The release of the self-titled debut album from Cincinnati trio Tweens is just about a month away now. The music site Stereogum recently premiered the trio’s first music video for new album single, “Be Mean,” a great introduction to the band’s classic-Pop-meets-classic-Punk style (or “Trash Pop,” as they like to call it).
The buzz around Tweens, which scored the “New Artist of the Year” award at the 2014 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, continues to grow across the nation, with more and more music press and online outlets heaping praise on the both the band's recordings and live shows. That buzz should be almost deafening when Tweens’ debut LP is finally released on April 8 through Frenchkiss Records. The band’s usually packed tour schedule is about to get extra-busy with the new release just on the horizon, beginning with a head-spinning six performances during next week’s South By Southwest music fest/conference in Texas.
Click here to read CityBeat's most recent interview with Tweens.
Cincinnati crew The Ohms have built an impressive career over the past decade-plus, starting out in the ’00s as a popular draw on the “Jam band” circuit as Four Ohms, before shifting gears and developing a surprisingly unique twist on the Rock-meets-Reggae hybridization, a pairing that everyone from Eric Clapton, The Clash and The Police to modern players like No Doubt, The Aggrolites and Matisyahu has flirted with and/or embraced since the ’70s.
Changing the band name to simply The Ohms a few years back (and garnering some national industry attention), the now stripped-down three-piece is in top fighting shape, sounding better than ever, as their recently released second album, Press On, proves beyond a shadow of a spliff. They’re a lean, mean skankin’ machine with a fresh coat of Modern Rock paint glazed atop.
Press On succeeds through careful and crafty, yet very natural-feeling, mixology — the Rock and Reggae elements never get in each other’s way, feel forced or fight for space in The Ohms’ groove-driven mix, a testament to the musicians’ abilities as arrangers and writers. The title track, for example, sounds like a perfectly natural jam session between Green Day and Rancid. A minute into the track, the Punk/Pop-like drive drops to a head-bobbing flow of buoyant, vintage Reggae rhythms, ’70s-styled songcraft and Ska horns.
The album continues with that basic blueprint throughout, but few tracks are predictable and there are variations galore. “Vampire” is a voodoo strut that explodes into a huge, engulfing chorus, while elsewhere the band tinkers with the full range of Reggae sounds, styles and approaches (from Roots to Ska to Dub, grunting toasting to full-voiced, highly melodic melodies) and welds them together with the musicians’ excellent grasp of Classic Rock and top-notch musicianship.
Reggae and Ska remain two of the more maligned genres in music (usually unfairly … and it always comes back around), but The Ohms have such an addictive energy, even the most hardened “Pfft — Reggae sucks” protestor won’t be able to resist bobbing along to the contagious beats and rhythm.
Fresh on the heels of the release of Press On, The Ohms have been focused on this weekend's big Ohmstead music festival at Hannon’s Camp America (hannonscampamerica.com) near Oxford.
Ohmstead is now entering its 11th year, which certainly puts the event amongst some of the longest running artist-built festivals of its kind in the region. For this weekend’s (Friday and Saturday, plus a little Sunday morning/afternoon action) Ohmstead blowout, The Ohms have joined forces with Wham Bam Thank You Jam fest to help manage and operate a big “Ohmstead Wham Bam Thank You Jam” conglomo-fest, which once again features an impressively diverse lineup of inventive music makers, mostly from across Ohio.
The multi-act festival — with The Ohms performing both nights, as has become tradition — presents everything from progressive Psychedelic Jam Rock (Cincy’s Mr. Brown’s Mysterious Sounds), Kent, Ohio-based Ambient/Electronic/Industrial musician Pyrosonic, smooth acoustic guitarist Brian Henke (from Bay Village, Ohio) and fellow Reggae squad Soul Rebels (from straight outta Yellow Springs), promising Cincy Alt/Psych/Garage/Rock foursome Lemon Sky, retro-tinged local rockers Tattered Roots, popular touring “Hippie-Hop Jam Rock” outfit Boogie Matrix (Toledo) and Northern Ohio Jam band Aliver Hall, which showcases former Four Ohms member Alex Hall on guitar and vocals. Other artists slated to appear include Dayton-based Phish tribute band Oh Kee Pa, Dayton Funk rockers Magic Jackson, Oxford area Blues band Bad Men on a Mission and Nigerian-born/Cincy-based AfroBeat champ Baoku Moses.
Here is the most recent 2012 Wham Bam Thank U Jam and Ohmstead lineup (with "city of origin"), posted by the WhamBam folks (who add that attendees should check the info booth because times will "likely change"):
3pm - Trench Foot - Dayton, Ohio
4pm - Tony Herdman and Tracy Sax - Kettering, Ohio
5pm - Gild the Lily - Dayton, Ohio
6pm - Mr. Brown’s Mysterious Sounds - Cincinnati, Ohio
7pm - Brown Street Breakdown - Dayton, Ohio
8pm - Tattered Roots - Cincinnati, Ohio
9pm - Subterranean House Band - Dayton, Ohio
10pm - Prophets Mire - Dayton, Ohio
11pm - Magic Jackson - Dayton, Ohio
12:30am - The Ohms - Cincinnati, Ohio
2:30am - Pyrosonic - Kent, Ohio
Saturday (in the Barn)
10am - Brian Henke - Bay Village, Ohio
Noon - Andyman Hopkins Band - Cincinnati, Ohio
1pm - Bad Men on a Mission - College Corner, Ohio
2pm - Soul Rebels - Yellow Springs, Ohio
3pm - Elementree Presents - Cincinnati, Ohio
4pm - Nine False Suns - Dayton, Ohio
5pm - M 8 7 - Dayton, Ohio
Saturday (Wham & Bam Stages)
6pm - S O L - Piqua, Ohio
7pm - Happy Lemmy - Birmingham, Alabama
8pm - Lemon Sky - Cincinnati, Ohio
Fire Celebration Ceremony - at Dusk / Sunset - in Middle Earth
9pm - Aliver Hall - Akron, Ohio
10pm - Oh Kee Pa (Phish trib) - Dayton, Ohio
11:30pm - Boogie Matrix - Toledo, Ohio
1am - The Ohms - Cincinnati, Ohio
2:30am - Baoku & the Image Afro Beat Band - Cincinnati, Ohio
2:30am - Pyrosonic - Kent, Ohio - In the Barn!
Sunday (in the Barn)
10am - Tracy Sax Therapy - Kettering, Ohio
Noon - Steev Inglish - London, England
1pm - The Finders - Cincinnati, Ohio
2pm - Troll - Cincinnati, Ohio
Three-day passes are only $35. Visit whambamthankujam.com for info on how/where to buy tickets, the full rundown of performer links and a list of the various on-site vendors, plus perks like “Ohio’s Largest Fire Sculpture” and camping opportunities.
For even more details, as well as info on The Ohms’ new Press On release, visit www.ohmsmusic.com. Here's a sample of the new material.
The inaugural Bunbury Music Festival — three days of top-shelf Alternative music at Cincinnati's riverfront Sawyer Point Park — is just two days away. All this week, CityBeat's music blog will be featuring samples from some of our "sleeper picks" for the fest, artists who some may not be as familiar with as they are Weezer or Death Cab for Cutie or Jane's Addiction.
Our next "sleeper" is Detroit's Child Bite, performing Sunday at noon on the Bud Light Stage.
Like an anxious jam session between Nick Cave’s Birthday Party, ProgCore’s Reduced and the more avant garde side of early Sebadoh, the Detroit area’s Child Bite is definitely the most outrageously adventurous act to grace any Bunbury stage this year. The group’s latest release, Monomania, is a neck-snapping, time-changing, shape-shifting beast of inventive, disjointed riffage, raw, natural Punk power, rhythms somewhere between Free Jazz and experimental Electronica and bug-eyed vocals that often sound like something captured on a field recording made inside the halls of an insane asylum. In other words, the perfect way to start off your Bunbury Sunday (after church, of course).
Here's the Monomania track "Wrong Flesh."
Friday Evening, Apr 27: MerleFest Festival Grounds
After lunch, I was ready for something a little more upbeat, so I headed back to the Americana stage to check out The Lost Bayou Ramblers. I caught these guys last year at the same stage, and they brought the place down. I suppose most Cajun and Zydeco is infectious — that constant backbeat and sing-songy lilt of the melodies, but done well, it can be a bit mind blowing.
The Lost Bayou Ramblers hail from Lafayette, La. and their Zydeco is the real deal. Not quite as hard hitting as The Bluerunners, they still bring an enormous drum sound to an already rhythm-heavy beat. Fiddle, accordion, electric guitar, double bass, acoustic guitar and drums — the fiddle, accordion and electric guitar feed a triple-stack tone attack to every melody. It's like Lynyrd Skynyrd ca. 1975 without the volume, hair or rednecks. It's really something to behold and listen to. The fiddler sings and works the crowd in both French and English, the bass player holds his big acoustic bass like he's ready to swing it over his head, while the electric guitar player stands at the front of the stage arena rock style and the acoustic player runs back and forth behind everyone. These guys are regulars at the Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette and I suspect a trip to catch them in such intimate surroundings would be life changing. Check YouTube for some of their videos.
I left the Americana stage a bit exhausted and headed over to see what was going on in the Traditional Tent and found Phil and Gaye Johnson in the middle of their set. Long time radio host of various roots music programs, Phil and Gaye do tight harmonies and Roots-based acoustic music. Easy to listen to, they move from original to traditional and without a little bit of knowledge of traditional music, it would be easy to confuse what's original and what's not. Phil's a fantastic acoustic and dobro guitar player moving easily between slide, flatpicking, various forms of fingerpicking and sometimes both. The music is not something I generally sit and listen to, but like everything you see at MerleFest, the playing is top notch and professionally presented.
I slipped out of the tent and as I walked past the picking area, I could here the strains of Peter Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce moving though the air. Like a lot of kids brought up in the 1970s, Peter was my first real introduction to Bluegrass music though the Old and In The Way LP. My dad had a few Bill Monroe LPs, but my mom wouldn't let him play that "hillbilly" music while she was around, which was pretty much all the time.
I wasn't planning on heading back to the Watson Stage, but I was intrigued. As I got closer, Peter was doing an slow acoustic version of "Panama Red." Frankly, I thought he was mailing it in, but I was still pretty far from the stage, so I kept moving in. By the time I got close enough to the stage to take pictures, which is basically standing in the front in everyone's way, he easy doing a song called "The Raven" and it was mesmerizing. It's probably Bluegrass heresy, but off all the Bluegrass I've heard over the last 35 years, his is the tenor I associate with "that sound" and, man, he's still got it. It rises and floats and breaks in all the right places.
I took some pictures and grabbed a seat near the back of the reserved section where the sound would be optimal. His band was outstanding. Peter on acoustic joined by a electric guitar player playing shimmering notes, a lap steel player doing pedal licks and swells, acoustic bass and drums. The lap steel player was especially amazing. Every swell and fill felt like a feather in my heart. They launched into a 20 minute version of the Rowan classic "Land of the Navajo" and by the time he started doing the falsetto calls, I was awash in transcendent tears. Peter Rowan has still got it all and I'm a big baby.
Next up I headed up to the Heritage Tent to converse with another of my favorite MerleFest craft exhibitors, bowl maker Larry Kearson of Marion, NC. And not just bowls, but dough bowls. As a boy growing up in NJ, we always had a wooden bowl mounted up on the wall. Occasionally my dad would take it down to kneed some bread dough in. I never thought much about it till I started making bread in earnest in my 20's. Then I wanted it. Desperately. It was a large bowl, about 18"-by-12" and had been hand carved from a piece of black walnut from the family farm in Tennessee. I finally claimed it 10 years ago or so and now it's a regular kitchen tool in our kitchen. Larry hand carves dough bowls from single pieces of wood. Some small and decorative other huge and highly desirable. The Zeke Bowl is one such bough bowl. About two feet long and 18-inches across, it was carved from a single piece of maple from Larry's neighbor's tree. His neighbor's dog, Zeke, laid by the downed tree for days and then growled and whined the day the tree was cut up — Zeke's Bowl. It's a beauty. Dough bowls shouldn't be stained or varnished, and Larry's aren't. You need a dough bowl carved the old way, hit Larry up.
From the Heritage Tent I headed over to the Dance Tent to check out Asheville's contribution to Hot Club-style Jazz — Viper's Dream. I guess I'm spoiled by Cincinnati's Faux Frenchman, Viper's Dream didn't quite cut it. Yes, you got to be one hell of a musician to pull off Django tunes, but the sound was shrill and I wasn't digging the fiddle player. Paul Patterson of the Faux Frenchmen is without doubt a Cincinnati treasure.
I quickly jumped to the Traditional stage to see Wayne Henderson. With him was a fiddle, frailing banjo and acoustic bass players. Wayne has done three tours with the "Masters of the Six String Guitar" as well as received a National Heritage Award for his instrument building prowess. Wayne is one hell of a fingerpicker, easily one of the best living and funny as hell to boot. Very humble and unassuming. The quartet ran through some Carter Family songs, traditional mountain ballads and fiddle tunes, each played with great dexterity and devotion. What a thrill.
Following dinner, I headed up to the Hillside Stage for a set from Donna The Buffalo. A MerleFest favorite, this band has seemingly been on the road for twenty years. I'm a bit baffled how I've never seen them before. Another one of those alternativecountryrootsrockamericana band with some serious jam band leanings, Donna the Buffalo has been a perennial favorite on the tour and festival circuit. They have a loyal following among MerleFest attendees and the tie dye and swirling dancers were out in force tonight. They played a crowd pleasing set, leaving their fans wanting more. Not much more then you can ask for then that.
I started out the second day of the Forecastle festival in Louisville by getting caught in the rain and being picked up like a hitchhiker by the Everest band van on the way to setup for their set on the main Mast Stage of the festival. The band agreed to let me hang for “A Day in the Life” photo series as they prepped to play the 10th Anniversary of Forecastle. They were laid back as the rain moved in and gear was unplugged and wrapped in saran wrap.
Everest has been on the road promoting their third album Ownerless. On Ownerless, you can hear a refined sound in which the band speaks about powerful issues as they took their time to record and find their true voice, writing from the heart and soul. The band consists of members Russell Pollard (vocals/guitar/drums), Joel Graves (guitar/keys/vocals), Jason Soda (guitar/keys/vocals), Eli Thomson (bass/vocals) and new addition Kyle Crane (drums).
Everest are rising stars in the alternative music scene and have toured with My Morning Jacket and they will be heading back on the road with Neil Young this fall.
It turned out to not be such a typical “day in the life” as the show was held back because of lightning in the area but the band unloaded and prepared to play even as heavy rain descended on the festival. The festival opened an hour late due to rain delays but they did make time for all the planned acts to perform (albeit with shorter set lists).
Everest played loud and rocked the crowd as it gathered to hear this band singing my favorite track on the new album as the opening song “Rapture.” Founding member Pollard’s raspy vocals were captivating and I instantly became a fan of this band as they sang older tunes and new record songs like “Into the Grey.” The Watson Twins joined the band for a few songs on backing vocals to round out their set.
Overall it was a great day to play music in Louisville as fans gathered to celebrate 10 years of the fest, which self-defines itself as being all about "music, art and activism." The Preservation Hall Jazz Band took the main stage by storm and had fans dancing in the grass; special guests onstage including Jim James and Andrew Bird playing classic tunes with the legendary jazz musicians from New Orleans. James' band (and hometown heroes) My Morning Jacket played over two hours to close out the night while Girl Talk played on the second stage and had a festival rave in full action on the banks of the Ohio river.
MPMF news and musings: Kick-ass longtime MPMF sponsor Dewey's Pizza is giving away a trio of special "Next Level Experience" passes for you and two of your closest friends (or, I suppose, you could give them to people you hate, though that would just be kinda weird).
If you win, you'll receive a three-day wristband and one night at the Dewey's Pizza/Grammer's stage in the best seat in the house (which appears to be a couch positioned very close to the stage). For more on Dewey's Next Level Experience contest, click here.
And now, with the countdown down to just 13 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks, today featuring all Ohio artists …
Cloud Nothings (Cleveland, OH)
From his parents’ basement, Dylan Baldi created and released several acclaimed lo-fi recordings as Cloud Nothings before his 2009 EP, Turning On, pinged the critics’ radar and scored positive reviews on all the right blogs. Almost immediately, Baldi had to assemble a band to play the gigs that were offered to him, resulting in lots of touring and his slightly shinier 2011 self-titled full-length. This year has seen the release of the even more expansive Attack on Memory and a string of upcoming opening dates for Silversun Pickups. Not a bad three years for a Hardcore obsessed kid from Cleveland.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The idea of Tommy Keene and Kevin Seconds stirring up some Pop and some Punk for a Husker Du tribute. (Brian Baker)
Cloud Nothings perform at Midnight on Friday, Sept. 28, at the Cincinnati Club. Here's the official music video for Cloud Nothings' "No Future/No Past."
Next weekend, the Lollapalooza music festival returns to Chicago for its 20th anniversary extravaganza. CityBeat will have some reporters in the field covering the event, but most of us don't have the money for such a costly road trip this year. Thankfully, you can have a sort of "virtual reality" audio experience of Lollapalooza without leaving your bed or sweating more than a boxer in the final round. And you can do it all in under an hour.
Is it really that time again? It seems like just yesterday that we were jumping from one packed MPMF venue to another, checking out everyone from local favorites to national and international gems to local favorites turned (inter)national gems.
Yes, bands and artists the world over can now register to take part in the 2010 MidPoint Music Festival, a three-day (Sept. 23-25) downtown Cincinnati party that is rapidly becoming a highlight of the region’s musical landscape.