We are barely halfway into this thing and Bonnaroo's memorable performances and highlights already seem too good to be true. In addition to 12 stages featuring live music for 18 hours a day for four days straight, the assembled press are privy to gut busting scenes of spontaneous hilarity in Bonnaroo press conferences twice daily.
Without fail, these press conferences will feature provocative observations from the panelists about their respective Bonnaroo experiences. But more often than not they will degrade into an impromptu exchange of silly quips, wacky tales from the road, and dirty jokes. Friday was no exception.
After setting the bar obscenely low for the 1pm press conference with multiple references to sex acts taking place on and off stage, it was the affable Matt + Kim who stuck around for nearly 45 minutes afterwards, smiling broadly, Happily answering more questions and posing for photographs.
The press conference itself was a chaotic and ramshackle riot that teetered on the brink of peep-show perversion for the duration. Perhaps this was no surprise as its schizophrenic panel included TV star Ed Helms and classic rocker John Oates alongside the eager upstarts Matt + Kim, Nicki Bluhm and Michael Angelakos from Passion Pit. Aside from a brief description of Oates' charity work, the discussion was a lighthearted group improvisation on the pros and cons of playing big festivals.
Helms is doing double duty at this year's Bonnaroo, presenting a comedy revue in the festival's comedy tent and hosting a Bluegrass jam on one of its main stages. Asked why he loves the banjo, Helms sighed, "I believe that banjos are very irritating and that's why banjos and comedians get along."
"Hey Ed," a smirking Oates chimed in, "Do you know why there's no banjos on Star Trek?"
"No John. Why is that?"
"Because it's the future."
Later in the day there was a 4 p.m. press conference that featured some very insightful exchanges between country rocker Jason Isbell and Jazz Fusion guitar legend John McLaughlin (pictured). The Bonnaroo crowd warmly embraced McLaughlin's evening performance in That Tent, causing the master musician to grin from ear to ear from the first notes of his set to the very last.
Though they started 30 minutes late, Rock icons ZZ Top performed a smoking midnight set in This Tent to a capacity crowd who sang along to nearly every song in the bands hit-laden set.
Louis Langrée is well aware of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's rich history. The CSO's freshly minted music director also knows part of that history includes the nurturing of contemporary composers and their often unconventional works.
Enter MusicNOW, Bryce Dessner's 9-year-old festival of adventurous sounds. (Read our conversation with Dessner here.) This year's sonic extravaganza includes the CSO's take on new pieces by such esteemed composers as Nico Muhly and David Lang, as well as the title work from Dessner's new Classical album, St. Carolyn by the Sea.
CityBeat recently connected with the genial Langrée — who spoke in self-described "primitive" English by phone from Paris — to discuss the CSO's collaboration with MusicNOW.
CityBeat: Before we get into MusicNOW, I'm curious about your initial impressions of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Why were you interested in coming on as music director?
Louis Langrée: The fame the orchestra is really big. Everybody knows it's a major orchestra. But then making music with them was a completely different experience because, yes, they have the qualities of all major American orchestras — precision, clarity of the attack of the situation. But they have also from their heritage, in their DNA, this German conception of sound, that you build the sound from the base of the harmony. That means the density of the sound is something absolutely remarkable, and that's rare in the United States. I think it has to do with the tradition, the roots, of this orchestra and also, of course, about the quality and the spirit of the musicians, which is really wonderful.
CB: Why were you interested in collaborating with MusicNOW and taking on a festival of contemporary music?
LL: One of the strengths of the orchestra is to have supported and commissioned and performed contemporary music from their very early age. Having given the American premiere Mahler Third, Mahler Fifth, Stravinsky coming to Cincinnati before he was considered a giant, having premiered (Aaron Copland's ) "Lincoln Portrait," having commissioned (Copland's) "Fanfare for a Common Man" and many other pieces and many more recent pieces. That's why I wanted to open my tenure as music director with eighth blackbird and Jennifer Higdon concerto piece. It shows that we should support, play, commission and perform contemporary music — and, of course, contemporary American music.
CB: What was it like collaborating with Bryce?
LL: Meeting Bryce was a wonderful. His French is perfect. Especially compared to my primitive English. (Laughs). I like his attitude in making music and experimentation. And any strong institution should be also a place of experimentation. Music is not something you put in a museum. It's alive. And then we should perform contemporary music like Classical music and perform Beethoven music, not forgetting that he only composed contemporary music. All the composers — Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bartok — composed contemporary music, so we have to continue it. He's very focused and concentrated, but on the other hand the spectrum was quite bright. I think we have arrived on wonderful programs — very challenging, but very exciting.
CB: What makes him unique as a composer?
LL: He knows how to make an orchestra sound. It's a very clear and precise writing but at the same time there is so much flexibility in the variations of colors written and the flow of the music. It's always quite exciting to study a piece and hear it. Having the privilege of working with the composer is something wonderful because there are so many questions I would like to ask of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and of course it's impossible. So being able to ask the composer and to hear his answers is just wonderful.
Bryce is someone who has great harmonic taste, and I think for the orchestra it's wonderful because you can express yourself much easier. I think he's very much like his music — a very welcoming man, a very open, very luminous person. I see that in his music, which is not always the case with composers. With him, I get the feeling he's one with his music.
CB: How has the orchestra responded to playing these new, sometimes challenging pieces?
LL: Any new piece you don't know what to expect. What I've found is that these musicians are very open-minded, they are very generous and positive in their attitude and are eager to try any new experience. It's a privilege to perform these two concerts of new music, but it's also very challenging, so you have to be very practical.
CB: And what's the experience been like for you?
LL: It's a great responsibility when you conduct a piece, but it's also a great privilege that today's major American composers are willing to write for us. To be sharing this experiment and experience in concert, to be a part of MusicNOW, is really something beautiful.
MusicNOW's 2014 festival begins tonight and continues tomorrow. Visit musicnowfestival.org for tickets and full programming details.
The CincyPunk Fest got its start in 2003, organized as an offshoot of Adam Rosing’s CincyPunk website. Since then, Rosing and the festival have raised tens of thousands of dollars for area charities and presented an increasingly eclectic lineup for its increasingly large audience.
The festival returns tonight and tomorrow, utilizing the three stages at the Southgate House Revival in Newport, Ky., and featuring 35 performers, many from the Greater Cincinnati area, but also some top-notch national acts, like Diarrhea Planet and Pissed Jeans.
After a decade, it probably doesn’t need to be repeated, but just to reiterate – Cincy Punk Fest is not a Punk Rock festival. The lineup includes everything from Indie Rock to Americana/Folk to Soul to straight-up Rock & Roll, with a handful of acts you could legitimately label as Punk. It reminds me of the CBGB's "Punk" movement of the ’70s, when bands like Television, The Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie were all lumped together under the genre tag, though they really couldn't have been more different, sonically. Like fest performers Frontier Folk Nebraska (who are neither Folk nor from Nebraska), CincyPunk Festival (which also isn’t in Cincy) has established itself and doesn't appear to be in any hurry to change its name to reflect the increasingly diverse lineups. Which is kinda Punk, so it all works out.
Tickets to CincyPunk Fest XII are $15 per night; advanced tickets are available here and here. The proceeds this year are being donated to the Save Our Shelter Dogs Rescue in Northern Kentucky. Music starts at 8 p.m. both nights. The event is open to fans 18 and up.
Below are Friday and Saturday's lineups:
And here are a few clips that give a good sense of the variety that can be found at the festival.
EdenSong, the long-running summer concert series presented by the Queen City Balladeers, kicks off this Friday in Eden Park, but not in its usual outdoor spot at the Seasongood Pavilion.
For the 2013 series, EdenSong is moving just up the hill and indoors — inside the Cincinnati Art Museum, to be exact. The series — now dubbed ArtSong — runs every Friday through Aug. 2 and, as usual, features an excellent collection of primarily local Americana/Roots music performers.
The concerts will take place in the museum’s Fath Auditorium. Seating is more limited, so organizers advise arriving earlier than the 8 p.m. start time. Attendees are asked to enter the museum’s Dewitt entrance on the side of the building, in lieu of using the front doors.
The EdenSong concerts remain free (donations are, of course, welcome) and there is free parking on the museum grounds. This Friday's opening concert features the impressive lineup of Shiny & the Spoon, Ma Crow & the Lady Slippers, Lisa Biales, Anachrorhythms and Bob Kotz.
For the July 19 show, you can catch Ricky Nye, Wild Carrot & the Roots Band, Jim’s Red Pants, Steve Bonafel & One Iota and Ellie Fabe. The lineup for July 26 features Anna & Milovan, Red Cedars, Silver Arm, Greg Schaber and Calamity Rain. And for the Aug. 2 closer, you'll be able to see/hear The Rattlesnakin' Daddies, Bromwell-Diehl Band, the Hertz Brothers, Ann & Phil Case and John Ford.
For more info, visit queencityballadeers.org.
Incredibly impressive young AltRock trio PUBLIC is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its first release, the four-track EP Red, today. In honor of the occasion, the band — one of the “Best New Artist” nominees at the most recent Cincinnati Entertainment Awards — is offering Red as a free download.
Those interested in grabbing all four tracks without paying the usual $5 will have today only to nab it at publictheband.com.
PUBLIC is currently readying a new single, “Honeybee,” which will drop in conjunction with the group’s appearance at the Bunbury Music Festival on the fest’s opening night, July 12.
Give the EP a listen below then go grab your very own copy.
The inaugural Bunbury Music Festival — three days of top-shelf Alternative music at Cincinnati's riverfront Sawyer Point Park — is just three 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 Ume, performing Sunday at 4:30 p.m. on the AliveOne Stage
The appearance of Austin AltRock trio Ume (pronounced “oo-may”) at Bunbury makes for a mini-label showcase for the Modern Outsider label. The band’s set is sandwiched between labelmates (and two of Cincinnati’s finest) Pomegranates and Bad Veins, both also on the Texas label.
Anchored by a relentless, muscular rhythm section, Lauren Larson guides Ume’s charismatic sound with her uniquely compelling guitar work, knack for good but not pandering hooks and animated, sensual vocals. Ume’s most recent release, last year’s Phantoms, sounds like a 21st century update of ’90s Brit band Lush.
Here's a clip for Ume's song "Captive."
Impressive Cincinnati AltRock trio Public is all set to performing at Cincinnati's huge Bunbury Music Festival this weekend, essentially opening the fest Friday at 2 p.m. with a performance on the Bud Light Stage.
The band — nominated at the most recent Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for "Best New Artist" — released its four-track EP, Red, last summer and is now offering fans a brand-new recording, just in time to learn all the words and sing along at tomorrow's fest appearance.
The new track is "Honeybee," a spacious, groove-driven Indie Pop gem which is slated for Public's forthcoming second EP.
If you're download phobic, you can also grab
a physical copy of the single. Fifty are being pressed, featuring
hand-drawn artwork and a bonus acoustic B-side, "I Need You," and made
available at Bunbury.
Both songs will be available for download on July 16. The stream and eventual download will be available at publictheband.com.
A satellite event to the Cincy Blues Society’s huge outdoor, summertime Cincy Blues Fest, the Winter Blues Fest — which returns to The Phoenix (812 Race St., Downtown, thephx.com) tonight and tomorrow — has truly grown into its own. This year’s lineup features two of the fest’s biggest national headliners yet.
Celebrated Blues/Rock singer/guitarist Tinsley Ellis performs in the venue’s third floor Grand Ballroom on Friday at 9:45 p.m. Check out Ellis’ “Kiss Of Death,” from his recently released Midnight Blue album, below:
Accomplished singer/songwriter Janiva Magness performs in the Grand Ballroom on Saturday at 9:15 p.m. (For more about Magness, read Brian Baker’s preview from this week’s CityBeat). Here’s a clip of Magness and her band performing “I Won’t Cry,” which won her and co-writer Dave Darling “Song of the Year” honors at the Blues Music Awards (one of many Mangess has won over the past several years).
Below is the full lineup (subject to change). Click each artist’s name for more info.
Third Floor Grand Ballroom
6:30-8 p.m.: G. Miles & The Hitmen
8:15-9:30 p.m.: Greg Schaber Band
9:45-11:15 p.m.: Tinsley Ellis
11:30-12:45 p.m.: The Blue Birds
Second Floor Cincinnati Room
6:30-7:45 p.m.: Bob Dellaposta
8-9:15 p.m.: Jimmy D. Rogers
11 p.m.-12:45 a.m.: Dave Muskett Duo
Second Floor Archway Ballroom
7-8:15 p.m.: Blue Sacrifice
8:30-9:45 p.m.: The Juice
10:00-11:15 p.m.: Leroy Ellington Blues Band
11:30 p.m.-1 a.m.: The Blues Merchants
First Floor Presidents Room
6:15-7:45 p.m.: The Heaters With Ben Levin
10-11:15 p.m.: Ralph & The Rhythm Hounds
11:30 p.m.-1 a.m.: Ducttape & Dynamite
3rd Floor Grand Ballroom
6-7:30 p.m.: The Tempted Souls Band
7:45-9 p.m.: Doug Hart Band
9:15-11:15 p.m.: Janiva Magness
11:30 p.m.-12:45 a.m.: Johnny Fink & The Intrusion
Second Floor Cincinnati Room
6:30-7:45 p.m.: Brian Wallen
8-9:15 p.m.: Greg Schaber (Solo)
9:30-10:45 p.m.: TBA
11 p.m.-12:15 a.m.: The Twirlers
Second Floor Archway Ballroom
6:30-8 p.m.: Blues In The School Band
8:15-9:30 p.m.: Chuck Brisbin & the Tuna Project
9:45-11:15 p.m.: The SoulFixers
11:30 p.m.-12:45 a.m.: Jay Jesse Johnson
First Floor Presidents Room
6:15-7:45 p.m.: Little Red & The Rooster
8-9:15 p.m.: Ricky Nye Inc.
9:30-10:45 p.m.: Brad Hatfield Band
11 p.m.-12:45 a.m.: The Noah Wotherspoon Band
Tickets can be purchased in advance at cincybluesfest2014.brownpapertickets.com. Prices are $20 for one night or $32.85 for a weekend pass (there are smaller-than-usual service fees through the ticketing site). There will be food available and full-service bars throughout the venue.
Visit cincyblues.org for the full schedule, artist details, ticket links, deals for special room rates at the nearby Garfield Suites Hotel and more.
The Big Pig Music & Arts Festival kicks off today in Ripley, Ohio (about an hour southeast of Cincinnati) at the Pisgah Hill Farm. The event runs from this afternoon until about sunrise Sunday morning (great local Electronica group Skeetones play a fest-closing set from 2-4 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morn). Billed as "3 days and 2 nights of music, camping, fire pits and barbecue spits," Big Pig features a mix of national, regional and top-notch local acts, as well as a late-night DJ tent, food from Habanero, Buzz Thru Coffee and other area establishments and "fire performances" by the folks from Nocturnal Arts. Pre-sale ticketing is over; admission is $40 at the gate. The fest website emphasizes that there is a $10 fee per car for camping (car pool if you can) and there is no on-site ATM machines, so be sure to bring cash. Click below for the full lineup and videos from several of the acts. And click here for complete details.