The inaugural Bunbury Music Festival — three days of top-shelf Alternative music at Cincinnati's riverfront Sawyer Point Park — is just four days away. All this week, CityBeat's music blog will be featuring samples from some of our "sleeper picks" for the fest, artists who some may not be as familiar with as they are Weezer or Death Cab for Cutie or Jane's Addiction.
Our next "sleeper" is Imagine Dragons, performing Saturday at 5:15 p.m. on the Bud Light Stage.
Founded in Las Vegas four years ago by primary songwriter Dan Reynolds, Imagine Dragons went through a variety of permutations before settling on the current line-up (guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, drummer Daniel Platzman). Since 2009, Imagine Dragons has turned out a quartet of impressive EPs, including the just-released Continued Silence, featuring the YouTube sensation “It’s Time,” all of which is a preview for the fall release of the band’s debut full-length, Night Visions. A quick spin through Continued Silence — the band’s first work for Interscope since signing last year and, like the new album, produced by renowned British Hop Hop boardsman Alex Da Kid — is like panning in a creek bedded with gold nuggets; glints of Coldplay, Everclear, Train and any number of other chart-topping Pop icons, but with a discernibly beat-driven Indie edge. As epic as Homerian poetry set to a U2 soundtrack and as intimate as a candlelight dinner in the Nevada desert.
When the phrase “guitar hero” gets tossed around, it’s naturally in reference to some of the greatest six string figures in Rock history. But if there is a subset of that hallowed group — guitar heroes in waiting, as it were — then Natalie Wells surely deserves to be included on that hopefully short waitlist.
The Independence, Ky., native is quickly becoming one of the Greater Cincinnati area’s most powerful live forces with a guitar presence that stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the giants of Rock. A teenage student of the Blues, Wells felt an affinity for first generation masters like Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt and next gen ’60s acolytes like Johnny Winter, Big Brother’s Sam Andrews and James Gurley, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher and a host of others. Wells’ brilliance in her own guitar pursuits has been in her supernatural ability to absorb a rainbow of Blues and Rock influences and translate them through her own unique interpretive gifts. As she showed on her largely original debut, Mind the Gap, she may have learned from the greats but she’s much more interested in running the guitar flag a little farther up Rock & Roll Hill.
On her new mini-album, Live from Earth, Wells and her chugging rhythm section (bassist Curt Hall and drummer/vocalist Michael Hodges) offer up an all-cover set that simultaneously proves how much she loves her influences and demonstrates her translational power.
Live From Earth’s seven tracks represent just four factions of Wells’ estimable influences and they’re more than tangentially connected; Buddy Guy is one of the primary links between the old acoustic and new electric school of Blues, while Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Robin Trower represent those who most effectively reimagined the Blues in a Rock context. Wells injects swinging new life into Led Zep chestnuts “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid” and “What Is and What Should Never Be” while distilling Hendrix’s complex chemistry to a simpler but still impressive formula with her takes on “Stone Free/Third Stone From the Sun” and his avowed classic “Voodoo Chile.”
Wells finds the heart of Guy’s gentle “My Love is Real” and the soul of Trower’s blistering “Day of the Eagle,” all delivered with her fluidly original guitar stylings and a voice that is part husky Blues shouter, part Cher Pop powerhouse. Wells may still has a few minor vocal timing issues to fine tune, but Live on Earth is solid evidence that her guitar chops are cooked to perfection and ready to serve to a wider audience.
At this point, Natalie Wells’ guitar does not gently weep; it cries a bucket of tears, screams with passionate abandon, howls like a steroid-amped wolf and demands to be heard.
Music Tonight: Eilen Jewell does her part in putting the "Alt" back in "AltCountry" when she and her band hit the Southgate House ballroom stage tonight at 8 p.m., supporting her fantastic latest album, Queen of the Minor Key. Superb area singer/songwriter Lauren Houston opens up the show. Check out CityBeat's recent interview with Jewell here. Tickets are $15 at the door and the show is open to those 18 and up. Enjoy the clip below of Jewell performing for NoKy radio station WNKU while out supporting her 2009 Sea of Tears album.
Like every Friday, a great place to start your evening is Fountain Square, as the free MidPoint Indie Summer concert series continues with headliner Lydia Loveless. Loveless is an Ohio native who performed fairly regularly in the Cincinnati area (and elsewhere around the region) before she caught the attention of AltCountry/Modern Roots music institution Bloodshot Records with her natural blend of classic Country influences and more contemporary Rock flavors. Her debut for the label, Indestructible Machine was released last year and Loveless was one of the more buzzed-about names at last year's MidPoint Music Festival (even making the cover of CityBeat the week of the event. Loveless is currently working on new material.
Northern Ohio Roots/Blues artist Patrick Sweany and Cincinnati rockers The Ready Stance (check out our recent interview here) warm things up for Loveless starting at 7 p.m.
• Christopher Dexter Greenspan — better known as Bay Area Electronic artist oOoOO — brings his spectral beats and melodies to Northside's Mayday tonight for a 9 p.m. show with guests Fogger and Skeleton Hands. Admission is $12.
Greenspan's hypnotic, slanted mix of Chillwave and ethereal Trip Hop — at times sounding a little like Icelandic electronic act múm or a ghostly, gauzy version of M83 — was most recently showcased on oOoOO's second EP, Our Loving Is Hurting Us, which includes spacey vocals from singer Butterclock (as well as Greenspan's own voice, which delivers melodies slathered in a glaze of effects).
Here's the new EP track "Break Yr Heart."
• Former local musician GD Mills once again brings his raucous Minneapolis Garage Punk group Fuck Knights back to his former stomping grounds, performing a free show tonight at MOTR Pub with Muddy Udders, Children of the Emerald Fire and Martin Luther and the Kings. Showtime is 10 p.m.
How are Fuck Nights like Batman? Click here to find out.
Here's a clip of the Knights playing live last year (that's Mills singing and playing drums).
The Van's Warped Tour might not be the most financially successful summer package tour of all time (the promoter and performers work together to keep an ego-free environment and low ticket prices), but it's hard to argue that it is not the most successful overall, especially in terms of longevity. Now in its 18th year, Kevin Lyman's eclectic traveling festival has outlived all of the roving music events that sprouted up around the same time (from Lollapalooza to Lilith Fair) by creating a "customer friendly" experience that's also very "artist friendly."
The tour's 2012 finale is this weekend in Portland, but before shutting things down for the summer, the fest makes its annual stop at Cincinnati's Riverbend today. Doors open at 11 a.m. and music kicks off shortly after. The show ends around 9 p.m. Tickets at the box office will cost ya $42 (about a dime a band, by my estimation).
Click here for more local show details, including info on how you can "Skip the Line" and walk right into the venue.
The set-times for each act are decided just prior to the gates opening; if you're going, look for the giant inflatable Warped logoed amp to see when your favorites are playing. I also highly recommend grabbing the official Warped Tour app.
Be sure to support our local music scene reps — The Few The Fallen, Heres To The Heroes and Let It Happen will play the Ernie Ball Stage. Check out Let It Happen's recent video for "Bridges" from the great release, It Hurts, But It's Worth It.
Here is who's playing where (via Riverbend's site). (Welsh rockers Lostprophets are also on the bill, though not listed on Riverbend's site; all info is subject to change.)
MAIN STAGE: Taking Back Sunday, All Time Low, New Found Glory, Streetlight Manifesto, Yellowcard, Piece The Veil, Four Year Strong, Of Mice and Men, We The Kings, Breathe Carolina, Miss May I, Falling In Reverse, Blood On The Dance
TBD STAGE: Every Time I Die, Mayday Parade, blessthefall, Chelsea Grin, For Today, Memphis May Fire, Motionless In White, Rise To Remain, Sleeping With Sirens, The Ghost Inside, Vampires Everywhere!, Title Fight
TILLY’S STAGE: Senses Fail, Vanna, Polar Bear Club, We Are The Crowd, Man Overboard, A Loss For Words, Funeral Party, I Fight Dragons, Machine Gun Kelly, Oh No Fiasco
TBD STAGE: Echo Movement, G-Eazy, Stepdad, The Constellations, Ballyhoo!, Champagne, T. Mills, Tomorrows Bad Seeds, Mod Sun, The Green, Amyst
ERNIE BALL STAGE: iwrestledabearonce, Born Of Osiris, Chunk! No Captain, Fireworks, Transit, Cold Forty Three, The Scissors, The Few The Fallen, Here's To The Heroes and Let It Happen.
KEVIN SAYS STAGE: Make Do And Mend, Matt Toka, Tonight Alive, Skip The Foreplay, Sick of Sarah, Mighty Mongo, Captain Capa, I Call Fives, Hostage Calm, The Silver Comet, Twin Atlantic, The Darlings, Dead Sara
ACOUSTIC BASEMENT: A Loss For Words, Koji, Brian Marquis, Rocky Votolato, Transit Owen Plant, Anthony Raneri
Music Tonight: This weekend is loaded with quality musical events. You can start things off tonight at the Southgate House as local singer/songwriter Jason Ludwig hosts a "two-fer" release(s) party, joined by special guests The Newbees and Sassy Molasses. From the previews on his Bandcamp site (listen — then purchase the records for just $5 — here), both Lost In Love and Tanglings are phenomenal offerings. It's almost unfair that Ludwig — formerly leader of the Rock group Noctaluca — was able to produce two full-lengths as good as these (most people would die for one in a lifetime). The title track from Lost In Love is available as a free download on the Bandcamp site (the Tanglings' track "Bunkum" is also a freebie), but below is Ludwig doing an impromptu living-room performance of the track on piano. What a voice! And the songwriting and production on the new albums are equally enthralling, as Ludwig gravitates towards a more mature and melodic sound. Tonight's show kicks off at 9 p.m. and admission is $12. Those in attendance will receive a voucher for one of the free albums (and a discount coupon for the other). Click here to read C.A. MacConnell's recent interview with Ludwig for CityBeat.
Last Friday we featured the first video from a series of clips created by The Queen City Project from footage shot at “The MidPoint Sessions,” a day party at the Art Academy of Cincinnati held during September’s MidPoint Music Festival in Over-the-Rhine/Downtown.
The first clip featured Athens, Ohio’s The Ridges, who curated the acoustic performances, bringing in three fellow Ohio acts to join them. Today we premiere the second video from the great Sessions series to emerge. The new video features talented and adventurous Cincinnati Indie Chamber Folk foursome The Happy Maladies performing their song, “Peter’s Sweet 16.”
The Happy Maladies have been playing a lot of out of town shows over the past year, hitting regional venues, Chicago and the East Coast fairly regularly. The band released its debut album, Sun Shines the Little Children, in 2009, followed last year by the magnificent, mesmerizing EP new again (check it out here).
The band is currently working on a new album, which is expected to release in early summer next year. In July, The Happy Maladies announced “Must Love Cats,” an intriguing project that celebrates the collaborative spirit in creativity. The band is soliciting original pieces written for the group from composers of all stripes. Until Jan. 1, interested artists can send the group new “compositions, songs, ballads, marches, sound poems, farcical musicals, improvisational games, panic attacks, etc.” The musicians will chose five pieces and work with the composers to get it in performance shape. In the springtime next year, The Happy Maladies will play the compositions during a special concert series, which will be documented and turned into a concert film, album and booklet with profiles of the composers.
You can find complete details about the Must Love Cats project here on the band’s website. Here is a video featuring the band members explaining the project.
Visit thehappymaladies.com for more on The Happy Maladies.
Music Tonight: It's a fittingly slow Monday for concerts, as touring bands gradually make their way back to the road after the Thanksgiving weekend. But that doesn't mean there's no live music in the area tonight. You can dance the Mondays away, Salsa-style, at The Mad Frog in Corryville, as Latin ensemble Tropicoso continues its long-running Monday night residency. Or you can enjoy some yummy, spicy grub and check out Gypsy Jazz kings The Faux Frenchmen at Allyn's Cafe in Columbia-Tusculum, one of the quartet's regular gigs. One residency that is coming to an end is Slack Panther's Monday night showcase at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. The new local Indie Rock crew has been the club's November "House Band," so their every-Monday concludes tonight. The foursome — whose Facebook description claims "post-grunge neo wave" as the band's genre — released the eight-song Love Space Desire Forever Love Heartache Longing Cincinnati this year. It's available at the popular rate of "name your price" on the Slack Panther Bandcamp site here. Below, give a listen to the track "Brightest Star." The band performs two sets at MOTR tonight, starting at 10 p.m. The show is free.