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by Mike Breen 06.16.2014 44 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music News at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Blue Wisp Big Band Lives On!

Despite losing their namesake venue, beloved local jazzers to continue every-Wednesday shows at Japp’s

Much has changed for the legendary Cincinnati live music venue the Blue Wisp Jazz Club over its 40-plus-year existence. Though it has consistently been the club for Jazz in Cincinnati over most of that period, the Blue Wisp has moved four different times over four decades. In its most recent locale at the corner of Race and Seventh streets downtown, the club owners also tried to attract more business by serving food and varying the types of music performed. But it wasn’t enough and the Blue Wisp has once again closed its doors (though various reports suggest it could find yet another new location in the future). 

One thing that hadn’t changed at the Blue Wisp, at least since it began in 1980, is the Blue Wisp Big Band. The group of all-star local musicians has maintained one of the longest residency in the region, performing its skilled take on vintage Big Band Jazz like clockwork every Wednesday. The band is a Cincinnati institution. 


When the Wisp shut down, the members of the Big Band were determined to not let their remarkable run end with a whimper. Instead, the Blue Wisp Big Band sought to continue its every-Wednesday residency at another venue. (In case you’re wondering, the group owns its moniker, so they can legally continue to use the “Blue Wisp” name.)


Veteran local Jazz pianist and Blue Wisp Big Band founding member Steve Schmidt says they’ve landed their new spot, Japp’s Annex on Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, and will pick up its Wednesday night shows beginning this week. Schmidt says the group will perform every Wednesday at Japp’s, at least through the end of July, when they’ll reassess the situation just to make sure it’s a good fit. The Big Band will again be playing two hour-long sets each Wednesday, the first starting at 8:30 p.m. The cover charge will be less than it was at the Wisp — just $5. (Parking is available in the lot on the corner of Main and Central Parkway, as well as in the garage behind the club on Sycamore.) 


“We are excited about trying out this (Over-the-Rhine) spot and happy that the ownership and staff at Japp's is excited, too,” Schmidt says. “We are all thinking of ways to make it better for the customer and the band as we go along. The band wanted to start quickly, not to be dormant for too long.”


Several of the principal members of the Blue Wisp Big Band did a walkthrough several days ago to get a feel for the new space and were happy with what they saw (and felt).


“I got a very good feeling about the room,” Schmidt says, “both in terms of space — spacious yet intimate — and acoustics. I think the other guys felt the same way. (Founding BWBB anchor/drummer) John Von Ohlen rightly pointed out that there is a lot of wood — the floors and the large bar. As John said, in the fullest and most complimentary sense of the word, ‘It's a joint!’ It's what he had in mind when he formed the band and put it in the original Blue Wisp in O'Bryonville. He said he wanted a world-class big band in a beer tavern.”


“In a word,” Schmidt adds, “(the new space) has soul.”



 
 
by RIC HICKEY 06.15.2014 45 days ago
Posted In: Festivals, Live Music, Reviews at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Bonnaroo 2014: Jack White, Flaming Lips and More

This morning’s activities were as hectic as a hurricane as I jumped from one interview to the next in the Bonnaroo press compound. 


Things started off nice and easy when I rendezvoused with a friend of a friend who is Lionel Richie’s stage manager. An industry veteran of many years, Sal Marinello has worked for Barbra Streisand, Metallica, Neil Diamond, Britney Spears and many more. Large festival stages like Bonnaroo are equipped with lights and sound, so Marinello’s workload and schedule today are not as demanding as a typical day on the road. Marinello and his crew arrived in the wee hours this morning with one truck instead of the usual seven. Main stage headliner Jack White’s line check completed and his gear rolled to the side of the stage by 8 a.m., Sal and his staff had Lionel’s gear in place onstage for their line check less than an hour later. (The rest of the day’s main stage performers will set up and perform in front of Lionel’s gear.)


The noon hour brought a flurry of activity that had my head spinning pretty much for the rest of the day. Nashville’s Wild Feathers returned on the red eye from St. Louis to do a three-song acoustic performance in the press tent that found the band looking ragged but sounding great as ever. Their material is strong, their performance was spirited, and their three-part whiskey tenor harmonies were crystal clear as ever. But they sure did look tired. Scheduled to play at noon, they were running late and had to jump right on the stage and burst into song immediately upon their 12:30 p.m. arrival.


Chatting with Ben Kaufman, Adam Aijala and Dave Johnston from Yonder Mountain String Band, I found the trio cautiously optimistic about moving forward after the recent departure of mandolin player and founding member Jeff Austin. Not that I expected them to be in a full-blown panic, but it was impressive to hear the calm in their voices as they discussed their future options with no apparent concern about securing a permanent replacement for Austin. Bluegrass legend Sam Bush joined Yonder for their 2:30 p.m. set on the main stage today. For their summer tour they’ll be joined by Jake Joliff on mandolin and Ally Kral on violin. (Yonder Mountain String Band plays Moonlight Gardens at Coney Island on the Fourth of July.)


The Flaming Lips brought a whole new freak rock spectacle to Bonnaroo this year and frontman Wayne Coyne was bouncing around the press tent talking to reporters for a couple hours yesterday. Spirits high and eyes aglow, Wayne happily made the rounds. The man loves to talk and this writer spent a dizzying 10 minutes with Coyne, discussing their brilliant new record The Terror. The band’s 12:30 a.m. set on the Which Stage was an explosive spectacle of lights, confetti, balloons, and dancers in costume, with the fiendish ring leader Wayne in the middle of it all looking like an evil super villain dressed in red tights with a shiny silver codpiece. (The band is one of the headliners of Cincinnati's Bunbury Music Festival this year.)


It’s not the first time I’ve seen Coyne dominate a press conference here; yesterday he spoke excitedly about The Flaming Lips’ desire to always bring something special to the Bonnaroo stage. 


“If you’ve been here for three days and you’ve already seen 50 bands,” he said, “you wanna see something different. So that’s why (in 2007) we decided to land a spaceship here.”


Cool as a cucumber in spite of the summer heat penetrating the crowded tent during an early afternoon press conference, Derek Trucks fielded a question about the size of the Tedeschi-Trucks band. “An 11-piece band is a lot like herding cats.” Then he quietly mumbled the unintentionally Zen aside: “But it’s better than 30.”


Still buzzing from my conversation with Wayne, I scampered out into the crowd to catch Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke on the Which Stage. This was one of my personal Top 3 must-see bands of the weekend. It was gratifying to see the young Bonnaroo audience embrace a band that has more in common with their grandparents’ record collection than what many probably have on their current iPod playlist. I stopped to say hello to Blackberry Smoke singer and guitarist Charlie Starr after a 4 p.m. press conference and we discussed some of our favorite early Blues singers. I feel confident that he and I were probably among the very few here at Bonnaroo chatting about Ishman Bracey.


From there the day just got crazier, as the Saturday schedule was packed with stellar artists, including Valerie June, Drive-By Truckers, Phosphorescent, Lauryn Hill and Seasick Steve who boasted none other than Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones on bass. Walking through the crowd I heard Cake play a spot-on cover of Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” with the guitar solo section cleverly transcribed for the horn section.


After a late afternoon breather back at the campsite, I wandered through Bonnaroo’s famous archway entrance to catch some of Lionel Richie’s set. My timing was perfect. As soon as I walked through the gate he launched into the Commodores’ “Brick House,” a Bonnaroo performance I’d been looking forward to for months. Again I found it gratifying to see the young audience dialed into Richie’s performance as he pulled out one classic song after another. You can imagine how his ’80s gem “All Night Long” had the dancers moving. This was a moment of such heartwarming cross-generational bonding that it gave me goosebumps in the humid Tennessee night.


Last night’s main stage headliner Jack White nearly tore the stage in half, bringing an explosive thunder and fury that’s largely missing from Rock & Roll these days. One of the most highly-anticipated sets of the weekend, Jack and his crack band did not disappoint. A frantic and fiery performer onstage, he was straightfaced and serious, as if in character, throughout a bombastic set that stretched well over two hours. White has called Nashville home for several years now and he brought noise to these Tennessee hills last night like no one ever has before. An all-out stunner from the first song all the way through to the last note of several encores, this was unquestionably one of the most memorable performances in Bonnaroo’s 13-year history.


And believe it or not there is still more to come. Today is the fourth and final day of Bonnaroo 2014. Photographer Chuck Madden and I must bear in mind that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, as we endeavor to take in performances today by Lucero, Lake Street Dive, Okkervil River, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Arctic Monkeys, Broken Bells, Washed Out, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Avett Brothers and more. The legendary Elton John will close out the fest tonight.

 

Thanks to CityBeat for making this all possible! Chuck and I would like to extend a special thank you to CityBeat photographer Jesse Fox who was a big help to us this weekend.

 

Only 361 days ‘til Bonnaroo 2015!

 
 
by RIC HICKEY 06.14.2014 46 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Festivals at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Bonnaroo 2014: White Denim, Dr. Dog and More

The blazing two-guitar Indie Prog of White Denim’s midnight set on Bonnaroo’s That Tent stage absolutely floored Chuck and me last night. Those familiar with White Denim’s fabulous 2013 release Corsicana Lemonade might find it hard to believe that the band sounded even better on stage than on record. Drummer Joshua Block repeatedly whipped the crowd into a howling frenzy throughout a 60-minute performance that found the band shooting a virtual shower of sparks that led Chuck to conclude, “We won’t hear anything else that good all weekend.” 

Rarely have I seen a band who had the crowd eating out of their hand like White Denim did last night. This performance was an all-timer for me, one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever had watching a band on stage. (You can catch them for free Sunday at Southgate House Revival; read CityBeat’s interview with the group here.) 


Blessed relief fell upon us in the form of an unexpectedly quiet first night in the Bonnaroo campground. My Friday began with an illuminating 30-minute chat with Jake, Joel and Chris from Umphrey’s McGee. I told them I was from CityBeat and before I could even turn on my recorder they began to rave about Cincy’s late, great Ray’s Music Exchange, citing them as one of their biggest influences in Umphrey’s early days. 


“Those guys were so bad ass and adventurous,” said guitarist Jake Cinninger, “It made us braver and made us feel like ‘Hey, maybe we can do this, too!’” 


Sometimes described as Phish’s evil twin, or rabid little brother, Umphrey’s is much more than this. Performing a different setlist every night, indulging in wild flights of improvisation, often not repeating songs for many days, Umphrey’s musicianship and sense of adventure onstage is peerless and unparalleled. Bonnaroo veterans since the festival’s first year, 2014 marks Umphrey’s first appearance on the main stage. This week the band launched their own Nothing Too Fancy record label with the release of their new Similar Skin album. Touring through the summer and on into the fall, Umphrey’s makes a stop at Kettering, Ohio’s Fraze Pavilion on June 28.


Backstage press conferences today featured comedians Hannibal Buress and Taran Killam. Both held court in the press area for over an hour, good-naturedly conducting spontaneous interviews and posing for photos. I caught a glimpse of rapper Danny Brown, dressed head to toe in black leather and sporting a Guns ’N Roses T-shirt and dark sunglasses, chatting with a female reporter in  the press tent. Just a few yards away, the members of J. Roddy Walston and the Business were laughing and carrying on with members of the assembled press like it was a family picnic. Just a few hours later Walston and Co. restored my faith in Rock & Roll with a blistering set on the Sonic Stage that found Walston himself repeatedly jumping up from his seat at the piano and into the arms of the adoring crowd. At one point he leapt onto the shoulders of an unsuspecting photographer in the photo pit before climbing once again over the barricade to crowd surf.


This writer spotted Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips walking through the crowd on Friday afternoon — but it was Toby from Dr. Dog, who I shamelessly ran after to get his autograph for my girlfriend back home. The first serious mob scene of the weekend gathered in front of Which Stage for Dr. Dog’s 2:30 p.m. performance. Unquestionably one of the most talented and promising bands of the past decade, their set was heavy on tracks from their stellar 2013 release, B-Room.


Our Friday was another typically schizophrenic zig zag around the festival grounds as Chuck and I took in sets by Neutral Milk Hotel, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Andrew Bird and the Prog Metal thunder of Animals As Leaders. There seemed to be a lot of excitement and anticipation in the air for Kanye West’s headlining set on the main stage. But, at the same time, the most frequently spotted T-shirt at Bonnaroo yesterday said, “FUCK YOU KANYE”. I heard someone in the crowd say, “If Kanye’s such a genius, he should sell those shirts himself.”

 
 
by RIC HICKEY 06.13.2014 47 days ago
Posted In: Festivals, Interview at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Vintage Trouble on the Road to Bonnaroo

Ahead of another big performance, Vintage Trouble talks about keeping it close no matter what the stage

Seven hundred acres of Manchester farmland is transformed into Tennessee’s sixth-largest city every June when 80,000 people invade the area for the annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. With live music from over a hundred bands on twelve stages from noon ‘til dawn for four days, Bonnaroo presents attendees with an experience that is almost overwhelming.

Unquestionably the most diverse music festival of its kind, this year’s top dog headliners include Elton John, Jack White, Kanye West, Vampire Weekend, Lionel Richie, The Flaming Lips, Wiz Khalifa, Arctic Monkeys, The Avett Brothers and dozens more.


Often described as “James Brown singing with Led Zeppelin”, Vintage Trouble is an L.A.-based band that has built a worldwide following after three years of non-stop touring in support of their 2010 debut album, including a much-coveted slot as the opening act for The Who on their 2013 tour. As the summer festival season is ramping up, Vintage Trouble continues their grueling tour schedule with a stop this weekend at Bonnaroo. I recently spoke to the band’s bassist Rick Barrio Dill. Calling from Los Angeles, where he is recovering from recent surgery after a retinal detachment scare, Dill was upbeat and eager to discuss the band’s history, philosophy and enthusiasm for the road ahead. I asked him if the band changes their approach when preparing for a festival stage, as opposed to theaters and arenas.


“Not really,” he said. “We might tweak the edges differently, but overall our approach to a festival gig is the same kind of sweaty, sexy late night vibe as the clubs of Los Angeles where we kind of honed our thing. We’d only been a band about nine months before we got the gig opening for Brian May that immediately put us in front of the theater crowds that were sitting down. Then we got the Bon Jovi tour where we were playing in stadiums to 40, 50, sometimes 70,000 people. 


“It taught us that we like setting up really tight, really close together, so we can literally touch each other no matter what kind of stage we’re on. And everything is contained in that sort of mentality. So, no matter if it’s a giant stadium or a 150, 200-seat room, we want it to get sweaty and we want it to be as intimate feeling as we can make it on the stage and within ourselves and what we can throw out and I think everybody connects. So even when we’re opening up for The Who, it still sort of feels that same 200-seater room.”


Dill said that translates to the way Vintage Trouble records, as well.


“We recorded our whole record in two and a half days, all in one room, doing all full takes,” he said. “We sort of fell into this method and later saw similarities in the footage of The Beatles at Shea Stadium, where they’re set up real tight in the middle of this giant stadium. We don’t wanna spread out. We set up in a tight circle where we can touch each other and then everything’s gonna come out from there.”


I mentioned to Dill how refreshing and somewhat ironic it is in this modern age of technological advances in the way music is generated and delivered to the listener that the old method of just coming out onstage and kicking people in the ass still works.


Chuckling a bit, he replied, “Well, it works for us! You know, we’ve played in front of hardcore Death Metal audiences, Hip Hop audiences, Country audiences and we always seem to land on our feet. I think it’s kind of a testament to how somewhere in our DNA it always traces back to old Soul, Rhythm & Blues, old, early Jazz, and early Rock & Roll. 


“One of the things we try to do is we try to pull everybody into it. And it’s funny because even if you aren’t familiar with music from 50 or 60 years ago or they way they performed back then, people seem to understand. People can sort of hear some trace of that sort of thumbprint in their DNA even if they don’t necessarily have those records or haven’t been privy to what those performances were like. People get it. And that’s what’s so great about music, especially the kind of music that we do. It just seems to kind of transcend a lot of genre-making that has gone on over the last 30-40 years.”


 
 
by RIC HICKEY 06.13.2014 47 days ago
Posted In: Festivals, Live Blog at 12:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Bonnaroo 2014: Settling in for the Long Haul

Editor’s Note: Cincinnati musician and longtime CityBeat contributor Ric Hickey and photographer Chuck Madden are once again covering the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival for us in Manchester, Tenn., this week. We’ll be posting their dispatches from the fest as they come in throughout the weekend. You can pretend you're there with them (minus the bugs and camping and stuff) by watching the live stream at Bonnaroo.com.

Insects crawl across my keyboard as I type this in the Bonnaroo parking lot. A vast expanse of several hundred acres of rolling green countryside blanketed with cars, tents, campers, tarps, trailers and people ready to party down, these Tennessee hills are alive with the sound of music. 

Returning once again with my old friend and photographer Chuck Madden for our No. 1 favorite assignment, we dig in for the long haul. After all, four days of car-camping and toughing it out in the summer sun is no easy feat. But every year, with several heavy bags of electronic gear, cameras, lenses, recording equipment and laptops slung over our shoulders, we embrace the madness with big silly grins on our sunburned faces.


A couple years in a row we were able to camp in a “guest” area just behind the main stage compound. But this year it was not to be, as we were directed to join the long line of cars by the highway that were waiting to pass through the main entrance. After an hour of waiting and a cursory search of our vehicle, we drove into the massive parking lot and began setting up camp.


Kicking off the 2014 Bonnaroo festivities on the Other Tent stage was Nashville’s own Wild Feathers. The band has been all over the world since I saw them perform an acoustic showcase in the Bonnaroo press compound last summer. With three singing songsmiths fronting the band and complimenting each other’s close harmonies, The Wild Feathers put across some of the most pristine Country Rock vocal performances since CSN’s heyday. But plug ‘em in and crank it up and it becomes a different beast altogether. 


Opening with “American” from their stellar 2013 debut album, The Wild Feathers fell confidently into the warm embrace of a hometown crowd that was singing along with every word. Still a young band, a year of non-stop touring has instilled in them a simmering confidence beyond their years. Their scorching “Backwoods Company” was taken at an accelerated clip that challenged the afternoon sun for heat and intensity. More than just a band to watch, I think I’d buy stock in The Wild Feathers if I could.


Elsewhere today Chuck and I took in sets by Cass McCombs, ZZ Ward, MS MR and The Preatures. Among the late night sets that I’m excited about tonight are a pair of my favorite new bands. J. Roddy Walston and The Business perform in This Tent, while White Denim takes the stage in That Tent at midnight. Their sets starting just 30 minutes apart, I’ll face my first serious schedule conflict of the weekend.

 
 
by Mike Breen 06.06.2014 54 days ago
 
 
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Wussy Plays First, Last Local Show of the Summer Tonight

Wildly acclaimed rockers join Tigerlilies, Honey & Houston and School of Rock Mason for free MidPoint Indie Summer show on Fountain Square

Since being released nationally in early May, Cincinnati rockers Wussy’s amazing latest album Attica! has been scoring an insane amount of neon-glowing reviews from many high profile outlets. Pitchfork, Pop Matters and Spin, among many others, have all given the album high praise (Spin also recently named it one of the Top 50 album releases of the year so far, alongside long-players by Beck, Pharrell and The Afghan Whigs). The band’s new record was also the inspiration for a remarkable essay by Charles Taylor for The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Give a listen to the new album below, then hit “buy” to grab your own copy:


Wussy is playing its only local show until at least this fall tonight, as the group keeps busy on the road throughout the summer, crisscrossing the country in support of Attica! The band’s upward trajectory that has been kickstarted by the new album shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.


Check out CityBeat's recent interview with Wussy here.


Wussy joins The Tigerlilies, Honey & Houston and students from the School of Rock Mason (check the clips below for samples of each) for a free show tonight on Fountain Square as part of the MidPoint Indie Summer series (grab your MidPoint Music Festival passes in person at the MPMF booth or sign up for a chance to win some). The show starts at 7 p.m.






 
 
by Mike Breen 06.06.2014 54 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music History at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Hip Hop Greats Perform in Honor of “Funky Drummer”

All-star “Alumni Tour” hits Evanston to commemorate the recording of one of the most sampled beats in Hip Hop history

Cincinnati’s King Records and its various subsidiary labels have been widely celebrated for its vital contribution to the development of popular music in the 20th Century. The legendary label’s groundbreaking, integrated roster of Roots, Bluegrass, R&B and Funk artists gave the world recordings that were integral to the development of Rock & Roll, Pop, Country and, though perhaps less obvious to some, Hip Hop.

Musical icon James Brown was King’s most well-known artist and without Brown’s Funk genius, it’s likely that Hip Hop wouldn’t sound the same today. Brown’s work is some of the most widely sampled in Hip Hop and one song in particular provided the backbeats for innumerable Rap songs over the years. That song, “Funky Drummer,” was recorded at King’s studios 45 years ago in Cincinnati’s Evanston neighborhood. 


Samples of Clyde Stubblefield’s drum break on “Funky Drummer” have powered classic Hip Hop tracks by the likes of N.W.A. (“Fuck the Police”), Boogie Down Productions (“South Bronx”), Public Enemy (“Bring the Noise,” “Fight the Power”), LL Cool J (“Mama Said Knock You Out”), De La Soul (“The Magic Number”), Ice-T (“O.G. Original Gangster”), Dr. Dre (“Let Me Ride”) and countless others. That break’s influence has never waned, as Nicki Minaj, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def and many more producers and artists continue to find inspiration from the funkiest of funky beats. (And its influence extends beyond Hip Hop, having been featured on The Stone Roses’ classic “Fool’s Gold,” and tracks by everyone from Sinead O’Connor and George Michael to Aphex Twin and Korn.)



Tomorrow (June 7), some ’80s/’90s Hip Hop greats will honor the 45th anniversary of Stubblefield’s recording of that beat with an outdoor concert/block party near the site where it was recorded (in the 1500 block of Brewster Ave. in Evanston). The Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, along with Eastwood Entertainment, Lando Chapman, City of Cincinnati and the Bootsy Collins Foundation, have joined forces to bring “The Alumni Tour,” featuring a variety of old-school Hip Hop greats, to town for the special event, dubbed “Lando’s Old School Block Party.”


The concert will feature performances by Kwame, Dana Dane, Special Ed and Chubb Rock, each of whom understand the power and influence of “Funky Drummer.”




Saturday’s celebration will also feature appearances by the JB-approved “Young James Brown,” King artists Phillip Paul and Otis Williams and the Funkmaster General himself, Bootsy Collins. 


Showtime is 7 p.m. (gates open at 5 p.m.). Tickets are $25 and can purchased in advance here. (Only those 21-and-up are permited.) 


Proceeds from the event will benefit the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation’s ongoing efforts to draw attention to and preserve the legacies of Cincinnati’s rich musical past. The organization continues to do great things to honor downtown’s former Herzog Studios (where Hank Williams and many others recorded iconic tracks) and the group is currently supporting efforts to save and preserve the original site of King Records’ facilities and also attempts to have a permanent marker placed at the site of the old Riverfront Coliseum (now U.S. Bank Arena) in memory of the 11 fans who lost their lives in 1979 trying to get in to see The Who perform (a tragic event that led to the betterment of concert safety procedures throughout the industry).


 
 
by Mike Breen 06.04.2014 56 days ago
Posted In: Local Music, Music Video, New Releases at 02:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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WATCH: Puck’s “Weekend Warrior”

Cincinnati Hip Hop artist drops compelling new track, video

Local MC Puck has unleashed a great new track, “Weekend Warrior,” along with a solid accompanying music video (which includes a guest appearance from Cincy Hip Hop duo Those Guys). The young Hip Hop artist shows the positive effect and influence of Kanye West’s recent experimental work (and there’s even a Kanye nod in the background during the video). It’s a powerful listen/look:


Click here for more on Puck and below to download the new track for free:



You can catch Puck live on June 21 for free on Fountain Square as part of the "Beats by Self Diploma" concert series.

 
 
by Steven Rosen 06.04.2014 56 days ago
at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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The Main Library's Inspired Idea for Listening to Vinyl Records

Monthly Listen to This! series introduces "Record Roulette"

Steven Kemple, who was featured last year in CityBeat’s Cool Issue for his innovative programming as the Main Library’s music librarian, runs a monthly Listen to This! session there at which the group (it’s open to anyone) hears in new ways selections from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s vast collection of recordings.

The sessions have been inspired, sometimes wittily so — North Korean music when Dennis Rodman visited that country, for instance. Or timely — when all of the underappreciated singer Harry Nilsson’s albums were reissued a while back, Kemple scheduled a Nilsson marathon.

But even by his high standards, the most recent Listen to This! was brilliant. Using a computer program, Kemple randomly selected 14 LPs — vinyl albums — from the collection. Then, on a portable record player, he played selections/excerpts from each — accompanied by group discussion. The informal name for the presentation was “Record Roulette.”

Those present consistently found unexpected connections in the different recordings, and also made serious and insightful observations. Even  when you might think they would treat something like a joke — during an excerpt from The Speechphone Method, for instance, on which speech specialist Hazel P. Brown read pronunciations of words.

One person noticed how the way we say certain words has changed since this record’s 1959 release. And careful listening to Brown’s list-reading of words began a long conversation, not quite an argument, about whether she had a slight New England accent that softened some "R"s.

The evening started with the album Ballads by Niles, from the traditionalist balladic Folk singer and Kentucky native John Jacob Niles (who studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music — now University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music). The late Niles, popular in the 1950s, doesn’t get much airplay these days and several in the group weren’t familiar with him. Especially jarring, at first, was the high voice — it made some think of Tiny Tim — as he started singing “Mattie Groves.” But as it became clearer that Niles was using different voices to portray different characters, and that he had an operatic, storytelling approach to folk music, he impressed all present. This was a real find.

The other records from which we heard excerpts were:

·Songs of Corsica featuring Martha Angelia (It prompted a discussion about the Corsican language.)

·The Trial of the Cantonsville Nine by Daniel Berrigan, S.J. (This was a play based on an act of disobedience in 1968 — the burning of Selective Service-related files — by Catholic activists to protest to Vietnam War. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest, was one of the nine. That was a long time — the younger members of the listening group weren’t familiar with it.)

·“March from the River Kwai” by Mitch Miller & His Orchestra, from The 50’s Greatest Hits (The whistling prompted a suggestion for a night of whistling songs.)

·Africa: Ceremonial & Folk Music (We discovered the wrong record had been in the jacket for who-knows-how-many-years — we heard the jazzy track “Americanization of Ooga Booga” by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela.)

·Classical Russian Poetry read in Russian by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and English by Morris Carnovsky

·“April Come She Will” from Collected Works of Simon & Garfunkel, the closest to rock ‘n’ roll the night got.

·From the seventh realm, a Modernist classical work from the 1920s by Arthur Fickenscher for piano and string quartet (This unfamiliar work, from an unfamiliar composer who pioneered microtonal music, was moving – and had us wondering how many other 20th century composers are out there waiting for rediscovery.)

·Pianist Ronald Smith on a 1977 recording of Twelve Studies in All the Minor Keys, Opus 39, by 19th century French pianist and composer Charles Alkan

·The Best of John Williams (Hoping to hear Star Wars, we discovered this John Williams is the classical guitarist, not the film composer. Entertaining nonetheless.)

·In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer, performed by the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center under the direction of Jules Irving (Interestingly, the computer picked two plays about political trials of post-war American leftists. Oppenheimer, one of the chief architects of the A-bomb, was persecuted in the 1950s during the height of McCarthyism for wanting international control of the bomb. From what we heard, the 1964 play had interesting and unusual multimedia aspects, possibly a precursor to the John Adams opera Doctor Atomic.

We were ready to end with some silly pop by now, maybe the Chipmunks or Weird Al Yankovic, but instead the computer chose for us Three Short Operas by Bizet and Romberg’s The Student Prince from a Readers Digest collection, Treasury of Great Operettas.

Afterwards, we discussed it’d be great to have these “Record Roulette” vinyl sessions on a regularly scheduled basis, maybe every other month, so they could build the larger following they deserve.

Kemple posts information on a Facebook event page.

Meanwhile, his remaining June events at the Main Library — at 7 p.m. — are a lecture next Wednesday, June 11, by noted Cincinnati musicologist David Lewis on Mamie Smith, the famed Cincinnati-born singer of early 20th century Blues and Jazz; a multi-act Experimental Music at the Library session on June 18 with headliner Wrest, a free jazz trio with percussionist Ben Bennett , saxophonist Jack Wright and bassist Evan Lipson; and on June 25 another Listen to This! session.

 
 
by Mike Breen 05.28.2014 63 days ago
Posted In: MidPoint Music Festival, Live Music at 07:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Chromeo Added to the MidPoint Music Festival Lineup

Entertaining Electro Funk duo to headline Washington Park on Sept. 25

Hugely popular Canadian Electro Funk duo Chromeo is bringing its groovy sound and stage show to this year’s MidPoint Music Festival. Chromeo’s tour in support of its recently-released fourth album, White Women, will include a headlining turn at MPMF.14 as the twosome heads up the bill on the Washington Park stage on Thursday, Sept. 25.


Chromeo performed the single “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” on The Late Show with David Letterman a few weeks ago (to the apparent delight of the soon-to-be-retired host):



And the duo worked the crowd into a lather from the main stage at this year’s Coachella festival, drawing acclaim from outlets like The Hollywood Reporter, who declared Chromeo’s appearance one of the Top 10 sets of the entire Californian fest.



Chromeo’s White Women single “Come Alive” features MPMF alum Toro Y Moi:



Three-day passes for MPMF.14 (running Sept. 25-27 in various venues across Over-the-Rhine and Downtown) are on sale now for just $69 at mpmf.cincyticket.com (there are also a few early-bird-priced VIP tickets available). Single-show tickets for Chromeo’s Washington Park appearance go on sale this Friday. (Single-show tickets to Washington Park’s Friday night performances on Sept. 26 — which include headliners The Afghan Whigs — are on sale now at the CincyTicket link.)


More MPMF.14 performers will be revealed over the next several weeks. Keep an eye on MPMF.com and the festival’s Facebook and Twitter pages for the latest news and updates. 


Click here to check out some of the other previously announced performers. 


 
 

 

 

 
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