I feel like an entire calendar year has passed since my last blog entry. The thought of "how much time has passed this year" is instantly canceled out by the perplexing conclusion of that it's really only April. This year has been one long workweek for me and I honestly would not have it any other way.
The main focus of these past few weeks has been the preparation and actual duration of South by Southwest (SXSW), the largest music festival/conference in the USA. This event is best described as organized chaos, with almost 2,000 bands performing showcases on 80 or so stages with about 500,000 running around a small downtown setting in the evening. This does not include the 2,000 or so “unofficial” artists that come to play free events during the day, basically creating a microcosm for a week that involves live music, networking, workshops, cheap beer and even cheaper tacos. Most people have a love hate relationship with it, yet still return each year for the spectacle.
This year was very unique experience for myself, not only
because I was not preforming (I did for 3-years in a row and last year
came down just with The Counter Rhythm Group), but for the fact that my
main focus was not necessarily on music/artists (crazy, right?). This
year, rather, I was down to unveil Musicians’ Desk Reference to a
select few individuals that are considered important in the music
industry (and rightfully so, I might add). These meetings were
strategically in place for equal parts discussion, pre-endorsement and
even some initial shock value.
I cannot describe to you the feeling of anxiety and pride you have when presenting something to the world that almost no one has seen. A blogger that is way more full of themselves may describe it as close to bringing a new life into the world, but I'm definitely not that guy. Still, it is pretty amazing indeed. For any music fans out there, Haim and Alpine were definitely my highlights this year.
While I cannot technically say whom/what companies I met with down at the festival (legal blah blah blah), I can say that they are significant entities designed to help musicians in this ever-changing industry and all of the meetings went extremely well, even vastly exceeding my expectations at times.
The overall week went better than I had hoped and there are definitely some tricks up my sleeve for the release of Musicians’ Desk Reference this fall.
The actual informal networking at SXSW is what absolutely
amazes me. My job (in addition to Izzi Krombholz’s, employee
extraordinaire) was to literally go hang out with other people in the
music business, dip in and see a few songs of a set and then find a
quiet corner to have a drink and talk shop about what both parties do
and how they could potentially help each other in the industry.
Maybe my next written venture should be titled, “How to Network at SXSW: Drink, Talk, Drink, Talk, Drink, Drink, 15-minute Nap, Tacos, Talk and Drink.” I see a fruitful career move here.
By now you’re asking, “Why has he spent the entire duration of this blog yapping about SXSW?” Because this single week has such a large impact on the music industry, if you are a fan that has the slightest interest in music culture you should be paying attention. This organized chaos dictates what you are going to read about in music magazines and blogs for months to come, what videos you’ll see go viral, the secondary headliners that you’ll pay hundreds to see at music festivals, the fashion trends for the summer and fall, the soundtracks to the latest electronic commercials featuring artists that win all of the awards and your annoying “mainstream/generic” friends are going to be bugging you about next year.
My favorite part of SXSW is not the festival itself, but its sound waves that echo year-round in music venues like The Comet and Mayday and mid-sized festivals such as Midpoint and Bunbury. If you are not one of the individuals willing to pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to make the musical exodus, I strongly encourage you to exhaust the minimal amount of research required to see if the bands playing in venues around town have made the trek to perform at such an elite event. If so, consider it a stamp of approval by the music industry and, most importantly, give these bands a chance when they come to you. I often hear chatter from people wishing that they could go be a part of the festivities and see these “unforgettable performances” from “groundbreaking artists” in “intimate venues,” yet they have no clue that their chances of seeing that same scenario in a city like ours (often times for FREE) is extremely high and is tirelessly being written about week after week by poor Mr. Breen and Mr. Baker. Open your eyes and ears people; you’ll probably be glad you did.
Sorry for the rant, but I do feel it was necessary. Next
month I promise to write more about the book, as we have some major
updates taking place, in addition to having what we hope to be 99%
completed prototype in our hands. Exciting times for sure! But for now,
go appreciate some awesome live music (April is the busiest touring
month of the year due to post-SXSW tours) and have some fun for me … I
will not see the light day for several weeks to come. Send help and some
Thai Express if I don’t turn in my next blog on time next month.
Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians' Desk Reference
The annual Tunes & Blooms concert series at the Cincinnati Zoo kicks off today. Despite the late-coming spring, the weekly series — which showcases two local musical acts at each event — is in honor of the blooming flowers of the Zoo's Botanical Gardens. At least the snow is gone … (If you're going purely for the flowers, the Zoo's website says, "Due to unusually cool temperatures, our horticulture experts don't expect our tulips to be in bloom until mid April.")
The free concerts go down every Thursday in April and run 6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Admission to the Zoo is free after 5 p.m. If you park in the Zoo lot, it'll cost you $8.
Today sees the return of Bluegrass supergroup the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars and Americana supergroup Magnolia Mountain.
Here is the rest of the month's lineup:
April 11: Jake Speed and the Freddies/The Turkeys
April 18: Shiny & the Spoon/Shiny Old Soul
April 25: The Ark Band/The Cliftones
While waiting in line for 45 minutes for the sold-out Wavves show at The Basement in Columbus, Ohio, I begin to notice a much longer line accumulating outside the substantially bigger and more extravagant venue directly across from me, The LC Pavilion.
Then, just as I’m about to ask the stoned kid next to me who is playing at The LC tonight, an older couple with leather jackets – the woman with pink highlights in her beach blonde hair – grabs my attention.
“Excuse me, sir. Is this the line for Garbage?” she asks.
“Well, that depends on your definition of Garbage, ma'am.” I reply.
After this smartass comment, I quickly apologize and assure them that this is the line for the Wavves show and that ’90s Alt-rockers, Garbage, are playing next door. During this short conversation, I realize something.
There are only two basic differences between those fans going to see Garbage at The LC and the fans going to see Wavves at The Basement — the generational gap and the smells permeating from the separate lines (their line smelled of liquor, while most on our side reeked of weed and unwashed clothes).
It was as if the people in the Wavves line were getting a glimpse into the future (mirror, mirror, on the wall, is THAT what I’m going to look like in 2033?) while the Garbage fans were getting a taste of their younger years (mirror, mirror, on the wall, did I look THAT bad in 1993?)
After the wait, the doors finally open and as I walk inside The Basement, I notice immediately that it lives up to its name. It is dark, cold, and even has that musty smell that basements do. It was like going into my Grandma’s basement as a kid, except this one had a fully stocked bar, a small stage, and a 20-by-20 pit that was filled as soon as the doors opened. (Step up your game, Grandma!)
The show finally kicks off around 8 p.m. as the group Cheatahs takes the stage. Although they have a decent 30-minute set, their slower, Pop-infused Grunge style seems ill-fitting for both the ambiance of the venue but also the acts that follow them. During their last song, I wonder if perhaps Cheatahs would have been better received as an opener for Garbage across the corridor rather than opening for the Punk/Surf rockers Wavves.
After Cheatahs finish, the second act, FIDLAR (an acronym for “Fuck it, dawg, life’s a risk”), comes on and the intensity of the show is taken to a whole new level. Although some critics have called this band Skate Punk, for me, that term seems to coincide with terrible Pop Punk and Tony Hawk Pro Skater games (which were amazing), so I’d like to deem them “Party Punk” for the sheer fact that most their lyrics deal with the fact that they like to get high and drunk off of shitty weed, cocaine and alcohol.
Their blistering opener, “Cheap Beer”, starts the set with a burst of energy that never falters during the next 40 or so minutes. By the time they finish, vocalist/guitarist Zac Carper is crowd surfing and ending their final song dangling from the sprinkler system that hangs above the pit full of exhausted but excited fans.
As FIDLAR exited and Wavves starts setting up, most of the patrons come out of the pit looking so tired it didn’t seem like they were going to make it through to the headlining act. Some of the concertgoers leave after FIDLAR’s explosive and energetic set, partially because, as I said before, they were too debilitated to go on.
I personally believe, though, that some left because The Basement has acquired the stench of a 16-year-old boy’s room (for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this distinctive smell, it’s basically a combination between musk, sweat, weed and alcohol) from all the jumping, moshing and mashing going on in the crowd.
The people that pushed through, however, are treated with the opportunity to see a very special and intimate Wavves performance. Nathan Williams opens up the set with the unflinching Surf Rock anthem “Idiot”, which not only is a fan favorite of the night (along with “Green Eyes” and “Super Soaker”), but also keeps that intensity set up by FIDLAR’s performance and takes it higher.
Wavves' set-list isn’t just comprised of songs off older LPs, as they accomplish a pretty choice mix of the earlier material and new, catchy, sing-a-long tracks like “Demon to Lean On”, “Sail to the Sun” and “Afraid of Heights,” off their latest album of the same name.
A pretty flawless musical performance and Williams’ witty, in-between song banter with the crowd (my personal favorite is when he almost chipped his tooth adjusting the microphone and said he was going to look like rapper Danny Brown by the end of the show) coupled with guitarist Stephen Pope’s bedazzled, purple tights and outlandish behavior give fans more than their money’s worth.
As previously stated, for those fans that stuck around for Wavves (which was most of the people there), we witnessed a truly special night. Not because this will be the last opportunity to ever see this band perform live again, but more because, with Wavves' new album, Afraid of Heights, getting the accolades it deserves and the band's following growing greater everyday, we will most likely never see them in this small of a setting again. In fact, I’d bet good money (if I had any) that the next time Wavves visits Columbus, they won’t be headlining The Basement but the venue across corridor, The LC Pavilion — even if Garbage is in town that night.
Mainstay Rock Bar has indeed become a mainstay in the blossoming downtown entertainment district. It’s officially been four years since the venue (at 301 Fifth St.) opened, hosting regular shows by local acts, primarily of the “original artists” variety. This week, the club is celebrating its four-year anniversary with a string of free events, including several quality local Rock shows.
Tonight, the excellent Reggae group The Cliftones (check out their latest single here) perform a free show, while Black Signal takes over the stage Thursday night. On Friday, catch thrilling newcomers Lemon Sky and Founding Fathers, then go back Saturday for the triple bill of The Guild of Calamitous Intent, Halvsies and Cincinnati Entertainment Award winners for "Best New Artist" of 2013, DAAP GIrls.
Saturday at Downtown club Mainstay, progressive Doom/Drone Metal act Grey Host will celebrate the release of its latest, Dawn for Vultures. You can pre-order the six-track release (as a CD, download or with a T-shirt) at greyhost.bandcamp.com and get an automatic download of lead-off track, “Noble Beast.” The band will also have copies of the release available at Mainstay. Grey Host is joined Saturday by Ohio Knife and Valley of the Sun, which is also working towards a new release. The 9 p.m. show is free. (facebook.com/greyhost)
Here's "Noble Beast":
Saturday at Covington’s Madison Theater, local Death/Hardcore/Thrash Metal crew Gabriel’s Hounds host a release party for their latest effort, The Struggle Between … EP. Joining the group for the 8 p.m., all-ages show: Dark Region, Holesinger, Serpentarius, Souls for the Taking, It’s Either Me or the Mailman and In Ashes. Admission is $8. You can sample the new album’s title track right now at reverbnation.com/gabrielshoundsofficial or here:
Eclectic Cincinnati Reggae crew The Cliftones — one of the best Reggae outfits in the region — will be celebrating the release of their latest single, "Hold Steady," this Saturday with a show at Northside club Mayday. DJ Mowgli will also perform. Advanced tickets are available now for $7 here. The first 100 people through the door will receive a free download card giving access to the single.
Like the band's previously released single — "Hard Ground," released in January — The Cliftones once again have some legendary ears/mixing fingers involved with "Hold Steady." "Hard Ground" was mixed in D.C. by Jim Fox, who has worked with icons like Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs, Barrington Levy and Culture. For "Hold Steady," DJ Prophecy (known for work with Bassnectar and Glitch Mob) handled the mixing, while Dub legend Scientist handled mastering duties.
Here's the exclusive stream of "Hold Steady":
Cincinnati-bred, Brooklyn-based Indie Rock group The National has revealed the tracklisting and album cover for its forthcoming Trouble Will Find Me, due out on the 4AD label May 21. The album — The National's sixth — is just a part of a slew of activity on the horizon for the band.
A few weeks ago it was announced that The National would perform at the Tribeca Film Festival, where the road documentary Mistaken For Strangers will also premiere (on April 17). The flick was made by Tom Berninger, a Cincinnatian and lead singer Matt Berninger’s younger brother. Tom — who's called a "Heavy Metal and horror movie enthusiast" in the press materials — toured with The National as a first-time roadie and brought a camera along. The film will also screen at the NXNE fest in Toronto in late April/early May.
After the album release, of course, The National begin globe-trotting, touring the planet — including a sold-out headlining show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and a slot at the Bonnaroo fest in Tennessee.
Here are details from the press release:
Trouble Will Find Me, The National’s new album will be released on 4AD on May 20th & 21st. This is the sixth studio album for the Brooklyn band, and follows 2010’s critical and commercial success High Violet. The album is the most self-assured collection of songs produced by The National in its 14-year career. In an interview with UK’s UNCUT Magazine, front man Matt Berninger described the songs as more “immediate and visceral” than their previous work. Trouble Will Find Me possesses a directness, a coherency and an approachability that suggests The National are at their most confident. The album will be available digitally, on disc, on 180gram vinyl and in a limited edition deluxe boxed vinyl version.
After a 22-month tour following the release of High Violet the band returned home. Regardless of plans to wait to record new music for another year or two, guitarist Aaron Dessner began working on sketches of new songs that the other members were too inspired by to not fully realize. Matt confesses, “For the past ten years we’d been chasing something, wanting to prove something. And this chase was about trying to disprove our own insecurities. After touring High Violet, I think we felt like we’d finally gotten there. Now we could relax—not in terms of our own expectations but we didn’t have to prove our identity any longer.” The results are simultaneously breakthrough and oddly familiar, the culmination of an artistic journey that has led The National both to a new crest and, somehow, back to their beginnings—when, says Aaron, “our ideas would immediately click with each other. It’s free-wheeling again. The songs on one level are our most complex, and on another they’re our most simple and human. It just feels like we’ve embraced the chemistry we have.” The album was recorded at Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, NY. Trouble Will Find Me was self-produced and mixed by Craig Silvey with additional mixing from Peter Katis and Marcus Paquin.
In advance of the release, the documentary Mistaken For Strangers will premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival as the festival opener on April 17th. The film, directed by Tom Berninger, follows The National on its biggest tour to date. Newbie roadie Tom (lead singer Matt Berninger’s younger brother) is a heavy metal and horror movie enthusiast, and can’t help but put his own spin on the experience. Inevitably, Tom’s moonlighting as an irreverent documentarian creates drama on the road. The film is a touching look at two very different brothers and an entertaining story of artistic aspiration.
Following the May 21st release of Trouble Will Find Me, The National will embark on a world tour. Highlights include Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Bonnaroo Arts & Music Festival, the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and Red Rocks Amphitheater. Tickets are on sale for most shows announced to date and more shows will be announced soon.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL
Formed in 1999, The National consists of vocalist Matt Berninger fronting two pairs of brothers: Aaron (guitar, bass, piano) and Bryce Dessner (guitar), and Scott (bass, guitar) and Bryan Devendorf (drums). Their first full-lengths, The National and Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, and a crucial mini-album, Cherry Tree, preceded their signing to Beggars Banquet in 2004. Alligator (2005), included underground anthem “Mr. November,” and raised their profile as the National grew into an incendiary live band. Boxer (2007), featuring songs like “Fake Empire”, “Mistaken For Strangers” and “Start A War,” sold over three times as many copies as its predecessor. The National's 2010 release, High Violet sold over 600,000 copies and was widely recognized for its critical and commercial success around the world. Both individually and collectively The National’s members have been involved in countless artistic, charitable and socio-political pursuits.
TRACK LISTING- Trouble Will Find Me
1). I SHOULD LIVE IN SALT
3). DON’T SWALLOW THE CAP
5). SEA OF LOVE
7). THIS IS THE LAST TIME
10). I NEED MY GIRL
12). PINK RABBITS
13). HARD TO FIND
5/16: State Theater Ithaca, NY
5/26: Boston Calling/ City Hall Plaza Boston, MA
6/05: Barclay's Center Brooklyn, NY
6/06: Merriweather Post Pavilion Columbia, MD
6/07: Mann Center for Performing Arts Philadelphia, PA
6/08: The National Richmond, VA
6/10: Red Hat Amphitheatre Raleigh, NC
6/11: Stage AE Pittsburgh, PA
6/13: Lachine Canal Montreal, Canada
6/14: Yonge Dundas Square Toronto, Canada
6/15: The LC Pavilion Columbus, OH
6/13-16: Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival Manchester, TN
6/21: Hurricane Festival Scheessel, Germany
6/22: Southside Festival Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany
6/25: Cirque Royal Brussels, Belgium
6/28: Live At The Marquee Cork, Ireland
6/30: Parco Della Musica Rome, Italy
7/01: City Sound Festival Milan, Italy
7/02: Salata Zagreb, Croatia
7/14: Bunbury Music Festival Cincinnati, OH
8/06: Roy Wilkins Auditorium St. Paul, MN
8/10: Greek Theatre Los Angeles, CA
9/17: Red Rocks Amphitheater Morrison, CO
For more information visit: http://www.americanmary.com/
Elementz, which uses the Hip Hop arts to engage local inner-city youth, is celebrating its eighth anniversary this Thursday with a special “open house” reception at the organization’s headquarters (1100 Race St., Over-the-Rhine) beginning at 5:30 p.m.
The event will feature numerous performances by artists who have been involved with and benefited from the Elementz program, from Hip Hop and R&B musicians to poets, street artists and dancers.
Advanced tickets are $10 (it's $12 at the door), which will go to help fund the center’s programming. Last year’s anniversary celebration drew around 300 people, according to elementz.org, where you can also find more info on the center and purchase advanced tickets. Elementz will be selling youth memberships for half off Thursday — for teens (13-18), a one-year membership can be obtained for $10; those 19-24 can join for just $20 a year.
Here's a quick video press release for the open house/party: