Later this month, successful Cincinnati singer/songwriter Kim Taylor will be headed to Park City, Utah, but not as part of any kind of concert tour. Taylor will be attending the annual Sundance Film Festival, one of the world's most prestigious film events, along with the other actors and participants from the new movie, I Used to Be Darker. The film was co-written and directed by Matt Porterfield, whose previous work, Putty Hill, drew scores of rave reviews.
Despite it being her first foray into acting, Taylor has a leading role in the film, playing a musician named Kim whose marriage and relationship are falling apart just as her troubled niece shows up on her doorstep looking for a place to crash. Taylor's husband in the film is played by Ned Oldham, brother of cult music star Will Oldham and also a musician (along with solo work, he's the singer for the bands The Anomoanon and Old Calf).
Taylor knew the film's screenwriter, Amy Belk, from when she attended college in the ’90s in her home state of Florida.
"I met Kim Taylor in the ‘90s when we were both teenagers at Bible college in Florida, shortly before I got kicked out and she flunked out," Belk writes in the press materials for IUTBD. "She is the only person I still know from that strange, balmy with a chance of fire-and-brimstone time. I’ve followed her music career through the years, and shared her songs with Matt (Porterfield) when we started writing. He fell for them like I knew he would, particularly 'Days Like This' and 'American Child.' Even before Matt met Kim and had her read for the role, her music and grace informed the story we were crafting. In many ways, Kim was Kim from the start."
Taylor performs "Days Like This" (which was covered by Over the Rhine on their The Long Surrender album) and "American Child" (from her album Little Miracle) in the film. She and Oldham will be featured on the movie's soundtrack alongside tracks from several acts based in Baltimore, Porterfield's current hometown, including The Entrance Band, Dope Body and Dustin Wong.
I Used To Be Darker premieres at Sundance on Jan. 19 and screens multiple times throughout the fest. Click here for more on the film. Here's the trailer:
through her website here. Give it a listen below:
Taylor has completed her new album, Love's A Dog, which will include the Darker Mix version of "American Child." The album is tentatively scheduled for release in February or March.
Tonight, the Venue Formerly Known As The Southgate House hosts its first big show. The Thompson House — as it's now called after a family dispute went to court and resulted in the longtime operators getting the boot and the owners of faux-strip club the Brass Ass taking over — opens its doors tonight to the public for a 7 p.m. concert headlined by modern Ska/Reggae revivalists The Aggrolites.
A recent Enquirer story about the "new" venue drew an avalanche of comments, the vast majority of which suggested that those who were fans of the Southgate House despise the look and direction of the Thompson House, with its purple decor and Rock star murals. Check out this pic from the Thompson House's website:
But the new venue's origins and the relative abruptness of the closing of the Southgate House is angering people more than the color scheme. The wall colors are just purple icing on the cake, so to speak.
The Thompson House has been developing a schedule that seems to be attempting to mimic the eclectic nature of the old Southgate House — a little Jazz, some open mic stuff, a Hard Rock band, some Metal, some Country. Often, the Southgate House's eclectic nature harvested a following whose tastes crossed over. And as diverse as the bookings were, rarely were there shows at the old club that made you go, "Why would they bring THAT show to the Southgate." For much of its run, whoever was booking the Southgate House seemed to have good and, more importantly, consistent taste in a wide-range of music. They wouldn't just book a random Country band; they'd book an interesting, great or unusual one.
The Thompson House bookings so far seem like they will be able to attract a varied audience. But can the people who, say, go to the Blue Wisp Jazz Club every couple of weeks and will probably enjoy the local Jazz lineup at the venue feel at home going to the same club as the younger music lovers who used to hang out at The Mad Hatter (or its current occupier, Bangarang's of Covington) to watch Hardcore and Death Metal bands? We'll see.
I have clubs that I like to go to more than others, but I have never gone to a concert because of where it was being held. And I've never not gone to see a concert at a venue I don't feel as comfortable. But I would be less inclined to frequent a venue if I have a bad experience and I'd be less likely to just roll the dice and take a chance on a show at a venue in which I don't feel comfortable.
I understand the passion of the Southgate lovers who insist they'll never set foot in the Thompson House, but if a band comes to town that you'd like to see, or your favorite local artist is performing in the "Rock Star Lounge" some night, you'll be hurting those artists as much as the new owners. Over the years, I've had club owners or promoters be dicks to me and occasionally have reached the point of anger where I momentarily think, "Screw them, I'll never write about one of their shows again." But it passes quickly. I've never "blacklisted" a club or promoter, no matter how big of an a-hole their employees are, because I've always felt that it would be unfair to both the musicians that work with them and the music fans who would like to know about the concerts they're promoting.
Like I said, I can totally understand the urge to boycott — I haven't stepped inside Clifton movie theater The Esquire since they "banned" CityBeat and its film critic from the theater after we reported how the operators had censored a raunchy part of a film without permission and without informing the audience of the edit. It's just one of those "principled" stands we all take and whether they are "rational" or not is relative and personal. (I'll admit that not going to the Party Source for several years after a manager was a jerk to me there was a little silly … but it made me feel a little better.)
Perhaps the hope is that if all these people who say they'll never go to the Thompson House actually don't, the club won't survive. But, from the bookings so far, a big chunk of the Southgate House's old clientele would never have been interested in the Thompson House bookings anyway. And if the Thompson House fails, someone might just come in and turn it into a Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill.
Me? I'm leaving the door open. I won't be there tonight, though I am a fan of The Aggrolites (and local openers The Ohms and The Newport Secret 6 are excellent, as well). I just have other plans. But, out of sheer curiosity alone, I will step foot in the Thompson House. And when there's music there I want to check out, I'll step foot it in it again and again. I miss the old Southgate House as much as anyone and I really appreciate the efforts of the previous owners, but I'm not going to deprive myself of a good concert experience. I mean, I never stopped going to Bogart's, even when it was the source of some of the worst concert experiences I've ever had.
Although when the Thompson House starts hosting the "Thompson House-produced country (music) revue show, 'Through the Years,' " as the Enquirer reported, I'll probably pass. I'm loyal to Kings Island when it comes to cheesy musical revue numbers.
Tickets for tonight's show are $13. You can buy them here and pick them up at Will Call (or buy them at the door). Click here to see who else is performing at the Thompson House, as well as some of the specialty nights.
Florence, Ky., Hip Hop artist Trademark Aaron has released a stellar new music video for his track, "Faith," which will be included on his next EP, For the People.
The track — featuring a great vocal hook sung by Koren Jackson —keeps in line with Trademark Aaron's overall positive approach heard on previous releases like the full-length, Prelude to Greatness (which you can download for free here). But it's hardly cheery. The song is about keeping hope when everything around you looks bleak and the music video visuals masterfully mirror that concept. Directed by Dan Gotti, the clip is one of the best you'll see by a "local act" — it's highly professional looking, often resembling something from a movie.
You can check out more of Aaron's videos at his YouTube page and keep an eye on TrademarkAaron.com and his official Facebook page for show dates and info on the release of the For the People EP. For even more, you can also read CityBeat's interview with Trademark Aaron from last year.
Last night, Cincinnati's Walk the Moon hosted an album release show at New York City's Mercury Lounge in honor of their full-length debut for RCA Records. To promote the record on a bit of a wider scale, the quartet also performed on The Late Show with David Letterman. The band played its signature tune, "Anna Sun," which has been named "song of the summer" two years running and, therefore, deserves a ranking on the list of all-time songs of summer.
WtM's appearance on The Late Show also elicited some nostalgia from the host. Letterman introduced the band as "from the Queen City, Cincinnati, Ohio … home of Oscar Robertson and your Cincinnati Royals." Lettterman grew up in Indiana and has talked about his affinity for Cincinnati (and, particularly, its sports teams, including our one-time NBA franchise) frequently.
After the tune, Letterman seemed to enjoy the group so much, he joked with them, "Now wait a minute — during your song, we made some calls and we've arranged for you guys to move from Cincinnati and live here at the YMCA."
Walk the Moon killed it. Look ma — no face paint?! Here's the video:
Slanted Indie Pop crew Maps & Atlases formed in 2004 and, in 2010, released its breakthrough LP Perch Patchwork, the Chicago quartet's debut for the esteemed Barsuk label. Since Patchwork, the band has spent tons of time touring, which has included several dates in the Cincinnati area. The band's compelling latest release, Beware and Be Grateful, was issued by Barsuk last spring and is perhaps the finest example of the group's dynamic sound yet. M&A's sound is uniquely layered and structured, full of subtle, unexpected outbursts and song twists, yet still overflowing with magnetic melodies and spine-tingling harmonies.
The band performs tonight at Oakley's 20th Century Theatre with like-minded locals Archer's Paradox, who are readying for the release of their debut album a little later this year. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $15.
Here's the video for "Remote & Dark Years" from the latest M&A album.
• The end of The Grateful Dead, with Jerry Garcia’s 1995 death, didn’t do much to squash the band’s incredible popularity. To satiate some of that Dead thirst, various members from throughout Garcia’s and the Dead’s history have brought the legendary band’s spirit to that huge fan base on a fairly regular basis. Two Dead-affiliated artists have been sitting in with Chicago-based jammers Terrapin Flyer for the past few years for shows and tours. The band will be joined by Melvin Seals, who played Hammond B3 organ with the Jerry Garcia Band for 15 years, and Mark Karan, who played guitar with the post-Dead band The Other Ones and Bob Weir’s Ratdog, when they swing through Stanley’s Pub tonight for a 10 p.m. performance. Tickets are $20.
Here's some footage of the collaboration from last March, doing a version of Dylan's "Maggie's Farm," a Dead fave.
• Over a decade ago, Minnesotans Paul Sprangers and Scott and Evan Wells were integral parts of Hockey Night, a wildly eclectic Indietronic outfit that blended the lo fi Rock and snarky humor of Couch Flambeau with a next generation love of Electronica, Hip Hop and mad crazy sampling (remember "Battlestar Scholastica" from their 2002 debut Rad Zapping and "For Guys Eyes Only" from their 2005 swan song Keep Guessin'?). The band's ugly dissolution would have beaten the musical aspirations from lesser men, but Sprangers and the Wellses were made of sterner stuff and, after a brief hiatus, tapped drummer Nicholas Shuminsky to form Free Energy in 2008.
Free Energy, now based in Philadelphia, exploded into the wider consciousness when LCD Soundsystem¹s James Murphy produced the band's debut album Stuck on Nothing in 2010, causing UK music magazine NME to erroneously tout them as Murphy's new band. While patently false, the claim focused an extraordinary amount of attention on Free Energy and Stuck on Nothing; Spin and Rolling Stone cited the album and band among the year's best. With their just-released sophomore album Love Sign, Free Energy (now also featuring guitarist Sheridan Fox) reinforces and expands their new musical direction, a Classic Rock/New Wave Pop hybrid that enthusiastically references everything from The Cars to The Outfield to Cracker with equal amounts of affection and adrenaline. And in familiar ’60s Pop/Motown fashion, "Electric Fever," the album's infectious first single — originally leaked 10 months
ago — is the lead track on Love Sign. Free Energy might not be breaking any new ground but they go over the old territory with an ass-kicking intensity.
The band plays at Newport's Southgate House Revival tonight with Sweatheart and Homemade Drugs. Showtime is 9 p.m. and tickets are $8 at the door. (Preview by Brian Baker)
Click here for even more live music options tonight in Greater Cincinnati.
On this day in 1975, pioneering singer/actress/dancer/civil rights activist/spy Josephine Baker passed away at the age of 68. She died just a few days after a retrospective performance at the Bobino in Paris celebrating her 50 years in show biz. Jackie O, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier funded the show and opening night featured a celebrity-studded audience that included everyone from Mick Jagger to Sophia Loren. Baker's body was discovered four days later, reportedly surrounded by newspapers featuring glowing reviews of her performance.
At her funeral, she became the first American woman to garner full French military honors, one of many "firsts" involving Baker. She was the first black woman to star in a major film, the first to demand (and get) integrated audiences at her concerts and the first to become a global superstar. She fought for civil rights in America (offered a chance to lead it after MLK's assassination, she declined for fear of also being killed) and, before that, helped France (her adopted homeland) in World War II, for which she received numerous honors. Baker was also reportedly a bi-sexual who had serious relationships with both men and women in her lifetime, adding some spicy mystique to her life story.
She got her start as a vaudeville dancer at 15 and eventually became one of the highest paid chorus girls on the planet. In the mid ’20s she did burlesque shows in Paris and around Europe, well-known for her trademark banana-skirt and, later, her pet cheetah Chiquita, who would join her on stage (and, reportedly, terrorize the orchestra). Baker was considered a "muse" for artists from Pablo Picasso and Christian Dior to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, who once said she was "the most sensational woman anyone ever saw."
Baker's life has been the source of several films, musicals, plays and books. On screen and stage, she's been portrayed by the likes of Lynn Whitfield, Diana Ross, Keri Hilson and Beyonce, who sported Baker's banana costume during a 2006 performance (see below) and, in her "Naughty Girl" video, she again paid tribute by dancing in a giant champagne glass.
Baker released several albums in the early ’50s for Columbia and Mercury. Here she is performing her biggest hit (in France), "J'ai Deux Amours."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Hound Dog Taylor, Tiny Tim, Nick Hexum and Vince Gill.
Music Tonight: Music legend Paul Simon brings his tour behind the recent full-length, So Beautiful or So What, to The Bank of Kentucky Center on Northern Kentucky University's campus in Highland Heights for a 7:30 p.m. concert. The tour also happens to coincide with the even-more-recently-released retrospective compilation, Songwriter, a nice reminder of just how many iconic tunes Simon has crafted, classics like "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Still Crazy After All These Years," "The Sound of Silence," "Graceland" and "The Boxer," to name just a few. (Simon's first four solo albums were also reissued this year.) When Simon's current tour ends early next month, the singer/songwriter will turn his focus to next year's touring plans — a jaunt celebrating the 25th anniversary of his genre-defying smash hit Graceland (an anniversary "box set" — featuring a documentary and the usual array of B-side and outtakes — will also be released). Opening up the show in Northern Ky. tonight is progressive Bluegrass troupe Punch Brothers. The group was formed by mandolinist Chris Thile after his band Nickel Creek called it quits and also features musicians who have worked with Leftover Salmon, Jerry Douglas, Tony Trischka and other modern Bluegrass big-timers. Ticket prices range from about $54 up to around $86. Click here for more. Below, to get warmed up for what will surely be a calm, orderly shopping experience on Black Friday (right?), check out "Getting Ready for Christmas Day," a holiday tune on Simon's new record.
It’s no secret that Chicago is a great place for music. Pretty much any touring band of note — and no doubt many a musical outfit that need not be noted — is sure to include a Chicago stop, and the city’s local scene remains rich and diverse, aided by a host of nurturing venues and an eager, uncommonly discerning base of listeners. That it’s only a five-hour drive from Cincinnati makes it an enticing destination for those of us who yearn to catch shows that skip the Queen City.
Chicago’s embarrassment of musical riches has only grown in recent years with the addition of two high-profile three-day summer festivals: Lollapalooza and Pitchfork. The former needs little introduction — Perry Farrell’s unexpectedly fruitful brainchild is, almost undeniably, the inspiration for the explosion of summer fests over the last two decades, a trend that has grown even more robust since the turn of the century. Every weekend each summer now features at least one festival worthy of audiences’ ears. The trend has even reached Cincinnati, where Bunbury just finished its second successful year — and shared a headliner with Pitchfork. (Whether outdoor settings, marked by often difficult weather conditions and bright sunlight, is the best way to experience the type of music offered at such festivals is a different question.)
Lollapalooza is, alongside behemoths Coachella and Boonaroo, one of America’s biggest and best-attended summer fests, boasting more than 130 artists and an audience in excess of 150,000. Pitchfork, meanwhile, has quickly established itself as a singular presence on the summer circuit, a discerningly curated endeavor that’s an extension of the influential, taste-making webzine that runs it. (Chicago-based Pitchfork.com took over the business side of the fest in 2006 after curating 2005’s initial gathering, which was then called the Intonation Festival). Set in Union Park — a modest city-block space just west of downtown Chicago — Pitchfork now features nearly 50 artists, many of which are still unfamiliar to all but the most plugged-in Indie music connoisseurs. (Ironically, as a champion of cutting-edge acts on the way up, Pitchfork also serves as an early snapshot of future Lollapalooza lineups.)
This year’s Pitchfork, which ran July 19-21, offered one of its most curious lineups to date, especially as it pertains to the headliners, which included Bjork, Belle and Sebastian and, somewhat controversially, R. Kelly. Sure, there were several typically lesser-known acts on the bill, but almost all of them graced the Blue Stage, the smallest of the fest’s three stages. Whether this year’s more accessible bill might have been a reaction to last year’s fest, which gave relatively high-profile slots to such interesting but largely faceless artists as AraabMuzik, Purity Ring, The Field, Big K.R.I.T., Hot Chip and Chavez, among others, is anyone’s guess, but a realignment of sorts from Pitchfork’s powers that be seems plausible.
More proof of a possible shift in booking philosophy: There were more veteran acts than ever this year. Beyond the headliners, each of which has been making music for more than two decades, there was Wire, The Breeders, Swans, … And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Low and Yo La Tengo. The only comparable 2012 act in terms of longevity — admittedly not the best gauge when it comes to creative vitality, but we’re talking audience-drawers here — was Godspeed You Black Emperor, which headlined along with Feist and Vampire Weekend. All are solid acts, but none of them are likely to perk the senses of those looking for a little “star power.” Enter Kelly, one of the era’s preeminent hit-makers (more on that later).
As usual, many of Pitchfork 2013’s most interesting artists emanated from the Blue Stage, which is the most intimate of the fest’s three stages — the larger Green and Red stages (note the refreshing lack of corporate branding, another sign of Pitchfork’s discerning nature), which are but 50 yards (or so) apart, alternate acts at the north end of Union Park, while Blue’s lineup overlaps with the other two. Tucked into a tree-laden area of the park’s southwest corner, the Blue Stage is something of a festival unto itself, its cozy confines offering a break from the spacious, open-air spots where the Green and Red reside.
Multiple Blue Stage artists delivered strong sets, including Frankie Rose, a former Dum Dum Girl whose latest album, Interstellar, is a Synth Pop gem that wouldn’t sound out place alongside Beach House; Mikal Cronin, a little ragamuffin of a guy whose latest album, MCII, is a Power Pop keeper; Angel Olsen, whose Americana-flavored songs and swoon-worthy voice and visage compelled much of the audience during her late-afternoon slot; Metz, a Canadian trio coming to Cincy for this year's MidPoint Music Festival in late September, whose terse songs roared even more righteously in a live setting (think Nirvana on fast-forward); Minnesota mainstays Low, who seemed oddly out of place but still effective in the early evening light; and Trash Talk, a Hardcore crew from Sacramento, Calif., whose long-haired frontman delivered the funniest line of the fest after noticing a number of “old people” in the relatively sparse Friday-afternoon crowd: “I like old people. Old people make the world go around. They fucking had us and shit.”
Best of all — or at least the biggest surprise — was Brooklyn-based Post Punk quartet Parquet Courts, whose playful, twisty tunes recall everyone from early Pavement to the Minutemen to a far less trashed Guided by Voices. Frontman Andrew Savage’s voice is thin but endearing, and his dynamic guitar interplay with fellow frontguy Austin Brown had more than one rapt audience member shaking their ass in the Saturday-afternoon sun.
One got the sense that the Parquet Courts dudes would have been just as happy performing on the street corner just beyond the fence behind them. The fact that they had a much bigger platform to deliver their slanted gospel is just one example of what has made Pitchfork so vital for those looking to experience something rawer and less polished than the acts that dominate other festivals. (Go get Parquet Court’s recent full-length, Light Up Gold, as soon as possible.)
Even the Blue Stage’s less successful performances were compelling in one way or another: while Julia Holter, Ryan Hemsworth, Andy Stott and Evian Christ — the latter three DJs who essentially stand behind a table — have issues in the area of crowd interaction and sometimes suffered from spotty sound mixes, each was able to convey its mood-altering music in ways that, at the very least, provided sonic respites from the relatively more conventional acts at the bigger stages, whose roar often bled into the Blue’s.
On to the two main stages, which drew large, unusually enthusiastic crowds all weekend. Long a champion of adventurous Hip Hop, Pitchfork again featured some intriguing purveyors of the form, most notably Sunday sets by Killer Mike and El-P. The pair released two of the best albums of 2012, and their stellar recent collaboration, dubbed Run the Jewels, dropped as a free download in June. After a sweaty set in which Mike ran through songs from his R.A.P. Music — including strong versions of the title track and the politically cutting “Reagan” — he joined his buddy El-P for a batch of Run the Jewels cuts that mixed verbal dexterity with a healthy dose of levity. Their record, simply titled Run the Jewels, is something of a break from the duo’s doomsday aesthetic as solo artists — Jewels is an exuberant, sonically diverse fun-ride that makes light of Hip Hop’s silly preoccupation with bling (the two performed with fake gold chains around their necks), among other Pop-culture oddities. (El-P later tweeted, “I’ll just go ahead and say @pitchforkfest is the most chill, fun ass festival around right now.)
Run the Jewels was an interesting transition into a set from the ever-vital Yo La Tengo, which mixed choice cuts from its vast back-catalog (including sweet reworked versions of “Autumn Sweater,” “Tom Courtney” and “The Hour Grows Late”) with several tunes from the New Jersey trio’s latest record, Fade. As usual, they didn’t interact much with the crowd, though frontman Ira Kaplan, who dropped in several impressive guitar freak-outs, did joke that it was “good to be opening for R. Kelly again.”
The fest’s most curious social-media-stirring moment occurred Sunday evening as M.I.A., amid a garishly colorful backdrop of spinning wheels and neon lights, unveiled songs from her forthcoming album, Matangi. A sea of cell phones rose to record her entrance; many stayed aloft throughout. It was a departure in audience etiquette — somewhat unexpectedly, much of the festival was free of such ubiquitous use of technological interference.
Clad in a flashy gold top and orange short-shorts, M.I.A. stalked the stage, often with dancers at her side, as bass-heavy Dance-Rap arrangements thundered through the ample soundsystem with almost netherworldly force. The ceaseless sonic assault pretty much drowned out whatever she might have been trying to convey in her new songs — which, based on the spottiness of her previous record and the delayed release of Matangi, might be a good thing. Only when her set was interrupted by technical glitches did she seem spontaneous or even all that engaged. It was a weird, disjointed set, the kind of whiz-bang spectacle that rarely rears its head at Pitchfork.
In contrast, Savages Saturday afternoon appearance was a model of lacerating intensity. The buzzed-about British quartet — whose recent debut Silence Yourself is a satisfying blast of atmospheric Post Punk — was one of the most anticipated acts of fest. They didn’t disappoint, delivering blistering versions of “I Am Here,” “She Will” and “Fuckers,” a new song about not letting the “fuckers get you down.”
Jehnny Beth is a captivating frontlady, her no-bullshit stare and frequent high-pitched yelps lifting the music’s familiar elements — everyone from Gang of Four and Patti Smith to Siouxsie Sioux and PJ Harvey come immediately to mind — to uncharted heights. More unexpected was the band’s tendency to evoke ’80s-era U2, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even more curious was Beth’s evocation of Ian Curtis, both in terms of her appearance (lean with close-cropped hair) and in some of her mannerisms (as if the music were transporting her somewhere beyond the stage).
Michael Gira, Swans’ longtime ringleader, was impressed,
asking the audience, “How about them lady Savages?” before clapping in
appreciation. Gira’s band immediately followed Savages, and it was an
apt pairing, like opposite sides of the same coin. His crew of gifted
Post Punk vets — which includes a hairy multi-instrumentalist named Thor
and a suave German slide-guitar player who looks as though he’d be
right a home in a David Lynch flick — conjured an unholy racket during a
truncated version of “The Seer” and offered an inspired take on
“Oxygen,” which featured Gira doing a spooky Indian-like dance
throughout. While it was odd to witness Swans’ menacing, ebb-and-flow
soundscapes in broad daylight, the outdoor setting still left those in
attendance vibrating long after the band’s final drone leaked from the
That brings us to the three headliners. The festival’s mission — it attempts to highlight the most adventurous, zeitgeist-channeling acts on the current landscape — makes choosing an anchor to each day’s events a challenging dilemma for Pitchfork organizers. Given the esoteric nature of many such music-makers, there are only so many high-profile acts that fit the typical “headliner” criteria. Past choices have included such Alt-Rock mainstays as Flaming Lips, Spoon and Sonic Youth to more contemporary entries in the canon like TV on the Radio, Animal Collective and LCD Soundsystem.
Pitchfork even had Yoko Ono headline one year, which makes the choice of R. Kelly as Sunday night’s festival-closer even odder one on multiple levels. First, there’s the fact that Kelly — no doubt one of the most important R&B artists of the era, and a Chicago native to boot — is the most mainstream artist the festival has ever booked. Second, and far more troubling for many, is Kelly’s reputation as a serial misogynist who never got the legal reprimand he deserved.
The most vociferous critic has been longtime music writer Jim DeRogatis, who broke the story of Kelly’s indiscretions while working at the Chicago Sun-Times in 2002. DeRogatis called Pitchfork’s decision to book Kelly and the subsequent excitement from “some (not all) paying customers” as being “fueled by irony.”
No doubt there are legitimate questions about how an artist’s personal issues should impact the way in which we experience their music, but, for better or worse, those knotty questions were not going to be answered during Kelly’s Pitchfork set.
In fact, based on the reaction of those in the massive crowd — probably the festival’s largest ever — irony was not as prevalent as DeRogatis wanted to profess. The overwhelming majority of those in attendance, which ranged from fortysomething African-American couples to teenage hipsters, seemed genuinely excited to be taking in Kelly’s sextastic jams. The performance itself, meanwhile, was largely standard-issue R&B stagecraft, as Kelly ran through much of his extensive songbook medley-style (38 songs!). Not even a steady drizzle of rain could dampen the mood, as many swayed and sang along straight through to a set-closing version of “I Believe I Can Fly,” which was accompanied by the release of dove-shaped balloons.
If Kelly’s presentation was fairly straightforward, Bjork’s closing set on Friday was anything but. Or so it seemed — unless one was within 75 yards of the stage, it was hard to see what was going on besides fleeting glimpses of Bjork’s elaborate headgear, which looked like a porcupine lit up from within. Worse, the two video boards that flanked the Green Stage were mounted too low, rendering them almost useless to those they should intend to aid.
No matter: Bjork’s expressive voice was just as fluid and otherworldly as one would expect on slightly reconfigured versions of “Hunter,” “Joga” “Pagan Poetry” and “Army of Me.” When rain and pending lightening and thunder prompted festival organizers to pull the plug after an hour, Bjork responded with this curio: “It’s calm. I don’t know. This wouldn’t be much in Iceland, I can tell you that much.”
It also rained on Belle and Sebastian Saturday night, but not enough to cut short what was the festival’s most overt nod to nostalgia. The Scottish crew ran through a career-spanning set that crested early with rousing versions of “I’m a Cuckoo” and “The Stars of Track and Field,” which had more than one thirtysomething couple embracing amid all the tuneful sweetness.
Despite Frank Ocean's deft leg-syncing and Taylor Swift's torture-porn-disguised-as-wholesome-circus, Akron, Ohio's Dan Auerbach and The Black Keys were The Grammys' big story last night, winning five trophies, the most of any artist.
While the Keys won the Grammys for Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance, Auerbach scored two solo Grammys for his production work, winning the trophy for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) and also winning one for producing Dr. John's Locked Down, the Blues Album winner.
While Grammys for album winners are usually given to the producers, engineers, mastering engineers and artists, hopefully Cincinnati's Brian Olive will also score one for his work on the LP. Auerbach — who has produced albums by both Olive and Cincinnati's Buffalo Killers — enlisted Olive (an original member of Cincinnati's Greenhornes) to work on the Dr. John album. Olive has songwriting credits on every track on Locked Down, and he's also credited with playing guitar, percussion and woodwinds, as well as providing background vocals. (Check out CityBeat's profile of Olive from 2011, about his Auerbach-produced Two of Everything album, here.)
Kudos to Mr. Olive! That's him — the handsome feller with big side-burns playing sax (and a little guitar) in this video for the album's "Revolution."
Check out all the winners from last night's Grammys here, and click here or here for some extra musings about the show.