There are concerts that are fun and there are concerts that kick your ass. If you were at the sold-out U.S. Bank Arena Friday night for the opening date of The Black Keys first headlining arena tour, you probably got your ass kicked.
First up, Arctic Monkeys caused a ruckus on the floor. Most (but not all) of the folks in the seats wandered around aimlessly or sat there, watching listlessly. There was certainly uproar in front of the stage, though. But as the English boys played, sang and sassed, the crowd in the arena filled in and loosened up. It helped that their lighting guys strobed the shit out of them, too. The seizure-inducing lights may have been Morse code for “Love Arctic Monkeys. Swoon over our accents.” If so, it worked. By the time Arctic Monkeys closed with “When the Sun Goes Down,” the crowd on the floor had nearly doubled and, at the very least, those in their seats were nodding their heads and smiling. Those boys put on a fun show.
After spending the entire intermission only getting halfway through the beer line, nearly everyone gave up and fled to their seats when The Black Keys began. Not that anyone sat, though — they were all too busy dancing and freaking out. Strictly speaking, The Black Keys may not be from Cincinnati but it’s safe to say we treat them like hometown boys, anyway. Dan Auerbach (singing/guitar) even recalled playing Southgate House a few years ago. Upstairs. In the small room.
From a titanic disco ball that lowered from the rafters (for only one song) to the graphics on the screens behind them, the show was far different from their days playing tiny rooms. With each beginning there was an outburst of recognition. The middles of songs gave way to dancing, flailing and air guitar (or drums) and each ending note was drowned out by thousands of shrieks, whistles and catcalls.
Two things were learned last night. First, if you have any doubt about the amount of noise that one guitar and a set of drums can make, go see The Black Keys. Their albums don’t do justice to the sheer volume Auerbach and Partrick Carney (drums) are capable of producing. Second, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard an entire arena try to whistle.
If you weren’t there, you missed the best kind of Friday night possible. If you were, you’re probably already making plans for the next time The Black Keys come to town.
Last night at Riverbend, I finished off some personal business for my 12-year-old self. I finally got to see Lita Ford sing “Kiss Me Deadly” live on stage, hear Poison play “Nothing But a Good Time” and catch Def Leppard perform “Pour Some Sugar on Me," live and in person, all on one hot evening by the river.
My parents believed that I was not old enough back in 1987 to make all of these dreams come true, but now my older self is able to make these types of things happen.
Def Leppard has been entertaining international audiences with their strong British sound for the better part of 30 years. They have provided American audiences with Rock anthems that have fired up arenas, like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Animal.” Over the years they have put out 12 albums, including their latest offering from last year Mirrorball: Live and More. The band is among the upper echelon of Rock acts that found success, continuity and growing support through the eras of fans.
CityBeat caught up with guitarist Phil Collen to discuss the band’s continued success before the Riverbend show last night. We discussed why the band is still able to keep it up after so long and what inspires him personally in his musical voyage.
CityBeat: What do you think the secret to the band’s longevity is? I just read this morning that Van Halen just cancelled the rest of their tour. Why have you guys been able to stay together for so long?
Phil Collen: I think our motivation is very different from Van Halen’s. They broke up a while ago. They actually didn’t get off. We’ve actually experienced super-super highs, diamond albums, multi-platinum sell-out tours and all that with really bad lows, like Steve dying and Rick losing his arm.
I think we have been together more consistently than most families. We leave home for 18 months. I have been in the band for 30 years. It’s just that (it) really makes a difference if you can relate to each other on very much a personal level. You have almost a private little clique, an elite club only you can relate to.
I tell you, we have always been good. We have never gone away. We have never split up. We have never done reunions and I think that is the trick. If you have to do a reunion, I always ask “Why did you split up in the first place?” I think we still have got more to prove. We still have songs to write, great albums to make. It’s a whole new day, a whole new digital age, everything is changing, whole new sets of fans. It never really stops. There is always ambition there, and there is always plenty of stuff to do. If you really want to share your work, that’s one of the first things you do in the first place. You get to express your art, it’s an artistic release and the other thing is you actually share it with other people. We are still doing that.
CB: I know you guys have been talking about writing and wanting to release new music. What is the band's writing process?
PC: It is more difficult than it used to be. I think we have gone through every different variation. We have gone through a time when one person writes the song, one person comes up with an idea and someone finishes it off or someone has an idea or we just play on each other’s songs. That’s what Queen ended up doing.
We have done every different variation of that. The best stuff I think we have done was when Mutt Lange was involved and just the way he approached it. He had a lot more experience than us and just brought a whole bunch of things to the table. Again, it is very different, there are a couple things I am putting together that are almost finished and then I usually play them for someone else in the band and put together an idea for them and we just take it from there. That’s really how it works. It’s not rocket science and every song starts in a different way.
I think the most inspiring song is when you have a title and that’s all you got and the rest kind of writes itself around it. I have another band Man Raze and same deal with that. We actually wrote a couple songs for a movie that was The Showdown, which was about superbikes racing. Once I had the whole story I came up with the idea, “Take on the World” — it was racing and stuff, and the song wrote itself.
So it is very inspiring to start with a title or at least an idea and then you just color in by numbers almost. It can come from a million different places and that is one of the wonderful things about being an artist really.
CB: Do you have any regrets over the years?
PC: There are loads of things that we’d do differently obviously. That is the whole plan. You experience stuff and you don’t make the same mistakes again, hopefully, whether it’s driving, old relationships or whatever. You are always on this learning curve which is a different level than the past.
Yeah, you know, not really — (I don't have any) regrets, not even slightly. I love where I am right now and that is the happiest person in the world. I am having a great time. It’s really cool. None at all really.
CB: What is your craziest fan story over the years?
PC: There have been a bunch of crazy fan stories. I have always found the weirdest ones are when people get my face tattooed on their body. I remember the first time this happened years ago, this Italian girl said, “I’m going to get you tattooed on me.” I said, “No, no, no, no, have you told your parents?” And she said, “No, but they’ll be OK.” She got this tattoo done and over the years we have now seen this millions of times, you know, people show their tattoos of our likeness or face on their arm or back or wherever it is. I always try to discourage it because it is a tattoo. I have one tattoo and it is my wife’s name and she has my name tattooed on her and that’s it. I was 52 when I got that.
CB: When you've written songs in the past over the years, did you guys know when you had a hit on your hands?
PC: Some of them, but other songs you think you have a hit and they disappear. You can never really tell. It depends on the environment of the moment. Back then it would be radio. Right now, everything is about celebrity and fame and TV. It is a different one to judge. It is about getting out there. If you get something in a movie, it has more of a chance than something played on the radio. It has changed a lot. The more the music business has turned more into an industry than art, it becomes more difficult to predict (which songs will catch on).
CB: What is the best guitar solo of all time?
PC: I couldn’t put it down for one. There are a few — and it is obviously my opinion — that (have) really inspired me. A few by David Bowie. There are a few Hendrix ones — “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix. There is a great guitar solo on a song “Midnight at the Oasis” by Maria Muldaur, a song from the ’70s (that) took me ages to figure out, then I realized there were more than one guitar doing it. There are millions of them that really inspire. I could go on all day but (there's) not one in any particular — all of those.
CB: Any current music you are listening to that you find inspiring?
PC: Yeah, my favorite artist is Skrillex. I am really into dance and Techno music, love it, Dubstep especially. I just think what Skrillex is doing sounds like Heavy Metal without guitars and Hip Hop without words. That’s what I get out of it. It is just very different. It is very pure. I love it.
(I listen to) just different things; I listen to everything. I listen to Jazz or Blues, Hip Hop, Metal, Rock, whatever Pop song, right across the board. It’s all amazing and stuff to draw on really.
It’s funny that The Fray are called what they’re called, because they hardly ever leave any loose threads or ragged edges — whether on their perfectly-produced, radio-friendly songs or live in concert. The piano rock band is so harmless and clean-cut that they probably couldn’t hurt a fly if their lives depended on it.
It’s no surprise, then, that their concert at PNC Pavilion Monday night, opened by Richard Swift and alt-rock band Jack’s Mannequin, felt like a quintessentially American outdoor summer party: laid-back, pleasant and totally innocuous.
Peter Frampton was a leader of English Rock & Roll movement in the 1970s, sparked by the massive popularity of his epic 1976 live album, Frampton Comes Alive. Frampton is celebrating the 35-year anniversary of the album on the road with his "Comes Alive 35 Tour," which comes alive at Riverbend's PNC Pavilion this Sunday and features a performance of the entire milestone album in the first set. Frampton continues to evolve as an artist, as evidenced on his Grammy-winning 2006 album Fingerprints and his newest record, Thank You Mr. Churchill, released last year. CityBeat spoke with Frampton recently about the album's impact and how special music still is to the legend.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally got to check out the muched-buzzed about band The Tillers, nominated for a Cincinnati Entertainment Award in the Folk/Americana category. Playing in the Southgate House's "lounge" room, the trio (playing stand-up bass, guitar, banjo and more) huddled around a single, vintage-looking, multi-directional mic and delivered their sweet, accomplished spin on traditional Folk, Country, Gospel and Blues.
Greg Dulli needs little introduction in these parts, but for those who are somehow not familiar, the now-46-year-old Hamilton native came up as frontman for The Afghan Whigs in late 1980s and exploded out of the local scene via a string of visceral, dark-hued albums (the best of which, 1993's Gentlemen, continues to grow in stature) that were equally influenced by Husker Du, Prince and moody, noir-infested crime movies. Dulli's post-Whigs output has been just as compelling, including releases by The Twilight Singers, his main project. The band performs Monday at Newport’s Southgate House.
The Hank Williams family Country music legacy is fairly remarkable when you consider how three generations of men have built up audiences that would likely stand aghast at one another. Hank Williams, Sr., is a founding father of Country and Honky Tonk Music as we know it and, rightfully so, a certified historical figure, institutionally and critically bestowed with all the respect due our revered cultural heroes by the Time-Life crowd.
The second round of announcements for this year's MidPoint Music Festival lineup was featured in this week's issue of CityBeat, on streets now. For those outside of Greater Cincinnati (or you lazy folks who don't want to walk to pick up a newspaper), here's the official press release:
For Immediate Release
Artist Announcement “Round 2” for MPMF.13
Original Pioneer Shuggie Otis to headline Washington ParkOpening Night
Cincinnati, Ohio, May 29, 2013 —Last month, after almost 40 years, Shuggie Otis, released a new album.
In September, MidPoint Music Festival (MPMF.13) will present Otis, one of the most mysterious figures in pop music history, as this year’s original pioneer. He will headline in Washington Park opening night with Cody ChesnuTT.
According to the New York Times (NYT), Otis’s album, “Wings of Love” (Epic/Legacy), which includes 14 previously unreleased tracks, is being packaged a alongside a reissue of his previous and most celebrated recording, “Inspiration Information,” from 1974.
“MPMF has always been known for the pioneering music we showcase, but I am especially excited and proud to present Shuggie Otis,” said Dan McCabe, artistic director of MPMF.13. “Unlike other original pioneers presented at past MPMFs like Ralph Stanley, Booker T. and Van Dyke Parks, Shuggie’s impact is only just now coming to light. Shuggie Otis speaks directly to the MPMF artist who often sacrifices success and notoriety for their art.”
On May 3, the first 13 artists were announced for the twelfth edition of the downtown Cincinnati festival happening September 26-28, 2013. Today, 14 additional artists are being released:
SHUGGIE OTIS/KURT VILE/ YOUTH LAGOON/
ON AN ON/ BATHS/ MURDER BY DEATH/ BLEACHED/ SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME/ SAN FERMIN/ SECRET COLOURS/ NAT BALDWIN/ WILD CUB/
THE SHILOHS/BIRDS OF CHICAGO
SHUGGIE OTIS: “He’s the unsung hero of blues and funk. His music is so potent that it only blossomed 30 years after it was first released.” - Questlove
“…a missing link between Sly, Jimi, Stevie, Prince and Frank Ocean." -Rolling Stone
KURT VILE: One of Coachella 2013’s 10 Must See Acts – Rolling Stone
“Wakin on a Pretty Daze” is a SPIN essential and a real testament to putting a great deal of effort into making something feel effortless.” - SPIN
YOUTH LAGOON: “8.7 / BEST NEW MUSIC. Wondrous Bughouse looks inward and discovers the endless possibilities of imagination and introspection.” -Pitchfork
ON AN ON: Broke new ground on their latest recording with accomplished producer Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene, Super Furry Animals, Los Campesinos!)
BATHS: Just yesterday (May 28, 2013) second album Obsidian named “Best New Music” by Pitchfork. Debut album Cerulean, blurs the line between post-modern pop and the LA beat scene and earned “Best Of” recognition from Pitchfork & The Onion’s A.V. Club.
MURDER BY DEATH: "They've cultivated a cult-like fan base via their unique sound, which mingles elements of country, indie rock and alternative music into collections of songs that are the sonic equivalent of 'No Country For Old Men.'"— PureVolume
BLEACHED: “…originally found cult status with their punk band Mika Miko. It's the ole "they've cleaned up, but are still same degenerates you know and love" trick. . – The Village Voice
SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME: The jubilant fun of Motown and Northern soul with a decidedly indie approach.
SAN FERMIN: A pastiche of post-rock, chamber-pop and contemporary classical composition.
SECRET COLOURS: Revel in being the bastard seed of the '60s psychedelia and '90s Britpop bloodlines.
NAT BALDWIN: Double bassist/singer-songwriter Nat Baldwin's spent years as the Dirty Projectors bassist and former disciple of free jazz legend Anthony Braxton.
WILD CUB: “…[Wild Cub’s] brand of darkly-tinged new wave recalls elements of the youthful abandon of John Hughes soundtracks, the baleful allure of Greg Dulli, and the clockwork electronics of New Order’s middle period.” – KEXP
THE SHILOHS: The Vancouver foursome released full-length debut, So Wild earlier this year.
BIRDS OF CHICAGO: “They project organic gospel, hillbilly, folk and soul elements that bridge traditional and modern approaches." – Chicago Tribune
To view the whole list of artists for MPMF.13 to date, visit MPMF.com.
MidPoint Music Festival continues its 12-year tradition as the region’s frontline of music exploration, featuring an impressive and diverse lineup. Music fans everywhere flock to Cincinnati in September to be a part of this long running music event that started in Over-the-Rhine (OTR), the Cincinnati neighborhood that’s as cutting edge as the festival itself.
OTR remains a pivotal location, home to a number of MPMF.13 stages. OTR is on the National Register of Historic Places and was voted best Cincinnati Neighborhood in CityBeat’s Best of Cincinnati publication in 2011 and 2012. Since 2004 more than $255 million has been invested in the revitalization of OTR, including the $48 million renovation of Washington Park, which includes an outdoor music stage that serves as one of MPMF’s main stages.
Advance tickets are on sale now at www.mpmf.cincyticket.com. All-access passes are $69 and VIP passes are $169
Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival has developed a reputation as the place to find your new favorite band. MidPoint's embrace of emerging artists reflects the same pioneering ethic of Cincinnati's celebrated music history and its present day music-makers. The MPMF storyline continues to be diverse, dynamic and adventurous. Stay up to date at MPMF.com, like its official Facebook page, or by following the festival on Twitter.
MPMF.13 is made possible thanks to the generous support of its sponsors, including Dewey’s Pizza and Biore.
Opening Cincinnati's summer concert season is always a difficult duty. A constantly fickle city in terms of their live music, Cincinnati crowds demand constant excitement and stroking from the band they are witnessing. Well, then what better band to choose for this tedious task than Kings of Leon?