MidPoint Music Festival headliners Cut Copy yesterday dropped a new video, "Blink and You'll Miss a Revolution," from the band's recently released full-length Zonoscope. The clip uses Planet of the Apes-esque dudes in a way that's both amusing and crafty — way better than most of the videos MTV used to play back when it was a music channel. And it's a nice primer for the Aussies stop here next week.
Oh, and here's what I wrote when Zonoscope was released back in March — notice the bit about them not touring here:
"Not as dancey as the the first two CC records, Zonoscope is a spacier, more laid-back grower that reveals frontguy Dan Whitford's lyrical acumen (the big beats and thick synths used to push his words to the background). I'm curious to hear how this sounds live. Unfortunately, CC's current tour does not feature a Cincy stop — though the band is slated to play the Pitchfork Music Festival July 17 in Chicago. Road trip!"
MPMF news and musings: Kick-ass longtime MPMF sponsor Dewey's Pizza is giving away a trio of special "Next Level Experience" passes for you and two of your closest friends (or, I suppose, you could give them to people you hate, though that would just be kinda weird).
If you win, you'll receive a three-day wristband and one night at the Dewey's Pizza/Grammer's stage in the best seat in the house (which appears to be a couch positioned very close to the stage). For more on Dewey's Next Level Experience contest, click here.
And now, with the countdown down to just 13 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks, today featuring all Ohio artists …
Cloud Nothings (Cleveland, OH)
From his parents’ basement, Dylan Baldi created and released several acclaimed lo-fi recordings as Cloud Nothings before his 2009 EP, Turning On, pinged the critics’ radar and scored positive reviews on all the right blogs. Almost immediately, Baldi had to assemble a band to play the gigs that were offered to him, resulting in lots of touring and his slightly shinier 2011 self-titled full-length. This year has seen the release of the even more expansive Attack on Memory and a string of upcoming opening dates for Silversun Pickups. Not a bad three years for a Hardcore obsessed kid from Cleveland.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The idea of Tommy Keene and Kevin Seconds stirring up some Pop and some Punk for a Husker Du tribute. (Brian Baker)
Cloud Nothings perform at Midnight on Friday, Sept. 28, at the Cincinnati Club. Here's the official music video for Cloud Nothings' "No Future/No Past."
MPMF news and musings: ArtWorks/Springboard Cincinnati is once again handling one of the cooler aspects of the "MidPoint Midway" (the fairgrounds-like area connecting Main to Vine streets, with food vendors, a music stage, poster expo and lots more). Last year's MidPoint Music Festival saw the introduction of the "Box Truck Carnival," where numerous local artists and organizations turned nondescript moving trucks into their own little worlds (last year, there was a theater, a skate park and a Putt Putt course).
This year, Springboard is profiling the trucks on its website leading up to the big event next week. So far, they've introduced the Art for All People truck, "Art and Music Box," where you'll be able to add your own creative paint job, and the truck by OTRimprov, which will feature improv games and "on-the-spot workshops" for aspiring UCB comedians (or just the curious). Click here to check out these and other "fun in a box" experiments.
• The other big news of the day is that one of the bigger headlining acts, Sleigh Bells, has been forced to cancel its appearance at Washington Park during the festival. The band was slated to headline the park stage at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29. The full lineup for Saturday is up in the air, but will be retooled with additional acts. Expect an announcement soon.
If Sleigh Bells was the only act you wanted to see at the festival and you'd like a refund, here's the official details: "Customers who have purchased the Washington Park Saturday Ticket may choose to either keep their tickets, or may receive a refund by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day Sept. 21st. If you elect the refund, only the cost of the ticket is refunded, not the shipping or service fees. No refunds will be issued for All Music Access Passes."
Sleigh Bells guitarist Derek Edward Miller tweeted that he fractured his arm while skateboarding in Florida recently, causing the cancellation of MPMF and a few other dates.
And now, with the countdown down to just 9 days (single digits!), here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
The Walkmen (New York, NY)
A dozen years since members of Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Recoys coalsced into the formidable Walkmen? It hardly seems possible. But then, neither does the band's almost supernatural string of confusingly brilliant albums, all crafted by the same line-up that began at the dawn of the new millennium; the sparse, atmospheric jangle of Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, the intense and visceral Bows + Arrows (featuring their signature "The Rat"), the quiet beauty of A Hundred Miles Off, their weirdly wonderful cover of Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats, the powerful You & Me, the fabulous Lisbon, and their latest, Heaven, widely acknowledged as their best album to date, a phenomenal accomplishment for a band in their 13th year. Long may they walk.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The Strokes if they'd been guided by Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan if he'd been backed by The Strokes. (Brian Baker)
The Walkmen perform Saturday, Sept. 29, on the Grammer's/Dewey's Pizza Stage at 9:15 p.m. Here is the band's music video for "The Love You Love."
Holy Ghost Tent Revival (Greensboro, NC)
When a band lists the Rolling Stones and Glenn Miller as primary influences, there’s a good chance their musical pegs don’t fit the standard genre holes. So it is with Holy Ghost Tent Revival, a North Carolina sextet that redefines eclectic, veering from Ragtime and Hot Jazz to an electric brand of Swing and the kind of funky, rootsy Country Rock that would have made Levon Helm grin and stomp. You don’t often see the Charleston breaking out in the middle of the mosh pit, but anything is possible at a Holy Ghost Tent Revival gig. Be prepared.
Dig: Squirrel Nut Zippers explore their secret love of the Band, Blood Sweat & Tears and Burt Bacharach. (BB)
Holy Ghost Tent Revival performs Saturday, Sept. 29, at Japp's at 11:30 p.m. Here's a preview of the band's just-released album Sweat Like the Old Days.
LOCAL LOCK PICK
You, You're Awesome (Cincinnati, OH)
The duo You, You’re Awesome has been the Cincinnati Indie music scene’s go-to Dance music favorites for the past few years, blending live drums with quirky, playful soundscapes that call back to earlier electronic music pioneers. As EDM and other forms of Electronica have grown in popularity, a lot of artists seem to have a hard time figuring out how to distinguish themselves. But You, You’re Awesome doesn’t have that problem, emerging with a versatile sound that isn’t based on any one trend. The group released several EPs before last year’s debut full-length, but YYA is most fun to experience in a live setting. You can dance if you want to — everyone else will be.
Dig: Daft Punk reborn as Saturday morning cartoon characters. (Mike Breen)
You, You're Awesome are slated to play at 5 p.m. on the Washington Park stage on Friday, Sept. 28.
Here's the track and visuals for YYA's "Yippee Ki Yay Mister Falcon." Click below for a playlist featuring numerous YYA clips.
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
Cincinnati crew The Ohms have built an impressive career over the past decade-plus, starting out in the ’00s as a popular draw on the “Jam band” circuit as Four Ohms, before shifting gears and developing a surprisingly unique twist on the Rock-meets-Reggae hybridization, a pairing that everyone from Eric Clapton, The Clash and The Police to modern players like No Doubt, The Aggrolites and Matisyahu has flirted with and/or embraced since the ’70s.
Changing the band name to simply The Ohms a few years back (and garnering some national industry attention), the now stripped-down three-piece is in top fighting shape, sounding better than ever, as their recently released second album, Press On, proves beyond a shadow of a spliff. They’re a lean, mean skankin’ machine with a fresh coat of Modern Rock paint glazed atop.
Press On succeeds through careful and crafty, yet very natural-feeling, mixology — the Rock and Reggae elements never get in each other’s way, feel forced or fight for space in The Ohms’ groove-driven mix, a testament to the musicians’ abilities as arrangers and writers. The title track, for example, sounds like a perfectly natural jam session between Green Day and Rancid. A minute into the track, the Punk/Pop-like drive drops to a head-bobbing flow of buoyant, vintage Reggae rhythms, ’70s-styled songcraft and Ska horns.
The album continues with that basic blueprint throughout, but few tracks are predictable and there are variations galore. “Vampire” is a voodoo strut that explodes into a huge, engulfing chorus, while elsewhere the band tinkers with the full range of Reggae sounds, styles and approaches (from Roots to Ska to Dub, grunting toasting to full-voiced, highly melodic melodies) and welds them together with the musicians’ excellent grasp of Classic Rock and top-notch musicianship.
Reggae and Ska remain two of the more maligned genres in music (usually unfairly … and it always comes back around), but The Ohms have such an addictive energy, even the most hardened “Pfft — Reggae sucks” protestor won’t be able to resist bobbing along to the contagious beats and rhythm.
Fresh on the heels of the release of Press On, The Ohms have been focused on this weekend's big Ohmstead music festival at Hannon’s Camp America (hannonscampamerica.com) near Oxford.
Ohmstead is now entering its 11th year, which certainly puts the event amongst some of the longest running artist-built festivals of its kind in the region. For this weekend’s (Friday and Saturday, plus a little Sunday morning/afternoon action) Ohmstead blowout, The Ohms have joined forces with Wham Bam Thank You Jam fest to help manage and operate a big “Ohmstead Wham Bam Thank You Jam” conglomo-fest, which once again features an impressively diverse lineup of inventive music makers, mostly from across Ohio.
The multi-act festival — with The Ohms performing both nights, as has become tradition — presents everything from progressive Psychedelic Jam Rock (Cincy’s Mr. Brown’s Mysterious Sounds), Kent, Ohio-based Ambient/Electronic/Industrial musician Pyrosonic, smooth acoustic guitarist Brian Henke (from Bay Village, Ohio) and fellow Reggae squad Soul Rebels (from straight outta Yellow Springs), promising Cincy Alt/Psych/Garage/Rock foursome Lemon Sky, retro-tinged local rockers Tattered Roots, popular touring “Hippie-Hop Jam Rock” outfit Boogie Matrix (Toledo) and Northern Ohio Jam band Aliver Hall, which showcases former Four Ohms member Alex Hall on guitar and vocals. Other artists slated to appear include Dayton-based Phish tribute band Oh Kee Pa, Dayton Funk rockers Magic Jackson, Oxford area Blues band Bad Men on a Mission and Nigerian-born/Cincy-based AfroBeat champ Baoku Moses.
Here is the most recent 2012 Wham Bam Thank U Jam and Ohmstead lineup (with "city of origin"), posted by the WhamBam folks (who add that attendees should check the info booth because times will "likely change"):
3pm - Trench Foot - Dayton, Ohio
4pm - Tony Herdman and Tracy Sax - Kettering, Ohio
5pm - Gild the Lily - Dayton, Ohio
6pm - Mr. Brown’s Mysterious Sounds - Cincinnati, Ohio
7pm - Brown Street Breakdown - Dayton, Ohio
8pm - Tattered Roots - Cincinnati, Ohio
9pm - Subterranean House Band - Dayton, Ohio
10pm - Prophets Mire - Dayton, Ohio
11pm - Magic Jackson - Dayton, Ohio
12:30am - The Ohms - Cincinnati, Ohio
2:30am - Pyrosonic - Kent, Ohio
Saturday (in the Barn)
10am - Brian Henke - Bay Village, Ohio
Noon - Andyman Hopkins Band - Cincinnati, Ohio
1pm - Bad Men on a Mission - College Corner, Ohio
2pm - Soul Rebels - Yellow Springs, Ohio
3pm - Elementree Presents - Cincinnati, Ohio
4pm - Nine False Suns - Dayton, Ohio
5pm - M 8 7 - Dayton, Ohio
Saturday (Wham & Bam Stages)
6pm - S O L - Piqua, Ohio
7pm - Happy Lemmy - Birmingham, Alabama
8pm - Lemon Sky - Cincinnati, Ohio
Fire Celebration Ceremony - at Dusk / Sunset - in Middle Earth
9pm - Aliver Hall - Akron, Ohio
10pm - Oh Kee Pa (Phish trib) - Dayton, Ohio
11:30pm - Boogie Matrix - Toledo, Ohio
1am - The Ohms - Cincinnati, Ohio
2:30am - Baoku & the Image Afro Beat Band - Cincinnati, Ohio
2:30am - Pyrosonic - Kent, Ohio - In the Barn!
Sunday (in the Barn)
10am - Tracy Sax Therapy - Kettering, Ohio
Noon - Steev Inglish - London, England
1pm - The Finders - Cincinnati, Ohio
2pm - Troll - Cincinnati, Ohio
Three-day passes are only $35. Visit whambamthankujam.com for info on how/where to buy tickets, the full rundown of performer links and a list of the various on-site vendors, plus perks like “Ohio’s Largest Fire Sculpture” and camping opportunities.
For even more details, as well as info on The Ohms’ new Press On release, visit www.ohmsmusic.com. Here's a sample of the new material.
April 29 - Super 8 Motel, Wytheville, Va.
Wytheville — pronounced "whiteville," I believe — sits at the cross of I-77 and I-81. Looking down I-81, I used to see Bristol, Tenn., and think of that time in 1927 when The Cater Family and Jimmie Rodgers separately met a rep from the Victor Talking Machine Company and recorded a couple of songs. They got paid about $100. Lot's changed since then, though the pay's about the same. These days when I look down towards Bristol I see a redneck deputy hauling a longed haired songwriter off to jail for the crime of relieving himself behind a bush. In 1981, that cost $25. There use to be a great BBQ joint in Wytheville. It's gone. too. They had the best fried chicken and blackberry cobbler.
I guess everyone wore themselves out Saturday as no one stayed up past midnight to talk or jam or whatever. On Sunday morning, with a solid six hours of sleep, I was up and drenched in coffee by 8 a.m. I packed up camp and planned what was left of my MerleFest weekend. I like to get going, so it was an easy morning and I headed out to the Traditional Tent for some Shape Note Singing with Laura Boosinger.
I misidentified this a few days ago as Sacred Heart singing. The idea is the same — using shapes for notes instead of notes on a musical staff. Sacred Heart uses four notes. Shape Note uses seven. The workshop I attended was about those seven notes and how to sing them. It's pretty straight forward — anyone who's ever seen The Sound of Music and sang "Do Re Mi" will get the idea. "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti" — each note has a particular shape attached to it and you sing that note when you see that shape. Laura talks about the history of Congregational singing, why they use shapes (people actually patented musical notation at one time) and how Sacred Heart differs from Shaped Note contextually, historically and regionally. Pretty cool stuff, even if the Traditional Tent smells like a barn and is now filled with flies. Laura is also really funny, cracking denominational jokes that the churchgoers find hilarious. I don't get them.
My interest in Sacred Heart/Shaped Note singing came when I wandered into a church one Sunday morning 30 or so years ago. I was wandering around northern Alabama on a motorcycle making my way to the Natchez Trace and then south to New Orleans when I stopped for a breather and cool air beneath a tree. I heard the singing as soon as my head stopped rattling. I slipped inside the outer part of a church and heard the most glorious harmonies — not sweet or beautiful, but primitive and inspiring.
In Shape Note, everyone is singing to the pitch the lead singer has identified. There is no piano, no organ, no hip dude playing guitar, only imperfect humans looking for the most comfortable place for their voice to sing. Your split into four groups depending on your vocal range — altos (includes sopranos), tenors, bass (includes baritones) and leads (anyone who can't but follow the melody regardless of range). I go to the bass group. Each group has a different part to sing — the altos, basses and tenors all singing a harmony part and the leads singing the melody. When it all comes together it unifies the same way most old time music does. It's wondrous and miraculous; if there is a place where God exists, it is inside the dissonance that has congealed into a thing so coherent and beautiful that any existence of God outside of it becomes marginal and meaningless.
I leave the Traditional Tent invigorated and inspired and head back to camp to pack the van. Everything packed and lunch consumed, I head back to the Traditional Tent for one last show before heading home — "Women Singing Traditional Music." On stage are women ages 20 -70, including hosts Carol Rifkin and Gaye Johnson, Brooke Buckner, Laura Boosinger, Joan Wernick, Tara Nevins (Donna the Buffalo), Kim McWhirter and Gailanne Amundsen (Jubal's Kin). All give outstanding performances, but Kim McWhirter brings the house down with a moving version of the Dolly Parton song "Crippled Bird" (which in turn is based on an English Broadside) sung in a sweet mountain lilt and strummed sparingly on guitar.
A wonderful to finish to a great MerleFest.
MerleFest is so much more then one guy can write about, no matter how much he tries. I like what I like — new bands and rediscovering old favorites. In addition to what I see and hear, there are workshops on everything from clawhammer banjo to dulcimer playing, a kids stage and activities, open mics, sitting and picking, indoor concerts, food, vendors galore. It is amazing how much music and activity the organizers pack into one day (and then clean it all up and do it again).
A lot of people stream in mid-afternoon for the nighttime concert. As mentioned, these always feature name acts. I am most fortunate to be able to tag along with my sister, help her in her booth and receive onsite camping privileges in exchange. By 8 p.m., I'm pretty exhausted and looking forward to reading under the remaining light and then laying back and hearing what's on the main stage.
This year they had some good acts. Thursday night the very humble and talented (and maybe the last real Country act standing in Nashville) Vince Gill had a fine set. Saturday I was fortunate to hear Derek Trucks take Sam Bush and his band to school on how to play melodious improvisation on the Clapton tune "Bell Bottom Blues." Derek Trucks is the living heir on slide guitar to the dead-to-early Duane Allman and he has unquestionably extended that legacy way past a wink and a nod and into something quite imaginative and bold. His wife Susan Tedeschi joined them on The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and hit all the backing vocal parts with soul.
Later that night, Trucks and Tedeschi helped Los Lobos to new heights on a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Bertha." They sounded like they were having a blast, and my noisy camp neighbors confirmed as much the next morning as they were on stage watching the whole thing go down. Unfortunately, I slept through most of Los Lobos set and the Tedeschi/Trucks set Saturday night, though I caught the first few songs, and they sounded quite excellent. Good sleeping music — that's a compliment!
The official MidPoint Music Festival guide, featuring preview blurbs on all 186 artists performing at this year's fest, is on the streets now to help make your MPMF.12 itinerary-planning a little easier. Yesterday, when the issue had just come out, I already had a handful of people asking me who my top picks were for the fest. Writing and/or reading and editing 186 paragraphs about 186 bands does things to your mind that I can't even explain, so I had to beg off. But I'm ready now.
Starting today, exactly two weeks before MPMF.12 kicks off in the venues of Over-the-Rhine and Downtown, we're beginning the "Daily MPMFer," a daily dose of recommendations for who to see at the festival, should you have a hole in your personal schedule. We'll post three blurbs a day — one about a bigger, more known act, one about a slightly more under-the-radar "sleeper" and one about a local band. I'll also add a song sample or music video to each to give MPMF-goers an even better sense of the artists' talents. (The blurbs were written by myself, the legendary Brian Baker and scrappy up-and-comer Deirdre Kaye, both of whom were hugely helpful compiling our beast of a guide this year.)
There are so many great performers at this year's fest, we probably won't get to all the worthy contenders, but we'll get you started (you have to do some exploring on your own). And, when in doubt, always go with the artist with "(Cincinnati, OH)" next to their name; all of our hometown MPMFers are worthy of your attention. Be sure to grab a guide (there should be plenty floating around come fest time) and start mapping out your long weekend of music.
We'll also add any MPMF updates — crucial or otherwise — in these "Daily MPMFers," to keep you abreast of the latest developments. You can also click here for our MPMF hub on citybeat.com, with feature stories, MPMF-related tweets and more.
Today's big news — three-day wristbands are selling quick and may well sell out. Be sure to grab yours immediately for the best pricing deal (limited one-day tickets will be $50 or you can pay individual cover charges which will add up quickly). Click here for more ticket info.
Hospitality (Brooklyn, NY)
Driven by the singular Pop song stylings of Amber Papini, Hospitality first caught attention with a lo-fi, untitled EP, which garnered a rare glowing review from Pitchfork. The band signed with legendary Indie Rock label Merge and released its self-titled full-length debut for the label earlier this year. At its core, Hospitality’s music has some of the primal vibe of early ’90s K Records releases, but the sophisticated arrangements wrapped around Papini’s compellingly unique voice give the album a depth those artists were rarely capable of.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Ivy, Tennis, Barbara Manning, Tiger Trap. (Mike Breen)
Hospitality performs at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, on the Grammer's/Dewey's Pizza stage. Check out the band's emotionally-heavy new video for the track "Eighth Avenue."
The Heights Music Festival returns this weekend for its fall event and another wide-ranging sampling of Cincinnati’s original music scene. Music will run Friday and Saturday night from 7 p.m. until about closing time at four venues in Clifton Heights near the University of Cincinnati campus — Baba Budan’s, Mac’s Pizza Pub, Christy’s Biergarten and Rohs Street Café (the only location open to music lovers of all ages).
Here's the full lineup/schedule for this year.
Rohs Street Cafe : 7:00 – Music Resource Center showcase; 8:00 – Wendy’s Yellow Poncho; 9:00 – MC Forty and Wonder Brown ; 10:00 – Cowgirl; 11:00 – The Yugos
8:00 – Sulla;
9:00 – Second Chance At Eden;
10:00 – Damn It To Hell
; 11:00 – Buenos Crotches
; 12:00 – Grey Host
Mac’s Pizza Pub:
8:00 – The Celestials;
9:00 – Majestic Man
; 10:00 – The MJ’s Blues
; 11:00 – Hickory Robot;
12:00 – Jeremy Pinnell & The 55′s;
1:00 – The Founding Fathers
8:00 – The Marmalade Brigade;
9:00 – The Heavy Hinges;
10:00 – The Perfect Children;
11:00 – Shrub (Columbus, OH); 12:00 – The Guitars
Rohs Street Cafe : 7:00 – Elementz Hip Hop Youth Center showcase; 8:00 – Alex Evans ; 9:00 – For Algernon ; 10:00 – Young Heirlooms ; 11:00 – Oui Si Yes
8:00 – Pursuing Hounds
; 9:00 – Sweet Ray Laurel
; 10:00 – Jamwave;
11:00 – The Regrettes (Columbus, OH);
12:00 – The Natives
Mac’s Pizza Pub: 8:00 – Tangerine Sound Machine ; 9:00 – Somebody’s Something ; 10:00 – Big Rock Club ; 11:00 – Valley High ; 12:00 – Junya Be & Wazali
: 8:00 – Killer Looks & Noise
; 9:00 – Horsecop;
10:00 – Loudmouth;
11:00 – Black Signal
; 12:00 – DAAP Girls;
1:00 – The Frankl Project
Tickets are $5 per night if purchased in advance through cincyticket.com here. Admission is $8 for one night or $12 for both if purchased at the festival. Visit the fest's official site here for more info. Here's a sampler the organizers compiled featuring some of the performers:
Friday Evening, Apr 27: MerleFest Festival Grounds
After lunch, I was ready for something a little more upbeat, so I headed back to the Americana stage to check out The Lost Bayou Ramblers. I caught these guys last year at the same stage, and they brought the place down. I suppose most Cajun and Zydeco is infectious — that constant backbeat and sing-songy lilt of the melodies, but done well, it can be a bit mind blowing.
The Lost Bayou Ramblers hail from Lafayette, La. and their Zydeco is the real deal. Not quite as hard hitting as The Bluerunners, they still bring an enormous drum sound to an already rhythm-heavy beat. Fiddle, accordion, electric guitar, double bass, acoustic guitar and drums — the fiddle, accordion and electric guitar feed a triple-stack tone attack to every melody. It's like Lynyrd Skynyrd ca. 1975 without the volume, hair or rednecks. It's really something to behold and listen to. The fiddler sings and works the crowd in both French and English, the bass player holds his big acoustic bass like he's ready to swing it over his head, while the electric guitar player stands at the front of the stage arena rock style and the acoustic player runs back and forth behind everyone. These guys are regulars at the Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette and I suspect a trip to catch them in such intimate surroundings would be life changing. Check YouTube for some of their videos.
I left the Americana stage a bit exhausted and headed over to see what was going on in the Traditional Tent and found Phil and Gaye Johnson in the middle of their set. Long time radio host of various roots music programs, Phil and Gaye do tight harmonies and Roots-based acoustic music. Easy to listen to, they move from original to traditional and without a little bit of knowledge of traditional music, it would be easy to confuse what's original and what's not. Phil's a fantastic acoustic and dobro guitar player moving easily between slide, flatpicking, various forms of fingerpicking and sometimes both. The music is not something I generally sit and listen to, but like everything you see at MerleFest, the playing is top notch and professionally presented.
I slipped out of the tent and as I walked past the picking area, I could here the strains of Peter Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce moving though the air. Like a lot of kids brought up in the 1970s, Peter was my first real introduction to Bluegrass music though the Old and In The Way LP. My dad had a few Bill Monroe LPs, but my mom wouldn't let him play that "hillbilly" music while she was around, which was pretty much all the time.
I wasn't planning on heading back to the Watson Stage, but I was intrigued. As I got closer, Peter was doing an slow acoustic version of "Panama Red." Frankly, I thought he was mailing it in, but I was still pretty far from the stage, so I kept moving in. By the time I got close enough to the stage to take pictures, which is basically standing in the front in everyone's way, he easy doing a song called "The Raven" and it was mesmerizing. It's probably Bluegrass heresy, but off all the Bluegrass I've heard over the last 35 years, his is the tenor I associate with "that sound" and, man, he's still got it. It rises and floats and breaks in all the right places.
I took some pictures and grabbed a seat near the back of the reserved section where the sound would be optimal. His band was outstanding. Peter on acoustic joined by a electric guitar player playing shimmering notes, a lap steel player doing pedal licks and swells, acoustic bass and drums. The lap steel player was especially amazing. Every swell and fill felt like a feather in my heart. They launched into a 20 minute version of the Rowan classic "Land of the Navajo" and by the time he started doing the falsetto calls, I was awash in transcendent tears. Peter Rowan has still got it all and I'm a big baby.
Next up I headed up to the Heritage Tent to converse with another of my favorite MerleFest craft exhibitors, bowl maker Larry Kearson of Marion, NC. And not just bowls, but dough bowls. As a boy growing up in NJ, we always had a wooden bowl mounted up on the wall. Occasionally my dad would take it down to kneed some bread dough in. I never thought much about it till I started making bread in earnest in my 20's. Then I wanted it. Desperately. It was a large bowl, about 18"-by-12" and had been hand carved from a piece of black walnut from the family farm in Tennessee. I finally claimed it 10 years ago or so and now it's a regular kitchen tool in our kitchen. Larry hand carves dough bowls from single pieces of wood. Some small and decorative other huge and highly desirable. The Zeke Bowl is one such bough bowl. About two feet long and 18-inches across, it was carved from a single piece of maple from Larry's neighbor's tree. His neighbor's dog, Zeke, laid by the downed tree for days and then growled and whined the day the tree was cut up — Zeke's Bowl. It's a beauty. Dough bowls shouldn't be stained or varnished, and Larry's aren't. You need a dough bowl carved the old way, hit Larry up.
From the Heritage Tent I headed over to the Dance Tent to check out Asheville's contribution to Hot Club-style Jazz — Viper's Dream. I guess I'm spoiled by Cincinnati's Faux Frenchman, Viper's Dream didn't quite cut it. Yes, you got to be one hell of a musician to pull off Django tunes, but the sound was shrill and I wasn't digging the fiddle player. Paul Patterson of the Faux Frenchmen is without doubt a Cincinnati treasure.
I quickly jumped to the Traditional stage to see Wayne Henderson. With him was a fiddle, frailing banjo and acoustic bass players. Wayne has done three tours with the "Masters of the Six String Guitar" as well as received a National Heritage Award for his instrument building prowess. Wayne is one hell of a fingerpicker, easily one of the best living and funny as hell to boot. Very humble and unassuming. The quartet ran through some Carter Family songs, traditional mountain ballads and fiddle tunes, each played with great dexterity and devotion. What a thrill.
Following dinner, I headed up to the Hillside Stage for a set from Donna The Buffalo. A MerleFest favorite, this band has seemingly been on the road for twenty years. I'm a bit baffled how I've never seen them before. Another one of those alternativecountryrootsrockamericana band with some serious jam band leanings, Donna the Buffalo has been a perennial favorite on the tour and festival circuit. They have a loyal following among MerleFest attendees and the tie dye and swirling dancers were out in force tonight. They played a crowd pleasing set, leaving their fans wanting more. Not much more then you can ask for then that.
The inaugural Bunbury Music Festival — three days of top-shelf Alternative music at Cincinnati's riverfront Sawyer Point Park — is just two days away. All this week, CityBeat's music blog will be featuring samples from some of our "sleeper picks" for the fest, artists who some may not be as familiar with as they are Weezer or Death Cab for Cutie or Jane's Addiction.
Our next "sleeper" is Detroit's Child Bite, performing Sunday at noon on the Bud Light Stage.
Like an anxious jam session between Nick Cave’s Birthday Party, ProgCore’s Reduced and the more avant garde side of early Sebadoh, the Detroit area’s Child Bite is definitely the most outrageously adventurous act to grace any Bunbury stage this year. The group’s latest release, Monomania, is a neck-snapping, time-changing, shape-shifting beast of inventive, disjointed riffage, raw, natural Punk power, rhythms somewhere between Free Jazz and experimental Electronica and bug-eyed vocals that often sound like something captured on a field recording made inside the halls of an insane asylum. In other words, the perfect way to start off your Bunbury Sunday (after church, of course).
Here's the Monomania track "Wrong Flesh."