Music Tonight: Music legend Paul Simon brings his tour behind the recent full-length, So Beautiful or So What, to The Bank of Kentucky Center on Northern Kentucky University's campus in Highland Heights for a 7:30 p.m. concert. The tour also happens to coincide with the even-more-recently-released retrospective compilation, Songwriter, a nice reminder of just how many iconic tunes Simon has crafted, classics like "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Still Crazy After All These Years," "The Sound of Silence," "Graceland" and "The Boxer," to name just a few. (Simon's first four solo albums were also reissued this year.) When Simon's current tour ends early next month, the singer/songwriter will turn his focus to next year's touring plans — a jaunt celebrating the 25th anniversary of his genre-defying smash hit Graceland (an anniversary "box set" — featuring a documentary and the usual array of B-side and outtakes — will also be released). Opening up the show in Northern Ky. tonight is progressive Bluegrass troupe Punch Brothers. The group was formed by mandolinist Chris Thile after his band Nickel Creek called it quits and also features musicians who have worked with Leftover Salmon, Jerry Douglas, Tony Trischka and other modern Bluegrass big-timers. Ticket prices range from about $54 up to around $86. Click here for more. Below, to get warmed up for what will surely be a calm, orderly shopping experience on Black Friday (right?), check out "Getting Ready for Christmas Day," a holiday tune on Simon's new record.
If you're attending this evening's rally/concert Vote Early, Rock Late on Fountain Square featuring Cincy natives The National and Dayton's The Breeders, here is the schedule of events:
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory will kick things off with a few words at 5 p.m. The Breeders are scheduled to take the stage at 5:15 p.m. (maybe they should change the event's name to "Vote Early, Rock Somewhat Early As Well"). Following The Breeders will be more speeches, leading up to some thoughts from actress Natalie Portman at 7 p.m. The National is to take the stage at 7:20 p.m., and the event ends at 9 p.m. (hopefully that means a nice long set from the local boys done good). I anticipate that the band's performance of "Mr. November," their usual set-closer, will be utterly transcendent.
Check the blogs tomorrow for a full report from the show and photos.
Head to the official site for the event at vote-ohio.net for full details on the rally. Today's concert is free, but donations for the Obama campaign will happily be accepted. You can also donate through the site. And shuttles will take you to the Hamilton County Board of Elections if you want to go ahead and vote now.
Alligator recording artists JJ Grey and Mofro perform a FREE show tonight in the grand ballroom of the Southgate House. Go here to read the unexpurgated version (including videos and interview outtakes) of our feature story on Mr. Grey and Co. and go here for more show details.
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.
When The Afghan Whigs announced late last year they would be reuniting for a pair of appearances at All Tomorrow’s Parties in London and New Jersey (since grown to a full blown European tour of summer festivals and clubs), music critics and fans rejoiced.
For years, interviewers probed lead singer Greg Dulli about the possibility while he promoted his successful projects The Twilight Singers and The Gutter Twins. The answer, when it would come, was usually a firm "No" — everything that needed to be said with the Whigs had been said. Disappointed fans had reason to mourn — in the ’80s/’90s, Whigs' live shows were legendary for their one-two punch of cathartic anthems and ass-shaking grooves, with the alpha male voodoo cast by Dulli.
Unlike scores of other bands who get back together for all the wrong reasons — an embarrassing reality television moment or ill-conceived package tour (“Grunge on Ice!”) — The Whigs embraced this reunion on their own terms. It's been well covered in the press that all parties involved in the Whigs' camp said that the time was just right for this rendezvous. No hatchets to bury, no compromises to make and no million dollar title sponsorship necessary — the schedules just worked out and, by all accounts, everyone was in the right place, personally, emotionally, professionally.
That wasn’t the case in 2001 though, when the group cited physical distance as a prime reason behind their curtain call as a band. Two newish tracks momentarily reunited the band in 2006 for a career spanning retrospective, but no decision to re-group was made until bassist John Curley and guitarist Rick McCollum quietly got together with Dulli in New Orleans late last fall to test the waters. Obviously, they were pleased with what they heard.
Flash forward to this past week, halfway into their first live show in over a decade at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. Any concern that Dulli considered the band's reunion shows as some sort of middle-aged victory lap was put to rest as he traded quips with a heckler who apparently hadn’t got the memo about Dulli's legendary run-ins, on and off the stage with audience members who couldn’t resist being a part of the show.
Without dropping a beat, Dulli offered the fellow a cautionary warning before returning to the music at hand: “You know, I will fuck you up.”
Your attention please, indeed.
The Whigs still take their music seriously. In the month leading up to the somewhat surprise of a show at the Ballroom in New York this past week, the Whigs holed up in Cincinnati at Curley’s Ultrasuede Studio to give their entire catalog a work out. But hometown anonymity gave way when the band arrived in NYC to a New York Times proclamation that their sold out show in the Lower East Side was the “most sought after ticket in the Northeast.” Fitting perhaps as well that the Whigs first show back would take place in the city where they played their final show in 1999 (unbeknownst to anyone).
That Tuesday, the Whigs' fired their own opening salvo with their first television appearance in over a decade on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It takes balls to play your first live gig in 13 years on TV in front of millions of viewers — not to mention performing a relatively obscure R&B tune (“See and Don’t See” by Marie “Queenie” Lyons) instead of one of your hits. Business as usual for the uncompromising Whigs.
Since Uptown Avondale's track by track Soul homage, the Whigs have been notorious for unearthing and reinventing old school R&B tracks. This time around, the Whig’s recorded a fragile interpretation of Lyons’ song, which was released online the week before. The tune got the Whigs' Chamber Rock treatment on Fallon with a string section and The Roots' ?uestlove joining in on drums while a nattily attired Dulli coolly plead his case. Later, after Fallon signed off air, the band recorded a bonus track for the show’s website, ripping through a caustic, muscular version of “I’m Her Slave.” Hopefully viewers at home didn’t miss the moment immediately after the song where Dulli and the usually reserved Curley quickly traded wide, shit-eating grins, obviously pleased with what the band just dropped on millions of viewers, many of whom had probably never had the opportunity to see the Whigs on their first go around.
If the Fallon appearance was the peek behind the curtain, the sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom the next night was the full on Angelina-leg-bearing reveal. The band wasted no time, dipping heavily into Gentleman and Black Love, including a reprisal of “I’m Her Slave” and a dizzying “Conjure Me” from Congregation. The Whigs also visited a few tracks from their final full-length, 1965, before adding a couple of covers — the Lyons' track from Fallon and a spooky, piano-driven take on Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes.”
Presumably left for later in the tour was anything from the band's Sub Pop debut, Up In It. The band did, however, go six tracks deep from their noir epic, Black Love, including show opener "Crime Scene Part I" and the set-ending epic trio of “Bulletproof,” “Summer’s Kiss” and perennial show closer “Faded,” with the little coda from Purple Rain tagged on for good measure. But it was the reintroduction of the title track from Gentleman that brought the house down.The song had seemingly been shelved for live sets post-Black Love, it's rumored because of the heavy-hearted toll delivering the scathing lover’s reproach night after night took on its author. Whatever the reason, Dulli was back on better terms with his signature song, playfully pointing fingers and shaking his ass while the rest of the Whigs powered through the song’s metallic groove.
The reconvened Whigs are more light and nimble on their feet than the expansive 1965 final tour that saw the group supported by a cadre of excellent back-up singers and support musicians each night. This time around the trio is augmented by long time Dulli sideman, guitarist David Rosser, multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson and drummer Cully Symington. Even without all the extra hands on deck, the resulting sound still allows for moments of fragile beauty amongst the riffs thanks to Nelson’s cello and piano playing.
It’s worth noting that Dulli apparently gave up smokes over a year ago and his voice might be exhibit A for you kids contemplating taking a puff for the first time. He’s refined his aching falsetto and added some harmonic high notes to his trademark whisper-to-a-scream howl that showed no signs of letting down during the near two-hour show. Dulli acknowledged his new smoke-free existence, referencing the now legendary mid-show light ups where he would hold forth on baseball, shitty cover bands or how your girlfriend was flirting with him the entire show while the band would play bemusedly (or not) on. During his heckler beat-down at the Bowery, he even worked in a belated apology to mates Curley and McCollum for their patience during his soliloquies all those years — then accepted a goodwill drag off an audience member’s joint.
Unlike a lot of bands who play Reunion Roulette and lose, if national reviews of the show are any indication, this year’s model of the Whigs arguably sounds better than they did during the ’90s when they first broke on the international scene with their addictive mash up of Midwestern Punk, Rock and Soul.
Dulli said it best after a punkish wind-sprint through 1965’s "Uptown Again," when he offered a heartfelt thanks to the crowd for coming, adding, “It feels like we never left."
Full setlist from the Whigs' Facebook page:
There’s no such thing as “just another day at Bonnaroo." This morning I was in attendance for a mesmerizing performance by Nashville AltCountry siren Tristen in the press tent that barely ended in time for me to race over to This Tent for a performance by Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears that shook me to my very soul. Their raging Funk and Soul revue literally had the crowd jumping and screaming for the duration of their 60-minute set.
Icon Rock & Roll band Guns N’ Roses has been selling out arenas since their debut album Appetite for Destruction went to No. 1 in 1987. Though Axl Rose and Co. have not released an album since Chinese Democracy in 2008, they've continued to rock out across the with large-production shows, entertaining audiences not only searching for a taste of nostalgia but also value great music and a sound you cannot find anywhere else. CityBeat caught up with rhythm guitar player Richard Fortus this week and discussed his personal music path and what fans can expect from the show. Guns N’ Roses comes to Cincinnati Friday (with guests D-Generation) for a concert at US Bank Arena and it sounds like fans can expect a really long night of music. (Read our interview with current GNR/former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson here.)
Hip Hop star Young Jeezy performs tonight in Corryville, bringing his tour behind the recent Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition album to Bogart's for an 8 p.m. show. The Def Jam Records recording artist released his major label debut, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, in 2005, spawning the hit single "Soul Survivor," featuring singer Akon. The South Carolina-born, Atlanta-based MC (once a member of the group Boyz n da Hood) put out two more albums — The Inspiration and The Recession (in ’06 and ’08, respectively) — which featured guests from R. Kelly and Keyshia Cole to Nas and Kanye West (their collabo "Put On" was nominated for a Grammy), and he's appeared as a guest himself on singles by Usher ("Love in This Club") and Rihanna ("Hard"). The Thug Motivation masterclass skipped ahead to 103 (perhaps Thug Motivation 102 is audit-only?) and was released late last year after several announced release dates came and went. The album landed at No. 3 on the album charts its first week out (in the midst of holiday shopping fever, making it more impressive).
TM 103 once again features a pretty heady guest list, with cameos by Yo Gotti, Lil Wayne, Freddie Gibbs, Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Jill Scott, Snoop and Ne-Yo, who appears on the most recently released single "Leave You Alone." Check the video below (NSFW for language, excessive head tattoos and gratuitous product placement for Crown Royal and Ciroc vodka). Tickets for tonight's show are $25 (plus fees). Read more about Jeezy here.
• Indie rockers Brighton MA — neither from Brighton nor Massachusetts — hit MOTR Pub tonight for a free show with great locals The Mighty. The Chicago band was formed by two members of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir upon their departure from that acclaimed Indie Pop ensemble, emerging as a successful and acclaimed unit in its own right not long after. An intense mesh of Folk, Rock and Pop, the band's songs have been used on TV shows (like Gossip Girl and Community) and in a successful Jack Daniels ad campaign last year during the holidays. The band also scored a sweet tour van to take a trip on Route 66 for an extensive promotional web series called "Rock the Route," which was sponsored(-the-hell-out-of) by Red Bull. Earlier this year, the group released a new 7-song EP called Billboard Sun, a warm-up for their second full-length, due later this year. Tonight's show starts around 10 p.m.
Oh, and Brighton, Mass., is the neighborhood in which singer Matt Kerstein was born (in case you were wondering).
Here's the band's "Good Kind of Crazy" (aka "the song from the Jack Daniels commercial"):
CityBeat: I don’t know if people in Cincinnati know a lot about you. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what the band is about and coming to Cincinnati?
Jesse: We have never been to Cincinnati. This is our first show there. I’ve been there before with other bands and I’ve always loved the city. I’m excited to bring this band there and just show what I’ve been talking about because we always hear about how awesome the scene is there in Cincinnati. We are a straight up rock band from Nashville, Tennessee. There’s really no frills or anything too fancy in what we do. We like to put on a good show and get the crowd into a good mood and maybe help them party a little bit, dance a little bit.
Anna: Give them what they pay for. Perform on stage and have a good time.
CB: You guys are pretty known around Nashville I know and other places for high energy performing. I saw it for the first time in Chicago opening for Kid Rock and Bon Jovi. Can you talk to us a little bit about what that experience was like and how that all came about?
Anna: Yeah, totally. We actually won a competition to play that show. We put our music on this site called Ourstage.com. Ourstage has been real good to us. They were fans of our music. We had a couple songs that were number one for a few weeks. Then they put on this competition where people could vote on getting the opportunity to open for Bon Jovi. I remember we were in Georgia on the road and Jesse came across the contest and was “Hey dudes I am going to sign us up for this.” And we were all joking “It’s gonna be killer when we open for Bon Jovi.” And not really thinking of it but being positive anyway. And it came true. So we got a phone call that we won the contest to open for Bon Jovi at Soldier Field in Chicago. What was cool for me is I had never been to Chicago before. So my first experience going to Chicago was playing a gig at Soldier Field with Bon Jovi and Kid Rock. So that was sort of surreal. The experience was awesome but it was a little bit of a tease for us all because it was one show. We wanted just to do our best and kill it. I feel we all acted very professional about it. Everybody backstage and Bon Jovi’s manager told us how professional we were. It felt very natural. I’m just glad we have that experience under our belt and hopefully there will be many more to come like that.
CB: It was a great show. Very high energy. You have a video and a song called “Kitty Litter” that has gotten a lot of play. I saw an interview that the concept behind the song was “Girls can be bitches” and I thought that was the best line of the week. Can you tell me a little bit more about the song?
Anna: Yeah, sure. I mean that is sort of the basis of the song. Unfortunately from a little bit of experience. I called it “Kitty Litter” just because that is the nastiest thing. People call girls catty. What’s the nastiest part of the cat? That’s just how “Kitty Litter” evolved. I use a line in the song that it’s a pretty little ribbon that’s tied to a fatal disease. I write metaphorically, and that just sort of means that girls can come off as really pretty and friendly but once gossip gets involved, it can become deadly. It can bruise someone’s ego or friendship or that sort of thing. That’s basically what the song is about. Not all girls are like that, just some.
CB: I’d say most, at one point another, we are all guilty I think. You guys just had a song featured on TV as well right?
Anna: You can barely hear it but it’s so cool. It was on Burn Notice..
CB: What song was it?
Jesse: It was “Drop Your Panties and Roll” from our first EP Put Your Babe On.
CB: And again, another song that I like. Can you tell me a little background what that song is about?
Anna: Oh yeah, that song was inspired by celebrities and paparazzi and how people are coming out of clubs and posing for cameras. It’s how things can get crazy or dirty. It was written around the time that there was the Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan scandals wanting to show their coochies for the camera for exposure. That’s why I say in the song, “Filthy is as filthy does/ Don’t forget to pose for the camera/ Raise your glass to the writer” because the writer is basically gaining you fame for all of your bullshit. We weren’t originally going to call it “Drop Your Panties and Roll,” but our witty bass player Jairo, I don’t know, the most random shit comes out of his mouth. So I said, “Jairo, what do you think we should call this song?” And within two seconds blurted out “Drop Your Panties and Roll” and we started laughing so hard and just kept the title. It was just convenient that that title was what I was writing about.
CB: You guys have a fairly new EP out right?
Jesse: Yeah, it came out March, just a little three song EP. Amy: What are the three songs on there?
Anna: We feature “Let’s Go,” “Party Dress,” and “XOXO.”
CB: Do you guys write your stuff?
Jesse: Yeah, the guys usually write all the music and will have a full song figured out or Jairo will have the song musically figured out or if we don’t we’ll kind of jam on it, a rift that either one of us has come up with. Then once we get that solid, we’ll bring it to Anna and just jam on it til she gets some words and melodies flowing. So everyone contributes musically, then we let Anna do her magic lyrically.
Anna: That, and then they come along and cut parts out here and there and turn it into a beautiful song.
CB: Do you guys have anybody you run it across. Do you ever co-write with anybody?
Anna: No. But we have a friend of ours here in Nashville who has approached us and has offered to help co-write with some stuff. My first reaction to that kind of stuff is pretty defensive. But this guy, he gets me and my writing style. I don’t know, I give him a lot of credit for that. So he has been coming to some of our practices. We haven’t written a song together from scratch. But he has been taking a few of our songs and sort of upping the game making it a little more “poppy” and making it a little bit more placeable as far as movies and radio are concerned. So, I am sort of working with somebody but in general we don’t at all.
CB: What’s your favorite song to play live?
Jesse: Good question. I can tell you mine. We are always writing so we have a handful of new songs that aren’t recorded yet. So mine right now at this moment is one of our newest songs called “March.” It’s got a bit of a different sound than we have recently recorded. It’s going in a little bit more of a “what’s hot right now” direction and got a lot of the dance feel but it’s pretty rock and pop. That one is fun for me because I get to play a little bit of a solo. So it’s a different kind of arrangement too.
Anna: Yeah, I actually agree with Jessie. That’s not necessarily my favorite song right now but when any song is new and fresh, you have fresh energy with the song. I’m not saying that always goes away but I’m pretty pumped about that song. Otherwise, we have a song that isn’t recorded yet called “Hey Kid” that is about the downfall of the music industry and it’s very anthemy. It’s one of those I can jump around a lot. I really like that one. “Let’s Go” is fun because it has the cheerleader chant to it but it’s not cheerleader at all which is awesome. I like “Sugar Cookies” because it’s all balls to the wall and crazy and I can jump into the crowd with that song and people can get into it and just want to dance. I try to write all of our songs to be fun to perform.
CB: What are you guys listening to right now. What’s in your Ipod or your car?
Anna: Right now in my car I’m listening to Iggy Pop’s Greatest Hits.
CB: Who are your influences when you perform or written in the past? I hear a No Doubt “feel” to your music.
Anna: Oh yeah if you mention No Doubt it’s totally cool. I have quite a few influences. Non-female anywhere from David Lee Roth to Freddy Mercury, even a little bit of Kurt Cobain. But as far as females are concerned, Chrissy Hines, Joan Jett, and Gwen Stefani for sure. I grew up in a really super religious home where MTV was blocked from the television. But when No Doubt came out, my parents actually let me listen to that CD. I listened to that CD until my ears were on fire. I admired her stage presence and I think her power sparked something in me and I woke up one day and I said that’s exactly what I’m going to do with my life. Everybody in my high school knew that I would do that one day. That dream is coming true. So yeah Gwen Stefani is up there but not my only influence.
CB: You brought up being raised in the religious household. I mean Nashville has a great music scene and I love to go to Nashville but one of the things that bothers me is the ultra-conservatism that is around town. Do you have to deal with that or has that ever been a problem for you?
Anna: I don’t hang out with those people.
Jesse: Well speaking of Nashville having a really good music scene. I’m not sure if you saw the Rolling Stone article but they just named Nashville the best.
CB: I did and I just read it last night and saw the article.
Jesse: Yeah that’s huge and I got really excited when I saw that.
CB: I think it’s true. I always tell people that I find Nashville to be an awesome place but also a frustrating place because I have seen people on the street or working at Trader Joes that I feel are awesome singers or musicians that are never going to make it, better than a lot of the people out there.
Jesse: That is kind of frustrating to see that. I think, with what we’re doing, there is a really strong rock scene going on here. Of course you have country, you have Americana, you got folk, got blues, whatever. But we find more success when we play shows out of Nashville. We love living there, we love playing shows there. But everyone is a musician and everyone is a critic. You’re a dime a dozen. You’re like everybody else in town.
Anna: Right, like everybody is a music lover but if they come to see you, they never want to show it. It’s either everyone is jealous of everyone else or everybody is trying to copy someone else. Nashville is a tough crowd as a lot of big cities are, but Nashville in particular. When we go out of town, it’s night and day. We have fans who are putting their hands up and trying to get as close to the stage as possible. When that kind of energy happens, that’s when they get the better show and that’s when I’ll jump into the crowd with them.
CB: So are you guys originally from there?
Jesse: I’m from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Anna: I’m sort of a mutt but I grew up in Montreal in my childhood and then moved to South Florida for high school and college.
CB: How did you guys all come together and form the band?
Jesse: Funny story. Anna and I actually met on the internet.
Anna: Before it was cool.
Jesse: Yeah before it was cool to meet someone on the internet. I was living in Indiana at the time and going to school there and I was in a band there and really tied down. So when I met Anna on the internet and saw that she lived in Florida, I was like “long distance relationship, okay.” And we had a really strong connection. Then we started visiting each other all the time and sparks flew. So she decided to move up to be near me when I was still in my other band. As time went on, that band fizzled out. Then we started writing together, and I realized that “Holy crap! This is really good. This is the best stuff I’ve ever done.” We couldn’t hack it in Indiana anymore, we wanted the big time and the closest option that seemed like the right place was Nashville. So we moved here about six years ago and we met the other guys when we got here. I worked with our bass player Jairo. We met Nathan via Craigslist when we were looking for a drummer. So a very unique come together of how it all started.
CB: So are you and Anna together-together?
Jesse: We are together-together.
CB: Does that cause any problems? That’s a lot of togetherness.
Anna: Oh for me and Jessie? No, every relationship has its problems but I think what’s really awesome about our marriage and being together is the fact that we have a common goal. So it’s not like I want to have babies and be a stay at home mom, it’s like “F that, we are going to do this together.” We actually have a lot of fun with it. Jesse and I are best friends first. When we’re on the road, we feel that too. I don’t know, it’s really unique, we get along really well honestly. We’re all really different people but it just happens to work.
CB: I think you have to get along to be in a band together for long periods of time. It’s a tough situation but if you’re good friends, you just kind of let things go.
Anna: Yeah for sure. I would love to spread the rumor that we are real rock stars that cause trouble, drug addicts, burn out all the time, real crazy, but we’re not, we’re actually super business-minded. And don’t get into any trouble, the worst thing we do is play dirty mad-libs in the van for like eight hours straight.
CB: You guys do this full time right?
Jesse: No, we all work 9-5’s and the band is like another part time job.
Anna: But we’re working on it to be full time. That’s our goal.
Jesse: That’s our goal to make a living at making music.
Anna: You really have to believe you are going to do it. It can get really discouraging. For example, all the guys do work 9-5 jobs. I used to. I’m more of a night person and I just started waiting tables and making more money doing that. I’m working at a higher end hotel in Nashville where all the musicians come through and all the main songwriters come through. And here I am wanting to make a living for The Worsties and overhearing shit bands getting signed and things are happening for other people. I am pouring their sparkling water and wanting to throw up in their food. It’s discouraging because you see things coming together for other people. But at the same I’m super positive because every goal we have set we have surpassed so far. We’re going to get there. Our time is coming. It’s hard.
Jesse: It sounds very cliché but there is a lot of power in positive thinking. If you will it, it will happen.