The first time I saw the Warsaw Falcons, my Cincinnati experience was only slightly longer than the band's existence. I'd moved here in January 1982 on the heels of a failed and miserable marriage. I was working for (and living out of) a record store in North College Hill run by my friends/saviors Rick and Karen (aka Cookie, long before Empire, bitches) Kandelson, who gave me work and a safe haven.
I found full time work and a girlfriend in fairly short order, and for the most part felt I'd made the right decision in relocating to Cincinnati. But I desperately missed my 2-year-old son and my family and friends back in Michigan, so I entertained the notion of asking my new love to consider moving back to the Mitt with me.
And then a cosmic intervention took place. Within the span of a couple of weeks, I saw the raisins, who had been around for a while, and the Warsaw Falcons, who had only just formed. After those two musical epiphanies I said to myself, with unbridled joy and complete certainty, "I don't have to go home, I am home."
Beyond all doubt, I was where I was supposed to be.
The raisins were everything I loved about Pop Rock — smart and smartassed, loud, melodic, lyrically brilliant and gloriously dumb, intricate in the pursuit of simplicity. The Falcons exhibited a lot of the same characteristics, but in a totally different context. I couldn't tell you much about the original band at that point, as I was fairly riveted to the sight of David Rhodes Brown, a 6' 4" beanpole with an additional foot of roostered pompadour, snake-charming the nastiest, slinkiest, rawest, most compelling riffs from his hollow bodied Gibson that I'd ever heard in my 25 years. Brown and the earliest incarnation of the Falcons roared through a couple of sets of jumped-up Rockabilly/Boogie Woogie/Blues at an intensity level that could have microwaved a 15-pound roast to perfection in under a minute, and I stood watching in absolute wonder, as if I was attending the swaggering, staggering, yowling birth of Rock & Roll its own damn self.
There was no fundamental difference in any subsequent Falcons show I witnessed over the next seven years, give or take, and they were legion. At Dollar Bill's, Shipley's, Bogart's, Cory's, all the way out at the Townshipn Tavern and any number of places in between, the Warsaw Falcons never gave any less than their absolute all, tearing shit up with gleeful intent, putting it back together with ramshackle abandon and ultimately reducing it to smoke and ash with the zeal of blissed-out revolutionaries, confident in their cause and the destruction it inspired.
Through any number of lineup shifts, the Falcons delivered the goods night after night, set upon set upon set. There were gaps in the band's history when Brown lit out for Austin, Tex., and Nashville, Tenn., but he returned with more riffs to play, more stories to tell, more challenges to conquer. Brown shuttered the Falcons just after taking them into John Curley's Ultrasuede Studio to record their only full-length album, the righteous and red hot Right It on the Rock Wall. That incarnation of the band included legendary session saxophonist Bobby Keys. Brown dusted off the Falcons in 2001, turned out a couple of EPs and played out a bit but shelved them again when a proposed record contract fell victim to the post-9/11 downturn.
In the new millennium, things have been different. Music is ones and zeros instead of a spiraled groove or a spun tape reel, and David Rhodes Brown has reinvented himself a half dozen ways to Sunday. He had Ricky Nye teach him the rudiments of Boogie Woogie piano, he learned the Hank Williams songbook and joined Ryan Malott's 500 Miles to Memphis as a lap steel shredder and vocalist, helping transform it from cool local entity to national semi-sensation. Then he taught himself clawhammer banjo, grew a Rip Van Winkle-meets-ZZ Top beard and started playing old time music with the same dedication and intensity that marked his time in the Falcons, with less actual electricity and an improbable rise in passion and workload. He spread his attention over numerous full and part time projects, leading inevitably to his debut solo album, 2010's exquisite Browngrass & Wildflowers.
And then, as so often happens, fate intervened in the form of last November's celebration/roast of the David Rhodes Brown on the occasion of his 50th year in the entertainment racket (if you count his being paid to sing requiems at Catholic mass, which he does). The event was organized by one of the scene's greatest boosters and its unceasing heartbeat, the amazing Kelly Thomas, ably assisted by Brown's biggest supporter, fan and sugar mama, the incomparable Bobbi Kayser, who together assembled a veritable murderer's row of artists and friends in order to pay deserved tribute to DRB, if for no other reason than to thank him for his role in helping to build the solid foundation upon which the greater Cincinnati music scene has built its magnificent house over the past four decades.
And in a moment of divine inspiration, the once and future David Rhodes Brown called up the two other most recognizable components of the Warsaw Falcons — bassist John Schmidt, whose stoic demeanor on stage was always at odds with the blistering pulse he provided, and drummer Doug Waggoner, whose maniacal approach to rhythm was to beat it into submission, hammering it into new and exotic shapes with Thor's thunder and Odin's lightning. The Falcons' frenetic six-song set at the end of the evening — with Brown in the teeth of a mutant flu strain that would have coldcocked the sturdiest lumberjack or dockworker — was the stuff of local legend. And as the last chords were still ringing through the Southgate House's Sanctuary, Brown (clean-shaven for the express purpose of revisiting his youthful past) informed us that he, Schmidt and Waggoner had worked too hard and had too much fun to lock the Falcons back in their respective trophy cases and that they would be returning, badder and better than ever.
That promise was teased with the Falcons' opening slot for 500 Miles to Memphis at the Southgate House last New Year's Eve, but it was fulfilled with a righteous vengeance last Friday night when the trio headlined their first club date in nearly a decade and a half, transforming the swank surroundings of the newly refurbished Woodward Theater into an edge-of-town roadhouse, with all the danger and chicken-wire that implies.
The evening began with a spirited set from JetLab, the compelling Synth Rock trio that made a serious local splash with their eponymous 2014 debut album and earned a well-deserved Best New Artist CEA nomination earlier this year. In the studio, the trio — Elle Crash (a huge fan of DRB's since way back), Nick Barrows and Dave Welsh — churn out an arty Flying Lizards/Gary Numan/Breeders/Tom Tom Club-tinged soundtrack, but in the live setting, JetLab channels their performance adrenaline into a manic Soul Coughing/Mike Doughty ethic, with brush strokes from the pallets of early Talking Heads, B-52s and our own Perfect Jewish Couple from back in the day. Barrows and Crash take their turns on the Korg, accompanying each other on electric and acoustic guitars with Crash occasionally strapping on the bass to beef up the bottom. Through it all, Welsh provides the slippery beat to hold it all together, shifting seamlessly from tough-edged shuffle to hard-hitting machinegun attack. JetLab has already amassed a sizable and suitably loyal local following, but its rapidly maturing live presence shows the trio is stocked with brains and muscle and its best days lay just ahead.
Next up on was yet another standard stellar appearance by The Tigerlilies, whose greatness has been trumpeted in our pages and on this site for a good long time. Friday's show was solid evidence to support that stance. The band's fourth and undeniably best album, last year's In the Dark, was handed out with each ticket sold and anyone who didn't already have it was the proud recipient of one of the best albums of 2014, period. In my review of In the Dark, I name-checked Cheap Trick, Husker Du, The Clash and The Beatles and I confidently stand behind those reference points. In the live context, however, The Tigerlilies' energy level rises exponentially and they shift into a sixth gear that is almost impossible to quantify. With an audience to spur them on, The Tigerlilies blenderize all of the above and throw in heaping handfuls of the Dictators and Voidoids to create a sound that is Power Pop at a blistering yet amazingly nuanced Hard Rock level. Bassist Brian Driscoll and drummer Steve Hennessy have the kind of telepathic beat mentality that is the hallmark of every great rhythm section, and Pat Hennessy and Brendan Bogosian are proving to be one of the most adaptable and multidimensional guitar tandems in the city, able to pummel with Punk passion and pacify with Pop persuasion. Pat once took guitar lessons from DRB, distinguishing himself to his instructor by bringing him a Johnny Burnette single with the intent of learning the song. That breadth of interest and experience still informs everything he does with The Tigerlilies.
Inevitably, it was time for the Warsaw Falcons to take the stage. Suited up in dapper black like Sopranos extras ready for their close-ups, Msrs. Brown, Schmidt and Waggoner opened the evening with the one-two punch of their slinky and seductive "Skinny Anklebone," the Falcons' first 7-inch from back in 1984, followed by the propulsively thunderous "Mix Your Mess," and it was a slightly mannered free-for-all from there. As always, the Falcons proved themselves to be masters of pacing, knowing exactly the right time to draft and when to accelerate, slowing things down with the swaying Rockabilly/Doo Wop intensity of "I Fall Apart," heating things up with the insistent thump and throb of "Two Cigarettes in the Dark" and "You Can't Talk to Me." And the evening's special status was cemented with a backing vocal cameo from Mark Utley, taking a break from Bulletville and Magnolia Mountain (the latter of which once claimed DRB as a member) to sing harmonies on "You Can't Talk to Me" and "Melody" and provide appropriate shouts on "Cat Daddy."
When the Falcons finally closed with a rafter-rattling spin on "Never My Lover," the understandably frenzied crowd erupted with some fireworks of their own, stomping on the Woodward's dance floor with seismic fury until the trio retook the stage to finish the night with the hypnotic rumpshake of "Bertha Lou" and the incendiary barnstorm of "Swingin' on the Way Down."
As the lights came up on the dazed but exultant attendees (which included everyone's favorite politico/city booster Jim Tarbell; as Brown noted earlier in the night, "Well, when Jim Tarbell shows up, you know you've got a thing"), it was clear that the audience was comprised of two distinct factions — old fans who were basking in the glow of memories of ancient Falcons triumphs and the unexpected prospect of new frontiers ahead and new fans who had just witnessed a scorching force of nature whose earliest gigs may have preceded their births or at least coincided with their formative elementary school years. These younger fans had never seen the trio in their heyday, and I assured them that what they had just experienced was played out in that same fashion, at least five nights a week, three sets a night, back in the ’80s. Their jaw-dropped reaction was proof positive that the Warsaw Falcons belong back together, belong on the current scene with their (much) younger contemporaries and have more than enough fuel to go wherever they bloody well want to go.
Clearly the Falcons themselves and those of us who followed them with unfailing fervor from the start bear all the marks of the passing decades. There is considerably more salt in our once peppery hair, but you know what they say about snow-covered roofs and the fire stoked furnaces beneath them. The Warsaw Falcons may well be looked at as the grandfathers of the Cincinnati scene, but they built this city on Rock and soul and the music they made is as timeless as the seasons, as immutable as the laws that govern the universe and as relevant as tomorrow's headlines.
Friday night's show at the Woodward was the first in a series of gigs where the headlining Falcons will be supported by bands whose members can claim some connection to DRB and his intrepid band of riffmongers, joined by special guests both past and present. Think the Warsaw Falcons are just the new geezer Rock? Get your mind right, kids, and talk to the virgins who got popped at the Woodward last week. They drank the Kool-Aid and they believe. You will, too … right down to your skinny anklebones.
The lineup for this year's MidPoint Indie Summer was announced this morning. Along with a slew of solid local acts, this year's free Friday night concerts on Fountain Square will feature more well known national acts than ever before.
Shows run 7-11 p.m. from May 29-Sept. 4.
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; 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 and I am No Longer Afraid to Die; Injecting Strangers; Moonbeau: Edison
The shows are sponsored by CityBeat's MidPoint Music Festival (MPMF does not book artists for the Fountain Square events). MidPoint returns this year Sept. 24-26. The festival is currently accepting applications from artists interested in playing MPMF 2015. Click here for details.
Stellar local singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell has revealed one of his first new songs since the release of last year’s magnificent album OH/KY in the form of a new music video shot by famed local photographer Michael Wilson. Wilson — who has done promo shots and album covers for artists ranging from Over the Rhine and Joshua Redman to Lyle Lovett and The Replacements — filmed the clip in a Boone County, Ky., horse barn in mid-March, using his “one-shot” (meaning no edits) technique, previously seen in clips from The Emery Sessions a few years back and more recently seen in a pair of clips for local Country band Bulletville's new album.
Pinnell, whose sound has shifted towards a more traditional Country vibe since his days with local bands like The Light Wires and The Great Depression, performs in the clip for the new “Feel This Right” backed by his pals, the Honky Tonk crew The 55s, whose Cameron Cochran produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the video.
"When I walked into the barn and shouted, and listened to the way the sound resonated off the dirt floor and the old wooden siding, I had a feeling something amazing was going to be captured,” Cochran says. “The light was perfect, the day was perfect, the band was in good spirits, the song was great, we had someone with an amazing eye looking through a camera — all we had to do was get out of the way of what was about to happen, and that was exactly what we did."
For some musicians, their 9-to-5 is little more than a means to an end. Pizza and guitar strings don’t pay for themselves, after all. Others take pride in their work, both on stage and in the “real world,” but view them as two parts of a whole.
But for Jess Lamb, her twin identities as a musician and teacher are deeply intertwined. She works hard in both professional avenues and has put a large amount of effort into maintaining them, even during her post-American Idol influx of activities. It’s a balancing act with some unexpected complications that she is still learning to walk gracefully. But for Lamb, there is no other choice.
“I think that the public has seen me as a teacher and I don’t want my name to be tainted by this other persona, this other career, this other life. So I don’t want to be slosh drunk. I don’t want to be like Jim Morrison in my experimenting with life. But at the same time there’s a whole other vibe with playing in venues, playing in bars and it is very different from the teacher thing,” Lamb explains.
Before Idol, Lamb’s work as a musician and an ESL teacher were more easily separated. Nowadays, with the added exposure that Idol has brought to her and her late-night performances around town, she has had to go to greater lengths to protect the sanctity of both. A shot of Jameson may not be thrown back with the same careless abandon as a few months prior and photo ops are utterly devoid of the counter-cultural staples of, say, a middle finger or devil horns. This isn’t to say that Lamb was or is a reckless partier at night and a quiet bookworm during the day.
Rather, what happens at night can bleed into the daylight hours and her work in one aspect of life can’t compromise the other. She has to take into account who her new audience members may be and how they learned of Lamb. Being a teacher requires maintaining professionalism at all times. When a teacher is shown on national television, keeping that even-headed mentality all day and all night becomes even more important.
Considering all the time that Lamb has spent on her music after her Idol run, some may wonder why she doesn’t put the teaching on hold for the time being. Between the Idol recaps she does regularly for Fox 19 since leaving the show, the myriad interviews, the residencies at Japps in Over-the-Rhine and Jags in West Chester (as well as other shows), the studio work and all the other opportunities that have arisen, finding time for teaching is pretty much impossible at this point. In fact, Lamb has cut down her teaching work to roughly four hours a week, doing basic lesson planning and similar activities. But she still carves out time for her teaching for a very important purpose.
“I don’t do it for the money, it’s not sustaining me. I do it for my spirit. It’s for something that feels important, I don’t know that what I’m doing all the time feels important,” Lamb says.
She views being a teacher and an entertainer as two professions with two different contributions to society. Music and teaching both give something back to the community at large, but she feels that teaching impacts the public on a much larger scale. While singing in a smoky bar reaches a small amount of people, teaching has a much larger reach.
Ultimately, Lamb is a musician and teacher in equal measure. At this point, the music is taking more of her time, but she is determined to not let it take all of it.
“I don’t want to cancel out one or the other with a teacher persona that’s too square or a Rock star persona that’s too crazy and unstable,” Lamb says.
For Lamb, finding a mix of her two professions and passions is an ever-present struggle. When Idol rocketed her music to the forefront, she has had to constantly work to balance it out with activities that are equally as fulfilling. It hasn’t been an easy process by any means but one that she sees as absolutely necessary.
Just don’t be offended if she turns down a shot of whiskey next time you run into her in the Main St. district.
Nick Grever is checking in periodically with Cincinnati-based American Idol contest Jess Lamb about her post-Idol life. Check out previous "Beyond Idol Chatter" posts here. Visit jesslamb.com for music, show dates and more.
Former Cincinnati-based (now Austin, Texas headquartered) band Heartless Bastards have announced the release of its fifth album, Restless Ones, on the Partisan Records imprint on June 16. It’s the band’s first new full-length since 2012’s acclaimed Arrow, the group’s debut for Partisan. (The band took local group Wussy on tour after Arrow's release.)
The Bastards, who recently opened some arena concert dates for Rock music legend Bob Seger, also announced a string of tour dates beginning in June that will bring them back to Cincinnati for a two-night stand at Woodward Theater. The band plays the newly remodeled/reopened Over-the-Rhine venue June 25-26 with opener Craig Finn (frontman for The Hold Steady).
A limited number of tickets for the Woodward shows are available starting today at noon through a special songkick.com presale. Click here for details.
One of Cincinnati’s best groups from the late ’90s/early ’00s, Ray’s Music Exchange, is returning to the stage this weekend for its fourth annual reunion show. The band, which crafted a wide-ranging sound that incorporated everything from Jazz and Rock to Electronic, World music and beyond, performs at Over-the-Rhine's Woodward Theater this Saturday at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance here and $18 at the door. Local video artists Big Bang Productions are providing visual backdrops for the concert.
Saturday’s show will feature most of the members that performed with the group throughout its run, many of whom now live out of town. Guitarist Brad Myers (who is set to release his own Jazz album on June 2) says that after the reunion the “local core” of the band — which will debut new material at the show — will continue to perform locally and regionally, carrying on under the name Rays. Joining Myers in Rays are Mike Darrah (keyboards), Michael Mavridoglou (trumpet), Nick Blasky (bass) and Jason Smart (drums).
For those that may have missed out on Ray’s Music Exchange the first time around (or those who might want to complete their Ray’s collection), the group’s entire back catalog — including the live double album A Live Rayunion, which was recorded at the band’s first reunion show (and also filmed and released on DVD) — is available through most major digital music retailers. (Click here to check out the releases on CDBaby.)
For more on Ray’s Music Exchange, visit the group's Facebook page here.
On Saturday, Aug. 8, the Blues Fest welcomes genre heavyweights Tab Benoit and Tommy Casto & the Painkillers (Friday performer Fish toured with Benoit and Castro last year on the Six Strings Down Tour), as well as Shawn Holt and the Teardrops (former backing band for the late, great Magic Slim; Holt is Slim’s son), to the Main Stage.
Tickets are available for just $20 each day or $33 for a two-day pass. Click here to get yours now. And click here to keep an eye on the schedule as the organizers announce more performers. Many of the local acts slated to appear at the festival will be determined at the 2015 Blues Challenge, which takes place June 7 at Germania Park.
Yesterday, Cincinnati Alt Pop foursome Walk the Moon continued its promotional blitz behind its sophomore major label album, Talking is Hard,
with a performance on Ellen DeGeneres' popular daytime talk/variety
show. After being introduced by DeGeneres as a "great Rock & Roll
band from Cincinnati, Ohio," the group played its single "Shut Up and
Dance" and singer Nicholas Petricca ran into the crowd to rock out with
Coincidentally, another Cincinnati-born band, The Afghan Whigs, appeared on national television the night before, performing "The Lottery" from their latest album on late night's Jimmy Kimmel Live. Watch it here and a web-exclusive performance of "I Am Fire," with a dash of Fleetwod Mac's "Tusk," here. WtM also played Kimmel late last year when the new album was released.
Walk the Moon will play a hometown show at Bogart's on
April 1 (like many shows on the band's current tour, it has already sold
out), then returns this summer to play the Bunbury Music Festival in
early June (tickets available here).
On Tuesday, March 17, Cincinnati duo Bad Veins will see its latest album, The Mess Remade, released nationally. The 13-track effort isn't an entirely "new" album, but a re-recorded/remastered version of Bad Veins' sophomore full-length, The Mess We've Made, which came out in 2012 on the Modern Outsider label. The record — which features new cover art, as well — comes after some big changes in lead Vein Benjamin Davis' band — the departure of original drummer Sebastien Schultz (who now plays with local Indie Pop group Multimagic), the addition of new drummer Jake Bonta and a new label home, the third nationally-distributed label in Bad Veins' lifespan (its self-titled debut was released on Dangerbird Records).
The Mess Remade is being released on the Dynamite Music imprint, a new company founded by Marco Liuzzo and Mitch Davis (son of music biz legend Clive Davis). The label is partnered with Caroline, which is part of Capitol Records and Universal Music Distribution. Bad Veins are the company's second announced signees, following Pop singer Ryan Cabrera.
The Mess Remade includes two new tracks, "I Shut My Heart Down" and a cover of The Muppets' classic "Rainbow Connection" (Davis performed the song solo to open the 2013 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony). The early release of "Rainbow Connection" in January and last month's puppet-filled music video release (premiered at The AV Club) caught some buzz online. The album also features a shorter "radio edit" of the leadoff track "Kindness," as well as the original 5-minutes-plus version.
Here is a video clip for the new "Kindness":
And here's the "Rainbow Connection" clip:
Noisetrade.com has a four-track sampler of Remade available here if you can't wait a week.
Find more about Bad Veins here.
Jess Lamb’s initial performance for the judges on American Idol’s bus tour was undeniably a show stopper. It wrapped up the episode and introduced America to one of Cincinnati’s brightest talents, while also moving her on to the Hollywood round after impressing the judges. Her second televised appearance, a group rendition of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” was considered one of the stronger performances of the Idol Groups round.
That is why it shocked many viewers when she was quietly cut from the show after the performance.
Allegations quickly followed blaming Lamb’s cut on comments that Jennifer Lopez had made regarding the age of some of the contestants, due to Lamb being one of the older performers in the competition (she is only 29). If there’s anything that Lamb would like to set straight it is this: Don’t believe everything you hear. And this is far from the end of the road for her.
“Honestly, I got nothing but really awesome comments from [Lopez]. No bad comments, nothing,” Lamb explains.
Lamb is still unsure as to exactly why she didn’t move on to the next round — American Idol never provided her with a reason — but she does not believe that it was Lopez’s comments or her age that caused the cut. Lamb frequently questioned the editing of the episode and the presentation of Lopez’s comments while discussing the episode and the ensuing fallout.
While the cut was undeniably a blow to Lamb, it is one she is quickly recovering from. In fact, when the episode aired, she wasn’t even able to watch because she was working on one of her myriad new projects at the time.
“I’m busier since Idol than I ever have been. I’m working with Bootsy [Collins], writing with his backup singer, talking with his wife about a project she wants me to work on, preparing for [record label] showcases,” Lamb says.
While Idol’s promised record contract is now out of reach, that hasn’t slowed down Lamb’s work towards her goal of signing with a label and releasing a full-length album. In fact, Idol gave her the exposure that she needed to land on the radar of several big names within the Pop music community. “Grammy-award winner” is descriptor not often connected to people working with local music acts, but it applies in this instance. (Lamb can’t divulge too much information about certain facets of her industry interactions, so vague hints will have to do for now.)
Details are still being discussed and Lamb is still under Idol’s contractual obligations restricting her from signing with any labels before the show is over and a set period of time has passed since its finale. But Lamb is making the best of the time between now and May.
“I’m just trying to do what I’m legally able to do,” Lamb says.
While American Idol continues its search for the next American pop star, Lamb is determined to grow her career using many of the tools that she’s been using for years. She’s constantly attempting to break into new markets, make music with new people and perform for new audiences. The only difference is that she now has a national TV show appearance to help with promotion and publicity. The details of her release from American Idol may be shrouded in a bit of controversy, but ultimately what will endure are her fans’ memories of her performances. It is those memories that will be reignited once American Idol runs its course and Lamb is able to finally take the steps she’s been feverishly working towards putting in place.
And with several months till Idol’s run completes, Lamb has plenty of time to make some very big plans.