EDITOR'S NOTE: For this year's installment of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., CityBeat sent the veteran ’Roo team of writer (and musician) Ric Hickey and photographer Chuck Madden down south again to report on the festivities. Keep an eye on this here music blog for updates, pics and more from Tennessee all ’Roo weekend. (If you can't make it to the fest, Cork n' Bottle in Covington is having a "Road to Roo" party that runs through tomorrow's festivities, with a live stream from the fest, drink specials and a rotating collection of visiting food trucks.)
Turkey vultures circled overhead as Chuck and I drove through the rolling green hills of central Tennessee between Murfreesboro and McMinnville, on our way to Manchester for the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Our circuitous route through small towns and backwoods was briefly complicated by pounding rain. But soon the skies cleared and we found our way to the media campground located behind Bonnaroo's Which Stage, happily settling into an area that's just a few minutes walk from the festival grounds.
The friendly spirit of the festival was upon us immediately as we were greeted by new friends, fellow travelers in the campground and other members of the assembled press in the backstage Media compound.
Highlights of our Thursday perambulations included Futurebirds in This Tent, a glimpse of slam-bang Country rockers Houndmouth in the On Tap Lounge and a display of first class Honky Tonk by J.D. McPherson in That Tent that stopped Chuck and me in our tracks.
McPherson had the crowd smiling and dancing to a Rockabilly hybrid that swung like a wrecking ball. Western Swing met Chicago Blues as McPherson and crew featured upright bass, B-3 organ and saxophone for a syrupy saunter through Bo Diddley's "I Wanna Try For You." McPherson himself added some tasteful Telecaster licks, bringing a warbling echo of Surf music to the mix.
Fan-shot video of McPherson swingin' through "Your Love."
“Has anyone seen Kanye lately? I haven’t heard him piss off the world in like a week so I’m starting to worry.” – Tweeted by me on May 16 at 3:59 p.m.
Not 30 minutes later, at 4:28 p.m., this tweet from Rap-Up.com popped onto my Twitter feed, “‘I ain’t kissing nobody’s motherfuckin’ babies. I drop your baby and you sue me’ – Kanye West”
Like many other Kanye West fans, this is what I’ve had to deal with for the last 10 or so years of his solo career. Whether this soon-to-be father is ranting about not being a celebrity and holding random people’s children, drunkenly yelling at pretty white girls at award shows, freaking out Mike Myers on live television or impregnating the bumper sticker on the Bentley of pop-culture, Kim Kardashian, it’s been hard for Yeezy fans to deal with how “cray” Kanye has been since he was thrust into the public eye.
But with his near-brilliant performances of “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” on SNL recently (songs from his forthcoming album, Yeezus, due this coming Tuesday), all of Kanye's followers were reminded that Kanye is a lot like your drunken uncle at Christmas.
Sure, it was embarrassing when he threw up on your sister’s gifts halfway through his tirade about “Obama phones” and how the commie teachers at the university you recently graduated from are ruining America’s youth. But after a long clean up session and your mom stops crying, you open up the card that he gave you before his seventh Scotch and the contents inside contain a joint, $300 and a note stating, “Don’t spend it on drugs,” then you’re immediately reminded of why you loved him in the first place.
So no matter what outlandish behavior Kanye comes up with next, I think we all need to be reminded that the “cray” that has inspired Kanye’s less attractive moments is the same “cray” that has been the driving force in creating some of the most genius and interesting songs in Hip Hop of the last decade.
14. “Drive Slow (feat. GLC & Paul Wall)”; Late Registration – As the laidback beat puts the listener in a trance, Kanye paints a vivid picture of a summer spent driving around with his friend/mentor Mali; blasting his demo tape, looking for girls and desperately trying to grow up too quickly. Even though Kanye displays his great storytelling ability on this song, the real accomplishment here is that West found a way to make Paul Wall’s feature not sound ridiculously out of place, which is a feat in and of itself.
13. “Say You Will”; 808’s & Heartbreak – 2008 was a weird year for Kanye. Hell, 2008 was a weird year for all of us. But his unabashed openness (as you’ll see with the rest of this list) about his lady troubles is what makes this a song stick out. The only downside of this track? It gave Drake the green light to be all open and overly emotional on all his records, so thanks a lot, Kanye!
12. “Drunk and Hot Girls”; Graduation – A lot of people don’t care for this song, which is understandable because it’s not one of Ye’s deeper cuts. What this song does do, however, is give a perfectly, comical description of how one-night stands go. Plus, the song ends in him getting this girl pregnant, which brings to mind that slap-in-the-face reality check that every man and woman has the morning after a random sexual encounter (“Oh my god, not only did I overdraw my account at White Castles last night but is this the person that’s going to ruin my life for the next 18 years and nine months?!?”).
11. “Bittersweet”; Graduation – This is the first time Kanye blatantly admits he is in the wrong on a track. Sure, the first half of the cut makes him seem like a total asshole (wanting to drunkenly “shake the shit out of” his girl), but it makes his soul-spilling at the end all the sweeter.
10. “Addiction”; Late Registration – What’s your addiction? Is it money, girls, weed? Kanye has been afflicted by not one, but all three. But hey, that’s what makes this cut great. There is no catharsis or happy ending about how he found his will power and conquered his many ailments. But instead, we get a track about how, no matter what happens, no matter how hard he tries, his will power will always lose to the bad parts of his life, because they are just too damn good to resist – which is something everyone can relate to.
9. “Everything I Am”; Graduation – He’ll never be picture perfect like Beyonce (no one will, ever) or rock some mink boots in the summer time like Will.I.Am (no one should, not even Will.I.Am), but what Kanye can do is spit some harsh truths about public criticism and Chicago violence over a soothing beat. So please, keep talking shit about him at barber shops if this is going to be the outcome.
8. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”; Graduation – Kanye addresses a few of his crazy outbursts on the first verse of this track (including the whole “President Bush doesn’t care about black people, right Mike Myers?” incident) and handles it with a precision and poise. He admits that the scrutiny and pressure of fame has changed his behavior, but he doesn’t know how to be himself (slightly crazy) without being criticized by the media. Can any of us understand that feeling? No. Does it sound like a bullshit excuse? Yeah. But hey, at least he knows he has a behavioral problem. Admitting it is the first step.
7. “Spaceship (feat. GLC & Consequence)”; The College Dropout – Anyone who has had a shitty job (service industry, retail) would be lying if they hadn’t felt violent urges towards overzealous mangers who take their jobs too seriously. Lucky for us, we can live vicariously through Kanye on this joint instead of becoming the next viral sensation on worldstarhiphop.com.
6. “Jesus Walks”; The College Dropout – This song came out right when I got confirmed, which, as any of you were raised Catholic will know, is also the same time you stop going to church. It made me feel good to listen to Kanye, like his brand of socially conscious, Christ-loving jams were the sole key to my salvation and the only thing that could outweigh my deeply engrained Catholic guilt. Plus, who else could make a club banger about Jesus? Nobody but Yeezus.
5. “All Falls Down”; The College Dropout – Does anyone else remember when Kanye was the self-conscious outsider of the Rap game? You probably don’t, hell, I don’t even know if Kanye remembers. You’d think Kanye’s egotisical façade he has concocted in place of his old persona would force him to listen to his own music more. But, alas, I fear that this Kanye is dead and gone, much like the career of that cute girl from Clueless that was in the music video.
4. “Roses”; Late Registration – “You know the best medicine go to people that’s paid/If Magic Johnson got a cure for A.I.D.S./And all the broke muthafuckers past away/You tellin’ me if my grandma was in the N.B.A./Right now she'd be ok?/But since she was just a secretary/Working for the church/For thirty five years/Things s’posed to stop right here?”
Kanye makes you feel the pain, anger and confusion of his family as they sit at the bedside of his dying grandmother on this track. I cry literally every time I hear this song come on, but I’m emotionally unstable. Then again, I’m pretty sure if you don’t at least slightly tear up; you don’t know what love is or your mom didn’t hug you enough as a child.
3. “Blame Game (feat. John Legend & Chris Rock); My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – This track is almost “Bittersweet” in reverse because it’s West whose emotions are constantly toyed with by his love interest as she lies about seeing another man. Although this song is mostly serious (especially heavy during the beautiful done Chloe Mitchell poem) it ends hilariously as Chris Rock is revealed as the “mister” (male version of mistress?), reaping the benefits her apparent education at “Kanye West School of How to Wear Some Fucking Jimmy Chu’s”
2. “Through The Wire”; The College Dropout – If you ever question Kanye’s dedication to the craft, go back and listen his first single, “Through the Wire”. Done only two weeks after a car crash that almost took his life, Kanye hit the studio and rapped with his jaw wired-shut. Nowadays, Nicki Minaj can’t even show up to her set at Summer Jam 2012 because radio personality, Peter Rosenberg, dissed her Katy Perry rip-off, “Starships.” So next time you want to diss Kanye, just remember, despite his flaws, he’s one of the only popular artist’s keeping the spirit of hip-hop alive.
1.“Runaway (feat. Pusha T)”; My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – He pleads without being pathetic. He’s unflinchingly honest without being cliché. But most of all, he’s artistically progressive without losing his knack for pop sensibility. The beat is one of the most simplistic of his career, but never once feels repetitive or overdone by the end of this 7-minute-and-49-second journey. From top to bottom this has to be considered Kanye’s masterpiece, but who knows, he’s outdone himself before.
Other Notables: “Heard ‘Em Say”, “The Glory”, “We Don’t Care”
Proto-Hip Hop legend/innovator Blowfly returns to Newport, Ky., tonight for a show at the York Street Cafe. The altered-ego of Clarence Reid, who wrote and produced R&B tracks for artists like Betty Wright and Wilson Pickett, "Blowfly" began releasing cult fave "adult" material in the ’70s/’80s, his cool, spoken flow setting a blueprint for rappers to come.
Blowfly (who appeared at York Street Cafe last September) has continued to put out albums, notably 2006's classically ridiculous Blowfly's Punk Rock Party, which featured reworked satirical renditions of hits by The Clash ("Should I Fuck This Big Fat Ho"), The Dead Kennedys ("R. Kelly in Cambodia," featuring Jello Biafra himself as a guest) and the immortal "I Wanna Fuck Your Dog," based on The Stooges' seminal "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Reid was also the subject of the interesting and acclaimed documentary, The Weird World of Blowfly, which you can watch through Netflix.
Tonight's show kicks off at 8 p.m. and features special guests Hurricane Hot Pants and Vampire Weekend at Bernie's.
Incredibly impressive young AltRock trio PUBLIC is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its first release, the four-track EP Red, today. In honor of the occasion, the band — one of the “Best New Artist” nominees at the most recent Cincinnati Entertainment Awards — is offering Red as a free download.
Those interested in grabbing all four tracks without paying the usual $5 will have today only to nab it at publictheband.com.
PUBLIC is currently readying a new single, “Honeybee,” which will drop in conjunction with the group’s appearance at the Bunbury Music Festival on the fest’s opening night, July 12.
Give the EP a listen below then go grab your very own copy.
• Death Grips is a primal force of nature that seems built to subvert. Entering the world of this Sacramento-based experimental Hip Hop trio — frontman Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett, keyboardist/programming guru Andy “Flatlander” Morin and drummer Zach Hill — is akin to being trapped in a demented, all-immersive video game designed and conceived by Harmony Korine and Charles Manson. Strap in for a wild, sensory-altering ride.
Death Grips' full-length debut, The Money Store — somewhat improbably released by the bigwigs at Epic Records in April of last year — is a dense, claustrophobic head-trip marked by Burnett’s rapid-fire raps, most of which are hard to discern amid the clanging sonic assault that surrounds him.
The Bomb Squad’s Public Enemy heyday is an obvious touchstone, as is any number of far lesser known art-damaged outfits. A glance at the lyric sheet confirms the workings of a paranoid mind. Try this from “The Fever (Aye Aye)”: “Blade cut me/Sewer drain grated/Bubonic plague/Spreaded faceless/Lurking in the deadest spaces.”
The Money Store is challenging, fully-realized stuff, which makes the details of its follow-up, No Love Deep Web, released six months later, another fascinating wrinkle in the ongoing Death Grips narrative. The trio dropped the sonically spare (for these guys) album as a free download after Epic balked at releasing it so soon after The Money Store. The label supposedly hadn’t even heard the finished “product.” Then there’s the fact that the cover art features a photo of Hill’s erect penis with the album’s title written on it in black magic marker.
And now for the only obvious development in Death Grips’ creative trajectory to date: They have since parted ways with Epic. (Preview by Jason Gargano)
Death Grips performs tonight downtown at the Ballroom at the Taft Theatre. Ratking opens at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door.
Here's a video clip for Death Grips' "I've Seen Footage," from The Money Store.
• Josh Tillman is a funny, hyper-articulate guy with an absurdist streak that makes itself readily apparent in interviews and between-song live-show banter. Yet you wouldn’t know it by listening to the seven solo albums he put out as J. Tillman from 2004 to 2010, all of which were pretty serious-minded, sonically straightforward affairs in the mold of the folkies he once supported as an open act: Damien Jurado and Richard Buckner.
“When I was 21 I wanted to be (seen as) a 40-year-old alcoholic trucker,” Tillman said of his early, vanity-driven persona in a recent interview with KEXP.
Enter Father John Misty, a moniker/conceptual shift that seems to have unlocked the 32-year-old singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist’s playful side. FJM performs tonight at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $17 at the door.
The new outfit’s 2012 debut for Sub Pop, Fear Fun, is a musically diverse gem, moving from the lilting Folk of “Funtimes in Babylon” to the lush Pop gold of “Nancy From Now On” to the atmospheric rocker “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” with seamless grace.
The affecting album-closer “Everyman Needs a Companion” brings to mind a meld of the criminally underappreciated Grant Lee Buffalo and the kinda over-praised Fleet Foxes (for whom, curiously, Tillman was the drummer from 2008 to 2011). Best of all is the rollicking, twang-infested ditty “I’m Writing a Novel,” which features some of Tillman’s most inspired word play and impassioned singing.
Then there’s Tillman’s “performance” as Misty, which takes on a whole new dimension in a live setting. With his lanky frame, handsome, bearded face and slithery-hipped dancing, he conjures Jim Morrison as lounge singer — which, believe it or not, is a good thing. (Preview by Jason Gargano)
Here is the video for "Funtimes in Babylon."
Opening the show is Pure Bathing Culture. The upstart two-piece (and, when live, four-piece) — led by old friends, romantic partners and Vetiver members Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman — filled the genre box on its Facebook page with “New Age/Slow Dance/Adult Contemporary/Spiritual.” Though it could be a joke on the band's part, the connection makes sense.
“Pendulum” — a track off PBC's debut full-length Moon Tides — has the pretty reverb and general je ne sais quoi of an Indie Pop song, but its soothing lyrics about swinging like a pendulum and downbeat, sunset-on-a-beach vibe also reflect the band potentially using New Age as a legit influence.
By the time of Moon Tides’ release in late August, when the band leaders are doing the press rounds, hopefully someone will think to ask about this link and close the case for good. (Preview by Reyan Ali)
Here is PBC's video for "Pendulum."
Editor's Note: Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians’ Desk Reference.
It has been killing me to remain so broad and vague this entire time about what exactly me and my staff have been working on, and while I will attempt to be slightly more specific this time around, I am afraid that you will inevitably be strung along for yet another 30-day span, inching closer to the release this Fall.
If you have been reading these entries (or know me personally), you know I am a musician, and that I have experience touring and working in the music industry for about half of my life. While I do not necessarily claim to be an expert (I believe it requires an extreme longevity with multiple facets of success and even some failure to be given that label), I can tell you that I have an understanding of how the working elements of this business function, and that I have been able to make a career as both a performer and a servicing agent. That being said, my passion (and I do consider myself a passionate person), has become helping others to succeed in this industry through sharing my experiences and knowledge. While competition certainly has its place and can keep you sharp, ultimately we are all in this together, trying to reach a common goal of finding success. The more we work together the better the potential is for any one of us to achieve these goals.
I truly believe Musicians’ Desk Reference is the next step in the evolutionary process to bind us together as a musical community. My overall intention with this project is to level the playing field as much as possible, everywhere from general theories of advancement to the specified documentation that an artist will actually work with. At the end of the day, we hope to unveil the unknown variables that musicians will face and provide the tools and the understanding and put the focus on what matters most: your music.
How do you know if Musisicans’ Desk Reference is something for you? The eBook encompasses several distinct areas of the music business, ranging from the inner workings of just starting out as a musician, down the necessary paths of recording, promoting, touring and eventually building a team of industry professionals to work for you. These topics are based on my own personal experiences as a musician and with operating The Counter Rhythm Group (my music industry promotions company), in addition to many conversations with musicians over time about what topics they are most curious about. Not surprisingly, many of the requests were in the same categories, so in the end the subject matter was not too difficult to choose from.
It is an exciting time for sure, as we are literally in the last two weeks of content creation, working right along schedule with our team of professionals we have amassed to help make the dream a become a reality.
Looking ahead into the near future, I am excited to announce that we will be conducting some closed focus groups for the content, eventually leading into beta testing a full working version. All preparation is leading up to the release of the final product this Fall, and while I cannot give out too many specifics (sorry!), I can say that it will be a series of events not to be missed.
I apologize if the bulk of these blogs seem to relate more to the backstory and the generalities of the book rather than the specific content and the process behind the final product, but that is unfortunately the direction that it must take for now. While I have been hit with a wave of positivity from musicians familiar with the project, it is very clear that more explanation is required as to offer insight as to what we are actually doing over here. The process, as that of many servicing professionals, can often feel like a variety of desk jobs that exist in the world, with the obvious exception of working with fantastic clients and the ability to go to shows, travel and be among others with similar interests that are typically awesome. In all honesty, I sit at a desk and work on several computers, monitors and devices, working with my team to create, verify and edit content, hour after hour. It is nothing but work, work, work around here (especially lately), and I would not have it any other way.
Most who’ve heard or seen the widely buzzed-about Cincinnati Indie/Punk/Pop/Rock trio Tweens knew it was only a matter of time before a national label signed the band. It was no shock, then, when it was recently announced that the band — which just played the MidPoint Indie Summer series on Fountain Square and was hand-picked to open a string of high profile dates for The Breeders — had inked a deal with respected indie label, Frenchkiss Records.
Frenchkiss, which was started in 1999 by Syd Butler of Les Savy Fav, has become known for its consistently high-quality signings and ability to discover bands who’ve taken their acts to the next level, including The Hold Steady and Passion Pit. The label is currently home to acclaimed artists Local Natives, Bloc Party, Crocodiles and The Drums.
According to the label, the threesome — Bridget Battle (vocals, guitar), Peyton Copes (bass) and Jerri Queen (drums/baking vocals) — will be recording its debut album for Frenchkiss this summer. Tweens' next Cincinnati show is July 3, when they’ll perform as part of the outdoor Northside Rock and Roll Carnival.
Here's a recent demo posted by the band for the song "Don't Wait Up."
The first day of summer isn't for three more weeks, but MidPoint Indie Summer begins this evening.
The free, every-Friday concert event — sponsored by CityBeat's MidPoint Music Festival (which recently announced another stack of performers for this September's fest) — is part of Fountain Square's PNC Summer Music Series, which kicked off earlier this week. Shows start every Friday at 8 p.m., preceded by the 4EG Happy Hour (5-8 p.m.), which includes a special guest DJ each week (today it's DJ Ice Cold Tony) and lots of drink specials.
MidPoint Indie Summer shows feature primarily local acts, but also a few national touring performers. Click here for the full lineup so far.
Tonight's MPIS headliners are using the event to launch into a new phase of their career. It's officially the last show by 7-year-old, nationally-acclaimed Indie Pop band Pomegranates … but also the first show for the band under its new name, Healing Power. Pomegranates/Healing Power will be playing song from all five Pomegranates albums, "some we haven't done in years," the band writes on its Facebook page. Healing Power already has some solid bookings this summer, including dates with Cold War Kids, Ra Ra Riot and former Miracle Legion frontman March Mulcahy.
R.I.P. Pomegranates, and welcome to the world, Healing Power. Here's an oldie but goodie, from 2009's Lujo Records release, Everybody Come Outside! (The band has confirmed this one's in tonight's set!) Pomegrantes/Healing Power performs at 10 p.m.
At 9 p.m., great Covington quartet The Yugos perform, celebrating the release of their brand-new Life is Awesome and Then You Live Forever LP, a stellar exhibition of the band's twinkly/trippy, melodic Dream Pop. The album was posted today on The Yugos' Bandcamp page. Check out the fantastic first single from the album, "Dream Away" (a free download), below and grab your album download here to get even more pumped for the show tonight.
Kicking off the show in style at 8 p.m. is Cincy Indie Rock threesome The Never Setting Suns. The band has independently released a pair of strong albums so far, including last year's Time & Eternity. Download that album's "Meet Me There" for free here.
Over the years, Greater Cincinnati has been lucky to have at least a few radio stations dedicated to giving original, local music some airtime. While WEBN (yes, that WEBN) strongly supported local music in the ’70s/’80s, most substantial local airplay now comes courtesy of community and/or low-powered stations, plus the occasional, short-lived niche show from a huge corporate radio outlet.
At 88.9 FM (or 89.1 FM in Northern Kentucky), Class X Radio's diverse programming and lineup of shows include the longest-running local music program in the area — Kindred Sanction — which got its start on WAIF over 25 years ago (the station also incorporates local music into its other programming). The community radio station WVQC (Radio Free Queen City) is run through Media Bridges and features numerous shows that spotlight Cincy artists (listen online or at 95.7 FM). And Northern Kentucky's powerhouse public radio channel, WNKU (wnku.org or 89.7 FM) integrates local artist cuts into its normal playlist frequently.
This past April, 94.5 FM became Cincy Rock 94.5 … for a month. Owners Clear Channel threw a bone to local music after Northern Kentucky resident Josh Fields won a contest to program the channel until its May 1 conversion to a 24-hour FM simulcast of AM superstar, WLW.
This Sunday, in what will hopefully be a more permanent occupation of some FM airtime for local music, another Clear Channel outlet, The Project (at 100.7 FM and 106.3 FM), will launch what looks to be a great new program, CincyMusic Spotlight.
One of the few conglomo-stations to consistently play "Alternative" music in the city (it also plays the bigger local bands, like Foxy Shazam and Walk the Moon, on a regular basis), The Project will now delve into Greater Cincinnati's music scene head first every Sunday night at midnight. The program will be made available as a podcast at CincyMusic.com, which partnered with The Project for the new show (podcasts will also be available at CincinnatiProject.com). You can subscribe to the podcasts at both sites starting Sunday.
In a press release, the show is described as "a mix of the region's most talented musicians" and will also feature a "weekly recap of all the local music news from CincyMusic.com."
The program certainly has the right hosts in place. CincyMusic Spotlight will feature two local music/radio veterans — Venomous Valdez (who has done radio in the past, helped keep the MidPoint Music Festival running smoothly last year and currently works with local bands as a manager/road manger) and Joe Long (who helms the music blog Each Note Secure and was a former DJ on the late, great 97X/WOXY).
Tune in this Sunday night and be vocal in your support of the show so CincyMusic Spotlight stays on the air and proves wrong the seemingly conventional wisdom that there are no ratings or money in "local music."