Word has been trickling out over the past few weeks about a new Country music festival in Cincinnati, organized by Bunbury Music Festival founder Bill Donabedian. Today, the first four artists slated to appear at the inaugural Buckle Up Music Festival were announced. The festival is set for the weekend after Bunbury — July 18-20 — and will use the same grounds at Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove along the Ohio River. (Think of it as Bunbury’s version of Coachella’s Stagecoach fest.)
The lineup will feature “upwards of 80 performers” and include both modern, commercial Country acts and variations on the Country theme — “folk, bluegrass, Americana, roots rock and more,” according to the press materials — something the initial lineup announcement reflects.
Legendary Country act Alabama (which for many years used the controversial Confederate Flag in its artwork, years before Kanye decided to reclaim it) and current Country hitmakers the Eli Young Band will be joined by up-and-comers J.T. Hodges (whose music has been described as “Country Soul with some Rock N’ Roll”) and eclectic Brooklyn-based Americana trio The Lone Bellow, which performed last November at Cincinnati’s 20th Century Theater (read CityBeat’s preview here).
Though eclectic enough to be considered “AltCountry,” Terminal Union captures the heart and soul of vintage Country on Making Arrangements. What puts Terminal Union ahead of many of their peers — and makes these songs so riveting — is the emotional weight the frontmen inject into the writing and performances. Being able to make an immediate emotional connection with listeners is not something you can learn; it's innate.
On the song "Magnificent Sounds," the group pays tribute to another pair of artists who also came off as instinctively talented and able to bring a soul-stirring levity to practically every note played, seemingly effortlessly — Miles Davis and Townes Van Zandt. Veteran local musician Michael "Mad Dog" Mavridoglou provides some bonus passion with his warm Jazz trumpet riffs on the track, which somehow sounds completely at home in the band's Country/Roots context.
Elsewhere, highlight tracks like “Comeback Kid” and “Devil’s in the Details” have the power of Steve Earle in peak form, while the piano-buoyed “One of the Ones” and “I Fell You” are wonderfully composed ballads that defy genre classifications — they are simply amazing, timeless songs.
Preview a pair of songs from Making Arrangements below. Visit terminalunion.com for more on the band and see them live this Saturday at Newport's York Street Cafe, where the group will be participating in the One More Girl on a Stage benefit show.
The weekend after the big Bunbury Music Festival at the Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove parks along the riverfront, another festival by the same fest organizers, Buckle Up, is set to make its debut. This morning, the full lineup and schedule for the Country/Americana fest was announced.
Friday, July 18: Alabama, Eli Young Band, Jamey Johnson, Marty Stuart, Ashley Monroe, Eric Pasley, Chris Janson, The Cadillac Three, Sturgill Simpson, Old Dominion, The Railers, Son of Fathers, David Fanning, Jamie Lynn Spears, Joshua Scott Jones, Pistol Holler, Jeremy Pinnell & The 55's, Sara Haze, Phillip Fox Band, Tyler Childers & The FoodStamps, The Dan Varner Band, Ashley Martin, Kaitlyn Baker, Alexis Gomez, Lonesome Jared & The Heartattacks, Messerly and Ewing, and Andrew Hibbard
Saturday, July 19: Willie Nelson / Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Old Crow Medicine Show, Emmylou Harris, Drive-By Truckers, Kristian Bush, Houndmouth, The Lone Bellow, The Spirit Family Reunion, Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, Joe Pug, Lera Lynn, Natalie Stovall and the Drive, Caitlyn Smith, The Tillers, Tall Heights, The 23 String Band, Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle, Kentucky Timbre, Coralee and the Townies, Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome, Al Scorch, Shiny and the Spoon, The Carolines, Dean Fields, and Wild Carrot
Sunday, July 20: The Band Perry, Thompson Square, David Nail, Corey Smith, Dylan Scott, Sam Hunt, Blackjack Billy, Dallas Smith, JT Hodges, Chase Bryant, Logan Brill, Lyndsey Highlander, Abigail Rose, Noah Smith, Ruth Collins, Bobby Mackey, Straw Boss, The Kentucky Struts, Ty Bates, Carly Pearce, Jetset Getset, Honey & Houston, Zack Dubois, and Max Fender
Tickets for the Buckle Up Festival are available now ($55 for one day/$130 for a three-day pass, but prices go up after Memorial Day). For tickets and more info (including the daily schedule), visit buckleupfestival.com.
One of the oldest free series of its kind in the region, the It’s Commonly Jazz showcases have now been running for 28 years, presenting marquee artists like Eddie Harris, McCoy Tyner, Javon Jackson and David “Fathead” Newman.
The free series — running every Thursday in August (lucky Jazz fans get five events this year) — returns to the outdoor Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park tonight. The opening show features renowned saxophonist Craig Bailey.
Nice interview from Greece with Bailey:
Here is the rest of the It’s Commonly Jazz lineup for 2013:
Trinidad-born Etienne Charles, acclaimed for his mix of island rhythms and Jazz, plays Aug. 8.
Charles jazzing up Marley:
Young tenor sax wiz J.D. Allen performs at the Aug. 15 show.
Allen and his trio play "The Matador and the Bull":
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/actor Gregory Porter on Aug. 22, presented with Learning Through the Arts, Inc. as part of the Crown Jewels of Jazz Heritage Festival. For tickets to (and more info on) the Crown Jewels fest — running at various venues in Over-the-Rhine and Mt. Adams Aug. 21-24 — click here. Here's LTtA's Kathy Wade explaining the festival:
Gregory Porter's official music video for "Be Good (Lion's Song)":
For the finale, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, who will be joined by his group of young Jazz lions, Wolfpack, comes to the ICJ stage on Aug. 29.
Warren Wolf's video biography:
Music runs 6-8 p.m. For complete info, visit itscommonlyjazz.com.
Hinder is a wildly successful Oklahoma Hard Rock comprised of members Austin Winkler (lead vocalist), Joe “Blower” Garvey (lead guitarist), Mark King (rhythm guitarist), Mike Rodden (bassist) and Cody Hanson (drummer). The band blew up in 2005 with the release of its debut studio album Extreme Behavior, which featured popular hits “Get Stoned” and “Lips of an Angel.”
The band is climbing the charts again with the single “What Ya Gonna Do” off their third studio album, All American Nightmare. CityBeat caught up with the band prior to their performance at RockFest in Cadott, Wisc.They had time to discuss the new album and the festival life. The band will be rocking the entire summer hitting rock festivals all across the country.
CityBeat: You’re out here in the metropolis of Wisconsin. What did you guys do last night?
Austin: We played a show in Indiana.
CB: So you were on the bus last night?
CB: Is this your first time at RockFest?
Austin: I don’t think so. I think we’ve played this before in 2007.
Blower: I know we’ve played this venue.
Austin: We played with Three Doors Down in ’07.
CB: What can we expect today from the set?
Austin: Rain and Lots of wetness.
Cody: We’re going to get the chicks wet tonight.
Mark: God is doing it for us.
CB: That’s the line of the day. You guys were just at Rock on the Range. What was your craziest Rock on the Range story?
Mike: I think I pissed myself that night.
CB: Any particular reason?
Mark: I don’t remember why because I was blacked out but I definitely woke up with some wet pants.
Cody: Shit I was so hammered that night, I might have pissed your pants.
Austin: I got so high, I didn’t know where the phone was.
CB: Did you guys go to Rocklahoma after that or did you just go on tour?
Austin: Yeah, we did Rocklahoma for the first time. That was pretty awesome. It was about time too because we are from there.
CB: I love the new album. It was one of my favorites that I listened to prep for Rock on the Range. I’ve been listening to it ever since. What’s your favorite tracks to play live on the album?
Mark: “Two Sides of Me” is one of my favorites to play live. It’s a good little rocker.
Austin: “What You Gonna Do” is one of my favorites to play recently.
CB: It’s catchy. I can say it with you.
Mike: Tell that to radio.
CB: It’s all over the radio. I’ve been in traffic coming into this place for a day and I think I heard it three times today. I think they got the memo that you were here. You guys have toured with some huge bands. Are there any other bands that you would like to tour with or play with?
Austin: I want to play with the Rolling Stones.That would be awesome.
CB: You guys did Aerosmith for a few dates right?
Austin: That was badass.
Mike: I’d like to play with The Doors, if that was possible.
CB: I had a question about “Striptease.” Any particular strippers or clubs that inspired that song?
Austin: I think it’s a lot of the bullshit that’s being shoved down people’s throats these days.
Cody: It’s more about a few of the pop artists and you can throw some reality stars in there.
Mike: Yeah, it’s kind of like they belong more in a strip club than they do on the radio or TV. That’s about how much talent they have.
Mark: Dude Ke$ha is talented, alright.
CB: In more ways than one right?
Cody: I doubt that. I did just see a picture of her online yesterday with her holding her tits and a big wad of nut underneath.
Group: Are you kidding me?
CB: Are we sure it was her?
Cody: Yeah, or it was some nasty bitch that looked just like her.
CB: So what has been the highlight of 2011 for you guys so far?
Mike: I don’t think we have any super-big highlights.
Austin: The fact we have our third record out is pretty awesome. Being well-received by our fans, I think that’s pretty badass.
Mike: We might just make a highlight tonight.
CB: I have to tell you. I was here last night and Rob Zombie made a highlight.
Cody: What did he do?
CB: The stage, as you know is two-tiered. He said, “Everybody is too far away. Come up on the stage.” So all the girls came up on the stage with them for four songs. He said, “If you behave. Don’t fuck it up.” Next thing you know I am running onto the stage and at John 5’s feet. So I think that shocked the security and the venue for a minute. So you guys can try it. Nobody got hurt.
Mark: They are a lot braver than us.
Blower: A lot more scary looking too.
CB: Any regrets over the years?
Mike: Yeah, we have lots of those. We have a whole bag of them.
Cody: We have tons of regrets and mistakes we have made over the years. Especially when you first start out being a band. You are green and you let outside people have a little too much control and make some bad decisions for you. If we could go back, we would probably have a lot more money.
CB: Do you guys all still live in Oklahoma.
Austin: I don’t. I live in California.
Cody: But the rest of us do.
CB: How often do you get home?
Cody: We just came from home. We have been home for quite a bit on this cycle. It’s been a little more relaxed. We’re out on this run for like seven weeks. So it’s good to be out.
CB: Do you guys prefer to play festivals like this and Rock on the Range or your own shows where you have your own, obviously your fan base is here too, but when you have your own shows, you know who is there?
Austin: Either way, we bring the same show. I guess sometimes when we play like Rock on the Range, we only get a certain amount of time. We come in and play 40 or 45 minutes, that kind of sucks. I wish we could play longer. Other than that, we bring the same show no matter what.
Mike: It’s kind of cool too, to have a break from the same tour every night and have a few festivals stuck in there because the lineup is different, there are different bands at all the festivals. So it’s cool to get a change from the everyday show.
CB: Anybody you are looking forward to seeing today?
Blower: I’ve never seen Kid Rock so I am pretty stoked about that.
CB: You guys are touring with the new album. Have you started working on any new music yet?
Austin: Not necessarily recording in the studio but we are always coming up with ideas and stuff on the road. We kind of never really stop writing.
CB: What’s your process? Do you guys do it together or separately?
Austin: Usually me and Cody will sit down with acoustic guitars and write the nutshell of the song and bring it to the rest of the guys and they put their thing on it.
CB: How does the feedback session go?
Mike: Pretty straight forward.
CB: You guys have been together forever so you can take it right?
CB: You guys had a ton of songs to pick from for this album?
Cody: We’re hoping to be able to recycle some of those and use some for the next record. There are some really great songs that didn’t make it. Hopefully we’ll pick some of them out for the next one.
Saturday, Apr 28: Jubal's Kin Festival Grounds
Saturday at MerleFest broke hard and cold. Our camping neighbors had an impromptu jam session at 3 a.m., which is to be expected when camping at a music festival geared towards people who not only love to watch and listen, but also play. It would have been one thing to hear the soft strains of a string jam or the gentle harmony of "Wildwood Flower," but some dude shouting the lyrics to "Whipping Post" over badly tuned guitars played really hard … not the thing mountain dreams are made from.
So I sat, at sun up, reading and drinking coffee, plotting revenge and the instead of taking my revenge, made the accused coffee, read some more and generally moved real slow. Crustymarhsmellowman. I did get to play a couple tunes with Pete McWhirter as he moved past to grab some coffee on his way to open his booth.
Then I moved real slow some more.
Really real slow.
After lunch, I decided to make an attempt to see some music.
I had already missed Jim Lauderdale at the Creekside Stage. To bad, I like some Jim Lauderdale and it would have been a nice wake up, but there you are. I saw on the schedule Jubal's Kin at the Dance Tent, looked at the clock and … damn missed that, too. But what ho! There they are on the schedule at the Americana Tent immediately following their Dance Tent set. It's a MerleFest miracle! I grabbed my camera and another cup of coffee and headed out.
Jubal's Kin, all nerves and bad house sound on Day 1, was all smooth and in good voice on Day 3. They filed the promise I thought I saw at the Cabin Stage on what always seems like an eternity ago and delivered a set full of vigor, with pristine sound delivered by the sound person. Their originals are fresh with sparse instrumentation and the kind of tight harmonies that only siblings can deliver. Never lyrically embarrassing with overplayed earnestness or too casual observation, they meld in with beautifully arranged and originally considered traditional tunes. There's "The Cuckoo," that ancient English broadside, rendered as if Billie Holiday had spent some time in the Eastern Kentucky mountains. "Buffalo Gal" was reconsidered as a pop tune with a well delivered encouragement to jump in on the chorus and sing along. Gaelanne's fiddle playing is absolutely gorgeous in a John Hartford/Matt Comb's kind of way, though leaning a bit heavier on the front of the beat as opposed to sitting in the pocket. And her banjo playing is just delicious. They added one more member for this set — "Uncle Joe" on pedal steel and fiddle. With "Baby Brother" on bass, Jubal's Kin appears to be a family band.
Satisfied my instincts were intact, I left the Americana Stage to catch some other music. I wondered into the Traditional Tent to catch some of mountain legend Red June. He was explaining to the audience what a jam session was. Have I mentioned the Traditional Tent smells like a barn? I don't think it's intentional, but the wet grass combined with an enclosed space has rendered an unfavorable impression. After the lesson on what a "jam" is, Red invited a local banjo player up to do a fiddle tune with the fiddle player who didn't bring a fiddle, but did bring a mandolin. Not to fear! You can play fiddle tunes on mandolin (or piano for that matter), so he requested the newest banjo player and the fiddle player with the mandolin decide on a tune they both knew and then play it. Five minutes of discussion and tuning followed. As I headed out of the tent I thought "Just like a jam session," and went down to the Creekside Cabin to catch the rest of the Snyder Family Band and the following act, Sierra Hull and Highway 111.
The Snyder Family Band is a family Bluegrass band (no irony at MerleFest!). Like all Bluegrass bands they have a banjo, sing harmonies and play Bluegrass. Of course they play it really well. People love them. Standing ovation.
I waited around for Sierra Hull and Highway 111 to take the stage. Sierra Hull, 5-foot-nothing and former wiz kid master of the mandolin is now a promising songwriter and ingenue. I'm familiar with this script and am bored not two minutes into the first song. Sigh. I stop in the field in front of the Watson Stage to hear some of "Assembly of Dust." Young Nashville Country script. Know it. Boring. Moving on.
It's coming up on 3 p.m. and time to give my sister a break in her booth in the Heritage Tent. Nancy Roberson is a weaver based out of Knoxville, Tenn. She's been showing, selling and demonstrating at MerleFest for about as long as there has been a MerleFest. She heads out for her afternoon nap (apparently a hardwired Roberson DNA trait) and I pleasantly meet the mass of retail customers streaming by and wondering into her booth.
Nancy makes shawls. Well kind of. Not only does she design each warp for the loom, but on these particular pieces of clothing, she has design the shawl itself. It's twisted, sewn up the back, and pulled over your head like a loose fitting sweater. The front gathers in soft bunches and hangs across the chest. The ladies love them. Woven of soft cotton and rayon with the occasional silk woven in for effect, the main color of each shawl is broken up with a rhythm of competing and sometimes complimentary colors. People can't help but be drawn in by the colors and when the reach out and touch them, you always get an "Oooooo, these feel so nice and are so beautiful." If you don't, it's a replicant — ready your phasers.
When Nancy returned, I checked the schedule and cheese whiz on a cracker if Jubal's Kin wasn't playing in the barn-like Traditional Tent. Finally a chance to catch this band in more intimate surroundings, smell be damned. I headed over, got there early and claimed a seat near the front. In short order the band was on stage, laughing and calling out songs. They moved though a load of traditional tunes, all rendered in a sweet, imaginative way, like "Dinah Blow Your Horn," with added lyrics and a new verse melody. The Carter Family's "No Depression" was delivered in soul rendering pain. About midway through the set, a guitar string broke enabling some spontaneous double fiddle and dancing. While the guitar player stepped off stage, "Uncle Joe" and Gaelanne tuned their fiddles and discussed which tune to play. In a matter of thirty seconds (this is no a jam session) launched into a Skillet Lickers number my dad probably danced to when he was their age. A friend jumped up on stage and launched into some spirited clogging. Not to be undone, "Baby Brother" put his bass down, peeled off his shoes and joined the Appalachian chorus line at the end of the stage with some well executed Buck Dancing.
Yes sir, these kids from Florida are the real shit. I've spent decades in front of poseurs, wannabees, shitty players and hopefuls. Using a foundation of traditional music obviously passed along from a family that loves this stuff at an early age, Jubal's Kin are making something very real, unique and personal that compels you to be a part.
This is why I come to MerleFest. Thanks, guys, for inviting me in.
Exhausted from a night of no sleep and a day of wandering and finding Jubal's Kin, I headed back to my book and coffee and called it a day.
Another pretty good day overall. The temperature was a little higher, as was the humidity, and even when the clouds moved in and things seemed perhaps a little iffy, the good weather prevailed and all was right for the second day of Bunbury, v.3.
The day began as it ended the previous evening, with some quick face time with volunteer excelsior and one of the scene's most gifted guitarists, Jacob Heintz. A Bunbury blessing from Jacob is the first step in a great day. And before I'd even gotten to the gate, I was called out by Brandon Weaver, owner/operator of Iron Wing Studio in Covington, who hosted my interview with Seabird last year; he's got a great facility and he's a really nice guy, so if you're looking for a place to paint your sonic masterpiece, give him a call.
I wasn't really committed to seeing anything until relatively late in the schedule, so I decided to just float around the stages for the first few slots and maybe do a little sampling from each. It was a pretty successful plan, as it turned out.
My first stop was the Warsteiner Stage to check out Miner, but the guy at the mic introduced the group as the Family Band, so apparently there was a Miner adjustment. Hahahahahahaha. I'm laughing because I know you're not. At any rate, the rather large band sounded a lot like our own Josh Eagle and the Harvest City, if they'd been juiced up on My Morning Jacket. They were quite good.
Next it was a quick jaunt down to the Amphitheater Stage to see Brent James & the Vintage Youth. What started out as super tight bar boogie a la Aerosmith evolved into a super smart Rock show that drew on any number of potent influences, all of which were on full display when James and the Youth rolled out an absolutely jaw-dropping cover of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," a blazing blend of Bon Jovi dramatics and Georgia Satellites off-the-rails jamarama. Equally impressive was James' soulful swagger on "Needle to the Groove," and imagine my surprise when James called out his band, which includes regional wunderkind Ricky Veeneman, who won the 1999 Jimi Hendrix National Guitar Competition (when he was 15, by the way) and bassist Matt Gandenberger, who provided four-string assistance on a couple of tracks on Ricky's 2003 album, Change. James noted that the band would be opening for ZZ Top at the Horseshoe Casino in the near future, so here's a note to ticketholders — don't skip the opener.
After the Vintage Youth, I wandered down to the Main Stage to take in a little of Crass Mammoth's set. After a handful of songs, they struck me as gritter, punkier Modest Mouse with a Classic Rock vein and melodic Pop undercurrent that guitarist/vocalist Joseph Crowe characterized as "the cute part of the show." And once that was concluded, the north Georgia trio went right back to raw and ripping mode. There's a good chance that Crass Mammoth made as many new fans today as they drew from their fervent existing fan base.
From there, it was back to the Warsteiner Stage for an uplifting and raucous set from the pride of Hartford, Connecticut, Bronze Radio Return. Although there was more than a hint of Mumford and Sons/Lumineers Folk/Pop to BRR's presentation, there were also Rock elements ranging from The Black Crowes to Tom Petty to shades of Crash Test Dummies. The band drew a relatively big crowd and a good many of them were already fans, as evidenced by the large number of people singing along with nearly every song. Bronze Radio Return's frontman, Chris Henderson, was engaging and very much the band's ringmaster, their material was anthemic and joyful and I would love to see what the band would do with a long form set.
At this point, I decided to get my wander on and just roam the Bunbury grounds getting a taste of the musical talent that had been assembled for Day 2. First, there was New Politics down at the Main Stage, which reminded me of Neon Trees with a considerably heavier bottom and a Hip Hop heart. Next up was Bonesetters, a great Americana/Indie Rock band from Indianapolis that shimmered in the heat of the Lawn Stage with a palpable Jim James/Ryan Adams/Eef Barzelay vibe. Then it was back over to the Warsteiner Stage to catch a few songs from Nashville's Fly Golden Eagle, an atmospheric Roots/Soul/Psych Rock aggregation that grooves and jangles and totally lives up to the title of their 2011 album, Swagger. They've toured with Alabama Shakesm Dr. Dog and Arctic Monkeys and garnered comparisons to Lips both Black and Flaming, Beck and the Black Crowes, and that adds up to a band that needs to come on back.
After digging a few FGE songs, I drifted down to the Amphitheater Stage to enjoy local-girl-made-good Jesse Thomas, who's gotten her songs placed on Shameless and Hart of Dixie. The L.A. resident/Covington native has a tang and twang that suggests Patty Griffin, Kathleen Edwards and Shawn Colvin, and that ain't bad company no matter how you slice it. Jesse drew a pretty healthy hometown crowd and she made the most of her first festival appearance, Bunbury or otherwise.
After Jesse Thomas' spirited set, it was a short stroll over to the Lawn Stage to experience the full frontal assault of Nashville's Modoc, who I got into by way of a story I did earlier in the year on Melvin Dillon and his vinyl-only label Soul Step Records. Modoc was one of Melvin's early signings when he approached the band about pressing vinyl on their excellent debut full-length. In the studio, Modoc make a mighty racket that crashes happily at the intersection of Led Zeppelin and Southern Rock, but everything that the band does so well in the sterile confines of the recording booth are amplified a dozen times and set ablaze like Jimi Hendrix's Stratocaster. Thunderous riffs, razor wire slide leads, pummeling bass lines and a drum sound heavy enough to drill through solid bedrock, Modoc does it all with a wink/nod sense of humor and a joyful passion that comes through with every note. They've played a couple of MidPoints (they’ll be back for this year’s MPMF) and they're building a pretty sizable following, if their Bunbury turnout was any indication. And as frontman Garry Crisp so eloquently put it, "We love Cincinnati. It's got sin in it twice!" Right back atcha, G-Dawg.
I managed to see at least some of Jane Decker's set. I'd talked to Jane and bassist Mitch Winsett two years ago when Belle Histoire was still a viable concern, but the band has since scattered to the wind and Jane has stepped away from a band configuration to make her mark as a solo artist. Her Bunbury set was supposed to be a full band gig, but something happened in the days before the festival and she wound up on the Lawn Stage singing to the acoustic guitar accompaniment of Sean (just Sean, apparently), her songwriting partner on a good deal of the album that is currently being mastered for an imminent release. Jane auditioned for The Voice last season and was bounced because the judges didn't know what to do with her. As I sat listening to her acoustic set at Bunbury, her incredibly poppy songs stripped to the essentials of Jane's beautiful Dolores O'Riordon-tinted voice and the simple counterpoint of Sean's tasteful acoustic soundtrack, I cannot imagine what Adam Levine wasn't hearing. Any of the songs Jane presented in her acoustic set could be produced up to megahit proportions and go toe-to-toe with Lorde, Arianna Grande, or whoever is the flavor of the moment. It certainly seems like Jane's moved beyond The Voice incident (the failure being theirs and not hers), and is ready to pursue her dream and make a skadillion dollars without Blake Shelton's help.
Molly Sullivan won the Singer/Songwriter CEA back in January and every time she puts herself in front of an audience, she offers a little more evidence to support that honor. She has an amazing vocal range, from midnight howl to 3 a.m. hush and she has the uncanny ability to shift from melodic Folk/Pop beauty to dissonant Jazz artfulness while retaining the thread of her creative identity. Molly's set at the Acoustic Stage was simply fantastic, further proof that her CEA win was no fluke and is likely to be followed by a few more similar triumphs down the line.
Over at the Main Stage, it wasn't too hard to see why Paramore is the current darling of high-octane Pop Rock. The band was physically moving air during their powerful and obviously well received set; their drums pounded their way into your rib cage and altered your heartbeat to a different time signature. I stuck around for a handful of songs but ultimately opted for an early exit in order to find some prime real estate on the Serpentine Wall.
Tonight would be Foxy Shazam's second appearance at Bunbury, and they had their work cut out for themselves. No one who witnessed their gig at the inaugural Bunbury two years ago will ever forget it; frontman Eric Nally imploring the Reds' Joey Votto to "hit the motherfucker out of the park," and Sky White tossing his keyboard into the crowd and then leaping in after it, continuing to play while the audience held it and him aloft. Oh, and they played a lot of great music. And therein lies a common misperception, that the band's onstage antics are somehow going to detract from their musical performance. This notion is typically floated by people who have never seen Foxy Shazam work an audience like a skilled pickpocket while simultaneously putting on a dazzling Rock show.
As advertised, Foxy presented their new album Gonzo in its entirety for the first 30 minutes of the set, with bassist Daisy Kaplan on guitar and guitarist Loren Turner on bass (it was a device they used to jump start the writing process and they decided to maintain the set up for the live translation). Where The Church of Rock and Roll was more of an immediate album, Gonzo is a work that reveals its gifts slowly, and those albums always seem to wind up being fan favorites. The packed Wall showed their appreciation for Gonzo with a fevered response to each of the album's nine songs.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Foxy show without Nally's brilliant non sequitur patter — like "The only difference between me and a scholar is how much we paid for what we know," and "If it was legal to shoot people, I'd be dead." The real showstopper came in the second half of the set, when Foxy hauled out the back catalog and Kaplan and Turner returned to their regular roles. By this time, trumpeter/vocalist Alex Nauth had tossed his horn into the light rigging a half dozen times, White had played his keys with his ass and Nally had somersaulted, vaulted, balanced and slid all over the stage.
After blowing through high voltage turns on "Holy Touch" and "I Like It" (where Nally adlibbed, "Let me see your butthole, baby," something I'm fairly certain I never heard Barry White utter), among others, Nally introduced the band's last song of the evening thusly: "This next song, this last song, is about time travel. I wrote it next week." And with that, Foxy Shazam roared headlong into "Unstoppable," the anthemic 2010 hit from their self-titled album. As the band neared the end of the song, Nally called for cigarettes from the crowd; grabbing one from a pack, he lit it with a lighter thrown on the stage and called for the lights to be killed. As "Unstoppable" faded to its squalling conclusion, Nally blew sparks out of the end of the cigarette into the darkness on the stage, and then shrieked, "You're all pregnant!" He dropped the mic, the lights came up and that was the end. As unlikely as it seemed less than an hour before, Foxy Shazam had indeed cleared the bar they'd set two years ago. As the late Jack Palance used to intone on a weekly basis, "Believe it … or not."
I hung around after Foxy to chat with ClassX Radio’s Eddy Mullet whose daughter had a little trouble with rude doofuses, but he handled it with aggressive diplomacy. We were talking about our plans for the end of the evening, and I was tempted to bail on Fall Out Boy to get home and get started on these reviews, while Eddy seemed ready to call it a day as well. But at the last moment I decided to catch at least a few songs from the last band of the day, and announced it with the unfortunate phraseology, "I think I'll go check out a little Boy." Eddy's daughter Jess went, "Uhhh. …" Point taken.
So we all headed off toward the Main Stage area, me to find a good viewing position and them to see if the exit next to the stage was open (it wasn't). Having come this far, Eddy decided to stick around as well, and so we all lingered for a bit to witness the Pop/Punk majesty of Fall Out Boy. I've always liked the Wentz/Stump dynamic, perhaps not enough to passionately explore their output, but more than enough to appreciate the fact that they've elevated the conversation in the genre. But as Shakespeare noted, the play's the thing, and Fall Out Boy do the thing pretty well.
Bookended by festival closers that were and would be visual orgasms of color and light (Empire of the Sun on Friday, Flaming Lips on Sunday), FOB chose to make their presentation the spectacle, playing their hits and beyond with an expansive flair without forgetting that they were compact and energetic Punk-tinted Pop songs. About midway through the set, an already adrenalized crowd went ballistic when Paramore's Hayley Williams stepped out to duet with the band on "Sugar, We're Goin Down," and the frenzy just continued from there. Patrick Stump played to the hometown crowd by giving a shout out to "our friends in Foxy Shazam," which was nice, and later Stump asked how many parents were in the audience, and reminisced how his father would take him to Punk shows in Chicago when he was a teenager, and as a tribute to all the DNA-linked chaperones in attendance, peeled off a sweet version of "We Are the Champions," followed with an incendiary spin through "Save Rock and Roll."
At that point, we took our leave to beat the rush; as I was headed toward my car, I could hear the strains of "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark," and I was really glad I'd stuck around to experience Fall Out Boy in this perfect setting.
• On Bunbury Day 2, I began the day by filling the gastank with a carton of Island Noodles (with the teriyaki chicken, thank you), an amazing repast that lasted well into the evening, when I had a slightly less amazing but incredibly delicious Kobe Dog from Dutch's booth. Both are highly recommended (but the noodles are less likely to stop your heart; on the other hand, we're walking it off, are we not?)
• Saturday had a much different crowd vibe than Friday, due to the headliners for the evening, Paramore and Fall Out Boy. Usually I run into a half dozen friends and acquaintances before I've decided on which lunch and what beer to chase it. But it wasn't too long before I ran into Brent and Kat, the scene's most visible couple. They mentioned they were going to catch an unannounced set by Billy Catfish, and Kat said that she had noticed a distinct similarity between Billy's eyes and Brent's eyes. To that end, she noted that if Brent kicks it, she's going to ask Billy out. To which Brent replied, "If Kat dies, I'll ask Billy out, too." Together in everything, as it should be. Not long after, I crossed paths once again with another prince of the realm, The Ready Stance's Wes Pence and his son Wyatt, on the lookout for action of every imaginable variation. If you don't know Wes, there is a great gaping void in your life. And if you don't know The Ready Stance, same thing. As Dr. Steven Brule says, “Check it out.”
• I had seen photographer extraordinaire (and CityBeat alum) Sean Hughes having a little difficulty getting into the photo pit at the Warsteiner Stage with his pass on Friday (for the love of Annie Leibowitz, do you people know who he is?), and I told him that I was about to come over and throw my weight around. Not influence — I have none of that anywhere — but my actual weight. I can create a fatass distraction like nobody's business. On Saturday, Sean noted that he could have used my help later the day before, but I reminded him, "I can't be where you are, you have to be where I am, that's how my fatassery works." Then he saw girls in the misting station and said, "People getting wet … that's my thing," and off he went. Another prince? Most assuredly.
• At the Modoc show, I caught up with Soul Step Records owner/operator Melvin Dillon and his lovely sister Wendy. I figured I'd see Melvin there; he's a big fan of Modoc, having sought them out specifically to press the vinyl version of their self-titled debut LP. Melvin mentioned that he's currently working with a big name local band (I won't jinx the deal by announcing anything … yet) to do the vinyl version of their new album. Stay tuned. It will be epic.
• Once again, ran into Eddy Mullet, only this time with two daughters in his entourage; his youngest daughter Cassie was along for the ride on Saturday. Not quite the music fan that her sister Jess has become, Cassie did have a full-bore good time at the Foxy Shazam extravaganza, so she may be making some forays into the local music world with dear old dad in the near future. Or maybe not. Kids will always find their own way.
The Mayhem Festival takes over Riverbend July 20 and CityBeat will be featuring bands throughout the week leading up to the festival. Trivium is one of the groups playing this year, represent the new school of Metal at its best. The band, out of Orlando, is signed with Roadrunner Records and its fifth studio album, In Waves, is expected to be released in August.
Cincinnati has a wealth of music festivals, from MidPoint Music Festival, Cincy Blues Fest, Macy's Music Festival, Bunbury to new additions like the expanded One More Girl on a Stage event this fall, the recently announced MOXY Music Fest, scheduled for June, and numerous others. But for those who like to get a fresh sampling of some of the newest artists from Greater Cincinnati representing a wide range of genres, The Heights Music Festival has been your best option.
This weekend, The Heights Music Festival returns to venues in the Clifton Heights neighborhood for its eighth edition. Usually, The Heights fest is biannual, with an event in both the fall and the spring. But this weekend's HMF will be the only one in 2013. Organizer Rome Ntukogu of Far-I-Rome Productions says The Heights will definitely be back in 2014, bigger and better. He's simply taking a break to work on some new ideas for the event; understandable, considering large chunks of the Clifton Heights neighborhood (near the University of Cincinnati) are under heavy reconstruction now, part of a revitalization effort that should put HMF in a good position when it returns. The area will be almost like a new (and nicer) neighborhood by then.
The first Heights Music Fest (originally called the Clifton Heights Music Festival) was held in 2009 and was considerably smaller, with four venues and about 20 performers. Last year, The Heights featured over 75 bands in five venues and included a "Day Fest" on Saturday.
So Friday and Saturday's pre-hiatus is something of a return to the HMF roots, with four venues and around 30 acts. But it's the same eclectic mix of newcomers and up-and-comers from the local scene. And $5 gets you admission to all four venues — Rohs Street Café (the only all-ages venue), Baba Budan’s, Mac’s Pizza Pub and Christy’s Biergarten, a historic building that has been at the center of a battle over whether it should be demolished or sold off in the name of progress or preserved in the name of history (as many residents would like). You can purchase an all-venue pass at any of the four venues.
This year's Heights lineup once again runs a vast gamut of styles, from Reggae, World music, Roots/Americana and Hip Hop to Punk, Jazz, Synth Pop, Funk and various spins on Rock (from Indie to Hard).
Below is the rundown of performers. (Note: There have been some shifts in the lineup since CityBeat's Spill It column about the fest ran on Wednesday; check it out here for a playlist featuring several of the participating artists.)
• Rohs Street Café: The Freebies (8 p.m.); MC Forty (9 p.m.); Young Colt (10 p.m.); The Yugos (11 p.m.).
• Baba Budan’s: One Day Steady (9 p.m.); Wonky Tonk (10 p.m.); Brazilian Jazz (11 p.m.).
• Mac’s Pizza: Rachel Mousie (9 p.m.); Common Center (10 p.m.); Big Rock Club (11 p.m.); Olu, Crack Sauce (midnight).
• Christy’s: Zach Starkie & Guest (9 p.m.); The Newt (9:45 p.m.); AC The Entity, Citoak (10:30 p.m.); Filthy Beast (11:30 p.m.); Gold Shoes (12:15 a.m.).
• Rohs Street Café: Brent Stroud (9 p.m.); Moonbeau (10 p.m.); Little Lights (11 p.m.).
• Baba Budan’s: VanillaSake (9 p.m.); Sulla (10 p.m.); LZRPNY (11 p.m.); Horsecop (midnight).
• Mac’s: Koala Fires (9 p.m.); Emily and The Complexes (10 p.m.); Tana Matz (11 p.m.) and MJs Blues (midnight).
• Saturday at Christy’s: Jordon Schneider & Guests (9 p.m.); Baoku & The Image Afrobeat Band (10 p.m.); The Almighty Getdown (11 p.m.); The Killtones (midnight).