MusicNOW kicked off last night with performances from Fleet Foxes’ frontdude Robin Pecknold, who apparently played a solo acoustic set of new material (I arrived just as he was finishing), and Joanna Newsom, whose intricate songs proved the perfect aesthetic match to the ornate Memorial Hall.
Friday's Bonnaroo festivities started with great promise, as we were treated to a surprise performance by Jack Johnson in the press tent. Johnson is a last-minute fill-in for headliners Mumford and Sons, who had to cancel because their bass player had a medical procedure to fix a blood clot in his brain earlier this week. Warmth and humility emanated from Johnson as he debuted two brand new songs accompanied by ALO's Zach Gill on accordion.
An hour later Trixie Whitley slithered on to the Which Stage in a long black gown and proceeded to mesmerize the mid-day crowd with her hypnotic and soulful swamp Rock. There were moments during her set when she sang with such power and pathos it literally knocked the wind out of me. The crowd was so awed by Whitley's performance they stood in a stunned silence so quiet that at times you could hear shutters clicking in the photo pit.
I don't think Chuck and I stopped laughing once during a spontaneous and hilarious 15 minutes we spent chatting with Daniel, Thomas and new drummer Johnny Colorado of the Futurebirds. We barely had time to catch our breath and regain our composure before a 4 p.m. press conference that featured comedians Michael Che and Mike Birbiglia, as well as Jason Isbell and Jazz Fusion guitar legend John McLaughlin.
Around the festival grounds today we've heard remarkable performances by Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Nashville's Alanna Royale and Trombone Shorty.
Coming up later tonight: Wilco, Paul McCartney, ZZ Top and many more.
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.
It goes without saying that Paul McCartney flat out slayed 'em on Bonnaroo's What Stage last night. Snagging Sir Paul as a main stage headliner is possibly the biggest coup in Bonnaroo's 12-year history. To no one's great surprise, McCartney dished out sheer unfettered joy to the thousands via a masterful marathon performance that featured onw heart-warming soul-sending classic after another. You can be sure that his eyes have beheld many wonders over the course of a 50+ year career that is unrivaled and unparalleled in every way imaginable. But even McCartney himself could not disguise his expression of awe and disbelief at the size and deafening enthusiasm of the Bonnaroo crowd.
Today and tomorrow, I'll focus on the smaller stages to catch up close and personal performances by JEFF The Brotherhood, The Revivalists, and Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Already today I've seen the Futurebirds destroy the Sonic Stage with their peculiar powerhouse hybrid of Indie Country.
Sir Paul's son James McCartney drew a respectful and curious crowd to the On Tap Lounge for his early afternoon solo acoustic performance. Sadly, the booming bass reverberating from the larger stages all but drowned out his gentle folk pop purr. If you could huddle up close enough to the stage, he sounded pretty good. But the son of a Beatle deserves better accommodations.
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.
Dynamic, Maryland-based Rock band Clutch has been grinding across the world for over 20 years. In that time, the band has seen great success across 10 studio albums and has had songs featured across different forms of media, from television to movies to video games.
Clutch is performing at Columbus, Ohio's Rock on the Range fest as the final act on the Jagermeister Stage this Saturday at 5:45 p.m. CityBeat was able to get some time with Dan Maines, the band’s bass player, to preview the show and talk about the longevity and progression of an independent Rock band. Click here for full info on this weekend's Rock on the Range.
CityBeat: What has been the highlight or best touring moment of the last year?
Dan Maines: Highlight? We had a really good show in London last European run. We did a good show at the Coco. London is one of those cities for us that has grown quite a bit. Just within the last year the clubs we have played have doubled in size. The last show we had there was probably around 1,500 people, but that was by far the biggest headlining London show that we have had. We are getting ready to go back there next month and we are going to be playing a different club that has a capacity of about 2,300 people and it looks like that show may sell out. We have been having some really good luck and some great shows all over the place. It has been a really, really good year for us touring.
CB: Do you feel the Rock scene is bigger in Europe than it is here in the U.S.? Do you feel like the fans are more engaged with Rock music today?
DM: I do feel like just your straight-ahead Rock & Roll band is doing better nowadays than 10 years ago. I don’t really have an explanation for it. We have been doing this for 20 years now and we really haven’t changed the formula much, but, for whatever reason, the past few years things have picked up for us and I think people are tired of going to see a band they have heard on the radio and they like a song and then they go to a show and the band never delivers. People are tired of that mentality. They want to see good music. They want to see a band that can pull off on stage what they put down on tape in a studio.
CB: It’s tough when you show up and it doesn’t sound the same. It is fantastic when bands deliver live and I think that is what really grows the audience over time.
CB: Your band has been together with same lineup for over 20 years. It is like a marriage. What is the secret to keeping the band together?
DM: I think we all have the same personalities.
There is not an ego with any band members and we all have similar goals (for) what this band is all about. We are not one of these bands that is
ever going to cater to other people’s expectations. We just do what we
want to do. We just write songs we want to write. We are a band that
really enjoys playing shows. We really enjoy going on the road and
touring. That is one thing that breaks down a lot of bands for the most
Touring is not an easy thing to do. You have to go for it. I have seen a lot of good bands who just couldn’t stick together because of the stresses of touring, which are overwhelming for one person or another. We have always been eager to play as many shows as we can. Without that mentality, we probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as we have. We aren’t the kind of band that is surviving on a particular song we wrote that gets played on the radio. We are a traveling band. I don’t really have a secret recipe for keeping the band together. We are just very fortunate to have been able to do it and we will continue to do what we do.
CB: Is it still fun for you to be on the road?
DM: It is still fun. Playing shows is easily more enjoyable to us than being in a studio. Even when we are at home and writing the material, that is always a good time, but you are eager to play the material for an audience and that is what we exist to do.
CB: What makes you laugh the hardest when you are on the road?
DM: I don’t know, maybe seeing people who might be seeing us for the first time and get caught up in the moment and try to sing along with Neil without actually knowing the words. Sometimes it can be as simple as what snacks our road manager decides to get for the dressing room.
CB: Where do you think you will be in 15 more years?
DM: Hopefully doing the same thing and not really paying attention to how many years have passed. Doing what we are doing but on a larger scale and going to places we haven’t gone yet.
CB: Who knows where you will be going by then, maybe outer space.
DM: Hopefully it will be something more local, like South America.
CB: What is the name of the first band you were in?
DM: Oh, that’s embarrassing.
CB: Oh, I want to hear.
DM: I guess the first band was called Moral Minority and that was myself with a couple other members of what became Clutch, but that was the high school incarnation of my first band and it was probably six or eight months later when Clutch was formed.
CB: Were your parents supportive?
DM: Always. They never really gave me a hard time about it. They never really laid down a lot of expectations to whether they wanted me to go in one direction or another, and they have always been very supportive of the band. Obviously now, but even way back in the beginning when we were traveling in a van getting stranded in cities on the other side of the country and figuring out ways to get back home. They never once said, “Maybe you should consider doing something else,” and I really appreciated that.
CB: What bands are currently influencing you?
DM: I have been listening to a lot of Galactic lately. You know what I have been listening to, I don’t know how recent it is, but Public Enemy still makes records and it came as a surprise to me that they are still doing it. What is more surprising is they are still making great records.
CB: I photographed Public Enemy last Sunday. Flavor Flav still jumped six feet in the air across the stage. It was unbelievable. Not only are they making records, they are touring and killing it. It was crazy. That is what everybody should aspire to do. You guys have your own record label. What are the challenges of releasing your own music?
DM: We have tried to keep the challenges down to a
minimum from the very beginning and just try to make it strictly an
outlet for Clutch music. Nowadays, it is not that difficult to take this
DIY approach to putting out music. Recording costs have come down a lot
and the overall costs of promoting and marketing a record have gone down
a lot because you have tools like the internet, where you can do so many
things for such a low amount of money that the actual costs of
producing a record, manufacturing and distributing it is not that high.
It is just being in a position that we are luckily in where we have relationships with people who kind of help fill in the blanks in areas where we are not experts. It has worked out well for us over the last five years, putting out a couple live CDs and two studio CDs. Who knows what could happen in the future? It could come to a point where it goes beyond the scope of Clutch. Right now it is just putting out Clutch related material. We have also put out side projects for various members of the band. We have John-Paul, who has been working with a band from Sweden called King Hobo, and hopefully those guys will have something that we can put out on the label. We have tried not to get overambitious with the releases and taking it very slowly.
CB: What can the fans expect at Rock on the Range next weekend?
DM: Four bearded men playing Rock music. We will be playing a lot of material off The Earth Rocker. I think on this tour we have been playing, on average, six songs out of 16 off the new record. We probably won’t be playing 16 songs at Rock on the Range. We will probably have a shorter set, so it is harder to predict what we will be playing. We are definitely going to be playing. It will be a heavily Earth Rocker loaded set for sure, and some of the classics thrown in as well.
CB: You guys change your set list every show, right?
DM: We try to. We have this system. We actually take turns writing the set list. Last night was Neil’s night, so tonight would be Tim’s night. It is something we can do that keeps things less monotonous and kind of keeps us on our toes and makes the sets more enjoyable for us, which is going to be more enjoyable for everybody else watching.
CB: If you could trade places with anybody for a month who would it be and why?
DM: That’s a tough one. Maybe George Porter Jr., the bass player (from New Orleans Funk legends, The Meters). He is a huge influence on me and just definitely a hero. It would be nice to spend some time in his brain and steal something.
CB: Do you play any other instruments?
DM: No, I barely play bass.
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, Death Cab for Cutie or Jane's Addiction.
Our first "sleeper" is 1,2,3, performing Saturday at 2:15 p.m. on the Bud Light Stage.
Pittsburgh duo 1,2,3 (they go “full band” for live shows) took off fairly quickly, earning accolades in the U.K. that led to live shows abroad, all within a year of forming. One listen to the band’s debut LP for Frenchkiss Records, last year’s New Heaven, should make it clear why — 1,2,3’s songs hook listeners instantly with an uncanny sense of melody that suggests a lifetime of absorbing the magical Pop of the masters, from Bacharach and Nilsson to The Kinks and of Montreal. Add in Nic Snyder’s soulful and elastic voice and a dynamic backdrop of odd atmospherics, off-kilter beats and unexpected sounds and you have one of the more perfectly original Pop bands in America today.
Here's the band's music video for the track "Work":
MidPoint Music Festival headliners Cut Copy yesterday dropped a new video, "Blink and You'll Miss a Revolution," from the band's recently released full-length Zonoscope. The clip uses Planet of the Apes-esque dudes in a way that's both amusing and crafty — way better than most of the videos MTV used to play back when it was a music channel. And it's a nice primer for the Aussies stop here next week.
Oh, and here's what I wrote when Zonoscope was released back in March — notice the bit about them not touring here:
"Not as dancey as the the first two CC records, Zonoscope is a spacier, more laid-back grower that reveals frontguy Dan Whitford's lyrical acumen (the big beats and thick synths used to push his words to the background). I'm curious to hear how this sounds live. Unfortunately, CC's current tour does not feature a Cincy stop — though the band is slated to play the Pitchfork Music Festival July 17 in Chicago. Road trip!"
This morning’s activities were as hectic as a hurricane as I jumped from one interview to the next in the Bonnaroo press compound.
Things started off nice and easy when I rendezvoused with a friend of a friend who is Lionel Richie’s stage manager. An industry veteran of many years, Sal Marinello has worked for Barbra Streisand, Metallica, Neil Diamond, Britney Spears and many more. Large festival stages like Bonnaroo are equipped with lights and sound, so Marinello’s workload and schedule today are not as demanding as a typical day on the road. Marinello and his crew arrived in the wee hours this morning with one truck instead of the usual seven. Main stage headliner Jack White’s line check completed and his gear rolled to the side of the stage by 8 a.m., Sal and his staff had Lionel’s gear in place onstage for their line check less than an hour later. (The rest of the day’s main stage performers will set up and perform in front of Lionel’s gear.)
The noon hour brought a flurry of activity that had my head spinning pretty much for the rest of the day. Nashville’s Wild Feathers returned on the red eye from St. Louis to do a three-song acoustic performance in the press tent that found the band looking ragged but sounding great as ever. Their material is strong, their performance was spirited, and their three-part whiskey tenor harmonies were crystal clear as ever. But they sure did look tired. Scheduled to play at noon, they were running late and had to jump right on the stage and burst into song immediately upon their 12:30 p.m. arrival.
Chatting with Ben Kaufman, Adam Aijala and Dave Johnston from Yonder Mountain String Band, I found the trio cautiously optimistic about moving forward after the recent departure of mandolin player and founding member Jeff Austin. Not that I expected them to be in a full-blown panic, but it was impressive to hear the calm in their voices as they discussed their future options with no apparent concern about securing a permanent replacement for Austin. Bluegrass legend Sam Bush joined Yonder for their 2:30 p.m. set on the main stage today. For their summer tour they’ll be joined by Jake Joliff on mandolin and Ally Kral on violin. (Yonder Mountain String Band plays Moonlight Gardens at Coney Island on the Fourth of July.)
The Flaming Lips brought a whole new freak rock spectacle to Bonnaroo this year and frontman Wayne Coyne was bouncing around the press tent talking to reporters for a couple hours yesterday. Spirits high and eyes aglow, Wayne happily made the rounds. The man loves to talk and this writer spent a dizzying 10 minutes with Coyne, discussing their brilliant new record The Terror. The band’s 12:30 a.m. set on the Which Stage was an explosive spectacle of lights, confetti, balloons, and dancers in costume, with the fiendish ring leader Wayne in the middle of it all looking like an evil super villain dressed in red tights with a shiny silver codpiece. (The band is one of the headliners of Cincinnati's Bunbury Music Festival this year.)
It’s not the first time I’ve seen Coyne dominate a press conference here; yesterday he spoke excitedly about The Flaming Lips’ desire to always bring something special to the Bonnaroo stage.
“If you’ve been here for three days and you’ve already seen 50 bands,” he said, “you wanna see something different. So that’s why (in 2007) we decided to land a spaceship here.”
Cool as a cucumber in spite of the summer heat penetrating the crowded tent during an early afternoon press conference, Derek Trucks fielded a question about the size of the Tedeschi-Trucks band. “An 11-piece band is a lot like herding cats.” Then he quietly mumbled the unintentionally Zen aside: “But it’s better than 30.”
Still buzzing from my conversation with Wayne, I scampered out into the crowd to catch Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke on the Which Stage. This was one of my personal Top 3 must-see bands of the weekend. It was gratifying to see the young Bonnaroo audience embrace a band that has more in common with their grandparents’ record collection than what many probably have on their current iPod playlist. I stopped to say hello to Blackberry Smoke singer and guitarist Charlie Starr after a 4 p.m. press conference and we discussed some of our favorite early Blues singers. I feel confident that he and I were probably among the very few here at Bonnaroo chatting about Ishman Bracey.
From there the day just got crazier, as the Saturday schedule was packed with stellar artists, including Valerie June, Drive-By Truckers, Phosphorescent, Lauryn Hill and Seasick Steve who boasted none other than Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones on bass. Walking through the crowd I heard Cake play a spot-on cover of Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” with the guitar solo section cleverly transcribed for the horn section.
After a late afternoon breather back at the campsite, I wandered through Bonnaroo’s famous archway entrance to catch some of Lionel Richie’s set. My timing was perfect. As soon as I walked through the gate he launched into the Commodores’ “Brick House,” a Bonnaroo performance I’d been looking forward to for months. Again I found it gratifying to see the young audience dialed into Richie’s performance as he pulled out one classic song after another. You can imagine how his ’80s gem “All Night Long” had the dancers moving. This was a moment of such heartwarming cross-generational bonding that it gave me goosebumps in the humid Tennessee night.
Last night’s main stage headliner Jack White nearly tore the stage in half, bringing an explosive thunder and fury that’s largely missing from Rock & Roll these days. One of the most highly-anticipated sets of the weekend, Jack and his crack band did not disappoint. A frantic and fiery performer onstage, he was straightfaced and serious, as if in character, throughout a bombastic set that stretched well over two hours. White has called Nashville home for several years now and he brought noise to these Tennessee hills last night like no one ever has before. An all-out stunner from the first song all the way through to the last note of several encores, this was unquestionably one of the most memorable performances in Bonnaroo’s 13-year history.
And believe it or not there is still more to come. Today is the fourth and final day of Bonnaroo 2014. Photographer Chuck Madden and I must bear in mind that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, as we endeavor to take in performances today by Lucero, Lake Street Dive, Okkervil River, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Arctic Monkeys, Broken Bells, Washed Out, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Avett Brothers and more. The legendary Elton John will close out the fest tonight.
Thanks to CityBeat for making this all possible! Chuck and I would like to extend a special thank you to CityBeat photographer Jesse Fox who was a big help to us this weekend.
Only 361 days ‘til Bonnaroo 2015!