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.”
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.
A new batch of over 20 artists has been announced for this year’s MidPoint Music Festival, which returns to the clubs and venues of Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Sept. 25-27. The following acts join The Afghan Whigs, who were announced last week as the Washington Park headliners on Sept. 26, at 2014’s MPMF.
New Jersey Indie rockers Real Estate enhanced the buzz they’ve been building on in March when Domino Records issued the group’s latest album, Atlas. The tough critics at Pitchfork, supporters of the band since its 2009 debut, gave Atlas an 8.8 (out of 10) and said it’s “at once their most forlorn album and their most beautiful.” “It is rare, and special, for a band to be this effortlessly and completely themselves,” Pitchfork added.
Noah Lennox is a founding member of Animal Collective but also a successful solo artist under his stage name, Panda Bear. His experimental, psychedelic style will be on glorious display at MPMF as he promotes his latest solo effort, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, due sometime this year on Domino Records. (Fun fact: Panda Bear was a guest artist on Daft Punk’s Album of the Year Grammy-winning Random Access Memories.)
Ambient Electronic artist Tycho (born Scott Hansen) makes critically acclaimed music for the esteemed Ghostly International label. His latest album, Awake, came out in March and reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart (and No. 23 on the general Billboard album chart). In a review of the new album, Consequence of Sound said, “Listening to Tycho is the aural equivalent of exploring a new art museum. The overall effect is one of remarkable beauty and you still have the option of how you’ll take it in.”
Uniquely adventurous San Francisco metallers Deafheaven take a unique approach to Black Metal, which has led to wider acclaim and a more diverse audience than most other Black Metal bands … and, of course, has led to some of the genre’s fans to decry them as “not Black Metal.” Whatever. The group’s fantastic Sunbather was one of the more compelling albums of 2013 (and, subsequently, one of the best reviewed albums of last year, as well). Here’s CityBeat’s interview with the band from earlier this year.
Gardens & Villa
After spending a couple of years touring the world and becoming a tighter, better band in the process, Californian Indie Electro Pop band Gardens & Villa released its second album, Dunes, on the Secretly Canadian imprint earlier this year.
Danish Indie Rock duo The Raveonettes have been buzzing around since 2001, when Rolling Stone editor David Fricke saw the band at a music festival and publicly raved about them. The twosome’s fuzzy Pop sound was an instant hit upon the release of Chain Gang of Love on Columbia in 2003. Over a decade later, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo are prepping their seventh full-length and continue to tour the globe.
Sun Kil Moon
Mark Kozelek first brought his emotive, slo-mo Indie Rock to the masses with the great Red House Painters. When that band dissolved around the turn of the century, the singer/songwriter and actor (he was in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky) continued the vibe with Sun Kil Moon, which released its sixth album, Benji (featuring Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley and Will Oldham, among other guests), in February of this year. In July, Kozelek will release a live Sun Kil Moon album.
Barrence Whitfield & the Savages
The Afghan Whigs aren’t the only MPMF band with international acclaim and Cincinnati ties. Vintage R&B/Rock & Roll outfit Barrence Whitfield & the Savages was formed in the ’80s by Soul shouter Whitfield and Peter Greenberg, guitarist for the pioneering Cincy Garage Rock band The Customs (and, later in Boston, DMZ and The Lyres). The twosome reformed the band (with some local musicians in the fold) and released the locally-recorded Savage Kings album in 2010. Building a bigger audience with every tour, the band’s Dig Thy Savage Soul album last year was its best received yet, leading to successful shows across Europe (and a spot of Later … with Jools Holland in the U.K.). Read CityBeat’s feature story on the band from last year when they played a two-night stand at MPMF venue MOTR Pub.
EMA is Erika M. Anderson, a South Dakota native who honed her chops in the California experimental music scene. With EMA, Anderson makes slinky Indie Pop Rock so infectious it caught the attention of indie label giants Matador Records. The label released EMA’s latest album, The Future’s Void, in April to widespread praise.
Ex Hex is the new band from Mary Timony, leader of Helium, member of Wild Flag and also a solo artist (the band name comes from the title of her 2005 Lookout! Records album). The band’s first release, the 7-inch single “Hot and Cold,” came out on Merge Records in March.
Formed by Man Man’s Adam Schatz, Brooklyn’s Landlady became a hometown favorite thanks to consistently great live shows and a 2011 self-released album. In July, the band releases its new album, Upright Behavior, on Hometapes, home to artists like Matthew E. White and Megafaun.
When Massachusetts Indie Rock band Speedy Ortiz had its first official full-length, Major Arcana, released on Carpark Records last year, the band instantly became an audience and critical favorite, landing on many scribes’ “Best of 2013” lists. The A.V. Club called the album “a markedly assured debut, one that makes Speedy Ortiz an act to watch. Like its songs, the band’s detonation is inevitable.” Earlier this year, the band released the Real Hair EP.
Low Cut Connie
After building a strong following in Cincinnati thanks to repeated visits (including a great set at last year’s MPMF), Piano Rock crew Low Cut Connie return for another rollicking show in the Queen City. Read CityBeat’s interview with LCC from March here.
Houston Indie rockers The Tontons hit the touring circuit hard over the past seven years and now, with the release of their second album, Make Out King and Other Stories of Love, earlier this year, the hard work is paying off for the band. The self-released LP received high praise from the likes of The New York Times, Paste and Rolling Stone.
Psych/Proto Punk band Ex-Cult hails from Memphis and recently released its second album, Midnight Passenger, on Goner Records. CMJ says, “This second full-length breathes with a more expansive volume and guitar churn, without resorting to every other current garage band’s habit of just dumping reverb on everything. In fact as this rec moves along, its snaky sprawl sees the band crawling out of its genre garage, like spilled oil and gas seeping into the weeds and cracks in the driveway, making everything a bit more slippery as you approach.”
Brooklyn’s Milagres make Indie Synth Rock for the Kill Rock Stars label. After the success of their 2011 album, Glowing Mouth, the band released Violent Light in early 2014.
Formed by two former members of Reggae group John Brown’s Body, trippy Dance Rock band Rubblebucket self-released its debut, Rose’s Dream, in 2008. Since then, the band has had its cover of The Beatles’ “Michelle” declared on the 50 greatest Fab Four covers of all time by Paste, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and recorded with LCD Soundsystem’s Eric Broucek. The band’s most recent release is the EP Save Charlie.
NYC-based Mutual Benefit is the dreamy project of singer/songwriter Jordan Lee, who grew up in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Last year’s debut full-length, Love’s Crushing Diamond, drew comparisons to the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Grizzly Bear.
The Cave Singers
Seattle Indie Folk group The Cave Singers formed in 2007 out of the ashes of the great Pretty Girls Make Graves. The band’s latest album, Naomi, came out last year on Jagjaguwar.
Canadian Indie rockers July Talk formed just a couple of years ago, but already they have an international profile, touring with artists like Billy Talent and Besnard Lakes and catching audiences attention with a great live show. The group recently premiered a new music video for “Summer Dress,” a song slated for a forthcoming EP.
St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Alabama Soul ensemble St. Paul & the Broken Bones’ great sound and live show have made them a favorite on the international touring circuit. The band’s debut album, Half the City, came out earlier this year, leading to the group’s appearance on CBS’s The Late Late Show and, more recently, a nomination for Emerging Act of the Year from the Americana Music Association.
Three-day tickets (and VIP tickets) are on sale now at mpmf.cincyticket.com. Today at noon, single-show tickets for The Afghan Whigs’ all-ages (kids under 10 can get in free with a paying adult) concert in Washington Park on Sept. 26 go on sale at the same site.
A diverse collection of local bands will be performing at the Southgate House Revival in Newport tonight, all to help out one of their own. Tonight’s “full house” Southgate show (with music on all three stages) was designed to raise money for Ed Ackerson, a veteran local musician who has played with numerous bands over the years, including Snowshoe Crabs, Stays in Vegas, Strangelove and Hurricane.
The Northern Kentucky-based guitarist has been battling kidney disease for around two decades — almost as long as he’s been playing out with area bands. Ackerson is reportedly now in complete renal failure, on dialysis and waiting for a matching donor. The funds raised at the Southgate concert will go to help Ackerson and his family in their time of need. (Ackerman is the father of four.)
Scheduled to appear at tonight’s 8 p.m. show — dubbed "Ackfest" — are Prizoner, Hurricane, The Core, Muleshine, Mudpies, Sticky Honey, Kenton Station, Bad Boy Troy, Iconx, Beginnings and more. There will also be silent auction to raise additional funds. Admission is a $12 donation at the door.
After launching last year locally at the MidPoint Music Festival and nationally at New York’s CMJ conference, the intuitive and comprehensive music industry e-book Musicians’ Desk Reference has relaunched with a new format. Created in Cincinnati by longtime local musician and promoter Brian Penick (also the founder of The Counter Rhythm Group, which has helped numerous local acts garner national attention and work), MDR is moving from its original, one-time-purchase approach to a monthly (or annual) subscription plan.
For those who may have been cautious about its upfront cost, Musicians’ Desk Reference, which is customizable to the user’s needs (no matter where they are in their career) and features information, templates and advice relating to everything from touring, promoting and recording to radio and press campaigns and well beyond, is now available to test-drive for free. The no-cost 30-day trial doesn’t even require a credit card; click here to get started.
Artists serious about pursuing a career in music will likely become more interested in MDR as they dive in and look at all it has to offer. After the 30-day trial, MDR can be accessed for $10 a month or $100 for the year.
Visit musiciansdeskreference.com for complete info.
The first good sign that consistent warmth is on its way is the announcement of the lineup for this year’s MidPoint Indie Summer series at downtown’s Fountain Square. The concerts are part of the Square’s free PNC Summer Music Series, which showcases different types of music (played mostly by local acts) five days a week. (The lineups for the every-Thursday Salsa on the Square shows have also been announced; visit myfountainsquare.com for details.)
The eclectic, free Indie Summer shows take place every Friday throughout the summer. This year’s lineup is perhaps the series’ strongest yet, with some higher profile national touring acts and the usual array of top-notch local talent.
Here’s the full rundown of Indie Summer shows so far (a few slots are still to be announced):
• August 15: The Nightbeast (a co-headliner will be announced in July)
The Indie Summer series is sponsored by the MidPoint Music Festival, CityBeat’s popular annual music extravaganza, which returns to the clubs and venues of Downtown and Over-the-Rhine Sept. 25-27. (Though all MPMF-worthy, the acts are booked through Fountain Square, not by MidPoint.) There will be a MidPoint booth on Fountain Square every Friday where music fans can find the latest MPMF info and purchase tickets to the three-day festival.
A limited amount of discounted early-bird passes for this year’s MPMF are available now at mpmf.cincyticket.com. Nail down your three-day tickets (or VIP Experience tickets) before the prices increase. And be sure to stay tuned to mpmf.com and the fest's various social media accounts for the latest updates.
Spring has sprung, in name at least. For music fans, this means that more bands will exit from their hibernations and start scheduling shows and tours. Cincinnati’s own Folk Metal warriors, Winterhymn, have done exactly that, earning a slot on this year’s Paganfest America.
The local sextet will be the only American band on the bill, spending from late April to mid-May crisscrossing the nation with Folk Metal heavy hitters Korpiklaani, Turisas, Chthonic and Varg. It is undeniably the biggest tour the young band has ever been a part of and members are asking for their fans’ help to fund the trip.
Winterhymn has set up an Indiegogo campaign with the hopes of raising $7,500 to pay for travel expenses, merchandise, gas, lodging, tolls, insurance and other necessary expenses. The money raised will not see any members’ pocket — it is merely to help them be a little less broke when they return home from their voyage.
In exchange for donations made, Winterhymn has set a veritable treasure trove of loot for any fan who contributes. Perks range from a digital download of a five-track EP ($5) to a signed kick drum head that will be used on the tour ($300). Other swag includes armor, patches, CDs, custom artwork, t-shirts and much, much more. If you’re interested, it’s best to act fast; several of the largest pieces, including a $200 violin and $400 guitar, have already been claimed.
Since March 15, the band has raised over $1,800 and hope to reach their goal by April 13. Click the box below or visit the Indiegogo page here to view the band’s pitch video and check out all of the perks. Even if a contribution can’t be made, fans can spread the word about the campaign via Facebook, Twitter (using the hashtags #winterhymn, #paganfest and #paganfestamerica) and other social media.
If you are a betting man or woman and the bet is “What Cincinnati band will be next to break out into the national spotlight?” putting your money on Indie Pop/Rock trio PUBLIC would be one of the safer wagers you could make. The three gifted young musicians craft some incredibly catchy music that would be right at home on any AltRock radio station’s playlist, as evidenced especially on a brand new track the group just unveiled, the danceable, hook-laden “Make You Mine.”
The new track is a part of series of new songs planned for a forthcoming release that will be rolled out over the next few weeks. The band (which released its debut EP Red in 2012 and has since performed at big-time tests like South By Southwest and CMJ) will stream a new track every week though its Bandcamp page leading up to its first local show in a while, on May 2 at Rohs Street Cafe’s Sanctuary in Clifton Heights.
PUBLIC will be joined by The Yugos and Harbour for the all-ages show, which is the trio’s first official headlining gig ever (so if you attend and they blow up, as industry buzz suggests they just might, you can tell your grandkids you were there). Tickets are available now here.
For more info on PUBLIC, visit the group’s Facebook page here. And check out CityBeat's interview with PUBLIC from 2013 (when the group was nominated for New Artist of the Year at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards) here.
Local faves Buffalo Killers are gearing up for the May 13 release of Heavy Reverie, the trio’s first record for Warner Music Group subsidiary Sun Pedal Recordings. Today the band revealed the new album track “Poisonberry Tide,” a delicious slice of Pop Rock that is reminiscent of Guided By Voices and Superdrag and is one of the catchiest songs the band has ever released.
The label still has a few limited edition “bundles” of the new album available for pre-order. The bundle includes Heavy Reverie on CD and vinyl, as well as a digital download that includes the unreleased song “Don’t Cry to Me.” The package also includes a vinyl test pressing (with hand-drawn artwork by the band members), a T-shirt and a poster. Click here for more info.
Buffalo Killers will do some regional dates in April (including a Cincinnati album release show April 12 at MOTR Pub) before heading out on a wider tour in May and June. Dates so far include a performance at Pioneertown, California’s Freaks for the Festival II. At the fest, the band will perform right before the solo project of Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes (Chris Robinson Brotherhood); Robinson has been a longtime, vocal supporter of the trio.
Cincinnati native Tom Berninger’s film that follows his older brother Matt’s band, The National, on tour, Mistaken for Strangers, is finally opening in Cincinnati this weekend, after making the film fest rounds and racking up mounds of positive press (it currently has an impressive 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes).
The movie — which follows The National’s members (all Cincy natives) on their tour behind 2010’s High Violet album, but is really more about Tom and Matt’s relationship — makes its Cincinnati premiere this Friday at the Esquire Theatre in Clifton at 7:30 p.m.
The Friday screening will be followed by a Q&A via Skype with the Berninger brothers. Following Monday’s 7:30 p.m. screening, there will be an in-person Q&A hosted by Jim Blase of Shake It Records and featuring Tom, Matt and The National’s drummer, Bryan Devendorf.
Here's the trailer for Mistaken for Strangers: