That's a fair but lacking description of the festival, but
only because the programming isn't bounded by much other than the
desire to explore. MusicNOW has showcased numerous flavors of World
music, often new avant Chamber/Classical works, a "who's who" of the top
names in "Indie" music (Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, The National, Bon
Iver, Andrew Bird, Grizzly Bear), a few legends (Philip Glass, Kronos
Quartet) and newer and/or more obscure artists, meshing together to
offer Cincinnati music fans (and the many who come in from out of town) a
truly unique musical experience. Sold out audiences have seen
one-off performances and collaborations, including commissioned
works and world premieres.
Below is a sampling of some of the artists featured this weekend — though with MusicNOW's encouragement of experimentalism, take it as merely a surface introduction. The artists will more likely go beyond any pigeonhole you can come up with, which is the best thing about MusicNOW.
• Tonight's kick-off is headlined by Anti- recording artists Tinariwen, a Malian ensemble whose creative North African sounds resulted in a Grammy in 2012 for its fifth album, Tassili. Read CityBeat's interview with Tinariwen founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib (via translated email exchange) here.
Here's the official video for Tassili track "Iswegh Attay" (with translation!):
• Arcade Fire member Richard Reed Parry has been a part of several MusicNOW festivals, composing commissioned works and playing with bands like Little Scream and Bell Orchestre. This year, Reed Parry will perform the songs of his Indie Folk project, Quiet River of Dust. The project made it's live debut at the National-curated All Tomorrow's Parties fest in the U.K. late last year (where Reed Parry performed three very different sets) and a recording is presently in the works. A review from the music blog Let's Get Cynical described it as "a quirky and engaging performance – the first song I hear is about a boy who gets lost at sea and turns into a fish, if you want some sort of indication of what we’re working with. The fact that this is the trio’s first ever show also highlights ATP as the kind of festival where you get to see things you don’t get anywhere else." Kinda like MusicNOW.
• Rounding out tonight's opener is Buse and Gase, the Brooklyn duo of Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez, who make trippy avant grade music on various handmade instruments. The group name actually comes from two of those instruments — the "buke" is described as a "six-string baritone ukulele" and the "gase" is a guitar/bass guitar combo.
Here's Buse and Gase's official clip for the tune "General Dome."
• Saturday's headliner is MusicNOW 2013's most known performer, Glen Hansard. The Irish singer/songwriter began catching attention as a member of the group The Frames, then broke out on his own and won an Academy Award for "Best Original Song" in 2008 for "Falling Slowly" from the film Once, in which he also starred. Hansard's first solo album, Rhythm and Repose, was released last summer on the Anti- label (album bonus track "Come Away to the Water" was, oddly enough, covered by Maroon 5 and Rozzi Crane on the soundtrack to the blockbuster film The Hunger Games).
Here's the video for "High Hope" off of Hansard's solo debut.
• Saturday will also feature the performance of new works composed by Dessner, Reed Parry and Serbian composer Aleksanda Vreblov. The new pieces will be performed by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, which has collaborated with everyone from the New York Philharmonic and Cincinnati native (and Jazz piano master) Fred Hersch to Lou Reed, Barbara Streisand and Talib Kweli. The organization works often with composers on new pieces.
Here's a clip of Dessner working with the Chorus on the piece "Tell the Way" in 2011.
The Chorus will be joined by young string ensemble The Ariel Quartet, which formed in Israel and moved to the States in 2004. Last year, the group was named "quartet-in-residence" at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. The quartet has won numerous international awards for its work and has performed all over the world. Also lending a hand with the new works is Shara Worden of MusicNOW vets My Brightest Diamond.
Below is a clip of the Ariel Quartet performing Mozart.
• Last year, music now featured pioneering composer Philip Glass. This year, Steve Reich plays the role of "legend" on the bill. The Guardian's Andrew Clements once wrote that "There's just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history. Steve Reich is one of them," while many others consider Reich one of the world's greatest living composers. Reich's experiments have been fearless and creatively fruitful and influential, be it his early work with tape loops or his interactive "Clapping Music," a 1972 piece performed entirely with handclaps.
Reich will join Sō Percussion for a performance of that piece and more, including a new commission from Daníel Bjarnason (the annual Esme Kenney Commission, named for a young student from School for Creative and Performing Arts student who was murdered in 2009). The Brooklyn-based modern percussion group (featuring Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting) formed about a decade ago around the collective influence of pioneering NeoClassical experimentalists like Reich, John Cage, Kronos Quartet and others. Sō has commissioned works from numerous composers and has also been acclaimed for its own compositions. Outside of the modern Classical world, the ensemble has collaborated with artists like Medeski, Martin and Wood, Matmos and Dan Deacon.
Here's a cool mini-documentary from PitchforkTV about Reich and featuring Sō Percussion.
The three days of music are held at Memorial Hall, next to Music Hall, but this year there will also be an art exhibition at another great, vintage Over-the-Rhine venue, The Emery Theatre. An exhibit of works by Nathlie Provosty and Jessie Henson will be up at the Theatre Friday, 4-7 p.m., Saturday, 12-4 p.m. and Sunday, 1-7 p.m. Bryce Dessner will perform at a "gallery party" on Sunday 4-6 p.m. The Emery happenings are free and open to the public.
The Cincinnati-born, Brooklyn-based members of Indie Rock sensations The National recently announced details about their first new album since 2010's High Violet, Trouble WIll Find Me. The album is due in the U.S. on May 21 on the 4AD label. (Click here for the album cover, track listing and more National news.)
Today, The National unleashed the first song from Trouble, the warm, crawling "Demons." Check the tune and a video for it below.
UPDATE: Today (April 11), The National released audio of the first single from Trouble Will Find Me, "Don't Swallow the Cap." Check it out:
The National perform a homecoming show on July 14, headlining the final night of the three-day Bunbury Music Festival at Sawyer Point Park. For tickets and more info, click here.
Local Pop Rock crew Mixtapes' first track from their forthcoming full-length Ordinary Silence premiered today on The A.V. Club, The Onion's non-parody (yet still often funny) arts and entertainment website.
The little hyper-catchy slice of melodic heaven "Elevator Days" will be featured on Mixtapes new album, Ordinary Silence, which is scheduled for release on June 25 through California-based independent label, No Sleep Records. If radio had a brain, this tune would be a radio smash. But, well, you know …
Singer/guitarist/songwriter Ryan Rockwell says "Elevator Days" is "a song about being so stuck that short of running away or crying you feel hopeless,” says Rockwell. “It's a song about realizing that every day I judge everyone around me and never realizing I'm the one that needs to change. 90 percent of our problems with other people i think are actually ourselves, it can be an awful realization, and also a necessary one.”
Click here to listen to the track or check out the YouTube version below. If you pre-order the new album, you'll receive an automatic download of "Elevator Days."
The 14-track album was recorded with Eric Tuffendsam at Moonlight Studios in Fairfield, just like Mixtapes' debut release, Even on the Worst Nights, which came out just last year. The band is gearing up for a massive cross-country tour starting in May, which will culminate with a couple of weeks on the Vans Warped Tour. Mixtapes is slated to appear at the Warped Tour stop at Riverbend in Cincinnati on July 30.
Click here to read our interview with Rockwell from last summer.
Musician Matt Baumann, who performs as the Folk act WolfCryer, and several area Folk/Americana musicians are teaming up this Wednesday to help a local music venue that has given them a home over the years.
The club Geez’l Pete’s (508 Madison Ave., Covington) is having financial difficulties to the point where the electricity has been shut off. This Wednesday, a “Save the Pete!” benefit will be held at the club, with music starting at 6 p.m. and running on three performance spots — busking on the street outside, “backporch” jamming and acoustic performances inside the club by candlelight.
“Geez'l Pete's is a hub for many local musicians,” Baumann says, “and the only one that I know of that keeps a library and store on site for the albums from most of the local musicians.”
There is a suggested donation of $5 and beer and booze will be available to purchase. Artists scheduled to appear include WolfCryer, Daniel Van Vechten, Dave Rohs, Tim Caudill and Tony Hall. Mark Utley of Magnolia Mountain headlines the night at 10 p.m. Click here for more info.
Next Wednesday, April 17, Baumann and Co. will present another similar benefit at Geez’l Pete’s for the same cause. Kelly Thomas is the scheduled headliner, performing at 9:30 p.m.
Last night, Jane Smith, singer for the Cincinnati area band Belle Histoire, appeared as a contestant on the NBC singing competition, The Voice. None of the judges "turned around" (the show's sign of approval, but, really, isn't it rude not to look at someone singing for you?), but Smith earned some fans with the appearance.
Lyndsey Parker, who covers the show for Yahoo's music blog, was one such fan, writing, "Whyyyyyyy didn't any of the judges spin for this awesome girl? Biggest Voice fail of this season so far, for real. Obviously the judges could not see how adorable Jane was, with her perfect Marlo Thomas hair-flip, sweet Keane-painting eyes, and Zooey 101 style…but surely they must have heard the potential in this Belle Histoire frontwoman's throaty performance of Florence + The Machine's 'You Got The Love.' I don't understand why no one turned, since they'd turned for less impressive singers this season. Of course, the four coaches who rejected Jane then spent 10 minutes annoyingly gushing about how great she was, which only made me wish there was such a thing as a Do-Over Round on The Voice. Le sigh. If only Cee Lo Green hadn't sat out Season 4. I have a feeling Cee Lo would have totally hit his button for Jane."
Click here to read more about Smith and her on-the-rise Indie Pop Rock band Belle Histoire, then check out the band's music video for "My Dear," from the group's debut album Dreamers, below. And click here to listen to the first single from Jane's solo project Decker, "Swing," which was released to iTunes today.
Cincinnati Pop/Rock band BoyMeetsWorld returns to the Madison Theater in Covington Friday to celebrate its debut EP, Do What’s Best For You. The band is co-headlining the show with fellow Cincy Pop Rock/Punk crew Radio Rescue, which is releasing its newest effort, the band’s sophomore EP, The Soundtrack to Second Place.
Radio Rescue’s Pop Rock has some of the power of Hardcore and Metal (particularly in the blazing drum work and some of the chunky guitar riffing) and occasional gang and/or screamed vocals. Adding another unique element is the prominent use of synthesizer, which gives the band’s sound a bonus texture. While that description might make Radio Rescue’s sound come off like a mismatched mess, it’s impressive how cohesive and focused the band’s upbeat and endearing sound is, with its just-right mix of power crunch, synth squiggles and sweet hooks.
Here is Radio Rescue's video for new EP track "If Loose Lips Sink Ships, Then You're The Titanic."
BoyMeetsWorld was formed just last summer by three brothers: Craig (singer) and Ryan (drummer) Sulken, who are twins, plus older brother Brad Sulken (bass). Guitarists Pat Bryant and Drew Richter round out the band. In its first year as a group, BoyMeetsWorld took home the first-place prize at the Battle of the Bands hosted by Forest Park teen club, The Underground.
The band has a knack for strong Pop hooks and an overall uplifting vibe. Songs like “Head Up High” and “Girl In Front” are best described as Power Pop, written with a maturity and craftiness of a band on their third or fourth album, not first EP. Bryant and Richter offer up some compelling guitar interplay, while the Sulken rhythm section is reminiscent of the high-flying telepathy of Fall Out Boy’s. Meanwhile, singer Craig’s high, earnest vocal approach works especially well in the context of the band’s youthful anthems.
Here is a lyric video for BMW's new EP track, "Girl in Front."
Friday’s co-release show at the Madison Theater also includes opening acts Aristo, Canoes, Ready to Live and The Sweet Addiction. The event is open to all ages and doors open at 6 p.m. Showtime is 7 p.m. Cover is $10 at the door.
I feel like an entire calendar year has passed since my last blog entry. The thought of "how much time has passed this year" is instantly canceled out by the perplexing conclusion of that it's really only April. This year has been one long workweek for me and I honestly would not have it any other way.
The main focus of these past few weeks has been the preparation and actual duration of South by Southwest (SXSW), the largest music festival/conference in the USA. This event is best described as organized chaos, with almost 2,000 bands performing showcases on 80 or so stages with about 500,000 running around a small downtown setting in the evening. This does not include the 2,000 or so “unofficial” artists that come to play free events during the day, basically creating a microcosm for a week that involves live music, networking, workshops, cheap beer and even cheaper tacos. Most people have a love hate relationship with it, yet still return each year for the spectacle.
This year was very unique experience for myself, not only
because I was not preforming (I did for 3-years in a row and last year
came down just with The Counter Rhythm Group), but for the fact that my
main focus was not necessarily on music/artists (crazy, right?). This
year, rather, I was down to unveil Musicians’ Desk Reference to a
select few individuals that are considered important in the music
industry (and rightfully so, I might add). These meetings were
strategically in place for equal parts discussion, pre-endorsement and
even some initial shock value.
I cannot describe to you the feeling of anxiety and pride you have when presenting something to the world that almost no one has seen. A blogger that is way more full of themselves may describe it as close to bringing a new life into the world, but I'm definitely not that guy. Still, it is pretty amazing indeed. For any music fans out there, Haim and Alpine were definitely my highlights this year.
While I cannot technically say whom/what companies I met with down at the festival (legal blah blah blah), I can say that they are significant entities designed to help musicians in this ever-changing industry and all of the meetings went extremely well, even vastly exceeding my expectations at times.
The overall week went better than I had hoped and there are definitely some tricks up my sleeve for the release of Musicians’ Desk Reference this fall.
The actual informal networking at SXSW is what absolutely
amazes me. My job (in addition to Izzi Krombholz’s, employee
extraordinaire) was to literally go hang out with other people in the
music business, dip in and see a few songs of a set and then find a
quiet corner to have a drink and talk shop about what both parties do
and how they could potentially help each other in the industry.
Maybe my next written venture should be titled, “How to Network at SXSW: Drink, Talk, Drink, Talk, Drink, Drink, 15-minute Nap, Tacos, Talk and Drink.” I see a fruitful career move here.
By now you’re asking, “Why has he spent the entire duration of this blog yapping about SXSW?” Because this single week has such a large impact on the music industry, if you are a fan that has the slightest interest in music culture you should be paying attention. This organized chaos dictates what you are going to read about in music magazines and blogs for months to come, what videos you’ll see go viral, the secondary headliners that you’ll pay hundreds to see at music festivals, the fashion trends for the summer and fall, the soundtracks to the latest electronic commercials featuring artists that win all of the awards and your annoying “mainstream/generic” friends are going to be bugging you about next year.
My favorite part of SXSW is not the festival itself, but its sound waves that echo year-round in music venues like The Comet and Mayday and mid-sized festivals such as Midpoint and Bunbury. If you are not one of the individuals willing to pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to make the musical exodus, I strongly encourage you to exhaust the minimal amount of research required to see if the bands playing in venues around town have made the trek to perform at such an elite event. If so, consider it a stamp of approval by the music industry and, most importantly, give these bands a chance when they come to you. I often hear chatter from people wishing that they could go be a part of the festivities and see these “unforgettable performances” from “groundbreaking artists” in “intimate venues,” yet they have no clue that their chances of seeing that same scenario in a city like ours (often times for FREE) is extremely high and is tirelessly being written about week after week by poor Mr. Breen and Mr. Baker. Open your eyes and ears people; you’ll probably be glad you did.
Sorry for the rant, but I do feel it was necessary. Next
month I promise to write more about the book, as we have some major
updates taking place, in addition to having what we hope to be 99%
completed prototype in our hands. Exciting times for sure! But for now,
go appreciate some awesome live music (April is the busiest touring
month of the year due to post-SXSW tours) and have some fun for me … I
will not see the light day for several weeks to come. Send help and some
Thai Express if I don’t turn in my next blog on time next month.
Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians' Desk Reference
The annual Tunes & Blooms concert series at the Cincinnati Zoo kicks off today. Despite the late-coming spring, the weekly series — which showcases two local musical acts at each event — is in honor of the blooming flowers of the Zoo's Botanical Gardens. At least the snow is gone … (If you're going purely for the flowers, the Zoo's website says, "Due to unusually cool temperatures, our horticulture experts don't expect our tulips to be in bloom until mid April.")
The free concerts go down every Thursday in April and run 6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Admission to the Zoo is free after 5 p.m. If you park in the Zoo lot, it'll cost you $8.
Today sees the return of Bluegrass supergroup the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars and Americana supergroup Magnolia Mountain.
Here is the rest of the month's lineup:
April 11: Jake Speed and the Freddies/The Turkeys
April 18: Shiny & the Spoon/Shiny Old Soul
April 25: The Ark Band/The Cliftones
While waiting in line for 45 minutes for the sold-out Wavves show at The Basement in Columbus, Ohio, I begin to notice a much longer line accumulating outside the substantially bigger and more extravagant venue directly across from me, The LC Pavilion.
Then, just as I’m about to ask the stoned kid next to me who is playing at The LC tonight, an older couple with leather jackets – the woman with pink highlights in her beach blonde hair – grabs my attention.
“Excuse me, sir. Is this the line for Garbage?” she asks.
“Well, that depends on your definition of Garbage, ma'am.” I reply.
After this smartass comment, I quickly apologize and assure them that this is the line for the Wavves show and that ’90s Alt-rockers, Garbage, are playing next door. During this short conversation, I realize something.
There are only two basic differences between those fans going to see Garbage at The LC and the fans going to see Wavves at The Basement — the generational gap and the smells permeating from the separate lines (their line smelled of liquor, while most on our side reeked of weed and unwashed clothes).
It was as if the people in the Wavves line were getting a glimpse into the future (mirror, mirror, on the wall, is THAT what I’m going to look like in 2033?) while the Garbage fans were getting a taste of their younger years (mirror, mirror, on the wall, did I look THAT bad in 1993?)
After the wait, the doors finally open and as I walk inside The Basement, I notice immediately that it lives up to its name. It is dark, cold, and even has that musty smell that basements do. It was like going into my Grandma’s basement as a kid, except this one had a fully stocked bar, a small stage, and a 20-by-20 pit that was filled as soon as the doors opened. (Step up your game, Grandma!)
The show finally kicks off around 8 p.m. as the group Cheatahs takes the stage. Although they have a decent 30-minute set, their slower, Pop-infused Grunge style seems ill-fitting for both the ambiance of the venue but also the acts that follow them. During their last song, I wonder if perhaps Cheatahs would have been better received as an opener for Garbage across the corridor rather than opening for the Punk/Surf rockers Wavves.
After Cheatahs finish, the second act, FIDLAR (an acronym for “Fuck it, dawg, life’s a risk”), comes on and the intensity of the show is taken to a whole new level. Although some critics have called this band Skate Punk, for me, that term seems to coincide with terrible Pop Punk and Tony Hawk Pro Skater games (which were amazing), so I’d like to deem them “Party Punk” for the sheer fact that most their lyrics deal with the fact that they like to get high and drunk off of shitty weed, cocaine and alcohol.
Their blistering opener, “Cheap Beer”, starts the set with a burst of energy that never falters during the next 40 or so minutes. By the time they finish, vocalist/guitarist Zac Carper is crowd surfing and ending their final song dangling from the sprinkler system that hangs above the pit full of exhausted but excited fans.
As FIDLAR exited and Wavves starts setting up, most of the patrons come out of the pit looking so tired it didn’t seem like they were going to make it through to the headlining act. Some of the concertgoers leave after FIDLAR’s explosive and energetic set, partially because, as I said before, they were too debilitated to go on.
I personally believe, though, that some left because The Basement has acquired the stench of a 16-year-old boy’s room (for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this distinctive smell, it’s basically a combination between musk, sweat, weed and alcohol) from all the jumping, moshing and mashing going on in the crowd.
The people that pushed through, however, are treated with the opportunity to see a very special and intimate Wavves performance. Nathan Williams opens up the set with the unflinching Surf Rock anthem “Idiot”, which not only is a fan favorite of the night (along with “Green Eyes” and “Super Soaker”), but also keeps that intensity set up by FIDLAR’s performance and takes it higher.
Wavves' set-list isn’t just comprised of songs off older LPs, as they accomplish a pretty choice mix of the earlier material and new, catchy, sing-a-long tracks like “Demon to Lean On”, “Sail to the Sun” and “Afraid of Heights,” off their latest album of the same name.
A pretty flawless musical performance and Williams’ witty, in-between song banter with the crowd (my personal favorite is when he almost chipped his tooth adjusting the microphone and said he was going to look like rapper Danny Brown by the end of the show) coupled with guitarist Stephen Pope’s bedazzled, purple tights and outlandish behavior give fans more than their money’s worth.
As previously stated, for those fans that stuck around for Wavves (which was most of the people there), we witnessed a truly special night. Not because this will be the last opportunity to ever see this band perform live again, but more because, with Wavves' new album, Afraid of Heights, getting the accolades it deserves and the band's following growing greater everyday, we will most likely never see them in this small of a setting again. In fact, I’d bet good money (if I had any) that the next time Wavves visits Columbus, they won’t be headlining The Basement but the venue across corridor, The LC Pavilion — even if Garbage is in town that night.