MPMF news and musings: Wanna be a volunteer for this year's MidPoint Music Festival? The great local volunteerism org Give Back Cincinnati is handling this year's vital MPMF helpers. Click here for details and perks.
And now, with the countdown down to just 10 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
F.Stokes (New York City, NY)
With a poetic/spoken word approach to his smart lyrics and a musical approach informed by his eclectic tastes (he draws influence from everyone from Patti Smith and Johnny Cash to Miles Davis and Kanye West), F.Stokes is far from your stereotypical Rap artist. Though modern and relevant, Stokes’ unique approach is a throwback to the Native Tongues movement in Hip Hop during the late ’80s/early ’90s, in that he seems to be forging a creative path by following his own eclectic muses and not by following the blueprint for whatever it is that makes a Hip Hop song a hit nowadays. His lyrics can be raw and real, but he never indulges in the stereotypical Rap crutches (glorifying bling, guns, etc.). Like Kanye West minus the ego and with less epic ambition, F.Stokes creates his own alternative universe for Hip Hop, one that praises creativity and innovation over all else. Stokes’ new EP, Love, Always, was recorded in various spots across Europe, where music fans have embraced his originality and soulful style.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Kanye at his most artistic, Blackalicious, The Pharcyde. (Mike Breen)
F.Stokes performs at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club on Friday, Sept. 28, at 12:15 a.m. Here's a clip for Stokes' tribute to small towns, "My Simple."
Ami Saraiya and the Outcome (Chicago, IL)
Classically trained and wonderfully quirked, Ami Saraiya reprises her 2009 solo debut, Archeologist, with Soundproof Box, her first album offering equal billing to her backing band, the Outcome. Pinning down Saraiya’s sound is like describing Jackson Pollack’s work to an infant, but if you can conceptualize Zooey Deschenel fronting the Squirrel Nut Zippers as the carnival soundtrack to a Kate Bush PowerPoint presentation, you’d be in the weirdly appropriate ballpark.
Dig: A cabaret gypsy Jazz Pop revue in tribute to Edith Piaf featuring Regina Spektor on stage and Ani Di Franco in the orchestra pit. (Brian Baker)
Ami and Co. perform Friday, Sept. 28, at the "Biore Strip"/Know Theatre's second stage starting at 10 p.m. Here's the group's video for the track, "I'm Pregnant."
LOCAL LOCK PICK
Culture Queer (Cincinnati, OH)
Known for their quirky, eccentric, electronics-infused and endlessly catchy take on Indie Pop and engaging live shows that incorporate various video art backdrops (three of the members work in film), quartet Culture Queer has released some of the best albums of the past decade or so of Cincy music. This October, the band returns with Nightmare Band, a rich, kaleidoscopic stunner-of-an-album that’ll be backed by a national promo push that should do wonders for exposing one of Cincy’s best kept musical secrets to the rest of the universe.
Dig: The Rentals, Devo, Eels, Fruit Pop with all the flavors of the rainbow. (MB)
Culture Queer performs Friday, Sept. 28, at the Cincinnati Club at 8:15 p.m. Here's a fresh new video from the band's upcoming album, the title track "Nightmare Band." The album hits the streets (cyber and otherwise) on Oct. 16 with a release party around the same time (stay tuned).
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
MPMF news and musings: The official MidPoint Music Festival guide (on the streets of Greater Cincinnati until Wednesday, then resurfacing when it's MPMF-time) included a few feature stories this year about some of the festival's bonus features and additions. Read Leyla Shokoohe's interview with MPMF main-man, CityBeat's own Dan McCabe, about the fest's dedication to Over-the-Rhine and new MPMF venues Washington Park and the Emery Theatre here.
And now, with the countdown down to just 12 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
Grizzly Bear (Brooklyn, NY)
Indie Art Pop
When this year’s initial MPMF performers were announced, eclectic Brooklyn crew Grizzly Bear was by far the name that seemed to most excite fest-goers. The group’s eccentric mix of artsy arrangements, organic psychedelia and boundless experimentalism has been earning the fans an ever-increasing and loyal fanbase since their lysergic debut release in 2004. Though continually adventurous, the band’s sound has grown and matured with the size of its following — 2009’s Veckatimest debuted at No. 8 on Billboard’s album chart and seemingly made every single music critic in the world’s “Top 10 Best” list that year. Expect an even bigger response from critics and fans when Grizzly Bear finally unleashes the much-anticipated new release, Shields, released just prior to the band’s MPMF stop. There’s a very good chance one of MPMF.12’s biggest acts will be sporting a Top 10 album by the time they get to Washington Park (an MPMF first).
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Brian Wilson at his “off-the-meds” creative peak, listening to an “AM Gold” Soft Rock compilation and a Kraut Rock comp after drinking gallons of psychedelic mushroom tea.
Grizzly Bear headlines the Washington Park stage on Friday, Sept. 28 at 8:30 p.m. The band performed the lead-off track from its new Shields album, "Sleeping Ute," on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night. Take a look/listen:
Rich Aucoin (Halifax, CAN)
On his enthralling 2011 full-length, We’re All Dying to Live, Canadian musician Rich Aucoin decided he’d invite Canada to record with him. As a result, the album features over 500 musicians, whose teaming on Aucoin’s dynamic, funky and craftily constructed tracks makes Dying to Live sound like the Electro Disco party of the century. But it’s not just a mindless exercise in dancefloor stereotypes — there’s depth and nuance to Aucoin’s songwriting and layering that might not be noticeable initially. Unlike a lot of Dance acts, Aucoin’s music isn’t disposable fun — it’s essential and commands repeated listens.
Dig: ’80s Synth Pop, ’70s Disco, of Montreal, 4AD artists, Chic and Duran Duran in art school together.
Rich Aucoin performs at Below Zero Lounge on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 11 p.m. Here is the hour-long film created to sync up with We're All Dying to Live (plus, of course, the full album for a free preview listen).
That big annual rite of passage into autumn, the Cincinnati Bell/WEBN Fireworks (a.k.a. "The Fireworks"), goes down this Sunday on the Ohio River. To get people warmed up for the big booms, a full slate of live music has once again been booked for the P&G Pavilion stage at Sawyer Point. Impressively, the bands booked for the stage all play original music, mostly in the vein of the Hard Rock/Metal/Modern Rock the FM station plays regularly. The lineup is localcentric, featuring area rockers like Cincinnati Sinners, Eyes On Tomorrow and Cinema Sleep, plus Dayton's Black Cloud Syndrome. (Click here for the schedule.)
But the most unusual choice for the lineup has to be the Pop/Rock/Punk foursome Mixtapes. Not that the nationally-acclaimed band (slated to perform at 1:45 p.m.) will get pelted with eggs or anything … their sound's just not as WEBN-friendly as the other groups playing. It's kind of like having Superchunk open for Papa Roach.
After showering fireworks fans with their punchy, melodic stylings, Mixtapes gets ready for a busy fall. At the end of this month, they kick off a string of dates with Aficionado that'll take them coast-to-coast over the course of about three weeks. Right after that, they'll hop onto another tour, this time with Such Gold, that will have them traveling throughout the South and hitting even more East Coast and Midwest cities.
Near the end of the announced tour dates (on Oct. 30, to be exact), Mixtapes' label — Anaheim, Calif.-based Animal Style Records — has announced it will be releasing a mostly acoustic nine-track EP titled How to Throw a Successful Party. The release was originally put out as a free digital bonus for fans pre-ordering Mixtapes' 2011 LP, Maps & Companions. The official release of Party will be available digitally or on vinyl. Animal Style is releasing just 500 one-sided 12-inch versions, available on yellow, blue and green wax.
Here's a great press release quote from singer/guitarist Ryan Rockwell (formerly of local groups like Small Time Crooks and Black Tie Bombers) about How to Throw a Successful Party: "So we originally recorded this to come out for free alongside Maps & Companions and we were really stoked on it. It was 9 acoustic (mostly) songs and we're really happy with them. People have been asking for a while about it being on vinyl and now the time seems right, so the great Matt Medina is putting it out on Animal Style Records! It's gonna come out at Fest and be limited to 500. If you are reading this on a blog or news website I look forward to reading about how much we suck."
He ends with, "We are happy this is coming out on vinyl and you should buy it on all 3 colors because that's what ICP does and they are rich."
Read more about Mixtapes in CityBeat's July feature story on the band here. Here's the cover art for the forthcoming release.
There has been more activity downtown at the former home of the historic Herzog recording studios than there has been since the studio’s heyday in the ’40s, when legendary songs were recorded by everyone from Flatt and Scruggs and Patti Page to The Delmore Brothers and Hank Williams. (For some background on Herzog, check out this CityBeat feature by Rick Bird.) This week sees a double dose of activity relating to the Herzog legacy.
• The Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation is, fittingly, headquartered in the former Herzog space (on the second floor of 811 Race St.) and has hosted numerous Herzog-related events over the past few years. Late last year, CUMHF presented “Come Play the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams,” inspired by last year’s Lost Notebooks compilation project, which featured various top-name artists bringing to life lyrics Williams had left behind.
The Foundation invited several local musicians to gather at the studio and record some of those songs last year. The jam — which included noted players like David Rhodes Brown, Ed Cunningham, Marvin Hawkins and Mark Utley, among others — was recorded and, this Thursday, Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation will issue its first official release, a four-track EP culled from the sessions. Come Play The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams At Herzog is a digital release with a visual art component — small, signed-and-numbered prints by artist Keith Neltner (pictured).
Thursday at the 811 Race St. space, the limited-edition digital EP/art package of Come Play The Lost Notebooks will be available for $20. (You can pre-order the EP, the proceeds from which go to CUMHF, here). Admission to the 7 p.m. shindig is a $5 donation to CUMHF (or free if you purchase an EP). The event will also include a screening of video chronicling the entire “Guitar Army” event last summer on Fountain Square, where numerous local guitarists paid tribute to the Rock & Roll standard, “Train Kept A-Rollin’ ” (the original was recorded at the King Records' facility on Brewster Ave. and the event celebrated the recording’s 60th anniversary).
For more on the event and the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, visit takingyoutothebridge.org. Check the Facebook event page for further info here.
Here's the original version of a song remade for CUMHF's Lost Notebooks EP, Alan Jackson doing "You've Been Lonesome, Too." On the EP, Mark Utley and Renee Frye of Magnolia Mountain provide the vocals.
• Local musician Kelly Thomas spent many years organizing ambitious benefit concerts. That ambitious approach returns in a new form with her latest creative project, “Sacred Harp Sessions,” a series of videos that will chronicle the source of much of the singer’s inspiration — the rich musical climate of Greater Cincinnati.
Thomas is collaborating with 12 of her favorite local bands on 12 songs, with a video documenting each session (plus an introduction “sharing some of the great things happening in our music community,” Thomas says) becoming the monthly series installment. Thomas plans to unveil one Sacred Heart Session episode each month for a year, then release the songs as an LP. A limited number of free downloads of the songs will be made available after the videos post.
The first Sacred Harp Sessions video premieres Saturday at kellythomasonline.com and on Thomas’ YouTube channel (KellyThomasMusic). In the debut episode, Thomas talks about the legacy of King Records and the Herzog studio. Then, cameras follow her as she records “Lost Highway” by Herzog’s most famous client, Hank Williams, in the actual Herzog space along with great local Roots troupe Arlo McKinley and The Lonesome Sound.
Saturday, Thomas and her Fabulous Pickups and McKinley and Co. will help launch the series with a concert at Covington’s Madison Theater. The Great Depression (featuring the Lonesome Sound’s Tim Carr and Jeremy Pinnell of Jeremy Pinnell and the 55s) will reteam for a rare performance; rockin’ Roots crew The Sleepin’ Dogs rounds out the bill. Cover is $6 and the 9 p.m. concert is open to all ages.
Here's Hank Williams' version of "Lost Highway."
• At this weekend's Whispering Beard Folk Festival in Southeast Indiana, masterful Cold Spring, Ky., Americana group The Kentucky Struts debuted their great new music video for the ominous, creeping and soulful tune, "Country Road," from their The Year of the Horse album. The band made the video with Keith Neltner and Brian Steege, who worked on the documentary Charlie Louvin: Still Rattlin' the Devil's Cage. (Read more about the Struts recent album from CityBeat here.)
Cincy rockers Wussy have stepped up their game in terms of touring and promotions big time. It was previously announced that the group would join Cincy legends The Afghan Whigs on their upcoming U.S. tour run. Now, immediately following those (mostly sold out) dates, Wussy is set to join another local favorite, Heartless Bastards (now based in Austin, Tex.), for several shows on that band's fall tour.
Wussy is the confirmed support act on Bastards dates in Houston, New Orleans, Nashville, Athens, Ga., Saxapahaw, NC, and Washington D.C.
Wussy and Heartless Bastards are also hooking up on vinyl, participating in the series of singles tributing the songs of Soul/R&B songwriter Eddie Hinton. The Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli recorded the first single in The Dangerous Highway Series of 7-inch singles (taking on "Hard Luck Guy” and “Cover Me"), while Drive-By Truckers did Vol. 2. Due next month, Vol. 3 features Wussy doing "Breakfast in Bed" on one side and the Bastards doing "Got Down Last Saturday Night" on the flip. At the same time as the split single, Shake It is also releasing Vol. 4 featuring Cincy's Buffalo Killers, with two tracks produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. (Besides buying them in Shake It's Northside shoppe, the releases will also be available through Shake It via mail order; click here to browse the catalog.)
Before the Whigs and Bastards dates, Wussy headlines next Friday's free MidPoint Indie Summer Series on Fountain Square (the last of the season), then the band's Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker will be doing several dates as a duo in the U.K. (from Sept. 17-Oct. 1). The band's first album to be released overseas, Buckeye (on the Damnably Records imprint), came out in July in the U.K. and features a compilation of Wussy songs from the group's five albums (including the acoustic rendition of Funeral Dress). Buckeye has been scoring Wussy some remarkable press; the BBC reviewed the record and said, "Wussy are certainly a band with an incredibly rich past and, undoubtedly, an equally rich future."
This weekend's big Western & Southern Open tennis tourney (kicking off at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Linder Family Tennis Center in Mason) won't have world-class champs like Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova (who've both dropped out in the past couple of days).
But the event WILL feature several world-class local music champs who will provide tunes between matches throughout the entire event. (Oh, and a bunch of really good tennis-ball hitters will still be showing up.)
Think tennis and music should never mix? Well, Bieber clearly gets it (see pic above). And you obviously haven't seen this.
Here's the schedule of musical acts (presented in conjunction with CityBeat), for those planning to attend. (Schedule courtesy of Game Day Communications).
Saturday, Aug. 11: Jake Evans (10:45 to 11:30 a.m.)
Sunday, Aug. 12: Michael McIntire (10:45 to 11:30 a.m); Michael McIntire and Marmalade Brigade (12-2 p.m.)
Monday, Aug. 13: Andyman Hopkins (10:45 to 11:30 a.m.); Brad Loans of The Sundresses (12-2 p.m.); Andyman Hopkins (5 to 7 p.m.)
Tuesday, Aug. 14: Carole Walker Luley (10:45 to 11:30 a.m.); Hickory Robot (12 to 2 p.m.); Jeremy Pinnell & the 55’s (5 to 7 p.m.)
Wednesday, Aug. 15: Sean Geil of The Tillers (10:45 to 11:30 a.m.); The Cla-Zels (12 to 2 p.m.); Blake Taylor of 46 Long (5 to 7 p.m.)
Thursday, Aug. 16: Shiny Old Soul (10:45 to 11:30 a.m. and 12 to 2 p.m.); Young Heirlooms (5 to 7 p.m.)
Friday, Aug. 17: Colin Shoff (10:45 to 11:30 a.m.); Faux Frenchmen (12 to 2 p.m.); The Shivering Timbers (5 to 7 p.m.)
Saturday, Aug. 18: The Sunburners (6 to 8 p.m.)
Sunday, Aug. 19: Newburg Trio (10 a.m. to 12 p.m.)
Welsh musician Gruff Rhys is bringing his current unique (and brief) tour to Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center tomorrow (Thursday). The show starts at 8 p.m. Click here to grab your tickets.
attending the tour’s stop at the CAC will also be treated to an extra
rare bonus — Rhys’ Neon Neon project-mate and Cincinnati native Boom Bip (aka Bryan Hollon, who now works from out of the West Coast) will be
joining Gruff onstage after the main performance for a one-of-a-kind DJ
Rhys’ band Super Furry Animals released its major label debut, Rings Around the World,
in 2001 and the group appeared to be a successor to the throne occupied
by fading superstars like Blur and Oasis. The album (following SFA’s
excellent debut, Fuzzy Logic,
and a trio of experimental-oriented albums put out by king-maker Alan
McGee’s Creation Records) put a brilliant, creative spin on “Brit Pop,”
highlighted by fascinating sounds between the grooves, but also an
extraordinary knack for writing incredibly potent melodies. Rings
contained several hit-songs-in-waiting and did well in the U.K., but
never fully grabbed the ears of the U.S. mainstream like a few of the
band’s predecessors did.
While some artists would have simply gone back and cleaned up/out the sound of their potential breakthrough to appeal more to the mainstream, it soon became clear that Rhys and the Furries weren’t interested in pandering. The band had always been underlined by a progressive, adventurous streak (early works embraced Electronic and Ambient music, among other approaches) and it was evident that the opportunity to crossover or become a massive success was less important to Rhys and Co. than following their own creative whims. (By the mid-’00s, SFA had left the Sony family for the artist-friendlier confines of Rough Trade Records).
Rhys’ work outside of the Furries’ domain has been even more exploratory. Rhys’ eclectic solo albums have contained songs sung alternately in Welsh, English and Spanish. And he’s a huge fan of collaboration, working with artists like Mogwai, Sparklehorse, De La Soul, Gorillaz, Simian Mobile Disco and Brazilian artist Tony da Gatorra, to name a few. One of his most celebrated collaborations has been with Boom Bip; the pair’s Neon Neon project has been widely acclaimed, earning a Mercury Prize nomination in 2008 for the album Stainless Style (a loose concept piece about the life of John De Lorean).
Rhys’ current project/tour is a follow-up to Separado!, a feature film/multimedia venture during which film crews followed the musician as his “investigative concert tour” traveled through South America. The film followed Rhys on his journey to learn more about his “long lost, guitar-playing, poncho-wearing uncle, Rene Griffiths.” Given his musical output, it was fitting that Rhys’ intellectual and creative curiosity had led him down such another unique path.
Here's the trailer for Rhys' "psychedelic western musical," Separado!
current “investigative tour” is another adventure in genealogy and
travel, as the artist (again trailed by a film crew for a planned
movie sequel/music/prose/photo project) journeys through North America to find
the burial site of John Evans, another distant relative who allegedly
left Wales in the late 1700s on a quest to verify the legend of a
Welsh-speaking tribe of Native Americans.
Rhys put this call out to anyone with info that could help: “Gruff urges anyone with clues regarding Evans’s unknown burial place; imaginary volcanos; wandering tribes of Welsh Speakers, or lingering river reptiles to come to the shows, where their help with his investigations will be appreciated and featured in the movie.” You might even make the film's final cut just by showing up and checking out the show.
Rhys’ performance will include music, discussion, his cutting humor and more. As the trailer above suggests, and anyone who’s seen SFA live knows (the band's criminally under-attended show at the Southgate House many years ago was one of my all-time favorite concerts), don't go into one of Gruff’s appearances with too many expectations because, most likely, they’ll be blown out of the water.