An impressive and eclectic roster of local bands will transform an otherwise stark Loveland VFW hall into an artsy, flashy, sorta hippy-ish Rock ‘n’ Roll venue for this year’s third annual Adjust Your Eyes Music and Arts Festival, June 26 and 27. The two-day, two-stage, multimedia extravaganza, which is the brainchild of Grasshopper Juice labelmeister and Wonky Tonk/Chick Pimp band member Nick Mitchell, will feature not only upwards of 28 bands but also art by Jacklyn Howard and CincyStar Glass and stage lights and visualizations by Bunk News.
Cincinnati lost another excellent musician and performer over the weekend. Michele Feaster, singer for the Blues/R&B band II Juicy (which took its moniker from Michele's nickname) passed away on Aug. 7 after battling cancer for the past four months.
The fruitcakes have been throw away, the eggnog is spoiled, the big ball dropped, the champagne is gone and we’ve all had time to reflect on 2008. Now, chin up, sport — it’s time to start looking ahead to 2009 and what lies ahead for Cincinnati’s local music scene.
If the first release of 2009 (well, the first to cross my desk anyway) is any indication, we’re in for another great year for locally crafted CDs. The “New Year’s Eve baby” of the local CD world comes from newcomers Hazle Weatherfield, a promising trio that celebrates its debut release with a show this Saturday at The Mad Hatter in Covington.
Eat Sugar and Mush Records are giving away three tracks though the Mush Web site, free for a limited time. The download is a maxi-single featuring the original version and two remixes of “Clap You Hands,” a track from Eat Sugar’s Levántense! album. The digital-only full-length (the first from the band) was recently re-released by Mush on CD, giving it a well-deserved extra push to find a wider audience.
On Sunday night, hundreds of local musicians — as well as the many of the fans who love them — had Covington's Madison Theater packed to capacity to celebrate the 16th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.
It was another love fest, as the music, laughs, camaraderie and drinks flowed throughout the tight three-hour ceremony/party CityBeat founded over a decade and a half ago as a means of honoring Greater Cincinnati's music makers (and, originally, local theater artists and productions).
Though it has lessened over the years as more people have grown to understand the CEAs better, there is still plenty of griping about the awards every year. The vast majority of complaints are about who gets nominated. It's understandable in light of the talent that is overlooked annually. Having so many talented and deserving artists in our city making quality music is a good problem to have. But if every worthy musical act in the Tri-State area were to be nominated for a CEA each year, the categories would include dozens of nominees and the show itself would have to be a sleepover affair. You think the Oscars are too long? Sit through one 16-hour CEA show and you'll be begging for a witty Billy Crystal musical number.
Like every year, the sport of CEA bashing is quickly forgotten once inside the venue for the ceremony. The awards celebration is the one time of the year where fellow musicians from every genre — some friends already, some friends-to-be, others perhaps only known via social media messages — gather in one place. There doesn't seem to be a ton of competitive spite within our music scene and the musicians I've talked and worked with, for the most part, are always pretty down to earth. (As if on cue, the griping returned right after the show — a comment on Sunday night's blog post featuring the winners of this year's awards deemed the whole program an embarrassment. Sixteen years of my life, wasted! Oh, anonymous trolls, where would you be without the internet?)
The CEAs can't help but become a communal love fest. (Yes, the drinking probably helps this quite a bit, as well.) In general, there seems to be a lot of internal support amongst local musicians, and it feels like external support and appreciation (outside of jerky, anonymous comments) is on an upswing. The CEAs are always a great reflection of that community spirit.
Ben Davis of Indie Pop duo Bad Veins kicked off the CEAs with his trademark taped accompaniment, but without bandmate, drummer Sebastien Schultz. Davis' performance was still compelling, capped off by that timeless ode to magic and mystery, The Muppets' chestnut, "Rainbow Connection." The singer/multi-instrumentalist set the tone (and the bar) for the night's performances, which included plenty of revelations and some fun, novel surprises.
Those unexpected moments are always the performance highlights of any awards show and this year's CEA lineup and production provided loads of highlights. Local Boogie Woogie torchbearer Ricky Nye rumbled through a great set of rollicking Blues, building up to a cool collaborative climax as Blake Taylor and Jonathan Reynolds of fellow CEA "Blues" category nominees 46 Long joined the pianist/singer. Nye and 46 Long had been embroiled in a mock online feud leading up to the show. Music heals! (Nye ended up winning the category.)
International Punk sensations The Dopamines gave the show a jolt with their explosive performance, launching into Guided By Voices' "A Salty Salute," but only after bassist Jon Weiner managed to insult nerds and "old fucks" in his introduction (they're "Punk," he reminded everyone later). From there, the trio launched into a mini-set of their own adrenalized anthems with fiery swagger. Fans were made.
The same can be said for singer Jess Lamb, the soulful vocalist who wowed the crowd with a few hypnotic songs, joined by her guitarist and bassist (who doubled on throbbing kick-drum). The sparse set-up belied the soaring sounds conjured, guided by Lamb's remarkable voice. Lamb was nominated for a CEA in the R&B/Funk/Soul category, a testament to her unique sound, which comes closer to resembling Florence and the Machine than, say, Usher. We may need to create an "Alternative/Soul/Rock" category to accommodate Lamb next year.
The Hip Hop/Rock band Gold Shoes are also keen hybridizers, and their CEA performance was a great display of the group's unique spin on Hip Hop fusion. The band provides a dynamic backdrop that's spiced with elements of Funk, Rock, Pop, Jazz and beyond. But the group isn't just providing a playground for frontman Buggs Tha Rocka to unleash his tight, captivating flow. The group writes melodic songs with strong, unique chorus hooks. Their CEA performance was a clinic on how to combine Hip Hop with other types of music without sounding like a cheap Pop grab (" … featuring Adam Lavine!"), Gym Class Heroes or, God help us all, Limp Bizkit.
The Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, which provided a great experience for VIP ticket buyers in the balcony, reminded everyone of the Queen City's place in shaping popular music with a segment presented by the group's president, musician Marvin Hawkins. After talking a bit about the organization's plans to continue honoring the area's rich musical past in 2013 (expect a lot of King Records-related events in honor of the locally-based groundbreaking label's 70th anniversary), Hawkins joined a host of local Roots musicians for a spin through a pair of songs from the recent collection, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, a project spearhead by Bob Dylan that involved writing songs from a cache of unearthed lyrics written by the American music icon. The all-star band assembled — including Magnolia Mountain's Mark Utley and Renee Frye, David Rhodes Brown and Sylvia Mitchell — expertly played songs they had recorded at the Music Heritage Foundation's downtown headquarters, in the same space once occupied by Herzog studios, the site where Williams recorded "Lovesick Blues" and other classics.
The CEA show itself ran smoothly and first-time host Ted Clark proved to be a great fit for the show. Clark's deadpan, sardonic humor — familiar to those who flock to his "live talk shows" at MOTR Pub — was reminiscent of Zach Galifianakis and sometimes he had great lines that were maybe to subtle for the CEA's "party atmosphere." But from those of us paying attention — bravo, Mr. Clark.
There was an array of entertaining acceptance styles from the winners, ranging from choked-up and sincere to pumped-up and enthusiastic to more matter-of-fact. Wussy had a huge night, taking home the Album of the Year (for Strawberry) and Artist of the Year CEAs, capped by some funny lines while accepting. Drummer Joe Klug joked that, for anyone doubting they deserved the Artist award, Wussy "played Little Rock, Ark., four times in the past year."
The award presenters — a collection of local music supporters and personalities, mostly from radio and press outlets, as well as sponsor reps — did a great job hammering home the "support local music" message of the CEAs' mission. But presenter and CityBeat Arts and Culture Editor Jac Kern provided one of the funniest bits in CEA history with her tribute to Beyonce — via a soon-cut-off lip-synced performance of the National Anthem.
Culture Queer capped off the show (or warmed up the after party?) with a set that captured the fun of the night, rocking out a trio of quirky, animated Electro Indie Art Pop gems with their trademark film backdrop. The sprightly CEA trophy hostesses came out for some dancing on finale "Born Again," their funky get-ups matching CQ's twitchy, offbeat anthem — and the jubilant, colorful energy of the entire night — perfectly.
I keep waiting to receive a new release from the locally-based label Phratry Records that is subpar. The label — specializing in Indie/Post Punk/Punk-flavored sounds — is celebrating its sixth anniversary this month and its next release is its 22nd so far. The law of averages would suggest that, especially given the imprint’s increased output in the past year, at least one stinker would sneak by. But every time I click on a new MP3, slip in a new CD or drop the needle on the latest release’s vinyl version (Phratry’s offerings usually come in all three formats), I never fail to be impressed. And that 22nd release — the full-length debut from Cincinnati’s State Song, Dear Hearts & Gentle People — is definitely not the stink-bomb I’ve been half-expecting from Phratry. In fact, it may just be the label’s finest offering yet.
Cincinnati Electronic Rock four-piece Eat Sugar released its fantastic debut full-length Levántense! this past summer as a digital-only offering. But early next year, the well-received album — which scored a Cincinnati Entertainment Award nomination for 2010’s “Album of the Year” — will be reintroduced to the masses thanks to Eat Sugar’s label home, the wildly eclectic and widely respected Mush Records. The release is set for a Feb. 22 launch by Mush.
Local Blues musician Phil Blank lost his battle with cancer and passed away on Jan. 15. He was 57. A memorial service for the veteran singer/harmonica player/guitarist is scheduled for Jan. 30 at the Staley-Crowe Funeral Home in Deer Park starting at noon.
If you haven't heard One of Us, the latest album from Cincinnati Indie quartet Pomegranates, then you missed one of the best albums to come out all of last year. If you'd like to remedy the situation, you can get a small sample now from Afternoon Records, which just announced it is offering a free download of the One of Us track, "Prouncer."