I love the first night of MidPoint; the anticipation, the excitement, the friends, the music, the potential for getting wetter than you’ve been since the birth experience. It’s magic, a sensation perhaps intensified on Thursday, being the first night of the festival’s tenth anniversary.
Being the next to last show of the tour, my expectations were running pretty high for The Black Keys as they strolled into the Greater Cincinnati area, playing Covington's Madison Theater on Oct. 10. I can at least say that I have never had quite a concert-going experience like this one.
Openers The Royal Bangs were even better than in Columbus. The crowd really dug them and you could tell that the band was having a great time onstage. I hope that they can make it back to the area soon. I think they would do well at the Southgate House.
The show sold out earlier in the day and the place was getting pretty tight as the Royal Bangs ended their set. The lower level was packed and they were only letting people into the area as others left. It was enjoyable to see the creative ways people were able to get beer back to their friends on the lower level. Though I did hear more than a few people grumble about never getting alcohol for friends again.
The crowd erupted as the Keys took the stage a little after 10. It looked like the band was still in the zone from last night’s show in Columbus. I did notice that there was a huge cup of tea for Dan to keep his voice going through the night. Fortunately for him, he didn’t have to wait long for a break. The fire alarms started going off midway through the second song of the show. Dan and Patrick looked a little confused but tried to soldier on. Unfortunately for everyone in the theater, they were not allowed. The house manager came onstage and told everyone that the smoke machine had set off the alarms and that fire department needed everyone to leave the building. Even though I knew that there was no danger, I couldn’t help but feel a little insecure as I slowly headed to the main entrance. I couldn’t even imagine how this would have gone down if the fire were real.
The crowd outside was calmly dealing with the situation. There were false rumors of police using tear gas and I did see the cops slam a car that was trying to leave from in front of the venue. Around the 45 minute mark, you could see the crowd getting anxious and some stomped off cursing the band or venue. I can’t imagine a worse way to kill the mood of a show. The fire department finally gave the okay and got a huge cheer as they pulled away. Another 15 minutes of slowly re-entering the venue seemed to suck any sort of energy this writer had for the evening. It also didn’t help that the band started to play the exact same setlist as the previous night. I gave myself a few songs, believing that the next one would be the obscure gem that I was dying to hear. To my great disappointment, they kept playing the same songs.
The band still sounded great, though it did feel like they were rushing a bit to make up the time. The crowd was still very much into the performance, but something was missing for me. The excitement from the previous night was gone. I wasn’t mad at the venue or the band for what had transpired. I guess I should have controlled my expectations a little more. As midnight approached, I figured that I would salvage any joy that I still had and head for home. I hope those that stayed had a great time. I know that they were witnessing a great performance. I just didn’t need to see it again so soon.
— words and photos by Keith Klenowski
Find more of Keith's Black Keys' shots here.
Jordin Sparks became the youngest winner of American Idol in May 2007. She followed her victory with the release of her self-titled debut album, which has gone platinum and sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, and then winning an American Music Award for Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist and receiving two MTV Video Music Award nominations for Best Female Video and Best New Artist. Finally capping off a remarkable year, she earned a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals for “No Air” in 2008.
“I will sing that song for the rest of my life,” Sparks notes.
She released her sophomore album, Battlefield, last July and is currently touring to promote the album. She came to Cincinnati on June 15 to play the 20th Century Theater in Oakley.
CB: What was the biggest lifestyle change that you had after winning American Idol and releasing your debut album?
JS: Well for one, being on the road 300 days a year and living out of a suitcase! Being away from my family has definitely been a big change but singing for my job is amazing! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
CB: What do you miss most from home when you are on the road?
JS: My family, my bed, my brother annoying me. Ha ha ha.
CB: I know that you toured last year with Britney Spears on the Circus Tour. What was your funniest Britney tour story?
JS: I had to enter from beneath the stage every night, and I don’t know how my head is still round.
CB: What is your favorite song that you've written? What is your favorite song to perform live off the new album?
JS: I love all of them but if I had to choose it would probably be “Faith.” Anyone can relate to it and I just love how it turned out. I love performing the songs that everyone knows and I love hearing them sing along.
CB: What is your favorite activity to do when you're not touring?
JS: Everything! Reading, spending time with my family, playing guitar, chilling with my best friends and playing with my doggies.
CB: You're involved in a ton of charity work, including Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center, Clothes Off Our Back and Feeding America. Why is it so important to you to give back? Is there a charity that's near and dear to your heart?
JS: I’ve always wanted to give back, and my family was involved in a lot of stuff before Idol. Once I won Idol I was really excited to make music, of course, but to also use my name for something bigger than myself. I love working with all kinds of charities, as you mentioned. I also want to start working with or create a charity to stop teen violence.
CB: I saw that you'll soon begin an engagement on Broadway. How is preparing and performing on the Broadway stage different than performing for a concert tour? What have been some of the highlights for you so far?
JS: Well, I’ll probably have to let you know what performing is like when I actually start to do it. But preparing is different because I have to learn lines and stage blocking. As far as the music, I have to memorize the songs and make sure I can tell the story through my voice. The highlight of touring is just being able to put a face to the people who voted and support me as well as being able to sing the songs that people haven’t heard on the radio.
CB: What's your favorite U.S. tour city and venue to play in and why?
JS: Umm, that’s a good question. I love playing in my hometown. There’s nothing like seeing your family sitting amongst fans and seeing the smiles on their faces. I love playing Boston. They always seem to be super hype. I love playing anywhere people are excited.
CB: If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
JS: I’d probably still be pursuing music but going to college. I would love to work with kids ... like be the singing nurse who gives them lollipops and band aids.
CB: You have played and collaborated with some amazing artists. Who would be your dream collaboration?
JS: All the people I’ve worked with before, I would definitely love to work with again. I would love to work with John Mayer, Fergie, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder and do many more great talents. Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
CB: What was the career moment where you felt most fulfilled?
JS: Singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl was one of the best moments ever. Also performing for Bush while he was in office and at President Obama’s inauguration.
CB: Some of my favorite So You Think You Can Dance moments happened as the performers danced to Jordin Sparks songs. I know you've also performed on the show live, but do you have any feelings as you see the choreography that's created to your music?
JS: When I saw them perform “No Air” a few seasons ago, it brought tears to my eyes. I watched it 10 times in a row. To see them express the story with their movements gave me goose bumps!
CB: Please tell us about the great charities and organizations you're involved with.
JS: I just launched my new campaign in M.A.D. Are You? with my brother in February. M.A.D. stands for Making a Difference. It’s all about letting people know that it doesn’t matter how big or small your effort as long as you do it. Anyone can make a difference. Currently I luckily have Mike and Ike and Allstate sponsoring my tour. Mike and Ike is teamed up with Alex’s Lemonade Foundation to fight childhood cancer. Allstate has a campaign called X the TXT to stop texting and driving. I’m involved with many others as well. Please check out www.immadareyou.com to learn more.
CB: Who are your favorite indie and hard rock bands? Who would you most like to collaborate with?
JS: Greenley Estates is a local band from Arizona that I’ve listened to since the eighth grade. Silverstein is really good, too. Something Corporate is my favorite band ever, and I would love to work with them.
CB: What would our readers be surprised to learn about you?
JS: Hmm, that I can walk on my toes ... or used to be able to. I haven’t tried for a long time. Ha ha.
CB: Will you have time to take in any of the local Cincinnati culture while in town?
JS: I wish I did, but not this time. Hopefully next time I come through.
CB: Are you familiar with any local Cincinnati bands that you would like to take on the road with you?
JS: I’m not at the moment, but I would love to learn about them.
CB: How do you respond when people accuse American Idol winners of having manufactured careers?
JS: I can see why they’d think that, but having gone through it no one can understand except those who have been on the show. The career starts after they win. It’s what they do with it after the show ends where the hard work starts and where success comes from.
CB: What positive impacts do you think American Idol has had on the music industry?
JS: It’s given more people the ability to live the “American Dream” in a way the music industry didn't allow before.
CB: What negative impact has it had?
JS: Now why would you ask me that? I can’t say because I have always been a fan of the show and will remain one.
Cincinnati's Walk the Moon has been on a roll for about the past year and half but now that the band has a physical release out on its new major-label home, RCA Records, things are starting to move even faster and more and more people are discovering the young Alt/Dance/Pop band's charming sound and great, energetic live show. Having already mastered the fine art of blanket social media marketing (few acts are as interactive and accessible to fans), WTM is now set to conquer late-night TV and add even more new fans. Wednesday night, Walk the Moon made its second appearance on Last Call with Carson Daly on NBC. The first time was when they were scrappy young lads at South By Southwest looking for a record deal. This time, they're RCA recording artists working a big theater in L.A. and looking already like confident, veteran Rock stars performing to a mob of adoring (and sweaty) fans.
The group will perform LIVE for the first time on network TV on April 5, appearing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. And you can catch them in the flesh next Friday (Feb. 24) at the Madison Theater with current tourmates Young the Giant. If you have a ticket, that is. The show is sold out, no doubt helped by WTM's appearance on the bill (the group's own homecoming show a couple months ago at the same club was also a sell out).
Here's Walk the Moon playing "Anna Sun" at The Wiltern in Los Angeles from Wednesday's Last Call:
We've written a bit in the past about the new film-meets-music "One Shot Music Video" series, beautifully shot, black-and-white short films of various local musical acts shot at the historic Emery Theatre (which is back in action as a functional venue this weekend). Shot by world renowned photographer Michael Wilson with audio help from the musical duo Pop Empire, the clips are filmed in one continuous take (thus the name).
The project has started to take shape and is on a roll now. Pop Empire's Cameron Cochran reports that the series is now named for the venue — "The Emery Sessions" — and will be comprised of footage from 10 artists, all shot at the theater. It's a great way to not only spotlight local music, but also show off the theater in a great light.
Wilson and Pop Empire have completed a couple of videos for Daniel Martin Moore for the first of the series. The second in the series is Over the Rhine (longtime compadres of Wilson's, who has shot OTR album covers and promo shots — including the one above — since the band's very beginning). OTR is familiar with the surroundings; the band played the "preview party" hosted by The Requiem Project which re-introduced the 100-year-old theater to locals late last year.
Here's a clip of Over the Rhine's Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist performing "The Laugh of Recognition" from the twosome's latest album, The Long Surrender. (Click over to local blog Each Note Secure to check out another clip from the project.)
Cochran also runs the all-free, all-digital "record label" The Recording Label, which has issued stellar recordings by The Kickaways, Vacation, Sacred Spirits and Pop Empire. He says working on "The Emery Sessions" inspired him to give the label a more local-specific name. The Recording Label is now called Cincinnati Recording Service. Click here for the new site.
And here are a few words from Cochran on the Sessions and the label:
If we are consuming light then sound is accompanied by sight. Many musical performers understand this concept and will incorporate a visual component to their audio performance. The idea behind the "One Shot Music Video" is to approach music from the opposite direction. The audience approaches the music from a visual perspective first because whether they know it or not the first performance they see is the photographer's. It is the photographer's eye that navigates them through the musical performance. The hidden live performance is the one done with the camera.
The Emery Theatre was the perfect place to begin our exploration of this relationship between listening and watching live musical performances. Each musician we have recorded and that we are going to record have a love for this amazing space and understands what the Emery Theatre means to our great city of Cincinnati. It is perhaps our own experiences working in this theatre and the pride that has developed for our hometown of Cincinnati that inspired us to change the name of The Recording Label to Cincinnati Recording Service. This name change is also a tip of the hat to another person who loved his city as well as the power that American music has to bring people together, Memphis' very own Sam Philips.
I love the last night of MidPoint. And I hate the last night of MidPoint. I love it because it’s typically the most attended of the festival’s three nights, the energy is beyond amped, the venues are packed, the very air seems charged, like Duke abandoned electric cables and is beaming power through the aether straight into your skull.
I hate it because this is the end, my only friend the end, and even as the evening begins with a promise of greatness, it comes with a melancholic touch and before the light has started to diffuse, I’m already missing this year’s festivities and anticipating next year’s first night.
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"):
Holidays are especially exciting times for children and, given the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., kids all over will likely be going to be getting a little extra love this season.
Zak Morgan knows kids. The Cincinnati-based singer/songwriter has already had an amazing career in children’s music, with his second self-financed album, When Bullfrogs Croak, earning numerous awards and acclaim, including a 2004 Grammy nomination for Best Musical Album for Children, a remarkable feat for an independent artist.
Morgan’s accomplishments and hard work (he notches over 200 shows a year for kids across the country) paid off with a contract with Universal Music’s kids’ music imprint, myKaZoo Music. His debut for the label, The Barber of the Beasts, came out in late October and would make a fantastic stocking-stuffer for the little ones this Christmas.
Like his previous releases, The Barber of the Beasts features artwork by famed local illustrator C.F. Payne and contains an extensive booklet of lyrics and drawings. The album also features some notable guests, from local musicians like Dan Dorff, Paul Patterson and Josh Seurkamp to nationally acclaimed artists like Robbie Fulks and locals Karin Bergquist (Over the Rhine) and the iconic Bootsy Collins.
But it’s Morgan’s magical stories and songs that are the focal point. There is a perfect formula for children’s music; like with kids’ films these days, many artists try to hard to make their albums “parent friendly” and tend to go overboard, while those who “dumb things down” tend to be the most annoying. Morgan’s gift is finding the perfect balance.
The Barber of the Beasts is for smart and imaginative kids and parents, seeming designed to be enjoyed together. Morgan is great with clever word play and he isn't afraid to drop a few “big words” (or at least unfamiliar words). That’s where the booklet’s excellent vocabulary guide comes in handy. Parents can go over words with their children, who will have not only been entertained by Zak’s fantastical storytelling, but will also learn something in the process.
Many of the tracks on Barber feature gorgeous chamber string arrangements, but there are also tunes like “Snow Day,” on which Morgan channels his inner Tom Waits (vocally), the shuffling, jazzy Pop cut “Swinging On A Star,” the Country-esque “Nancy Jane” and the great Bootsy collaboration, “The Case of the Dry Markers,” a swingin’, “spooky” Jazz struttin’ mystery with a Halloween vibe.
Here is the debut music video from the album for "The Case of the Dry Markers":
The songs and music are elegant and often downright majestic (particularly the ones with the spine-tingling string arrangements), while Morgan’s clever stories are loaded with a silliness that the young listeners will gleefully embrace.
I believe The Barber of the Beasts (which will specifically appeal to kids between around the ages of 1-8, but certainly fits the "fun for kids of all ages" bill) was released in time to make next year’s Grammy nominations. It will be a crime if it doesn’t make the cut. When it comes to children’s music, Zak is like the Bob Dylan of the genre — minus the curmudgeonly grumpiness, of course.
This Saturday at 1 p.m., Morgan and a host
of special guests will present the local release party for the album at
The Monastery recording studio (2601 Stanton Ave., Walnut Hills), the
performance/recording space owned and operated by producer/guitarist Ric
Hordinski (who also performed on, produced and co-wrote material on the album).
Tickets are available through brownpapertickets.com for $10 (or $20 for families of two-five people). Remaining tickets will be available at the door the day of the show for $15 (or $25 per family). Your ticket also includes food and admission to the post-show pizza party.
How did 48 hours of exciting live music draw to a close so fast? I woke up Sunday morning with the slightly wistful feel that my whirlwind weekend would soon be over, but I quickly shook that and rushed to the “L” to get downtown for the final day of Lollapalooza 2011.
Due to my persistent caffeine addiction, I was late to Grant Park. I missed The Joy Formidable (though luckily we can all see them at the MidPoint Music Festival on Sept. 22), as well as Titus Andronicus and Fences, all bands I wanted to give a good go. I guess that’s what YouTube, Soundcloud, Facebook, MySpace, etc. are for.