Walk the Moon was one of my personal highlights from the recent MidPoint Music Festival, where the band played a high-energy set wonderfully showcasing its dance-friendly beats, New Wave jubilance and Art Pop creativity. As solid as the foursome is live, I was still a bit stunned by how advanced, imaginative and proficient Walk the Moon comes across on its enchanting debut album, i want! i want!, which is to be released Saturday in conjunction with a multimedia event at The Mockbee.
Lately, we’ve been ridin’ this down-home Folk/Americana/Indie wave in the Queen City music scene. Jake Speed. Wonky Tonk. Frontier Folk Nebraska. Wussy. Fairmount Girls. Gul'durnit, we love ‘em!
Maybe it’s our hospitable river-town tendency to have a big, open heart for such middle American tunesmithery. Maybe it started with our love for the Ass Ponys and their AltCountry ways back in the ‘90s. Who knows?
Nothin’ wrong with any of this, mind you. But I’d like to take a moment on this here blog to clue you into a small contingent of freaky, confrontational local bands from the past that were the furthest thing imaginable from such comparatively downright friendly musical acts.
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.
Cincinnati's Heartless Bastards are gearing up for some heavy promotion for their third album, The Mountain, due from Fat Possum Records on Feb. 3. Along with a non-stop string of tour dates with The Black Keys, Gaslight Anthem and Andrew Bird, the group has a scheduled appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman on Feb. 10.
In the days after local TV news reported on the death of David Hebert — a longtime drummer better known to everyone as “Bones” — it was clear that the New Orleans-style memorial procession (a nice nod to Hebert’s hometown) and gathering in Northside in the wake of his shooting at the hands of police was going to be the image most (especially those who didn’t know him personally) would remember. The large group of friends who came together amidst the deep hurt and shock showed how much Bones meant to the community and was a testament to his kind spirit. As the police investigation continues and those friends skeptical of the “official report” try to find justice, some local musicians moved by the sudden, violent death of Bones are using their skill set to express their feelings about the situation.
The best music-related viral video this week has been footage of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy doing the weather on Chicago "superstation" WGN (see below), which Pitchfork immediately awarded a 9.3 rating, calling it the best TV weather reporting since the members of Neu!'s infamous "Das ist snow!" Krautrock version on German national television in 1973. Though it appears to be a one-off, the station would nail down the 35-55-year-old hipster dad/music critic demographic if they'd offer him the position full time. We pray this was just a try-out/preview of the new Wilco News Network (WNN), with foreign correspondent Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche taking on the Jeanne Moos role. Perhaps local network news should take note — I would pay $1,000 to see Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker from local Indie Rock band Wussy anchor the evening newscast on Fox 19, even for just one night (heck, I'll pay $100 for 30 seconds).
Cincinnati's summer concert schedule got a lot cooler this morning, as organizers announced some of the performers at this year's inaugural Bunbury Music Festival, which will go down July 13-15 across six stages along the riverfront at Yeatman's Cove and Sawyer Point. Bunbury founder Bill Donabedian (who co-founded CItyBeat's MidPoint Music Festival and helped turn Fountain Square into a legitimate live music outlet) had been saying he was on the hunt for several big time headliners for the event; today, we found out he was successful, with iconic AltMusic bands Weezer, Jane's Addiction and Death Cab for Cutie confirmed as main stage anchors. Jane's is schedule for opening night, July 13, Weezer headlines July 14 and Death Cab will cap the fest off July 15. According to the press release, there will be plenty more performer announcements to come, with plans to feature around 100 acts total at the fest. Stay tuned — a full lineup is expected to be unveiled next month.
Securing the heavyweight headliners and announcing them enables Bunbury (being billed as "affordable, fun, tech savvy, and eco-friendly") to put tickets for the fest on sale. You can get them starting today through the Bunbury site here. One-day tickets are $46 and three-day passes are available for $93.
As Donabedian's work with MidPoint and Fountain Square would suggest, local music will also be a big part of Bunbury.
“The Bunbury Music Festival will feature the best of our local Indie bands with national and regional bands that fans may have seen at other great festivals and concert venues,” Donabedian said in a statement. “Fans should think of this as an authentic music experience.”
Bunbury's announcement is just the latest in a string of positive news concerning the live local music landscape of Greater Cincinnati, which seemed in potentially dire condition by the end of last year following the closing of Newport concert venue the Southgate House and other clubs.
Turns out the sky isn't falling. In fact, the future's so bright, I hope Bunbury has vendors on-site to sell shades.
Five Finger Death Punch is one of the most popular Metal bands in the world. The band has a catchy, melodic sound that resonates with its crowds and the band's songs have become arena anthems across the country. Five Finger continues to tour on its third studio album American Capitalist. Currently, the group is out headlining the Trespass America Festival with the bands Trivium, Pop Evil and Killswitch Engage.
CityBeat was able to spend some time with the band’s lead guitarist Jason Hook to discuss, among other things, the band’s feverish tour schedule and the effect it has on the band members' relationships, as well as what makes the music so addictive. The Trespass America Festival comes to the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend tomorrow (Wednesday) night.
CityBeat: What has been the highlight of Trespass Festival so far?
Jason Hook: Well, the first show was awesome. We opened the show on Friday the 13th just outside of Denver. The place was almost sold out, packed. We had all of our friends, family, record label, managers and agents with us. It was a massive party (and) it was day one. It was awesome, really awesome.
CB: Who leaves the biggest mess backstage at Trespass?
JH: The biggest mess? As far as what, a hot mess or just messy?
CB: It could be either.
JH: I’ll give both to Ivan (Moody, Five Finger's frontman).
CB: OK, I wouldn’t picture that.
JH: Well you don’t know him as well as I do.
CB: Is it true that he still throws up before he performs?
JH: I haven’t seen that lately but it might be because I tend to steer clear of him a little bit more than usual because of that. But he does do that. That is not an urban legend.
CB: You consistently are having these hits with huge sports and military following. What is really the formula for creating a modern day Rock anthem?
JH: I think that you have to keep things simple. People like a really consistent beat, something that has a good thump to it. Obviously, an easy to follow storyline or a relatable storyline and as many hooks as you can get into each section of the song for example the intro, the verse, the pre-chorus, the chorus, the bridge, the solo — all those are sections — and if they get too long or drawn out or too complicated or the resolution set too high for the listener, they just miss out and it will go over their head. A big part of having an anthem is having something that is simple enough that many people can grab it easily like “Rock & Roll all night and party every day.”
CB: Does the band ever write songs for a specific audience?
JH: Not really. Most of us in the band have a background where we grew up listening to heavy bands but bands that were also on the radio. That reflects in the music we make. None of it is really contrived. We just do what we like. Fortunate for us, it catches with a lot more people. Once you try to do something that is not honest, it is really hard to repeat it. You are always chasing or guessing what to do. It is better to know what you like to do and just do it.
You always have the crazy crowd surfing at the shows, the biggest Rock on the Range crowd surfing in history. Do you ever worry about fan safety?
JH: All the time. All the time. It freaks us out. I see people getting beat up pretty good out there, especially the people in the very front row because people crowd surf up from behind them, they can’t see that these 220 pound guys are being launched forward and the people in the front row are the last people that these heavy people land on their heads on the way into the pit. You get a lot of people getting smashed, and they have no idea it is happening until it happens.
I keep saying, “Is there something we should do to discourage this? Should we say that we want people to be careful and keep your eyes open?” I do see a lot of people getting hammered, and it freaks me out. We are always thinking about it.
CB: How do you stay friends living in such close quarters and being on the road almost all year?
JH: How do we stay friends? We stay away from each other. The only way to control how we all get along is to make sure there is a good amount of separation. You need a little bit of on and a little off.
For example, we get hotel rooms. The band gets hotel rooms. We get them every other day. The hotel rooms are essential and it doesn’t matter what it costs to have everybody be able go and have their own private space to go make phone calls, answer e-mails, relax, watch the TV program they want to watch, whatever. The off is just as important as the on because if you get too much together time all the time, then you are likely to have the engine run a little hot, you know what I am saying?
CB: Who in the band is more likely to get into a fight backstage and who is more likely to get laid?
JH: I don’t really want to focus on the fighting, but as far as the sex part of it, I would say, all the girls like Ivan. The rest of us are just sort of swinging the bat. They all seem to want to get to Ivan. So I would say answer "A"—my final answer — Ivan.
The thing is, to chase girls around, which is also to chase the party or stay up, all these people show up and they want to hang out with the band. This is their big night out. The problem is, if we participated in everybody’s big night out, then we end up having 42 or 55 nights in a row, and it is physically too hard. Imagine having 45 New Years Eves in a row. What kind of shape would you be in after that?
CB: Yeah, bands now are a lot more, I don’t want to say mellow, but you can’t sustain (that type of partying) for long periods of time if this is what you are going to do.
JH: God knows we have tried it. We don’t want to hurt the band. We don’t want to hurt the tour. We have a responsibility to not only talk to people during the day but to play in front of these large audiences, and I don’t want to go up there hung over and feel like crap and be fuzzy and making mistakes. It’s very hard. It’s OK when you are a club band — nobody cares; “Get me another beer.” Everyone is drunk anyway, but now we are talking about playing in front of 15,000 people at 9 o’clock at night and it is a business now. It is for real.
Tim Wilson is a comedian and singer/songwriter who represents Southern culture and lifestyle with his songs and stand-up. He is often featured on national telecasts of the syndicated radio shows The Bob and Tom Show and the John Boy and Billy Morning Show and Wilson has also been appeared on many of the late-night talk shows. With a dozen comedy albums featuring his original songs, Wilson has found crossover success on both the comedy and Country music charts.
CityBeat caught up with Wilson by phone to preview his appearance in Cincinnati and discuss southern roots in comedy and the assimilation of music into his comedy. Catch him performing live Saturday night at the Taft Theatre with Patti Vasquez (ticket info here).