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by Mike Breen 06.26.2012
 
 
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Twenty More Acts Announced for MidPoint 2012

MPMF.12 to include Andrew Bird, The Walkmen, Ralph Stanley, The Antlers and more

Several local acts have been notified in recent weeks that they have been chosen to perform at this fall’s MidPoint Music Festival. Organizers today revealed its second wave of national acts that will join them at the Sept. 27-29 fest — Andrew Bird, Ralph Stanley and his Clinch Mountain Boys (revealed a couple of weeks ago at a MidPoint Indie Summer concert), The Walkmen, The Antlers, Hospitality, Rich Aucion, Stepdad, Eternal Summers, White Arrows, Dirty Bourbon River Show, Hume, Sidewalk Chalk, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Kitten, F. Strokes, Wooden Wand, Hundred Waters, Golden Boy, Tim Easton and Army Navy.

Keep up to date with the latest MPMF news at mpmf.com and this here music blog at citybeat.com. Early Bird All Music Access and Loyalty Presale passes are sold out. A limited number of All Music Access Passes ($69) and VIP Passes presented by CVG ($169) now on sale. Washington Park Day Tripper passes will be available soon. Get your tickets now at CincyTicket.com.

Check out news songs from The Antlers and (previously announced MPMF band) Grizzly Bear at NPR here.

Here's the latest music video from The Walkmen, for their tune "Heaven."


And here's a recent CNN piece on Andrew Bird.


 
 
by Mike Breen 05.25.2012
 
 
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MidPoint Music Festival 2012 Tickets on Sale Now

Preperations on their way for the 11th MPMF and fifth under CityBeat's management

Tickets for the 11th annual MidPoint Music Festival went on sale this morning. Click here to get yours before everyone else. 

Here's what MPMF producer Dan McCabe has to say about this year's event: "This is the fifth year CityBeat has operated Cincinnati's 11-year old MidPoint Music Festival. In each year we have pushed to expand the event with the help of our sponsors, the Over The Rhine neighborhood and music fans. MPMF is now a regional cultural event that shows off our city like no other. This September all eyes and ears will be on you Cincinnati! Now is your opportunity to participate. Get your pass while they last."

Perhaps the biggest news announced today was the addition of a new venue — a stage in the freshly remodeled Washington Park. The park venue is being called "MPMF.12's main stage," so expect many of the biggest acts to perform there. Fans can purchase advanced single-concert tickets for that main stage for the first time this year. The stage is open to fans of all ages.

The fest is also offering "Loyalty Presale All Music Access Passes" at a discount. Supplies are limited.

On June 6, the first lineup announcement will be issued. A "minimum of 20" of the 170 or so acts booked for the fest will be announced. (I've heard "rumors" about a couple; my only hint: "animals.")

Keep an eye on MPMF.com for the latest developments.

 
 
by Mike Breen 05.24.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Festivals at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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MadLove Music Festival This Weekend

Big fest at Sawyer Point showcases area Hip Hop, EDM, DJs and Indie acts

Friday and Saturday at Sawyer Point, the inaugural MadLove Music Festival is set to bring the riverfront alive with art installations, a little comedy, a little wrestling (yeah!), several DJs and numerous local and regional live acts from the worlds of Hip Hop, Electronic music and Indie Rock. DJ Sinceer, DJ Deepfro, DJ Sab and DJ Fursur will host and DJ both days on the main stage.

Friday, things kick off at 5 p.m. at the P&G Pavilion stage, where music runs until 11 p.m. Friday night is called an "EDM Dance Rager" and the lineup is focused on Hip Hop and Electronic/Dance artists, including Knolls, Monty C. Benjamin, Cal Scruby, Those Guys, Olu, YZE, Neon Medusa and Manic Focus.

Saturday’s music kicks off at 3 p.m. (gates open at 1 p.m.). MadLove features a great second stage lineup Saturday hosted by DJ Kombat and Jake the Ripper. Performers include great Hip Hop acts The Natives, Joey Mack and Valley High, plus rockers like The Kickaways.

Saturday’s main stage lineup includes everything from live, improv-happy Electronica band Skeetones and Rock favorites The Lions Rampant to AltRock act The Driving Rain and strong Hip Hop up-and-comer Santino Corleon, plus a few Ohio-but-not-Cincy acts, like Cleveland’s acclaimed rapper Chip Tha Ripper, Cleveland Hip Hop/Rock crew iPhonic, very young Columbus Electro/Alt/Pop group Liberty Deep Down and Columbus’ popular “Schizoid Pop” duo Twenty One Pilots, which is signed to Fueled By Ramen (home to Fun., Gym Class Heroes, Cobra Starship and other heavyweights over the years).

Here is the full lineup, plus set times, for the weekend.

Two-day passes for MadLove are available for $20 through cincyticket.com. Tickets for Friday are $15, while Saturday-only tickets are also $20. “Half of all sponsored funds generated” go to the Cincinnati City Pools Fundraiser to help keep more public pools open this summer.

There will also be a few official MadLove afterparties. On Friday, visit either The Drinkery in Over-the-Rhine, where area Rock outfits Black Owls, Jody Stapleton and the Generals and Hello Mayday perform, or Longworth's in Mount Adams, where fest headliners Manic Focus featuring Lisa Lottie join DJ E-Trayn. Both events get rolling around 11:30 p.m.

Saturday's afterparty is at Bogart's in Corryville and features iPhonic, DJ Deepfro, DJ Sinceer, Liberty Deep Down and Skeetones. Music starts at 11:30 p.m. and advanced tickets are available here.

For full details on the MadLove Music Festival, visit www.madlovemusicfestival.com. There is a map of the grounds on the front page.

 
 
by Amy Harris 05.18.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Festivals, Interview at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Q&A with Megadeth

Metal giants headed to Columbus for Rock on the Range festival this weekend

Megadeth can be considered one of today's legendary bands, not just in Metal, but in all of music. They are synonymous with a time period, moments in the lives of so many of their fans. They may have a different look than when the band was formed in 1983 but they are one of the founding fathers and would definitely find themselves on the Mount Rushmore of American Metal and can still fill festival stadiums all over the world. Megadeth have been doing their thing for almost 30 years and show no signs of stopping. They had released their fittingly named 13th studio album TH1RT3EN last year before they came to Cincinnati. They will return to Ohio as one of the main acts at next week’s Rock on The Range.

Over the past year, CityBeat spoke with band drummer Shawn Drover twice and lead guitarist Chris Broderick at Mayhem Festival about life on tour and what the future holds for the band. Megadeth's timeless sound continues on. Hear for yourself when the group performs on the Main Stage in Columbus Sunday night with Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie for the Rock on the Range festival.

CityBeat: I know you joined the band in 2008, right?

Chris Broderick: Yeah, the very beginning.

CB: What was it like the first time you played and jammed with Dave (Mustaine)?

Chris: It was a little intimidating at first I think. But one of the things that really happened was we had to get to work so quickly. We had to get so much done so fast. 

CB: Because of the album and the tour right?

Chris: Well yeah because of the tour at the time. I didn’t really have time to think about what was going on. I was just working. I was trying to knock out as many songs as I could before we went on tour less than a month away. That was my focus really.

CB: You are a classically trained guitarist, right? Can you tell me, how do you think that prepared you for Megadeth and to play metal music?

Chris: Well I don’t know if anything prepares you for Metal music or Megadeth. But I do think it does give me a different skill set, one where I can look at more melodies and harmonies and construction of those types of the aspects of the music and apply what I’ve learned in classical guitar theory or classical theory to the Metal genre.

CB: That’s kind of what stood out to them, right, when they called you to join the band, because you did a lot of classically trained type work?

Chris: It’s hard for me to say. I know it was an influence on their decision, but I know that it was a recommendation of Glen Drover and Shawn Drover that encouraged them to call me.

CB: Good recommendations. They probably didn’t even have to ask.

Chris: And then some of the YouTube clips that I had posted also.

CB: I have been hearing so many bands that are picking people off YouTube. It’s really amazing, Cinderella type stories of people being picked up off YouTube videos.

Chris: Well, it’s one of those things that is awesome in a way because it gives the individual the power of PR, somebody that can market you and get you to the right people to get you a gig or get you the right contact. So it is kind of cool that way.

CB: What was your highlight from the Big 4 concerts?

Chris: It was probably the last Big 4 show actually in the UK. That was pretty huge. We got to play on stage with some of the original members of Diamond Head. Honestly, they weren’t my biggest influence. They were a little bit before my time. But because I am playing with so many people that they heavily influenced, it was instant respect on my behalf and their behalf. It was quite awe-inspiring to see Hetfield  (James) kind of bowing down before him when he went to do the solo. It was awesome.

CB: What is it like on the road these days? Is it really clean living?

Chris: Yeah. It almost has to be because we have so much going on. I couldn’t do all this press and all the meet and greets and stuff like that. It works out pretty well for me too because luckily I never acquired a taste for that kind of that thing. I guess I am too Type A. I always want to be in control.

Read More

 
 
by Amy Harris 05.17.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Festivals, Interview at 03:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Q&A with Black Stone Cherry

Kentuckians headed to Columbus for Rock on the Range fest

Black Stone Cherry is a Kentucky-based band that combines its Southern roots with hints of Metal. Last time we spoke with the band, BSC had just released its third studio album, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, which the group continues to tour behind this summer. BSC have been featured on major tours with Theory of a Deadman, Alter Bridge and Nickelback and recently headlined a European tour.

CityBeat was able to speak with the band’s rhythm guitar player Ben Wells to preview Black Stone Cherry's upcoming performance at Columbus' Rock on the Range, where they will be taking the Main Stage this Sunday.

CityBeat: Last year, I spoke with Chris and he talked about how you guys love to go to Europe and how the fans embrace you in there. I know you just got off a European Tour. What was the highlight of that tour for you guys?

Ben Wells: We did shows in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, and 14 shows in the U.K. and every single one was sold out. It was a pretty big accomplishment since we have been over there several tours and this was the first time we had one as big as it was. We just felt really good about that and they gave us a tour plaque to hang on our walls. That was pretty neat.

CB: Are there any bands you are looking forward to seeing at Rock on the Range this year?

BW: I know we are looking forward to seeing Rob Zombie. We really enjoy his show and we are good friends with John 5, who plays guitar for them. I can’t remember who else is playing that day, but I am sure there are tons of bands that we are looking forward to seeing.

CB: I think Marilyn Manson is that day too?

BW: I’m not a huge fan of his but I do like Rob Zombie.

CB: “In My Blood” is out right now and has blown up everywhere and the video has a story of a soldier coming home from war. Can you tell me the story behind “In My Blood”?



BW: It was the last song we wrote for the album and pretty much it is a song we wrote about our lives and what we do. We leave things and people we love, go out on the road and do the things we love. Not only in our career do we do this but also military, professional athletes, fishermen, truck drivers, people like that every single day they have to leave their families. We wanted to write a song that kind of came from our perspective, kind of like our “Ramblin Man.” We made the video for it and thought it came across great. People really got the idea and the vibe of the song once they saw the video.
 
CB: I know your family has ties to the Kentucky Headhunters. Have you guys thought about doing collaborations with them?

BW:  We have live before, nothing on CD yet. I wouldn’t say it’s completely out of the question but we have played several shows together. Usually when we do, one band ends up on the other band’s stage falling in together.

CB: No formal plans?

BW: Right, not yet anyway.

CB: What are your summer touring plans?

BW: We are out right now with Chickenfoot until June 10 and then we come home and we leave for Europe on June 20th for about three and a half weeks. Then we get back in the middle of July and are doing some US festivals. So really, staying busy, trying to hit as many shows as we can.

CB: What has been the best part about being around Chickenfoot?

BW: The tour actually starts tomorrow with them. We have been out for about five days now just doing some festivals and playing our own shows. We pick up with Chickenfoot tomorrow but we have heard great things. We have never played with them before but we are excited about it.

CB: There have been a lot of changes at Roadrunner Records, your record label. I know the CEO and founder stepped down recently. Has the band seen any changes?

BW: We haven’t personally yet because we haven’t been around everybody yet. I know we had some good friends lose their jobs. I hope the label knows what they are doing because they let go a lot of great people overseas and in America go, so we’ll see if they know what they are doing.

CB: What would be your dream piece of gear to own if you could from any time in history? What piece of gear would you like to play?

BW: Any guitar that Elvis Pressley owned would be fine with me.

CB: I’m sure you could find one. I recently just saw one in New Orleans.

BW: Yeah, but I can’t afford that though.

CB: What has been your greatest rock star moment?

BW: I really don’t know. We had some pretty cool moments playing some pretty big festivals in front of 60,000 people or more, getting to meet some of the guys in Aerosmith, getting to do some certain things. I’d say anytime that somebody comes up to tell us how much the bands means to them. That’s a pretty good feeling and is a pretty special moment because it really lets you know what you do is appreciated by someone.
 
 
by Mike Breen 05.17.2012
Posted In: Festivals, Local Music, Live Music at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Music Fest Roadtrippin' This Weekend

Nelsonville, River Roots music festivals feature quality lineups Friday-Sunday

If you're feeling a little adventurous this weekend, there are a pair of great music festivals in the region this that are less than a three hour-drive from Cincinnati. (Stay tuned for continuing previews of the Rock on the Range Hard Rock/Metal fest in Columbus this weekend, for those who like things a little heavier.)

• The Nelsonville Music Festival isn't named because it's some sort of tribute to Willie Nelson. Nelsonville is actually a small town nestled in the Wayne National Forest near Athens, Ohio, and within spitting distance of Hocking College. The eighth annual fest takes place this Friday-Sunday, with a warm-up concert set for tonight. The festival features several stages, an area for art vendors and a kids' section, and you are welcome to camp (though there are several hotels nearby as well).

The lineup for this year's Nelsonville fest is pretty eclectic, with current Indie faves Iron and Wine, Andrew Bird and M. Ward joining legends like Lee "Scratch" Perry, Guided By Voices, Roky Erickson and Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo. Cincy/Dayton duo R. Ring is also on the bill, along with acts like Mucca Pazza, Horse Feathers, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Kurt Vile, Charles Bradley, Dawes and many, many others.

Click here for the full lineup, tickets and further details.


About an hour and a half southwest of Cincinnati, in Madison, Ind., the RiverRoots Music & Folk Arts Festival (formerly Ohio River Valley Folk Festival) goes down Friday-Sunday, with a lineup showcasing the many flavors of Americana/Roots music. Now in its seventh year, the festival features family activities, lots of folk artists (the "arts and crafts" kind) exhibiting and selling their work, storytellers and top-shelf music from Hayes Carll, The Black Lillies, The Band of Heathens and Cincinnati greats Over the Rhine.

Here's the full lineup:

Friday, May 18
5 pm Gates & Folk Art Village open
6 pm Carolyn Martin (Texas Swing)
8 pm The Band of Heathens
10 pm Searson

Saturday, May 19
11 am Gates & Folk Art Village open
Noon Music Workshop & Jam Session (in the Storyteller tent)
1 pm Joe Crookston w/Peter Glanville
2 - 6 pm Rivers Institute at Hanover College Traveling Exhibit open
3 pm Roosevelt Dime
5 pm Charlie Parr
7 pm Over the Rhine
9 pm Hayes Carll

Sunday, May 20
12:30 pm Appalatin
1:45 pm Michael Kelsey
3 pm Whiskey Bent Valley Boys
4:30 pm The Black Lillies

Click here for ticketing info and here for further details.


 
 
by Amy Harris 05.16.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Interview, Festivals at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Q&A with John 5 (Rob Zombie)

Guitarist talks about his eclectic musical input and output

John 5 has seen almost everything in Rock music. He's toured with David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie (with whom he's currently rockin') and been credited on songs from a wide range of artists — from Saliva to Salt n Pepa to k.d. lang to an upcoming collaboration with Rod Stewart. The guitarist has gained the reputation as a musical genius and one of the most action-packed guitarists in the world. He has just released his sixth solo album, God Told Me To, which mixes acoustic Spanish guitar along with Metal riffs.

CityBeat caught up with the guitar player to talk about the new album and some of the darker aspects of what goes into his writing, as well as the lighter aspects help put him to sleep every night. John 5 will take the stage with headliner Rob Zombie this Sunday at Rock on the Range in Columbus.

CityBeat: Can you tell us about the name of your album, God Told Me To?

John 5: The name, it is funny because … I am from Michigan, I am from Grosse Pointe. I was upper class growing up there. I was brought up in a really nice environment and home and I remember the night before I was leaving for California to really give it my shot saying, “I am going to try this. I am going to try to be this musician type of thing.” I remember I was saying my little prayer. I never wished to be a “rock star.” I just wanted to be a working musician. My dreams didn’t even go past a session player or a working musician. It was too far beyond my dreams. That’s kind of what the title means, that kind of thing, but also you can look at in the negative way, like when someone does a horrific murder, they always say, “Oh, God told me to.”

CB: I have read a lot of discussion in your recent interviews about serial killers and even the song “Night Stalker” being written about Richard Ramirez. Do you have an interest in serial killers and the history and stories behind them?

J5: I think it is interesting to me about how the mind works and how someone is wired, how their mind works, how it is completely OK to do these things, which I could never even think of doing something like that. It was always so interesting to read about this or watch documentaries. It is so odd for something like that to happen, so I have always had this little fascination with it — not that I am pro-for that kind of thing or anything but it is just very interesting to see something like that.

CB: I got a copy of the album and have been listening to it today. I love the acoustic Spanish-style versions on some of the songs. I know you are a lifelong learner. Did you take specific lessons around Flamenco or Spanish-style guitar lessons?

J5: Yes, I have always tried to learn, it is what keeps me sane. I love to learn and I started doing a lot of studying of Spanish-style music and really started getting into it and how it is just a completely different form of guitar playing. It is just like if you started speaking in a different language like Japanese or something. It is something that you have to study and work at a lot. That is what I enjoy because I love the guitar so much. Yes, I did a lot of studying and research on that.

CB: What current music is inspiring me right now?

J5: What current music is inspiring? You know what, and this will be a surprise, but I usually am very honest. I have had a little epiphany and this is very shocking. I was watching some movie or something like that and a N.W.A. song was on and I am no fan of Rap music, I really am not because I like the guitar. So I heard this N.W.A. song, I think it was “Gangsta Gangsta,” and I was like, “This is really, really, really good.” It was eye-opening to me and I appreciate it now. I was pretty taken back by it. I would have to say N.W.A. (is a current inspiration), which I can’t believe I am saying but it is the truth.

CB: There are a lot of bands right now collaborating outside their genres. Korn has collaborated with Skrillex and trying to create a lot of different sounds which would traditionally maybe not be in Metal music.

J5: Sure, and I think it is very important for that to happen because of the fact music has to always evolve and if it doesn’t, it has failed. It is good that it is evolving.

Read More

 
 
by Amy Harris 05.15.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Interview, Festivals at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Q&A with Volbeat

Danish metallers headed to Columbus' Rock on the Range this weekend

Since the last time we saw Volbeat in Cincinnati, the band has blown up in the U.S. thanks in part to its tour with Megadeth and Motorhead. Volbeat is a first-class Danish Metal band that is taking North America by storm, playing coast to coast. The band has been touring the album Beyond Hell/Above Heaven for a couple years and are set for another run this summer.

CityBeat recently spoke with band drummer Jon Larsen about Volbeat's evolution over the short period of time since they were last seen in Ohio. Volbeat takes the stage at Rock on the Range in Columbus this weekend along with the rest of the best acts in Metal and Rock music.

CityBeat: I know you guys just got off the Gigantour Tour. Did you have any crazy Motorhead or Megadeth stories along the way?

Jon Larsen: No, not really actually, not really any interesting stories to tell. We got along fine with both camps and everybody was in high spirits. I think it was definitely a great tour for all.

CB: Rock on the Range is always a crazy time in Columbus. What are you looking forward to about the show and are you looking forward to seeing any other bands there?

JL: Oh yeah, I am always looking forward to seeing Anthrax. We like to hang out with those guys. We have hung out with them a few times. We don’t know (Rob) Zombie or (Marilyn) Manson, but Anthrax is gonna be cool.

CB: Growing up, what were your biggest musical influences?

JL: We had tons of influences, everything from Social Distortion to The Misfits to Metallica to, say, Johnny Cash, everything. That is why we do what we do. We blend all of our influences together and that is what has become us.

CB: What do you do on your down time on the road?

JL: It depends on where we are. Yesterday and today we have been in Memphis, so of course we all went to Graceland and saw that. What else? I guess the usual things, relax, watch movies, go to the mall, restaurants, usual stuff, nothing fancy.

CB: Did you say you went to Graceland yesterday?

JL: Yes we did.

CB: Is that the first time?

JL: For me it was; Michael has been there three times before. For me it was my first time and it was definitely interesting to see where Elvis had lived.

CB: Were you an Elvis fan?

JL: I like him. I won’t say that I am a fan like Michael is, but of course I like the music that Elvis did. It was cool.

CB: I talked to Michael last summer, the last time you guys came through Cincinnati at Bogart's, and I talked to him about a few of the songs. But since that time, “A Warrior’s Call” has really taken off and has become a sports anthem. Can you tell me a little of the backstory behind that song?



JL: It was written for a Danish boxing champ Mikkel Kessler. Michael had gotten to know him and they had become good friends and one day they were joking around because we found out Kessler had used one of our previous songs as his walk-on music and Michael had said, “Why don’t you get some real music, a real song?” and he said “Why don’t you write me a song?” and he said “OK, I can do that.” So that is the story behind “A Warrior’s Call” — it was written specifically for Kessler but it seems like especially in America everyone from hockey teams to weddings are using that song for lots of stuff which is kind of fun in a way.

CB: You guys were just kicking off your North American tour the last time we spoke in Cincinnati. What was the highlight of your tour through North America in the past year?

JL: That is difficult to say, actually. I don’t know. We played two nights in Anaheim, Calif., which both sold out. We played in New York, which has always been great. We have done some shows at a place called the Machine Shop in Michigan which is always a great laugh. Those are some of the highlights; I can’t point out anything in particular.

CB: Are you guys going to go back to Europe for summer festivals there?

JL: We are going to do one festival in Europe this summer which will be in Germany. That is the only European festival that we are going to be doing this year.

CB: Are you working on new music at all on the road?

JL: Yeah, before we went back on the road for this one, we had spent a lot of time rehearsing trying to come up with some new stuff. A lot of bits and pieces, a few half-finished songs here and there, but nothing that is that finished yet. But we are definitely working on getting into the studio late this year and have a new album out some time next year.

CB: What can you tell the fans to look forward to at Rock on the Range?

JL: Well, good music, a few good laughs, a few bad jokes. I guess that’s it. Hopefully a lot of positive energy.

 
 
by Mike Breen 05.10.2012
 
 
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MidPoint 2012 Submissions Deadline Tomorrow

Bands/performers interested in showcasing — y'all better hurry!

If you are a musician who has an act they'd like to showcase at this year's MidPoint Music Festival and you haven't submitted for consideration, you better get on it. Tomorrow is the final day submissions will be accepted.

Click here for details on how to submit an EPK for consideration.

In related news, the MidPoint Indie Summer concert series (which has it's own Wikipedia page!) returns every Friday on Fountain Square starting June 1. Expect lineup announcements soon. A certain amazing local Power Pop/Rock band has "hinted" they will be a part of the series this year. But you didn't hear it from me.

MidPoint has also posted some fresh artwork that you are encouraged to use to create your own "posters, clothes, or otherwise interesting and useful things." Get your base materials here and check out the design below.

 
 
by Jeff Roberson 05.01.2012
Posted In: Festivals, Live Music, Music Commentary, Reviews at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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MerleFest 2012: That's a Wrap

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.

Addendum
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!

View Jeff Roberson's photos from MerleFest 2012 here.

 
 

 

 

 
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