Scholar and DJ Drowsy.
Webby is a Connecticut native (he has it tattooed on his chest; I'd move to Ohio if I were going to do that) who started rapping before high school and began to draw crowds at freestyle battles and with his popular mixtapes releases. Webby's built huge buzz in independent Hip Hop circles and has so far resisted signing a record deal. Click here to check out his mixtapes and other releases.
Webby recently tweeted that he's just recently boarded his plane to Cincy. "PLAY in Cincinnati is about to get real weird tonight," he added.
• Utah rockers The Used blast into Bogart's tonight. The 7:30 p.m. show is all ages and includes openers Stars In Stereo. Tickets are $25.
The Used's energized Post Hardcore style is sparked by vocalist Bert McCracken, whose stage antics are an unpredictable throwback to Rock & Roll's more dangerous frontmen (Iggy, etc.). The Used's latest album, Vulnerable, came out earlier this spring on Hopeless Records. The album hit No. 1 on the Top Independent Albums chart when released and made it to No. 8 on the Billboard 200.
Here's the video for The Used's single "I Come Alive."
• The song of legendary drummer Ginger Baker, Kofi, is bringing his Cream tribute band to Covington tonight for an 8 p.m., all-ages show at the Madison Theater. Kofi Baker formed Kofi Baker's Cream Experience after catching the Cream reunion in 2005 and deciding he'd like to pick up where the originals left off. In the Clapton role is Tony Spinner, a Rock/Blues singer and guitarist who was a member of Toto in the ’00s. Playing bass is another talented musician, Ric Fierabracci, who has performed with the likes of Chick Corea, Shakira and Yanni.
Kofi made his first live appearance when he was 6, playing with his pops on BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975. Here he is rocking with the Cream Experience in more recent years.
• MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine has a free show tonight headlined by Canadian Electro Pop group Parallels. Showtime is 10 p.m. and like-minded locals Skeleton Hands also perform.
Parallels has drawn comparisons to New Order and singer Holly Dodson has been likened to singer Kate Bush and Madonna. The band was formed in 2008 by Dodson and Cameron Findlay, the former drummers for popular electronicists Crystal Castles.
Parallels sophomore full-length, XII, is due out June 26. Here's a clip for the band's song "Ultralight."
Click her for more music events around town tonight.
If you attend tonight’s free MidPoint Indie Summer show on Fountain Square, you’ll not only have a chance to check out some excellent local bands (Buffalo Killers, The Guitars, Soapland and The Lions Rampant), but you’ll also be among the first to see the brand new Lions Rampant music video for the song “Crazy or a Liar?,” to be screened on the Square’s giant video board.
The MidPoint Music Festival returns to Over-the-Rhine (including inside the newly unveiled Washington Park, which hosts the main "Main Stage") Sept. 27-29. After weeks of speculation, we now we have the first lineup announcement for MPMF.12, which features, once again, top-line Indie artists — from new buzz groups and some current, critically-acclaimed favorites to a few true Alt music pioneers.
Longtime supporters Dewey's Pizza had the scoop on the announcement this morning. Visit them here on Facebook.
Below are the first 19 acts to be announced. About 150 to go! Stay tuned.
The Dirty Projectors
Willis Earl Beal
The Black Belles
J.C. Brooks & The Uptown Sound
Be sure to visit mpmf.com for all the latest updates and to score your tickets. VIP and “Early Bird” (read: discounted) all-access passes are available now through cincyticket.com here.
If you’d like some face time with the MPMF authorities, just head down to Fountain Square this Friday for the free MidPoint Indie Summer concert at 7 p.m. The event is a world tour of music, kicking off with local Ska/Reggae/Soul masters The Pinstripes, who join Malian artist Khaira Arby and Funk/Soul headliners The Dynamites.
The Cincinnati-born, Brooklyn-based members of Indie Rock sensations The National recently announced details about their first new album since 2010's High Violet, Trouble WIll Find Me. The album is due in the U.S. on May 21 on the 4AD label. (Click here for the album cover, track listing and more National news.)
Today, The National unleashed the first song from Trouble, the warm, crawling "Demons." Check the tune and a video for it below.
UPDATE: Today (April 11), The National released audio of the first single from Trouble Will Find Me, "Don't Swallow the Cap." Check it out:
The National perform a homecoming show on July 14, headlining the final night of the three-day Bunbury Music Festival at Sawyer Point Park. For tickets and more info, click here.
One of Cincinnati's all-time greatest bands, The Afghan Whigs, have announced numerous overseas dates on its forthcoming reunion tour, but the only U.S. show announced was the Sept. 22 concert headlining the Greg Dulli co-curated "I'll Be Your Mirror" event in Asbury Park, NJ. Today, another American show was announced with the release of the 2012 Lollapalooza lineup (the event takes place in Chicago's Grant Park, Aug. 3-5). The Whigs were up pretty high on the poster for the event, but the top-billed acts announced are soon-to-be Rock & Roll Hall of Famers the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Keys, Black Sabbath and Jack White. (Check the full lineup here and the announcement video below.) Lolla tickets are on-sale here.
That sets up a loose timeframe for more U.S. dates for the Whigs — Aug. 3-Sept. 22 (minus about three days in August when they'll be back overseas). We've been hearing about a few offers to the band for shows in Cincinnati from a pair of larger festivals, but so far nothing official has been ironed out (at least to the point that an appearance could be announced). Stay tuned. The band now has about 20 dates booked worldwide.