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."
The 2010 MidPoint Music Festival is finally upon us. In fact, it actually kicks off at noon today on the outdoor plaza outside the Main Public Library at Ninth and Vine streets with local Americana/Roots favorites Magnolia Mountain. Should be a hot start to a long, action-packed weekend. Literally.
If you're looking for last-minute updates and answers to your questions, you can stop by the MidPoint World Headquarters across from the library at Garfield Suites Hotel (Vine Street and Garfield Place). They'll be open for business by noon today. The MidPoint web site is a good spot for daily schedules, venue details, maps, Metro shuttle bus info and everything else.
MusicNOW kicked off last night with performances from Fleet Foxes’ frontdude Robin Pecknold, who apparently played a solo acoustic set of new material (I arrived just as he was finishing), and Joanna Newsom, whose intricate songs proved the perfect aesthetic match to the ornate Memorial Hall.
Cincinnati has a wealth of music festivals, from MidPoint Music Festival, Cincy Blues Fest, Macy's Music Festival, Bunbury to new additions like the expanded One More Girl on a Stage event this fall, the recently announced MOXY Music Fest, scheduled for June, and numerous others. But for those who like to get a fresh sampling of some of the newest artists from Greater Cincinnati representing a wide range of genres, The Heights Music Festival has been your best option.
This weekend, The Heights Music Festival returns to venues in the Clifton Heights neighborhood for its eighth edition. Usually, The Heights fest is biannual, with an event in both the fall and the spring. But this weekend's HMF will be the only one in 2013. Organizer Rome Ntukogu of Far-I-Rome Productions says The Heights will definitely be back in 2014, bigger and better. He's simply taking a break to work on some new ideas for the event; understandable, considering large chunks of the Clifton Heights neighborhood (near the University of Cincinnati) are under heavy reconstruction now, part of a revitalization effort that should put HMF in a good position when it returns. The area will be almost like a new (and nicer) neighborhood by then.
The first Heights Music Fest (originally called the Clifton Heights Music Festival) was held in 2009 and was considerably smaller, with four venues and about 20 performers. Last year, The Heights featured over 75 bands in five venues and included a "Day Fest" on Saturday.
So Friday and Saturday's pre-hiatus is something of a return to the HMF roots, with four venues and around 30 acts. But it's the same eclectic mix of newcomers and up-and-comers from the local scene. And $5 gets you admission to all four venues — Rohs Street Café (the only all-ages venue), Baba Budan’s, Mac’s Pizza Pub and Christy’s Biergarten, a historic building that has been at the center of a battle over whether it should be demolished or sold off in the name of progress or preserved in the name of history (as many residents would like). You can purchase an all-venue pass at any of the four venues.
This year's Heights lineup once again runs a vast gamut of styles, from Reggae, World music, Roots/Americana and Hip Hop to Punk, Jazz, Synth Pop, Funk and various spins on Rock (from Indie to Hard).
Below is the rundown of performers. (Note: There have been some shifts in the lineup since CityBeat's Spill It column about the fest ran on Wednesday; check it out here for a playlist featuring several of the participating artists.)
• Rohs Street Café: The Freebies (8 p.m.); MC Forty (9 p.m.); Young Colt (10 p.m.); The Yugos (11 p.m.).
• Baba Budan’s: One Day Steady (9 p.m.); Wonky Tonk (10 p.m.); Brazilian Jazz (11 p.m.).
• Mac’s Pizza: Rachel Mousie (9 p.m.); Common Center (10 p.m.); Big Rock Club (11 p.m.); Olu, Crack Sauce (midnight).
• Christy’s: Zach Starkie & Guest (9 p.m.); The Newt (9:45 p.m.); AC The Entity, Citoak (10:30 p.m.); Filthy Beast (11:30 p.m.); Gold Shoes (12:15 a.m.).
• Rohs Street Café: Brent Stroud (9 p.m.); Moonbeau (10 p.m.); Little Lights (11 p.m.).
• Baba Budan’s: VanillaSake (9 p.m.); Sulla (10 p.m.); LZRPNY (11 p.m.); Horsecop (midnight).
• Mac’s: Koala Fires (9 p.m.); Emily and The Complexes (10 p.m.); Tana Matz (11 p.m.) and MJs Blues (midnight).
• Saturday at Christy’s: Jordon Schneider & Guests (9 p.m.); Baoku & The Image Afrobeat Band (10 p.m.); The Almighty Getdown (11 p.m.); The Killtones (midnight).
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.
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!
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.
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."
One of the oldest free series of its kind in the region, the It’s Commonly Jazz showcases have now been running for 28 years, presenting marquee artists like Eddie Harris, McCoy Tyner, Javon Jackson and David “Fathead” Newman.
The free series — running every Thursday in August (lucky Jazz fans get five events this year) — returns to the outdoor Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park tonight. The opening show features renowned saxophonist Craig Bailey.
Nice interview from Greece with Bailey:
Here is the rest of the It’s Commonly Jazz lineup for 2013:
Trinidad-born Etienne Charles, acclaimed for his mix of island rhythms and Jazz, plays Aug. 8.
Charles jazzing up Marley:
Young tenor sax wiz J.D. Allen performs at the Aug. 15 show.
Allen and his trio play "The Matador and the Bull":
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/actor Gregory Porter on Aug. 22, presented with Learning Through the Arts, Inc. as part of the Crown Jewels of Jazz Heritage Festival. For tickets to (and more info on) the Crown Jewels fest — running at various venues in Over-the-Rhine and Mt. Adams Aug. 21-24 — click here. Here's LTtA's Kathy Wade explaining the festival:
Gregory Porter's official music video for "Be Good (Lion's Song)":
For the finale, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, who will be joined by his group of young Jazz lions, Wolfpack, comes to the ICJ stage on Aug. 29.
Warren Wolf's video biography:
Music runs 6-8 p.m. For complete info, visit itscommonlyjazz.com.
The Heights Music Festival returns this weekend for its fall event and another wide-ranging sampling of Cincinnati’s original music scene. Music will run Friday and Saturday night from 7 p.m. until about closing time at four venues in Clifton Heights near the University of Cincinnati campus — Baba Budan’s, Mac’s Pizza Pub, Christy’s Biergarten and Rohs Street Café (the only location open to music lovers of all ages).
Here's the full lineup/schedule for this year.
Rohs Street Cafe : 7:00 – Music Resource Center showcase; 8:00 – Wendy’s Yellow Poncho; 9:00 – MC Forty and Wonder Brown ; 10:00 – Cowgirl; 11:00 – The Yugos
8:00 – Sulla;
9:00 – Second Chance At Eden;
10:00 – Damn It To Hell
; 11:00 – Buenos Crotches
; 12:00 – Grey Host
Mac’s Pizza Pub:
8:00 – The Celestials;
9:00 – Majestic Man
; 10:00 – The MJ’s Blues
; 11:00 – Hickory Robot;
12:00 – Jeremy Pinnell & The 55′s;
1:00 – The Founding Fathers
8:00 – The Marmalade Brigade;
9:00 – The Heavy Hinges;
10:00 – The Perfect Children;
11:00 – Shrub (Columbus, OH); 12:00 – The Guitars
Rohs Street Cafe : 7:00 – Elementz Hip Hop Youth Center showcase; 8:00 – Alex Evans ; 9:00 – For Algernon ; 10:00 – Young Heirlooms ; 11:00 – Oui Si Yes
8:00 – Pursuing Hounds
; 9:00 – Sweet Ray Laurel
; 10:00 – Jamwave;
11:00 – The Regrettes (Columbus, OH);
12:00 – The Natives
Mac’s Pizza Pub: 8:00 – Tangerine Sound Machine ; 9:00 – Somebody’s Something ; 10:00 – Big Rock Club ; 11:00 – Valley High ; 12:00 – Junya Be & Wazali
: 8:00 – Killer Looks & Noise
; 9:00 – Horsecop;
10:00 – Loudmouth;
11:00 – Black Signal
; 12:00 – DAAP Girls;
1:00 – The Frankl Project
Tickets are $5 per night if purchased in advance through cincyticket.com here. Admission is $8 for one night or $12 for both if purchased at the festival. Visit the fest's official site here for more info. Here's a sampler the organizers compiled featuring some of the performers:
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the seventh annual OTR (that's "Over-the-Rhine," if you don't get the hip lingo) 5K Run and Summer Celebration, featuring a fine art show, food, drink and other vendors, the 5K Run and a strong lineup of local, original music in OTR's Washington Park.
The festivities kick off with the 10 a.m. OTR 5K, which begins and ends at Washington Park this year. Here are the artists — including several Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominees and winners — you can check out (on the park's Bandstand and Main Event Lawn Stage) this year. (Click each name for more info on the performer.)
• The Cincy Brass (Event Lawn Stage 10:15am-11:30am)
• Baoku & the Image Afro-Beat Band (Event Lawn Stage 12:00pm-12:45pm)
• DAAP Girls (Event Lawn Stage 1:15pm-2:00pm)
• Decker, the solo guise of Histoire singer Jane Smith. (Event Lawn Stage 2:30pm-3:15pm)
• The Tillers (Bandstand 11:30am-12:15pm)
• Mia Carruthers (Bandstand 12:45pm-1:30pm)
There will also be the following "special appearances":
Young Professionals Choral Collective (Bandstand 10:45am-11:15am)
Cincinnati Opera (Bandstand 2:00pm-2:20pm)
Queen City Brass Band (Bandstand 2:45pm-3:30pm)