This whole week has been overflowing with big-time concerts, from Radiohead to Red Hot Chili Peppers to Drake. If you went to any (and especially if you went to ALL), your pocketbook is probably a little lighter this weekend. So, in honor of all of you heroes who paid $15 just to park or spent $100 on three beers, tonight's live music recommendations are all FREE. And high-quality, to boot.
• Kick off your weekender on Fountain Square tonight for perhaps the most eclectic MidPoint Indie Summer series concerts of the year. Kicking off at 7 p.m., the free show is like a musical world tour that takes you from the early Reggae sounds of Jamaica (with local openers The Pinstripes) to the unique and exotic native-Blues of Timbuktu (Malian music legend Khaira Arby, pictured, and her band) to the grinding, deep Funk of Nashville's vintage Soul revivalists The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker on the mic. Dancing shoes are a must!
Walker and the Dynamites recently teamed with fellow soldier in the retro-funky revolution, Bettye Lavette, for the single "Yours & Mine." Check the phenomenal duet below.
• Local powerhouse power trio The Sundresses perform a freebie tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. The 10 p.m. show also features Lexington rockers Oh My Me, making tonight's show a half-reunion of the "Midwest by Southwest" tour from this past spring (which also featured Wussy — who are currently headed to the west coast for dates — and Whiskey Daredevils from Cleveland).
Oh My Me has an intriguing and often captivating sound, mixing a groovy back-drop of fluid, hypnotic psychedelia with singer Erin Reynolds' stunningly soulful vocals weaving between the grooves — sort of a modern day Big Brother and the Holding Company. Lots of singers get the Janis Joplin comparison; Reynolds' voice and presence are so thoroughly alluring and absolutely natural, she's one of the few who actually deserves it.
Check the clip below for a taste.
More than just the openers, there's another reason to show up early. The first 20 people through the door tonight receive a free copy of the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards' 2008 Album of the Year, Barkinghaus, by headliners The Sundresses.
Click here for the full run down of tonight's live musical entertainment offerings.
Tonight's allegedly the "busiest bar night of the year," so if you like to hang out at places that are really packed, this is your jam. If you like to hear live music when you go out, you're also in luck, as a lot of the top acts seek out lucrative Wednesday-before-Turkey-Day gigs because of the aforementioned packed-ness.
If you want that live music to be (primarily) original, here are a few recommendations.
• Troy, Ohio-spawned Miss May I (whose singer, Levi Benton, recently moved to Cincinnati) is headlining the Alternative Press tour, which conveniently brings the increasingly popular "Metalcore" band back to their homeland just in time for Thanksgiving. The band's most recent release, At Heart (on Rise Records), came out this summer and was greeted with the best reviews of MMI's career and a No. 32 debut on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
The thrashy, melodic MMI headlines tonight at Bogart's in Corryville on a bill that also features The Ghost Inside, Like Moths to Flames, The Amity Affliction and Glass Cloud. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets to the all-ages show are $20.
Read CityBeat's interview with Benton here then check out Miss May I's most recent music video, for At Heart track "Day By Day."
• Vintage Rock & Roll stylist Chris Isaak makes his way to downtown Cincinnati tonight for an 8 p.m. show at the Taft Theatre. Tickets range from $29.50-$59.50. Isaak's going to have to play the show then hop on a plane quickly — he's slated to perform in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City. (Click here to read CityBeat's full preview of the show.)
Isaak recently issued a live DVD based on his 2011 double-disc release Beyond the Sun (his first for the Vanguard label). The album was a collection of cover songs originally recorded by artists on Memphis' seminal Sun Records (from Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis to Carl Perkins and, of course, Elvis), a fitting tribute given Isaak's similar approach and sound. The new Chris Isaak Live! Beyond the Sun DVD is a concert flick featuring several songs from the Sun album, as well as some of his big hits. Expect to hear a similar set list tonight. Here's an Isaak original from the DVD, "Live It Up."
• The songcraft experts and flawless musicians of veteran Cincy Pop/Rock band The Newbees host an album release party tonight at Newport's Southgate House Revival. The release show was originally intended to be the second show at the new club (brought to you by the owners/operators of the old, beloved Southgate House across from Newport on the Levee) but a late code inspection held the grand opening up for a week. The Newbs are celebrating their LP Modern Vintage, a patchwork of musical styles and mercilessly catchy songs. Click here for a full review of the album.
The Newbees are joined tonight by The Turkeys, Chaselounge, Honey & Houston, Les Whorenettes, Shiny Old Soul, See You in the Funnies, Sundae Drives and Dave Hawkins. Tickets are $12 at the door (or $14 for those ages 18-20). Showtime is 9 p.m. Here's the Beatles-esque new album track "Up All Night":
• There are also plenty of other local original groups performing tonight. Among the highlights: Reggae/Rock crew The Ohms and soulful, rocking power trio Tattered Roots (which is celebrating its one-year anniversary) join together at Stanley's Pub in Columbia Tusculum. … Rootsy rockers Alone at 3 a.m. are playing a freebie at The Comet in Northside with Jacob Tippey and Matt Wood. … Electronic improvisers Skeetones hold down the party at The Mad Frog in Corryville, joined by guests The B.E.A.T. and Bassface. … Two former members of The Greenhornes — Brian Olive and Eric Stein — perform a free show at Northside Tavern with their current bands, The Brian Olive Band and Stein's Grotesque Brooms. … Rocket-fueled Indie/Blues/Roots/Rock trio The Sundresses headline tonight's free offering at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine, joined by Detroit foursome Jeecy and the Jungle. … And two of the city's best modern rockers — Ohio Knife and State Song — perform a free show at Mayday in Northside (see poster above).
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).
• At this weekend's Whispering Beard Folk Festival in Southeast Indiana, masterful Cold Spring, Ky., Americana group The Kentucky Struts debuted their great new music video for the ominous, creeping and soulful tune, "Country Road," from their The Year of the Horse album. The band made the video with Keith Neltner and Brian Steege, who worked on the documentary Charlie Louvin: Still Rattlin' the Devil's Cage. (Read more about the Struts recent album from CityBeat here.)
Music Tonight: The Mad Hatter in Covington this evening hosts a full lineup showcasing the new breed of "Power Pop" — young bands evolving from so-called "Pop Punk," embracing classic Pop/Rock songwriting and developing a sound that is potentially more timeless. Georgian band Cartel headlines, as they gear up for a new EP release (due next month) that will serve as the band's first since 2009's hook-feast, Cycles, which showed clear progress in songwriting and execution. Tonight's Mad Hatter show (the kick-off date on the band's brief Midwestern tour) begins at 6 p.m. and tickets are $15. The Upset Victory, Action Item, Don't Wait Up, 21st Streamline and The Getaway warm things up.
Music Tonight: Guns N’ Roses finally makes its way back to Cincinnati, performing tonight at U.S. Bank Arena, the band's first appearance here in over 20 years. I believe Guns' last show in Cincy was when the Appetite for Destruction-era edition opened for Aerosmith at Riverbend in 1988. I remember because some friends and I meant to see them, but got stuck in traffic (I distinctly recall the cowbell of "Night Train" echoing across the Ohio River as we sat in standstill on the bridge leading to the venue).
Northern Kentucky native and genuine guitar god Adrian Belew returns to the area tonight for a show with The Crimson ProjeKct at the Taft Theatre. Belew is spending half his summer on the road with the ProjeKct — a King Crimson offshoot that also includes KC’s Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto, plus Markus Reuter, Julie Slick and Tobias Ralph — touring as opener for modern-day Prog Rock legends Dream Theater. The ProjeKct set lists so far on the tour have been all King Crimson, primarily from Belew's initial period with the group ("Elephant Talk," "Thela Hun Ginjeet") and the ’90s KC period when Mastelotto joined the fold ("B'Boom," "THRAK"), but they've also been doing the title track from KC's 1974 album, Red.
In August, Belew, Levin and Mastelotto will be going to camp in the Catskills. The second annual “Three Of A Perfect Pair Music Camp” — which will include workshops, story sharing, hangouts and lots of music-playing — takes place Aug. 20-24 (visit threeofaperfectpair.com for full details or check out the video overview below).
But first things first — Belew and The Crimson ProjeKct perform tonight at the Taft at 7:30 p.m., followed by Dream Theater. Tickets are $27.50-$53.
Here's a clip from 1982 of Crimson performing another song the ProjeKct has been playing on its current jaunt.
• The name Marsalis is a quality-ensurer in Jazz. So many family members have made a name in music, the Marsalis family tree is a full branch of the general American Jazz family tree.
Esteemed trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis is the brother of famed trumpeter/historian Wynton, modern sax icon Branford and respected drummer-turned-vibraphonist Jason, and son of Louisiana Music Hall of Famer Ellis Marsalis, Jr. Together, the musical family received the NEA Jazz Masters Award in 2011.
Of course, the Marsalis' individual achievements are still wildly impressive outside of the context of the family's accomplishments. Delfeayo has released a handful of acclaimed albums since the ’90s, including 2011's Sweet Thunder: Duke and Shak, but his greatest contribution to Jazz may be his work in production. Handling the boards on over 100 albums over the years, Delfeayo helped steer recorded Jazz back to a more acoustic mindset, eschewing tech "advancements" like the "dreaded direct bass" for the ambiance of early, classic Jazz sessions.
The Delfeayo Marsalis Sextet (with saxman and clarinetist Victor Goines) begins a two-night stand (with shows at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.) tonight at downtown's Blue Wisp Jazz Club. Admission is just $15 ($10 for students with ID).
Here's a clip of Delfeayo with his pops, performing "Sultry Serenade."
Local electronics-tinged Rock & Roll duo-turned-trio Pop Empire closes out its every-Tuesday residency at The Comet tonight with another free, 10 p.m. show. The band has been publicly evolving and busy as bees, adding a live drummer (which, as you'll see in the clips below, gives the band's sound a whole new dimension), working on a new album, running the free digital record label called The Recording Label and masterminding a cool new video project with internationally-acclaimed photographer Michael Wilson.
The video project is a series of music clips featuring bands performing live, filmed in one continuous shot, without edits. Pop Empire filmed several songs for the project at the historic Emery Theatre (on the border of Over-the-Rhine and Downtown). Check out clips for "True Believer" and "The Chills" below (and click here to check out the rest).
Saturday night at Northside's Mayday is the debut of the Cincy Psych Fest, a multi-band event inspired by the popular Austin Psych Fest, a six-year-old event that showcases the current state of Psychedelic/Garage Rock and Pop, led by artists like The Black Angels, The Warlocks and Dead Meadow.
The Cincy Psych Fest is the brain child of Laura Dolan, Laura Skaggs and creative local commercial arts enterprise We Have Become Vikings. The team has assembled a great first-year lineup of national, regional and local acts inspired by the sounds of ’60s Psychedelia and Garage. The fest will present bands on Mayday’s indoor stage as well as on an outdoor, second-floor stage. Tickets are $10 (advanced ones are available through ticketfly.com here) and the fest begins at 6 p.m.
Here are some samples from the various artists. Click the band name for more info on each.
The People’s Temple (Lansing, Mich.)
Mondo Drag (Davenport, Iowa)
Outer Minds (Chicago)
Heaven’s Gateway Drugs (Ft. Wayne, Ind.)
Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor (Detroit)
Here are the Cincinnati bands on the bill:
Cincy newcomers Children of The Emerald Fire (featuring fest organizer Laura Dolan and an all-star local music crew featuring former members of Pernicious Knifs, The High & Low and many other local groups) are also performing, as is The Tongue & Lips:
Adding to the trip will be DJ Blythe Shadburn and Doctor Robert’s Ocular Odyssey‘s Psychedelic Light Show.
Find info on all of the performers and more at cincypsychfest.com.
The album is an endangered concept in music, with MP3s and streaming encouraging more and more people to listen to tracks “a la carte.” If people aren’t listening to a collection of songs intentionally put together by an artist in a specific order, why should the artist bother trying? It’s one of the reasons releasing EPs seems to have become more popular than issuing full-lengths.
With some exceptions, the “album as art” concept has long been dwindling amongst Hip Hop artists, many of whom have more fully embraced the hodge-podge “mixtape” format, which is perhaps more in tune with our ADD/social media-plagued culture.
So it’s beyond refreshing to hear the new release from Cincinnati MC Sleep, Branded: The Damon Winton Story, a collection of eight tracks that tells the story of a young man’s troubled upbringing. It’s not just that Sleep has compiled eight songs that kind of fit together; Branded is a fully envisioned tale that requires the listener to hear the entire album in order to get the total impact. And it’s quite an impact.
It helps that Sleep’s “concept album” is based on some excellent storytelling skills, contains some fierce rhymes (with a flow and timbre that recalls Jay-Z at his peak) and is supported by the excellent, often hauntingly atmospheric production of Dope Antelope, which brilliantly reflects the dark, chaotic, heart-breaking nature of the story. The way Sleep — half of local duo 2-Man Cypher — lays the story out is also sharply clever. In lieu of titles, each track is labeled as simply “Question,” followed by the track number. The album opens with a police officer hitting “record” to begin his interview with the main character’s social worker about “what could have led up to what transpired with him this past weekend.” To kick off each track, the social worker is asked about a different aspect of the trouble the young man had experienced and been in.
Working backwards from the incident (which isn’t revealed until “Question 8,” so the listener is left to wonder what transpired), Sleep creates evocative, harrowing slices of life, usually told from the main character’s point of view, but with other voices popping in occasionally to give an even bigger picture. The young man’s horrific surroundings are revealed gradually; the listener learns that he has self-mutilated himself, been molested, lost (or never had) faith or religion and had family involved in drugs. Sleep’s brilliance is turning the smaller stories from the big picture into vivid, cinematic tales in themselves — “If this is grown folks’ business/Then why when you conduct it, there’s a child as a witness,” he raps after it’s revealed that the main character’s mother had substance abuse issues. When the social worker tells the officer that the young man had been bullied over his clothes in school, Sleep echoes that pain with lines like, “The peer pressure to be above the status quo/It’s never ending, it’s never taking sabbaticals.”
By the last track, the listener is primed to hear just what happened to the main character, but when his fate is revealed, it’s not what most would expect, making the album that much more powerful. (In the spirit of not ruining the final act, I’ll refrain from giving away the ending.)
Sleep’s Branded shows just how much power Hip Hop still has to tell a realistic story poetically but without hyperbole. It’s an incredibly moving piece of work that stands as one of the best Hip Hop albums to come out of Greater Cincinnati in recent memory. And Sleep shows that if he ever gets tired of the Rap game (which itself would be tragic becomes the genre needs more voices like his), he’ll be able to find some kind of career as a writer, be it an author, a journalist, a filmmaker or whatever field he decides to lend his talents to.
If you’re a fan of intelligent Hip Hop or just great storytelling in general, you must download (for free or whatever you’d like to kick in) Branded immediately at sleep513.bandcamp.com.
Here is a music video for the track, "Question 2":