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.
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.
Louisville's giant Forecastle music festival, taking place July 12-14 (the same weekend as Cincinnati's Bunbury Music Festival), today announced its preliminary lineup. Headliners include Avett Brothers, The Black Keys, The Flaming Lips, Animal Collective, Jim James, Crow Medicine Show, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Big Boi, Matt & Kim and Alabama Shakes. The festival is held annually at Louisville's Waterfront Park, though this year there will be special "off site" late night shows.
Below is the full lineup. For tickets (which go on sale Wednesday at noon) and complete information, click here.
The Black Keys
The String Cheese Incident
The Avett Brothers
The Flaming Lips
Old Crow Medicine Show
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
The Forecastle Incident (with special guests)
Young the Giant
Matt & Kim
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
The Joy Formidable
Kurt Vile & The Violators
Toro y Moi
Bob Mould Band
El-P & Killer Mike
Shovels & Rope
Alasdair Roberts & Friends
The 23 String Band
A Lion Named Roar
Tonight's installment of the free "American Roots" concert series on Fountain Square — which generally hosts weekly Tuesday performances by some of the best of the rich local Americana music scene — serves as a preview of the upcoming third annual BrownGrass Festival in Rabbit Hash, Ky.
The benefit is headed up by veteran musician David Rhodes Brown, who started the event three years ago as a way to help raise money for local radio outlet WNKU (the name is taken from the title of Brown's most recent solo album, Browngrass & Wildflowers, some proceeds from which also went to WNKU).
BrownGrass 2012 takes place July 21 and features a stellar lineup of local and regional acts, including DRB and his BrownGrass Band, The Tadcasters, Magnolia Mountain, The Leo Clarke Band, Greg Schramm & the Radio King Cowboys, Blame Bersch, Mack West, Kelly Thomas & the Fabulous Pickups, Beth Farmer, Davey O, Dan F. Hill and many others. The festival runs from noon-11 p.m. along the riverfront in Rabbit Hash. (Read about the first and second year of Browngrass here and here).
On Fountain Square tonight, BrownGrass Fest participants Ruthie & Grace Lincoln perform at 8:30 p.m. followed by Brown and his BrownGrass Band, as a preview of the fest. (The fun starts at 7 p.m. with some World Choir Games festivities.)
For complete details on the BrownGrass Festival 2012, visit the official website here.
Here's a nice video overview of last year's BrownGrass and some audio samples from Brown's solo effort.
Happy Memorial Day! The popular annual food-fest Taste of Cincinnati ends today (Monday), your last chance to hear some solid local music and eat some excellent local grub (at least until the next downtown street event). Today’s musical offerings kick off on a bittersweet note. At 1 p.m., the Katie Reider Spirit of Music Award will be given posthumously to longtime local bassist and music scene presence Chris Walker, who passed away last year after battling injuries sustained in a serious car accident in 2007.