Under the Streetlamp is a new act storming the nation that presents audiences with a vocal performance spotlighting what they call the "American Radio Songbook." The ensemble took its classic approach and turned it into a full production that has been drawing packed houses all over. Under the Streetlamp is currently barnstorming across the country on the heels of its PBS special and debut self-titled album, which showcases UtS's strong Doo-Wop/Pop/Motown/Rock & Roll-oldies sound.
CityBeat recently spoke with one of the vocalists, Michael Ingersoll, of Jersey Boys fame, and discussed the rise and evolution of the group as well as where the sights are set for the future. Under the Streetlamp performs at the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center on Sunday night.
CityBeat: You guys have been around for a couple years but you are a fairly new group. Can you tell me the story of how Under the Streetlamp formed?
Michael Ingersoll: Absolutely. The four of us met when we were doing a play called Jersey Boys. Chris Jones and I did the first national tour of Jersey Boys and then he went off on his way and I met the other two fellows in Chicago and we did the production there. While we were in Jersey Boys, on our nights off we were putting together these concerts for clubs and local theaters to sing other music besides musicals, like things from The Beach Boys, The Drifters, The Beatles and songs like that.
After the show closed in Chicago, the momentum for us was actually following this band; this "side-gig" took off so we decided to pursue it rather than pursuing our individual career as actors. So we took advantage of that momentum and submitted a five-minute demo of what we were doing to (PBS outlet) WTTW in Chicago and they said they were interested in helping us develop this project.
That is the really short version. Once PBS was on board, we were able to book a 27-city tour, which is pretty ambitious for a new group.
CB: What is the biggest difference between performing in Jersey Boys on stage and the Under the Streetlamp group?
MI: Well, Jersey Boys, first and foremost, is a musical with a story and a book. We are a band; we are a concert. There is nothing Broadway about us at all. We have full artistic control over everything we do. This is a project that we guide. This is a project that we own.
That was really one of the big motivations for doing this because our acting careers where we were doing pretty well in the acting business.
It is a concert and we have a lot of fun with each other. We have a lot of the fun with the audience. We take the music very seriously but we don’t take ourselves very seriously at all and the audience seems to enjoy that.
CB: I have been listening to the album this weekend. How did you pick these particular songs to perform or put on the album?
MI: The four of us — each of us is a lead singer. It is actually pretty rare for a band to have four lead singers. We wanted to lead with our strengths, our individual personality.
Michael Cunio, for example, has a crazy high singing voice so he did Etta James “At Last” in Etta’s original key and it is always a big surprise to the audience when it is coming. Chris (Jones) has got a very powerful, kind of balladeer voice so we sing “I Come For You” for him. I am kind of a Folk Rock/Rockabilly guy. Shonn (Wiley) is an incredible tap dancer and Broadway showman so we do “When You’re Smiling” for him.
So basically we just chose the songs as it suited our strengths and flowed for the evening. We also chose artists that are in that same genre that we learned when we were in Jersey Boys. So that’s where we get The Beach Boys and The Drifters and The Beatles.
Our music is fun, it is life-affirming, it is joyful, it makes people feel good. That is probably the biggest criteria for how we choose.
CB: I know your family was an influence musically to you growing up. I also know that you are from Dayton, so you are a local to us. Did you have a good music program in Dayton growing up or did your family give you private lessons? How did you develop musically?
MI: Well, there are two major factors. My grandfather was a professional Jazz pianist and so there was always music around in that environment. He taught me to play piano by ear and really get into Jazz primarily.
There is also an amazing arts program called Muse Machine in Dayton, Ohio. It is a program where kids come from all over — high schools from probably a 30-, 40-, 50-mile radius and every year they put on a musical and they bring in Broadway caliber directors and choreographers and producers. I was lucky enough to be cast into one of those shows and that is really where my interest exploded in performing and what led me to go to college and study acting.
Check out the Muse Machine website, you can learn all about it, it is an amazing organization. I would credit them with the biggest influence, the biggest push.
CB: You are on the road now. You said you were doing 27 cities, which is a lot to take on. Is there anything about home or here you miss when you are on the road?
MI: Obviously my family is there, but who doesn’t miss Graeter’s ice cream and Skyline Chili and the Cincinnati Reds. I love those things. Those are the things I do as soon as I come back. I usually go to Skyline Chili and Graeter’s and try to catch a Reds game. I am a huge Reds fan and Bengals fan. I live in Los Angeles now so I miss the change of seasons in Ohio, but (there are) good, friendly folks there and it was a wonderful place to grow up.
Cincinnati has a vibrant and rich arts community so we just can’t wait to play. I also did a year at the Cincinnati Shakespeare (Company). That was my first actual professional acting job to work there for a year, so I got my start in Cincinnati.
CB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
MI: I think that we are on track to be a top tier act in the Adult Contemporary market, with Michael Buble, Norah Jones, Diana Krall and artists like that. I think we have a product that makes people happy. I think we have a got a very powerful team with PBS and our management. We are determined to take this to as many people as will possibly let us do it. We are doing every single thing we can to make sure we are here to stay. As long as we make people happy, we are optimistic that will happen in big ways.
CB: You said you play piano, but do you guys play any instruments during the show or is it just singing?
MI: No, we are four singers and we have a seven-piece band of incredible world-class musicians. These are folks that have played with Sinatra and Frankie Valli and huge, huge names. We have a rhythm section and then three horns. That horn section helps kind of give it that "streetlamp" character. It helps with that distinctive sound.
CB: Tell us, in summary, what can the fans expect to see in the show?
MI: There is a lot more music we perform live than on the DVD for the folks that are familiar with us from PBS. There is a lot more music and people come away from it often saying, “I can’t believe I laughed that much” or “I didn’t expect the show to touch me emotionally like it did.”
I think people are going to laugh a lot. Hopefully they get up and dance a lot. When they leave, hopefully they feel better than when they came in from listening to this great, joyful music performed by people who really care about them having a good time.
And also, if you have got time, just check out the Under the Streetlamp Facebook page because our fans comment on there after every single show, and really their comments, and there are tons and tons of them, say it all.
CB: That was one of my next questions — are you guys using social media to promote the band?
MI: Absolutely. We have a great website and great designer. We use Facebook, we use Twitter. Any way that we can possibly interact with our fans, we do so. We answer our own e-mail. We maintain our own Facebook page. We spend a lot of time talking to our fans. Anybody that writes in and asks us a question or comments on Facebook, we interact with.
Without them, we are nobody. We make sure they not only feel welcome at the shows but feel welcome in the cyber universe 24/7.
CB: What music are you currently listening to or what is inspiring you right now?
MI: It is funny, a lot of the music that I listen to outside of the band is not music that has anything to do with what we do.
CB: That is pretty common though. I talk to Metal people all the time and they never listen to Metal music. It is really an interesting dynamic. I always find it interesting to see what people really listen to when they are not playing.
MI: Right now I am listening to Foo Fighters latest album, Wasted Life, (and) Ben Folds latest album.
Australian Dance Rock trio Art Vs. Science headlines the free MidPoint Indie Summer concert on Fountain Square tonight at 7 p.m. Also on the bill is Electro duo You, You're Awesome and unique Indie Rock group SHADOWRAPTR.
AvS keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Dan McNamee spoke with CityBeat this week about the band's "conversion mission"/U.S. tour and how they borrow elements from various Dance music styles to create their own distinctive sound. Read Brian Baker's interview with McNamee here.
Below, check out a live video from Art Vs. Science, a recent clip from Shadowraptr and You, You're Awesome's cover of Gary Numan's "Metal."
• It's a night of Doom, Sludge and Crust as rising underground Metal locals Beneath Oblivion headline a free hometown show tonight at Baba Budan's in Clifton Heights. BO has been continuing to tour behind its latest From Man to Dust album, which was released by former local label The Mylene Sheath and has been receiving glowing reviews from outlets like Decibel Magazine and MetalSucks.com. The band will be hitting the road again in August.
Performing with Beneath Oblivion at its 8 p.m show will be Grass (Sludge band from Philadelphia), Before the Eyewall (Sludge from Columbus) and Cincy Crust Punk crew Coelacanth.
• The new group DAAP Girls makes its live debut tonight, opening for solid Detroit rockers The Sights at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine.The Girls consists of members of local Rock band The Lions Rampant and NoKy Ska/Reggae crew The Newport Secret Six. Lions/DAAP Girls member Stuart MacKenzie describes the band as a “dance-oriented mix of early Stones’ guitars, Funk breakbeats, three-part harmonies and Reggae bass.” Tonight's free show kicks off at 10 p.m.
Headliners The Sights begin touring with Tenacious D tomorrow (playing Nashville's Ryman Auditorium) and are promoting their latest release, Left Over Right. Here's the Garage Pop band playing the title track at a show in Ypsilanti last month.
• Fans of Americana/Roots/Folk music can catch some of the area’s finest tonight at Paddlefest out at Coney Island, as WNKU presents the Roots on the River Music Festival. The fest (and parking) are free. Artists scheduled to appear (5-11:30 p.m.) include Jake Speed & The Freddies, Tex Schramm & the Radio King Cowboys, The Lewis Brothers, Magnolia Mountain and Brown County, Ind., Country Blues faves Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Full details on Paddlefest can be found here; click here for the music schedule.
• The Jam band kings of Phish return to Cincinnati tonight for a 7 p.m. concert at Riverbend. Tickets are $41.50-$56.50.
Perhaps because Cincinnati is becoming such a cool city to hang out in lately, like the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who hung out at the Radiohead concert and took batting practice with the Reds the night before their show in Cincy recently), the Phish phellas spent an off day in the Queen City yesterday. Singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon spent at least part of the day shopping for and/or playing with gear at Mike's Music in Corryville. Check out the pics below of Trey and Mike noodling about in the store (from the Mike's Music Facebook page here).
If you happened to have checked out this past Saturday's Beats Summer Concert Series event (the popular Hip Hop/Dance/DJ night presented by Self Diploma every Saturday this summer) on Fountain Square, you probably got a taste of the skills of Cincinnati native Santino Corleon, who performed right before headliner DJ Clockwork.
This week, you have another chance to sample Corleon's goods as the head-turning MC has released his latest track and accompanying music video, "Tats."
Corleon has already become a "name to watch" around the region. Upon returning to Cincinnati after a stint studying (both at college and in the Hip Hop community) in Brooklyn, Corleon stepped up his game and has been invited to perform with artists like Big Sean, Method Man and Redman, J. Cole and Gucci Mane (among other big-timers) and performing at various music festivals around the region. He's also built his buzz up by releasing several widely distributed mixtapes, including his most recent, The Hangover, hosted by DJ E-V (who works with Machine Gun Kelly and Mike Posner) and featured on Hip Hop/mixtape sites like TheOneMic.com, Live Mixtapes and LeakJones.
You can listen and download The Hangover and its predecessor — the more freestyle-oriented Where's the Love? — right here for free through Corleon's site.
Corleon is also giving away free downloads of "Tats," which will be a part of his next full release, Keep the Change. Check the video (directed by Dan Gotti) below, then click here if you'd like your very own download. The track has a cool sparse/ambient quality, with some great, tricky beats and a bass-rumble that could wake the dead. (Note: The track is also pretty non-PC and probably NSFW for most of you reading this at your job, due to language. But if your boss is cool with it, so are we.)
If great reviews and the respect of your peers were tangible income, Warren Buffett would be paying 30% tax on his income as Alejandro Escovedo’s secretary.
From the start of Escovedo’s solo career — after a brief stint with the Kinman brothers in Rank and File and a turn in his own shoulda-been-huge True Believers in the ’80s — the hypertalented singer/songwriter has been long on critical acclaim and short on commercial success for a variety of reasons (label and distribution trouble, no love at radio, health issues), but he has continued to grow and evolve as an artist to the delight and amazement of his cultishly proportioned and loyal fan base.
Escovedo’s debut for Fantasy, Big Station, is the third in a de facto trilogy that began with 2008’s Real Animal and continued on 2010’s Street Songs of Love. Following those adrenalized-yet-sensitive rock albums/sonic scrapbooks, his first collaborations with fellow cult singer/songwriter Chuck Prophet and iconic producer Tony Visconti, Escovedo reassembles the dream team on Big Station, a set that rumbles with themes of home, love and a sense of place.
The album’s first single, “Man of the World,” bristles like Eddie Cochran shot through with a few thousand volts of Tom Petty; if there was any justice in the world, it would be pouring out of every car radio this summer. Like the best of Escovedo’s catalog, Big Station offers electric muscle (“Party People”), acoustic power (the title track) and heartbursting balladry (“Bottom of the World”), all of which he paints with the perfect brush and touch.
Escovedo’s exquisite gift is his ability to blend his Mexicali heritage with his unabashed love of ’60s Rock, ’70s Glam and Punk and ’80s Twang Pop and twist it into a sound that is weirdly familiar and pointedly fresh. And like everything he’s done, Big Station is his absolute best for now.
Modern Blues/Roots hero Tommy Castro performs tonight at The Redmoor in Mount Lookout, which has been presenting several topnotch national acts of late, thanks to veteran local promoters JBM Promotions (they have contemporary Folk Pop great Dar Williams playing the same club this Saturday with locals Ellery). Castro is pulling in to town with his stripped-back backing band The Painkillers, named for his 2007 album Painkiller and put together by the acclaimed and successful guitarist/singer/songwriter as he began exploring a more expansive palette of American Roots influences.
The band is performing heavily off of Castro's debut for the esteemed Alligator Records imprint, 2009's Hard Believer, which helped Castro score a slew of Blues Music Awards from The Blues Foundation in 2010, including Entertainer of the Year (his full crew also won Band of the Year). Castro has also been busy the past few years touring with "The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue" show; Castro's live album from the tour is his most recent recording.
Showtime tonight is 8 p.m. and tickets are $25 at the door.
Here's some live footage of Castro and The Painkillers.
• Formerly the singer/guitarist for rootsy Chicago Indie rockers Low Skies, Chris Salveter launched the Indie Folk outfit Judson Claiborne in 2007 and self-released its debut, Before Midnight Scholar, the following year. For 2010's breakthrough, Time & Temperature, the band joined the label La Société Expéditionnaire and have since played shows with like-minded artists like Andrew Bird, The Cave Singers, Grant Lee Phillips and Cass McCombs.
Judson Claiborne is current prepping its next release, which they'll surely perform at least a bit of tonight when they play MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. The album — to be called We Have Not Doors! You Need Not Keys! — has been recorded in various locations around the Midwest in recent months. The band is looking at releasing the project next spring.
Slaveter's lyrics have been much lauded for their insight as well as their cleverness and humor. The band also showed their wit when they launched a Kickstarter campaign to help with the new release this past spring. Rewards for donations included things like "Instructions by phone on how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver" as well as "handmade" bath salts (not the crazy, bite-someone's-face-off kind; the "Calgon, Take Me Away" type).
Tonight's free show starts around 10 p.m. with local up-and-comers Jeremy Pinnell and the 55s. Here's a sample of Judson's elegant, evocative, dreamy style on the song "Twilight Spirit."
• Also free tonight is the "Salsa on the Square" series on Fountain Square. Tonight should be another great one as the music will be served up by gifted local "all-female Salsa band" Orquesta Kandela. The full ensemble (featuring a dozen members with incredibly diverse cultural backgrounds) includes a complete horn section, expanded percussion and several vocalists.
Read more about the group here, then get down to the Square this evening by 7 p.m. As always, dancing is a big part of the event, but if you've the dance skills of Kate Gosselin, fear not — instructors are always on hand to teach newbies some basics.
Here's a short sample of Orquesta Kandela at work:
Since the dawn of Electronic music in the ’60s, one of the consistent difficulties with the genre has been that the idea of a composition or an entire record is often more interesting than the execution of the idea.
It would seem that Sigur Ros is at least tangentially aware of that circumstance because the Icelandic quartet seems to have found the proper balance of conceptual cool, ephemeral frippery and solid musicianship over the past decade and a half. This is the band, after all, that invented its own language on its debut album, 1997’s Von, and initially left all of the songs on 2002’s ( ) untitled.
That is conceptualism on a grand scale, but Sigur Ros has typically been more than equal to the task of making a soundtrack every bit as fascinating as the airy framework that underpins it.
After a brief flirtation with a slightly more tangible Pop song structure on 2008’s Meo suo i erum vio spilum endalaust, Sigur Ros returns with Valtari, which sees the band bringing strings and electronics back to their rightful place in its sonic forefront. While Valtari revisits the chilly ambient atmospherics of Sigur Ros’ early work, the band folds in dashes of Meo suo’s Pop ethic and ethereal operatics courtesy of a beautifully utilized girl’s choir.
The album’s first single, “Ekki Mukk,” takes Brian Eno’s aggressively Ambient stance while “Rembihnutur” soars with an expansive crystalline magnificence that could pass for Radiohead or U2 in an experimental moment while “Dauoalogn” swells like a contemporary hymn rising to the arched ceiling of a grand Electronic church.
If Meo suo i erum vio spilum endalaust was Sigur Ros’ Saturday night dance party, Valtari is their Sunday morning confessional.
(The following Sigur Ros video is NSFW due to nudity, including shots of Shia's LaBeouf.)
Last night, Cincinnati's Walk the Moon hosted an album release show at New York City's Mercury Lounge in honor of their full-length debut for RCA Records. To promote the record on a bit of a wider scale, the quartet also performed on The Late Show with David Letterman. The band played its signature tune, "Anna Sun," which has been named "song of the summer" two years running and, therefore, deserves a ranking on the list of all-time songs of summer.
WtM's appearance on The Late Show also elicited some nostalgia from the host. Letterman introduced the band as "from the Queen City, Cincinnati, Ohio … home of Oscar Robertson and your Cincinnati Royals." Lettterman grew up in Indiana and has talked about his affinity for Cincinnati (and, particularly, its sports teams, including our one-time NBA franchise) frequently.
After the tune, Letterman seemed to enjoy the group so much, he joked with them, "Now wait a minute — during your song, we made some calls and we've arranged for you guys to move from Cincinnati and live here at the YMCA."
Walk the Moon killed it. Look ma — no face paint?! Here's the video:
Indie Funk Pop greats of Montreal's live show is like Prince and the Spiders from Mars doing Mummenschanz, and it's so entertaining, everyone should see the band live at least once in their lifetime (even if you hate all music, the band's theatrical presentation is something to behold). If you still need to cross "see of Montreal in concert" off of your bucket list, tonight's the night. The band performs at Covington's Madison Theater at 8 p.m. with Yip Deceiver (a side project of oM's Davey Pierce and Nick Dobbratz's) and Brooklyn "Pscychedelic Soul, Island Romance Pop, Space Rock" quartet Chappo. Tickets for the all-ages show are $15.
The headliners are touring in support of its latest album, Paralytic Stalks. Here's the official music video for the track, "Spiteful Intervention."
• Tonight at the basement Ballroom at the Taft (a great place to see a show, if you haven't yet), Punk-to-Metal veterans Corrosion of Conformity headline a night of sludgy modern Metal madness. The show features opening acts Torche, Black Cobra and progressive Salt Lake City-based Math Metal ensemble Gaza.
Click here to read a little more about Torche, then enjoy the Floridian band's video for the track "King Beef" below.
• If you're a little short on funds, Fountain Square has a great free show this evening. The 7 p.m. "American Roots" concert features two of the area's finest Americana acts — Magnolia Mountain and Wild Carrot (with its back-up crew, The Roots Band).
Click here for even more live music events in Greater Cincinnati today.
Local RCA Records recording artists Walk the Moon surprised fans today by announcing that they have teamed with video service VEVO to premiere its new, self-titled album, which hits stores this coming Tuesday. The album is being premiered as a "series of officially unofficial videos, hand-made, band-made by yours truly without a film crew or a budget."
Check out the full Walk the Moon album below (in playlist form).
Over the past dozen years, Beth Ditto and Gossip have finetuned their lo-fi Indie Rock presentation into a wild pastiche of fist-pumping Punk, funky Soul/Pop and Indie Dance Rock, with a stage component that blends campy theater of the absurd with thrift store chic. Ditto and guitarist Nathan Howdeshell have never forgotten their Arkansas roots but have masterfully absorbed the musical zeitgeist of their Northwest environment and assimilated it into their broad range of oddly complementary influences, particularly on their 2006 breakthrough Standing in the Way of Control and their 2009 hit Music for Men.
On A Joyful Noise, Gossip’s fifth and finest album, the band and producers Mark Ronson and Brian Higgins have crafted a set that blends a soaring Gospel vibe with a slamming Indie Rock foundation and accessorizes it with bristling Dance Punk and washes of Electronic atmosphere.
The opening salvo of “Melody Emergency” finds Ditto warbling with Kate Bush’s intensity and Lene Lovich’s chirp while Howdeshell cranks out glammy chords worthy of Marc Bolan and drummer Hannah Blilie nails down the perfect groove. The trio immediately veers into should-be-a-mega-club-hit Dance Pop territory with the dramatic and anthemic “Perfect World,” a track that Madonna would embrace but could never pull off, and the funky Electropop novelty of “Get a Job.”
With typical bravado and style and an impressively evolving maturity, Gossip push the aptly titled A Joyful Noise in a dozen different directions while maintaining a firm grip on their own malleable sonic identity.