Tonight, the Venue Formerly Known As The Southgate House hosts its first big show. The Thompson House — as it's now called after a family dispute went to court and resulted in the longtime operators getting the boot and the owners of faux-strip club the Brass Ass taking over — opens its doors tonight to the public for a 7 p.m. concert headlined by modern Ska/Reggae revivalists The Aggrolites.
A recent Enquirer story about the "new" venue drew an avalanche of comments, the vast majority of which suggested that those who were fans of the Southgate House despise the look and direction of the Thompson House, with its purple decor and Rock star murals. Check out this pic from the Thompson House's website:
But the new venue's origins and the relative abruptness of the closing of the Southgate House is angering people more than the color scheme. The wall colors are just purple icing on the cake, so to speak.
The Thompson House has been developing a schedule that seems to be attempting to mimic the eclectic nature of the old Southgate House — a little Jazz, some open mic stuff, a Hard Rock band, some Metal, some Country. Often, the Southgate House's eclectic nature harvested a following whose tastes crossed over. And as diverse as the bookings were, rarely were there shows at the old club that made you go, "Why would they bring THAT show to the Southgate." For much of its run, whoever was booking the Southgate House seemed to have good and, more importantly, consistent taste in a wide-range of music. They wouldn't just book a random Country band; they'd book an interesting, great or unusual one.
The Thompson House bookings so far seem like they will be able to attract a varied audience. But can the people who, say, go to the Blue Wisp Jazz Club every couple of weeks and will probably enjoy the local Jazz lineup at the venue feel at home going to the same club as the younger music lovers who used to hang out at The Mad Hatter (or its current occupier, Bangarang's of Covington) to watch Hardcore and Death Metal bands? We'll see.
I have clubs that I like to go to more than others, but I have never gone to a concert because of where it was being held. And I've never not gone to see a concert at a venue I don't feel as comfortable. But I would be less inclined to frequent a venue if I have a bad experience and I'd be less likely to just roll the dice and take a chance on a show at a venue in which I don't feel comfortable.
I understand the passion of the Southgate lovers who insist they'll never set foot in the Thompson House, but if a band comes to town that you'd like to see, or your favorite local artist is performing in the "Rock Star Lounge" some night, you'll be hurting those artists as much as the new owners. Over the years, I've had club owners or promoters be dicks to me and occasionally have reached the point of anger where I momentarily think, "Screw them, I'll never write about one of their shows again." But it passes quickly. I've never "blacklisted" a club or promoter, no matter how big of an a-hole their employees are, because I've always felt that it would be unfair to both the musicians that work with them and the music fans who would like to know about the concerts they're promoting.
Like I said, I can totally understand the urge to boycott — I haven't stepped inside Clifton movie theater The Esquire since they "banned" CityBeat and its film critic from the theater after we reported how the operators had censored a raunchy part of a film without permission and without informing the audience of the edit. It's just one of those "principled" stands we all take and whether they are "rational" or not is relative and personal. (I'll admit that not going to the Party Source for several years after a manager was a jerk to me there was a little silly … but it made me feel a little better.)
Perhaps the hope is that if all these people who say they'll never go to the Thompson House actually don't, the club won't survive. But, from the bookings so far, a big chunk of the Southgate House's old clientele would never have been interested in the Thompson House bookings anyway. And if the Thompson House fails, someone might just come in and turn it into a Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill.
Me? I'm leaving the door open. I won't be there tonight, though I am a fan of The Aggrolites (and local openers The Ohms and The Newport Secret 6 are excellent, as well). I just have other plans. But, out of sheer curiosity alone, I will step foot in the Thompson House. And when there's music there I want to check out, I'll step foot it in it again and again. I miss the old Southgate House as much as anyone and I really appreciate the efforts of the previous owners, but I'm not going to deprive myself of a good concert experience. I mean, I never stopped going to Bogart's, even when it was the source of some of the worst concert experiences I've ever had.
Although when the Thompson House starts hosting the "Thompson House-produced country (music) revue show, 'Through the Years,' " as the Enquirer reported, I'll probably pass. I'm loyal to Kings Island when it comes to cheesy musical revue numbers.
Tickets for tonight's show are $13. You can buy them here and pick them up at Will Call (or buy them at the door). Click here to see who else is performing at the Thompson House, as well as some of the specialty nights.
The lineup for this summer's MidPoint Indie Summer series — every-Friday free concerts on Fountain Square — features another strong mix of solid national headliners (many are MidPoint Music Festival alumni) from as far away as Australia and Timbuktu and local favorites. Stay tuned for additions and updates.
Friday, June 1: The Bright Light Social Hour (Austin Tex.); Buffalo Killers; The Kickaways
Friday, June 8: The Dynamites (Nashville); Khaira Arby and her Band (Timbuktu, Mali, Africa); The Pinstripes
Friday, June 15: The Seedy Seeds; Wymond Miles (of The Fresh & Onlys, San Francisco); Belle Histoire
Friday, June 22: Art vs Science (Australia); You You're Awesome; Shadowraptr
Friday, June 29: psychodots (openers TBA)
Friday, July 6: Lydia Loveless (Columbus); Patrick Sweany (Nashville); The Ready Stance
Friday, July 13: Seabird; The Harlequins; Jon Drake and The Shakes (Chicago)
Friday, July 20: Ha Ha Tonka (Springfield, Mo.); Izzy and the Catastrophics (New York); The Ridges (Athens, Ohio)
Friday, July 27: Orgone (Los Angeles); The Cliftones; Eclipse
Friday, Aug. 3: Bear Hands (Brooklyn); Lightning Love (Ann Arbor, Mich.); Fort Lean (Brooklyn)
Friday, Aug. 10: Budos Band (New York); Kansas City Bible Company (Nashville); Sidewalk Chalk (Chicago)
Friday, Aug. 17: Class Actress (Brooklyn)
Friday Aug. 31: Wussy; R.Ring
The MidPoint Indie Summer concerts start at 7 p.m. each Friday this summer. Music lovers of all ages are welcome to attend.
Music Tonight: Tonight’s the last time you’ll be able to catch Cincinnati-based trio The Rubber Knife Gang in town for a while. But it’s not for any kind of hiatus — no rehab or plastic surgery or whatever it is bands do on such breaks. Quite the opposite. It’s because the band is jumping on a plane in a few weeks and heading overseas to spread RKG’s soulful Americana/Roots/Bluegrass sound. Tonight, the Gang joins Nashville’s Grace Adele and the Grand Band for a free, 10 p.m. show at MOTR Pub. The two acts reteam for a Columbus show this weekend, then RKG hops on a plane for Belgium, where the threesome will play two weeks’ worth of dates through mid-September (with a few shows in Germany and the Netherlands sprinkled in).
Buckcherry has been epitomizing Hard Rock since the late ’90s. The band recently started touring behind its sixth studio album, Confessions, adding to a great and energy filled set-list, alongside crowd favorites and major hits “Crazy Bitch” and “Lit Up."
CityBeat had a chance to speak with enigmatic Buckcherry singer Josh Todd in preparation for the band's set at Rock on the Range in Columbus this weekend (May 17-19). Buckcherry takes to the stage Friday night alongside Hollywood Undead, Cheap Trick and Korn. Click here for more Rock on the Range info.
CityBeat: I have seen you at Rock on the Range many years. What is your favorite Rock on the Range moment from the past?
Josh Todd: One year we were there performing “Lit Up” or “Crazy Bitch," I can’t remember, and a guy in a wheelchair started crowd surfing. That was a pretty memorable moment.
CityBeat: You guys just came off a tour with Kid Rock recently, which is a great match. What was your craziest tour story?
JT: Surprisingly, it was a pretty tame tour. We didn’t have too many backstage parties. The coolest thing we did, Bob — Kid Rock — invited Keith and I to his place in Alabama. We got to go and do some skeet shooting and eat some barbeque. I had a lot of deer meat which I hadn’t had in a long time, a lot of deer jerky. So that was a lot of fun.
CB: I was just covering the Kid Rock cruise and he was singing “Crazy Bitch.” It was a cool moment, one of my favorite songs with him singing.
JT: Yeah. I don’t know what to think of that. I’m flattered, you know, but it is kind of strange since we were on tour with him. I think it is cool because he loves the song.
CB: I want to talk about the record a little bit. I know Confessions is loosely based on the seven deadly sins. Which sin do you think is the worst?
JT: The worst or the most hard to manage?
CB: Either is fine?
JT: Probably lust, especially when you have been in a Rock band since you were 15 … it is something that comes up a lot.
CB: I know “Sloth” was written about your experience with your Father’s suicide. Is it ever hard to perform that live?
JT: I have never performed that live. We are working on it right now. We have six records. We have 80 some odd songs to really sift through. The songs we have performed off Confessions so far are “Wrath” “Gluttony” “Greed” “Air” and “Nothing Left but Tears.” We will get there eventually. I don’t think it will be hard for me because I just got a lot of great feedback from a lot of people who really connected to that song. That makes it a lot easier for me. It was real tough to record, but I think now it will be all right.
CB: Are there any habits you would like to break?
JT: Yeah. I struggle with sugar. So, yeah, not so much sugar.
CB: I know your songs are very autobiographical. Is there anything you have regretted writing about in any of your 80 songs?
JT: Since I write all the lyrics, it is kind of therapeutic for me to get out what is going on inside of me and somehow make it where a lot of people can relate to it. That is the challenge of the songwriter, to take a piece of your personal life and the lives around you and try to create a song where lots and lots of people can remember. That is the fun of it and also the challenge of it all.
CB: What does your perfect day look like?
JT: A perfect day would be to be home with my family. Just getting to spend time with them is a perfect day to me because I tour so much. To be home with my family is great.
CB: Is there anybody you would like to trade places with for a month?
JT: Yeah, I would like to be Kyle Busch for a day.
CB: Oh, a race car. Do you have fast cars?
JT: Yeah, I race fast go-carts. I have a race cart at home. I race that as much as I can. I did a NASCAR experience out here in Fontana and that was a lot of fun. I have always wanted to race an oval track race in a stock car. That would be amazing.
CB: Can you tell us what the fans should expect from your set at Rock on the Range?
JT: They can expect what we always deliver — their money’s worth.
CB: Are you going to be performing any of the new album?
JT: We will be performing “Gluttony” “Wrath” and “Nothing Left but Tears,” which is going to be the new single. Plus, we have to get to a lot of other songs. I don’t know how long our set is, but depending on how long our set is, we have been doing “Greed” recently and it is really great live now.
I love the last day of MidPoint and I hate the last day of MidPoint.
I love the energy and anticipation of what has always been the best night of the festival and I hate the thought of going home at the end to the reality of another 362 day wait until we can do it all over again. Other than a couple of hiccups, both personal and universal, this may have ultimately been the most perfect MidPoint ever.
First up for Day 3 was a stroll to Washington Park for Freelance Whales, the Brooklyn, N.Y., Chamber Pop group that filled the void when a skateboard fractured Sleigh Bells touring schedule. This was my first experience in the park since it’s renovation and it really is spectacular from every conceivable vantage point. The design, the playground, the fountain, the attention to detail; Washington Park is destined to become a downtown jewel and everyone who threw in to execute this vision is to be commended, and perhaps knighted, if we do that.
I did want to see Freelance Whales, but I had a side agenda for coming to the show; I figured there might be a chance of spotting my friend (and former CityBeat contributor) Matthew Fenton since this is the kind of show he likes. As I scanned the growing crowd, I spotted and was spotted by none other than former CityBeat editor John Fox, now installed as a big cheese at 3CDC, largely charged with publicizing and programming Washington Park. We talked about the park and the triumphs and travails of attempting to make it as universally inclusionary as possible to all of Cincinnati’s residents. I hadn’t talked to John in a very long time, and it was great to catch up, but it was greater to see him so incredibly excited about the park and its potential. He has always been an incredible friend and booster of the city and he’s in the perfect position to channel that passion.
In the spirit of his being “the host” at the park (and my ever deepening poverty), I let him buy me a beer. In all seriousness, I owe John an unpayable debt. He recruited me as a CityBeat freelancer when he was building the paper back in 1994, and his one requirement for a place on the masthead was that I get back to writing features, something I hadn’t done in well over six years at that point. John’s conditional offer of freelance work launched me on a path that continues to this day, and absolutely set the stage for my transition into full time writing when I lost my full-time design gig in the idiot epidemic of 2001. So many great experiences and interviews and interactions and friendships resulted from a lunch meeting 18 years ago when John looked me straight in the eye and said, “You are too good of a writer to be doing nothing but reviews. You need to be writing features and that’s all I want you to do for me.” Without that firm encouragement and faith, the last couple of decades could have been very different indeed. I owe you an ocean of beer, Sir John Fox, and although it may be awhile before I can start making payments, please know that I acknowledge the debt.
OK, dry your eyes, pussies … on with the shows.
Freelance Whales were an excellent stand-in for the silenced Bells. Their gorgeous Chamber Pop swells and subtlety were made even more majestic and expansive with Music Hall as the backdrop behind the MidPoint stage. As the sun went down and Music Hall lit up in anticipation of the evening’s CSO performance, Freelance Whales’ gorgeous melodicism and quietly powerful presentation was exponentially amplified. Any fan of the Decemberists or Arcade Fire should make room for Freelance Whales in their playlists.
From there, it was a brisk walk through the teeming Midway (what a fantastic idea, please let’s do this forever) to Japp’s Annex to witness the loopy edge of the New World Ancients. The Chicago quartet exudes a definite Pop/New Wave vibe, a quirky clockwork rhythm that suggests Go 2-era XTC and early 10CC with hints of the frenetic artiness of what was known initially as the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. That 21st century New Wave concept was reinforced on “Shape Shifter,” which careened like vintage XTC and Danny Elfman, while “Hole in the Sky” sounded like a Space Rock anthem collaboration between Andy Partridge and Godley & Creme; they even hauled out the brilliantly weird “We Are the Future,” an old song from Athens, the band that spawned NWA. All four NWA members had all-seeing third eyes painted on their foreheads, which offered just the right amount of creepy fun to the proceedings.
Ric Hickey ducked into Japp’s for a tour of the porcelain village, on his way to rendevous with Greg Gaston and Jeff Wilson to check out The Walkmen, and since I was headed that way myself, I followed him out. The four of us drifted down to Neon’s for a beer or two, bullshitted for a spell about music and life (like there’s a difference), watched the Reds tie the game in the eighth (glad we didn’t stick around for the extra innings … cest la vie — still division fucking champs, babe) then headed up to Grammer’s for The Walkmen (Ric rethought his schedule and hung around for the late lineup at Japp’s).
Although we were half an hour late for The Walkmen’s start time, it turned out they hadn’t been particularly timely. As we waited at the front gate (based on the asshole-to-elbow crowd that packed Grammer’s tent, I was convinced the line was designed to grease up latecomers so they could slide into the throng more easily), I was overwhelmed by the exquisite aroma drifting over from the food truck next to the entrance. Greg saw my sidelong glance and gave the taco truck and the young lady taking the orders a ringing endorsement.
The Walkmen were as fabulous as I suspected they would be. Spiffed out like a GQ Rock fashion layout, The Walkmen displayed a similarly stylish edge in the live presentation of their energetic yet restrained studio work. Still going strong a dozen years after forming from the ashes of Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Recoys, The Walkmen have evolved from atmospherically sparse Pop to more visceral and then Folk-tinged Indie Rock. The Walkmen’s new album, Heaven, is a more lush sonic affair, with songs that deal with the pressures of adulthood and the strength of love. The album’s sonic breadth is hinted at in concert but The Walkmen are more than capable of allowing the songs to do the heavy lifting, presenting them with power rather than mere volume.
In an age of disposability, The Walkmen have persevered for 12 years without a lineup change, going their own way in their own time, and seamlessly tempering their youthful enthusiasm with their hard-won maturity. It’s a wirewalk that few bands can pull off but The Walkmen manage to do it with an easy grace and humility; they were clearly affected by the huge turnout for their MidPoint debut.
I reluctantly bailed after about 30 minutes due to the start of the 10:00 pm shows I wanted to catch, and my creeping hunger, the launch codes for which had been entered coming into the show. I headed straight for the Taco Azul truck and quickly discovered Greg was right on all counts. The tacos were otherworldly good. All apologies to Mr. Hanton’s for straying from my steady diet of handwiches, but it was inevitable; when I was at Washington Park, I noticed that Island Noodles, which had been a huge hit at Bunbury and my favorite food of the festival, had a booth near the MidPoint stage and I briefly considered working in a walk back to the park to score a noodle bowl. Saturday was destined to be hot dog free.
I was just finishing my tacos when I ran into Black Owls' Brandon Losacker and three of the Sohio musketeers, who were all headed to Below Zero for The Ready Stance show, which was my destination as well, so off we went to see the wizards. Brandon graciously handed me a delicious Kentucky Bourbon Ale, the perfect cigarette after my taco interlude.
The Ready Stance was already in full swing and what a swing it was. The bar was absolutely sardine packed with fans loaded with love for the Stance and they didn’t disappoint. After a scorching spin through what I’m guessing was a new song (I didn’t recognize it as anything from their debut, the uniformly excellent Damndest), Ric Hickey stood wide-eyed and slackjawed and proclaimed the song’s classic brilliance. He wasn’t wrong. Damndest was a great opening volley, but their next shot could well be the one heard around the world, and this gig was an all too brief example of their talent and passion. A great set from a great band.
Near the close of the Stance’s set, I ran out to the Midway to catch the last three songs from Imperial Teen, because they’re one of my favorite Indie Rock bands with a quirk factor that is discernible but not obvious or trendy. I’d been looking forward to their 11:30 pm slot, but Imperial Teen’s set moved from the Hanke to 10:00 pm to accommodate the outdoor music curfew. It was clearly a great finish to what seemed to have beeen a rollicking set; Sean Rhiney declared it to be his favorite band of this year’s MidPoint. And the band was certainly appreciative of the large crowd that turned out for them; frontman Roddy Bottum noted that this was their only Midwest show and that they were glad that it was happening in Cincinnati. Their new album, Feel the Sound, is fantastic, as is the bulk of their catalog, and I hope they find their way back here very soon.
After that, it was a quick hustle over to The Drinkery to witness the Hard Rock fireworks provided by Thunder Bay, Ontario’s Bella Clava. I had written up the CityBeat preview for the band so I was already inclined to check them out, but the Mad Anthony guys had done some gigs with them and were highly recommending the show, so Bella Clava went from “possible” to “definite” in short order. The adrenalized quartet was hotter than fresh lava and proceeded to melt every face in the jammed Drinkery space with the ferocity of a bull on crystal meth. Frontwoman Caitlin Dacey was a mind meld of Ann and Nancy Wilson, switching between guitar and keyboard, guitarist Steve Suttie channeled the likes of Jimmy Page and Richie Blackmore with sweat-drenched conviction and fury, and the rhythm section of bassist Scott Hannigan and drummer Zack Mykula created a thunderous bottom that could have been registering as a seismic event.
The band was clearly moved by the MidPoint love they were receiving; at the end of their set, Caitlin noted, “I need to get a picture of you guys; my mom won’t believe it.” Ringo Jones hopped on stage and got a shot of the band with the Drinkery’s Rock drunk crowd behind them. It was a thing of beauty.
Then it was back to Below Zero to yet another near capacity audience for yet another Canadian import. Zeus came highly recommended by Losacker and several others, so I decided to check them out. The quartet were as good as advertised, sort of a Hard Rock spin on the Beatles and the Kinks. In the studio, there is a more than noticeable Sgt. Pepper vibe to Zeus’ sound, but in the live context, some of that psychedelic subtlety gets shaved off in favor of a leaner, more visceral Rock experience. It was clear that a fairly large percentage of the audience knew what they were coming to see, because there was a good deal of song recognition and wild response in the crowd.
I ducked out after about 30 minutes of Zeus’s sonic lightning bolts to catch the end of the road for local Rock heroes The Dukes Are Dead. Here’s proof that sometimes bad luck can result in good things; London’s Leogun was forced to cancel their MidPoint appearance and so the Dukes’ final show was pushed to the closing slot, allowing them the leeway to play considerably longer than their original 9:45 time would have accommodated. In some ways, it’s been a bad year for straight-up Rock in Cincinnati, with the recent demise of Banderas (MPMF regulars) and now the dissolution of the Dukes. As befitting a band that was playing its last show in the last slot on the last night of MidPoint, the Dukes left nothing in the bag. The band’s frenzied set was a thrashfest of howling vocals and grimy, guttaral riffage that was so explosive it was tempting to think that Luke Frazier and Luke Darling were playing six string grenade launchers, while bassist Randy Proctor worked his bass like a lead guitar and drummer David Reid hammered his kit like he was forging broadswords for Middle Earth giants on an anvil made of asteroids and pain. Formed just three years ago, it looks like the Dukes are going their separate ways to pursue new musical projects, which we can only hope results in a massive stock split as four hugely talented Hard Rock provocateurs subdivide into a handful of new and similarly bent projects.
We will certainly welcome the Dukes Are Dead in their new individual configurations, but anyone was there will never forget the way they went out collectively. It could have been a bittersweet moment, and to a certain extent, it was, but it was also the joyous beginning of the rebirthing process, and in that context, the final show of The Dukes Are Dead was an absolute perfect way to draw the curtain on MidPoint 2012.
MidPoint 2012 Saturday Night Notes:
• Even by my standards, I swilled a lot of beerage at this year’s MidPoint. Mike Breen threatened me with an intervention and a film crew from the so-titled A&E show, but he also offered to buy the beers, so it was all good. Still in all, if you ran into me and expect to see our exchange in these musings and it’s not here, don’t feel left out. There are events that, even just hours old, are vague and unstable memories to me now. It’s a lot to expect for an aging and beer-sodden brain, so bear with me.
• Day 3, no Matthew Fenton. It cannot be that we didn’t cross paths even once over the course of the three days here, so I have to believe that he skipped this year’s soiree. He and Kelly were here for Bunbury in July so maybe that was the reason he bailed this year. A MidPoint without Matthew is like a MidPoint without sunshine, and while I get that the vast majority of it happens at night, you know what I mean (or refer to the preceding paragraph for clarification).
• Ran into MPMF stalwart/stage manager/former Buckra guitarist Jacob Heintz, his niece and pal Brome (the spelling of which I’m guessing at). It was the first time I’d spotted Jacob all weekend … I was beginning to think maybe I should take a shower, the way I was being avoided. Then I decided that was a rash decision. Or maybe just a rash. Either way, it was great to see Jacob.
• Crossed paths with Paul Roberts and his sister at Japp’s during the New World Ancients. It was the first of many crossings with Paul and his merry band of Rock rangers, including Faint Signal guitarist Randy Campbell, big Jim and the little guy whose name always eludes me (see the opening paragraph for clarification).
• I love that local singer/songwriter Ric Hickey is back in town after a stint on the west coast. And more importantly, Ric Hickey loves that Ric Hickey is back in town. Time to strap up and Rock on, my brother. Welcome home.
• The Ready Stance gig was a stacked deck of musical luminaria; The Purrs’ Jim Antonio, drummer to the stars Dana Hamblen, Black Owls’ Brian Kitzmiller and Brandon Losacker (who repeatedly supplied me with Kentucky Bourbon Ales, which I may have developed a dependence on), the above noted Ric Hickey and CityBeat head man Dan Bockrath, who repeatedly bought the beer at every possible opportunity. I’m thinking of starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund the construction and upkeep of the Brian Baker Beer Buying Hall of Fame. I smell a plaque with Dan’s name inscribed on it. Or maybe I just missed the urinal. Again.
• A couple of Sean Rhiney (musician and co-founder/operator of MidPoint before CityBeat took over) sightings, first at Washington Park as I was departing Freelance Whales, and again at the Imperial Teen show. Sean is a prince among men, and even has a princely look. If royalty ever comes back to America, Sean should be in line for some kind of dukedom or earlship or lordiness. Really.
• I happened upon former Host vocalist Chris Charlton, who was handing out free copies of the debut issue of his new comic book, Sleepless. His written all the stories and worked with a variety of artists to bring them to life in Sleepless, which is being published by Assailant Comics; there will definitely be a #2. Chris says he may get back to music at some point, but right now he’s concentrating on the comic. The first story is a zombie love story, but my fave was “Artificial Unintelligence”; pick one up and enjoy at your leisure.
• Randy Cheek (member of The Ready Stance and Fairmount Girls and former bassist for Ass Ponys) needs to write a book. After the Stance gig, his stories in the alley next to the dumpsters beside Below Zero were all incredible, ranging from stepping in human waste after a gig (the phrase “slightly melted poopsicle” was used) to seeing a bedbug on an amputee’s stump in his daytime role as an exterminator, all of which was punctuated by a guy pissing on the other side of the dumpster. Randy really needs to write a book. Really.
• The old saxophone player who was blowing on 12th Street just down from the Midway segued from the theme song for Sanford and Son to George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” which, in my state at that moment, was a sure sign that a portal to another dimension had been accessed, or that alien beings had just been contacted, like with that weird note sequence from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I’m still not sure it didn’t.
• I stumbled into Mark Messerly, Eric Appleby and his lovely wife Trish on the way to Bella Clava. I should have asked Eric about Matthew. There were exchanges, a bad vaudevillian punch line (mine, naturally) and gales of laughter (a drunk is never not funny), as well an introduction to some lovely people whose names were obliterated by the first stormtrooping guitar chord that hit me at The Drinkery. I pulled out my pad to write them down on my big notepad titled "Don’t Forget, Dumbass," and they were gone. Regardless, it was nice to meet you. The second introduction usually sticks.
• There were so many people at the Bella Clava and The Dukes Are Dead shows that my memories are kind of bubbly around the edges, like a burnt photograph. The Mad Anthony guys were all there, Jeremy Constantinople from Banderas, Paul Roberts and the gang (which sounds like they’re the Cosby Kids or something, but they’re not, I’d bet), and Beth, who I met at the Black Owls show, and a guy named Chad who has a band in Newport and wanted to hire Randy after the last Dukes show (he told me the name of his band, but the opening paragraph should be referenced for clarification) and Dan Bockrath who bought me a Red Stripe because it was the only beer the Drinkery had left, and you were there, and you and you. And it was a beautiful, beautiful night filled with amazing people and fabulous music and love. Or at least really intense like. And it stoned me. Or the opening paragraph did. Either way, blissed out at MidPoint again and again and again.
• As always, thanks to the great (and nearly jailed) Dan McCabe for his grace under fire and his dedication to making MidPoint one of the best things that happens in Cincinnati. He is a king in the new royalty, a king I tell you. Thanks also to the tireless volunteers who make this run like a well-oiled machine (I use beer to oil my machine, and it’s a good thing the volunteers don’t take that approach or nothing would get done), the fans who spend their hard earned money on wristbands and venue tickets and food and gallons of goof juice and souvenirs, and of course the bands who come from
around the corner, across the state, around the country and the globe to entertain us and bring a little musical sunshine into our spongey consciousnesses. Or is it consciousnessi? I don’t have time to look it up. MidPoint 2012 is a lovely memory, and I’m drooling like Pavlov’s dogs for next year’s lineup, whatever it may be. Matthew Fenton, your place is saved. Next year, for sure.
Area label Sol Records is taking pre-orders now for the Dallas Moore Band’s next release, Hank To Thank, culled from the locally-based Country crew’s sessions one year ago with longtime Willie Nelson guitarist Jody Payne at the site of Cincinnati’s Herzog studios where Hank Williams laid down some of his early, big hits.
This morning, the annual Bunbury Music Festival, coming up July 11-13 and returning to Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove along the Ohio River, announced the first acts for this summer’s event. Fall Out Boy, which won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Alternative Band last night, will be joined at the fest by consistent Pop/Rock hit makers Paramore (who were up against FOB for that People’s Choice Award and are doing a co-headlining tour with the band this summer, something that leaked early, allegedly angering Paramore) and up-and-coming Danish alt-rockers New Politics (also on the FOB/Paramore jaunt).
The full lineup for the Bunbury Music Festival is scheduled to be announced next month. Tickets are on sale now; below are details:
One-day, Any-day: $55.00 (U.S.) Buy on layaway until January 31, 2014
Three-day: $130.00 (U.S.) Buy on layaway until January 31, 2014
Three-day VIP: $325 (U.S.) Buy on layaway until January 31, 2014
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Please note that ticket prices will increase after February 15 and again after July 1.
Also this morning, it was announced that The Afghan Whigs, one of the best musical exports to ever come out of Cincinnati, are returning to the road in 2014 to play (at least) the Coachella festival in California this summer. (The full Coachella lineup, which was released this morning and includes Arcade Fire, OutKast and The Replacements, can be found here.) Sounds like a good fit for this year’s Bunbury lineup, too.
Red is a Christian Rock band that has ascended into the mainstream alongside Rock acts like Papa Roach and Korn. The band members let their faith creep into their music and their message, but do not let it define them. Earlier this year Red released its fourth studio album, Release the Panic. The album debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard album chart, showing their strength as a national act (Red's previous release, Until We Have Faces, debuted at No. 2 in 2011).
CityBeat recently caught up with Anthony Armstrong, the band’s guitar player, who spoke about the band’s inspirations and vision for the future of Rock music. Red is playing on Friday at King’s Island in Cincinnati for Spirit Song 2013, which runs Thursday-Saturday and features some of the biggest names in Contemporary Christian music.
CityBeat: I saw you guys at (Columbus, Ohio, Hard Rock fest) Rock on the Range. What was your favorite Rock on the Range moment this year?
Anthony Armstrong: That’s a tough one. You know what is really sad, our good buddies Sevendust played right before us and we didn’t get to see their set so I was really disappointed. Papa Roach put on an incredible show every single time they take the stage, so I would say they are up there as one of the best. It was cool to see Bush. That was really cool to feel like I was in high school and to see those guys doing their thing. When they started playing “Come Down” I felt like I was right there back watching. There was an old movie from the ‘90s called Fear with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg, and I think Bush was the entire soundtrack to that movie. I just felt like I was back in the ‘90s and high school listening to Bush records. It was cool.
CB: You guys play Christian music and are a Christian band. Is it ever hard to be on tour or at these festivals in this non-Christian atmosphere?
AA: It’s never for us. I think media outlets and sources, even in interviews like this, people are so curious about that. They ask the question because they want to understand and know the answer to how we deal with that. For us, we don’t see it any different than if we are playing a Christian show. We are all just people in general. You are going to see crazy stuff happen at those shows too. We like to hangout and we like to have a good time. We don’t get too out of control. We hang out with all these guys. We love these guys and they love us. We just show them we aren’t any different than them because we love God and we believe in God. We don’t feel like it should be something that draws a line or creates a wall that we can’t get past. It is just what we believe. There are plenty of guys up on those stages in all the different bands that believe different stuff. I say come see one of our shows. We are going to do exactly what those bands do just as good if not better. We aim high and we really try not to focus on that kind of stuff. It just complicates things. We are just a Rock band.
CB: I have seen you tour three times over the years and you never look any different or sound any different than the other bands. It is just a different message through the words.
AA: Yeah, that’s the thing with the message. We are not going in there with some sort of agenda. We are not going into these shows with some sort of recruiting mentality. We are just going to play some Rock songs. Wherever these songs reach, wherever they are in their life, if these songs inspire them, then we did our job. That’s all we care about doing. We’ve done many of the things people standing in the crowd are doing. We know they don’t work out for us. We know they are bad for us. We know the one thing that works for us is our faith. A lot of people want to hold you over the coals for it because they think it’s lame; they think it’s cheesy and you are not hardcore if you believe in God. I know more crazy, jacked-up people that believe in God than I know that don’t believe in God. We are the ones that are here because we need God because we can’t get out of our own way. A lot of the guys that turn to God and live that lifestyle were at that point. Brian (“Head” Welch) from Korn is a perfect example of that. The guy was literally on his death bed constantly getting high. He reached out and said, “If you are real I want to know. I want you to show it to me.” And God did that for him. That was just a cool story for him to hear.
CB: I know you tour a lot over the years. Do you take time out to write as a band or do you write when you are on the road?
AA: We write so much it’s ridiculous. It’s a love-hate relationship. It takes more love than anything. It’s really cool. We just released a record. We probably won’t really start diving into writing until about January or February of 2014. We usually put records out about every two and a half years. That’s about the time you start digging into the new stuff. You take this first part of a new record release to key in on the new songs and translate and see how everything goes, start paying attention to what is going on in the world. You start collecting the inspiration you need to write another record. That’s one of the things we’ve always focused on.
CB: One of my favorite songs that you guys have was your first single, “Perfect Life” — could you tell me the story behind that song?
AA: Yeah, we were out in L.A. with our new producer, we had never used him before, his name was Howard Benson. We had three records with the same guy that we still love. We will probably do another record with Rob Graves. It was just a transition for us. We wanted to try something new. We were out there in the Hollywood hills hanging out at Howard’s huge house. You could probably fit our tour bus in there three times. We were hanging out on his back patio talking about the record and what we were about to do. He said, “Check this out guys,” and we look out and there is Kim Kardashian in the compound in front of us. We started talking about that TV show and that transitioned into what it is really like out in Hollywood and what the media projects as what life really is on the Jersey Shore and all this other stuff. What life is all about when you can have these things and be this glamorous and have this lifestyle. This is the perfect life. This is what you want. This is what you can attain. We were like, “This is complete bull. You can be happy no matter what you are doing” It’s about chasing down the things people think are important. The perfect life is projected to us in a certain way. For us we are saying, find out for yourself. What is the perfect life for you? It shouldn’t be what other people do. It should be what you do.
CB: Is it hard being on the road with your brother?
AA: No, it’s not. It’s amazing. It’s really cool because in a band, when you have a band of four individuals, when you have a fight or an argument it gets pretty awkward. Randy and I are like the unofficial leaders of Red. We take care of everything from the administration to the music. I am really involved with the writing side of things. Randy is really involved in managing our affairs. When something goes down, Randy and I can usually sort it out between the two of us. We will discuss things together as a band and a group of guys. Ultimately, Randy and I can bounce things off each other and get a little heated but the guys just know we are brothers and that’s the way brothers are. We have been competitive towards each other our whole lives and now we are in a rock band together. We have never been separated. We have always been together. We went to college together. We roomed together for four years. We might as well have dated the same girls. It was just wild. I love the dynamic. They say never mix business with family, and I haven’t really experienced it being a bad thing with me and Randy being in the band together.
CB: I hear also that you cause the occasional accident over the years on stage. Any new accidents lately? I am personally surprised Michael doesn’t hurt himself more jumping around the way he does.
AA: We are more afraid of the fire now. We are pretty scared of getting burned. We have had a couple near accidents. If you get too close to the flames, it singes all the hair off your arms. Nothing has been like it used to be with injuries. I hit Michael in the head twice, sent him to the hospital once. I opened his eye and had seven staples in his head with my guitar. My brother has hit me in the face with his bass guitar and cut my eye wide open. Rock & Roll.
CB: What is your favorite guitar to play?
AA: I have a custom 24 PRS that I named Vegas after my Bulldog. It was my first PRS guitar they made for me and only me. I have a love affair with that guitar.
CB: A lot of people right now are saying that Rock is dead and Rock music is dying, that Country is the new thing selling out the stadium, it’s the new Rock. Do you believe that?
AA: I don’t believe it because when I went to Rock on the Range and I saw it is alive and well. I don’t believe that Rock & Roll has its act together. We live in Nashville, Tenn. We see the CMA Awards and the CMT Awards. You see how it is such a different animal. It would be really cool to see Rock get its act together and have that sort of Rock N Roll Awards. The MTV Awards used to be about Rock. We don’t have anything specific to us. We don’t have anything specific to Rock Music in general. It’s the Grammys or we are part of something. I would love to see that sort of thing happen. Other than that, I don’t think in a million years the world would be livable without Rock N Roll. It’s something in Rock music makes you feel. It gets you fired up and people love that feeling. It’s like drugs.
CB: What current music is inspiring you guys or you personally?
AA: There is such great music right now. In Rock N Roll right now, I’d say, we are big Muse fans. We have always been huge Sevendust fans. When we first moved here, I think I had to buy their record three times because I listened to it over and over and over. We are inspired by not just the music. We get out on the road with these guys and see what kind of guys they are. They work their tails off. We are all scratching for our place and hoping things just work out and it is just cool to see other bands doing things we do.
CB: I am sure you guys are going to have a great set here in Cincinnati at Kings Island.
AA: They won’t let us use fire this weekend.
CB: I have seen your show with fire and without fire and it is always good.
AA: We consider it icing on the cake, another cool thing. We want to be able to stand alone without it. When we can use it, we use a lot of it. What is funny, Rock on the Range, this summer when we play festivals, we do 28 points of flames, 28 different nozzles of fire. It’s just fire but it is so much fun. It is such a cool thing.
CB: After that show, are you going back on tour this summer?
AA: Yeah. Right now, the summer is chalked full of festivals. We will play festival dates and it is really cool for us because we play the big late night stages where we can do the pyro and stuff. After that we will get into the fall and have a couple tour options but we are not allowed to talk about the yet because they haven’t been announced. We are going overseas. We are going to Europe for three weeks right before Thanksgiving. We have some stuff happening.
Now in it tenth year, one of Cincinnati’s most celebrated bands, Wussy (led by former Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver and his equally skilled songwriting partner/co-frontperson Lisa Walker), has amassed an amazing discography so far. Beginning with 2005’s Funeral Dress, the group quickly developed a reputation for the “ragged glory” of its performances, both live and on record. That sense of recklessness worked impossibly well with the band’s fractured, soul-burrowing love songs and the unbridled tense, passionate energy between its co-leaders. Early on, Wussy often sounded on the verge of falling apart, but there was always something magical about the group that assured you that, even if by Scotch tape and rubber bands, the band would hold it together.
But with each successive release, Wussy’s edge-of-cliff nature gradually dissipated. By the time of the rockers’ third album, an eponymous affair in 2009, Wussy had become a more confident, cohesive unit. But not in the way, say, Paul Westerberg went from alcoholic Punk poet to “mature” singer/songwriter. As the band’s fourth full-length, Strawberry, shows, Wussy isn’t getting boring. They’re just getting better. Which, considering how powerful albums like 2007’s Left for Dead were, is almost scary.
Easton Corbin — on tour with Rascal Flatts and coming to Cincinnati for a show at Riverbend Music Center on Friday — is one of the hottest new acts in all of Country music. Since debuting in 2009 with his self-titled album (which reached as high as No. 4 on the Country album charts) he has been gaining great recognition. His first two singles, “A Little More Country Than That” and “Roll With It,” skyrocketed to the top of the Country charts and he has been nominated for 11 awards in his short career, taking home three of them at the 2010 Academy of Country Music Awards.