Now in it tenth year, one of Cincinnati’s most celebrated bands, Wussy (led by former Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver and his equally skilled songwriting partner/co-frontperson Lisa Walker), has amassed an amazing discography so far. Beginning with 2005’s Funeral Dress, the group quickly developed a reputation for the “ragged glory” of its performances, both live and on record. That sense of recklessness worked impossibly well with the band’s fractured, soul-burrowing love songs and the unbridled tense, passionate energy between its co-leaders. Early on, Wussy often sounded on the verge of falling apart, but there was always something magical about the group that assured you that, even if by Scotch tape and rubber bands, the band would hold it together.
But with each successive release, Wussy’s edge-of-cliff nature gradually dissipated. By the time of the rockers’ third album, an eponymous affair in 2009, Wussy had become a more confident, cohesive unit. But not in the way, say, Paul Westerberg went from alcoholic Punk poet to “mature” singer/songwriter. As the band’s fourth full-length, Strawberry, shows, Wussy isn’t getting boring. They’re just getting better. Which, considering how powerful albums like 2007’s Left for Dead were, is almost scary.
MPMF news and musings: The official MPMF.12 "Kick Off Celebration" is set for Wednesday, Sept. 26, in the Hanke Building just off Main St. (215 Michael Bany Way, between 12th and Reading). The free, open-to-all (21-and-up) party starts at 6 p.m. and will feature music from DJ Ice Cold Tony (who will be laying down some mash-ups featuring MPMF artists) and great Cincy rockers 500 Miles to Memphis will blow the rest of the roof off with a set starting at 9 p.m. There will be giveaways, free Vitaminwater, free Eli's BBQ (while it lasts) and a chance to win a pair of VIP tickets to the CityBeat-sponsored New Year's Eve blow-out at Bogart's featuring music by The Afghan Whigs.
And now, with the countdown down to just 8 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
Tennis (Denver, CO)
It’s been a breakthrough year for Colorado Indie trio Tennis, starting with the winter release of its stellar (and highly anticipated) sophomore full-length, Young and Old, on Fat Possum Records. After touring its comparatively lo-fi, critically-lauded debut Cape Dory (crafted by core duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley), the duo took its vintage Pop songs into the studio with The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, who helped give the songs a more direct punch (resulting in the addition of a drummer to the fold). Where acts like Best Coast and Jesus and Mary Chain rewire the classic Pop of the ’60s, Tennis write songs that often recall the ballads of ’50s Pop, something more evident and effective on Young and Old, which charted well and performed exceptionally at college radio. The band’s songs have been used on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and are becoming favorites in the fashion world, and they’ve also made a fan out of the Republican (one of "the good ones") daughter of an almost-President, Meghan McCain, who tweeted her joy that Tennis had become the soundtrack to her summer this earlier this year.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Lesley Gore, Dusty Springfield, the house band for Mad Men (if they had one). (Mike Breen)
Tennis performs at the Know Theatre on the Bioré Strip's Main Stage Saturday, Sept. 29, at 11:45 p.m. Here's Tennis' clip for their swoony tune "Pigeon."
The Bonesetters (Muncie, IN)
Bonesetters don’t necessarily sound like a lot of bands but they fit well in the Midwestern construct of talented groups crafting a complex sound out of relatively simple ingredients. Sparse guitar melodies, both plugged and unplugged, are appointed with spartan rhythmatism, unexpected instrumental counterpoints (mariachi trumpet, keening violin, gentle vibes, wheezing harmonium) and a quiet sense of Indie Rock urgency on Savages, Bonesetters’ full-length debut from late last year. It’s easy to understand why Muncie loves Bonesetters, it’s harder to understand why they don’t play here all the bloody time.
Dig: Clem Snide, My Morning Jacket and Gomez making high lonesome carnival Surf Rock for emo hodads. (Brian Baker)
The Bonesetters perform Thursday in Washington Park at 5 p.m. Here's the band's debut album, which you can sample below, then download the whole shebang for free.
LOCAL LOCK PICK
The Dukes Are Dead (Cincinnati, OH)
Rock & Roll
If you’re a local Rock fan who has yet to catch a live show from exciting Cincinnati foursome The Dukes Are Dead, you’ve missed out on some great shows … and you only have this one more before The Dukes Are Dead are dead. In just a couple of years — first as “The Dukes,” before adding “Are Dead” to avoid confusion with the 17,000 other bands with the same name — the foursome amassed a loyal following and even got into theater, becoming the house band for the local staging of “Rock musical” Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Though the band’s last show (sure to be a debauched blow-out) is this one at MPMF, there is hope for fans — in their farewell note on Facebook, it was announced that the members will each continue to pursue making music in the future.
Dig: No-nonsense Rock & Roll, bands with names that turn out to be prophetic. (MB)
The Dukes Are Dead's final show is Saturday, Sept. 28, at 8:30 p.m. at The Drinkery. The kind gentlemen of The Dukes are also giving fans some final recorded music as a parting gift — sample below then click on the player to download your free copy of the five-track EP, Before We Died.
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
CityBeat: I don’t know if people in Cincinnati know a lot about you. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what the band is about and coming to Cincinnati?
Jesse: We have never been to Cincinnati. This is our first show there. I’ve been there before with other bands and I’ve always loved the city. I’m excited to bring this band there and just show what I’ve been talking about because we always hear about how awesome the scene is there in Cincinnati. We are a straight up rock band from Nashville, Tennessee. There’s really no frills or anything too fancy in what we do. We like to put on a good show and get the crowd into a good mood and maybe help them party a little bit, dance a little bit.
Anna: Give them what they pay for. Perform on stage and have a good time.
CB: You guys are pretty known around Nashville I know and other places for high energy performing. I saw it for the first time in Chicago opening for Kid Rock and Bon Jovi. Can you talk to us a little bit about what that experience was like and how that all came about?
Anna: Yeah, totally. We actually won a competition to play that show. We put our music on this site called Ourstage.com. Ourstage has been real good to us. They were fans of our music. We had a couple songs that were number one for a few weeks. Then they put on this competition where people could vote on getting the opportunity to open for Bon Jovi. I remember we were in Georgia on the road and Jesse came across the contest and was “Hey dudes I am going to sign us up for this.” And we were all joking “It’s gonna be killer when we open for Bon Jovi.” And not really thinking of it but being positive anyway. And it came true. So we got a phone call that we won the contest to open for Bon Jovi at Soldier Field in Chicago. What was cool for me is I had never been to Chicago before. So my first experience going to Chicago was playing a gig at Soldier Field with Bon Jovi and Kid Rock. So that was sort of surreal. The experience was awesome but it was a little bit of a tease for us all because it was one show. We wanted just to do our best and kill it. I feel we all acted very professional about it. Everybody backstage and Bon Jovi’s manager told us how professional we were. It felt very natural. I’m just glad we have that experience under our belt and hopefully there will be many more to come like that.
CB: It was a great show. Very high energy. You have a video and a song called “Kitty Litter” that has gotten a lot of play. I saw an interview that the concept behind the song was “Girls can be bitches” and I thought that was the best line of the week. Can you tell me a little bit more about the song?
Anna: Yeah, sure. I mean that is sort of the basis of the song. Unfortunately from a little bit of experience. I called it “Kitty Litter” just because that is the nastiest thing. People call girls catty. What’s the nastiest part of the cat? That’s just how “Kitty Litter” evolved. I use a line in the song that it’s a pretty little ribbon that’s tied to a fatal disease. I write metaphorically, and that just sort of means that girls can come off as really pretty and friendly but once gossip gets involved, it can become deadly. It can bruise someone’s ego or friendship or that sort of thing. That’s basically what the song is about. Not all girls are like that, just some.
CB: I’d say most, at one point another, we are all guilty I think. You guys just had a song featured on TV as well right?
Anna: You can barely hear it but it’s so cool. It was on Burn Notice..
CB: What song was it?
Jesse: It was “Drop Your Panties and Roll” from our first EP Put Your Babe On.
CB: And again, another song that I like. Can you tell me a little background what that song is about?
Anna: Oh yeah, that song was inspired by celebrities and paparazzi and how people are coming out of clubs and posing for cameras. It’s how things can get crazy or dirty. It was written around the time that there was the Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan scandals wanting to show their coochies for the camera for exposure. That’s why I say in the song, “Filthy is as filthy does/ Don’t forget to pose for the camera/ Raise your glass to the writer” because the writer is basically gaining you fame for all of your bullshit. We weren’t originally going to call it “Drop Your Panties and Roll,” but our witty bass player Jairo, I don’t know, the most random shit comes out of his mouth. So I said, “Jairo, what do you think we should call this song?” And within two seconds blurted out “Drop Your Panties and Roll” and we started laughing so hard and just kept the title. It was just convenient that that title was what I was writing about.
CB: You guys have a fairly new EP out right?
Jesse: Yeah, it came out March, just a little three song EP. Amy: What are the three songs on there?
Anna: We feature “Let’s Go,” “Party Dress,” and “XOXO.”
CB: Do you guys write your stuff?
Jesse: Yeah, the guys usually write all the music and will have a full song figured out or Jairo will have the song musically figured out or if we don’t we’ll kind of jam on it, a rift that either one of us has come up with. Then once we get that solid, we’ll bring it to Anna and just jam on it til she gets some words and melodies flowing. So everyone contributes musically, then we let Anna do her magic lyrically.
Anna: That, and then they come along and cut parts out here and there and turn it into a beautiful song.
CB: Do you guys have anybody you run it across. Do you ever co-write with anybody?
Anna: No. But we have a friend of ours here in Nashville who has approached us and has offered to help co-write with some stuff. My first reaction to that kind of stuff is pretty defensive. But this guy, he gets me and my writing style. I don’t know, I give him a lot of credit for that. So he has been coming to some of our practices. We haven’t written a song together from scratch. But he has been taking a few of our songs and sort of upping the game making it a little more “poppy” and making it a little bit more placeable as far as movies and radio are concerned. So, I am sort of working with somebody but in general we don’t at all.
CB: What’s your favorite song to play live?
Jesse: Good question. I can tell you mine. We are always writing so we have a handful of new songs that aren’t recorded yet. So mine right now at this moment is one of our newest songs called “March.” It’s got a bit of a different sound than we have recently recorded. It’s going in a little bit more of a “what’s hot right now” direction and got a lot of the dance feel but it’s pretty rock and pop. That one is fun for me because I get to play a little bit of a solo. So it’s a different kind of arrangement too.
Anna: Yeah, I actually agree with Jessie. That’s not necessarily my favorite song right now but when any song is new and fresh, you have fresh energy with the song. I’m not saying that always goes away but I’m pretty pumped about that song. Otherwise, we have a song that isn’t recorded yet called “Hey Kid” that is about the downfall of the music industry and it’s very anthemy. It’s one of those I can jump around a lot. I really like that one. “Let’s Go” is fun because it has the cheerleader chant to it but it’s not cheerleader at all which is awesome. I like “Sugar Cookies” because it’s all balls to the wall and crazy and I can jump into the crowd with that song and people can get into it and just want to dance. I try to write all of our songs to be fun to perform.
CB: What are you guys listening to right now. What’s in your Ipod or your car?
Anna: Right now in my car I’m listening to Iggy Pop’s Greatest Hits.
CB: Who are your influences when you perform or written in the past? I hear a No Doubt “feel” to your music.
Anna: Oh yeah if you mention No Doubt it’s totally cool. I have quite a few influences. Non-female anywhere from David Lee Roth to Freddy Mercury, even a little bit of Kurt Cobain. But as far as females are concerned, Chrissy Hines, Joan Jett, and Gwen Stefani for sure. I grew up in a really super religious home where MTV was blocked from the television. But when No Doubt came out, my parents actually let me listen to that CD. I listened to that CD until my ears were on fire. I admired her stage presence and I think her power sparked something in me and I woke up one day and I said that’s exactly what I’m going to do with my life. Everybody in my high school knew that I would do that one day. That dream is coming true. So yeah Gwen Stefani is up there but not my only influence.
CB: You brought up being raised in the religious household. I mean Nashville has a great music scene and I love to go to Nashville but one of the things that bothers me is the ultra-conservatism that is around town. Do you have to deal with that or has that ever been a problem for you?
Anna: I don’t hang out with those people.
Jesse: Well speaking of Nashville having a really good music scene. I’m not sure if you saw the Rolling Stone article but they just named Nashville the best.
CB: I did and I just read it last night and saw the article.
Jesse: Yeah that’s huge and I got really excited when I saw that.
CB: I think it’s true. I always tell people that I find Nashville to be an awesome place but also a frustrating place because I have seen people on the street or working at Trader Joes that I feel are awesome singers or musicians that are never going to make it, better than a lot of the people out there.
Jesse: That is kind of frustrating to see that. I think, with what we’re doing, there is a really strong rock scene going on here. Of course you have country, you have Americana, you got folk, got blues, whatever. But we find more success when we play shows out of Nashville. We love living there, we love playing shows there. But everyone is a musician and everyone is a critic. You’re a dime a dozen. You’re like everybody else in town.
Anna: Right, like everybody is a music lover but if they come to see you, they never want to show it. It’s either everyone is jealous of everyone else or everybody is trying to copy someone else. Nashville is a tough crowd as a lot of big cities are, but Nashville in particular. When we go out of town, it’s night and day. We have fans who are putting their hands up and trying to get as close to the stage as possible. When that kind of energy happens, that’s when they get the better show and that’s when I’ll jump into the crowd with them.
CB: So are you guys originally from there?
Jesse: I’m from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Anna: I’m sort of a mutt but I grew up in Montreal in my childhood and then moved to South Florida for high school and college.
CB: How did you guys all come together and form the band?
Jesse: Funny story. Anna and I actually met on the internet.
Anna: Before it was cool.
Jesse: Yeah before it was cool to meet someone on the internet. I was living in Indiana at the time and going to school there and I was in a band there and really tied down. So when I met Anna on the internet and saw that she lived in Florida, I was like “long distance relationship, okay.” And we had a really strong connection. Then we started visiting each other all the time and sparks flew. So she decided to move up to be near me when I was still in my other band. As time went on, that band fizzled out. Then we started writing together, and I realized that “Holy crap! This is really good. This is the best stuff I’ve ever done.” We couldn’t hack it in Indiana anymore, we wanted the big time and the closest option that seemed like the right place was Nashville. So we moved here about six years ago and we met the other guys when we got here. I worked with our bass player Jairo. We met Nathan via Craigslist when we were looking for a drummer. So a very unique come together of how it all started.
CB: So are you and Anna together-together?
Jesse: We are together-together.
CB: Does that cause any problems? That’s a lot of togetherness.
Anna: Oh for me and Jessie? No, every relationship has its problems but I think what’s really awesome about our marriage and being together is the fact that we have a common goal. So it’s not like I want to have babies and be a stay at home mom, it’s like “F that, we are going to do this together.” We actually have a lot of fun with it. Jesse and I are best friends first. When we’re on the road, we feel that too. I don’t know, it’s really unique, we get along really well honestly. We’re all really different people but it just happens to work.
CB: I think you have to get along to be in a band together for long periods of time. It’s a tough situation but if you’re good friends, you just kind of let things go.
Anna: Yeah for sure. I would love to spread the rumor that we are real rock stars that cause trouble, drug addicts, burn out all the time, real crazy, but we’re not, we’re actually super business-minded. And don’t get into any trouble, the worst thing we do is play dirty mad-libs in the van for like eight hours straight.
CB: You guys do this full time right?
Jesse: No, we all work 9-5’s and the band is like another part time job.
Anna: But we’re working on it to be full time. That’s our goal.
Jesse: That’s our goal to make a living at making music.
Anna: You really have to believe you are going to do it. It can get really discouraging. For example, all the guys do work 9-5 jobs. I used to. I’m more of a night person and I just started waiting tables and making more money doing that. I’m working at a higher end hotel in Nashville where all the musicians come through and all the main songwriters come through. And here I am wanting to make a living for The Worsties and overhearing shit bands getting signed and things are happening for other people. I am pouring their sparkling water and wanting to throw up in their food. It’s discouraging because you see things coming together for other people. But at the same I’m super positive because every goal we have set we have surpassed so far. We’re going to get there. Our time is coming. It’s hard.
Jesse: It sounds very cliché but there is a lot of power in positive thinking. If you will it, it will happen.
There’s no such thing as “just another day at Bonnaroo." This morning I was in attendance for a mesmerizing performance by Nashville AltCountry siren Tristen in the press tent that barely ended in time for me to race over to This Tent for a performance by Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears that shook me to my very soul. Their raging Funk and Soul revue literally had the crowd jumping and screaming for the duration of their 60-minute set.
Howdy folks! It’s your loyal, intrepid Bonnaroo correspondent Ric Hickey. Once again I am pleased and honored to be covering the big festival for CityBeat. We’ve been on-site for barely four hours and already this is shaping up to be one of the best Bonnaroo experiences that I have ever enjoyed.
The members of Kentucky's Black Stone Cherry take pride in their closeness. They are still just four guys rocking out and living their dream. BSC's just-released third studio album, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, reached the Top 30 in the Billboard 200 and the group is currently on the Carnival of Madness tour with Alter Bridge, Theory of a Deadman, and Emphatic. The tour hits Dayton's X-Fest, at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, this Sunday (click here for concert details). CityBeat recently spoke with Black Stone Cherry lead singer Chris Robertson in depth about the band and the personal issues he has dealt with over the past few years.
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.
Sometime in the late afternoon this past Saturday, the annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., inched closer to world-class status. By sunrise on Saturday, over 70,000 attendees had already been treated to unforgettable performances by The Flaming Lips, Tori Amos, Kings Of Leon, Daryl Hall, The Black Keys, Damian Marley and Nas, Norah Jones, LCD Soundsystem, Clutch and dozens more.
(Editor's Note: For the 2010 Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, Tenn., CityBeat dispatched a team to cover the event. ’Roo vet Ric Hickey returned, joined by newcomers Adam Sievering and photographer Chuck Madden. We'll be rolling out their reports here over the next several days. Here is Hickey's first dispatch.)