Just a couple of decades or so ago, downtown Cincinnati resembled a ghost town in the evenings. Once 5 p.m. rolled around, most downtown workers hopped in their cars and headed home, rarely staying in or visiting the city’s core for any other reason (maybe a concert or sporting event, but that was largely a “parking garage/game/home” process). It’s hard to explain to some younger locals just how much the city has changed since then, with the life and energy brought back to Downtown and nearby Over-the-Rhine over recent years becoming the norm.
There are, of course, numerous reasons for the resurrection of the city’s center, much of which is covered weekly in CityBeat (new restaurants, bars, events and other additions, plus the influx of people deciding to live in the area). Every summer I’m particularly struck by the huge shift the city has made when I attend some of the many free live, outdoor concert options available to the public most days of the week. Seeing hundreds of people from all backgrounds enjoying free music in a variety of genres is yet another thing that should make our city proud of how far we’ve come.
Lineups for this summer’s music series on Fountain Square and Washington Park, as well as the relative newcomer, Smale Riverfront Park, have gradually been unveiled over the past few weeks. Below is a list of scheduled events so far. All of the series do a great job of spotlight the enormous local talent in the city, and there are also several concerts featuring national touring acts that would otherwise cost you several dollars for tickets (or at least a cover charge of some sort).
Print this out, grab a highlighter and mark your favorites (or, heck, take a chance on something new) and then get ready for another great summer for music lovers in the Queen City. (These are only the weekly music-related happenings; visit myfountainsquare.com, washingtonpark.org and mysmaleriverfrontpark.org for all kinds of other events happening this summer in the spaces.)
Salsa on the Square
The long-running Salsa on the Square series gets a jumpstart on the other music series on Fountain Square, kicking off today (and continuing through mid-September, which is also later than the other series). Running 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the concerts feature numerous area Salsa bands, lots of dancing and even some instructors on hand to help you out if you need some tips.
May 7: Son Del Caribe
May 14: Tropicoso
May 21: Kandela
May 28: Clave Son
June 4: Stacie Sandoval & Grupo Tumbao
June 11: Kentucky Salsa All-Stars
June 18: Son Del Caribe
June 25: Zumba
July 2: Kandela
July 9: Clave Son
July 16: Stacie Sandoval & Grupo Tumbao
July 23: Kentucky Salsa All-Stars
July 30: Tropicoso
Aug. 6: Stacie Sandoval & Grupo Tumbao
Aug. 13: Monk River
Aug. 20: Clave Son
Aug. 27: Son Del Caribe
Sept. 3: Afro-Cuban Cartel
Sept. 10: Tropicoso
Sept. 17: Latin Beat Project
The American Roots series features a variety of acts that cover the wide spectrum that is Americana music today. Most of the top local Roots acts are performing, while touring artists like American Aquarium, Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys, Dale Watson and more will also make appearances. Each night features two performers. Music runs 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
May 26: American Aquarium and Ben Knight and the Welldiggers
June 2: Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle and Wild Carrot
June 9: Chicago Farmer and Shiny and the Spoon
June 16: Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys and Jeremy Pinnell
June 23: The Shook Twins and G. Burton
June 30: The Quebe Sisters and Howlin’ Brothers
July 7: Dale Watson and Straw Boss
July 14: TBA
July 21: Quiet Life and Crow Moses
July 28: The Brothers Landreth and Josh Eagle and Harvest City
Aug. 4: Arlo Mckinley and Wilder
Aug. 11: Young Heirlooms and The Hiders
Aug. 18: Bulletville and Noah Smith
Aug. 25: Elk Creek and Frontier Folk Nebraska
Sept. 1: Dallas Moore and Pure Grain
Joining the usual array of some of the finest Reggae bands in the city and region this year for Reggae Wednesday are numerous touring bands, including St. Louis’ Taj Weekes & Adowa, Jamaican natives Yabba Griffiths and Jah Messengers Reggae Bnad and Brooklyn’s New Kingston. Reggae Wednesdays run 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
May 27: Areesaa Iyah & The Eastwind Band
June 3: Taj Weekes & Adowa
June 10: Yabba Griffiths & the Traxx Band
June 17: Ras Bonghi Reggae All-Stars
June 24: Positive Mental Attitude
July 1: The Flex Crew
July 8: The Ark Band
July 15: The Cliftones
July 22: Gizzae
July 29: Oriel Barry and the Revoluters
Aug. 5: New Kingston
Aug. 12: Ukombozi
Aug. 19: All Star Jammerz
Aug. 26: Jah Messengers Reggae Band
Sept. 2: Anthem Reggae Band
MidPoint Indie Summer
Sponsored by the popular late September MidPoint Music Festival (which, full disclosure, CityBeat runs), this year’s Indie Summer concerts (held each Friday) feature some of the biggest acts in the series’ history, alongside some of the best Rock/Indie/Alt/Electronic bands in Cincy. The Indie Summer shows showcase four acts and begin at 7 p.m. each week. (More artists are to be added to certain dates.)
May 29: Surfer Blood; The Yugos; Automagik; Harbour
Jun 5: The Mowgli's; One Day Steady; Nevele; Beloved Youth
Jun 12: Kopecky; Broncho; Coconut Milk; Near Earth Objects
Jun 19: Buffalo Killers; Ohio Knife; Mad Anthony; Go Go Buffalo
Jun 26: Sloan; Mother Mother; Old City
Jul 3: Red Wanting Blue; Young Heirlooms; Motherfolk; Chris Salyer
Jul 10: Saint Motel
Jul 17: The Ting Tings; Brick + Mortar; Black Signal
Jul 24: Givers; Prim; Even Titles
Jul 31: The Whigs; Multimagic; Pop Goes the Evil; The Never Setting Suns
Aug 7: Tweens; Leggy; Smut; Shark Week
Aug 14: Judah & The Lion; Seabird; Matt Hires; Along the Shore
Aug 21: San Fermin; Lemon Sky
Aug 28: Wussy; Pike 27; The Perfect Children; JetLab
Sep 4:The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die; Injecting Strangers; Moonbeau: Edison
Beats by Self Diploma
Local production/promotion crew Self Diploma has always done a fantastic job of bringing in some of the hottest acts on the EDM and Hip Hop circuits, making its Saturday night showcases some of the biggest of all the series. Last year, the group opened things up to other genres and offered audition opportunities to artists of all sort. Though still heavy on DJs, Electronic/Dance music and Hip Hop, this year’s lineup also includes things like Country Pop and live R&B and Funk. Music starts each Saturday at 7 p.m., with the last act going on at 10 p.m.
May 30: Alex Angelo; Ezzy; Aprina; Justin Stone
June 6: Ja Rule; Trademark Aaron; Diamond Star Russell; Mayo
June 13: King Chip; Cameron Grey; Razook; Sarob
June 20: Nappy Roots; Packy; Ajax Stacks & Nate Paulson; Alexa Lusader
June 27: OnCue; Cato; Rhett Wellington
July 4: Ground Up; DJ Kev the Goon; Swah; David Zup
July 18: Milk N Cookies; Panzer; Reaux; Button Mashers
July 25: Futuristic; Marc Goone; Puck; The Media
August 1: No Sleep; DJ Drowsy; CopyCats; Gold Dash
August 8: Huey Mack; Kid Quil; Lauren Vanatsky; Kid Slim
August 15: Kap Slap; Saranate; RandiFloss
August 22: Academy; TJ Hickey; Sh3llz; Benji
August 29: JMSN; Oregonia; Tana Matz
September 5: The Jane Doze; Gateway; Halogen
Washington Park has stripped back to two weekly music series this year, but both offer plenty of exciting performers.
The Bluegrass shows return this year to the centralized gazebo/bandstand stage every Thursday (except Aug. 6, which sees the return of the popular Lumenocity multi-media extravaganza). The “Bluegrass” part of the name is a bit of a misnomer; Bluegrass bands are on the schedule, but so are plenty of other Americana/Country/Roots/Folk acts. I guess alliteration is more fun than bad puns (or maybe Dick Clark’s production company would sue if they went with “Americana Bandstand”). Music starts at 7 p.m. and there are usually two acts per night. This year’s lineup includes an appearance by Country Blues favorite Charlie Parr, diverse Michigan ensemble The Appleseed Collective and a few other national acts.
May 28: The Mamadrones
June 4: Mustered Courage and Blair Crimmins
June 11: Willow Tree Carolers
June 18: Jake Book and New Country Rehab
June 25: Woody Pines and Barefoot Movement
July 2: Casey Campbell and Charlie Parr
July 9: Mipso and Railsplitters
July 16: The Appleseed Collective and The Tillers
July 23: Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle
July 30: Red Cedars and Blue Rock Boys
August 13: Hu Town Holler and Town Mountain
August 20: Mike Oberst and My Brother’s Keepers
August 27: Comet Bluegrass All-Stars
September 3: Al Scorch & Friends
Fridays at Washington Park, R&B and Jazz acts from all over the country (there are some real legends in this bunch) will provide the sounds for Friday Fusion. The concerts rotate between the Bandstand stage and the Main Stage (across from Music Hall). Music begins at 7 p.m.
May 29: Midnight Star (Main Stage)
June 5: Dixie Karas Group (Bandstand)
June 12: Michel’le (Main Stage)
June 19: Eddie Brookshire Quintet (Bandstand)
June 26: Hot Magnolias (Bandstand)
July 3: Delfeayo & Jason Marsalis (Main Stage)
July 10: Zapp Band (Main Stage)
July 17: Straight Ahead All-Female Jazz Band (Main Stage)
July 24: Tim Warfield Quartet (Main Stage)
July 31: Marc Fields Quintet (Main Stage)
August 14: Soul Pocket (Main Stage)
August 21: Vernon Hairston Trio (Bandstand)
August 28: Kathy Wade with the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (Main Stage)
SMALE RIVERFRONT PARK
Cocktails and Crown Jewels
Washington Park previously hosted the weekly Crown Jewels of Jazz concerts, but this year the series moves to one of the city’s newer green-space gems, Smale Riverfront Park (near the river and The Banks). Now called Cocktails and Crown Jewels, the concerts are heavy on Jazz acts but also include some R&B, Salsa and the melange of styles crafted by funky party crew The Cincy Brass. Music starts at 7:30 p.m. The concerts take place on the park’s Schmidlapp Event Lawn & Stage most Thursdays throughout the summer. The shows are free but attendees can also pay $25 to enjoy the music from the special VSP Area (with some food and drink included).
May 28: Alex Bugnon
June 4: The Cincy Brass
June 11: Urban Jazz Coalition
June 25: WOW featuring Tim Warfield and Bobby Floyd
July 2: FrenchAxe
July 16: Craig Bailey and the Cincy Jazz All-Stars
July 23: Orquesta Kandela
Aug. 6: Ingrid Woode & the Woode Tribe Orchestra
Aug. 13: fo/mo/deep
Aug. 27: Sound Body Jazz Orchestra
Impressive Cincinnati AltRock trio Public is all set to performing at Cincinnati's huge Bunbury Music Festival this weekend, essentially opening the fest Friday at 2 p.m. with a performance on the Bud Light Stage.
The band — nominated at the most recent Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for "Best New Artist" — released its four-track EP, Red, last summer and is now offering fans a brand-new recording, just in time to learn all the words and sing along at tomorrow's fest appearance.
The new track is "Honeybee," a spacious, groove-driven Indie Pop gem which is slated for Public's forthcoming second EP.
If you're download phobic, you can also grab
a physical copy of the single. Fifty are being pressed, featuring
hand-drawn artwork and a bonus acoustic B-side, "I Need You," and made
available at Bunbury.
Both songs will be available for download on July 16. The stream and eventual download will be available at publictheband.com.
Last Sunday's Cincinnati Entertainment Awards show — which featured 19 awards for local musicians and nine top-notch performances — is available to watch now courtesy of the fine folks at ICRCTV. Now's your chance to watch, in the comfort of your home, the show about which people have said was "fun," "blerg," "entertaining," "disappointing," "amateurish," "too noisy" and "lacking in chairs"!
Sideways rain and swamp-ass, but it wasn't so bad. The storms were intermittent, the day was clearly not a total washout and, out of the nine days of Bunbury over the past three years, this one might just have ended on the highest note of them all.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by above-and-beyond volunteer Jacob Heintz, who advised serious attention to hydration, as several people had already passed out from the heat. In order to accommodate more fluids, I needed to make a deposit at the Yeatman's Cove First National Bank of Evacuation.
You know what's great about the Porta-Kleens in the summer? Heated seats. You know what's not great about Porta-Kleens in the summer? Heated everything else. I felt like I was microwaved to about medium rare by the time I was done with business. But I was treated to a bit of pithy wisdom in the form of a neatly scrawled line of graffiti in the unit — "No one is free. Even the birds are chained to the sky." Of course, the trade-off is that birds can shit anywhere they like, which somehow seems to involve my windshield an inordinate number of times a week.
At any rate, a spotty rain began within minutes of my arrival, so I headed down to the Main Stage to see if things were continuing on schedule. On the way, I passed Daniel in Stereo on the Acoustic Stage, where he seemed to be offering an evocative Jeff Buckley vibe. Very nice. When I got to the Main Stage, the Brick + Mortar set had just begun. The politically conscious World Rock guitar/drum duo from Toms River, N.J., was cooking along nicely, but about three songs in, the lightning flashed, the thunder cracked and the staff shut them down.
"That sucks," noted guitarist/vocalist Brandon Asraf. "I had just tricked you into liking me for a minute." Then he launched into a stand-up comedy bit, quoting Half Baked and bemoaning his lack of life compared to his engaged drummer, John Tacon. "I'm single and chubby. What's up?" he said, canvassing the crowd.
The crew finally had to shut off the power so that was the end of Brick + Mortar. (The band will return to Cincy on Aug. 15 for a free show on Fountain Square.)
Shortly after that, the flaming finger of God erupted from multiple clouds and the rain, gentle at first, ultimately came pissing down from the heavens. I had taken refuge in the Yeatman's Cove tunnels and thought I'd gotten way lucky to avoid the torrential downpour, but that proved ineffective as well when a tornadic wind blew the rain horizontally straight through the passageway. Everyone was drenched from cowlick to ass-crack and beyond.
Luckily, the storm didn't last long and the only issue at that point was how long the clean up and reset would take. I wandered down to the Main Stage to see if Red Wanting Blue was going to happen, but it appeared as though it would take a considerable amount of time, so I motored back down to the Warsteiner Stage to see what progress had been made there.
To my unending delight, Kim Taylor was just getting started about the time she should have been wrapping up. I've been completely smitten with Kim's work since a friend at my long since defunct graphic design day job lived in the same apartment building with her. She had just begun her music career and had given my friend a copy of her self-released EP, which he passed along to me. Her gently compelling voice, her introspective and intelligent lyrics and her melancholic mastery of melody certainly gave me a chill similar to the one I felt after my first experience with Suzanne Vega, but Kim was most assuredly following a unique path, and so it has remained for the past decade and a half.
I've seen Kim numerous times over the years and written at least three features and a few MidPoint previews ahead of her releases and appearances, and she never disappoints, as an interview or as an artist. The power of her presentation at Bunbury was obvious; with no more than her acoustic guitar and drummer Devon Ashley, Kim Taylor turned the vast expanse in front of the Warsteiner Stage into an intimate performance space that crackled with a quiet intensity. It is powerful testimony to Kim's ability to hold an audience that, with dark clouds roiling overhead and thunder rumbling ominously in the distance, there was even greater drama brewing on the Warsteiner Stage.
After a quick stop to use the Big Mac Bridge as an umbrella, it was down to the Lawn Stage to witness the mind-bending energy of The Yugos. The relatively new and insanely young four-piece channel the absolute best elements of '70s Punk and New Wave with a dash of Surf and a couple hundred thousand volts of charisma. Spend any appreciable time with The Yugos and you'll detect distinct flashes of the jerky time signatures of XTC and Talking Heads, the Pop verve of Flock of Seagulls and the dark intensity of Echo and the Bunnymen. Drummer Jordin Gough jumps around the stage as though fire ants have been ceremonially sewn into his black jeans; he stands on his drum stool and beats on his kit from above, he takes the floor tom into the audience and thumps on it like a brave calling his tribe to action, while bassist Jeremy Graham provides an equally schizophrenic bottom and guitarists Christian Gough and Jackson Deal are peeling off punky New Wave riffs and licks that are as nerve-rattlingly appealing as The Cure on speed or Devo on hallucinogenics laced with antipsychotics.
At their Lawn Stage set, The Yugos rolled out their latest track, "Follow You," did the song about a dream where a robot chased Christian down a hill, constantly called out a guy in the audience that looked like James Franco, dedicated a song to Seth Rogen and implored the assembled multitude to shake their asses. Comedy, Surf/Punk and a heart needle full of adrenaline combine to make the perpetual motion music machine known as The Yugos; with five years under their belts already, they're bound to last a hell of a lot longer than their namesakes.
After a delicious burger from Dutch's in the Craft Beer Village and an equally delicious Puma Pilsner, courtesy of Black Owls hammer Brian Kitzmiller, it was a stroll over to the Main Stage to see ZZ Ward crank up her last couple of songs for a large and enthusiastic crowd and then down to the River Stage to catch a few songs from hot DJ/multi-instrumentalist Robert Delong, who filled the Serpentine Wall with Electronic music devotees who were digging his live-looped vibe with an almost religious fervor. Back on the Main Stage, Young the Giant blasted the swelling multitudes with the sticky/sweet Indie Rock hard candy that put them on a lot of attendees' must-see lists.
I took my leave of the growing crowd in front of the Main Stage — a combination of devoted Young the Giant fans and Flaming Lips aficionados staking out their space for the imminent start time — to catch The Orwells at the Warsteiner Stage. The Orwells made my personal don't-miss list after a little due diligence in checking out their history and sound online for a preview in last week's CityBeat and they didn't disappoint.
The quartet's central Illinois lineage is pretty much all the Pop cred they require and they use it to sweeten their rough-edged Garage/Punk love, as evidenced on last year's Disgraceland and the subsequent Other Voices and Who Needs YouEPs. Given the band's ramshackle nature (they'd pair up nicely with Cincy bands Mad Anthony or The Harlequins for a local show), it seemed like The Orwells might come a little unglued in the live presentation, but they were perhaps a little more restrained than I would have imagined. That could have been the post-storm vibe. They did toss out a raw chunk of the Foundations' "Build Me Up Buttercup," so that was pretty cool. Here's hoping we can get them back for a full show in better circumstances in the very near future so we can see what happens when The Orwells really put the pedal to the floor.
I reluctantly ducked out of The Orwells a bit early to establish position for The Flaming Lips’ show, given the crush of rabid fans that were in all likelihood packing the front of the stage. For the sake of full disclosure, it should be noted at this juncture that I was looking forward to this show because I am a Flaming Lips virgin. I drank the Kool-Aid with Oh My Gawd!!! way back in 1987, but missed the local show on that tour because of my freelance production schedule.
Since then, I've totally dug the studio Lips but somehow have never found my way to experiencing the live Lips; the closest I've ever gotten was nine years ago when I was in Austin for SXSW and Wayne Coyne came rolling down Sixth Street in the bubble with some sort of boombox entourage trailing behind, offering a soundtrack to the proceedings. And I suppose I could claim a certain amount of Lips cred for my two band interviews, the first with Steven Drozd in 2003 after the release of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and the second with Wayne in 2008 to talk about the DVD release ofChristmas on Mars.
But the Bunbury show represented the taking of my live Flaming Lips cherry; after a quarter century of studio foreplay, I was more than ready. And what a glorious deflowering it was.
After taking to the stage, which was appointed like a Peter Max flashback of Leary-esque proportions, the Lips launched into "The Abandoned Hospital Ship," with Wayne outfitted in a tinsel hairsuit that gave him the appearance of a glammed up Sasquatch. When it was over, he greeted the crowd warmly and promised that, should the rain begin again to the extent that the show had to be stopped, the Lips would be staying and they would finish the show, no matter what. The vast expanse of Lips fans roared their relief and the band shot headlong into "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1," and the crowd's bliss was palpable.
After a set that was filled with brilliant Lippage ("Look...The Sun is Rising" and "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton" among them), dancing rainbows, magic mushrooms big enough to give Mario a coke boner, a gyrating sun and a video/LED presentation splashy enough to trigger a mild epileptic seizure, the clouds cried just slightly at the prospect of the end of the evening. The Lips took a short breather and then returned with the biggest one-two pay-off in Bunbury's short but potent history; the gorgeously contemplative "Do You Realize??" from Yoshimi and an absolutely epic version of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," punctuated by several blasts from the four giant confetti cannons on stage. If I smoked cigarettes, I surely would have sparked one up after that conclusion.
And thus marked the end of Bunbury's third installment. The last day's weather difficulties notwithstanding, it was another flawlessly presented and managed music festival put on by one of the city's most knowledgeable and Zen-like business heads, Bill Donabedian, and his amazing staff, who all handle every detail from gravely major to almost subatomically minor with a combination of ninja professionalism and weaponized OCD. And, as Bill would be the first to tell you, it couldn't be done without the walking live army of volunteers who make this thing run with the precision of God's pocketwatch.
Plans are already afoot for Bunbury 4; they get harder to surpass with each subsequent summer, and somehow Bill and his festival all-stars manage to do just that. See you at the gate next July.
• A lot of notable absences in the crowd this year, particularly my brother-from-another-mother Matthew Fenton. Either he just couldn't make it down this year, or he's actually perfected his cloak of invisibility and skillfully avoided me for the entire weekend. I hope it's the former.
• Even with Sunday's threatened inclement weather, or as departing WCPO meterologist Larry Handley would characterize it, the blow job that nobody wants (no, Larry wouldn't say that, but I would and, in fact, just did), there was still a great turnout for the day's lineup. There was the inevitable run-in with Brent and Kat, and that makes every day worthwhile; they headed down to Brick + Mortar and after a swing around the grounds, I headed that way myself.
• With the advent of lightning and the first shutdowns of the day, I headed for the Yeatman's Cove tunnels before things got too crazy. Moments after entering, the sky opened up and the rain pissed down, so I thought luck was on my side. I stopped to talk with a group of photographers, one of whom I've seen numerous times at Bunbury and MidPoint, which has made us sort of nodding acquaintances. We chatted for a bit, then he introduced himself as Steve Ziegelmeyer and asked if I had attended a wedding last year for someone from Jungle Jim's. In fact, my wife and daughter and I have gotten to know one of the guys from the dairy department at the Route 4 store who goes by Squidd, and when he announced that he was engaged, he insisted that we come to the wedding, which we were honored to do. Turns out Steve's wife works with Squidd's wife at Jungle Jim's Eastgate store, and he was at the wedding. And when he said it, I totally remembered seeing him there and completely blanking on where I knew him from. He gave me his card and an idea for a feature; I'll be remembering him now.
• While I was waiting to see what would come of Kim Taylor's set, up strolled Eddy Mullet and his daughter Jess, looking none too worse the wear from Saturday's festivities. (Well, Eddy doesn't drink and Jess is 17, so the beating I take is typically incrementally worse than theirs, but I digress.) When the storm cranked up again, we headed for the shelter of the bridge and told ghost stories (they've got really good ones) until the sound of The Yugos drew us to the Lawn Stage.
• We were headed to Robert Delong's set when I was waylaid by Mr. Brian Kitzmiller, a drum beater of epic reputation and a beer buyer worthy of sainthood, or at least knighthood. When I steered over to Dutch's food booth for a burger, Brian introduced me to Jerry and Pam who run Dutch's (Brian knows at least 60% of every group of people that he finds himself in), as well as a couple of guys from the band The Easthills, who were playing the part of the Black Owls this year (their early afternoon set was rained out, like the Owls’ were in Year 1.) Over by the Delong set, the ubiquitous and always welcome King Slice appeared, as did Owls bassist Kip Roe and his sons, Kip Jr. and Ben, and we had ourselves a Rock & Roll convoy.
• Just before the Lips' extravaganza got underway, I ran into 500 Miles to Memphis frontman Ryan Malott, another prince of the local music realm, who was on his way down to the Warsteiner Stage to catch The Orwells. We had talked about the show when Ryan came into Class X to do Eddy's Kindred Sanction program for a Bunbury preview and a chat about the new 500MTM album, Stand There and Bleed, and I'm glad he reminded me. As I hit the Craft Beer Village on my way to The Orwells, I was absolutely floored to see my old friend Ric Hickey, one of the best guitarists this scene has ever produced, escorting his ladyfriend Michelle down to the Lips show. We caught up for a hot minute, then went our ways. Once at the Warsteiner Stage, as The Orwells were winding up, I spotted Mark Messerly near the back of the crowd, clearly contemplating how he would approach his Messerly & Ewing gig at next week's Buckle Up. No he was not; he was drinking a beer and imploring The Orwells to ramp it up. You know Mark. Venomous Valdez was right behind him, a vision in yellow on her birthday eve. Many happy returns, double V. And I finally caught up with Ryan, who introduced me to his lovely and relatively new wife Gina (I had to ask for her name twice because I'm old, I've got 40+ years of Rock & Roll ears and The Orwells had, in fact, ramped it up). As NRBQ once noted, you're good people, you are.
• We all wound up hanging together for a good portion of the Lips' set, but one of my favorite moments was the Roe boys' faces when I confessed that this was my first live Lips lock. They couldn't have looked more astonished if I'd told them I'd just eaten a half pound of heroin-soaked grapes. Kip and his boys have seen the Lips on numerous occasions and, as a result, once we got camped near the stage, Kip Jr. tapped me on the shoulder and very politely began pointing out the elements of the Lips' set design and what everything was for. It was a very good tutorial, a sweet gesture for a teenager to connect with an old duffer such as myself, and proof positive that childrearing is a high art and Kip Roe should teach the whole bloody world exactly how to do it.
• Finally, for the third consecutive year, the unofficial and extremely subjective results of my annual “Best T-Shirts at Bunbury” competition, selected and judged by me alone. This year was interesting for a couple of reasons, primarily because of Saturday's headliners, Paramore and Fall Out Boy. Their numerous fans were displaying their band love loud and proud, but I was struck by a rather odd observation; I'm fairly certain I didn't see two Fall Out Boy T-shirts featuring the same design (at least until the day after the show, when people who didn't have shirts likely bought them at the merch booths). Someone is accruing Donald Trump-like wealth from marketing an almost endless variety of FOB tees, that's for bloody sure. The other constant on Saturday was a steady parade of people in Ramones tees, in honor of Tommy Erdelyi, the last surviving original member of the legendary Punk band who succumbed to cancer on Friday. Bogart's owner Al Porkolab used to say that the best seat for a Ramones show was across the street at Dollar Bill's, where you could hear every note perfectly. I got his point, but I preferred my Ramones straight from the pipe. At any rate, R.I.P., Tommy.
And so, as always, in no particular order, until the winner at the end:
I (graphic of Kurt Russell as Snake Pliskin) NY
Bad Decisions Make Great Stories
I Had Fun Once. It Was Awful.
Y'All (in the Yale typeface)
G-Dub (with George Washington in Raybans)
Nope (with Shepard Faireyesque cat illustration); followed by
Dope (with Shepard Faireyesque Questlove illustration)
There were many Foxy Shazam tees as well, including a vintage Flamingo Trigger design but my favorite was “Foxy Shazam. White Music for Black People”
Got B3? (I'm assuming they mean the keyboard and not the vitamin)
I Eat Glitter for Breakfast
Rock is Dead. Long Live Paper.
I May Be Your Best Option
I Ain't Even Mad
And my favorite T-shirt from this year's Bunbury crowd:
T-Rex hates push-ups (with a silhouette graphic depicting exactly why)
The Glorious Sons are a strong up-and-coming act out of Canada (Kingston, Ontario, to be exact) with a Rock sound that’s a little rough around the edges, just the way they want it.
The band isn’t trying to fit into a cookie cutter world of the music industry but deliver an authentic sound that connects with audiences. The Glorious Sons are currently on a U.S. club tour, but one listen to their new EP shows big things are on the horizon. They are currently touring with 10 Years, Otherwise and Luminoth. The tour comes to the Thompson House in Newport this Sunday (tickets/more info here). Get on the bandwagon early and come out to enjoy a night of great Rock music.
CityBeat spoke with frontman Brett Emmons to discuss the grind to get to where the band is today.
CityBeat: I know you are on this tour with 10 Years and Otherwise. How did this tour come together?
Brett Emmons: Our agent put the offer on the table for us back when we were on tour with Airborne in Canada. I am not really sure how it all came together but we knew if we went on tour with (10 Years) in the States, they wanted to come on tour with us in Canada. We have a pretty big draw in Canada whereas nobody really knew us in the States before we started this tour. So we sat down for breakfast and started talking with each other and we decided we were going to do the tour. We looked forward to it and two months later we were on the road with 10 Years.
CB: I recently listened to the album this week and I have to be honest, I think it is one of the best things I have heard in a long time and I have specific questions about some songs on the album.
BE: Thank you.
CB: One of my favorite songs on the album was “Amigo.” Could you tell me a little bit of the backstory behind that song and how it came about?
BE: One thing when you are writing tunes, at least for us, it follows like every other song, a loose story with a lot of feelings. When I start writing, I never know what the ending is going to be like or what the song is going to completely look like. I know what the song’s direction is going to be but I never start the story at the end. It is about my time in Halifax when I was there a couple years and there was a particular person that I was hanging around with a lot and writing a lot of music with. It’s about his fall from grace during the time I was hanging out with him and my fall from grace as well. It is about watching someone with so much potential self-doubt themselves and losing it all because they were scared.
CB: You brought up writing the lyrics. Can you talk about the band’s process and how you put the songs together and write together?
BE: We all do help with lyrics, too. If there is a lyric that is not covered right, everybody has their input; there are five guys and five guys who think they are songwriters and so you are never really short on ideas.
Usually somebody will bring something to the jam room and we will either be jiving with it or not jiving with it. What happens, someone will start playing something or singing something and somebody else will join in and a third person will join in and you will have five guys trying to whittle this broad thing into a song. Other times it may start with a bass riff or playing. We don’t have an equation for it and I don’t think we should. It is basically about spontaneity and just people working together doing their thing. Everybody has their job and everybody likes to do it. It comes pretty easy right now. Who knows? I imagine when we are 40 we will be dead tired.
CB: The thing I felt was interesting about the album was all the songs sound different. Sometimes I get albums and every song sounds the same, basically. I thought it was unique that, song to song, there was a different flavor you would get while listening.
BE: Yeah. That is what we thought, too. A lot of bands tend to use digital songs now and try to find what their sound is. We just rock and roll. We didn’t know what we wanted to sound like or what we wanted to be. We are just five guys playing instruments trying to write songs and whatever way they come out is the way we want people to hear them.
When you listen to the Stones, not every song on a Stones album sounds the same. If you think about that, nowadays, I feel like too many people are trying to fit themselves into a genre rather than finding out what happens.
CB: When did you know that this is what you wanted to do for your career?
BE: In high school I was asked to sing for a band and I didn’t know how to sing. I couldn’t sing worth a shit and I started singing with that band. They kicked me out of the band because they wanted a real singer. I bought an acoustic guitar and I took one of my favorite songs and I practiced it for months. I practiced singing it and I practiced playing it until my voice sounded good enough. Then I put a band together and we beat (the band I was kicked out of) in the Battle of the Bands and I won best singer at the show. For the first time I put together a song and started singing and realized how fun it was and I could be myself. When I started writing songs, I could put myself on paper and give myself a sound and words. That’s when I realized I wanted to do it.
Growing up my brother (Glorious Sons guitarist Jay Emmons) was in a band, a guitarist in a band. I grew up watching him play my entire life. When I really started playing, we started jamming together. It was always a dream of ours to throw a band together and play music together for a living. We didn’t know it would be this good but we just wanted to pay our bills with music and write songs. That has ended up happening and we are pretty happy.
CB: I have been talking to several bands that have siblings that play together. Are there any issues with that, being with your brother all the time?
BE: No. We argue a little bit because we are brothers and the most open with each other. He has always been my best friend and my rock. I grew up with him, taking advice from him, basically worshipping the ground he walked on. We are best friends. Playing in a band with your brother can go one of two ways — you can be assholes to each other or be real and good to each other, which is what we do, even though we are assholes sometimes.
CB: You said earlier you played one song over and over, what was that song?
BE: It’s a song called “Wheat Kings” by Tragically Hip, it’s a Canadian band. I’m not sure you would know them but they are Rock royalty, maybe Canada’s favorite band of all time within country. They come down here and play but in Canada every show they play is in a sold-out stadium.
CB: One of the songs on the album is “The Union,” which is also the title of the album. It seems to have a social and political message. Was that on purpose?
BE: No, not really. I’d like to clear this up, so I’m glad you asked. A few people get a bad taste in their mouth about the chorus: “I’ll never join the union because I never wanted it easy.” When you listen to the song it is just a metaphor for life and growing up and wanting to be different and still wanting to question things and question society and be the dirty little kid that you were when you were young and not caring about what people thought. There are some ties to the subject a little bit. My father’s shop was almost shut down when we were younger by a union. It was kind of an ode to him because he was able to maintain his shop without the union. He went from having 10 employees to having one employee. We went through some hard times but he was able to keep the family together and keep the shop up and running and to this day provide a comfortable life for us.
It is not a political stand against any union in any way. It is about growing up and not doing what everyone wants you to do.
CB: A lot of bands are collaborating now and playing together. I know you guys are just starting out but is there anybody you’d like to do a dream collaboration with?
BE: I’d love to pick Bruce Springsteen’s brain a little bit. Words, mostly. He is one of my favorites of all time. That is a huge dream though. In Canada, we collaborate with people like The Trews and heroes from that country and it would be cool to see what it would be like to write with Kings of Leon or bands like that. Mainly, we are more focused on collaborating with each other. Everyone in our band knows what we want. We work well together. I guess it would be fun to collaborate with (KoL’s) Caleb Followill or The Tallest Man on Earth or someone like that but, again, these are big, big pipe dreams.
CB: You mentioned The Trews. I know you worked with (Trews guitarist) John-Angus MacDonald on your first and second EP. What was that process like and why did you choose him? I recently talked to Godsmack and they were talking about the role of their producer and that he keeps the peace and how they really trust and listen to him. Why did you choose MacDonald and how did you work together?
BE: When we chose him … he chose us actually. We were playing a competition and we won it. He was one of the judges and came up to me after the show and said he wanted to see what it would be like to produce one of our albums. My brother grew up going to Trews shows and we were all fans of The Trews. Basically, that was the most excited I have ever been in my entire life. It felt like our shot and it really was. He took a chance on us. We got into the studio and we started playing our tunes and listening to him and fighting with him a bit too on things.
We didn’t really look for a producer. At the time, I don’t think I even knew what a producer did. I had never had a producer on any of my albums before and I never really made an album that had cost any amount of real money. We got in there and he showed us the ropes of what it was like to work in a real studio. We let him go off when he had a good idea or a good pass. When I felt like what he was doing was against my vision, I’d take a hard stance and he’d have to prove me wrong or he’d listen to me. He was really the guy who found our band and took a chance on us. He is the reason we are doing this for a living right now. We love the guy and he has been so good to us. He is one of our best friends. He took us on tour. It has been such a great experience with him.
CB: It sounds like you guys are excited to be on the road. What is your craziest tour story so far?
BE: It was on our first tour in Canada. It was in late November, just before December. The snow was falling and it was starting to get really cold. The bus we were on broke down on the highway and was unfixable. We had to rent a U-Haul truck because it was the only thing that had a hitch on it and we weren’t going to leave our trailer that had all our gear in it. For two weeks, we slept in the back of a U-Haul moving truck while two people drove, in the Canadian cold. It was a tough couple weeks, but then again, we knew stuff like that was going to happen, if you spend your life on the road, especially with your vehicles. But you get over things like that. When we finally got off the U-Haul, we were home in Kingston. It made being home that much better.