• Baltimore Noise Punk foursome Dope Body introduced itself to the Indie Rock world with the donkey punch that was last year’s Nupping, the band’s first full-length. The group returned this year with the Natural History album on Drag City, on which a chaotic barrage of guitar harmonics, muscular drum/bass pummeling and howling vocals combine for something that sounds like The Jesus Lizard jacked up on speed (or Gang of Four jacked up on The Jesus Lizard). There is an artfulness to the noise, but it’s the group’s hectic energy level — which sometimes makes it seem like they’re going to fall apart at any second — that first draws the listener in, as if sucked up by the tornadic swirl, Dorothy-and-Toto-syle. The herky-jerky rhythms are also alluring, occasionally falling into a seemingly impossible groove that feels like some sort of alien Funk. You can dance to Dope Body — you just might look a little convulsive.
After an appearance at The Comet earlier this spring, Dope Body returns to Cincy tonight for a free, 10 p.m. show at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Brooklyn trio Call of the Wild opens the show. Check videos from both acts below.
• Singer/songwriter James McMurtry (son of successful author Larry) performs tonight at the Southgate House Revival in Newport. The Americana song stylist kicked his career off in 1989 with his debut Too Long in the Wasteland and has continued to make album after album of modern Roots songs, which often showcase his deft lyrical ability (something perhaps in his blood). McMurtry has been celebrated for the short story style of writing, though in recent years he's addressed political issues for frequently and directly. His 2005 song "We Can't Make It Here" fit the Occupy movement's message so perfectly, he gave it away as a free download when the movement began, then re-recorded it with Steve Earle and Joan Baez for inclusion on the Occupy Wall Street benefit compilation, Occupy This Album. You can hear that version below. (Read more about McMurtry in Brian Baker's preview from this week's CityBeat here.)
McMurtry performs tonight at the new Southgate with his band, which at one time was dubbed "The Heartless Bastards," until some bratty kids from Cincinnati stole it for their own and have been using it quite successfully. Locals Monkeytonk open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.
• Canadian ElectroPop star Valerie Anne Poxleitner — who legally changed her name to Lights when she turned 18 and has performed under the moniker ever since — comes to the 20th Century Theatre in Oakley tonight for an 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $18. Canadian AltRock group Arkells opens the show. Similar to Robyn's approach, Lights' sound is a mix of more vintage Synth Pop, modern Electronic styles (yes, including Dubstep) and straight-up, ready-for-Top-40-radio Pop. Lights is a bonafide Pop star in Canada, with her albums, EPs and singles selling chart-worthy numbers, and though she has a faithful following in the U.S., she hasn't matched the same level of airplay, exposure and sales. Yet. Lights' sound has an ear-grabbing quality that could make her a chart and radio fixture in the States in an instant.
Here's Lights' latest single from 2011's Siberia, "Timing Is Everything."
Click here for even more live music events in Greater Cincinnati tonight.
The Afghan Whigs' upcoming live reunion shows have generally been in Europe, largely at festivals, save a couple of U.S. shows (in New York City and at Lollapalooza in Chicago and All Tomorrow's Parties in Jersey). Today it was announced that the group's official first show back after 13 years will take place later this month, May 23, at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. Tickets go on sale this Friday in noon, if you're up for a roadtrip. Joseph Arthur opens the show.
It will be the first Afghan Whigs show since Sept. 29, 1999, when the Whigs played a private show at an NYC club called Hush.
If you can't make it to New York in 15 days, two weeks from tonight The Afghan Whigs will make their first public appearance together as a reunited group on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The band will be the musical guest on the program's May 22 episode.
Still no word on a Cincinnati date (Chicago's the closest so far). Keep your fingers crossed, local Whigs fans. Keep an eye on the band's official site for the latest Whigs updates. (I've been loving the "On This Date" in Whigs' history; today in 1990, FYI, the band played at Foufones Electroniques in Montreal.)
Fallon wasn't on yet when the Whigs were around previously, but here's a playlist of many of The Afghan Whigs' TV appearances over the years.
• A killer triple bill at Bogart's in Corryville tonight features three of the more kick-ass bands from the new breed of Rock & Roll buzz bands. Known for their explosive live shows and shimmery, energized Indie Rock style, San Diego-spawned/Brooklyn-based Delta Spirit headlines, supporting its self-titled breakthrough release from earlier this year. Endearing and invigorating L.A. Garage Pop foursome Fidlar opens things up at 8 p.m., followed by the smoking'-hot JEFF the Brotherhood, a killer duo from Nashville featuring bros Jake and Jamin Orrall. The band's latest album, the addictive Hypnotic Nights, was produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and is JEFF's debut for Warner Brothers Records.
JEFF the Brotherhood performed "Staring at the Wall" from Hypnotic Nights last night on Conan. Read more about tonight's show here and here.
• Psych/Rock/Roots trio Buffalo Killers’ current tour with rootsy NYC Blues Rock band Hollis Brown winds through Cincinnati tonight for a show at the Ballroom at the Taft Theatre. Tickets are at the door. Showtime is 10 p.m.
While still touring in support of Dig. Sow. Love. Grow,, the group’s fourth album which was released on Alive Records this past summer, the BKs have recently issued some even newer material. The local Shake It Records imprint recently released Buffalo Killers’ two-sided single for the Dangerous Highway: A Tribute To The Songs of Eddie Hinton series, on which the trio covers the Muscle Shoals musician’s “Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom)” and “Still Water Runs Deep.” The group also just recently went into the studio to record two new tunes, “Nothing Can Bring Me Down” and “Baptized,” which are available as pay-what-you-want downloadable singles at buffalokillers.com.
On Nov. 27, Alive is releasing the live compilation, Alive at the Deep Blues Festival, which kicks off with a pair of epic BK tunes. Recorded during the recent Alive-roster-heavy Deep Blues Fest in Minnesota, the album also features a pair of tracks from label mate and fellow local Brian Olive. (Olive and his band play for free at Northside Tavern on Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 21.)
Here's an epic version of Buffalo Killers' "It's a Shame" from the live set.
• Downtown at Arnold's tonight, catch influential cult hero Paleface, a man who has been on the cutting edge of contemporary music's continual fascination with traditional Folk music and an influence on some of the more adventurous musicians who seek to translate that vintage spirit into their own voice. Over the past 20-plus years, the singer/songwriter has been an Anti Folk torchbearer and an Indie Folk mentor, first learning songwriting and lo-fi recordings from underground legend Daniel Johnston in the late ’80s. From there he went on to teach a few tricks to roommate Beck (pre-fame), help the so-called "Freak Folk" scene grow freakier and folkier and collaborate frequently with pals The Avett Brothers. Whether directly or indirectly, if you dig today's "Indie Folk" — or any brand of slanted or subversive Americana — you've likely heard the results of Paleface's unique influence.
Paleface's show tonight at Arnold's — a makeup date for a show canceled in late August — is free and great local Folk Pop group Shiny and the Spoon opens the show at 9 p.m. (Click here to read more.)
Here's a mini documentary about the making of Paleface's latest, One Big Party.
• Tonight you can get your roller boogie on as the bi-annual OTR Skate event returns to help raise funds for Cincinnati Recreation Commission’s Over the Rhine Recreation Center and its scholarships and staffing. The roller rink fun goes from 8-11 p.m. at the OTR rec center (1715 Republic St.) and admission is $5, which includes skate rental (you can also bring your own). Along with numerous raffles for items donated by local businesses, skaters can also play pool, air hockey and other games, or ask the Cincinnati Rollergirls roller derby team members on hand for some tips. Giving the event an extra dose of Rock & Roll attitude, local band The Yugos will perform along with Columbus Indie rockers Indigo Wild. (Facebook event here).
Here's a Yugos track released this spring called "You Don't Want Change, Change is for the Deranged"; check out the group's self titled full-length here.
• Hip Hop comes to Northside tonight with a free, 10 p.m. show at The Comet featuring local artist Abiyah, plus Philly's Has-Lo and New York City's Prem Rock (formerly known as Premonition).
Has-Lo's first taste of national attention came when he did well in the 2007 MTVU Best Music on Campus contest. With his intelligent lyrical prowess and dark, dynamic production style, Lo's initial EP releases and last year's In Case I Don't Make It album garnered buzz in the underground for the producer/MC. Anticipation has been building for his just-released long-player, Conversation B, a trippy rewiring of In Case featuring production collaborations with Exile, J-Zone, Oddisee, Kev Brown, Eric Lau, Apollo Brown and others. The results are blissfully psychedelic and unpredictable. Here's a remix of Lo's "Inherit the Stars."
• "Unity Jam 7," a recurrent local music event that showcases a wide range of local artists in the name of bringing different people together, takes place tonight at Centennial Barn (110 Compton Rd., Hartwell). Tickets are $20 at the door, with a portion of the proceeds going to the New School Montessori program. The event kicks off with a "Zumbathon" at 5 p.m. Music starts at 7 p.m. and wraps with a "drum circle" at around 10 p.m. The lineup — which spans from Jazz, Fusion and Latin music to Reggae and a variety of other forms of World music — features Unity Jam organizer Baoku Moses and his Image Afro-beat Band, Lisa Marie, Azucar Tumbao, Junya Be, Pharaoh Loosey, Mayan Ruins, Salsa Ires, Mr. Brown Mysterious Sounds and Garry Leidy.
Click here for even more live music in Greater Cincinnati tonight.
This Friday night, Cincinnati's finest Americana outfit, Magnolia Mountain is set to celebrate the release of its fantastic new LP, Town and Country, easily one of the best locally-produced albums of the year. Frontman Mark Utley and his bandmates will party in Town and Country's honor by performing tomorrow at the Ballroom at the Taft Theatre. The all-ages show kicks off at 8 p.m. with guests Jeremy Pinnell and the 55's, Chuck Evanchuck and the Old Money and Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker from Wussy performing a duo set.
Click here to read this week's CityBeat feature on Magnolia Mountain. Below is the full interview with Utley.
CityBeat: Tell me about the new album. What was your mindset going into it — did you have a good sense of what you wanted to do right away? Did it end up as you planned?
Mark Utley: I think the goal with all the Magnolia Mountain records has been to document where we were as a band and where I was as a songwriter at those specific times. The two years since we released Redbird Green have been a real rollercoaster ride for me personally — really high highs and very low lows — and I think that shows up in the songs. I tend to write fairly literally. It was a difficult record to make but it feels great to have made it. They’re the best songs I’ve ever written and it’s the best record we’ve made yet.
We didn’t do a Magnolia Mountain album in 2011, mostly because of how long (the benefit project) Music for the Mountains took to put together. So we had a ton of songs written and I was anxious to get back in the studio. I wanted to expand on what we did on Redbird Green in almost opposing directions. The song “Hellbound Train” from that record was a huge audience favorite, but it wasn’t really like any other song on that album. So I wanted to write some more in that direction, but I was also writing songs on the banjo where it seemed like all I wanted to do was keep stripping things off until I got to the bare essence of them.
CB: What's the significance of calling the album "Town and Country"?
MU: It’s a nod to that dichotomy, the rockier stuff set right alongside the folkier songs. It’s interesting to me, because the original template for this band was something along the lines of Neil Young’s Live Rust record, where we would start out a show almost whisper-soft with folky acoustic stuff, and by the end of the night we’d be playing riff-heavy rock songs on electric guitars. But the earlier MM lineups didn’t have all of that in them. This lineup does, and I love it.
CB: You mentioned that you had at least a twinge of concern that perhaps Town and Country was almost too varied. That's something I've always loved about Magnolia Mountain, yet it annoys me sometimes when other bands do it. I think the key is you have the ability to make it still sound like Magnolia Mountain; you never lose context when you're listening. Is it fair to say you had those concerns?
MU: I don’t think I was afraid it would be too varied, but I did (and do) have concerns that the record might alienate some earlier fans by incorporating too many different styles and sounds. But I’m hoping that other people will feel like you do, that it all still feels like part of a legitimate whole. Because I don’t write in different styles as some sort of genre exercise, I write like this because all these styles of music are just part of what I love and who I am.
Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers made a name for himself and his band by exploring “The Southern Thing,” meaning all the contradictions and the dynamic of growing up in the modern South and how other people see that and how you see yourself. Well, it hit me a while ago that so much of the music that gets termed “Americana” or “AltCountry” or whatever, is kind of “The Midwestern Thing.”
I mean, think about it, I grew up in southern Indiana and I’ve lived here in southern Ohio for over 20 years. We’re on the border of north and south, our ears hear a mixture of Rock and Pop and Country and R&B every day growing up. We hear phrases like “world’s biggest small town” tossed out as compliments and as urban as we try to be sometimes, our backgrounds are often very blue collar, very working man, very rural, even.
I think Magnolia Mountain is very much about all that, and I couldn’t be prouder of it.
CB: This one will be on vinyl as well, correct? What's with your dedication to the vinyl release? Do you personally feel your own music sounds better on vinyl than, say, a CD or digital file?
MU: I think pretty much everything sounds better on vinyl. I’m so happy vinyl records are coming back and I’m on cloud nine that all three of our records are available in that format. There’s nothing like that sound, that feel of the album in your hands, dropping the needle in the groove and looking at the artwork and the liner notes while you listen. It’s a ritual. It’s magic.
CB: When someone asks you what your band sounds like, and it's someone who might not have a great grasp on musical styles beyond the surface ones, what do you say?
MU: It kind of depends on if they have any grasp at all. I usually start with words like “rootsy” or “Americana” and if their eyes gloss over I’ll default to “Folk” or “Country." Or change the subject. I accepted long ago that the vast majority of the population doesn’t live or die by music the way I always have, so I don’t hold it against people for not catching obscure musical references or being well-versed in sub-genres. I’m just trying to find words or chords that people respond to no matter what their musical pedigree.
CB: Do you often say you play Country music, or is it just not worth the hassle of explaining that it's not THAT kind of Country music?
MU: I do use the term, although sparingly, and usually with a lot of hyphens. A lot of people associate Country music with a laundry list of negative connotations, and sometimes you can’t overcome that. But that’s kind of their problem and I try not to make it mine.
As far as the curse of “New Country,” yeah, I hate most of it as much as the next guy, but I also know that a lot of people listen to it because they don’t really have the time or the inclination to dig any deeper. But I also think that most people, no matter what their background or their musical preconceptions, tend to recognize honesty, real emotion, and lack of bullshit when it’s presented to them and that’s what I want to present to an audience.
CB: So how many musicians are currently in Magnolia Mountain? It seems you have had a fairly steady revolving door of co-players in the group with you, though, again, there's never a huge difference from lineup to lineup. Tell me a bit about who you’re playing with now?
MU: We’re still at eight, where we’ve been for a long time, but there are four new faces joining four original members in the Town and Country line-up: Renee Frye on vocals, Jeff Vanover on guitar, Todd Drake on drums, and Kathy Woods on fiddle, joining me, vocalist Melissa English, bassist Bob Donisi, and Bob Lese on mandolin and harmonica. All four of the new folks came in at roughly the same time, and fortuitously enough, right at the beginning of the Town and Country recording sessions, so they all had the opportunity to put their stamp on the record, and boy, did they ever.
I couldn’t be happier with how they’ve all worked out. They’re such incredible players and singers and great people to know and spend time with. For whatever reason, this version of the band feels the most comfortable in its own skin and I love that. The audiences seem to sense it, too. The new stuff is going over great live.
CB: How do rehearsals work? How frequently do you all get together? it would seem to be a logistical headache, at the very least.
MU: We rehearse once a week at my palatial Price Hill estate. We move the dining room table out of the room and set up in a circle. Some of us amplified, some of us not. It’s pretty low key, kids and dogs and cats coming and going. Usually everybody’s there every week. That’s how we learn so many new songs all the time, originals and covers. The process never really stops.
CB: The video for “The Hand of Man” and the Music For the Mountains benefit compilation have gotten the band and the cause of stopping mountaintop removal mining a lot of attention. Do you have more plans related to that or another cause in the works?
MM: Assuming the new location of the Southgate House is up and running by then, I’d like to do another multi-artist “Music for the Mountains” benefit concert in the fall. I don’t have the energy for another compilation album right now, but maybe down the road. The bad guys don’t sleep, you know, and neither can we. It’s just my little thing that I feel like I can do to help the folks that fight it day in, day out.
CB: Why was it important to you to become involved with the mountaintop mining campaign? Did the success the music had on getting the cause more attention give you a new perspective of the power of music?
MM: It just hit me as wrong on every conceivable level. It’s environmentally wrong, horribly short-sighted, and what it’s done to the residents of those areas is nothing short of criminal. It amazes me how well the coal companies have been able to use their corporate, political and financial muscle to hide it or dance around it for so long.
I do generally find, though, that once people become aware of what’s happening, either through a book or a speaker or a song, that they want it to stop, and that’s encouraging.
CB: The way people make and share and listen to music has changed a ton since your days with (Utley's late ’80s AltRock band) Stop the Car. Do you think Stop the Car would have been able to take things further if they had the resources you have now?
MU: Yeah, I do. For a couple of years there, at least, I would’ve put (Stop the Car) up against anybody, but we were so isolated back then, living in southern Indiana. It felt like we were playing in a vacuum. The kind of connections that the internet made possible were unheard of back then. I’m very thankful to have them now.
CB: When did you start listening to roots and Americana music, and start becoming a serious fan?
It was incremental. My dad listened to what you’d now call classic Country when I was growing up, but I couldn’t change the station quick enough. I’ve always been one to seek out the heroes of my heroes, though, and through bands like X, I started digging through older American Country and folk music. Hank Williams hooked me immediately. Woody Guthrie. Lead Belly. The Carter Family. You go deeper and deeper and deeper. It just never stops.
CB: What do you make of the (for lack of a better word) "trend" of a lot of musicians who would have fronted Punk Rock or Metal bands 10 years ago turning instead to Folk and Roots music these days? What do you think the draw is, particular to our times? Or do you think it's because kids are exposed to so many different styles nowadays?
MU: Well, they say that religion is the last refuge of a scoundrel, but perhaps it’s really Country music.
I don’t know, really, other than the fact that people can sense the authenticity of some of this music and perhaps they want to discover it more deeply, or co-opt it to their own ends, or try it on like a new suit of clothes. Whatever it is, and however the trends cycle in and out, I think people can tell who plays these kinds of music because it’s part of them and who’s just trying on the suit.
CB: Along those same lines, what do you think it is about American roots music that has given it such a fervent fan base overseas?That cult following for Americana in Europe and elsewhere seems to have been going strong for a long time now. I'm sure you've probably had more than a few nice reviews from the "foreign press."
MU: Europeans have always had an insatiable appetite for American musical forms. The British Invasion was nothing but them taking our music, making it their own and shooting it back at us.
Again, there’s the attraction of a sense of an authenticity, of something foreign and exotic, of times and places and people either long gone or vanishing inexorably. Our world is getting more and more controlled, more homogenized, more corporate, soulless and these Roots music forms are the antithesis of that.
CB: What's next up for the group? Is touring a possibility? Have you done radio campaigns and things like that in the past? Shopped music for licensing?
MU: We recently signed with a digital label from down south called This is American Music (TIAM). They’ll be handling the digital sales for all three of our records and we’ve contracted them to do promotion for Town and Country, as well. So we’ll finally have someone to take what we do and try and get it in front of people, which we’ve never had before.
We’re also working with a booking agent out of Nashville who’s setting up some tour dates for us, and we’ll be doing some trade off gigs with some of the other TIAM bands. It’s difficult with the size of our group, but we’re going to go out on the road as much as we can. I’m also doing more stripped-down gigs with Renee and Jeff as a trio, and we’re looking at touring with that configuration as well.
Cincy-based, ukulele-friendly Folk Pop duo Shiny and the Spoon are gearing up for the release of its first full-length album, Ferris Wheel. The record officially drops Aug. 13, when the twosome (Amber Nash and Jordan Neff) hosts a release party at the Southgate House with guests the Rubber Knife Gang, Lisa Walker (of Wussy) and The Hiders. But yesterday, Nash and Neff posted a “teaser” of Wheel on YouTube, featuring a medley of the album’s tracks. Check it out below.
Though the Super Bowl is taking place about 100 miles from Cincinnati, my guess is that most of us locals will be sitting on our couches, casually watching from the comfort of our own homes. If you're like me, you cringe at the cost of going to a hometown NFL game. The people at the Super Bowl might not all be those much-talked-about top-1% rich folks … but they're at least top-10% if they can afford Super Bowl prices (or they're lower-income people prepared to go homeless for a few months).
If you're staying home Sunday and watching the game on the tube, here's a little Super Bowl music playlist — a mix of the obvious and the obtuse — you can drink beer to while getting ready (or when you turn the sound down for Madonna's halftime show).
The first time I heard Yo-Yo Ma was on the episode of West Wing when his White House performance triggered Josh Lyman’s PTSD. Obviously, this was a horrible first impression. It tainted my opinion of the cellist for nearly a decade. Recently, though, I’ve become rather fond of Mr. Ma. That fondness only multiplied when his new album, The Goat Rodeo Sessions, found its way into my hands. A “goat rodeo” is a situation where a thousand things must come together and go perfectly in order for it to work. The album, a collection of Americana/Bluegrass works, must have felt like exactly that when Ma sat down and began collaborating with bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile (Punch Brothers, Nickle Creek), and fiddler Stuart Duncan. The album contains only one song with vocals, sung by vocalist Aoife O’Donovan (who sounds a lot like Alison Krauss).
The Goat Rodeo Sessions is available for purchase now, but on Jan. 31, music fans across the country will have the chance to see it performed live.
This week in my weekly local music column, Spill It, I wrote about the unexpected glut of really strong music events this week. Tonight may be the hardest of all to make a decision about. Let's work through this together, man. We'll find something for you to do.
• Catch a couple of Indie Pop success stories live and in person tonight in Covington as buzz bands Young the Giant and Cincinnati's very own Walk the Moon play Madison Theater, just the latest in a string of sold-out shows on the groups' current tour. We've been writing more and more about Walk the Moon over the past year (here's the latest), as the four-piece continues to charm the masses leading up to their debut album for RCA Records (late spring/early summer is the current target). Young the Giant is a little further along in its buzzdom, having released its first wide-exposure album, a self-titled affair on Roadrunner Records, in late 2010 (digitally)/early 2011 (physically). But YTG did a lot of legwork leading up to that point, building a following and airplay stats in Southern California as The Jakes, before becoming Young the Giant in 2009 and singing its deal. The band got a big shot in the arm after appearing at the MTV Video Music Awards last year; virtually unknown to most viewers, the band was featured between the likes of Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne, performing on some weird cubby-hole/light-box stage for 300 invited fans from their hometown of Irvine. Watch a clip below and read more here.
If you have tickets, tonight's YTG/WTM show starts at 8 p.m.; doors open at 7.