Besides baseball, there are two things that I associate with GABP and the Reds — beer and music. Well, maybe there are three. Losing in the playoffs has seemingly snuck itself in there in the last week or so.
Whatever, I don’t want to talk about it.
Ever since I was a kid, my favorite baseball players' personalities have always matched their walk-on batting intros. (Adam Dunn’s intro, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica, was badass, unless he struck out afterward, which was often the case.)
But as I got older and was able to drink at the games (legally anyway), I began to notice a trend in my beer buying regiment. I was buying more booze in the bottom-half of the innings than in the top-half and I had no idea why. But after some deliberation (a couple more beers), I finally figured it out. It was this team’s batting intros that drove me to the stands to go broke on $9 beers (thanks, guys!)
So, in lieu of thinking about my bank account, or the fact that we made history being the only team ever up 2-0 in a series and still, somehow, some way, found a way to lose three straight at home, here is a list of the Reds' starters walk-on songs, rated on a scale of how many beers it takes for me to enjoy them. Even though no amount of booze will ease the pain of that Game 5 loss, maybe making fun of these guys' music preferences will.
• Zack Cozart: “Too Close” – Alex Clare:
Alex Clare’s DupPop single “Too Close” (best known for soundtracking an Internet Explorer commercial) has risen on the pop charts at the same rate as Zack Cozart’s batting average over the past season. Coincidence? I think not.
But really, Zack? This is your walk-on song? This is what gets you pumped up? I mean, for God’s sake, the lyrics don’t make any sense. “I feel like I am just too close to love you”? It would make much more sense if the lyrics were, “I feel like I’m too just too drunk to do you.” That would be a song I could connect with.
Rating: 8 beers.
• Drew Stubbs: “Breakin’ a Sweat” – Skrillex and The Doors
There is no excuse for this. The whole thing sounds like Netzero fucked Jim Morrison and it’s just not OK. I honestly think this may be half the reason why Stubbs’ hitting had been so atrocious over the last season. Really though, if I had to hear this screeching dial-tone noise ringing throughout GABP every time I went up to bat, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate either.
Rating: 20 beers. Alcohol poisoning sounds better than this song.
• Brandon Phillips: “Turn Up” – 2 Chainz; “Turn On The Lights” – Future; “Everythang” – Young Jeezy; “Pop That” – French Montana; “Bandz a Make Her Dance” – Juicy J
All right, DatDude, what the hell? I understand wanting to switch it up during the game and maybe having two or even three songs tops. But five? In most games you don’t even get to the plate five times!
It’s OK, though. It’s worth it just to see all the old white people get uncomfortable when there is some Rap music blowing through the speakers at GAB.
Rating: 2 beers.
• Joey Votto: “Paint it Black” – The Rolling Stones
I like to picture Joey Votto sitting at home alone, crying, listening to this song and asking, “Why do I have to do everything?!?”
Seriously though, when you hear that thumping drum beat in the beginning of the song, you know fear strikes the heart of any opposing pitcher having to face Votto-matic.
Rating: Zero beers. No alcohol needed for this one.
• Ryan Ludwick: “Brass Monkey” – The Beastie Boys
While Phillips' newer Rap joints are a little too hood for the white people in the crowd, this is something they can relate, too. I wish Ludwick could bat twice in the order, not only because he’s a great hitter, but so I can see the drunk 40-something in front of me gyrate and giggle some more when this song comes on.
Rating: 2 beers. It’s a fantastic song but it is about drinking, so it only seems right to have a little bit of a buzz.
• Todd Frazier: “Come Fly With Me”/ “Fly Me To The Moon” – Frank Sinatra
Todd Frazier is a class act. His intro songs were chosen because they remind him of his grandparents (seriously dude — is there a bad bone in your body?). But honestly, who better than Old Blue Eyes to bring out the classiest Red since Sean Casey?
Rating: Zero beers. Maybe a “Daniels on ice, two fingers” though, in salute to Sinatra.
• Jay Bruce: “Everything I Do” – Timeflies
I don’t know who these guys are, but based on the 15-30 second judgment made when I heard it every time Bruce came up to bat, I’m not a fan. (Sidenote: I’m going to blame this song on that pop-fly he had in the ninth inning of Game 5. Thanks a lot, Timeflies — you ruined the season!)
Rating: 5 beers.
• Ryan Hannigan: “The Show Goes On” – Lupe Fiasco
I applaud Hannigan for throwing up a Lupe song as his walk-on. It’s cool that he listens to some good Hip Hop. But this song was quite possibly the worst choice he could have made. The sample of Modest Mouse’s “Float On” alone makes me want the “show” to stop and never go on again.
Rating: 5 beers.
• Scott Rolen: “Viva La Vida” – Coldplay
This might be the weirdest choice on the whole list. When you see Scott Rolen up to bat, he just looks pissed off. Like he’s Liam Neeson and the ball he’s about to smash just took his daughter and sold her into the sex trade.
But then you hear his walk-on music and it’s freakin’ Coldplay? I was expecting some AC/DC, even some Motorhead, but Coldplay? I would go on, maybe even make a “You know how I know you’re gay?” joke — but honestly I’m afraid of this guy. Even if he does listen to Coldplay.
Rating: 4 beers. After about four large drafts I’d be singing along. It’s just got that Pop-chant chorus that I can’t resist when intoxicated.
I wasn’t going to do any pitchers but this one was too hard to resist …
• Mike Leake: “Some Nights” – Fun
You know what would be fun, Mike? If “Some Nights” you’d stop choking and pitch to your full potential.
Rating: 6 beers.
(While we know up-to-bat music is irrelevant in Major League Baseball and cannot actually be blamed for the Reds blowing it in the playoffs, we'll offer our suggestions for new walk-on music this coming spring. Look for it in about six months. Leave your own suggestions in the comments.)
I love the last day of MidPoint and I hate the last day of MidPoint.
I love the energy and anticipation of what has always been the best night of the festival and I hate the thought of going home at the end to the reality of another 362 day wait until we can do it all over again. Other than a couple of hiccups, both personal and universal, this may have ultimately been the most perfect MidPoint ever.
First up for Day 3 was a stroll to Washington Park for Freelance Whales, the Brooklyn, N.Y., Chamber Pop group that filled the void when a skateboard fractured Sleigh Bells touring schedule. This was my first experience in the park since it’s renovation and it really is spectacular from every conceivable vantage point. The design, the playground, the fountain, the attention to detail; Washington Park is destined to become a downtown jewel and everyone who threw in to execute this vision is to be commended, and perhaps knighted, if we do that.
I did want to see Freelance Whales, but I had a side agenda for coming to the show; I figured there might be a chance of spotting my friend (and former CityBeat contributor) Matthew Fenton since this is the kind of show he likes. As I scanned the growing crowd, I spotted and was spotted by none other than former CityBeat editor John Fox, now installed as a big cheese at 3CDC, largely charged with publicizing and programming Washington Park. We talked about the park and the triumphs and travails of attempting to make it as universally inclusionary as possible to all of Cincinnati’s residents. I hadn’t talked to John in a very long time, and it was great to catch up, but it was greater to see him so incredibly excited about the park and its potential. He has always been an incredible friend and booster of the city and he’s in the perfect position to channel that passion.
In the spirit of his being “the host” at the park (and my ever deepening poverty), I let him buy me a beer. In all seriousness, I owe John an unpayable debt. He recruited me as a CityBeat freelancer when he was building the paper back in 1994, and his one requirement for a place on the masthead was that I get back to writing features, something I hadn’t done in well over six years at that point. John’s conditional offer of freelance work launched me on a path that continues to this day, and absolutely set the stage for my transition into full time writing when I lost my full-time design gig in the idiot epidemic of 2001. So many great experiences and interviews and interactions and friendships resulted from a lunch meeting 18 years ago when John looked me straight in the eye and said, “You are too good of a writer to be doing nothing but reviews. You need to be writing features and that’s all I want you to do for me.” Without that firm encouragement and faith, the last couple of decades could have been very different indeed. I owe you an ocean of beer, Sir John Fox, and although it may be awhile before I can start making payments, please know that I acknowledge the debt.
OK, dry your eyes, pussies … on with the shows.
Freelance Whales were an excellent stand-in for the silenced Bells. Their gorgeous Chamber Pop swells and subtlety were made even more majestic and expansive with Music Hall as the backdrop behind the MidPoint stage. As the sun went down and Music Hall lit up in anticipation of the evening’s CSO performance, Freelance Whales’ gorgeous melodicism and quietly powerful presentation was exponentially amplified. Any fan of the Decemberists or Arcade Fire should make room for Freelance Whales in their playlists.
From there, it was a brisk walk through the teeming Midway (what a fantastic idea, please let’s do this forever) to Japp’s Annex to witness the loopy edge of the New World Ancients. The Chicago quartet exudes a definite Pop/New Wave vibe, a quirky clockwork rhythm that suggests Go 2-era XTC and early 10CC with hints of the frenetic artiness of what was known initially as the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. That 21st century New Wave concept was reinforced on “Shape Shifter,” which careened like vintage XTC and Danny Elfman, while “Hole in the Sky” sounded like a Space Rock anthem collaboration between Andy Partridge and Godley & Creme; they even hauled out the brilliantly weird “We Are the Future,” an old song from Athens, the band that spawned NWA. All four NWA members had all-seeing third eyes painted on their foreheads, which offered just the right amount of creepy fun to the proceedings.
Ric Hickey ducked into Japp’s for a tour of the porcelain village, on his way to rendevous with Greg Gaston and Jeff Wilson to check out The Walkmen, and since I was headed that way myself, I followed him out. The four of us drifted down to Neon’s for a beer or two, bullshitted for a spell about music and life (like there’s a difference), watched the Reds tie the game in the eighth (glad we didn’t stick around for the extra innings … cest la vie — still division fucking champs, babe) then headed up to Grammer’s for The Walkmen (Ric rethought his schedule and hung around for the late lineup at Japp’s).
Although we were half an hour late for The Walkmen’s start time, it turned out they hadn’t been particularly timely. As we waited at the front gate (based on the asshole-to-elbow crowd that packed Grammer’s tent, I was convinced the line was designed to grease up latecomers so they could slide into the throng more easily), I was overwhelmed by the exquisite aroma drifting over from the food truck next to the entrance. Greg saw my sidelong glance and gave the taco truck and the young lady taking the orders a ringing endorsement.
The Walkmen were as fabulous as I suspected they would be. Spiffed out like a GQ Rock fashion layout, The Walkmen displayed a similarly stylish edge in the live presentation of their energetic yet restrained studio work. Still going strong a dozen years after forming from the ashes of Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Recoys, The Walkmen have evolved from atmospherically sparse Pop to more visceral and then Folk-tinged Indie Rock. The Walkmen’s new album, Heaven, is a more lush sonic affair, with songs that deal with the pressures of adulthood and the strength of love. The album’s sonic breadth is hinted at in concert but The Walkmen are more than capable of allowing the songs to do the heavy lifting, presenting them with power rather than mere volume.
In an age of disposability, The Walkmen have persevered for 12 years without a lineup change, going their own way in their own time, and seamlessly tempering their youthful enthusiasm with their hard-won maturity. It’s a wirewalk that few bands can pull off but The Walkmen manage to do it with an easy grace and humility; they were clearly affected by the huge turnout for their MidPoint debut.
I reluctantly bailed after about 30 minutes due to the start of the 10:00 pm shows I wanted to catch, and my creeping hunger, the launch codes for which had been entered coming into the show. I headed straight for the Taco Azul truck and quickly discovered Greg was right on all counts. The tacos were otherworldly good. All apologies to Mr. Hanton’s for straying from my steady diet of handwiches, but it was inevitable; when I was at Washington Park, I noticed that Island Noodles, which had been a huge hit at Bunbury and my favorite food of the festival, had a booth near the MidPoint stage and I briefly considered working in a walk back to the park to score a noodle bowl. Saturday was destined to be hot dog free.
I was just finishing my tacos when I ran into Black Owls' Brandon Losacker and three of the Sohio musketeers, who were all headed to Below Zero for The Ready Stance show, which was my destination as well, so off we went to see the wizards. Brandon graciously handed me a delicious Kentucky Bourbon Ale, the perfect cigarette after my taco interlude.
The Ready Stance was already in full swing and what a swing it was. The bar was absolutely sardine packed with fans loaded with love for the Stance and they didn’t disappoint. After a scorching spin through what I’m guessing was a new song (I didn’t recognize it as anything from their debut, the uniformly excellent Damndest), Ric Hickey stood wide-eyed and slackjawed and proclaimed the song’s classic brilliance. He wasn’t wrong. Damndest was a great opening volley, but their next shot could well be the one heard around the world, and this gig was an all too brief example of their talent and passion. A great set from a great band.
Near the close of the Stance’s set, I ran out to the Midway to catch the last three songs from Imperial Teen, because they’re one of my favorite Indie Rock bands with a quirk factor that is discernible but not obvious or trendy. I’d been looking forward to their 11:30 pm slot, but Imperial Teen’s set moved from the Hanke to 10:00 pm to accommodate the outdoor music curfew. It was clearly a great finish to what seemed to have beeen a rollicking set; Sean Rhiney declared it to be his favorite band of this year’s MidPoint. And the band was certainly appreciative of the large crowd that turned out for them; frontman Roddy Bottum noted that this was their only Midwest show and that they were glad that it was happening in Cincinnati. Their new album, Feel the Sound, is fantastic, as is the bulk of their catalog, and I hope they find their way back here very soon.
After that, it was a quick hustle over to The Drinkery to witness the Hard Rock fireworks provided by Thunder Bay, Ontario’s Bella Clava. I had written up the CityBeat preview for the band so I was already inclined to check them out, but the Mad Anthony guys had done some gigs with them and were highly recommending the show, so Bella Clava went from “possible” to “definite” in short order. The adrenalized quartet was hotter than fresh lava and proceeded to melt every face in the jammed Drinkery space with the ferocity of a bull on crystal meth. Frontwoman Caitlin Dacey was a mind meld of Ann and Nancy Wilson, switching between guitar and keyboard, guitarist Steve Suttie channeled the likes of Jimmy Page and Richie Blackmore with sweat-drenched conviction and fury, and the rhythm section of bassist Scott Hannigan and drummer Zack Mykula created a thunderous bottom that could have been registering as a seismic event.
The band was clearly moved by the MidPoint love they were receiving; at the end of their set, Caitlin noted, “I need to get a picture of you guys; my mom won’t believe it.” Ringo Jones hopped on stage and got a shot of the band with the Drinkery’s Rock drunk crowd behind them. It was a thing of beauty.
Then it was back to Below Zero to yet another near capacity audience for yet another Canadian import. Zeus came highly recommended by Losacker and several others, so I decided to check them out. The quartet were as good as advertised, sort of a Hard Rock spin on the Beatles and the Kinks. In the studio, there is a more than noticeable Sgt. Pepper vibe to Zeus’ sound, but in the live context, some of that psychedelic subtlety gets shaved off in favor of a leaner, more visceral Rock experience. It was clear that a fairly large percentage of the audience knew what they were coming to see, because there was a good deal of song recognition and wild response in the crowd.
I ducked out after about 30 minutes of Zeus’s sonic lightning bolts to catch the end of the road for local Rock heroes The Dukes Are Dead. Here’s proof that sometimes bad luck can result in good things; London’s Leogun was forced to cancel their MidPoint appearance and so the Dukes’ final show was pushed to the closing slot, allowing them the leeway to play considerably longer than their original 9:45 time would have accommodated. In some ways, it’s been a bad year for straight-up Rock in Cincinnati, with the recent demise of Banderas (MPMF regulars) and now the dissolution of the Dukes. As befitting a band that was playing its last show in the last slot on the last night of MidPoint, the Dukes left nothing in the bag. The band’s frenzied set was a thrashfest of howling vocals and grimy, guttaral riffage that was so explosive it was tempting to think that Luke Frazier and Luke Darling were playing six string grenade launchers, while bassist Randy Proctor worked his bass like a lead guitar and drummer David Reid hammered his kit like he was forging broadswords for Middle Earth giants on an anvil made of asteroids and pain. Formed just three years ago, it looks like the Dukes are going their separate ways to pursue new musical projects, which we can only hope results in a massive stock split as four hugely talented Hard Rock provocateurs subdivide into a handful of new and similarly bent projects.
We will certainly welcome the Dukes Are Dead in their new individual configurations, but anyone was there will never forget the way they went out collectively. It could have been a bittersweet moment, and to a certain extent, it was, but it was also the joyous beginning of the rebirthing process, and in that context, the final show of The Dukes Are Dead was an absolute perfect way to draw the curtain on MidPoint 2012.
MidPoint 2012 Saturday Night Notes:
• Even by my standards, I swilled a lot of beerage at this year’s MidPoint. Mike Breen threatened me with an intervention and a film crew from the so-titled A&E show, but he also offered to buy the beers, so it was all good. Still in all, if you ran into me and expect to see our exchange in these musings and it’s not here, don’t feel left out. There are events that, even just hours old, are vague and unstable memories to me now. It’s a lot to expect for an aging and beer-sodden brain, so bear with me.
• Day 3, no Matthew Fenton. It cannot be that we didn’t cross paths even once over the course of the three days here, so I have to believe that he skipped this year’s soiree. He and Kelly were here for Bunbury in July so maybe that was the reason he bailed this year. A MidPoint without Matthew is like a MidPoint without sunshine, and while I get that the vast majority of it happens at night, you know what I mean (or refer to the preceding paragraph for clarification).
• Ran into MPMF stalwart/stage manager/former Buckra guitarist Jacob Heintz, his niece and pal Brome (the spelling of which I’m guessing at). It was the first time I’d spotted Jacob all weekend … I was beginning to think maybe I should take a shower, the way I was being avoided. Then I decided that was a rash decision. Or maybe just a rash. Either way, it was great to see Jacob.
• Crossed paths with Paul Roberts and his sister at Japp’s during the New World Ancients. It was the first of many crossings with Paul and his merry band of Rock rangers, including Faint Signal guitarist Randy Campbell, big Jim and the little guy whose name always eludes me (see the opening paragraph for clarification).
• I love that local singer/songwriter Ric Hickey is back in town after a stint on the west coast. And more importantly, Ric Hickey loves that Ric Hickey is back in town. Time to strap up and Rock on, my brother. Welcome home.
• The Ready Stance gig was a stacked deck of musical luminaria; The Purrs’ Jim Antonio, drummer to the stars Dana Hamblen, Black Owls’ Brian Kitzmiller and Brandon Losacker (who repeatedly supplied me with Kentucky Bourbon Ales, which I may have developed a dependence on), the above noted Ric Hickey and CityBeat head man Dan Bockrath, who repeatedly bought the beer at every possible opportunity. I’m thinking of starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund the construction and upkeep of the Brian Baker Beer Buying Hall of Fame. I smell a plaque with Dan’s name inscribed on it. Or maybe I just missed the urinal. Again.
• A couple of Sean Rhiney (musician and co-founder/operator of MidPoint before CityBeat took over) sightings, first at Washington Park as I was departing Freelance Whales, and again at the Imperial Teen show. Sean is a prince among men, and even has a princely look. If royalty ever comes back to America, Sean should be in line for some kind of dukedom or earlship or lordiness. Really.
• I happened upon former Host vocalist Chris Charlton, who was handing out free copies of the debut issue of his new comic book, Sleepless. His written all the stories and worked with a variety of artists to bring them to life in Sleepless, which is being published by Assailant Comics; there will definitely be a #2. Chris says he may get back to music at some point, but right now he’s concentrating on the comic. The first story is a zombie love story, but my fave was “Artificial Unintelligence”; pick one up and enjoy at your leisure.
• Randy Cheek (member of The Ready Stance and Fairmount Girls and former bassist for Ass Ponys) needs to write a book. After the Stance gig, his stories in the alley next to the dumpsters beside Below Zero were all incredible, ranging from stepping in human waste after a gig (the phrase “slightly melted poopsicle” was used) to seeing a bedbug on an amputee’s stump in his daytime role as an exterminator, all of which was punctuated by a guy pissing on the other side of the dumpster. Randy really needs to write a book. Really.
• The old saxophone player who was blowing on 12th Street just down from the Midway segued from the theme song for Sanford and Son to George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” which, in my state at that moment, was a sure sign that a portal to another dimension had been accessed, or that alien beings had just been contacted, like with that weird note sequence from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I’m still not sure it didn’t.
• I stumbled into Mark Messerly, Eric Appleby and his lovely wife Trish on the way to Bella Clava. I should have asked Eric about Matthew. There were exchanges, a bad vaudevillian punch line (mine, naturally) and gales of laughter (a drunk is never not funny), as well an introduction to some lovely people whose names were obliterated by the first stormtrooping guitar chord that hit me at The Drinkery. I pulled out my pad to write them down on my big notepad titled "Don’t Forget, Dumbass," and they were gone. Regardless, it was nice to meet you. The second introduction usually sticks.
• There were so many people at the Bella Clava and The Dukes Are Dead shows that my memories are kind of bubbly around the edges, like a burnt photograph. The Mad Anthony guys were all there, Jeremy Constantinople from Banderas, Paul Roberts and the gang (which sounds like they’re the Cosby Kids or something, but they’re not, I’d bet), and Beth, who I met at the Black Owls show, and a guy named Chad who has a band in Newport and wanted to hire Randy after the last Dukes show (he told me the name of his band, but the opening paragraph should be referenced for clarification) and Dan Bockrath who bought me a Red Stripe because it was the only beer the Drinkery had left, and you were there, and you and you. And it was a beautiful, beautiful night filled with amazing people and fabulous music and love. Or at least really intense like. And it stoned me. Or the opening paragraph did. Either way, blissed out at MidPoint again and again and again.
• As always, thanks to the great (and nearly jailed) Dan McCabe for his grace under fire and his dedication to making MidPoint one of the best things that happens in Cincinnati. He is a king in the new royalty, a king I tell you. Thanks also to the tireless volunteers who make this run like a well-oiled machine (I use beer to oil my machine, and it’s a good thing the volunteers don’t take that approach or nothing would get done), the fans who spend their hard earned money on wristbands and venue tickets and food and gallons of goof juice and souvenirs, and of course the bands who come from
around the corner, across the state, around the country and the globe to entertain us and bring a little musical sunshine into our spongey consciousnesses. Or is it consciousnessi? I don’t have time to look it up. MidPoint 2012 is a lovely memory, and I’m drooling like Pavlov’s dogs for next year’s lineup, whatever it may be. Matthew Fenton, your place is saved. Next year, for sure.
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and then you have the MidPoint Music Festival. Well, none of it was bad; I mean, if I have to bitch about something, it’d be that there weren’t enough bathrooms. Just kidding. Who do you think I am, some writer from The Enquirer or something?
It was my first trip to Cincinnati’s annual music event, so it was my MPMF deflowering, if you will. And just like every teenage girl’s dream, Midpoint popped my cherry by easing me in slowly and sweetly, but ended up giving it to me hard enough to have me worn out by the end of the night. Also, since almost all the shows were at bars, they even got me a little tipsy before they ravaged my mind with their delightful musical fuck-fest (what gentlemen!)
I started my night at Washington Park, where New Zealand’s Psychedelic Indie Pop rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra took the stage. When they finished, I didn’t know how I felt about it. The songs were catchy and the music was very beat-driven, with intermittent fetching riffs and wailing solos from the lead man and mastermind of UMO, Ruban Nielson, but there was still something off about it. To me, it sounded like the vocals were turned down too low, almost becoming a backdrop for the Pop-induced musical acid trip blowing through the amplifiers. Then again, it also may be the fact that I didn’t know many of the lyrics. Either way, it ended up being like meeting a cute girl at a bar that ends up just having an OK personality. She sparks your interest for a while and you may even take her on a couple dates, but there’s only so much you can hear about how cute her cat is or why The Vampire Diaries is such a great show before you realize she’s just not for you.
After UMO ended, I decided to finish my brew, skip out on Grizzly Bear (mainly because someone else had to be covering it, right guys?) and headed down to The Drinkery to see Boston duo You Won’t. It may have been the best decision of the night.
On my way there, I had to force myself to walk by the Third Man Records rolling record shop (because I’m broke) and contemplated going to the free advice booth/box truck to see if somebody can tell me why my life is always falling apart, but decided to get a drink instead (maybe I just answered my own question).
When I arrived at The Drinkery around 8 p.m., it was a ghost town. That sounds stupid and cliché but, including the bar staff and the two other people I brought with me, there were approximately 15 people in attendance.
By the time You Won’t actually started (around 8:30 p.m.) there were about eight people watching. The rest were sitting at the bar either enraptured by the masterful pitching performance Homer Bailey was putting on against the Pirates (who can blame them), off in their own conversations or at Washington Park seeing Grizzly Bear. After the end of You Won’t’s first two songs, however, I was already impressed.
Lead singer, Josh Arnoudse, who in addition to being a really cool guy (I spoke with him briefly after the show) had one of the most distinct voices I’ve heard in a long while. At first, I thought it to be like a higher pitched, better toned Bob Dylan, but as the set progressed, Arnoudse hit his falsetto with ease (on numerous occasions) and showcased a wide vocal range during the 40 minute show. The other half of You Won’t, Raky Sastri, was quite the musician, as well, manning the drums, keyboard, accordion, harmonica, tambourine, organ, xylophone, and, oh yeah, he did back-up vocals, too.
Yet, the best part of their performance was about halfway through, when Arnoudse decided that if people weren’t going to come to his show, he was going to bring his show to the people.
He then proceeded to run out into the “crowd” with his acoustic guitar and play by the pool table because "the vibing" better. Oddly enough, he was right. People started to come around, circling Arnoudse and Sastri, while Arnoudse played to their cell phone cameras as if they were on national TV (look out for those on YouTube later.)
When You Won’t ended, I basked in all my fan-boy glory, praising Arnoudse for his set and buying their LP, Skeptic Goodbye. Then, the unthinkable happened. The Dark Knight (Bailey) rose as he achieved the Red’s first no-hitter since Tom Browning did it against the Dodgers back in ’88 (I wasn’t even born yet) and celebration ensued. People were going nuts, drinks were bought and high-fives were given as the general mood of the bar had done a 180-degree turn in less than an hour.
After partying it up with those patrons, I headed down to Mr. Pitfiuls (what an awesome name) to check out old school Country band The Tammy Whynots and I was not disappointed. Although I had to leave about six songs into their set, these guys (and gal) really captured that classic Honky Tonk Nashville sound that was so revered in the ’60s and early ’70s. With their bedazzled rhinestone jackets, Kelly Thomas’ vintage Loretta Lynn-style dress and throwback hair-do, The Tammy Whynots not only hit the sound right on point, but the image, too. I don’t want this to sound like they are purely a tribute act, paying homage to Country legends like Johnny, June, Tammy and George, because if they had come along earlier (like a lot earlier) they could have easily fit right in right along side those legends.
The final band I saw Friday, were the high-octane, high-energy, in-your-face Rock & Roll band The KillTones back at The Drinkery. It was the thing I had been waiting for all night; finally, a band with some fucking attitude. This was not only the four-piece Blues-infused band’s first time at MidPoint, but also their album release party. They knocked their really tight set out of the park. No no-hitter here.
The guitarist, Josh Pilot, was like a combination between Tony Iommi and Chuck Berry if they hung around Jack White a lot. The lead singer, Clinton Vearil, was about one of the most enigmatic frontmen you'll find, contorting and gyrating all over the tiny stage at The Drinkery. My favorite part of their set was a slow, bluesy song that really let Vearil’s vocal abilities shine, as he went from a mesmerizing high-pitched scream to a really soulful and sultry sound in the verses.
Although, this was definitely the best festival experience I have ever had, I only have two regrets. The first was that I was too tired to go see F. Stokes at the end of the night at the Blue Wisp. I know, I’m an idiot, but you can blame The KillTones for that; they wore me out. The second is that I didn’t have the money to buy The KillTones CD, which is consequently all I want to listen to at this moment.
Anyways, I couldn’t have asked for a better night. Good bands, good beer, my first Reds no-no and a new-found respect for the Cincinnati music scene. Thanks, Midpoint for taking it easy on me for my first time; you really know how to treat a girl right.
During the heat of the current presidential election, you can always count on Team Coco to keep those LOLs and ROFLs alive and well. For its weekly Rdio mixtape, Team Coco has procured the perfect songs for a Mitt Romney playlist. Featuring tracks such as Money, Money, Money, Polygamy Blues, I Gotsta Get Paid and many more, this playlist is sure to get anyone’s Romney on.Enjoy! Well, most of you. Forty-seven % of you can
What's your favorite musical group/artist of all time? Got it? Good.
Who are you voting for this upcoming election for President of the United States? Got it? Good.
Now let's say that favorite artist of yours was coming to Cincinnati to perform. Let's say it's a remarkably intimate show with limited tickets. And let's say you've got a friend who can get you a ticket to purchase. Let's say it's $35.
But here's the catch — your favorite group or solo artist is making their concert a fundraiser for the guy you REALLY don't want to be President.
Do you suck it up and pay the admission/donation for a chance to see a once-in-a-lifetime concert? Maybe make a bigger donation to your guy's campaign? Or do you refuse to do anything that may, in even the smallest way, affect the outcome of … well, possibly American history.
Cincinnati-bred/Brooklyn-based band The National has just announced a special last-minute pair of shows in Ohio next week, including a show at the revitalized Emery Theatre in Over-the-Rhine on Oct. 4 (they play the Newport Music Hall in Columbus on Oct. 3).
The concert — which comes a few weeks before the band headlines the Freedom to Love Now! marriage equality-supporting concert in New York City — is a benefit for "Gottavote: Ohio," President Barack Obama's campaign to get Ohioans registered and voting. The band will also reportedly play a private fundraising function in Cincinnati for Obama right after the Emery show.
Searching around for ticket info (details have yet to be announced; we'll update this post when they are), I came across the event's page at Last.fm, where an apparent big National fan left the post's sole comment: "Obama fundraiser...What a moral dilemma…"
As a hardcore lefty and big National fan, I personally have no dilemma in this situation, but I sympathize with the commenter. What if The National had a change of heart since last performing for Obama in Cincinnati (a huge, free outdoor show on Fountain Square with The Breeders in 2008) and the members were disillusioned by the President's first-term actions (or inaction), built up impressive balances in their bank accounts and decided the best way to protect America (and their money) was to go out and do whatever they could to get Mitt Romney elected. Would you still go?
"Shut up and sing" is an oft used saying for people who think politics and music have no business being in bed together. But if the artist shuts up and sings, but just so happens to give your admission fee to a politician you despise, what do you do?
Personally, I stay home and wait until the artist's next show. Luckily for me, deciding not to go to a Mitt Romney concert/benefit featuring Kid Rock, The Oak Ridge Boys and Hank Williams, Jr., is not a hard choice in the slightest.
I don’t like Radiohead.
Just like that, my budding career as a music journalist is destroyed by one, four-word sentence. I’m sure the pretentious Pitchfork police are on their way to my house right now to take me away.
I can imagine most of you yelling at me through the monitors on your Mac Book Pros, passing judgment on me through the lenses of your dark-rimmed Woody Allen-esque glasses.
I assure you, I can’t hear a damn thing you’re saying. So just save your breath and read.
I know why people like Radiohead. They are talented musicians who are constantly expanding their sound. Not to mention, Thom Yorke’s (even though he doesn’t know how to spell his name) vocal range goes for miles, making him one of the most impressive singers in Rock & Roll today. They are like the indie rock version of The Beatles, except The Beatles don’t take an eighth of magical mushrooms to appreciate. (Although I’m sure it makes it better, I wouldn’t dare know about such devilish things.)
Upon numerous occasions during my 23 years, I’ve tried desperately to enjoy this band.
At 16, I would peruse through cute “indie” girl’s MySpace pages, listening to “Karma Police” among various other cuts off of OK Computer. I would force-feed my metalhead mind to try and wrap itself around the ambient tones coming from my speakers. No matter how hard I tried (believe me, I tried; I needed something to trick these girls into liking me) it just never stuck.
A few years later, I made my second attempt. In Rainbows had just been released and it was a hot topic of conversation between my more “hip” friends. They would play the record on an endless loop and, eventually, I really did begin to dig it. Then I had a revelation.
While I was driving to work one day, I put the album on and quickly realized that I had never listened to this while I was sober. I mean, I know 2007-2008 had pretty much become a blur of various substances, but as the docile sounds of “House of Cards” rang through my car stereo, I said to myself, “Blake, put down the bottle and get your shit together! Also, take off that ridiculous v-neck shirt and skinny jeans. No one wants to see your Teen Wolf-covered man-boobs or your ‘Basilisk’!” (That’s right, my junk is nicknamed after the giant snake in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets; get over it.)
It was as if the smoke had finally cleared (literally and metaphorically) and I came out of this catatonic state of intoxication a new man. That man just still happened to dislike Radiohead.
My final attempt was no more than four months ago. My lovely girlfriend bought me a record player for my birthday and I decided I would give In Rainbows one more shot.
I had grown up quite a bit since the last time I heard this record. Not only was I knee-deep in my journey to becoming a music journalist, but also I wasn’t totally sloshed all the time either.
Plus, if it doesn’t resonate with me on vinyl, it never will.
This last go-around, however, was a futile one.
I always thought, “Maybe I was just too young to get it?” Or “Maybe, I was just too fucked up to understand?”
But as I put the record on, more questions came up, like “Am I too old to get it?” or “Jesus, what’s that drug dealer’s number again?”
As I racked my mind trying to figure out why I’m the only music journalist who isn’t a part of this worldwide circle-jerk over Radiohead, I finally came up with a simple, yet honest explanation.
Radiohead fans can be broken down into two factions. You’re either a Radiohead guy or a “Creep” guy. I’m obviously a member of the latter group.
“Creep” is the anthem for every broken-hearted loser too cowardly to talk to the girl he dreams about every night. It’s the anthem for every outcast kid that roamed their hallways aimlessly; unable to find their place in the proverbial hell that was high school. It’s the anthem for every overweight, underachieving, late-blooming, weirdo band kid that the band chicks didn’t even want to associate with. It’s pretty much my 7-12 grade experience told in three minutes and 56 seconds.
“Creep” just always spoke to me in a way that no other Radiohead song ever had. It was effortless and truthful, yet, real and depressing. I made a connection with that song, a connection which I tried ever so earnestly to do with the rest of their catalog, but failed miserably.
So to the Radiohead fans out there, keep listening to them.
Do whatever makes you happy, whatever you want. Because truly, you’re so fucking special.
I just wish Radiohead was special, too.
Radiohead then …
Radiohead lately …
You know what I like? Pop music. Some of you may be judging me right now and, for that, I’m judging you in return. There is absolutely no legitimate reason to dislike Pop.
Of course, I get it. Most Pop music isn’t the well-written, deeper-than-the-ocean type stuff, but rather easy to understand and anchored by a catchy hook. There’s nothing wrong with that, though. Music isn’t supposed to be unattainable — we’re usually drawn to music because we can relate to it. Pop just expresses our emotions and situations in more simple terms than other genres.
Some of you are probably starting to get nitpicky about my use of “Pop” as a genre. To a certain extent, Pop isn’t a genre at all. Historically, Pop was just short for popular, meaning it runs the gamut on genres. Listen to the current NOW That's What I Call Music collection (we’re up to about 4067 volumes, I believe) and you’ll see what I mean. It’s not full of ground-breaking musical experimentation or earth-shatteringly powerful lyricism, but every one of those songs has a damn good hook.
Beyoncé wouldn’t classify herself as Pop. She’d call herself Hip Hop or R&B. “Run the World (Girls)” was certainly popular, though. Alex Clare’s “Too Close” is full of drums and synth awesomeness, lying somewhere between Rock and Electronic and yet it’s all over Top 40. Taylor Swift was, at one point, a Country artist. Now, with a little less accent and a lot less acoustic guitar, she’s lasting longer on Billboard’s Top 40 than the Country charts. The structures of their music may be very different, but they all end up on the same station.
Pop has very much become its own genre. It’s the genre for all the likable and relatable music from all the other genres. Think of it as the exact opposite of “The Island of Misfit Toys.” Pop is The Genre of the Overplayed.
They’re overplayed for a reason, though. Some of those songs are pretty close to genius. The best recent example is “Stereo Hearts” by Gym Class Heroes (and Adam Levine). The idea is simple: Boy loves Girl … a lot. But throughout the entire song, they pull from the same stereo heart metaphor. Whether he’s referring to the trials and tribulations of a relationship via a comparison to an old-school boombox that requires tons of D batteries or the simple idea of a heart beating, like speakers, with every note, they carry the thought all the way through. In my book, that’s pretty impressive.
Speaking of Adam Levine, I like “Moves like Jagger,” too. You know what Michael Jackson, The King of Pop, sang about quite a bit? Dancing. You know what “Moves like Jagger” is about? Dancing … sort of. You know what it makes me want to do? Dance. Pop songs are nothing if not danceable. Even the slow ones! If they don’t make you wish for that cute guy across the room to come and sweep you off your feet and twirl you around the room, they’re doing something wrong.
Yes. Sometimes Pop can be annoying. A majority of Pop music is made by people with “outside voices.” They always sound like they’re yelling. Often they’re squeaky, too. One Direction is super excited about what makes me beautiful. For someone who adds an unsure “maybe” to the end of her pick-up line, Carly Rae Jepsen's voice is far from a timid whisper. But, I still really like that song.
The easiest explanation I can give is this: It’s catchy and easy and sometimes we’re all a little simpleminded.
Carly Rae and Taylor Swift may not write the kind of music that would inspire people to become “Band-Aids” or make William Miller, Greil Marcus or Lester Bangs commit their lives to writing about music. They do, however, write songs that are fun to listen to when you’re on the way to see a more substantive show. After a long hard day of deep-thinking and problem solving, what’s wrong with a little light-hearted entertainment?
So, for the sake of dancers, the simple-minded, the commuters and the road trippers: Long live Pop!
First let me say that I'm not what you would call a huge Olympics fan. This isn't an essay on sports. I'll tune in occasionally for things like basketball, soccer and Brazilian women's beach volleyball (LOTS of Brazilian women's beach volleyball), but it's hardly Must-See-TV for me every four years. If I had more patience, I'd probably watch more — but researching how the scoring works in water polo (and where they hide their horses) kind of takes the fun out of things.
I do love the drama of sports. I grew up the music nerd who didn't like sports because it was for jocks. My stance softened thanks to the 1999 Cincinnati Reds. Living just a few blocks away from the old Cinergy Field, I probably went to 50 home games that year — paid five bucks for a cheap "Top 6" seat (before they'd stop you from moving closer if there were open seats, which there usually were). Some of the dramatics of that season (cut short by a devastating one game playoff loss to the Mets) re-made me into the sports fan I was as a 10 year old.
The way drama in sports moved me reminded me (and still does) of the way music moves me. Though quite different experiences (sports is "thrill of victory/agony of defeat" exciting, while music moves me to my very core, caresses my heart, soothes my pain, gets me pumped up, etc.), they both give me a somewhat similar tingle in my brain.
As this year's Olympics progressed, I began to notice a lot of complaints about NBC's "tape delayed" coverage, whereby the network would hold back all the key, shining (mostly American athlete-oriented) moments for its prime-time broadcast. Of course, as pretty much every person with the ability to communicate online noted, this meant hearing that, say, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt just made Olympic history … then turning on NBC to hear "tune in at 9 p.m. to find out how!"
Anyone with access to a radio, TV with channels other than NBC, a computer, smartphone or an excitable Olympics superfan BFF usually found out what happened up to 10 hours ahead of time. In some ways, I felt bad for the piling-on of NBC's Olympic events coverage. I mean, they did broadcast hours upon hours of live footage from London on their multiple Olympics platforms (iPad apps, Android apps, websites, additional channels, etc.).
But some people are busy, work strenuous jobs (without access to the aforementioned fancy devices) and want to come home, have some dinner, maybe smoke a doobie and THEN see what happened earlier at the Olympics. I'd be curious if anyone was actually able to avoid all spoilers — every time someone won a medal, I received a "news update" alert on my smartphone or would find out instantly on a British news website or within my Twitter or Facebook feed.
So I cut NBC the slightest of slack for fouling up some of the tape-delayed broadcast decisions (but there was no excuse for promoting Today show interviews with "new gold medalists" right before viewers actually saw said gold medalist win the top prize, something NBC did multiple times). If you really wanted to see an event live, you could do so.
The same can be said for the Closing Ceremonies, which streamed live on the Olympics many media platforms. But when it came time for editing it all down to a tight two-and-a-half hour or so prime-time broadcast, NBC had to cut some material out of the Closing Ceremony to make it fit and leave room for McDonald's and Coke commercials.
During the Opening Ceremonies, NBC shamefully cut away to show Ryan Seacrest interview Michael Phelps instead of airing the ceremony's tribute to the 52 victims of the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks in London.
There's editing for time and then there's just rude ethnocentrism. If New York City hosted the Olympics and the BBC cut away from the broadcast to show Simon Cowell interview legendary British track cyclist Chris Hoy, I wouldn't be shocked if the U.S. immediately began discussions about when to start the bombing of London.
Thankfully, nothing quite that insensitive occurred during the Closing Ceremonies.
The Closing Ceremonies piqued my interest the most of all of the Olympic happenings, mostly because I'm a proud Anglophile when it comes to music. Of my favorite artists ever, I'd be shocked if half weren't from the U.K. (if not more).
So I was fairly excited when I heard that the Closing Ceremonies would be titled "A Symphony of British Music" (look, you can already buy a CD) and focus primarily on England's greatest export, alongside comedy (which was spotlighted cleverly in both the opening and closing events) and Cadbury Creme Eggs. (I was only "fairly" excited because these things can often be cheesier than a Super Bowl halftime show with Up With People)
I had a slightly busy Sunday (well, busy enough that I couldn't watch stuff on TV or online all day), so I checked a handful of performances from the Olympics live stream, figuring I'd be able to catch the whole thing later.
There were some great moments. The John Lennon/"Imagine" salute was touching in a pure, unforced and restrained manner (not much else was, but that's not what ceremonial, once-in-the-lifetime, music-driven ragers should be about, especially in London).
It was interesting to see athletes from other countries singing along to Oasis' biggest hit, "Wonderwall," in seemingly their own languages (not sure how Noel Gallagher felt about his little bro's band Beady Eye playing it, though; Noel did turn down a chance to participate).
The unfussy cover of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" was serviceable, but gets bonus points for bridging a generational gap by bringing together hot new singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran and RIchard Jones from young Brit band The Feeling with PInk Floyd drummer Nick Mason and Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford.
Meanwhile, the only thing missing from Eric Idle's perfectly nonsensical performance of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was a chorus line of singers nailed to crucifixes (a la Monty Python's Life of Brian, the film in which it first appeared).
And, cheesy as it may have been, Freddie Mercury (in video projection/hologram-ish form) leading the stadium through a chant proved he is STILL the best frontman in Rock, even in death.
There were also, as is to be excepted, several cringe worthy moments.
The Spice Girls were a big deal for a few minutes, but did they deserve to perform more than one song at a global event like the Olympics? What exactly did they give the world besides a lady-friend for one of the planet's (former) greatest soccer players? I know, I know — it was a "rare" reunion (though it feels like they have "rare reunions" ever six months or so). I kept hoping for a five-olde-timey-taxi pile-up as they zoomed around the performance area at seemingly dangerous speeds.
Singer Jessie J must now be bigger than Princess Diana in the U.K., because she was able to perform multiple songs as well, like her big hit "Price Tag," showing the U.K.'s contribution to crappy Pop music, and "We Will Rock You" with Roger Taylor and Brian May, presumably because Paul Rodgers either wasn't available, passed away recently or refused to wear a nude, bedazzled unitard.
Ms. J also jammed with the artists during the segment where the London Olympics showed the world that there are indeed black people in the U.K., though Taio Cruz and Tinie Tempah are essentially carbon-copies of crappy American R&B/Pop singer/rappers. They did do a fun, mercifully short cover of the Bee Gees's "You Should Be Dancing," which probably pumped up views of the Bee Gees' Wikipedia page thanks to all of us who could have sworn the trio was from Australia (they were born in the U.K., moved to Australia, then back to the England where their career kicked off in earnest … in case you don't get Wikipedia).
There were a few glaring omissions from the parade of British Music stars, but the ceremony director gets a pass for that. How do you fit a century of music into three hours? Still, I could have done with seeing The Cure play (anything but "Killing an Arab") or New Order do a Joy Division/New Order mini-set or even Def Leppard (at least!) representing the influential New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement in lieu of Russell Brand singing a Willy Wonka tune and miming "I Am the Walrus."
And, hey, remember how Britain co-invented Punk Rock? Beside awkwardly copping "London Calling" as a sort of unofficial anthem (before people apparently listened to the lyrics) and a mention of designer Vivienne Westwood, Punk Rock wasn't very big in the U.K., I guess. And Fatboy Slim apparently invented the British rave scene and U.K. dance music (while living inside a giant inflatable octopus).
Finally, in the spirit of mixing British humor and music, it would have been hilarious if George Michael would have appeared with former Wham! mate Andrew Ridgeley clasped around his leg ("I let go once — never again!").
The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, Kate Bush and others reportedly turned down invites to be involved in the ceremony, though at least most were given props during the ceremony (Bowie's "Fashion" soundtracked the tribute to British fashion through the years, while a remix of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" was used as the music for a dazzling dance number spotlighting the tune).
The biggest blunder of the Closing Ceremonies, though, came once again courtesy of NBC's prime time broadcast.
I'm an editor and I understand that sometimes you can't fit every single thing you want into the tiny box given to you; tough calls must be made sometimes.
But what network exec's 14-year-old niece was given control over the U.S. broadcast's final cut on NBC? Whoever made the tough decisions made a few seriously bad ones and the internet has been screaming about how much it SUCKED ever since.
The Kate Bush-soundtracked performance was cut, but I get that. Kate's not a household name in the States. I caught rockers Muse — who wrote and recorded the official song of this year's Olympics, "Survival" — and can forgive that one too — their performance was a bit lackluster and the song has an oddly ominous tone, like something Mussolini would have commissioned had the Olympics ever come to Italy during his reign.
Ray Davies' performance might have been spared if he'd playing "You Really Got Me" or some other U.S. FM radio staple. But Davies could play nothing but his gorgeous ode to London, "Waterloo Sunset," because it was the perfect time and place for the beloved British hit to be performed.
(Click ahead to the 1:35 mark to see it, until NBC removes it)
When I realized NBC cut "Waterloo Sunset," that's when my head-cocked bemusement turned to "WTF!" annoyance. A peek at the internet revealed I was not alone (I think the Davies cut was the hardest for most true Rock fans to take).
That is, until the end of the broadcast.
The absolute worst cut from NBC's primetime broadcast was the deletion of The Who, the perfect British band to provide a grand finale. If you were watching live, you saw the extinguishing of the Olympic flame and then, while Bob Costas was allowed to blather on about nothing over the allotted air time a day or two earlier, causing the show to "run over," Costas signed off with a very quick, "We'll be back from Olympic Stadium in about an hour for the London closing party featuring The Who. But stay tuned now for a full episode of Animal Practice, the new NBC comedy presented commercial free."
The network switched over to Monkey Doctor (or whatever it's called) and then followed it with local news.
THEN The Who's impressive eight-minute medley — touching on proudly anthemic and quite British tunes like "My Generation" — was allegedly aired, an hour after prime-time programming had ended. Pete, Roger and their ringers kicked things off with "Baba O'Reily," with its perfectly dramatic, almost always spine-tingling opening keyboard riff, which would have made a perfect segue way from the flame being put out. Instead — Hospitals for Monkeys (or whatever it was called), commercial free!
I left NBC as soon as Marcus Monkeypants MD started and ultimately fell asleep, mumbling to myself about how I'll never watch another episode of America's Got Talent or something like that. Then I spent today looking up what I missed on YouTube and other sites … when available. There was some good footage posted for a few minutes, but NBC and the Olympics yanked them faster than Fred Willard in a movie theater.
The nbcolympics.com site DID have The Who segment up by this evening. But they called "Baba O'Riley" by its not-actual-title, "Teenage Wasteland."
See — 14-year-olds are running NBC!
Ultimately, it's not that big of a deal — today there was another sad, tragic, inexplicable shooting in public near Texas A&M University. We STILL have not seen what Paul Ryan's abs look like. And NBC says the Olympic games were the most watched in history; one ad exec went so far as to suggest the high ratings in the U.S. were BECAUSE of the weird tape-delay approach. It created excitement (not hair-pulling-out frustration?).
So keep it in perspective and start getting ready for the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil. I'm already plotting how to watch it all as it should be watched — on a live stream, on Brazilian TV or in person (CityBeat, I'm volunteering my services). Because you just know NBC is going to shoot 90% of it from "above the waist." Some of those amazing booties over there are definitely NSF-NBC.
My life usually has a musical component, so it's not shocking that my vacations have many musical memories inexorably tied to the trips. I'm sure most music lovers have had similar experiences.
My family went to Washington, D.C., every 4th of July for many years when I was growing up and The Beach Boys always played a free concert next to the Washington monument. These late ’70s/early ’80s gigs are what I've always considered my first concerts. The memories are vague but deeply entrenched. I'll never forgive my folks for not letting me watch opener Joan Jett (at her "I Love Rock & Roll" peak). I was about 11. And I was pissed!
I have many amazing Lollapalooza road trips memories, from the first-tour Cleveland stop in 1991 when fans charged the gates as Nine Inch Nails played an early set to getting seriously beaten by bouncers (then evicted from the premises) after telling them not to be dicks during my trip to Indy for the Beastie Boys/Smashing Pumpkins headlining year (1994). I also had a personal rebirth on a trip to the standalone Lolla in 2007, feeling inspired by seeing Amy Winehouse, Iggy Pop and the Stooges and Patti Smith under the mammoth Chicago skyline.
But many musical vacations aren't concert related, nor intentionally "musical." I vividly remember "Rhinestone Cowboy" being played on the radio nonstop during a trip to Atlanta as a child. If I hear that song now I can think of nothing but being 6 or 7 years old, flopping around in our un-air-conditioned, early ’70s VW bug's cubby hole, the small compartment between the backseat and the engine. We not only didn't wear seatbelts or sit in carseats back then — we were allowed to play in literally the most dangerous spot in the tiny death trap.
I remember an L.A. trip the month the Beastie Boys dropped Check You Head. I played it nonstop on a Walkman and arrived in Los Angeles to discover everyone dressed exactly like Adam, Mike and Adam. I found the summertime wearing of winter hats hilarious. It seemed all based on one music video and an album cover.
That same trip I developed a supernatural bond with Jane's Addiction's Nothing's Shocking and Smashing Pumpkins' Gish. I listened to both several times on that trusty Walkman as I sat alone on a Pacific Coast beach, mesmerized by the moon's reflection on the vast, dark ocean mirror, the sound of waves crashing perfectly in time with the music's hypnotic psychedelics, just figuring my life philosophy out, scared but excited for whatever the future held.
I've had some great odd music-related coincidences on summer trips, as well. As I giddily drove over the horizon on my summer journey to New York City to intern for several months with an editor and caught my first glimpse of the always jaw-dropping skyline of Manhattan, the dance remix version of "Miles Iz Dead" by personal hometown heroes of mine, The Afghan Whigs, just happened to come on the terrestrial radio station to which we were listening. It would be the no-brainer soundtrack selection had it been a scene in the movie of my life.
My vacation from which I just returned, a trip to the deepest-south Alabama, was filled with several interesting coincidences, all related to a single, singular musical icon, a fascinating man I learn more about every day.
I only connected the dots when I got home. Had my memorial trail actually been evident to me as I journeyed along, I would have explored more, to connect even more dots.
As it stands, it was a fun if inadvertent adventure, even in hindsight. An accidental pilgrimage of sorts.
Gradually, I pieced together evidence Hank Williams spirit-guided me on my recent trip:
1) Drove through Butler County, Ala., and saw signs for Mount Olive, birthplace of Hiram Hank Williams, as I later discovered.
2) Drove past Montgomery twice, where Hank cut his teeth and launched his career.
3) Drove a stretch of highway officially dubbed the "Hank Williams Memorial Lost Highway."
4) Admired the massive shipyards along the bay in Mobile, where Hank worked during World War II.
5) Held in my hands the heavy vinyl version of the The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams (2011) compilation in the building headquarters of the record company that released it (Third Man Records in Nashville).
6) Nearly bought a weird old Hank Jr./Hank Sr. split LP at another Nashville record shop and walked past Roy Acuff's record store (where the above photo was apparently taken).
7) Touched and was awestruck by the grandeur of God's Own Listening Room, the Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry when Hank performed there (and was later banned for life).
8) Roamed Broadway and the alley beside the Ryman where I am fairly certain Hank once frolicked pre- and post-gigs.
9) Walked by the current Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Hank was among the first three artists to be inducted in the Hall's first class of inductees in 1961.
10) Returned to work this morning, seated four floors above where Hank Williams recorded "Lovesick Blues," a crossover smash that cemented Hank's status as a superstar, as well as "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and other classics.
There's a piano down there Hank probably played when he was in town. I think I'd like to go down there, tickle those ivories and see if Hank's ghost wants to hang out and chat for a while.
I do believe these are all merely fun coincidences. Maybe it was all subconsciously strung together to help keep my sobriety in check. Hank's a musical hero of mine, but not a role model. He's a cautionary tale; I am an alcoholic who would likely have met a similar tragic fate as Hank's had I not stopped boozing.
Sometimes great vacations can take you down more than just literal new paths.
But if Hank is my life journey's Sherpa, I'm more than ready. I only insist that he doesn't drink while we're driving; that shit's frowned upon nowadays. And it didn't end well last time.