I hate festivals. I hate that they’re always at the peak of a heat wave or in the middle of a tornado warning. I hate that 90 percent of festival goers don’t understand the concept of deodorant. I hate the rushing around to multiple stages and the trying to decide who you like best when two awesome bands are both playing at 6 p.m I hate that my friends hate festivals, too, and always refuse to go with me. And I really hate the lack of cold beverages.
And yet Saturday afternoon found me in the middle of the crowd at Bunbury falling hopelessly in love with some band called “Imagine Dragons.”
It began during the second song I heard after arriving late to the Bud Light Stage. The lead singer, Dan Reynolds, bounced from one end of the stage to the other. The crowd around me sang along to songs I’d only heard once before, throwing their hands above their heads, voices to the sky and adoration at the stage. They practically worshiped a guy I’d only seen once in a small picture on Wikipedia. My love deepened when Reynolds spoke with absolute sincerity about how much it meant to see so many people singing along to their songs. Imagine Dragons hadn’t even performed in Cincinnati until their stop at Bunbury.
Then, as it often does, my heart melted at the sound of motorcycle boots and a palm on the chest as they thumped out a beat. Finally, my mug o’ love filled with melt-y heart goo, overflowed when the drummer, Daniel Platzman, flung himself off the stage after their set and bequeathed drumsticks to his adoring fans. These guys were perfect. Their music was made for screaming and dancing and the band members seemed so genuine.Nothing gets to me faster than a shaggy-haired dude saying a heartfelt “thank you” to his fans.
Thirty minutes into my time at Bunbury and I was madly in love.
It happens all the time, my falling in love at festivals In 1998, it was Hanson at a radio station festival in Miami. In 2001, it was a boy named Justin at the Buzz Bake Sale. Last year, it was The David Mayfield Parade at Appalachian Uprising and Avett Brothers at Memphis in May. This year I fell in love with Ben Howard at Bonnaroo and Imagine Dragons at Bunbury.
That feeling you get when you realize you’ve happened upon something amazing is pretty rare. Festivals, though, are like breeding grounds for that sensation. I’m certain that while music fans think festivals exist so they can see all their favorite bands at once, their organizers think festivals exist only for the purpose of making people gain new favorite bands.
Study any festival schedule and you’ll see what I mean. At some point during the day there will be about an hour of time where there will be three bands playing and you won’t have heard of any of them. You’ll call that, “dinner time.” However, as you wander along, looking for the perfect supper, you’ll also shuffle past three stages of random music. Almost inevitably the sound from of those stages will catch your attention and pull you across the grass to the barricade. Forty-five minutes later, you’re buying the band’s EP and mass texting your friends to tell them to check out this new band you just heard.
On Saturday I saw, among others, Manchester Orchestra, Gaslight Anthem and Weezer. (Weezer!) They were awesome, just as I’d expected. I flew from stage to stage, trying to catch as much of everything as possible. But the show that held my attention for the longest time was on the smaller stage and it lured me in while I was looking around for something to drink other than beer. The performance I’ll remember years from now won’t be Weezer, whom I’ve waited so long to see. It will be Imagine Dragons and it will be a memory of yet another time I fell in love.
In the words of James Hetfield (Metallica, y’all), “Nothing else matters.”
However, I’m supposed to report on the entire festival. So, here’s how the rest of my evening went something like this: I had Taco Azul for dinner and they were yummy beyond belief. I left for a bit to make my first ever walk across the Purple People Bridge to score photos of the fest from afar and I don’t regret that decision.
I spent a very long time wandering from one end of the park to the other in search of cold soda/pop, found none and I spent a hot second hoping that my poor editor thought to bring his Diet Pepsi from home. So, I bought a warm beer and immediately regretted that decision. I refused to use the porta-potties. I wandered by a DJed stage and considered how much better that section would be if it were more like Bonnaroo’s Silent Disco where everyone listened to music through headphones instead. Also, I briefly questioned the logic of scheduling the festival on the same weekend as a Reds game and the World Choir Games.
It was an awesome day. Fell in love, lost five pounds from sweating so much, and saw (here it comes, again) Weezer! And you know what else? I still don’t smell like a hobo.
I first started writing about the fine artists making music in Cincinnati in the early ’90s, just before The Afghan Whigs released their breakthrough Gentlemen album on Elektra Records. The timing of my unexpected entry into "music journalism" coincided with the unexpected rise of the Cincinnati music scene's national profile. Today, my pal David Pescovitz (who actually made my unintentional career as a writer/editor possible) sent me a YouTube clip that brought back a rush of memories from that time period. Below you can take a look for yourself at the MTV News piece about the Cincinnati scene, a weird and telling moment in contemporary Cincy music history.
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.
Younger local musicians and the music fans who love them might find it hard to fathom, but once upon a time, Cincinnati’s corporate Rock radio juggernaut WEBN was one of local music’s biggest allies, a wild, wooly and eclectic FM outlet as open-ended and freeform as any internet radio station or podcast. In the ’70s and ’80s, before inflexible, homogenized playlists made it impossible for even major label Cincy bands like The Afghan Whigs to get spins, the annual WEBN Album Project compilations gave major exposure to local and regional artists. Saturday at the Madison Theater, the WEBN Album Project Reunion Show flashes back to that era. In this week’s CityBeat, Brian Baker caught up with one of Cincinnati’s most popular bands ever (and an early Album Project participant), The Raisins, whose seminal lineup is reuniting for Saturday’s event, joining several other AP alumni. Brian also caught up with some of the other participating musicians to discuss the Album Project’s legacy. Below are their thoughts, as well as some vintage video clips from the era.
One of Cincinnati's all-time great turntablists, Tobotius (aka Tobe Donohue, member of DMC award-winning collective Animal Crackers), is preparing to release a solo album this February titled I, Tobot, but website The Untz posted the first leak from the record yesterday (click here for a free download). The track, "The Blox," is a collaboration with local Funk master, bassist Freekbass (aka Chris Sherman); the two local musicians have been working the national club circuit together as Freekbot. (They also collaborated on a modern "fight song" for Notre Dame's Fighting Irish called "We Are ND"; click here to view.) Check the hyped-up Tobotius/Freekbass track (fueled by a flurry of chaotic samples and scratches) below.
Music Tonight: Popular Detroit Psychobilly/Punkabilly/Powerbilly trio The Koffin Kats hot-rod it into Newport for a show at the Southgate House. While the band, which formed in 2003, has done the Psychobilly schtick, writing songs with Horror and Sci Fi themes, the Kats' more "real life" songs have always been around and, over the years, become more dominant in KK sets and on albums. That should be especially evident on the upcoming Our Way & The Highway, due in mid-January, which reflects what singer/bassist Zac Victor told CityBeat was a general move towards a "Bruce Springsteen approach more than a Dracula approach" and even more reflective of their broad musical influences. Read the entire interview with Victor at citybeat.com, then catch the band tonight at SGH with Dr. Bombay, The Returners, Vice Tricks and Switchblade Syndicate. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 ($13 for those ages 18-20). Below, check out the great, swoony track (anybody else hear some Smiths in there?) "The Bottle Called" from last year's "split album" with 12 Step Rebels called From Our Hands to Yours (it will also be on the new album).
The Cincinnati-born, Brooklyn-based members of Indie Rock sensations The National recently announced details about their first new album since 2010's High Violet, Trouble WIll Find Me. The album is due in the U.S. on May 21 on the 4AD label. (Click here for the album cover, track listing and more National news.)
Today, The National unleashed the first song from Trouble, the warm, crawling "Demons." Check the tune and a video for it below.
UPDATE: Today (April 11), The National released audio of the first single from Trouble Will Find Me, "Don't Swallow the Cap." Check it out:
The National perform a homecoming show on July 14, headlining the final night of the three-day Bunbury Music Festival at Sawyer Point Park. For tickets and more info, click here.
Cincinnati band Over the Rhine is celebrating going into its 20th year of music this Friday and Saturday at the Taft Theatre. Check out this cool little hub of info tributing the band with photos, video and links to past stories CityBeat has run about them.
Watching OTR turn 20 is one of those moments that makes me feel a little nostalgic and very old. The band and I both dove headfirst into the local music scene around the same time (me as a writer covering local music for former local weekly Everybody's News and a few other outlets and OTR as a band playing their first shows at Sudsy Malone's in Corryville).
Music Tonight: Hailing from the same Tulsa, Okla., suburb (Broken Arrow) as singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth, Saturday Night Live comedian (and South Park writer) Bill Hader and Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Warren Spahn, singer/songwriter JD McPherson's upbringing found him youthfully exploring the music of Nirvana and The Stooges right alongside Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly, a signal of things to come. Today, McPherson (now based in the Chicago area) is making a name for himself with songs that reflect the influence of Rock & Roll's breakout period. McPherson performs tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. The free show also features an appearance by like-minded locals (although with a bit more of a Honky Tonk stride) Straw Boss. Showtime is 9 p.m. Check out this potential Northside anthem, "North Side Gal," and dig McPherson's incredibly soulful and authentic ’50s vibe: