I may be imagining it (the eternal optimist that I am), but it seems like ever since the Southgate House locked its doors at the end of 2011, many in the local booking world stepped up their game instantly. Though it's only been just over a month, it certainly doesn't feel as if the Greater Cincinnati concert market has been gutted by the loss of that one great club. And with several spots slated to open later this year (new venues from the brains behind the Southgate and Mad Hatter, plus whatever happens to the actual Southgate House building), it only looks to be getting better.
More good news on that front came out at the start of this week. On Feb. 10, an unexpected, big-time venue entered the mix — or rather, increased its presence in it. Downtown’s gorgeous Taft Theatre already this year announced some concerts by more “mid-level” groups like Trampled By Turtles and JJ Grey & Mofro, cult faves and Southgate alumni. Now, the Taft and promoter Music & Events Management Inc. are opening a new venue-within-a-venue that will allow the Taft to book artists who have outgrown small clubs but aren't quite ready for the big room.
The Ballroom at the Taft — located in the theater’s lower level — was designed to be, according to the press release, “a showcase style club venue that will play host to a variety of live entertainment events spanning all types of styles and genres.”
Nationally-acclaimed Cincinnati foursome Wussy are set to release its fourth full-length album through Shake It Records, Strawberry, with a release show at Northside Tavern on Oct. 29. But if you pre-order the album now, you'll receive an instant download of the full release. Click here to download or just give a listen. There's also a free pre-release EP available that'll only cost you an email address here. The preview EP includes new album tracks "Pulverized" (check it out below, as well) and "Chicken," as well as "Crooked," off the limited release, Funeral Dress II. The national release date for Strawberry is Nov. 2.
Cincy rockers Wussy have stepped up their game in terms of touring and promotions big time. It was previously announced that the group would join Cincy legends The Afghan Whigs on their upcoming U.S. tour run. Now, immediately following those (mostly sold out) dates, Wussy is set to join another local favorite, Heartless Bastards (now based in Austin, Tex.), for several shows on that band's fall tour.
Wussy is the confirmed support act on Bastards dates in Houston, New Orleans, Nashville, Athens, Ga., Saxapahaw, NC, and Washington D.C.
Wussy and Heartless Bastards are also hooking up on vinyl, participating in the series of singles tributing the songs of Soul/R&B songwriter Eddie Hinton. The Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli recorded the first single in The Dangerous Highway Series of 7-inch singles (taking on "Hard Luck Guy” and “Cover Me"), while Drive-By Truckers did Vol. 2. Due next month, Vol. 3 features Wussy doing "Breakfast in Bed" on one side and the Bastards doing "Got Down Last Saturday Night" on the flip. At the same time as the split single, Shake It is also releasing Vol. 4 featuring Cincy's Buffalo Killers, with two tracks produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. (Besides buying them in Shake It's Northside shoppe, the releases will also be available through Shake It via mail order; click here to browse the catalog.)
Before the Whigs and Bastards dates, Wussy headlines next Friday's free MidPoint Indie Summer Series on Fountain Square (the last of the season), then the band's Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker will be doing several dates as a duo in the U.K. (from Sept. 17-Oct. 1). The band's first album to be released overseas, Buckeye (on the Damnably Records imprint), came out in July in the U.K. and features a compilation of Wussy songs from the group's five albums (including the acoustic rendition of Funeral Dress). Buckeye has been scoring Wussy some remarkable press; the BBC reviewed the record and said, "Wussy are certainly a band with an incredibly rich past and, undoubtedly, an equally rich future."
Cincinnati born and bred legend Bootsy Collins is known for his collaborations, from James Brown, George Clinton and Deee-Lite to more recent (and more unusual) hookups, like William Shatner, Charlie Daniels and Dr. Cornel West. But his latest collabo might be his strangest — and most fun — yet. Last night, Collins joined The Roots, DEVO's Mark Mothersbaugh, Biz Markie and Erykah Badu on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for a little jam session with the cast of the trippy, hip kids' show, Yo Gabba Gabba.
Though not officially available until Aug. 2 to the rest of the world, Southwestern Ohio’s Buffalo Killers begin their touring duties for the new album 3 tonight in Dayton before coming to MOTR Pub Saturday night for their Cincy album release party. In honor of the forthcoming release, today the band issued a free MP3 download today of the song “Love Is Gold,” which was recorded during the 3 sessions, but left off of the album. Click above to listen.
Every year, a compilation featuring several of the artists performing at the MidPoint Music Festival is lovingly compiled to give an overview of some of the fest’s participants. MPMF10’s comp has been assembled and you can listen to it right here, right now. While the amount of already well-known acts performing at MPMF10 is something that makes the event exceptional this year, the comp reflects the high quality of the lesser-knowns as it’s made up of tracks by the superb up-and-comers performing at this year’s fest.
For a limited time (while supplies last, as they say), seriously discounted tickets for the MidPoint Music Festival — which returns to the clubs and venues of Over-the-Rhine/Downtown Sept. 26-28 — will be made available starting this Friday at 10 a.m.
During this “Loyalty Presale,” three-day “All Music Access” passes can be purchased through mpmf.cincyticket.com (the site will be live for the public tomorrow) for just $49 (they’ll be $20 more come MPMF time). They are expected to sell out fast, so get ’em while you can. For those wanting a VIP MPMF experience, the popular VIP passes will also be available Friday for $129 ($40 off the normal price). The VIP tickets get you priority admission to all shows, access to catered VIP-only events and other goodies. (Last year’s VIP passes sold out before the fest.)
In other MPMF news, if you are a musician/performer interested in being considered for a showcase slot at the festival, submissions are now being accepted via Sonicbids. The submission fee is just $20 until this Friday; after that it goes up to $25. (Those without a Sonicbids account can submit to MPMF and receive a two-week free trial of the service.)
Stay tuned to MPMF.com and this blog for the latest updates on MidPoint.
Much has changed for the legendary Cincinnati live music venue the Blue Wisp Jazz Club over its 40-plus-year existence. Though it has consistently been the club for Jazz in Cincinnati over most of that period, the Blue Wisp has moved four different times over four decades. In its most recent locale at the corner of Race and Seventh streets downtown, the club owners also tried to attract more business by serving food and varying the types of music performed. But it wasn’t enough and the Blue Wisp has once again closed its doors (though various reports suggest it could find yet another new location in the future).
One thing that hadn’t changed at the Blue Wisp, at least since it began in 1980, is the Blue Wisp Big Band. The group of all-star local musicians has maintained one of the longest residency in the region, performing its skilled take on vintage Big Band Jazz like clockwork every Wednesday. The band is a Cincinnati institution.
When the Wisp shut down, the members of the Big Band were determined to not let their remarkable run end with a whimper. Instead, the Blue Wisp Big Band sought to continue its every-Wednesday residency at another venue. (In case you’re wondering, the group owns its moniker, so they can legally continue to use the “Blue Wisp” name.)
Veteran local Jazz pianist and Blue Wisp Big Band founding member Steve Schmidt says they’ve landed their new spot, Japp’s Annex on Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, and will pick up its Wednesday night shows beginning this week. Schmidt says the group will perform every Wednesday at Japp’s, at least through the end of July, when they’ll reassess the situation just to make sure it’s a good fit. The Big Band will again be playing two hour-long sets each Wednesday, the first starting at 8:30 p.m. The cover charge will be less than it was at the Wisp — just $5. (Parking is available in the lot on the corner of Main and Central Parkway, as well as in the garage behind the club on Sycamore.)
“We are excited about trying out this (Over-the-Rhine) spot and happy that the ownership and staff at Japp's is excited, too,” Schmidt says. “We are all thinking of ways to make it better for the customer and the band as we go along. The band wanted to start quickly, not to be dormant for too long.”
Several of the principal members of the Blue Wisp Big Band did a walkthrough several days ago to get a feel for the new space and were happy with what they saw (and felt).
“I got a very good feeling about the room,” Schmidt says, “both in terms of space — spacious yet intimate — and acoustics. I think the other guys felt the same way. (Founding BWBB anchor/drummer) John Von Ohlen rightly pointed out that there is a lot of wood — the floors and the large bar. As John said, in the fullest and most complimentary sense of the word, ‘It's a joint!’ It's what he had in mind when he formed the band and put it in the original Blue Wisp in O'Bryonville. He said he wanted a world-class big band in a beer tavern.”
“In a word,” Schmidt adds, “(the new space) has soul.”
While not necessarily “weird,” when fans discovered that bad-ass, longtime local Blues artist Kelly Richey had started a side-business as a “life coach,” undoubtedly a few thought they misheard or misread. It’s not really a logical step from stunning Blues guitarist and vocalist to personal life coach for hire.
Likewise, when I first got an email about the new lineup of Richey’s band, I did a double take. Again, not that it was particularly unusual news — I just didn’t see it coming. (The music world could use a lot more moments like that.)
Joining Richey in the new version of KRB is experienced drummer Jyn Yates from Kentucky and Chris Sherman, the guiding force behind popular local Funk group Freekbass (and his new duo project, Freekbot).
While Sherman (who goes by his stage name, Freekbass) is best known for his huge Funk grooves, dabbling in modern EDM and rather flamboyant stage outfits at times, Richey’s sound skates the line between hard Blues and Rock; the most flash from her live shows come from out of her fingers as she plays and mouth as she sings.
On the surface, the pairing seems on par with Buckethead joining Bonnie Raitt’s band or Flea sitting in with Stevie Ray Vaughan. In other words, it should be quite interesting to hear what the trio comes up with. The first single, “Fast Drivin’ Mama,” offers a hint — the song is a rocking slice of riffing Blues Funk. It’s not drastically different from Richey’s usual sound, but the groove is appropriately huge.
Here's the debut single/video for "Mama":
The new KRB trio was assembled to record the next Kelly Richey Band album, which the musicians have been working on at Shangri-La Studios in Lexington, Ky. The album — Sweet Spirit — is scheduled for release March 1, followed by tour dates that will take them from Florida to Canada.
The trio’s debut show is Saturday in Northern Illinois (Mishawaka, to be exact), but local fans won’t have to wait long to check out the new KRB. The group performs on Jan. 11 at Legends Nightclub in Cheviot. Showtime is 8 p.m. and there is a $10 cover at the door.