A thousand words. That’s what I have to tell you everything about what I am doing, why I am doing it and how it may affect musicians and the music industry. At the end of it, you get to form an overlying judgment on both who I am and my reasoning. So here we go.
My name is Brian Penick and I am the founder of an artist development company called The Counter Rhythm Group and the author of the upcoming eBook, Musicians’ Desk Reference, an interactive and customizable eBook that establishes a protocol for progression through the modern music industry. Yes, that’s a lot — I’ll explain below.
But first I’d like to thank the kind folks at Cincinnati's CityBeat for giving me an amazing opportunity to guest blog about my world for the next couple months, raising nationwide awareness (and funding) for an eBook that will be released in October. We are very fortunate to have an entity such as CB here in Cincinnati that is willing to take a chance at promoting a startup project this early on, something that fewer individuals have every year with the closing of “altweekly” newspapers across the land. While I could go on for many paragraphs ranting about how important these outlets are to the worlds of the arts, small businesses and independent thinking in general, I simply implore you, if you have not done so in a while, to go pick one up and start reading. You won’t realize what you’re missing until its gone.
This book is a project that I am putting together out of both passion and necessity. I have been a touring musician for well over a decade now, having a large part of the business end in each of my projects, always trying to learn the ins and outs of the beast known as the music industry. I love giving advice to other musicians on whatever I can, and while I might not have the answer, I often have an answer, which is (usually) better than nothing. I enjoy seeing independent musicians thrive or “make it,” and I always hope that people who find success are willing to share their knowledge and experiences with those who have not … a utopian dream I have where the music industry becomes more of a community, eliminating the competitive edge that unfortunately drives musicians to greedy and selfish attitudes about helping others.
Throughout my personal experiences as a musician and running The Counter Rhythm Group I have found some parallels to the questions musicians are asking, most of which seem to have a natural progression to them.
For many, the music industry seems to be a labyrinth you have to face in the dark. Why does it need to be this way? I believe it doesn’t.
Musicians’ Desk Reference sheds light on the complexities. You’re still going to have to navigate your own path, but this eBook will give you some tools in your belt to have as good of a chance as ever. The inner workings of the book display information on several topics of the music industry, offering insight as to WHY, WHEN and HOW you can accomplish important tasks, all leading towards progression. But it doesn’t stop there, as the book gives you customized scenarios in chronological order that offer clarity on what exactly you need to do. In addition to all of this, there is an extensive collection of documents that are included — everything from templates and instructional guides to examples and video tutorials.
Again, I don’t have ALL the answers, but I do have some, which, combined with my desire to help more musicians than I presently can, is why I am in the position that I’m in. I would have loved to have a resource like this when I was coming up as an independent musician and I really hope this is a game changer for the music industry.
We’re about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the project, something that makes me queasy just thinking about it. I have been on the fence about KS from the start; while I think it’s actually a great platform to help projects that extend the bounds of creativity come to fruition, you’re still begging for money, which I am not a fan of. I started The Counter Rhythm Group out of pocket and, while I would love to do the same for this, the costs are astronomical to produce a good (like this) vs. a service, and there is no way I can handle that at the moment.
But then I started to realize that how important crowd funding is to something like this. Getting people to support this extends beyond the monetary value (more backing = cheaper book costs to users), because when someone backs this project it means that they believe in what we are doing and that it’s necessary. That is a very humbling thought to someone who has essentially shut himself away from the masses since starting this project and it makes this knot in my stomach start to slightly ease up.
Here I am about to enter the most important month of my life, one that will dictate at least the rest of the year, with the amount of sleep dwindling with each approaching night. I encourage you to read the story and watch the video at my Kickstarter page and if you feel compelled to, contribute and/or share.
Again, I am grateful for what I do and the fact that I get to do it every day, even if it means I get to help only a few. I love music more than most things in this world and I know many of you share that same sentiment. Thank you for reading. Here we go.
Brian Penick will be guest blogging for CityBeat monthly, leading up to the fall release of Musicians' Desk Reference. For more on the project, visit the official site here.
Contemporary "Newgrass" kings Yonder Mountain String Band return to the area tonight for an all-ages, 8:30 p.m. show at Covington's Madison Theater. Tickets are $25. Opening the show is the very cool Lake Street Dive, a "jazz-schooled, DIY-motivated and classically pop obsessed" quartet that formed at Boston’s New England Conservatory. Check out this clip of the group performing the Jackson 5 classic "I Want You Back."
In an interview with CityBeat's Brian Baker, YMSB's guitarist/vocalist Adam Aijala said fans might hear a new song or two at tonight's show. As for when you might hear a new album with new material, Aijala said the members have been having trouble finding time to get in the studio between familial obligations and touring. Read the full interview here and check out the group's 2010 appearance on CBS's Late Late Show. (There will be a pre- and post-show party at Stanley's Pub, which is also offering a bus ride to and from the Madison show. The CEA-winning Rumpke Mountain Boys will perform.)
• Eclectic NYC Indie Rock troupe Mice Parade marches into MOTR Pub tonight for a free, 10 p.m. appearance, the second date on its current tour. Formed as a solo project by Adam Pierce at the end of the ’90s, Mice Parade has featured various band members since and nearly every successive release has shown growth and a different side of Pierce's writing. Candela, Mice Parade's latest addition to its already stacked discography (released this past Tuesday), is one of Pierce's most compelling releases to date, showcasing a fascinating, psychedelic brand of "Shoegaze" Pop that is as unpredictable as it is riveting.
Check out CityBeat's preview of the show here. Below is the first single/video from Candela, "This River Has A Tide."
One of Cincinnati's finest Indie acts, the brilliant Bad Veins, has split in two. Last night, BV's singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist Benjamin Davis took to the group's website to announce that founding member, drummer Sebastien Schultz, has decided to "move on from his time with Bad Veins."
Schultz — previously the drummer for local Indie rockers Cathedrals — had been a member of Bad Veins since almost the very beginning; Davis' first Bad Veins show was a solo affair opening for late Cincy duo wil-o-ee. As the pair told me for a 2008 CityBeat cover story, Schutlz was at the show (though he left early) and joined shortly after. He's played on all of BV's releases, including the most recent LP, The Mess We've Made, and toured extensively with Davis for the past five-plus years.
Thankfully for BV fans, this is not the end of the group. "The show must go on!" Davis said in his website post, expressing excitement for Bad Veins' future:
"I’m going to use this opportunity to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and take Bad Veins in a bigger direction, adding others members, bass, keyboard etc. I’ve already received a number of offers from musicians to join but haven’t made any decisions yet. If anyone has any recommendations, hit me up! The plan is to get back on the road this spring!"
We had heard rumblings about the split prior to this past Sunday's Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. Davis ended up opening the show solo (with taped backing), closing his set with a great, orchestral version of The Muppets' "Rainbow Connection." (The CEA show was filmed and will be airing locally on cable; a special, limited-edition DVD will also be available — stay tuned.)
Bad Veins is booked to play an all-ages show presented by the Counter Rhythm Group on Feb. 16 at Rohs Street Cafe in Clifton Heights along with PUBLIC and The Ridges. More info is available here.
On Sunday night, hundreds of local musicians — as well as the many of the fans who love them — had Covington's Madison Theater packed to capacity to celebrate the 16th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.
It was another love fest, as the music, laughs, camaraderie and drinks flowed throughout the tight three-hour ceremony/party CityBeat founded over a decade and a half ago as a means of honoring Greater Cincinnati's music makers (and, originally, local theater artists and productions).
Though it has lessened over the years as more people have grown to understand the CEAs better, there is still plenty of griping about the awards every year. The vast majority of complaints are about who gets nominated. It's understandable in light of the talent that is overlooked annually. Having so many talented and deserving artists in our city making quality music is a good problem to have. But if every worthy musical act in the Tri-State area were to be nominated for a CEA each year, the categories would include dozens of nominees and the show itself would have to be a sleepover affair. You think the Oscars are too long? Sit through one 16-hour CEA show and you'll be begging for a witty Billy Crystal musical number.
Like every year, the sport of CEA bashing is quickly forgotten once inside the venue for the ceremony. The awards celebration is the one time of the year where fellow musicians from every genre — some friends already, some friends-to-be, others perhaps only known via social media messages — gather in one place. There doesn't seem to be a ton of competitive spite within our music scene and the musicians I've talked and worked with, for the most part, are always pretty down to earth. (As if on cue, the griping returned right after the show — a comment on Sunday night's blog post featuring the winners of this year's awards deemed the whole program an embarrassment. Sixteen years of my life, wasted! Oh, anonymous trolls, where would you be without the internet?)
The CEAs can't help but become a communal love fest. (Yes, the drinking probably helps this quite a bit, as well.) In general, there seems to be a lot of internal support amongst local musicians, and it feels like external support and appreciation (outside of jerky, anonymous comments) is on an upswing. The CEAs are always a great reflection of that community spirit.
Ben Davis of Indie Pop duo Bad Veins kicked off the CEAs with his trademark taped accompaniment, but without bandmate, drummer Sebastien Schultz. Davis' performance was still compelling, capped off by that timeless ode to magic and mystery, The Muppets' chestnut, "Rainbow Connection." The singer/multi-instrumentalist set the tone (and the bar) for the night's performances, which included plenty of revelations and some fun, novel surprises.
Those unexpected moments are always the performance highlights of any awards show and this year's CEA lineup and production provided loads of highlights. Local Boogie Woogie torchbearer Ricky Nye rumbled through a great set of rollicking Blues, building up to a cool collaborative climax as Blake Taylor and Jonathan Reynolds of fellow CEA "Blues" category nominees 46 Long joined the pianist/singer. Nye and 46 Long had been embroiled in a mock online feud leading up to the show. Music heals! (Nye ended up winning the category.)
International Punk sensations The Dopamines gave the show a jolt with their explosive performance, launching into Guided By Voices' "A Salty Salute," but only after bassist Jon Weiner managed to insult nerds and "old fucks" in his introduction (they're "Punk," he reminded everyone later). From there, the trio launched into a mini-set of their own adrenalized anthems with fiery swagger. Fans were made.
The same can be said for singer Jess Lamb, the soulful vocalist who wowed the crowd with a few hypnotic songs, joined by her guitarist and bassist (who doubled on throbbing kick-drum). The sparse set-up belied the soaring sounds conjured, guided by Lamb's remarkable voice. Lamb was nominated for a CEA in the R&B/Funk/Soul category, a testament to her unique sound, which comes closer to resembling Florence and the Machine than, say, Usher. We may need to create an "Alternative/Soul/Rock" category to accommodate Lamb next year.
The Hip Hop/Rock band Gold Shoes are also keen hybridizers, and their CEA performance was a great display of the group's unique spin on Hip Hop fusion. The band provides a dynamic backdrop that's spiced with elements of Funk, Rock, Pop, Jazz and beyond. But the group isn't just providing a playground for frontman Buggs Tha Rocka to unleash his tight, captivating flow. The group writes melodic songs with strong, unique chorus hooks. Their CEA performance was a clinic on how to combine Hip Hop with other types of music without sounding like a cheap Pop grab (" … featuring Adam Lavine!"), Gym Class Heroes or, God help us all, Limp Bizkit.
The Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, which provided a great experience for VIP ticket buyers in the balcony, reminded everyone of the Queen City's place in shaping popular music with a segment presented by the group's president, musician Marvin Hawkins. After talking a bit about the organization's plans to continue honoring the area's rich musical past in 2013 (expect a lot of King Records-related events in honor of the locally-based groundbreaking label's 70th anniversary), Hawkins joined a host of local Roots musicians for a spin through a pair of songs from the recent collection, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, a project spearhead by Bob Dylan that involved writing songs from a cache of unearthed lyrics written by the American music icon. The all-star band assembled — including Magnolia Mountain's Mark Utley and Renee Frye, David Rhodes Brown and Sylvia Mitchell — expertly played songs they had recorded at the Music Heritage Foundation's downtown headquarters, in the same space once occupied by Herzog studios, the site where Williams recorded "Lovesick Blues" and other classics.
The CEA show itself ran smoothly and first-time host Ted Clark proved to be a great fit for the show. Clark's deadpan, sardonic humor — familiar to those who flock to his "live talk shows" at MOTR Pub — was reminiscent of Zach Galifianakis and sometimes he had great lines that were maybe to subtle for the CEA's "party atmosphere." But from those of us paying attention — bravo, Mr. Clark.
There was an array of entertaining acceptance styles from the winners, ranging from choked-up and sincere to pumped-up and enthusiastic to more matter-of-fact. Wussy had a huge night, taking home the Album of the Year (for Strawberry) and Artist of the Year CEAs, capped by some funny lines while accepting. Drummer Joe Klug joked that, for anyone doubting they deserved the Artist award, Wussy "played Little Rock, Ark., four times in the past year."
The award presenters — a collection of local music supporters and personalities, mostly from radio and press outlets, as well as sponsor reps — did a great job hammering home the "support local music" message of the CEAs' mission. But presenter and CityBeat Arts and Culture Editor Jac Kern provided one of the funniest bits in CEA history with her tribute to Beyonce — via a soon-cut-off lip-synced performance of the National Anthem.
Culture Queer capped off the show (or warmed up the after party?) with a set that captured the fun of the night, rocking out a trio of quirky, animated Electro Indie Art Pop gems with their trademark film backdrop. The sprightly CEA trophy hostesses came out for some dancing on finale "Born Again," their funky get-ups matching CQ's twitchy, offbeat anthem — and the jubilant, colorful energy of the entire night — perfectly.
After a run of over 14 years, the popular "Monday Salsa Night" at Corryville club The Mad Frog — featuring local nine-piece Salsa ensemble Tropicoso (and weekly free dance lessons) — will come to an end this coming Monday (Jan. 28).
"The change is of course bittersweet," says Tropicoso's Nicholas Radina (who also tours with Over the Rhine and has performed with several local Latin groups, including his own ¡Zumba!), "but (we're) proud that we held a wonderful 'house gig' for so long in Cincinnati."
A press release describes the "Monday Salsa Night" finale as the start of a "break" for the event, though it's unclear if or when it would return (it also refers to Monday's show as being the "finale"). Part of the reason given for the "hiatus" is that, though it has worked for over 14 years, fans were asking for an earlier start time, since so many people have to get up Tuesday for work.
In response, Tropicoso has arranged for a new regular gig at the club, set to begin next month. "Friday Salsa Night" — featuring Tropicoso and everything fans have loved about the night — will take place at The Mad Frog on the second Friday of every month. The new night debuts March 9.
This Monday's finale starts with dance lessons at 9 p.m. Tropicoso — which was nominated in the "World" category of the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards eight times (including this year), winning twice — starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5 and the event is open to Salsa lovers ages 18 and up.
The band has started a Facebook page — "Mad Frog Salsa Night Memories" — and is asking attendees to share their favorite memories.
Last Friday at Bogart's, CityBeat and the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards presented a showcase featuring some of the best new local bands of 2012. (Check out some pics from the event here.) This coming week, four brand-new acts (featuring musicians from other established groups) will be playing their first shows ever. Here's a round-up of the new bands (possible nominees for next year's CEAs?) debuting.
• Joey Cook of Indie Pop greats Pomegranates has a new solo project called Danny and His Fantasy. Cook — who also headed up the side project Firs and has done a few solo shows with friends and bandmates — leaked the great track below via YouTube a couple of weeks ago. The piano-laden track "Too Out of Touch" is a great slice of dancey and wonderfully melodic Pop, highlighted by Cook's soulful falsetto, that wouldn't be out of place on an of Montreal record.
Danny and His Fantasy's debut show is this Friday at Mayday in Northside. Cook will be joined at the free show by Phil Cogley, the Indie Pop maestro from Columbus who performs under the name The Saturday Giant. Cogley's been making waves from our state's capitol, recently earning a slot on Columbus Alive's annual list of "Bands to Watch" for 2013. Locals Speaking Suns also perform.
• Also Friday, Pop Goes the Evil plays its first live show. The new crew debuts at MOTR Pub, playing a free show with Indiana rockers Left Lane Cruiser. Pop Goes the Evil is fronted by singer/guitarist Lucas Frazier, formerly of the popular, kick-ass local Rock outfit The Dukes Are Dead. The new group — rounded out by drummer Jordin Goff (also of The Yugos) and bassist Evan Roberts (organist for heavy local band Grey Host) — has issued a couple of great music videos, showcasing a swaggering, energized Pop/Rock sound that's not chasing any trends, opting instead for a more timeless appeal.
Here's the second single from Pop Goes the Evil, "Golden Apple."
The sixth season of TV One's entertaining and informative Unsung series, showcasing artists who did well but didn't quite reach the heights many expected, kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. with an episode about the late, great Soul star Isaac Hayes. Next week, on Jan. 30, the series focuses on a group that was formed at Kentucky State University and ended up calling Cincinnati its home base — Midnight Star.
The R&B/ElectroFunk nine-piece band was a major success in the ’80s, giving the music world massive hits like "Slow Jam," "No Parking on the Dance Floor" and "Freak-a-Zoid." But the band eventually splintered — due to "arguments over money and management," according to the Unsung synopsis — with Reggie Calloway and brother Vincent leaving and eventually forming Calloway (which had success with the smash "I Wanna Be Rich" in 1989).
Midnight Star carried on and produced a couple more albums that featured R&B chart hits before taking a break. The "hiatus" ended in 2000 and Midnight Star continues to this day, performing most recently at the Macy's Music Festival last summer. Click here to read up on the band circa 2013.
The Unsung series has a loose definition of "unsung" (as the Isaac Hayes episode suggests), but its profiles of various R&B/Soul, Hip Hop, Funk and Gospel artists are always fairly illuminating. The show has dedicated episodes to a wide range of successful artists, from The Ohio Players and Zapp to Kool Mo Dee and Big Daddy Kane to George Clinton, The Spinners and another Cincinnati-affiliated star, Bootsy Collins.
Unsung (Documentary) - Bootsy Collins... by GENERATIONDISCOFUNK
The rest of Unsung's season six includes episodes on EPMD, Lou Rawls, Eddie Kendricks, The Whispers, Mint Condition, Johnny Gill and a special two-hour look at the Disco phenomenon.
TV One is channel 217 for local Time Warner Cable subscribers (1217 for the HD channel).
Slanted Indie Pop crew Maps & Atlases formed in 2004 and, in 2010, released its breakthrough LP Perch Patchwork, the Chicago quartet's debut for the esteemed Barsuk label. Since Patchwork, the band has spent tons of time touring, which has included several dates in the Cincinnati area. The band's compelling latest release, Beware and Be Grateful, was issued by Barsuk last spring and is perhaps the finest example of the group's dynamic sound yet. M&A's sound is uniquely layered and structured, full of subtle, unexpected outbursts and song twists, yet still overflowing with magnetic melodies and spine-tingling harmonies.
The band performs tonight at Oakley's 20th Century Theatre with like-minded locals Archer's Paradox, who are readying for the release of their debut album a little later this year. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $15.
Here's the video for "Remote & Dark Years" from the latest M&A album.
• The end of The Grateful Dead, with Jerry Garcia’s 1995 death, didn’t do much to squash the band’s incredible popularity. To satiate some of that Dead thirst, various members from throughout Garcia’s and the Dead’s history have brought the legendary band’s spirit to that huge fan base on a fairly regular basis. Two Dead-affiliated artists have been sitting in with Chicago-based jammers Terrapin Flyer for the past few years for shows and tours. The band will be joined by Melvin Seals, who played Hammond B3 organ with the Jerry Garcia Band for 15 years, and Mark Karan, who played guitar with the post-Dead band The Other Ones and Bob Weir’s Ratdog, when they swing through Stanley’s Pub tonight for a 10 p.m. performance. Tickets are $20.
Here's some footage of the collaboration from last March, doing a version of Dylan's "Maggie's Farm," a Dead fave.
• Over a decade ago, Minnesotans Paul Sprangers and Scott and Evan Wells were integral parts of Hockey Night, a wildly eclectic Indietronic outfit that blended the lo fi Rock and snarky humor of Couch Flambeau with a next generation love of Electronica, Hip Hop and mad crazy sampling (remember "Battlestar Scholastica" from their 2002 debut Rad Zapping and "For Guys Eyes Only" from their 2005 swan song Keep Guessin'?). The band's ugly dissolution would have beaten the musical aspirations from lesser men, but Sprangers and the Wellses were made of sterner stuff and, after a brief hiatus, tapped drummer Nicholas Shuminsky to form Free Energy in 2008.
Free Energy, now based in Philadelphia, exploded into the wider consciousness when LCD Soundsystem¹s James Murphy produced the band's debut album Stuck on Nothing in 2010, causing UK music magazine NME to erroneously tout them as Murphy's new band. While patently false, the claim focused an extraordinary amount of attention on Free Energy and Stuck on Nothing; Spin and Rolling Stone cited the album and band among the year's best. With their just-released sophomore album Love Sign, Free Energy (now also featuring guitarist Sheridan Fox) reinforces and expands their new musical direction, a Classic Rock/New Wave Pop hybrid that enthusiastically references everything from The Cars to The Outfield to Cracker with equal amounts of affection and adrenaline. And in familiar ’60s Pop/Motown fashion, "Electric Fever," the album's infectious first single — originally leaked 10 months
ago — is the lead track on Love Sign. Free Energy might not be breaking any new ground but they go over the old territory with an ass-kicking intensity.
The band plays at Newport's Southgate House Revival tonight with Sweatheart and Homemade Drugs. Showtime is 9 p.m. and tickets are $8 at the door. (Preview by Brian Baker)
Click here for even more live music options tonight in Greater Cincinnati.