Music Tonight: Though they moved their world headquarters to Austin, Tex., a while back, The Heartless Bastards will always be a Cincinnati band in the minds of both their local fans and the band members themselves (band leader Erika Wennerstrom said as much when the group performed on David Letterman’s show a couple years ago). And they always keep Cincinnati in mind when plotting out tour jaunts, including their current all-acoustic jag, which brings them to the Southgate House tonight. R. Ring, the acoustic duo project featuring local musician/engineer Mike Montgomery (Thistle, Ampline) and Dayton’s Kelley Deal (The Breeders), warm things up at 9 p.m.
On this date in 1962, a pre-performance speech by legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, seen by some as an attack on guest pianist — the almost equally as legendary Glenn Gould — caused quite a stir in the Classical music world. The concert was to feature Gould performing Brahms' "First Piano Concerto," but apparently the pianist and music director (Bernstein) disagreed on how it was to be performed. The New York Philharmonic concert came towards the end of the orchestra's final season at Carnegie Hall.
The disagreement was largely over tempo — Gould felt the composition should be played very slowly. Before the intermission, the orchestra played selections by Carl Nielsen. Fearful that Gould would not even show up (he was notorious for last-minute cancellations), Bernstein had the Philharmonic prepared to play Brahms' First Symphony just in case. Gould showed, but to prepare the audience for the unorthodox performance, Bernstein took to the podium and delivered the controversial introduction/disclaimer/diss. (Bernstein delivered the same speech at a preview performance the night before.)
Don't be frightened. Mr. Gould is here. He will appear in a moment. I'm not, um, as you know, in the habit of speaking on any concert except the Thursday night previews, but a curious situation has arisen, which merits, I think, a word or two. You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms' dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception and this raises the interesting question: "What am I doing conducting it?" I'm conducting it because Mr. Gould is so valid and serious an artist that I must take seriously anything he conceives in good faith and his conception is interesting enough so that I feel you should hear it, too.
But the age old question still remains: "In a concerto, who is the boss; the soloist or the conductor?" The answer is, of course, sometimes one, sometimes the other, depending on the people involved. But almost always, the two manage to get together by persuasion or charm or even threats to achieve a unified performance. I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould. But, but this time the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer. Then why, to repeat the question, am I conducting it? Why do I not make a minor scandal — get a substitute soloist, or let an assistant conduct? Because I am fascinated, glad to have the chance for a new look at this much-played work; Because, what's more, there are moments in Mr. Gould's performance that emerge with astonishing freshness and conviction. Thirdly, because we can all learn something from this extraordinary artist, who is a thinking performer, and finally because there is in music what Dimitri Mitropoulos used to call "the sportive element", that factor of curiosity, adventure, experiment, and I can assure you that it has been an adventure this week collaborating with Mr. Gould on this Brahms concerto and it's in this spirit of adventure that we now present it to you
Many critics wrote about the intro and viewed it as the conductor's way of saying, "If this sucks, it's his fault." And many took Gould to task for his interpretation of the music (though some musicologists later said Gould's version was a correct reading of the material). Gould, for his part, said he enjoyed the performance and liked that it caused some in the audience to boo. Columbia had planned to release a recording of the performance but backed off given the controversy. Bootlegs spread like wildfire and Sony Classical, years later (in 1998), released the recording with Bernstein's remarks in tact. In the liner notes, Gould is quoted as saying, "Soloists and conductors disagree all the time. Why should this be hidden from the public, especially if both parties still give their all?" Bernstein also didn't seem too bothered by the controversy and he never stopped praising Gould's unique talent.
Here's a clip of Bernstein and Gould getting along just fine in 1960, performing Bach's "Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Warren Haynes, Gerry Mulligan, Merle Haggard and Cobra Starship's Alex Suarez.
UPDATE: The DJ Funeral Fresh release party has been moved from Tonic to Mixx Ultra Lounge (1203 Main St., Over-the-Rhine).
Local DJ Funeral Fresh (formerly DJ Skinny Fresh) is hosting a release party in honor of his new "remix tape" tonight at Tonic on Fourth. Fresh has worked shows with everyone from Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj to Soulja Boy and Jadakiss and he has been nominated for "Best Club DJ" at the Ohio Hip Hop Awards several years running. The new release project is called Da Party Life and Jay-Z features heavily throughout … and on the cover. (Lil Wayne, Beanie Sigel, Pharrell, 50 Cent and Foxy Brown also pop up in the mix.) Give it a listen at mixstack.com or download it for free here, then head to the event (billed as a new release/networking shindig) at 9 p.m. Admission is $5.
Here's the track "Bad Guy" from Fresh's new release:
• A pair of excellent, widely acclaimed and truly unique Indie/Avant/Anti-Folk artists (who are both quite prolific in their output) performs for free tonight in Northside at Mayday, starting at around 10 p.m. Wooden Wand is just one of the names songwriter James Jackson Toth performs under (it's also the project that's been most successful). Toth has collaborated with many artists and put music out on several different indie imprints, rarely falling in line with the rote expectations of a 21st century troubadour. Wooden Wand's vast discography includes cassette and CD-R releases, along with more standardly-issued albums and projects. Wooden Wand was lumped into the "Freak Folk" category when that was a buzz word five or so years ago, but, like other artists put into that box, his musical curiosity has led him to a sound that's impossible to pinpoint with two words. Toth is currently touring behind the double-disc release of his Briarwood album, which features several raw, unreleased demos.
Here's the video for "Winter in Kentucky" from Briarwood:
Jeffrey Lewis is an illustrator who decided to write some songs while he was studying drawing and literature in college. Lewis — whose sound is a bit more eccentric and broader than Toth's, coming off like Beck had he stayed true to his avant grade roots — still successfully pursued his comic book artist dreams (writing and drawing the series Fuff, among other projects), but he keeps plenty busy as a touring musician these days. And he combines his passions whenever possible — during shows, he plays "illustrated songs" that are accompanied by one of his illustrations. Lewis and Toth came up in music around the same time, but their current tour is their first time reconnecting after several years.
• MOTR Pub is also hosting a solid, free Indie show tonight featuring Cleveland Indie Pop up-and-comers Cloud Nothings and Brooklyn Electro/Dance/Pop duo Class Actress, which has had its music connected to various fashion happenings and glowing reviews. Founded and led by L.A. native Elizabeth Harper, Class Actress has been building buzz the past couple of years, earning comparisons to Depeche Mode, LCD Soundsystem, early Madonna and Human League. Read more about Cloud Nothings here and then check out the clip for Class Actress' song "Weekend" below. (CA opens tonight at around 10 p.m.).
• River City Extension extends its tour into Bogart's tonight for an 8 p.m., all-ages show. Admission is $7. RCE is preparing to release its sophomore album, Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger, in early June on XOXO Records. The Indie Folk crew produced a trailer for the new album. Why, yes, we do have it to embed — look below!
Music Tonight: New York-based Pop singer/songwriter Gavin DeGraw is joined by American Idol winner David Cook at the Taft Theatre for a 7:30 p.m. concert. Swedish Pop/Rock band Carolina Liar opens. DeGraw's love songs have found big success on the charts (his latest album, Sweeter, debuted at No. 8 when it came out in December; he also has four singles that have been certified Gold), radio and TV licensing; his introduction to most of the world came via his theme song for One Tree Hill, "I Don't Wanna Be," which has been "covered" on American Idol and Idols in other countries. Speaking of Idol, Cook won the grand prize on that show's seventh season. The Missouri native released his second major-label effort, This Loud Morning, this summer and it reached No. 7 on the U.S. charts. The jury is still out on whether Cook becomes the next Kelly Clarkson or the next Taylor Hicks, but the longevity rate of AI winners seems to be decreasing with every season. If it doesn't work out, maybe Cook can get an audition for X Factor. Tickets run $39.70-$53.06. Check out DeGraw and Cook's latest singles below.
Joining Eminem, Coldplay and Foo Fighters at this past weekend’s huge Lollapalooza concert in Chicago was Cincinnati Indie Dance/Pop band Walk the Moon, whose early afternoon set on Saturday was enthusiastically received by the mass of people who showed up to hear them. It’s the latest triumph for Walk the Moon, whose whirlwind ride over the past year or so as one of the country’s best unsigned “buzz bands” (making stops at Bonnaroo and on network TV along the way) ended with a record contract with RCA Records. Check back for more from Lollapalooza (including a chat with the band), but below enjoy video of Walk the Moon closing out their Lollapalooza set (which included a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”) with their remarkably catchy “Anna Sun.”
Music Tonight: Increasingly popular Pop singer/songwriter Andy Grammer plays Oakley's 20th Century Theatre with guests Rachel Platten and Ryan Star (don't get your TV music contests mixed up — it's Ryan Star from Rock Star: Supernova, not Ryan Starr from American Idol). Last year was a breakthrough one for Grammer, whose single "Keep Your Head Up" from his self-titled album notched Gold sales numbers (and is likely to be certified Platinum). One of the crop of easy-breezy-groovin' Pop/Rock/Soul acts (think: Jason Mraz or Maroon 5), Grammer's current tour is his first headlining venture, after tours with Taylor Swift, Colbie Caillat and Plain White T's. So far, so good — most of the shows have been sell-outs, including tonight's show at the 20th Century. Radio has taken kindly to the singer's recent single, "Fine By Me." Grammer's debut LP got a big push early on thanks to the entertaining music video for "Keep Your Head Up," featuring Rainn Wilson from The Office (see below), which won an MTV O Award. If you have tickets (or plan on finding ones from scalpers), showtime is 7:30 p.m. for tonight's all-ages show.
• Instrumental Avant Metal veterans Earth bring their adventurous, spontaneous Dronecore to downtown tonight for a hypnosis session at the Ballroom at the Taft Theatre. Showtime is 8:30 pm. Stebmo, Earth collaborator and progressive Jazz pianist/multi-instrumentalist/composer Steve Moore, and psychedelic, noisy Doom duo Eagle Twin open the show. Tickets are $15.
Guitarist Dylan Carlson gave birth to Earth in Olympia, Wash., circa 1990, and remains the only original member in a band that has seen numerous lineup and stylistic shifts. The group put a pair of albums out on Sub Pop during the "Grunge Revolution" (which they had little in common with), got booted from the label briefly and then welcomed back for three more albums. While Earth's aggressively experimental sound didn't quite fit the Grunge buzz, the group actually used the genre's concept of "slowed down Hard Rock and Metal" and took it to the extreme, decelerating even more and replacing Grunge's Punk and Garage influence with inspiration from avant grade composers and musicians and Carlson's singular vision.
Earth didn't survive the ’90s but returned in the early ’00s to start a run that has included several releases for Southern Lord Records, a haven for "Metal" artists on the more experimental side of the music. Earth's latest release is the improvised Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II, the follow-up to part I (and actually recorded at the same time) which has been praised for its gradual, natural exploration of different tones and approaches. Earth's trippy, glacial sound on Demons of Light II is infused with evocative cello and smoky atmospherics and often sounds like a new slant on modern Jazz, something Mingus might have come up with had he been into Black Sabbath.
Here's Demons II track "The Corascene Dog":
• Acclaimed by both fellow artists, critics and her dedicated fan base, Iris Dement has been one of the more compelling singers in the Americana movement since she put out her first album in 1992; her mesmerizing voice has a timeless soul that recalls the best early Country female vocalists. Dement's sound has evolved and taken detours over time. After two straight-forward Country/Folk Pop LPs, the 1996 album The Way I Should showcased a Rock vibe and some serious political commentary. She followed that up by collaborating with John Prine on his In Spite of Ourselves album, which scored her a Grammy nomination, but Dement took a break from music after that.
In 2004, Dement returned with her first album in eight years, Lifeline, released on her own label after her Warner Brothers contract expired. But Lifeline was primarily a collection of centuries'-old Gospel covers. This year, Dement released Sing the Delta, her first album of new material in 16 years. The songs harken back to that purity of her first couple of albums, but also shows how Dement has matured as a composer and performing. She writes with more confidence and has become an even better lyricist, creating an album that is mournful, poignant and poetic.
Dement performs tonight at the 20th Century Theatre in Oakley with The Tillers, one of Cincy's finest Folk acts who are coming off of a successful release party for their recent live album. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $25-$30. Here's DeMent's "Go On Ahead and Go Home" from Delta.
• Milwaukee-based Psych rockers Moss Folk perform a free show tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine with like-minded locals Children of the Emerald Fire. Showtime is 10 p.m.
Formed in Michigan in the mid-’00s by founder Andrew James Shelp, Moss Folk entrancingly collages influences into a sound that draws from a wide range of music that could fall into the "Psychedelic" category. You'll hear elements of Kraut Rock, Pink Floyd, World music, Tangerine Dream and Spacemen 3 mingling in Moss Folk's ambient, hypnotic melange and the band has been known to match the lysergic sonics with fitting visuals (from video projections to cameos by various non-musical performing artists).
Here's a live clip of Moss Folk:
There isn't a huge stylistic gap between Steve Earle and John Hiatt, so it makes sense that they would make a good tour package (one that hits the Taft Theatre tonight for an 8 p.m. show). They're both moderately successful Americana artists with slavishly loyal fan bases and solid bodies of work over long careers (Hiatt having the earlier ’70s start).
To the curious mind, the billing begs the point: What else do Earle and Hiatt have in common?
• They both began their careers as staff songwriters and launched performing careers after one of their songs became a hit for someone else (Johnny Lee for Earle, Three Dog Night for Hiatt).
• They've both been covered extensively by other artists, Earle by Travis Tritt, Robert Earl Keen and others, and Hiatt by Bonnie Raitt, Rosanne Cash, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and many more.
• They both signed with Epic Records for their first deal; Earle never recorded for them, while Hiatt did two Epic albums which sold poorly and expedited his release.
• Their second contracts were both with MCA; Earle had a pretty decent run with the label, including his 1988 hit Copperhead Road, while Hiatt's was a repeat of his Epic experience.
• They've both been nominated for Grammys, but Earle has a commanding lead with 14 nods and three wins, while Hiatt has been nominated twice with no mantle bling to show for it yet.
• They've both been married multiple times, but again Earle has the lead with seven marriages; Hiatt has only had three.
• Both have successfully dealt with substance issues.
• Both are balding; Hiatt has the lead here with more hair, but Earle compensates with a ZZ Toppish beard.
• Both will kick your ass in the live setting, so bring an extra ass.
Here's a clip for Hiatt's "Damn This Down," off his latest LP, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns.
And here is part of a documentary filmed during Earle's sessions for I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (also the name of his novel and, yes, both are based on the Hank Williams tune, which he covers on the album as a bonus track. The novel is centered around Williams mysterious "doctor" who traveled with the singer until his death, then disappeared).
On this date in 1949, American musical icon Hank Williams made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 25. It was the beginning of a very difficult relationship.
Even though things soured, Williams' Opry debut was a career-defining moment. The singer/songwriter wowed the crowd so much, he was called back for six encores (the encores ultimately had to be halted so the rest of the show could go on).
Williams' reputation for heavy drinking put off the Opry initially, but as his star continued to rise — boosted by the success of "Lovesick Blues" (recorded at the Herzog studio here in CIncinnati) — the Country music institution finally relented and invited him to perform.
Williams continued to make Opry appearances over the next three years, but he was banished in 1952 for his alcohol-related issues. Hank died just a few months later, in January of 1953 at the age of 29.
Over the past eight or so years, Hank Williams' grandson, Hank III, and other supporters have participated in a campaign to have Williams posthumously reinstated to the Grand Ole Opry. CityBeat also lent a hand, promoting the "Reinstate Hank" campaign during a tribute presented by the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation in honor of Hank's historic recording sessions in Cincinnati (Herzog studios was located where CityBeat and the CMHF headquarters now reside). Check a clip below.
The reinstatement campaign has yet to work and seems to have lost some steam. But click here to learn more about the attempts to right such a ridiculous wrong.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 11 birthday include the least hirsute (ironically!) member of ZZ Top, drummer Frank Beard (1949); Soft Rock god with Air Supply, Graham Russell (1950); guitarist/singer of Southern Rock group .38 Special, Donnie Van Zandt (1952); Flaming Lips drummer-turned-guitarist Steven Drozd (1969); and Heartless Bastards singer/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom (1977).
Though she and her band are currently based in Austin, Tex., Wennerstrom grew up in Dayton before relocating to Cincinnati. As Wennerstrom has grown, matured, changed and become more confident, so has her band's music. After releasing her first two albums, Wennerstrom headed to Texas and retooled the band, adding two different musicians also from our area — Jesse Ebaugh and Dave Colvin — who joined Wennerstrom in Austin. Since then, the Bastards' albums The Mountain (a more earthy, less balls-out effort) and this year's Arrow (a great combination of everything the band does well) have continued the trend of each successive HB album drawing the group higher praise and more fans.
A happy 35th b-day to Erika. We miss you here in Cincy. Below, check out an interview and acoustic session recorded for American Songwriter.
On this day in 1989, Pepsi dropped Madonna as a spokesperson after complaints about her "blasphemous" video for the single (also used in the Pepsi commercial campaign) "Like A Prayer." The Vatican condemned the video for its imagery of burning crosses and Madonna kissing a black man, while religious groups called for a boycott of all Pepsi-affiliated products. The soft drink manufacturer caved and cut and run from the Pop princess. But Pepsi gave Madonna a nice parting gift — the company was so eager to get away from the controversy that they let her keep her $5 million (yes, million) advance.
Thirty years earlier, another music-related controversy erupted in the U.K. when the BBC decided that The Coasters' song "Charlie Brown" was not fit for airplay. Was it that the Peanuts comic strip was too controversial? Peppermint Patty's sexuality has always been a topic of debate. Were they afraid the youth of England would all mimic Charlie Brown's sparse curly-Q hairdo, essentially killing off the hair-care product industry? Was Pigpen's personal hygiene deficiency deemed a bad influence?
Nope — the BBC was worried about the song because it contained the word "spitball" and they were fearful kids all over would be inspired to destroy society with saliva-drenched missiles. Unlike Pepsi, the Beeb reversed its decision a couple of weeks later, apparently realizing how ridiculous the "ban" was.
Here are clips relating to both controversies. Watch at your own risk!