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.
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.
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."
Like death, taxes, Who reunion tours and Wolfen sequels, one certainty every year in Cincinnati is a local summer appearance by the master of mediocrity, Jimmy Buffett. If you live here, it's as inevitable as the changing of the season: Buffett brings his plastic palm tree and awful music to Riverbend, and thousands of morons flock to see him.
We've resisted writing about this "phenomenon" in the past. It's kind of like making fun of Kathie Lee Gifford or Kenny G -- it's just too cheap and easy. Of course, CityBeat is nothing if not cheap and easy.
So, here, we bring you the only press you will ever read about Jimmy Buffett in this publication. Unless, of course, there's a shooting spree in the middle of the concert or Riverbend sinks into the river.
10) His music It's sorta tropical, sometimes Country-ish, sometimes "silly," and always boring. It's music for people who don't like music: background, laid-back fluff. It's easy listening for Boomers.
9) His lyrics
"Blew out my flip flop/Stepped on a pop top/Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home."
"So he took her to this movie called Body Heat/She said, 'The Junior Mints were mushy and the sex was neat.' "
"Fruitcakes in the kitchen/Fruitcakes on the street/Struttin' naked through the cross walk/In the middle of the week."
"Evolution can be mean/There's no 'dumb-ass vaccine.' "
8) His album titles A White Sport Coat & A Pink Crustacean. Last Mango in Paris. Off to See the Lizard. This guy makes "Weird Al" look like Oscar Wilde.
7) He recorded a cover of "Purple People Eater" "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" is bound to be next.
6) He likes to sue aspiring restaurateurs Buffett's lawyers have gone after entrepreneurs for calling their new bistros things like "Margaritaville" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise." Hey, if they're that stupid ...
5) He was a fratboy No doubt. At the University of Southern Mississippi. Shocker!
4) He wrote and staged a musical (Don't Stop the Carnival) Rock stars shouldn't do that.
3) He tricked Brian Wilson into recording one of his songs "South American" on Wilson's Imagination record. Hasn't this man been taken advantage of enough?
2) His CDs don't even make good coasters I proudly own one Jimmy Buffett CD -- 1999's Beach House on the Moon, which I use on my desk to set my drink on. Damn things keep slippin' off.1) Parrotheads Fans of Buffett use his summer concerts for an excuse to get completely obliterated and "partay." It's like Mardi Gras with tasteless people in stupid hats and Hawaiian shirts. Not so amazingly, his strongest cult is here in Cincinnati. Like we need some other cultural crisis to be embarrassed about.
One of the coolest, more unique musical experiences to be had in Cincinnati is at the concerts presented by The Loft Society, an on-the-down-low, speakeasy-like venue housed in the top-floor loft of an apartment building on Calhoun Street in University Heights (next to Mayra’s restaurant). Programmed and hosted by Al Williams, the Loft has been featuring artists on the more exploratory side of Jazz (with occasional guests from other genres) for the past two decades. The atmosphere is relaxed and communal and set up as a great listening experience first and foremost (obnoxious chatter during performances is strongly frowned upon). If you’ve yet to visit, Saturday’s “A Tribute to MLK” concert is a great place to start.
Nationally recognized as one of the best record stores in the Midwest, it makes sense that Northside’s Shake It Records would go all out on the forthcoming global Record Store Day (April 16). Besides offering many of the limited-edition RSD exclusives being released by everyone from Blitzen Trapper, Yeasayer and Built to Spill to Television and The Velvet Underground (for the full list of exclusives, click here), the store/label is also issuing its own exclusive release from Shake It recording artists Wussy. And they’ll be hosting an in-store appearance by modern Hip Hop hero Talib Kweli.
Cincinnati music’s most iconic figure, Bootsy Collins, is gearing up to release a new album this spring, the funkmaster’s first new material in five years. The guest list on Tha Funk Capital of the World is stacked with superstars from various fields, not just music. Along with Hip Hop legends Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Chuck D (who all perform with Bootsy on one track, “Hip Hop @ Funk U”), eclectic banjo master Bela Fleck and fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bobby Womack, the 16-track collection also features such non-musical figures as Al Sharpton, Tom Joyner, Dr. Cornel West and actor Samuel Jackson. Funk Capital has an April 26 release date.
I attended my first South By Southwest festival in Austin, Tex., over 15 years ago to cover local Funk group SHAG's appearance at the festival for a much younger CityBeat. It seemed exciting back then that one of Cincinnati's biggest bands was invited to showcase at SXSW. This year, the amount of acts from the area performing is unprecedented — never has Cincinnati had such a presence at America’s premier music fan/industry showcase and conference (which starts a week from today).
And it’s not just performers. Representatives from local promo company The Counter Rhythm Group will be on hand in force, venture development group CincyTech is hosting regular chats as well as a Cincinnati hospitality headquarters and party in Austin and the progressive promotional/licensing machine The All Night Party is sponsoring both a tour centered around the Texas festival and its own showcase night at the event, a first for a local organization.
And, as we have most SXSWs over the past 17 years, CityBeat will have a reporter on the scene providing regular updates for this here blog. Be sure to check back often starting next week and see how are hometown heroes are doing.
Here’s an overview of just some of the Cincy-centric happenings related to SXSW 2012:
• The All Night Party presents the Midwest by Southwest tour (also sponsored by this summer’s Bunbury Music Festival and assisted by Counter Rhythm and Reveal Concepts) featuring, as the tagline reads, “Four Midwestern Bands — On A Mission to Rock.” The tour has Cincinnati bands The Sundresses (repeat visitors to SXSW) and Wussy, as well as Cleveland rockers The Whiskey Daredevils and Lexington’s Oh My Me. The jaunt begins Thursday at Mount Lookout’s The Redmoor. (Doors open at 6 p.m., showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $10.) MWXSW will hit several other cities before and after the ANP SXSW showcase Tuesday at the Soho Lounge. The Lions Rampant will appear on the bill in Austin, as well.
If you'd like to help the caravan out, there is a Kickstarter campaign with some cool perks you can check out here. (Quick, only three days left!) Here's the promo vid:
• R. Ring, the acoustic duo featuring local musician/engineer Mike Montgomery (thistle, Ampline) and Dayton, Ohio’s Kelley Deal (Breeders), will perform at a showcase hosted by the Misra label on March 15. Misra is releasing the twosome’s first single in a few months, with a full-length to follow.
• Ohio Knife, a new duo project from The Chocolate Horse’s Jason Snell, Andrew Higley and Joe Suer, is also headed to Austin and the local branch of branding agency Landor is tagging along. The company is hosting a travelogue website here so you can follow along at home. Ohio Knife plays a tour kickoff show Friday at The Comet in Northside. The band will hit other clubs in Tennessee and Texas along its way to SXSW.
• Local Indie Pop faves Pomegranates are now labelmates (on the Modern Outsider imprint) with fellow Cincy band Bad Veins. While the Veins won’t be performing in Texas (they’re preparing their own tour launch March 19 in Colorado), the Poms will play the official Modern Outsider SXSW showcase on March 14 at Trinity Hall.
• Indie/Folk/Electro/Pop powerhouse The Seedy Seeds took part in a SXSW launch party a couple of weeks ago. The band performs at the All Night Party showcase Tuesday.
• Eccentric breakout rockers Foxy Shazam are one of the headliners of a showcase presented by the huge booking company The Agency Group on March 15 at Latitude 30; the day before they’ll play an afternoon party.
• Cincy RCA Records recording artists Walk the Moon aren’t technically “showcasing” for SXSW, but they will be in Austin for the MTVu Woodie Awards ceremony and festival held in during SXSW, where they’ll be performing and hoping to score the Breaking Woodie award they’re competing for against acts like tUnE-YarDs and Lana Del Rey. Vote for the hometown boys here, where you can also watch a live stream from the March 15 festival.
When you say the letters “C&D” to any member of Cincinnati’s hip, bar-going, Shake-It-haunting scene, most people will nod their heads in recognition, knowingly acknowledging the “Complete Dive” on the corner of Hanfield and Witler, a block down from Chase. Now append the words “Record Bar” at the end of “C&D” and quite a few of those nods of familiarity will turn to blank stares.
Contemporary Arts Center has officially announced that Patti Smith will perform The Coral Sea with daughter/pianist Jesse Smith on May 17, in connection with her CAC exhibit, also called The Coral Sea, that opens the next day and features work not previously seen in the U.S.
At the concert, Smith will also play selected material from throughout her career.
The CAC website says that "The Coral Sea performance work found its beginnings from Smith’s 1997 book of the same name, her requiem to her dear friend Robert Mapplethorpe (who took the cover photo of Smith’s debut album, Horses, among his many other accomplishments). With music arranged and performed live by Kevin Shields — of heralded British shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine — two separate performances were held at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in June 2005 and September 2006. In 2008 those performances were released as a live album."
Mapplethorpe's own posthumous photography retrospective at CAC, 1990's The Perfect Moment, became a major controversy when cultural conservatives led by now-retired Sheriff Simon Leis tried to shut it down for obscenity. In a famous trial, a jury sided with the CAC. The concert venue and ticket information will be announced soon at www.contemporaryartscenter.org.
I first wrote about Smith's art show coming to the CAC in CityBeat last year here.