The gods of Rock must have known that Alice In Chains was in town on Saturday, May 17 as the area around the Horseshoe Casino was dreary, cloudy and cold. It’s as if they transplanted a little bit of Seattle into downtown Cincinnati for much of the day. Luckily the rain held off for the show, allowing the sold-out crowd to bear witness to a classic Grunge act proving just how energetic and relevant they still are.
Canadian quartet Monster Truck kicked off the show before the advertised 8 p.m. show time, meaning a large number of fans missed out on much of the band’s set. But the fans that did get to catch Monster Truck’s Southern-fried Rock were in for a treat. These denim-clad and bearded boys sound like they’re from Georgia more than Ontario, playing rippers that would make Lynyrd Skynyrd raise their beers to the sky. Monster Truck’s shirts read in big, block letters: “Don’t Fuck With The Truck.” After their set, I doubt anybody considered doing so.
Monster Truck’s set was a great warm up for the main attraction, but the crowd was really there for one reason and one reason only. At 8 p.m. sharp, as the opening lines to “Them Bones” rumbled through the stacks, Alice In Chains stormed the stage to prove exactly why they can still sell out venues almost 30 years after their formation. Vocalist/guitarist William DuVall (who joined the group after original frontman Layne Staley’s death in 2002) brings a constant energy and dynamic stage presence that revitalizes not only the crowd but his own bandmates. Bassist Mike Inez and guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell became visibly more active and engaged whenever DuVall entered their stage space.
This isn’t to say that the old school members were slacking. Inez and drummer Sean Kinney still banged out rhythms that probably made the Horseshoe’s windows quake a bit. And Cantrell plays the hell out of his guitar, playing through Alice In Chains’ iconic riffs with such power and intensity, it’s obvious that his newfangled haircut didn’t cause a Metallica-esque loss in Metal credibility.
The set featured a mix of classics like “Man in the Box” and “Rooster,” deep cuts and hits from the DuVall albums like “Check My Brain,” insuring that fans of all eras happy. Even casual fans such as myself (my set list notes have more question marks than actual song titles) had plenty to latch on and sing along to. The trio banged out each song so powerfully that even unfamiliar tracks came across as timeless classics.
The band’s interaction with fans is particularly notable as well. DuVall made efforts to point out fans who were truly enjoying the show, Cantrell invited a father and son up on stage because of the child’s enthusiasm in the front row and Kinney had the crowd call a lawyer’s office whose billboard was in his sight line for the entire performance. Judging by all the screens floating in the air, I feel bad for their receptionist.
As the show wound down and Alice In Chains played their encore, consisting of “Don’t Follow,” “No Excuses,” and “Would?” the crowd slowly filed out and were greeted by a group of religious protesters touting the dangers of gambling and Rock & Roll (sex and drugs were noticeably absent from their complaints). They were largely ignored but after the hour and a half concert experience that I’d just been a part of, all I felt was a bit of pity for them. They missed one hell of a show.
The air may have been Seattle cold but after almost three decades and five albums, Alice In Chains are still white hot.
When the lineups for the every-Friday MidPoint Indie Summer concerts on Fountain Square were announced, showcasing a solid lineup of local and touring Indie Rock acts, a colleague in Charlotte, N.C., Jeff Hahne, bemoaned his own city’s lackluster “outdoor free music” offerings. Writing on the blog of the city’s Creative Loafing weekly, he said he was increasingly disappointed by the cover bands and “’90s alt-rock” acts that populate two of Charlotte’s free outdoor music series.
“Charlotte may have twice the population and enjoy warmer weather,” Hahne wrote, “but as far as a summer music series goes, Cincinnati clearly wins.”
It was a good reminder of how good things are for live music fans in Cincinnati. And Hahne wrote this about only one small part of the overall free, outdoor, live music offerings the city provides. There are events for fans of cover bands, too, like the every-Wednesday Party in the Park shows at Yeatman’s Cove on the riverfront, but, besides Indie Summer, downtown’s Fountain Square and Over-the-Rhine’s Washington Park present a wide variety of styles of music every year once the warmer weather rolls around. And every series draws respectable-to-blockbuster crowds, showing that our city has more than enough music lovers to support the multitude of musical events each summer. (Even these two spaces’ series only represent a portion of the overall outdoor, live music action downtown; there are also events like next weekend’s Taste of Cincinnati that have a wide variety of local musicians performing.)
The lineups for the musical performances at Washington Park and Fountain Square (officially known as the PNC Summer Music Series and presented by 3CDC and a wide range of different sponsors) have leaked out gradually over the past few weeks. Now that most of the artists booked for the various series have been announced, we’ve collected them below for you to marvel at the quantity and quality of what our city core has in store this summer for music fans. (Visit Fountain Square’s site here and Washington Park’s site here for more info and some links to check out some of the artists ahead of time.)
Washington Park (SHOWS 7-10 P.M. WEEKLY UNLESS NOTED)
WEDNESDAYS: CROWN JEWELS OF JAZZ
May 28: Rashon Murph & Randy Villars
June 4: Marc Fields
June 11: Tropicoso
June 18: Patricia & Chris Berg
June 25: Siobhan and the Situation
July 2: Rick Van Matre
July 9: NKU Faculty Band
July 16: Anne Stephens
July 23: Art Gore featuring Delfeayo Marsalis
July 30: No concert
Aug. 6: Sylvain Archer
Aug. 13: Fo/Mo/Deep
Aug. 20: Dick Sisto
Aug. 27: Mike Wade
THURSDAYS: BANDSTAND BLUEGRASS
May 29: Jake Speed & The Freddies andThe Red Cedars
June 5: The Comet Bluegrass Allstars
June 12: Wild Carrot & the Roots Band
June 19: Ma Crow & The Lady Slippers
June 26: The Downtown County Band
July 3: Northern Kentucky Bluegrass Band and Woody Pines
July 10: Steve Bonafel & One Iota
July 17: Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle
July 24: The Rattlesnakin’ Daddies
July 31: No concert
Aug. 7: The Tillers
Aug. 14: Hickory Robot
Aug. 21: Bulletville
Aug. 28th: Whiskey Bent Valley and Al Scorch
FRIDAYS: FRIDAY FLOW
(Note: Local DJ crew Selectas Choice spins between sets)
May 30: EU, Jameze and performers from Elementz
June 6: Natural Progression and Collective Peace
June 13: Hotsauce, Tyshawn Colquitt and more TBA
June 20: Carpe Diem, Ron C and more TBA
June 27: Bobby Valentino, L’ Renee and performers from Elementz
July 4: Playa (featuring Smoke & Black), Deuces and more TBA
July 11: Carl Moore, Marwan (Soul Flow)
July 18: 2nd Wind, The Ingrid Rachel Project
July 25: (3 p.m. start) Sei High, 432, performers from Elementz and more TBA
Aug. 1: No Friday Flow; LumenoCity returns
Aug. 8: Flawless and Keenan West
Aug. 15: Big Jim and Erica P
Aug. 22: Gregory Porter and Mandy Gaines
Aug. 29: Tiara Purifoy (American Idol), performers from Elementz and more TBA
Fountain Square (SHOWS 7-10 P.M. WEEKLY UNLESS NOTED)
TUESDAYS: AMERICAN ROOTS
May 27: Jeremy Pinnell & the 55s and Ben Knight & the Welldiggers
June 3: Kim Taylor and Peter Mulvey
June 10: The Black Lillies and The Kentucky Struts
June 17: Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Shuffle and Arlo McKinley
June 24: Dallas Moore Band
July 1: The Tillers and Red Cedars
July 8: Pure Grain and Shoot Out the Lights
July 15: Chuck Mead and Straw Boss
July 22: The Wheeler Brothers and Shiny & the Spoon
July 29: Bulletville and Bucktown Kickback
Aug. 5: Josh Eagle and The Hiders
Aug. 12: The Ragbirds and The Happy Maladies
Aug. 19: Tony Furtado and Rumpke Mountain Boys
Aug. 26: Birds of Chicago
WEDNESDAYS: REGGAE WEDNESDAY
May 28: Super-Massive (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ: Frankie D)
June 4: Driftaways (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ group: Avalanche Sound)
June 11: Peach Freedom and Connect (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ: Frankie D)
June 18: Aaron Kamm and the One Drops (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ group: Queen City Imperial Sound System)
June 25: Milele Roots (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ: Frankie D)
July 2: Jah Messengers (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ group: Avalanche Sound)
July 9: Zvuloon Dub System (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ: Frankie D)
July 16: Gato’s Gullah Gumbo (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ: DJ Mowgli)
July 23: Ark Band (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ: Frankie D)
July 30: 77 Jefferson (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ group: Avalanche Sound)
Aug. 6: Rashita Astemari (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ: Frankie D)
Aug. 13: The Drastics (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ group: Queen City Imperial Sound System)
Aug. 20: Big Wig Mechanics (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ: Frankie D)
Aug. 27: The Cliftones (Summer Splash Happy Hour DJ: DJ Mowgli)
THURSDAYS: SALSA ON THE SQUARE
(Note: Salsa on the Square kicked off May 1)
May 22: Grupo Tumbao
May 29: Mambo Diablo
June 5: Son Del Caribe
June 12: Tropicoso
June 19: Kandela
June 26: Grupo Tumbao
July 3: Zumba
July 10: Mambo Diablo
July 17: Kandela
July 24: Son Del Caribe
July 31: Tropicoso
Aug. 7: Clave Son
Aug. 14: Grupo Tumbao
Aug. 2: Son Del Caribe
Aug. 28: Kandela
Sept. 4: Clave Son
Sept. 11: Tropicoso
Sept. 18: Latin Beat Project
FRIDAYS: MIDPOINT INDIE SUMMER (7-11 P.M. WEEKLY)
May 30: WHY?, Yip Deceiver, Badboxes, Dark Colour
June 6: Wussy, The Tigerlilies, Honey & Houston, Mason School of Rock
June 13: Betty Who, Vito Emmanuel, Captain Kidd, Pluto Revolts
June 20: Those Darlins, The Harlequins, The Frankl Project, Those Crosstown Rivals
June 27: Moon Taxi, Peridoni, Nevele, Acarya
July 4: Local H, Mad Anthony, New Strange, One Day Steady
July 11: Soledad Brothers, Electric Citizen, Pop Goes the Evil, Grotesque Brooms
July 18: Wesley Bright & the Hi-Lites, DAAP Girls, Mardou, Young Colt
July 25: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Public, Dream Tiger, Danny & His Fantasy
Aug. 1: The Spiders (A tribute to David Bowie), The Honey Spiders, Bad People, To No End
Aug. 8: Man Man, Injecting Strangers, Ohio Knife, Skeleton Hands
Aug. 15: The Nightbeast, more TBA
Aug. 22: psychodots, Lemon Sky, Tonefarmer, Heavy Hinges
Aug. 29: Islands, The Pass, The Yugos, Joey Cook & The Keepers of the Secret
SATURDAYS: BEATS BY SELF-DIPLOMA (7-11 P.M. WEEKLY)
May 31: Cal Scruby, Matt Persin, NJ + drummer, Nuk, Federal & Company, TJC with DJ Vizion, Beatboxer Nav & Jake
June 7: Chingy, DJ Diamond, Sleep, Planet Venus, Chestah T & Snowball, Razook, Alexander the Bear
June 14: DJ Clockwork, DJ Etrayn, Buggs Tha Rocka, Jon Schuyler, Ingrid Rachel Project, SSE, DJ RiQ The Professor, Miles Mulligan
June 21: OCD: Moosh & Twist, Puck, Hafrican, Jayme Shaye, Eazy El Loco, A1 & Juice Jones, DJ iGrind
June 28: DJ Bandcamp, Junya Be, Macho Means, Aysia Marie & Ajax Stacks, Nate Paulson, Mad Snipes, EddieO
July 5: The Knocks (DJ set), Millennium Robots, Disco Joe & Friends, Aviators, T3CCHTUNE, Mr. Fantastic, Keyyz
July 12: Mike Stud, James Dapper, The S.A.U.C.E., SkeetR V. Twinkiee, Kid Quill, Blue Society
July 19: DJ D-LO, Joseph Nevels, Oregonia, Spearpoint, Brad Redford, Banducci and the Wheels, Kyle English
July 26: DJ Kid Capri, Khimera Records (8:30 p.m. start)
Aug. 2: Hi-Tek and Friends, Jillian Faith, Suave & Under New Order, Frankly Speaking, B. Soul, Haze
Aug. 9: Dizzy Wright, Trademark Aaron, Young ILL, Jaylee, Odd Fella, MCB, Jameze Latrail
Aug. 16: Trentino, DJ Skills, Ingrid Woode & the Woode Tribe Orchestra, DJ Will Kill, Mark Moore (8 p.m. start)
Aug. 23: Sound Remedy, Bob A Dob, Panzer, Black Signal, Randi Floss, Skyelle, Button Mashers
Aug. 30: Capitol Thrill, Firecat 451, Riot Ten, DJ B-Funk, Reaux, Chris Alarcon, DJ Edge
A new batch of over 20 artists has been announced for this year’s MidPoint Music Festival, which returns to the clubs and venues of Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Sept. 25-27. The following acts join The Afghan Whigs, who were announced last week as the Washington Park headliners on Sept. 26, at 2014’s MPMF.
New Jersey Indie rockers Real Estate enhanced the buzz they’ve been building on in March when Domino Records issued the group’s latest album, Atlas. The tough critics at Pitchfork, supporters of the band since its 2009 debut, gave Atlas an 8.8 (out of 10) and said it’s “at once their most forlorn album and their most beautiful.” “It is rare, and special, for a band to be this effortlessly and completely themselves,” Pitchfork added.
Noah Lennox is a founding member of Animal Collective but also a successful solo artist under his stage name, Panda Bear. His experimental, psychedelic style will be on glorious display at MPMF as he promotes his latest solo effort, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, due sometime this year on Domino Records. (Fun fact: Panda Bear was a guest artist on Daft Punk’s Album of the Year Grammy-winning Random Access Memories.)
Ambient Electronic artist Tycho (born Scott Hansen) makes critically acclaimed music for the esteemed Ghostly International label. His latest album, Awake, came out in March and reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart (and No. 23 on the general Billboard album chart). In a review of the new album, Consequence of Sound said, “Listening to Tycho is the aural equivalent of exploring a new art museum. The overall effect is one of remarkable beauty and you still have the option of how you’ll take it in.”
Uniquely adventurous San Francisco metallers Deafheaven take a unique approach to Black Metal, which has led to wider acclaim and a more diverse audience than most other Black Metal bands … and, of course, has led to some of the genre’s fans to decry them as “not Black Metal.” Whatever. The group’s fantastic Sunbather was one of the more compelling albums of 2013 (and, subsequently, one of the best reviewed albums of last year, as well). Here’s CityBeat’s interview with the band from earlier this year.
Gardens & Villa
After spending a couple of years touring the world and becoming a tighter, better band in the process, Californian Indie Electro Pop band Gardens & Villa released its second album, Dunes, on the Secretly Canadian imprint earlier this year.
Danish Indie Rock duo The Raveonettes have been buzzing around since 2001, when Rolling Stone editor David Fricke saw the band at a music festival and publicly raved about them. The twosome’s fuzzy Pop sound was an instant hit upon the release of Chain Gang of Love on Columbia in 2003. Over a decade later, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo are prepping their seventh full-length and continue to tour the globe.
Sun Kil Moon
Mark Kozelek first brought his emotive, slo-mo Indie Rock to the masses with the great Red House Painters. When that band dissolved around the turn of the century, the singer/songwriter and actor (he was in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky) continued the vibe with Sun Kil Moon, which released its sixth album, Benji (featuring Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley and Will Oldham, among other guests), in February of this year. In July, Kozelek will release a live Sun Kil Moon album.
Barrence Whitfield & the Savages
The Afghan Whigs aren’t the only MPMF band with international acclaim and Cincinnati ties. Vintage R&B/Rock & Roll outfit Barrence Whitfield & the Savages was formed in the ’80s by Soul shouter Whitfield and Peter Greenberg, guitarist for the pioneering Cincy Garage Rock band The Customs (and, later in Boston, DMZ and The Lyres). The twosome reformed the band (with some local musicians in the fold) and released the locally-recorded Savage Kings album in 2010. Building a bigger audience with every tour, the band’s Dig Thy Savage Soul album last year was its best received yet, leading to successful shows across Europe (and a spot of Later … with Jools Holland in the U.K.). Read CityBeat’s feature story on the band from last year when they played a two-night stand at MPMF venue MOTR Pub.
EMA is Erika M. Anderson, a South Dakota native who honed her chops in the California experimental music scene. With EMA, Anderson makes slinky Indie Pop Rock so infectious it caught the attention of indie label giants Matador Records. The label released EMA’s latest album, The Future’s Void, in April to widespread praise.
Ex Hex is the new band from Mary Timony, leader of Helium, member of Wild Flag and also a solo artist (the band name comes from the title of her 2005 Lookout! Records album). The band’s first release, the 7-inch single “Hot and Cold,” came out on Merge Records in March.
Formed by Man Man’s Adam Schatz, Brooklyn’s Landlady became a hometown favorite thanks to consistently great live shows and a 2011 self-released album. In July, the band releases its new album, Upright Behavior, on Hometapes, home to artists like Matthew E. White and Megafaun.
When Massachusetts Indie Rock band Speedy Ortiz had its first official full-length, Major Arcana, released on Carpark Records last year, the band instantly became an audience and critical favorite, landing on many scribes’ “Best of 2013” lists. The A.V. Club called the album “a markedly assured debut, one that makes Speedy Ortiz an act to watch. Like its songs, the band’s detonation is inevitable.” Earlier this year, the band released the Real Hair EP.
Low Cut Connie
After building a strong following in Cincinnati thanks to repeated visits (including a great set at last year’s MPMF), Piano Rock crew Low Cut Connie return for another rollicking show in the Queen City. Read CityBeat’s interview with LCC from March here.
Houston Indie rockers The Tontons hit the touring circuit hard over the past seven years and now, with the release of their second album, Make Out King and Other Stories of Love, earlier this year, the hard work is paying off for the band. The self-released LP received high praise from the likes of The New York Times, Paste and Rolling Stone.
Psych/Proto Punk band Ex-Cult hails from Memphis and recently released its second album, Midnight Passenger, on Goner Records. CMJ says, “This second full-length breathes with a more expansive volume and guitar churn, without resorting to every other current garage band’s habit of just dumping reverb on everything. In fact as this rec moves along, its snaky sprawl sees the band crawling out of its genre garage, like spilled oil and gas seeping into the weeds and cracks in the driveway, making everything a bit more slippery as you approach.”
Brooklyn’s Milagres make Indie Synth Rock for the Kill Rock Stars label. After the success of their 2011 album, Glowing Mouth, the band released Violent Light in early 2014.
Formed by two former members of Reggae group John Brown’s Body, trippy Dance Rock band Rubblebucket self-released its debut, Rose’s Dream, in 2008. Since then, the band has had its cover of The Beatles’ “Michelle” declared on the 50 greatest Fab Four covers of all time by Paste, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and recorded with LCD Soundsystem’s Eric Broucek. The band’s most recent release is the EP Save Charlie.
NYC-based Mutual Benefit is the dreamy project of singer/songwriter Jordan Lee, who grew up in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Last year’s debut full-length, Love’s Crushing Diamond, drew comparisons to the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Grizzly Bear.
The Cave Singers
Seattle Indie Folk group The Cave Singers formed in 2007 out of the ashes of the great Pretty Girls Make Graves. The band’s latest album, Naomi, came out last year on Jagjaguwar.
Canadian Indie rockers July Talk formed just a couple of years ago, but already they have an international profile, touring with artists like Billy Talent and Besnard Lakes and catching audiences attention with a great live show. The group recently premiered a new music video for “Summer Dress,” a song slated for a forthcoming EP.
St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Alabama Soul ensemble St. Paul & the Broken Bones’ great sound and live show have made them a favorite on the international touring circuit. The band’s debut album, Half the City, came out earlier this year, leading to the group’s appearance on CBS’s The Late Late Show and, more recently, a nomination for Emerging Act of the Year from the Americana Music Association.
Three-day tickets (and VIP tickets) are on sale now at mpmf.cincyticket.com. Today at noon, single-show tickets for The Afghan Whigs’ all-ages (kids under 10 can get in free with a paying adult) concert in Washington Park on Sept. 26 go on sale at the same site.
Ellie Goulding killed it Wednesday night at Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati’s outdoor venue The Shoe. By noon the next day, I was still recovering. I’d feel old, but it’s a sentiment I heard echoed from others who have seen Goulding live.
She sucks all the energy out of you in the absolute best way possible. If her driving, pounding music isn’t enough to propel you to dance, Goulding herself will. From rolls and swishes (oh, to have those abs) to doing the Running Man, for a girl who claimed she’s awkward about dancing, her moves were on full display. She was basically a blonde ball of energy and emotion, ping-ponging across the stage. The crowd fed off that energy and unleashed their own. My feet were trampled, my boobs were elbowed and some very skinny dude almost dropped his girlfriend on my head (twice). And it was awesome!
I’ve often sulked about the lack of enthusiasm at shows from Cincinnatians, but I cannot make that complaint about the Goulding concert. Whether it was the exact right mix of younger people or the fact that Goulding just happens to have cool fans, something made the gathering last night much livelier than your average show. People danced, flailed and jumped with abandon. Even during “Your Song,” kids who were surely not around when Elton John’s original version was released sang along with abandon while drunk guys tried light-heartedly to woo the closest girl.
I must give props where they are due, too, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sheer perfection of The Shoe. Upon hearing that such a madly loved and wildly popular performer was playing The Shoe (with a capacity slightly smaller than my former high school’s enrollment), it seemed not quite right. In retrospect, I couldn’t think of a more fitting venue. A larger venue would have sucked. For instance, the seating angle at Riverbend may be optimal for viewing the stage, but it quickly creates a lot of perceived distance for the performers. The Shoe, sunk down in an impeccably landscaped hole on the edge of downtown and sandwiched between two taller buildings, felt infinitely more intimate. Even when I couldn’t see the actual bouncing blonde head on stage and had to watch the Jumbotron instead, it just felt right.
Whatever your excuse for not being there, I’m judging you. I’m guessing it’s for the best, though. You probably would’ve stood around nodding and not dancing. But, you missed out. Goulding is a cold-blooded killer on-stage. She kicks asses into dancing mode, leans way, way, way back and pulls in all the energy from the audience to get her through the night. Nearly 4,000 people happily offered up their life source for her reaping. Hopefully most of them were lucky enough to sleep in the next day.
A diverse collection of local bands will be performing at the Southgate House Revival in Newport tonight, all to help out one of their own. Tonight’s “full house” Southgate show (with music on all three stages) was designed to raise money for Ed Ackerson, a veteran local musician who has played with numerous bands over the years, including Snowshoe Crabs, Stays in Vegas, Strangelove and Hurricane.
The Northern Kentucky-based guitarist has been battling kidney disease for around two decades — almost as long as he’s been playing out with area bands. Ackerson is reportedly now in complete renal failure, on dialysis and waiting for a matching donor. The funds raised at the Southgate concert will go to help Ackerson and his family in their time of need. (Ackerman is the father of four.)
Scheduled to appear at tonight’s 8 p.m. show — dubbed "Ackfest" — are Prizoner, Hurricane, The Core, Muleshine, Mudpies, Sticky Honey, Kenton Station, Bad Boy Troy, Iconx, Beginnings and more. There will also be silent auction to raise additional funds. Admission is a $12 donation at the door.
Cincinnati Alt Funk/Dance Rock quartet Founding Fathers have built a buzz locally over the past few years with their energized live shows and infectious, slanted grooves. The band has been hard at work lately in the studio, recording those grooves for a forthcoming full-length.
Earlier this year, Founding Fathers gave the public its first taste of the new recorded material in the form of a music video for the track “Stop, Drop and Roll.” The clip, directed by Bangout Films, mixes some cool live performance footage with woozy visuals that show a blurry, surrealistic night of barroom debauchery (including some creepy, hallucination-worthy dudes with smiley faces for heads). The video wonderfully matches the blustery, more rocking side of Founding Fathers’ sound, which also shows elements of avowed influences like LCD Soundsystem and Talking Heads. If you remember — and loved — Columbus, Ohio's Funk Punk greats Royal Crescent Mob, “Stop, Drop and Roll” should be right up your alley.
Founding Fathers performs a free show this Saturday night at MOTR Pub and fans in attendance will have a chance to hear even more of a preview of the forthcoming full-length. The band is offering up a special four-track EP/album preview to those in attendance. Saturday’s show starts at 10 p.m. Vito Emmanuel is also on the bill.
For more on Founding Fathers, click here.
The album is an endangered concept in music, with MP3s and streaming encouraging more and more people to listen to tracks “a la carte.” If people aren’t listening to a collection of songs intentionally put together by an artist in a specific order, why should the artist bother trying? It’s one of the reasons releasing EPs seems to have become more popular than issuing full-lengths.
With some exceptions, the “album as art” concept has long been dwindling amongst Hip Hop artists, many of whom have more fully embraced the hodge-podge “mixtape” format, which is perhaps more in tune with our ADD/social media-plagued culture.
So it’s beyond refreshing to hear the new release from Cincinnati MC Sleep, Branded: The Damon Winton Story, a collection of eight tracks that tells the story of a young man’s troubled upbringing. It’s not just that Sleep has compiled eight songs that kind of fit together; Branded is a fully envisioned tale that requires the listener to hear the entire album in order to get the total impact. And it’s quite an impact.
It helps that Sleep’s “concept album” is based on some excellent storytelling skills, contains some fierce rhymes (with a flow and timbre that recalls Jay-Z at his peak) and is supported by the excellent, often hauntingly atmospheric production of Dope Antelope, which brilliantly reflects the dark, chaotic, heart-breaking nature of the story. The way Sleep — half of local duo 2-Man Cypher — lays the story out is also sharply clever. In lieu of titles, each track is labeled as simply “Question,” followed by the track number. The album opens with a police officer hitting “record” to begin his interview with the main character’s social worker about “what could have led up to what transpired with him this past weekend.” To kick off each track, the social worker is asked about a different aspect of the trouble the young man had experienced and been in.
Working backwards from the incident (which isn’t revealed until “Question 8,” so the listener is left to wonder what transpired), Sleep creates evocative, harrowing slices of life, usually told from the main character’s point of view, but with other voices popping in occasionally to give an even bigger picture. The young man’s horrific surroundings are revealed gradually; the listener learns that he has self-mutilated himself, been molested, lost (or never had) faith or religion and had family involved in drugs. Sleep’s brilliance is turning the smaller stories from the big picture into vivid, cinematic tales in themselves — “If this is grown folks’ business/Then why when you conduct it, there’s a child as a witness,” he raps after it’s revealed that the main character’s mother had substance abuse issues. When the social worker tells the officer that the young man had been bullied over his clothes in school, Sleep echoes that pain with lines like, “The peer pressure to be above the status quo/It’s never ending, it’s never taking sabbaticals.”
By the last track, the listener is primed to hear just what happened to the main character, but when his fate is revealed, it’s not what most would expect, making the album that much more powerful. (In the spirit of not ruining the final act, I’ll refrain from giving away the ending.)
Sleep’s Branded shows just how much power Hip Hop still has to tell a realistic story poetically but without hyperbole. It’s an incredibly moving piece of work that stands as one of the best Hip Hop albums to come out of Greater Cincinnati in recent memory. And Sleep shows that if he ever gets tired of the Rap game (which itself would be tragic becomes the genre needs more voices like his), he’ll be able to find some kind of career as a writer, be it an author, a journalist, a filmmaker or whatever field he decides to lend his talents to.
If you’re a fan of intelligent Hip Hop or just great storytelling in general, you must download (for free or whatever you’d like to kick in) Branded immediately at sleep513.bandcamp.com.
Here is a music video for the track, "Question 2":
After launching last year locally at the MidPoint Music Festival and nationally at New York’s CMJ conference, the intuitive and comprehensive music industry e-book Musicians’ Desk Reference has relaunched with a new format. Created in Cincinnati by longtime local musician and promoter Brian Penick (also the founder of The Counter Rhythm Group, which has helped numerous local acts garner national attention and work), MDR is moving from its original, one-time-purchase approach to a monthly (or annual) subscription plan.
For those who may have been cautious about its upfront cost, Musicians’ Desk Reference, which is customizable to the user’s needs (no matter where they are in their career) and features information, templates and advice relating to everything from touring, promoting and recording to radio and press campaigns and well beyond, is now available to test-drive for free. The no-cost 30-day trial doesn’t even require a credit card; click here to get started.
Artists serious about pursuing a career in music will likely become more interested in MDR as they dive in and look at all it has to offer. After the 30-day trial, MDR can be accessed for $10 a month or $100 for the year.
Visit musiciansdeskreference.com for complete info.
The first good sign that consistent warmth is on its way is the announcement of the lineup for this year’s MidPoint Indie Summer series at downtown’s Fountain Square. The concerts are part of the Square’s free PNC Summer Music Series, which showcases different types of music (played mostly by local acts) five days a week. (The lineups for the every-Thursday Salsa on the Square shows have also been announced; visit myfountainsquare.com for details.)
The eclectic, free Indie Summer shows take place every Friday throughout the summer. This year’s lineup is perhaps the series’ strongest yet, with some higher profile national touring acts and the usual array of top-notch local talent.
Here’s the full rundown of Indie Summer shows so far (a few slots are still to be announced):
• August 15: The Nightbeast (a co-headliner will be announced in July)
The Indie Summer series is sponsored by the MidPoint Music Festival, CityBeat’s popular annual music extravaganza, which returns to the clubs and venues of Downtown and Over-the-Rhine Sept. 25-27. (Though all MPMF-worthy, the acts are booked through Fountain Square, not by MidPoint.) There will be a MidPoint booth on Fountain Square every Friday where music fans can find the latest MPMF info and purchase tickets to the three-day festival.
A limited amount of discounted early-bird passes for this year’s MPMF are available now at mpmf.cincyticket.com. Nail down your three-day tickets (or VIP Experience tickets) before the prices increase. And be sure to stay tuned to mpmf.com and the fest's various social media accounts for the latest updates.
Spring has sprung, in name at least. For music fans, this means that more bands will exit from their hibernations and start scheduling shows and tours. Cincinnati’s own Folk Metal warriors, Winterhymn, have done exactly that, earning a slot on this year’s Paganfest America.
The local sextet will be the only American band on the bill, spending from late April to mid-May crisscrossing the nation with Folk Metal heavy hitters Korpiklaani, Turisas, Chthonic and Varg. It is undeniably the biggest tour the young band has ever been a part of and members are asking for their fans’ help to fund the trip.
Winterhymn has set up an Indiegogo campaign with the hopes of raising $7,500 to pay for travel expenses, merchandise, gas, lodging, tolls, insurance and other necessary expenses. The money raised will not see any members’ pocket — it is merely to help them be a little less broke when they return home from their voyage.
In exchange for donations made, Winterhymn has set a veritable treasure trove of loot for any fan who contributes. Perks range from a digital download of a five-track EP ($5) to a signed kick drum head that will be used on the tour ($300). Other swag includes armor, patches, CDs, custom artwork, t-shirts and much, much more. If you’re interested, it’s best to act fast; several of the largest pieces, including a $200 violin and $400 guitar, have already been claimed.
Since March 15, the band has raised over $1,800 and hope to reach their goal by April 13. Click the box below or visit the Indiegogo page here to view the band’s pitch video and check out all of the perks. Even if a contribution can’t be made, fans can spread the word about the campaign via Facebook, Twitter (using the hashtags #winterhymn, #paganfest and #paganfestamerica) and other social media.