• At this weekend's Whispering Beard Folk Festival in Southeast Indiana, masterful Cold Spring, Ky., Americana group The Kentucky Struts debuted their great new music video for the ominous, creeping and soulful tune, "Country Road," from their The Year of the Horse album. The band made the video with Keith Neltner and Brian Steege, who worked on the documentary Charlie Louvin: Still Rattlin' the Devil's Cage. (Read more about the Struts recent album from CityBeat here.)
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!
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.
If you were hoping to walk up and buy tickets to check out tonight's show at the Taft Theatre featuring the Grammy-winning Tedeschi Trucks Band, skip the box office and "walk up" to a scalper because the Taft just sent out a press release announcing the show as a sell out. (Read what our Brian Baker had to say about the group here.)
If you do have tickets to tonight's 8 p.m. show (doors open at 7 p.m.), be sure to arrive on time to catch opener Shannon Whitworth (pictured). After a self-made Americana debut, the singer/songwriter's career began in earnest in 2009 when she went into the studio with producer Neilson Hubbard (who has worked with a slew of singer/songwriters, including Glen Philips, Garrison Starr and his pal Matthew Ryan). The two emerged with Water Bound, a lovely, eclectic album that touched on Blues, Jazz, Roots music and Rock.
Whitworth has a new album due this year in which she collaborates with Band of Horses' bassist Bill Reynolds (who has done behind the scenes work for The Avett Bros. and Lissie), so the evolution of Ms. Whitworth should be interesting to continue to watch.
Here's a clip of Whitworth performing live:
• Jazz trumpeter Scott Belck performs tonight at the Blue Wisp. Belck is the Director of Jazz Studies at University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, where he succeeded retiring longtime department head Rick Van Matre a couple of years ago. Read our interview from last year with Belck here. For tonight's 7:30 performance at the Blue Wisp, Belck is joined by locals Rusty Holloway, Phil DeGreg and Jim Leslie. Admission is $5.
• The 2012 Tunes & Blooms music series at the Cincinnati Zoo concludes tonight with a 6 p.m. concert featuring Folk Rock crew The Turkeys and Americana ensemble Jake Speed & the Freddies. Admission is free but it costs $8 to park in a zoo lot. It might rain. Bring a hat.
Here's a clip from a documentary about late local outsider artist Raymond Thunder-Sky featuring Speed's song, "Raymond Thunder-Sky," especially audible towards the end. Looks and sounds like a great project.
Click here for more of tonight's live music events.
When the phrase “guitar hero” gets tossed around, it’s naturally in reference to some of the greatest six string figures in Rock history. But if there is a subset of that hallowed group — guitar heroes in waiting, as it were — then Natalie Wells surely deserves to be included on that hopefully short waitlist.
The Independence, Ky., native is quickly becoming one of the Greater Cincinnati area’s most powerful live forces with a guitar presence that stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the giants of Rock. A teenage student of the Blues, Wells felt an affinity for first generation masters like Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt and next gen ’60s acolytes like Johnny Winter, Big Brother’s Sam Andrews and James Gurley, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher and a host of others. Wells’ brilliance in her own guitar pursuits has been in her supernatural ability to absorb a rainbow of Blues and Rock influences and translate them through her own unique interpretive gifts. As she showed on her largely original debut, Mind the Gap, she may have learned from the greats but she’s much more interested in running the guitar flag a little farther up Rock & Roll Hill.
On her new mini-album, Live from Earth, Wells and her chugging rhythm section (bassist Curt Hall and drummer/vocalist Michael Hodges) offer up an all-cover set that simultaneously proves how much she loves her influences and demonstrates her translational power.
Live From Earth’s seven tracks represent just four factions of Wells’ estimable influences and they’re more than tangentially connected; Buddy Guy is one of the primary links between the old acoustic and new electric school of Blues, while Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Robin Trower represent those who most effectively reimagined the Blues in a Rock context. Wells injects swinging new life into Led Zep chestnuts “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid” and “What Is and What Should Never Be” while distilling Hendrix’s complex chemistry to a simpler but still impressive formula with her takes on “Stone Free/Third Stone From the Sun” and his avowed classic “Voodoo Chile.”
Wells finds the heart of Guy’s gentle “My Love is Real” and the soul of Trower’s blistering “Day of the Eagle,” all delivered with her fluidly original guitar stylings and a voice that is part husky Blues shouter, part Cher Pop powerhouse. Wells may still has a few minor vocal timing issues to fine tune, but Live on Earth is solid evidence that her guitar chops are cooked to perfection and ready to serve to a wider audience.
At this point, Natalie Wells’ guitar does not gently weep; it cries a bucket of tears, screams with passionate abandon, howls like a steroid-amped wolf and demands to be heard.
Like every Friday, a great place to start your evening is Fountain Square, as the free MidPoint Indie Summer concert series continues with headliner Lydia Loveless. Loveless is an Ohio native who performed fairly regularly in the Cincinnati area (and elsewhere around the region) before she caught the attention of AltCountry/Modern Roots music institution Bloodshot Records with her natural blend of classic Country influences and more contemporary Rock flavors. Her debut for the label, Indestructible Machine was released last year and Loveless was one of the more buzzed-about names at last year's MidPoint Music Festival (even making the cover of CityBeat the week of the event. Loveless is currently working on new material.
Northern Ohio Roots/Blues artist Patrick Sweany and Cincinnati rockers The Ready Stance (check out our recent interview here) warm things up for Loveless starting at 7 p.m.
• Christopher Dexter Greenspan — better known as Bay Area Electronic artist oOoOO — brings his spectral beats and melodies to Northside's Mayday tonight for a 9 p.m. show with guests Fogger and Skeleton Hands. Admission is $12.
Greenspan's hypnotic, slanted mix of Chillwave and ethereal Trip Hop — at times sounding a little like Icelandic electronic act múm or a ghostly, gauzy version of M83 — was most recently showcased on oOoOO's second EP, Our Loving Is Hurting Us, which includes spacey vocals from singer Butterclock (as well as Greenspan's own voice, which delivers melodies slathered in a glaze of effects).
Here's the new EP track "Break Yr Heart."
• Former local musician GD Mills once again brings his raucous Minneapolis Garage Punk group Fuck Knights back to his former stomping grounds, performing a free show tonight at MOTR Pub with Muddy Udders, Children of the Emerald Fire and Martin Luther and the Kings. Showtime is 10 p.m.
How are Fuck Nights like Batman? Click here to find out.
Here's a clip of the Knights playing live last year (that's Mills singing and playing drums).
Detroit producers/Electro musicians Ryan Spencer and Adam Pressley formed its new project Jamaican Queens last year, following the demise of their previous band, Prussia. The pair bonded over a mutual love for Hip Hop production, something that would find itself central to Jamaican Queens winding sound. Together less than a year, the twosome's single "Kids Get Away" introduced the newcomers with a sound that blends EDM, Hip Hop sounds and rhythms and a somewhat psychedelic brand of Indie Pop.
The band calls its music "Trap Pop," a reference to the Trap style of Hip Hop that is something of a successor to the old Southern Crunk style. Still, you won't mistake Jamaican Queens' music for T.I.'s — JQ's unpredictable, fluttering style recalls MGMT's last two albums had the Electronic aspects of their music been more prominent.
Jamaican Queens' first full-length, Wormfood, is due in February and was mixed by Christopher Lazlo Koltay, a former Cincinnati musician who has been enjoying a successful engineering/production career in Detroit the past several years, working with artists like The Dirtbombs and Akron/Family. Here's the song that has garnered the band the most attention so far, "Kids Get Away."
Music Tonight: The Mad Hatter in Covington this evening hosts a full lineup showcasing the new breed of "Power Pop" — young bands evolving from so-called "Pop Punk," embracing classic Pop/Rock songwriting and developing a sound that is potentially more timeless. Georgian band Cartel headlines, as they gear up for a new EP release (due next month) that will serve as the band's first since 2009's hook-feast, Cycles, which showed clear progress in songwriting and execution. Tonight's Mad Hatter show (the kick-off date on the band's brief Midwestern tour) begins at 6 p.m. and tickets are $15. The Upset Victory, Action Item, Don't Wait Up, 21st Streamline and The Getaway warm things up.
Saturday night at Northside's Mayday is the debut of the Cincy Psych Fest, a multi-band event inspired by the popular Austin Psych Fest, a six-year-old event that showcases the current state of Psychedelic/Garage Rock and Pop, led by artists like The Black Angels, The Warlocks and Dead Meadow.
The Cincy Psych Fest is the brain child of Laura Dolan, Laura Skaggs and creative local commercial arts enterprise We Have Become Vikings. The team has assembled a great first-year lineup of national, regional and local acts inspired by the sounds of ’60s Psychedelia and Garage. The fest will present bands on Mayday’s indoor stage as well as on an outdoor, second-floor stage. Tickets are $10 (advanced ones are available through ticketfly.com here) and the fest begins at 6 p.m.
Here are some samples from the various artists. Click the band name for more info on each.
The People’s Temple (Lansing, Mich.)
Mondo Drag (Davenport, Iowa)
Outer Minds (Chicago)
Heaven’s Gateway Drugs (Ft. Wayne, Ind.)
Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor (Detroit)
Here are the Cincinnati bands on the bill:
Cincy newcomers Children of The Emerald Fire (featuring fest organizer Laura Dolan and an all-star local music crew featuring former members of Pernicious Knifs, The High & Low and many other local groups) are also performing, as is The Tongue & Lips:
Adding to the trip will be DJ Blythe Shadburn and Doctor Robert’s Ocular Odyssey‘s Psychedelic Light Show.
Find info on all of the performers and more at cincypsychfest.com.
• Baltimore Noise Punk foursome Dope Body introduced itself to the Indie Rock world with the donkey punch that was last year’s Nupping, the band’s first full-length. The group returned this year with the Natural History album on Drag City, on which a chaotic barrage of guitar harmonics, muscular drum/bass pummeling and howling vocals combine for something that sounds like The Jesus Lizard jacked up on speed (or Gang of Four jacked up on The Jesus Lizard). There is an artfulness to the noise, but it’s the group’s hectic energy level — which sometimes makes it seem like they’re going to fall apart at any second — that first draws the listener in, as if sucked up by the tornadic swirl, Dorothy-and-Toto-syle. The herky-jerky rhythms are also alluring, occasionally falling into a seemingly impossible groove that feels like some sort of alien Funk. You can dance to Dope Body — you just might look a little convulsive.
After an appearance at The Comet earlier this spring, Dope Body returns to Cincy tonight for a free, 10 p.m. show at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Brooklyn trio Call of the Wild opens the show. Check videos from both acts below.
• Singer/songwriter James McMurtry (son of successful author Larry) performs tonight at the Southgate House Revival in Newport. The Americana song stylist kicked his career off in 1989 with his debut Too Long in the Wasteland and has continued to make album after album of modern Roots songs, which often showcase his deft lyrical ability (something perhaps in his blood). McMurtry has been celebrated for the short story style of writing, though in recent years he's addressed political issues for frequently and directly. His 2005 song "We Can't Make It Here" fit the Occupy movement's message so perfectly, he gave it away as a free download when the movement began, then re-recorded it with Steve Earle and Joan Baez for inclusion on the Occupy Wall Street benefit compilation, Occupy This Album. You can hear that version below. (Read more about McMurtry in Brian Baker's preview from this week's CityBeat here.)
McMurtry performs tonight at the new Southgate with his band, which at one time was dubbed "The Heartless Bastards," until some bratty kids from Cincinnati stole it for their own and have been using it quite successfully. Locals Monkeytonk open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.
• Canadian ElectroPop star Valerie Anne Poxleitner — who legally changed her name to Lights when she turned 18 and has performed under the moniker ever since — comes to the 20th Century Theatre in Oakley tonight for an 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $18. Canadian AltRock group Arkells opens the show. Similar to Robyn's approach, Lights' sound is a mix of more vintage Synth Pop, modern Electronic styles (yes, including Dubstep) and straight-up, ready-for-Top-40-radio Pop. Lights is a bonafide Pop star in Canada, with her albums, EPs and singles selling chart-worthy numbers, and though she has a faithful following in the U.S., she hasn't matched the same level of airplay, exposure and sales. Yet. Lights' sound has an ear-grabbing quality that could make her a chart and radio fixture in the States in an instant.
Here's Lights' latest single from 2011's Siberia, "Timing Is Everything."
Click here for even more live music events in Greater Cincinnati tonight.