Music Tonight: When CityBeat contributing writer Gregory Gaston was in New Orleans earlier this summer, while roaming around the city, he happened to overhear some people talking about how AltCountry/Roots Rock forefather and current Americana music adventurer and Renaissance man Steve Earle had been murdered. Greg was stunned — not only is he a fan of Earle’s music, he was also due to interview the singer/songwriter in advance of his concert tonight at Oakley’s 20th Century Theater. As Greg writes in his article on Earle for last week’s CityBeat, he was so taken aback that he approached the people who’d “reported” Earle’s unfortunate passing. Suffice to say, Earle’s not dead yet and will be performing in Cincy tonight with his band, The Dukes (and Duchesses). (The concert recently sold out, so good luck finding a spare ticket.) Earle’s character on the HBO series Treme won’t be making any public appearances anytime soon, though.
Music Tonight: The greatest Metal band to ever come out of Athens, Ohio, Skeletonwitch, performs at the Southgate House in Newport in support of its latest internationally-released album, Forever Abomination (well, Japan doesn't get it until next week), on Death/Doom/Hardcore Metal label Prosthetic Records, home to releases by All That Remains, The Acacia Strain and Testament. Check out two cuts from the new release below, as well as the video for "Submit to the Suffering" off of the group's previous album, Breathing the Fire. The band plays with two superb local acts — Beneath Oblivion (which recently put out its much anticipated From Man to Dust album) and Winterhymn (which just released its debut, Songs for the Slain). Tickets are $13 and showtime is 9 p.m.
UPDATE: The DJ Funeral Fresh release party has been moved from Tonic to Mixx Ultra Lounge (1203 Main St., Over-the-Rhine).
Local DJ Funeral Fresh (formerly DJ Skinny Fresh) is hosting a release party in honor of his new "remix tape" tonight at Tonic on Fourth. Fresh has worked shows with everyone from Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj to Soulja Boy and Jadakiss and he has been nominated for "Best Club DJ" at the Ohio Hip Hop Awards several years running. The new release project is called Da Party Life and Jay-Z features heavily throughout … and on the cover. (Lil Wayne, Beanie Sigel, Pharrell, 50 Cent and Foxy Brown also pop up in the mix.) Give it a listen at mixstack.com or download it for free here, then head to the event (billed as a new release/networking shindig) at 9 p.m. Admission is $5.
Here's the track "Bad Guy" from Fresh's new release:
• A pair of excellent, widely acclaimed and truly unique Indie/Avant/Anti-Folk artists (who are both quite prolific in their output) performs for free tonight in Northside at Mayday, starting at around 10 p.m. Wooden Wand is just one of the names songwriter James Jackson Toth performs under (it's also the project that's been most successful). Toth has collaborated with many artists and put music out on several different indie imprints, rarely falling in line with the rote expectations of a 21st century troubadour. Wooden Wand's vast discography includes cassette and CD-R releases, along with more standardly-issued albums and projects. Wooden Wand was lumped into the "Freak Folk" category when that was a buzz word five or so years ago, but, like other artists put into that box, his musical curiosity has led him to a sound that's impossible to pinpoint with two words. Toth is currently touring behind the double-disc release of his Briarwood album, which features several raw, unreleased demos.
Here's the video for "Winter in Kentucky" from Briarwood:
Jeffrey Lewis is an illustrator who decided to write some songs while he was studying drawing and literature in college. Lewis — whose sound is a bit more eccentric and broader than Toth's, coming off like Beck had he stayed true to his avant grade roots — still successfully pursued his comic book artist dreams (writing and drawing the series Fuff, among other projects), but he keeps plenty busy as a touring musician these days. And he combines his passions whenever possible — during shows, he plays "illustrated songs" that are accompanied by one of his illustrations. Lewis and Toth came up in music around the same time, but their current tour is their first time reconnecting after several years.
• MOTR Pub is also hosting a solid, free Indie show tonight featuring Cleveland Indie Pop up-and-comers Cloud Nothings and Brooklyn Electro/Dance/Pop duo Class Actress, which has had its music connected to various fashion happenings and glowing reviews. Founded and led by L.A. native Elizabeth Harper, Class Actress has been building buzz the past couple of years, earning comparisons to Depeche Mode, LCD Soundsystem, early Madonna and Human League. Read more about Cloud Nothings here and then check out the clip for Class Actress' song "Weekend" below. (CA opens tonight at around 10 p.m.).
• River City Extension extends its tour into Bogart's tonight for an 8 p.m., all-ages show. Admission is $7. RCE is preparing to release its sophomore album, Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger, in early June on XOXO Records. The Indie Folk crew produced a trailer for the new album. Why, yes, we do have it to embed — look below!
Music Tonight: At 5 p.m. today at Sawyer Point along the riverfront, the gates open for the 19th annual Cincy Blues Fest, the Cincy Blues Society’s signature event and benefit for the Blues in the Schools musical education/outreach program. The two-day event has earned a reputation in local/regional Blues circles as one of the best in the Midwest, but not because organizers bring in a cavalcade of big-time household names to perform each year. The event is well-managed, in an idyllic setting and creatively programmed, showcasing a diverse collection of established and emerging acts on the modern Blues circuit that represent an ample range of styles and approaches that might surprise many music fans who don't know Blues' history and impact or who’ve dismissed the storied genre of American music as being too inflexibly stuck in tradition.
MidPoint News and Updates: Are you ready for some MidPoint! The MPMF.12 kick-off celebration takes place TONIGHT. The pre-party is in The Hanke Building on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. Entrance is down Michael Bany Way, just across from the 12th and Main streets intersection. The party starts at 6 p.m. with a set of “MPMF mash-ups” by local DJ Ice Cold Tony. Always amazing local rockers 500 Miles to Memphis perform at 9 p.m. The kick-off shindig is free and open to everyone of drinking age (even if you think MPMF is “killing teh scene!”). There will also be free Vitaminwater and Eli’s BBQ; one lucky attendee will also go home with free VIP tickets to see The Afghan Whigs’ New Year’s Eve concert at Bogart’s.
Here's an early classic from 500 Miles to get your psyched:
The MidPoint Music Festival countdown is down to just one day. Yup, starts tomorrow. Here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
Chain and The Gang (Washington, DC)
Dinosaur Jr. (playing Friday on the Grammer's/Dewey's Pizza stage) isn’t the only MPMF band that was influencing today’s music-makers beginning in the ’80s. Ian Svenonius made his name with influential DC bands Nation of Ulysses and The Make-Up, wiry Punk Gospel group that he led with the possessed, wild-eyed intensity of a Southern Baptist preacher gene spliced with James Brown and Iggy Pop. His presentation of the “Gospel Yeh-Yeh” in clubs worldwide proved his reputation as one of Indie Rock’s greatest frontmen, night in and night out. Svenonius’ religious experience may never die; whenever a project ends, he simply finds new parishioners to help him spread the gospel and carry on.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Weird War. (Mike Breen)
Chain and the Gang performs Saturday at midnight at MOTR Pub. Here's a video for the band's "Certain Kinds of Trash":
The Ridges (Athens, OH)
Orchestral Indie Folk
This Athens, Ohio-based Orchestral Indie Folk troupe has built a solid following in Cincinnati thanks to repeated show dates in town, including providing highlights at a few past MidPoint Music Festivals. So they're not exactly a "sleeper" (because I've seen them and they're great), not exactly a "Local Lock" (though their ties to Cincinnati run deep) and merely on the verge of being Big Shots. Regardless, you won't be disappointed should you add them to your MPMF.12 itinerary. The Ridges — who perform in different configurations, depending on which members are available (including string and horn players) — are currently prepping a full-length album (recorded here in Cincinnati), so fans may even get a few new songs
Dig: Soulful, acoustic Folk Rock that builds into emotive orchestral swells. (MB)
The Ridges perform at Know Theatre on the Biore Strip at 10:30 p.m. Thursday. Here's a special video the band made just for the occasion, shot on a rooftop in OTR:
LOCAL LOCK PICK
The Grey Academy (Cincinnati, OH)
Cincy singer/songwriter Josh Hill first came to attention with his band Ellison, which introduced the region to a songwriter with impeccable chops for someone so fresh to the local music scene. The band’s wonderfully crafted Pop/Rock started earning Hill attention both locally and beyond, but in the midst of it all, the songwriter began writing different, darker songs that reflected his changing listening habits, which veered into the still catchy yet less calculated sounds of bands like Bloc Party, Interpol and The Killers. Hill has shown that his skills weren’t limited to Ellison’s instantly hooky style; with The Grey Academy, he brings the same sensibilities to a less predictable, more moody brand of Rock.
Dig: Interpol, Smashing Pumpkins, Death Cab for Cutie. (MB)
The Grey Academy plays MidPoint Saturday, 8 p.m. at Main Event. Check out the band's "In Stride":
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
This week in my weekly local music column, Spill It, I wrote about the unexpected glut of really strong music events this week. Tonight may be the hardest of all to make a decision about. Let's work through this together, man. We'll find something for you to do.
• Catch a couple of Indie Pop success stories live and in person tonight in Covington as buzz bands Young the Giant and Cincinnati's very own Walk the Moon play Madison Theater, just the latest in a string of sold-out shows on the groups' current tour. We've been writing more and more about Walk the Moon over the past year (here's the latest), as the four-piece continues to charm the masses leading up to their debut album for RCA Records (late spring/early summer is the current target). Young the Giant is a little further along in its buzzdom, having released its first wide-exposure album, a self-titled affair on Roadrunner Records, in late 2010 (digitally)/early 2011 (physically). But YTG did a lot of legwork leading up to that point, building a following and airplay stats in Southern California as The Jakes, before becoming Young the Giant in 2009 and singing its deal. The band got a big shot in the arm after appearing at the MTV Video Music Awards last year; virtually unknown to most viewers, the band was featured between the likes of Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne, performing on some weird cubby-hole/light-box stage for 300 invited fans from their hometown of Irvine. Watch a clip below and read more here.
If you have tickets, tonight's YTG/WTM show starts at 8 p.m.; doors open at 7.
Music Saturday: If Herman Munster had decided he wanted to play stand-up Country/Rockabilly bass, he'd have a gig in the band of enigmatic performer Unknown Hinson offered to him immediately. Despite the high camp of UH's persona (his bio says he looks like "Dracula's nasty little brother who spent some hard years drinking and working as a carnival barker for a second-rate freak show"), the super-charged, funny-as-all-hell Honky Tonk he and his band pump out is seriously kick-ass. Billy Bob Thorton has called Unknown one of his favorite songwriters and a "genius picker," Simpsons creator Matt Groening has lauded his guitar playing (and comedic sensibility) and Hank Williams III has Unknown's face tattooed on his arm — all high (and kinda weird, fittingly) praise. Combined, the image and sound make for a thoroughly entertaining concert experience. Read more about Hinson (who voices the character Early Cuyler on The Squidbillies) from this week's CityBeat here. Unknown Hinson is at the Southgate House in Newport Saturday with The Lewis Brothers. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door. And bring all your gal pals — "womens likes it," or so I've heard. Give a listen to a li'l Hinson holiday cheer in the form of "Black and Blue Christmas" below.
Music Tonight: The Mad Hatter in Covington this evening hosts a full lineup showcasing the new breed of "Power Pop" — young bands evolving from so-called "Pop Punk," embracing classic Pop/Rock songwriting and developing a sound that is potentially more timeless. Georgian band Cartel headlines, as they gear up for a new EP release (due next month) that will serve as the band's first since 2009's hook-feast, Cycles, which showed clear progress in songwriting and execution. Tonight's Mad Hatter show (the kick-off date on the band's brief Midwestern tour) begins at 6 p.m. and tickets are $15. The Upset Victory, Action Item, Don't Wait Up, 21st Streamline and The Getaway warm things up.
On this date last year, somebody paid $10,000 for a T-shirt. An Australian man purchased a 1979 Led Zeppelin concert T-shirt on eBay for that amount, making it the most expensive concert T-shirt ever sold. (Though I bet The Eagles got close on their various, outrageously-priced reunion tours in recent years.) The shirt appears to be a "back stage pass" from the concert.
After the sale, Denver weekly Westword posted a story on its blog counting down the next 10 most costly shirts purchased. From their research, they deemed a James Brown shirt with a bad caricature of the Godfather of Soul and the words "I'm Black and I'm Proud," an early Nirvana shirt featuring a parody of John Lennon's Two Virgin's album cover and a "Metal Up Your Ass" Metallica shirt as the next most rare, each going for $1,000.
Currently, the most costly concert shirts available on eBay are a 1976 Stones shirt (yours for $7,900), a 1973 Who concert "staff" shirt ($4,691.82), a different Zep shirt (from, I believe, the same concert as the one that cost 10 grand; $3,949.21) and a Johnny Thunders shirt from 1984 ($3,909.72).
Here are a couple of Ohio tunes written in honor of those crucial concert souvenirs. Early Hamilton, Ohio, Punk band ChemDyne and Columbus' Watershed both had songs called "Black Concert T-Shirt."
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 11 birthday include legendary songwriter ("God Bless America," "White Christmas") Irving Berlin (1888); one of the greatest white Soul vocalists ever with The Animals, Eric Burdon (1941); drummer and founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, Butch Trucks (1947); producer and founding member of avant-garde Pop group the Art of Noise, Gary Langan (1956); original MTV VJ Martha Quinn (1959); and frontman for one of Cincinnati's all-time greatest Rock bands, The Afghan Whigs, Greg Dulli (1965).
Dulli — born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio — is currently gearing up to begin performing once again with his Whigsmates John Curley (still living, working and playing music in Cincinnati) and Rick McCollum (now living in Minneapolis). Tickets for the group's first show in 13 years — May 23 at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City — go on sale today at noon. According to the band's website, the fan pre-sale sold out and there are "a very limited number of tickets" left. The band will warm up for the show on May 22 with a performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Will the Whigs merely do a reunion victory lap then go their separate ways again? It's unclear so far, but in interviews with Dulli, he seems very inspired playing with his old pals again. In terms of a possible new Whigs album, he told the website www.thisisfakediy.co.uk, "I am going to keep the book open and keep the possibility, all possibilities available. We're going to see what happens, and react to what happens, but right now it's wide open. Yes, maybe, maybe not, we'll see. I hate to be ambiguous, but in this particular case, I think it's best." (He also said re-issues of the band's back catalog are "definitely going to happen.")
Raise a glass and wish Mr. Dulli a happy 47th birthday. Here are a few clips of Dulli's extracurricular activities during his days with the Whigs to help you celebrate:
• In 1994, Dulli sang John Lennon's parts on the soundtrack to Backbeat, a film about early Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. On the soundtrack he was part of a band that included Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum) and Foo Fighter/ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. Here they are doing a song originally made a hit by Cincinnati-born music icons The Isley Brothers.
• Dulli teamed with Grohl again in 1995, playing guitar on his debut album, Foo Fighters. Grohl played all of the instruments on the album except for a guitar part on "X-Static," which Dulli provided.
In 1999, Dulli recorded a cover of "Dixie Peach Promenade (Yin for Yang)," a tribute to late Moby Grape member Skip Spence and his cult classic album, Oar.