South Carolina’s Trevor Hall doesn’t make the kind of music you might expect to come from a native of the American south. Instead, Hall’s music has a Reggae streak, similar to the kind of tunes he may have heard growing up in the beach community of Hilton Head or later at the arts school he attended in California.
If you like Jack Johnson and Colbie Caillat and enjoy grooving to Bob Marley on occasion, Hall’s releases would fit nicely in your CD (or iTunes) collection. His newest album, Everything Everytime Everywhere, highlights everything that’s great about Hall’s music, with 12 tracks of summery, beach-y Pop with undertones of contemporary and classic Reggae.
Unlike Caillat and Johnson, Hall focuses on more than just sappy love songs. The love Hall is most willing to write and sing about is love for yourself and the world around you. Hall, who travels to India almost yearly to spend time in an ashram that houses underprivileged children, lives up to Marley’s “One Love” message better that most of his musical contemporaries. Everything even features snippets of sounds from an Indian street corner and a song introduction by one of the young girls from the ashram.
Hall has performed with Matisyahu, Jimmy Cliff and The Wailers, and is currently headlining his own tour. He plays on the Taft Theatre's Ballroom stage tonight with Justin Young and Pete Dressman. Tickets are $17.
Tonight's free MidPoint Indie Summer concert on Fountain Square is a bit different than most of the shows in the series. Not only is the bill all-local, it also represents three of the finest "Pop Rock" entities to ever emerge from the Queen City.
Despite sharing a knack for writing incredibly memorable songs exploding with irrepressible hooks, each group has its own distinctive sound and draws from varying classic Pop/Rock influences from throughout time, from The Beatles to Todd Rundgren to The Buzzcocks.
The Tigerlilies kicks things off at 7 p.m. The quartet has had a remarkable run over the past 23 years, despite the occasional upheaval — the group's lead guitarist slot occasionally seemed to reach "Spinal Tap drummer" proportions, but the ’Lilies balance that out by having the remarkable ability to enlist some truly amazing players who each have brought something unique to the group.
Current six-slinger Brendan Bogosian is no exception; the guitarist's (formerly of local bands like Cash Flagg and The Woos) expressive, serpentine style of playing has weaved its way into (and added new wrinkles to the sound of) The Tigerlilies' deft brand of early Punk/Post Punk inspired Power Pop seamlessly. The band is currently working on its next album, which they hope to have out this fall.
Next up (at about 8:15 p.m.) is the Roger Klug Power Trio, fronted (go figure!) by singer/songwriter/guitarist Roger Klug and featuring the great rhythm section of Mike Tittel on drums and Jamie Criswell on bass.
Klug (former member of popular locals The Willies) has amassed an impressive discography since his mid-’90s solo debut, Mama Mama ich bin in dem La La Land, a garage-y display of Klug's clever, instinctive songcraft, and the highly addictive follow-up, Toxic and 15 Other Love Songs. Those albums help Klug build a following amongst Power Pop die-hards, and not just local ones. His records found a widespread cult following thanks to distribution from modern Power Pop juggernaut Not Lame Records and breathlessly positive press from pretty much any critic who took the time to listen to a song.
After the ambitious (and creatively successful) Where Has the Music Gone?: The Lost Recordings of Clem Comstock in 1999 — a concept album featuring alleged "lost recordings" in a variety of vintage Pop styles (and credited to various made-up artist names) — Klug seemingly disappeared, putting out no new Roger Klug material for a decade and popping up only occasionally for area live shows. But in 2010, Klug fans were treated to an all-new LP, More Help for Your Nerves, which (somewhat amazingly) features some of his best tunes yet.
Closing out the live-concert primer on Cincinnati's catchiest homegrown music from the past four decades is, fittingly, popular trio psychodots (starting around 9:30 p.m.). The ’Dots are genuine local music legends whose origins date back to the ’70s when a quartet of graduates from Toledo's Sylvania High School — Rob Fetters, Bob Nyswonger, Chris Arduser and Tom Toth — moved to Cincinnati and, with a few adjustments in the lineup over time, went on to become one of the Queen City's most beloved bands, the raisins.
Local sensations of epic proportions, the raisins built up a huge (and hugely loyal) fan base in the city's clubs and, with its self-titled LP, scored a regional hit with the unforgettable, somewhat "New Wave-ish" "Fear Is Never Boring." If CityBeat ever does "Best Cincinnati Songs of All-Time," "Fear" is a lock for the No. 1 slot. There will be no debate.
Following the raisins' split in the mid-’80s, Arduser rejoined Fetters and Nyswonger — as well as the producer of that debut LP, globally acclaimed Covington native Adrian Belew — in The Bears, which spread Cincinnati's best kept secret well beyond city limits with a pair of well-distributed albums so strong they were like the Midwest's own Beatles. By the end of the ’80s, The Bears had split as Belew began investing more time in his solo and other outside work.
Perhaps sensing the end was near, Arduser, Fetters and Nyswonger (among about a bazillion other musical projects) began performing as a trio in 1988. The three masterful musicians officially became psychodots in 1991 when they released their self-titled album. The ’dots picked up where they had left off with the raisins and Bears and returned to their status as one of the city's most reliable original music draws.
Psychodots went on indefinite hiatus in the mid-’90s as the trio's members continued to explore a variety of projects (from the Arduser-fronted Graveblankets to Fetters' solo work to Nyswonger's jobs in Bucket and many other local units). While remaining prolific individually, the band seems to have found a way to balance all of their projects better; both The Bears and psychodots have returned to action for live shows and even new releases. (The raisins have also reteamed for a few one-off shows.)
The ’dots' live activity has been especially spare, limited usually to a couple of special shows a year around Thanksgiving time. But, along with tonight's appearance on Fountain Square, the trio seems ready for at least a little increased activity. After the Indie Summer show was announced, the psychodots were added as opening act for Cheap Trick's concert at the Taft Theatre next week, July 6.
If you're one of tonight's three performers' fans, you're likely well aware of their histories. But if you're unfamiliar with any or all of tonight's acts, be sure to be on the Square by 7 p.m. for a free musical retrospective of Cincy Pop at its finest. (Fun fact: Arduser, Nyswonger and Fetters — with The Bears — and The Tigerlilies were performers at the very first Cincinnati Entertainment Awards in the mid-’90s.)
Don't be a-scared of a little heat; there's lots of live music to be heard out there today in the Cincinnati area. Should you choose an outdoor event, be sure to hydrate, sunscreen up and try not to complain too much.
You can work up a sweat in the comfort of AC at Covington's Madison Theater tonight. Successful local EDM/DJ/Dance promoters Next Era and Dub Collective present producer and recording artist Big Chocolate, a self-described "small white dude with the big name" who has risen quickly in the world of Electronic music. He'll have the Madison hopping with his blend of Dubstep, Drum and Bass and Electro, with a little help from like-minded support acts Krowd Khemistry, Lady Bandit and Project Rain.
Big Chocolate is also a prolific video blogger; check out his "Daily Vlog" channel on YouTube here.
Showtime for the all-ages show is 9 p.m. Tickets are $10.
• If you like a little "live Rock band" in your Electro mix, head to Corryville's Mad Frog tonight for a performance by Ithaca, NY-based group Jimkata. The band has a sound that's a mix of catchy modern Pop Rock with an ’80s lean via big hooks, danceable rhythms and ornamental synths. Showtime is 10 p.m.
• The popular Spirit Song music festival returns to Kings Island starting today. The three-day event has become one of the biggest Contemporary Christian music festivals in the Midwest and this year's lineup might be the strongest yet. The lineup includes a lot of "crossover" acts (like tonight's headliners Switchfoot) and artists mostly only known to CCM fans. Local Rock group Mosteller joins the biggies for today's Spirit Song opener. The concert welcomes all ages and begins at 4 p.m. Tickets are $48.99 (if you're planning on going multiple days, you can find bargains with multiday passes).
Before you go, be sure to ask yourself "HWJH?" ("How Would Jesus Hydrate?"). Hint: He wouldn't be turning that precious water into wine today!
• Also worth a good sweat is the free "Salsa on the Square" series at 7 p.m. today on Fountain Square. Today's featured Salsa music-makers: Son Del Caribe. As always, dance instructors will be on hand to assist you if you dance more like Franklin Delano Roosevelt than Franklin Diaz!
• Rock band Collective Soul, which had a string of hits in the late ’90s/early ’00s, performs "An Evening With …" style tonight at Bogart's.
From the press release: "The band plans to make each night unforgettable. In addition to Dosage, they will perform other songs from a catalog that has sold over 10 million albums worldwide and produced seven #1 radio hits during their nearly 20-year career. Those in attendance can expect to hear 'Shine,' 'December,' 'The World I Know,' 'Where The River Flows' and many others."
Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $20.25-$28.
Todd Snider & the Burnouts return to Cincinnati tonight for a hump-day show at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley with special guest Rosi Golan.
Snider is one of the more acclaimed songwriters of his time, earning early support from high-profile fans like John Prine and Jimmy Buffett. Releasing high quality albums since 1994, Snider continues to dazzle with his well-crafted songs and engaging lyrics (perhaps his most notable talent).
This year Snider released two new albums within a couple months of each other. The first, March’s Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables, was an embedded, sign-o-the-times album that featured an “Occupy” anthem, “New York Banker,” and other sharp-yet-everyday observations of current society. The most recent release was a tribute to a like-minded forefather; the Don Was-produced Time As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker featured guests ranging from platinum-selling Country star Kix Brooks to young Americana critic’s darling, Amy LaVere.
Showtime is 8 p.m. This is a seated show; tickets range from $18-$25, depending on where you sit.
Here is a video for Golan's "Underneath A Beating Heart" (which premiered earlier this month on Perez Hilton's site) followed by audio for Sinder's great "New York Banker."
• The Clifton Cultural Arts Center on Clifton Ave. has been presenting free, fun, family-friendly live music on its front lawn since The Comet Bluegrass All-Stars kicked off the "Wednesdays on the Green" series earlier this month. Tonight, the incomparable Tracy Walker performs her soulful Folk/Pop/Rock at the free, 7 p.m. event. Click here to check out the rest of the summer schedule, then listen to Tracy sing below — and shiver that good kind of shiver — to get you in the mood. (Get more Tracy Walker here.)
• Also on the free tip, Lucky 7 (led by former Zionites frontdude Lucky Spaulding and featuring his bro Seven Spaulding, guitarist Chris Madine and bassist Michael VanHorn) is the featured band on Fountain Square for this evening's 7 p.m. "Reggae Wednesday" concert. (Check out some tunes from the R&B/Reggae crew here.)
• And down at Yeatman's Cove (next to Sawyer Point), Party in the Park returns with one of Cincy's most favoritest cover bands ever, the always fun Rusty Griswolds 3 Day Rule. Party in the Park starts at 5 p.m. and goes until 10 p.m.
Click here for more live music options tonight in Greater Cincinnati.
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."
Under the Streetlamp is a new act storming the nation that presents audiences with a vocal performance spotlighting what they call the "American Radio Songbook." The ensemble took its classic approach and turned it into a full production that has been drawing packed houses all over. Under the Streetlamp is currently barnstorming across the country on the heels of its PBS special and debut self-titled album, which showcases UtS's strong Doo-Wop/Pop/Motown/Rock & Roll-oldies sound.
CityBeat recently spoke with one of the vocalists, Michael Ingersoll, of Jersey Boys fame, and discussed the rise and evolution of the group as well as where the sights are set for the future. Under the Streetlamp performs at the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center on Sunday night.
CityBeat: You guys have been around for a couple years but you are a fairly new group. Can you tell me the story of how Under the Streetlamp formed?
Michael Ingersoll: Absolutely. The four of us met when we were doing a play called Jersey Boys. Chris Jones and I did the first national tour of Jersey Boys and then he went off on his way and I met the other two fellows in Chicago and we did the production there. While we were in Jersey Boys, on our nights off we were putting together these concerts for clubs and local theaters to sing other music besides musicals, like things from The Beach Boys, The Drifters, The Beatles and songs like that.
After the show closed in Chicago, the momentum for us was actually following this band; this "side-gig" took off so we decided to pursue it rather than pursuing our individual career as actors. So we took advantage of that momentum and submitted a five-minute demo of what we were doing to (PBS outlet) WTTW in Chicago and they said they were interested in helping us develop this project.
That is the really short version. Once PBS was on board, we were able to book a 27-city tour, which is pretty ambitious for a new group.
CB: What is the biggest difference between performing in Jersey Boys on stage and the Under the Streetlamp group?
MI: Well, Jersey Boys, first and foremost, is a musical with a story and a book. We are a band; we are a concert. There is nothing Broadway about us at all. We have full artistic control over everything we do. This is a project that we guide. This is a project that we own.
That was really one of the big motivations for doing this because our acting careers where we were doing pretty well in the acting business.
It is a concert and we have a lot of fun with each other. We have a lot of the fun with the audience. We take the music very seriously but we don’t take ourselves very seriously at all and the audience seems to enjoy that.
CB: I have been listening to the album this weekend. How did you pick these particular songs to perform or put on the album?
MI: The four of us — each of us is a lead singer. It is actually pretty rare for a band to have four lead singers. We wanted to lead with our strengths, our individual personality.
Michael Cunio, for example, has a crazy high singing voice so he did Etta James “At Last” in Etta’s original key and it is always a big surprise to the audience when it is coming. Chris (Jones) has got a very powerful, kind of balladeer voice so we sing “I Come For You” for him. I am kind of a Folk Rock/Rockabilly guy. Shonn (Wiley) is an incredible tap dancer and Broadway showman so we do “When You’re Smiling” for him.
So basically we just chose the songs as it suited our strengths and flowed for the evening. We also chose artists that are in that same genre that we learned when we were in Jersey Boys. So that’s where we get The Beach Boys and The Drifters and The Beatles.
Our music is fun, it is life-affirming, it is joyful, it makes people feel good. That is probably the biggest criteria for how we choose.
CB: I know your family was an influence musically to you growing up. I also know that you are from Dayton, so you are a local to us. Did you have a good music program in Dayton growing up or did your family give you private lessons? How did you develop musically?
MI: Well, there are two major factors. My grandfather was a professional Jazz pianist and so there was always music around in that environment. He taught me to play piano by ear and really get into Jazz primarily.
There is also an amazing arts program called Muse Machine in Dayton, Ohio. It is a program where kids come from all over — high schools from probably a 30-, 40-, 50-mile radius and every year they put on a musical and they bring in Broadway caliber directors and choreographers and producers. I was lucky enough to be cast into one of those shows and that is really where my interest exploded in performing and what led me to go to college and study acting.
Check out the Muse Machine website, you can learn all about it, it is an amazing organization. I would credit them with the biggest influence, the biggest push.
CB: You are on the road now. You said you were doing 27 cities, which is a lot to take on. Is there anything about home or here you miss when you are on the road?
MI: Obviously my family is there, but who doesn’t miss Graeter’s ice cream and Skyline Chili and the Cincinnati Reds. I love those things. Those are the things I do as soon as I come back. I usually go to Skyline Chili and Graeter’s and try to catch a Reds game. I am a huge Reds fan and Bengals fan. I live in Los Angeles now so I miss the change of seasons in Ohio, but (there are) good, friendly folks there and it was a wonderful place to grow up.
Cincinnati has a vibrant and rich arts community so we just can’t wait to play. I also did a year at the Cincinnati Shakespeare (Company). That was my first actual professional acting job to work there for a year, so I got my start in Cincinnati.
CB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
MI: I think that we are on track to be a top tier act in the Adult Contemporary market, with Michael Buble, Norah Jones, Diana Krall and artists like that. I think we have a product that makes people happy. I think we have a got a very powerful team with PBS and our management. We are determined to take this to as many people as will possibly let us do it. We are doing every single thing we can to make sure we are here to stay. As long as we make people happy, we are optimistic that will happen in big ways.
CB: You said you play piano, but do you guys play any instruments during the show or is it just singing?
MI: No, we are four singers and we have a seven-piece band of incredible world-class musicians. These are folks that have played with Sinatra and Frankie Valli and huge, huge names. We have a rhythm section and then three horns. That horn section helps kind of give it that "streetlamp" character. It helps with that distinctive sound.
CB: Tell us, in summary, what can the fans expect to see in the show?
MI: There is a lot more music we perform live than on the DVD for the folks that are familiar with us from PBS. There is a lot more music and people come away from it often saying, “I can’t believe I laughed that much” or “I didn’t expect the show to touch me emotionally like it did.”
I think people are going to laugh a lot. Hopefully they get up and dance a lot. When they leave, hopefully they feel better than when they came in from listening to this great, joyful music performed by people who really care about them having a good time.
And also, if you have got time, just check out the Under the Streetlamp Facebook page because our fans comment on there after every single show, and really their comments, and there are tons and tons of them, say it all.
CB: That was one of my next questions — are you guys using social media to promote the band?
MI: Absolutely. We have a great website and great designer. We use Facebook, we use Twitter. Any way that we can possibly interact with our fans, we do so. We answer our own e-mail. We maintain our own Facebook page. We spend a lot of time talking to our fans. Anybody that writes in and asks us a question or comments on Facebook, we interact with.
Without them, we are nobody. We make sure they not only feel welcome at the shows but feel welcome in the cyber universe 24/7.
CB: What music are you currently listening to or what is inspiring you right now?
MI: It is funny, a lot of the music that I listen to outside of the band is not music that has anything to do with what we do.
CB: That is pretty common though. I talk to Metal people all the time and they never listen to Metal music. It is really an interesting dynamic. I always find it interesting to see what people really listen to when they are not playing.
MI: Right now I am listening to Foo Fighters latest album, Wasted Life, (and) Ben Folds latest album.
Australian Dance Rock trio Art Vs. Science headlines the free MidPoint Indie Summer concert on Fountain Square tonight at 7 p.m. Also on the bill is Electro duo You, You're Awesome and unique Indie Rock group SHADOWRAPTR.
AvS keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Dan McNamee spoke with CityBeat this week about the band's "conversion mission"/U.S. tour and how they borrow elements from various Dance music styles to create their own distinctive sound. Read Brian Baker's interview with McNamee here.
Below, check out a live video from Art Vs. Science, a recent clip from Shadowraptr and You, You're Awesome's cover of Gary Numan's "Metal."
• It's a night of Doom, Sludge and Crust as rising underground Metal locals Beneath Oblivion headline a free hometown show tonight at Baba Budan's in Clifton Heights. BO has been continuing to tour behind its latest From Man to Dust album, which was released by former local label The Mylene Sheath and has been receiving glowing reviews from outlets like Decibel Magazine and MetalSucks.com. The band will be hitting the road again in August.
Performing with Beneath Oblivion at its 8 p.m show will be Grass (Sludge band from Philadelphia), Before the Eyewall (Sludge from Columbus) and Cincy Crust Punk crew Coelacanth.
• The new group DAAP Girls makes its live debut tonight, opening for solid Detroit rockers The Sights at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine.The Girls consists of members of local Rock band The Lions Rampant and NoKy Ska/Reggae crew The Newport Secret Six. Lions/DAAP Girls member Stuart MacKenzie describes the band as a “dance-oriented mix of early Stones’ guitars, Funk breakbeats, three-part harmonies and Reggae bass.” Tonight's free show kicks off at 10 p.m.
Headliners The Sights begin touring with Tenacious D tomorrow (playing Nashville's Ryman Auditorium) and are promoting their latest release, Left Over Right. Here's the Garage Pop band playing the title track at a show in Ypsilanti last month.
• Fans of Americana/Roots/Folk music can catch some of the area’s finest tonight at Paddlefest out at Coney Island, as WNKU presents the Roots on the River Music Festival. The fest (and parking) are free. Artists scheduled to appear (5-11:30 p.m.) include Jake Speed & The Freddies, Tex Schramm & the Radio King Cowboys, The Lewis Brothers, Magnolia Mountain and Brown County, Ind., Country Blues faves Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Full details on Paddlefest can be found here; click here for the music schedule.
• The Jam band kings of Phish return to Cincinnati tonight for a 7 p.m. concert at Riverbend. Tickets are $41.50-$56.50.
Perhaps because Cincinnati is becoming such a cool city to hang out in lately, like the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who hung out at the Radiohead concert and took batting practice with the Reds the night before their show in Cincy recently), the Phish phellas spent an off day in the Queen City yesterday. Singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon spent at least part of the day shopping for and/or playing with gear at Mike's Music in Corryville. Check out the pics below of Trey and Mike noodling about in the store (from the Mike's Music Facebook page here).
If you happened to have checked out this past Saturday's Beats Summer Concert Series event (the popular Hip Hop/Dance/DJ night presented by Self Diploma every Saturday this summer) on Fountain Square, you probably got a taste of the skills of Cincinnati native Santino Corleon, who performed right before headliner DJ Clockwork.
This week, you have another chance to sample Corleon's goods as the head-turning MC has released his latest track and accompanying music video, "Tats."
Corleon has already become a "name to watch" around the region. Upon returning to Cincinnati after a stint studying (both at college and in the Hip Hop community) in Brooklyn, Corleon stepped up his game and has been invited to perform with artists like Big Sean, Method Man and Redman, J. Cole and Gucci Mane (among other big-timers) and performing at various music festivals around the region. He's also built his buzz up by releasing several widely distributed mixtapes, including his most recent, The Hangover, hosted by DJ E-V (who works with Machine Gun Kelly and Mike Posner) and featured on Hip Hop/mixtape sites like TheOneMic.com, Live Mixtapes and LeakJones.
You can listen and download The Hangover and its predecessor — the more freestyle-oriented Where's the Love? — right here for free through Corleon's site.
Corleon is also giving away free downloads of "Tats," which will be a part of his next full release, Keep the Change. Check the video (directed by Dan Gotti) below, then click here if you'd like your very own download. The track has a cool sparse/ambient quality, with some great, tricky beats and a bass-rumble that could wake the dead. (Note: The track is also pretty non-PC and probably NSFW for most of you reading this at your job, due to language. But if your boss is cool with it, so are we.)
If great reviews and the respect of your peers were tangible income, Warren Buffett would be paying 30% tax on his income as Alejandro Escovedo’s secretary.
From the start of Escovedo’s solo career — after a brief stint with the Kinman brothers in Rank and File and a turn in his own shoulda-been-huge True Believers in the ’80s — the hypertalented singer/songwriter has been long on critical acclaim and short on commercial success for a variety of reasons (label and distribution trouble, no love at radio, health issues), but he has continued to grow and evolve as an artist to the delight and amazement of his cultishly proportioned and loyal fan base.
Escovedo’s debut for Fantasy, Big Station, is the third in a de facto trilogy that began with 2008’s Real Animal and continued on 2010’s Street Songs of Love. Following those adrenalized-yet-sensitive rock albums/sonic scrapbooks, his first collaborations with fellow cult singer/songwriter Chuck Prophet and iconic producer Tony Visconti, Escovedo reassembles the dream team on Big Station, a set that rumbles with themes of home, love and a sense of place.
The album’s first single, “Man of the World,” bristles like Eddie Cochran shot through with a few thousand volts of Tom Petty; if there was any justice in the world, it would be pouring out of every car radio this summer. Like the best of Escovedo’s catalog, Big Station offers electric muscle (“Party People”), acoustic power (the title track) and heartbursting balladry (“Bottom of the World”), all of which he paints with the perfect brush and touch.
Escovedo’s exquisite gift is his ability to blend his Mexicali heritage with his unabashed love of ’60s Rock, ’70s Glam and Punk and ’80s Twang Pop and twist it into a sound that is weirdly familiar and pointedly fresh. And like everything he’s done, Big Station is his absolute best for now.
Modern Blues/Roots hero Tommy Castro performs tonight at The Redmoor in Mount Lookout, which has been presenting several topnotch national acts of late, thanks to veteran local promoters JBM Promotions (they have contemporary Folk Pop great Dar Williams playing the same club this Saturday with locals Ellery). Castro is pulling in to town with his stripped-back backing band The Painkillers, named for his 2007 album Painkiller and put together by the acclaimed and successful guitarist/singer/songwriter as he began exploring a more expansive palette of American Roots influences.
The band is performing heavily off of Castro's debut for the esteemed Alligator Records imprint, 2009's Hard Believer, which helped Castro score a slew of Blues Music Awards from The Blues Foundation in 2010, including Entertainer of the Year (his full crew also won Band of the Year). Castro has also been busy the past few years touring with "The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue" show; Castro's live album from the tour is his most recent recording.
Showtime tonight is 8 p.m. and tickets are $25 at the door.
Here's some live footage of Castro and The Painkillers.
• Formerly the singer/guitarist for rootsy Chicago Indie rockers Low Skies, Chris Salveter launched the Indie Folk outfit Judson Claiborne in 2007 and self-released its debut, Before Midnight Scholar, the following year. For 2010's breakthrough, Time & Temperature, the band joined the label La Société Expéditionnaire and have since played shows with like-minded artists like Andrew Bird, The Cave Singers, Grant Lee Phillips and Cass McCombs.
Judson Claiborne is current prepping its next release, which they'll surely perform at least a bit of tonight when they play MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. The album — to be called We Have Not Doors! You Need Not Keys! — has been recorded in various locations around the Midwest in recent months. The band is looking at releasing the project next spring.
Slaveter's lyrics have been much lauded for their insight as well as their cleverness and humor. The band also showed their wit when they launched a Kickstarter campaign to help with the new release this past spring. Rewards for donations included things like "Instructions by phone on how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver" as well as "handmade" bath salts (not the crazy, bite-someone's-face-off kind; the "Calgon, Take Me Away" type).
Tonight's free show starts around 10 p.m. with local up-and-comers Jeremy Pinnell and the 55s. Here's a sample of Judson's elegant, evocative, dreamy style on the song "Twilight Spirit."
• Also free tonight is the "Salsa on the Square" series on Fountain Square. Tonight should be another great one as the music will be served up by gifted local "all-female Salsa band" Orquesta Kandela. The full ensemble (featuring a dozen members with incredibly diverse cultural backgrounds) includes a complete horn section, expanded percussion and several vocalists.
Read more about the group here, then get down to the Square this evening by 7 p.m. As always, dancing is a big part of the event, but if you've the dance skills of Kate Gosselin, fear not — instructors are always on hand to teach newbies some basics.
Here's a short sample of Orquesta Kandela at work: