A lot of people still call it “Jazz Fest” (a hold-over from some of its early names, like the Kool Jazz Festival) and more recently (as of last year) it went by the name of Macy’s Music Festival, but Cincinnati’s popular, long-running celebration of classic and contemporary R&B and Soul is now cutting to the chase and, for its 2015 edition, will be called the “Cincinnati Music Festival.”
The name and logo may be different (and the primary sponsor is now P&G), but not much else has changed. This year’s event takes place July 24-25 at Paul Brown Stadium on the riverfront. Tickets for the fest — which began in 1962 in Carthage as the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival and has featured everyone from Miles Davis and George Benson to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye — go on sale this Saturday through Ticketmaster.com.
This year’s lineup features Maxwell, Jennifer Hudson, The O’Jays, Joe and Luke James on July 24. For July 25, the event will feature longtime fest faves Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, plus Jill Scott, KEM, Avery Sunshine and Mali Music.
Click here for complete info on the 2015 Cincinnati Music Festival.
Veteran Cincinnati Funk bassist/singer/songwriter Freekbass announced this week that he has signed a deal with the esteemed Ropeadope Records. Freekbass’ next album — the follow-up to last year’s self-released Everybody’s Feelin’ Real (which you can stream/purchase here) — is currently slated for release on the label early this fall.
“I grew up listening to artists and music on Ropeadope and it's such an honor to actually be a part of the label now,” Freekbass said in a press release.
Ropeadope began in 1999, originally created by founders Andy Hurwitz and John Medeski to release the Project Logic album by Soul/Jazz/Hip Hop turntablist extraordinaire DJ Logic. (At the start of this decade, Freekbass was a part of a side-project band called Headtronics that featured Logic, as well as Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz.) Ropeadope has since put out an impressively diverse array of unique music, including releases by Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Charlie Hunter, Phish’s Mike Gordon, Antibalas, Christian McBride and Fusion ensemble Snarky Puppy, which won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance last year for its collaboration with Lalah Hathaway on the song “Something.” (You can read more about the label’s history here.)
Freekbass, who crafts a contemporary brand of Funk that mixes in shades of Electronica and Hip Hop, has been one the leading figures in the Cincinnati music scene for decades, starting with the popular ’80s Alt Rock band Sleep Theatre before holding down the bottom end for successful Funk crew SHAG in the ’90s. He started his solo career in the late ’90s and has released six full-lengths and toured relentlessly. His albums have featured some impressive guests; artists from Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell to Buckethead and DJ Spooky have appeared on Freekbass recordings. His stunning bass-playing skills have also lead to the release of several instructional videos and he was featured at the 2014 London Bass Guitar Show, heading up a master class/clinic and performing.
Here is Freekbass (with his band The Bump Assembly) in their most recent video release, for the song “Never Enough” off of Everybody’s Feelin’ Real.
Read more about Freekbass in CityBeat's 2014 feature story here.
Late last year it was announced that Brad Schnittger (member of the great local band The Sundresses) was selected as one of two "Haile Fellows" for 2015 by People’s Liberty, which provides $100,000 grants to local projects in an effort to “uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati.”
The grant will allow Schnittger the opportunity to fully focus on his MusicLi (pronounced "musically") project, which is described as “an online music-business management dashboard for artists.” Artists who create MusicLi accounts will be able to use the service to digitally distribute and protect their music, and also enter it into the company’s licensing catalog, providing musicians with a nice alternative (or, if things go well, primary) revenue stream. MusicLi's “core principle” is described thusly: “There are wonderfully talented musicians in the Greater Cincinnati area, and if their music is digitally cataloged, published and made accessible for the purpose of licensing, this music can generate income for those musicians and make Cincinnati a better place to live.”
MusicLi recently launched a brief, 10-question survey to get some feedback from musicians to help guide the project’s direction. If you’d like to participate, click here. For more on People’s Liberty, this year’s grant’s recipients and complete details on their efforts and initiatives, click here.
The Bunbury Music Festival will present its fourth annual three-day event on Cincinnati’s riverfront (Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove) June 5-7 this year (moved up from the usual July dates due to Reds/All Star Game activities). This morning, organizers of the festival — which was purchased by Columbus-based PromoWest Productions late last year — officially announced the lineup this morning.
Bunbury 2015 will feature headliners The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg and The Avett Brothers. The rest of the lineup includes Brand New, Tame Impala, The Decemberists, Old Crow Medicine Show, twenty one pilots, Walk the Moon, Matt and Kim, Bleachers, Royal Blood, Manchester Orchestra, Father John Misty, Atmosphere, Temples, Shakey Graves, Kacey Musgraves, The Devil Makes Three, Reverend Horton Heat, Lindsey Stirling, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Jamestown Revival, Mikky Ekko, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Mini Mansion, The Front Bottoms, Jessica Hernandez, Secret Sisters, Lil Dicky, machineheart, Go Analog, Bummers and Indigo Wild.
So far, Cincinnati acts on the bill include Multimagic, Buggs Tha Rocka and RCA recording artists Walk the Moon, who have been touring relentlessly behind their sophomore major label release, Talking Is Hard (the band recently appeared on The Tonight Show; see video below). More artists are expected to be announced leading up to the festival.
One-day and three-day tickets for the 2015 Bunbury fest are available now. Click here for pricing and links.
While Jess Lamb’s American Idol journey may be over, the show is still very much a part of her everyday life. Fans of the show know that the performers often leverage their appearances into work on other projects, such as backup singing or working with national acts in collaborations. It is a process that takes a great deal of time and effort but there is another aspect of being an Idol contestant (current and former) that many fans may not consider — namely, keeping up with the social media explosion that coincides with debuting on the show. It’s a deluge of activity that, initially, can’t be adequately prepared for and it’s one that Lamb experienced firsthand.
“At first, after my audition aired, my sites couldn’t keep up. My stuff was literally shut down,” Lamb explains.
As a local artist, Lamb was used to receiving a friend request on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram fairly often. She relied (and still does rely) on social media for the majority of her publicity regarding upcoming shows and releases. But after her premiere, the number and frequency ballooned in a very short period of time. Furthermore, friend requests from friends of friends or local fans morphed into a nationwide fan base that searched Lamb out on her social media outlets.
“It’s crazy that I can make a post about a song and get 90 likes and in two days see hundreds of streams,” Lamb says. “It’s actually reaching people who are friends of mine because they want to hear the music, not because they’re interested in the scene. They’re literally curious about what I’m doing — they want to hear more.”
But this influx of attention has heightened Lamb’s time on said social media, simply so she can keep up with all of the activity across her accounts, while still trying to maintain a public presence and keeping her fans up to date with her myriad projects. In fact, Lamb has had to cut back on the time she spends at her 9-5 job so she can answer fan requests and emails in between interviews, studio work and live performances.
It’s been a dramatic transition for Lamb who, before Idol, rarely used her social media for any personal or professional purpose. In fact, it was her fiancé who initially showed her the value of using social media to self-promote. Social media activity actually lines up with Lamb’s well established indie sensibilities. She takes pride in having a control over her public output, whether that be an Instagram photo or uploading a new song onto iTunes.
“I still own all the songs, I’m not going to get slapped on the wrist for releasing songs because I’m not releasing for a label —it’s still mine, it’s on me. If I fail, I’m the one filing bankruptcy. If I succeed, I get to hire more people,” Lamb says.
She also leverages her public output to help other artists that she works with as well. For example, many of her fans have seen clips of Lamb’s work with local Electronica act Black Signal or marveled at her unique jewelry and clothing, much of which comes from local boutique Lulu White. Lamb has been repeatedly asked about her collaborations and takes great pains to make sure that her partners get the recognition they deserve. In doing so, she is able to shine a light on not just projects that she is personally a part of, but also projects that she is a personal fan of, showing her fans another aspect of her personality and artistic output.
In many ways, keeping up with her social media has become another job for Lamb, requiring large amounts of time and thought to be put into its upkeep. But it’s a job she enjoys doing and one that she has no intention of passing off to anyone else.
“I would prefer to spend my time doing the social media stuff, I really do enjoy it. It helps me to come out of my shell when I’m sitting behind the computer,” Lamb says.
For her fans this is great news, because they can be assured that anything they see coming from Lamb online is actually coming from her and not a hired gun. It’s a genuine correspondence, which in today’s pop music world is a rarity.
Last year, Cincinnati Hip Hop artist MC Till (aka Adam Hayden) did the unexpected and released The Neighborhood, an amazing album that brilliantly fused Jazz with Hip Hop rhymes. This year, Hayden is working on another delightful musical curveball — a Hip Hop-centric album (available on vinyl) and book project for children titled The Corner.
The seeds of the project were planted several years ago when his friend, graphic designer/videographer/rapper Vernard Fields, who has worked over a decade with special needs children in the Cincinnati Public Schools system, mentioned to Hayden that he wanted to make a Hip Hop album for kids. In 2012, while Hayden was working as an assistant CPS teacher, he discovered that by rapping some children’s poetry, he quickly and easily captured the attention of the first grade class in which he was in charge. Recalling Fields orginal suggestion, Hayden got back in touch with him and the pair worked out some material and presented it to an even younger audience (pre-schoolers), where they were again a big hit. Hayden and Fields then teamed up with illustrator Charlie Padgett to create the visuals for The Corner.
The high-quality book and album will be made available as hard copies and digitally (an app and website are also in the works) and the trio hopes that schools will be interested in using their project in the classroom. The Kickstarter perks offered for the campaign for The Corner include having bundles sent to specific teachers and schools (there’s even an accompanying study guide for teachers).
The ambitious project won’t be cheap to produce; the three artists are currently aiming for more than $48,000 in their Kickstarter campaign. If you’d like to contribute and/or check out the project, click here or on the video below.
Musical acts interested in being considered for a showcase slot at the 14th annual MidPoint Music Festival (scheduled for Sept. 24-26 in various venues around Downtown and Over-the-Rhine) can begin submitting today.
The festival — owned and operated by CityBeat — has announced a new partner for facilitating submissions, switching from Sonicbids to the locally-based CloudPressKit. The move will save artists some money — the submission fee for MPMF 2015 is $15 (through Sonicbids, it was $25, plus a Sonicbids membership) — and CloudPressKit is described as more “artist friendly.”
Click here for MPMF submission details. MPMF.com has a Q&A with the fest's head honcho, Dan McCabe, about the application process that answers a lot of questions submitters may have (other questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org). Applications are being accepted through May 17.
For many Cincinnati natives, seeing Jess Lamb perform her audition in Kansas City for the American Idol judges was the first time they had ever heard her powerful and emotive voice or seen her honest, determined spirit. But for anyone who has their ears to the ground in Cincinnati’s local music scene (or has drunkenly wandered into Japps on a Tuesday night) knew that Lamb was more than ready for the limelight. Lamb has been performing all across town for years and has consistently turned heads with her stable of classics and originals, paired with her pronounced and technical work on the keys. (In 2013, Lamb was nominated for an R&B/Funk/Soul Cincinnati Entertainment Award and performed at that year’s ceremony, a mini-clip of which was used in her initial biographical segment on Idol.)
But a rise in local and national exposure brings a great deal of opportunities and challenges tied together. And it is those opportunities and challenges that my series of posts following Lamb’s experience will reflect upon. Lamb is an indie artist to the core; she writes and records with many different projects beyond her solo work. She plays all around town in the hopes of steadily increasing her visibility. But how does an artist used to local coverage deal with the sudden influx in national attention? What effect will American Idol have on local attendance or the reception at her shows? Will there be any long term changes or will this ultimately be a flash-in-the-pan experience for Lamb? These are the types of questions that will be explored as the show carries on.
Of course, to answer where Lamb will be going, it helps to know how she even became a part of American Idol. It all happened by chance.
“I went to Columbus for what they call the ‘Bus Tour.’ Basically you go down there and stand in front of executive producers of the show. From there, they just call you and tell you where to go next. You’re just playing the waiting game after that,” Lamb says.
Lamb and her friend’s spontaneous trip to Columbus led to the next stage of the journey — performing for Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. (one of Lamb’s musical idols).
There was a month in between both auditions, leaving plenty of time to think and speculate. After the audition in Kansas City and the announcement of her participation on the show, Lamb has been speaking to the media while still finding time for her day job and performing at night.
With “Hollywood Week,” featuring the singers who made it past the initial auditions, approaching, Lamb’s Amercan Idol adventure is just about to truly take off. Here at home, she’s already seen a change in her local reception.
“I’ve felt a lot of support from the people that I look up to. Frankly, I’m shocked at the support. I’m shocked that a lot of people see where I’m going with this,” Lamb says.
After her audition aired, Lamb played a show in West Chester, where she was greeted by an entirely different type of crowd than the Main Street district mainstays. Instead of young people buying her shots, she was met by a group of older women who brought her flowers.
The crowds aren’t just growing at her shows either; her online presence has grown as well. American Idol fans have flocked to Lamb’s Facebook, Instagram, email box and Reverbnation page. So many, in fact, that Lamb is having a hard time keeping up with all the attention.
“There’s been so much [growth] on social media, so many great emails. I’m trying to respond to every email and I have to take hours out of every day to do it and it’s amazing, I love it,” Lamb says.
In many ways, that excitement is indicative of Lamb and her Idol journey thus far. It’s been a whirlwind of activity that is guaranteed to grow as the show progresses. But she has taken it all in stride and is taking every opportunity the show has provided her. We’ll just have to tune in to see what other opportunities arise in the coming weeks.
The Hollywood Week episodes of American Idol air locally this Wednesday and Thursday on Fox 19.
It was another great celebration of the Greater Cincinnati music scene Sunday night at Covington’s Madison Theater, as CityBeat presented the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for the 18th straight year. The eclecticism of our local music scene was on display via excellent performances by nominees Mad Anthony, The Cliftones, Young Heirlooms, Zebras in Public, The Whiskey Shambles, Buggs Tha Rocka, Dark Colour and Injecting Strangers. (Pick up a CityBeat Wednesday for more on the show itself and stay tuned for photos from the event)
Wussy emerged the big winner of the night, taking home the Album of the Year, Artist of the Year and Best Music Video CEAs, a nice capper to a breakthrough year that saw the band sell out shows across the country, score rave reviews from several high profile music press outlets and make its network TV debut on CBS This Morning.
Below is the full list of 2015 Cincinnati Entertainment Award winners:
World Music/Reggae: The Cliftones
Jazz: Blue Wisp Big Band
Singer/Songwriter: Molly Sullivan
Country: 90 Proof Twang
Punk/Pop Punk: The Dopamines
Indie/Alternative: The Yugos
Rock: Buffalo Killers
Electronic: Dream Tiger
Blues: The Whiskey Shambles
Bluegrass: Rumple Mountain Boys
Folk/Americana: The Tillers
Metal/Hard Rock: Electric Citizen
R&B/Funk/Soul: Under New Order
Hip Hop: Buggs Tha Rocka
Best Live Act: The Almighty Get Down
Best Music Video: Wussy’s “North Sea Girls” (directed by Rich Tarbell)
New Artist of the Year: Honeyspiders
Album of the Year: Wussy’s Attica!
Artist of the Year: Wussy
There are a couple of things that have been on my mind of late, and this always seems like a decent forum to vent my musings, particularly since I'm not in therapy. First of all, what exactly constitutes medical attention for an erection lasting more than four hours? Does a stereotypically sexy nurse, um, give you a hand? Or does a mummified doctor from the bygone era of bone saws that could drop an oak tree and hand-cranked skull drills apply leeches to the affected area and then show you pictures of Yogi Berra and golf videos to bring down the swelling, so to speak?
While we wait for an answer to arrive, let's move on to the other, perhaps more salient issue that I've been pondering. As everyone knows, the end of the year brings the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominations, which then inspires a good deal of grumbling speculation about who has gotten nominated and, more importantly, who has not.
Look, no one understands better than I the elation that accompanies being recognized for your work. Six years ago I nabbed second place in the Non-Daily Newspapers Feature Personality Profile category of the Ohio Excellence in Journalism awards. I know, right? At the same time, I can count on fingers and toes the number of letters I've received over the years about things I've written, and many of those have been from the subjects I've written about just to say thanks.
My prized correspondence was from now-deceased Rolling Stone/Billboard editor Timothy White for getting the title of his Beach Boys biography wrong in a piece I wrote about Dick Dale. I had cited White's book as The Nearest Faraway Beach, largely due to my love of the Brian Eno song, "On Some Faraway Beach," and partially because I jotted down my notes in Joseph-Beth Booksellers when I was in the throes of a flu that would have eaten a vaccine for an appetizer. White's book was, in fact, The Nearest Faraway Place, and in it, he mentioned that Dale had been born in Beirut, Lebanon, among other interesting tidbits about the legendary guitarist. When I asked Dale about some of the entries in White's book, he countered with, "Does it say Dick Dale was born in Lebanon?" (he referred to himself in the third person, a lot). I said that it did, and he responded, "Then throw that book in the garbage."
It was a great quote so I used it in the story, which prompted White's letter, where he first corrected my idiot error and then clarified that he had interviewed Dale personally at a time when White speculated that Dale thought being born in Lebanon would make him seem more exotic (he was of Lebanese extraction), but when Beirut became synonymous with terrorism, he claimed Boston as his birthplace. All in all, though, he was very complimentary about the article.
As usual, I digress. As much as people love being hailed for their accomplishments, they are stung when they feel they've been passed over, for whatever reason, and that's completely understandable. It becomes slightly problematic when people demonize the process in an effort to explain their absence from the end result.
Here's the thing; those of us who comprise the nominating committee try not to take ourselves too seriously, but we are very serious about the task of establishing these nominations on an annual basis, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, we love music and we respect the people who make it. We also feel it is extremely important to recognize great work and to share that recognition with the entire music community.
And that's pretty much it. We don't have an agenda to push. We don't nominate our friends (although our friends sometimes get nominated). Speaking for myself, I really try to set personal feelings aside when the time comes to look at the past year and determine who has done work worthy of CEA recognition.
Of course, that determination is open to a certain amount of subjectivity. We are human beings, after all. That's why we cast our nets as far as we can, to make sure the nominating process is as fair as humanly possible. Is it a perfect system? Not hardly. But I think we've gotten it pretty close to right. This year we involved the public in the process and that helped widen the focus even further, but there still seems to be a certain amount of dissatisfaction about the nominees and conjecture about how they got there. In the final analysis, it boils down to a few simple facts. If you're nominated, congratulations; you've distinguished yourself in a music community that I honestly feel is one of the best in the entire country. If you win, huzzah and holy shit, you've further distinguished yourself within a formidable slate of your musical peers.
And if you're just a spectator, keep working. Keep doing what you do. The accolades are nice, but put things in perspective; at the end of the day, the CEAs are a party with door prizes. Prestigious door prizes, but door prizes nonetheless. And whether you're a winner, a nominee or neither of the above, don't allow your recognition or lack thereof to overinflate or devalue your sense of what you do. What matters is the work. Your work. Whether it garners you a nomination or not.
It's the same in any field of endeavor. How many painters wind up in museums in their lifetimes? How many athletes give their lives over to the sports they love for an almost microscopic chance to get a plaque in their respective halls of fame? Celebrity, wealth and notoriety are all fairly illusory. What matters is the work.
The immortal and forever great Frank Zappa may have put it best: "Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best."
And there it is, in it's simplest and most potent form. If you are out there, turning words and melodies in your head into real music with your hands, heart and soul, you are contributing to one of the best things in life. Awards are the icing on a cake that doesn't necessarily need to be iced. When you make great music, we are the winners. And we'd like to thank you. And God and our families and friends and our eighth grade English teacher who said we'd never amount to anything, because he was sort of right. Thank you.