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by Mike Breen 02.26.2015 124 days ago
Posted In: Local Music at 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Locally Based Project Seeks Musician Input

Artist-focused digital music platform MusicLi launches survey

Late last year it was announced that Brad Schnittger (member of the great local band The Sundresses) was selected as one of two "Haile Fellows" for 2015 by People’s Liberty, which provides $100,000 grants to local projects in an effort to “uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati.”


The grant will allow Schnittger the opportunity to fully focus on his MusicLi (pronounced "musically") project, which is described as “an online music-business management dashboard for artists.” Artists who create MusicLi accounts will be able to use the service to digitally distribute and protect their music, and also enter it into the company’s licensing catalog, providing musicians with a nice alternative (or, if things go well, primary) revenue stream. MusicLi's “core principle” is described thusly: “There are wonderfully talented musicians in the Greater Cincinnati area, and if their music is digitally cataloged, published and made accessible for the purpose of licensing, this music can generate income for those musicians and make Cincinnati a better place to live.”


MusicLi recently launched a brief, 10-question survey to get some feedback from musicians to help guide the project’s direction. If you’d like to participate, click here. For more on People’s Liberty, this year’s grant’s recipients and complete details on their efforts and initiatives, click here


 
 
by Mike Breen 02.26.2015 124 days ago
Posted In: Festivals, Local Music at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Bunbury Music Festival Announces 2015 Lineup

The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg and Avett Brothers headline fourth annual riverfront fest

The Bunbury Music Festival will present its fourth annual three-day event on Cincinnati’s riverfront (Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove) June 5-7 this year (moved up from the usual July dates due to Reds/All Star Game activities). This morning, organizers of the festival — which was purchased by Columbus-based PromoWest Productions late last year — officially announced the lineup this morning. 


Bunbury 2015 will feature headliners The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg and The Avett Brothers. The rest of the lineup includes Brand New, Tame Impala, The Decemberists, Old Crow Medicine Show, twenty one pilots, Walk the Moon, Matt and Kim, Bleachers, Royal Blood, Manchester Orchestra, Father John Misty, Atmosphere, Temples, Shakey Graves, Kacey Musgraves, The Devil Makes Three, Reverend Horton Heat, Lindsey Stirling, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Jamestown Revival, Mikky Ekko, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Mini Mansion, The Front Bottoms, Jessica Hernandez, Secret Sisters, Lil Dicky, machineheart, Go Analog, Bummers and Indigo Wild. 


So far, Cincinnati acts on the bill include Multimagic, Buggs Tha Rocka and RCA recording artists Walk the Moon, who have been touring relentlessly behind their sophomore major label release, Talking Is Hard (the band recently appeared on The Tonight Show; see video below). More artists are expected to be announced leading up to the festival.



One-day and three-day tickets for the 2015 Bunbury fest are available now. Click here for pricing and links.  

 
 
by Nick Grever 02.25.2015 125 days ago
Posted In: Local Music at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Beyond Idol Chatter: Life After the Show Begins

Though no longer on the show, local singer Jess Lamb remains wildly busy after her American Idol stint

While Jess Lamb’s American Idol journey may be over, the show is still very much a part of her everyday life. Fans of the show know that the performers often leverage their appearances into work on other projects, such as backup singing or working with national acts in collaborations. It is a process that takes a great deal of time and effort but there is another aspect of being an Idol contestant (current and former) that many fans may not consider — namely, keeping up with the social media explosion that coincides with debuting on the show. It’s a deluge of activity that, initially, can’t be adequately prepared for and it’s one that Lamb experienced firsthand.

“At first, after my audition aired, my sites couldn’t keep up. My stuff was literally shut down,” Lamb explains.

As a local artist, Lamb was used to receiving a friend request on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram fairly often. She relied (and still does rely) on social media for the majority of her publicity regarding upcoming shows and releases. But after her premiere, the number and frequency ballooned in a very short period of time. Furthermore, friend requests from friends of friends or local fans morphed into a nationwide fan base that searched Lamb out on her social media outlets.

“It’s crazy that I can make a post about a song and get 90 likes and in two days see hundreds of streams,” Lamb says. “It’s actually reaching people who are friends of mine because they want to hear the music, not because they’re interested in the scene. They’re literally curious about what I’m doing — they want to hear more.”

But this influx of attention has heightened Lamb’s time on said social media, simply so she can keep up with all of the activity across her accounts, while still trying to maintain a public presence and keeping her fans up to date with her myriad projects. In fact, Lamb has had to cut back on the time she spends at her 9-5 job so she can answer fan requests and emails in between interviews, studio work and live performances.

It’s been a dramatic transition for Lamb who, before Idol, rarely used her social media for any personal or professional purpose. In fact, it was her fiancé who initially showed her the value of using social media to self-promote. Social media activity actually lines up with Lamb’s well established indie sensibilities. She takes pride in having a control over her public output, whether that be an Instagram photo or uploading a new song onto iTunes.

“I still own all the songs, I’m not going to get slapped on the wrist for releasing songs because I’m not releasing for a label —it’s still mine, it’s on me. If I fail, I’m the one filing bankruptcy. If I succeed, I get to hire more people,” Lamb says.

She also leverages her public output to help other artists that she works with as well. For example, many of her fans have seen clips of Lamb’s work with local Electronica act Black Signal or marveled at her unique jewelry and clothing, much of which comes from local boutique Lulu White. Lamb has been repeatedly asked about her collaborations and takes great pains to make sure that her partners get the recognition they deserve. In doing so, she is able to shine a light on not just projects that she is personally a part of, but also projects that she is a personal fan of, showing her fans another aspect of her personality and artistic output.

In many ways, keeping up with her social media has become another job for Lamb, requiring large amounts of time and thought to be put into its upkeep. But it’s a job she enjoys doing and one that she has no intention of passing off to anyone else. 

“I would prefer to spend my time doing the social media stuff, I really do enjoy it. It helps me to come out of my shell when I’m sitting behind the computer,” Lamb says.

For her fans this is great news, because they can be assured that anything they see coming from Lamb online is actually coming from her and not a hired gun. It’s a genuine correspondence, which in today’s pop music world is a rarity.


 
 
by Mike Breen 02.24.2015 126 days ago
Posted In: Local Music, Music News at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Hip Hop for the Children

Local Hip Hop MC and friends plot a new Rap album and book aimed at kids

Last year, Cincinnati Hip Hop artist MC Till (aka Adam Hayden) did the unexpected and released The Neighborhood, an amazing album that brilliantly fused Jazz with Hip Hop rhymes. This year, Hayden is working on another delightful musical curveball — a Hip Hop-centric album (available on vinyl) and book project for children titled The Corner

The seeds of the project were planted several years ago when his friend, graphic designer/videographer/rapper Vernard Fields, who has worked over a decade with special needs children in the Cincinnati Public Schools system, mentioned to Hayden that he wanted to make a Hip Hop album for kids. In 2012, while Hayden was working as an assistant CPS teacher, he discovered that by rapping some children’s poetry, he quickly and easily captured the attention of the first grade class in which he was in charge. Recalling Fields orginal suggestion, Hayden got back in touch with him and the pair worked out some material and presented it to an even younger audience (pre-schoolers), where they were again a big hit. Hayden and Fields then teamed up with illustrator Charlie Padgett to create the visuals for The Corner


The high-quality book and album will be made available as hard copies and digitally (an app and website are also in the works) and the trio hopes that schools will be interested in using their project in the classroom. The Kickstarter perks offered for the campaign  for The Corner include having bundles sent to specific teachers and schools (there’s even an accompanying study guide for teachers). 


The ambitious project won’t be cheap to produce; the three artists are currently aiming for more than $48,000 in their Kickstarter campaign. If you’d like to contribute and/or check out the project, click here or on the video below.



 
 
by Mike Breen 02.18.2015 132 days ago
 
 
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Artist Submissions Open for 2015 MidPoint Music Festival

Fall fest puts out call to artists interested in performing at 14th annual event

Musical acts interested in being considered for a showcase slot at the 14th annual MidPoint Music Festival (scheduled for Sept. 24-26 in various venues around Downtown and Over-the-Rhine) can begin submitting today.

The festival — owned and operated by CityBeat — has announced a new partner for facilitating submissions, switching from Sonicbids to the locally-based CloudPressKit. The move will save artists some money — the submission fee for MPMF 2015 is $15 (through Sonicbids, it was $25, plus a Sonicbids membership) — and CloudPressKit is described as more “artist friendly.”

Click here for MPMF submission details. MPMF.com has a Q&A with the fest's head honcho, Dan McCabe, about the application process that answers a lot of questions submitters may have (other questions can be directed to info@mpmf.com). Applications are being accepted through May 17. 

 
 
by Mike Breen 02.12.2015 138 days ago
Posted In: Festivals, New Releases at 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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MusicNOW Compilation Set for March Release

The National's Bryce Dessner celebrates 10th anniversary of his Cincinnati new music fest with live collection

MusicNOW, the popular new music festival founded by Cincinnatian Bryce Dessner of internationally acclaimed Indie Rock band The National, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year when the fest returns March 11-15 at Music Hall, Memorial Hall and first-time venue Woodward Theatre. 

On March 10, the Over-the-Rhine fest will be celebrated with the digital release of a compilation album featuring musical highlights from MusicNOW’s first nine years. MusicNOW- 10 Years will feature previously unreleased performances by Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Grizzly Bear, My Brightest Diamond and others. 


The album’s “Trials, Troubles, Tribulations” by Sounds of the South, a project featuring Vernon, Sharon Van Etten, Megafaun, Matthew E. White and Fight the Big Bull, was recently released as a preview. 

The first track ‘Trials, Troubles, Tribulations’ gets at the spirit of the compilation and the event. It is an American bluegrass gospel song written by Estil C. Ball. Here it is performed by Sounds of the South, a project featuring Justin Vernon (Bon Iver, Volcano Choir), Sharon Van Etten, Megafaun, Matthew E. White, and Fight the Big Bull. The project, organized by Megafaun, initially appeared at Duke Performances in North Carolina and MusicNOW in Cincinnati, Ohio, and subsequently traveled to Sydney Festival in Australia.”


In the press release for the album, Dessner says, ““Many of my most significant memories as a musician have taken place in Cincinnati during the MusicNOW Festival over the last 10 years. When we started, we were driven to create an intimate music festival that was as much a creative refuge for the artists as it is for the audience to partake in intimate and rare performances. We have celebrated works in progress and new commissions, new collaborations and detailed music of all kinds regardless of genre or popularity." 


This year’s MusicNOW festival features appearances by Stevens, Nico Muhly, So Percussion, Timo Andres, concert:nova with Jeff Zeigler, Cloud Nothings, Will Butler and more. The National will also perform at the festival on March 13 at Music Hall with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Click here for full details and ticket info.


Here is the full track listing for the compilation:

Sounds of the South "Trials, Troubles, Tribulations"

Robin Pecknold "Silver Dagger"

Sufjan Stevens "The Owl & The Tanager"

eighth blackbird "Omie Wise"

My Brightest Diamond "I Have Never Loved Someone"

Dirty Projectors "Emblem Of The World"

Tinariwen "Imidiwan Ma Tenam"

Tim Hecker "Chimeras (Live) 2011"

Colin Stetson "Nobu Take"

Owen Pallett "E Is For Estranged"

Erik Friedlander "Airstream Envy"

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy "Love Comes to Me"

Grizzly Bear "While You Wait For The Others"

The Books with Clogs "Classy Penguin"

Andrew Bird "Section 8 City"

Justin Vernon "Love More"


 
 
by Amy Harris 02.11.2015 139 days ago
Posted In: Live Music at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Getting ShipRocked

A recap of the sixth annual Hard Rock concert on the water, ShipRocked

You know you are not in Kansas anymore when you hear a voice on the load speaker of the cruise ship that says, “This is Fred MotherF*ucking Durst, your captain speaking.” Fred claimed to be driving the boat and getting a blow job at the same time. And so it began, the vacation of a lifetime, ShipRocked 2015. It became very obvious that sleep was not going to happen for the next five days.

When you step on the deck of the ShipRocked boat you realize immediately that this is a special place where artists and their biggest fans can rock the nights away with show after show for five days on the high seas aboard the Norwegian Pearl. In the festival at sea’s sixth year, ShipRocked offered a lineup headlined by Limp Bizkit, Buckcherry, Black Label Society and Sevendust. The lineup was rounded out by Metal Allegiance, P.O.D., Tremonti, Andrew WK, Living Colour, Filter, Lacuna Coil, Nonpoint, Otherwise, Zach Myers, Crobot, Icon for Hire, Thousand Foot Crutch, Wilson, Gemini Syndrome and many more.


ShipRocked 2015 kicked off with a mega Super Bowl pre-party on Sunday where fans could sport their favorite jerseys and watch the game on big screens all over the ship. Zakk Wylde started off the cruise with a full Metal version of the star spangled banner and then Chevelle hit the deck stage performing hits like “Hats Off to the Bull” as the sun set over the port of Miami. 


The ship pulled back into Miami on Monday to pick up more passengers and head out to the Bahamas for the ultimate Rock & Roll experience at sea. Limp Bizkit took the stage for the official sail-away party on Monday evening and blew away any skeptics as Fred and Co. got the party started dancing in the crowd on deck and closing out their set with “Break Stuff.” Fred seemed genuinely excited to be on his first cruise, saying how much he loved a “good buffet.” Wes Borland, who never disappoints, was ready to rock the cruise with full clown makeup, cowboy boots, and no pants, as he shredded on his bikini girl guitars. That’s right, ladies — no pants.


VIP guests were treated to rum runners and a private acoustic show on Monday with Nonpoint, Zach Myers and Lukas Rossi from The Halo Method. Zach Myers’ band previewed some new acoustic music off their upcoming album that showed off Myer’s vocals and guitar skills with fellow members JR Moore and Zack Mack.


One band that really stole the ShipRocked show this year was Sevendust. The Sevendust crew has been on every ShipRocked cruise and their shows onboard always bring a packed house. This year fans were treated to three Sevendust performances. For the first time the band played their entire first album live on stage, which was a special treat for the ShipRocked family. They also did an electric set on deck and a more intimate acoustic set in the Stardust Theater that featured guest appearances by frontmen Elias Soriano of Nonpoint and Aaron Nordstrom of Gemini Syndrome, who took the stage to help LJ sing “Angel’s Son.”


Another highlight of the trip was Metal Allegiance performing the entire original Van Halen album start to finish with special guest Wolfgang Van Halen. The ShipRocked Metal Allegiance lineup consisted of Joey Belladonna, Frank Bello, Chris Broderick, Rex Brown, Dave Ellefson, Gary Holt, Scott Ian, Mike Portnoy and Troy Sanders


On Tuesday and Wednesday the boat was docked at Grand Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas and a beach stage was erected to host performances in the perfect weather while passengers disembarked for some beach relaxation while listening to their favorite bands. Over the course of the two days, Letters From the Fire, Thousand Foot Crutch, P.O.D. and Nonpoint took over the beach stage to perform.


Tuesday night, Fred Durst hosted a late night DJ party at Bar City, dancing the night away with die hard fans starting at 2 a.m.


Buckcherry played two sets onboard and have never sounded better. They played classic songs like “Crazy Bitch” that every fan can sing along to and highlighted songs off their new EP, Fuck.


One of the coolest things to see on the boat is how all of the band members are true Rock music fans. They all attend each other’s performances while onboard. Every night you could find Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna rocking out in the crowd, singing every word to his favorite songs. Almost every band on the ship turned out for the performance of Rock legends Living Colour with special guests like Anthrax’s Scott Ian and LJ from Sevendust performing on stage with the band during their set.


ShipRocked is all about the fans and the fan experience. Every single band member was out of their room enjoying the ship, meeting fans, taking pictures and signing autographs every day. I saw fans wait patiently to speak to their favorite band members and they were all very respectful of the artists throughout the cruise. This is not my first music cruise but this is the first one where every band on board did a formal meet and greet so that their fans could have a photo with all band members either onboard the ship or on the island. The most dedicated fans waited in line for several hours on Thursday to get photos with all of the headlining bands.


Many of Thursday’s "day at sea" fan festivities were canceled on deck because of inclement weather but the shows were all moved inside and the schedule was re-arranged to accommodate all the performances that were planned. Black Label Society, Tremonti, Crobot and others rocked the boat throughout the day and Limp Bizkit closed out the 2015 ShipRocked cruise with a performance that laid to rest any doubts that the band is back in peak condition. Fred said over and over how much he loved his experience onboard and now he “finally gets it,” referring to why people go out into the middle of nowhere in the ocean to vacation and listen to Rock music.


Click here for more of Amy Harris' photos from ShipRocked 2015.


 
 
by Nick Grever 02.02.2015
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Beyond Idol Chatter: America Meets Jess Lamb

With her 'American Idol' journey, noted Cincinnati musician Jess Lamb is presented with numerous opportunities and challenges

For many Cincinnati natives, seeing Jess Lamb perform her audition in Kansas City for the American Idol judges was the first time they had ever heard her powerful and emotive voice or seen her honest, determined spirit. But for anyone who has their ears to the ground in Cincinnati’s local music scene (or has drunkenly wandered into Japps on a Tuesday night) knew that Lamb was more than ready for the limelight. Lamb has been performing all across town for years and has consistently turned heads with her stable of classics and originals, paired with her pronounced and technical work on the keys. (In 2013, Lamb was nominated for an R&B/Funk/Soul Cincinnati Entertainment Award and performed at that year’s ceremony, a mini-clip of which was used in her initial biographical segment on Idol.)

But a rise in local and national exposure brings a great deal of opportunities and challenges tied together. And it is those opportunities and challenges that my series of posts following Lamb’s experience will reflect upon. Lamb is an indie artist to the core; she writes and records with many different projects beyond her solo work. She plays all around town in the hopes of steadily increasing her visibility. But how does an artist used to local coverage deal with the sudden influx in national attention? What effect will American Idol have on local attendance or the reception at her shows? Will there be any long term changes or will this ultimately be a flash-in-the-pan experience for Lamb? These are the types of questions that will be explored as the show carries on.


Of course, to answer where Lamb will be going, it helps to know how she even became a part of American Idol. It all happened by chance.


“I went to Columbus for what they call the ‘Bus Tour.’ Basically you go down there and stand in front of executive producers of the show. From there, they just call you and tell you where to go next. You’re just playing the waiting game after that,” Lamb says.


Lamb and her friend’s spontaneous trip to Columbus led to the next stage of the journey — performing for Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. (one of Lamb’s musical idols). 


 


There was a month in between both auditions, leaving plenty of time to think and speculate. After the audition in Kansas City and the announcement of her participation on the show, Lamb has been speaking to the media while still finding time for her day job and performing at night.


With “Hollywood Week,” featuring the singers who made it past the initial auditions, approaching, Lamb’s Amercan Idol adventure is just about to truly take off. Here at home, she’s already seen a change in her local reception.


“I’ve felt a lot of support from the people that I look up to. Frankly, I’m shocked at the support. I’m shocked that a lot of people see where I’m going with this,” Lamb says.


After her audition aired, Lamb played a show in West Chester, where she was greeted by an entirely different type of crowd than the Main Street district mainstays. Instead of young people buying her shots, she was met by a group of older women who brought her flowers.


The crowds aren’t just growing at her shows either; her online presence has grown as well. American Idol fans have flocked to Lamb’s Facebook, Instagram, email box and Reverbnation page. So many, in fact, that Lamb is having a hard time keeping up with all the attention.


“There’s been so much [growth] on social media, so many great emails. I’m trying to respond to every email and I have to take hours out of every day to do it and it’s amazing, I love it,” Lamb says.


In many ways, that excitement is indicative of Lamb and her Idol journey thus far. It’s been a whirlwind of activity that is guaranteed to grow as the show progresses. But she has taken it all in stride and is taking every opportunity the show has provided her. We’ll just have to tune in to see what other opportunities arise in the coming weeks.


The Hollywood Week episodes of American Idol air locally this Wednesday and Thursday on Fox 19.

 
 
by Steven Rosen 01.30.2015
at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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David Lewis' Music Lectures at the Main Library Expand to Saturdays

The presentations on The History of Cincinnati Music that David (“Uncle Dave”) Lewis has been presenting at the Main Library over the last year or so have been so good — so enlightening and entertaining — that one wishes he could do it for much larger crowds at the Aronoff Center or Music Hall. Or as a professor at University of Cincinnati — he’d be great there. He combines his original research with recordings and archival film footage and still photographs (when available).

One of his presentations, about Homer Rodeheaver, whose Cincinnati-based publishing company and record label were pioneers of sacred music and who was also close to the famous 1920s preacher Billy Sunday, got a nod as Best Arts Lecture last year from CityBeat.

But because his presentations have been on Wednesday evenings, many haven’t been able to attend. But now there’s a second chance. The Main Library’s music librarian, Steven Kemple, has arranged for Lewis to present reprises of his past lectures at 3 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month in the Reading Garden.

It starts tomorrow with The Hymn Composers of Cincinnati: Philips, Bliss & Doane, and Lewis will have guest pianist Jeremy Stevenson with him. All lectures are free.

Looking ahead beyond tomorrow, here’s the 2015 schedule so far for Lewis’ Saturday encore presentations:

Feb. 28: The Rodeheaver Record Company of Cincinnati
March 28: The Ohio Phonograph Company (with guest Patrick Feaster presenting the oldest known recordings of the human voice!)
April 25: Earl Fuller, Cincinnati's Daddy of "Jaz"
June 27: Cincinnati's Billy Golden and the Legacy of American Minstrelsy
July 25: Keep a Song in Your Soul: Mamie Smith, the "Queen of the Blues"
Aug. 29: It's More Than New York: Overview of Cincinnati Sound Recordings & How to Investigate Them (Part 1)
Sept. 26: It's More Than New York... (Part 2)
Oct. 31: Scary Stuff from Cincinnati
Nov. 28: It's More Than New York... (Part 3)

At the same time, Lewis is continuing with his new lectures on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. Here is the schedule for those to date:

Feb. 11: Fats Waller and Una Mae Carlisle – A Romance Made on Radio
March 11: Stay in the Wagonyard: The Lergacy of Louis Marshall “Grandpa” Jones
April 8: Cincinnati Jazz of the 1920s II: Ray Miller and Marion McKay
May 13: Cincinnati Jazz of the 1920s III: Bernie Cummins, Henry Theis
June 10: The Singing Groups of Southwestern Ohio: The Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots, the Charioteers
July 8: Cincinnatians in Silent Film: Arthur V. Johnson and Theda Bara
Aug. 12: Cincinnati Show People: Harry Richman and Libby Holman
Sept. 9: Singin’ Dirty Songs: Party Record King Larry Vincent
Oct. 14: The Library of Congress’ Field Trip to Cincinnati in 1938
Nov. 11: Rosemary Clooney (tentative)
Dec. 9: The Count of Monte Cristo (1913) with Cincinnatian James O’Neill

 
 
by Amy Harris 01.30.2015
Posted In: Live Music at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Q&A with Umphrey's McGee

Long-running jam band superstars play the Taft Theatre tonight

Umphrey’s McGee is one of the most popular bands in America on the Jam Band scene. Its sound can attract an eclectic audience with hints of Rock, Jazz and R&B and the well-rounded, phenomenal musicians in the lineup. The band has been touring nationally for over 15 years and is a staple on the summer festival scene. Umphrey’s have produced eight studio records; its most recent offering, Similar Skin, was released in the middle of last year.

CityBeat caught up with keyboard player Joel Cummins and discussed the changes over the years on the road and the fun and challenge of making every show a unique experience for the audience. The band plays the big room at the Taft Theater tonight at 8  p.m.; TAUK opens.

CityBeat: Your band is so famous for having ever-changing set lists. How do you determine what you are going to play each night?

Joel Cummins: We use a lot of different ways to figure out what to play. One of the main ones we use now is a website called allthings.umphreys.com, developed by a friend that has a complete tour history and everything we have played. It is a really interesting and interactive site that the fans can use to see what they haven’t seen us play before. We use it to look back and see what we have played in certain markets or make sure we do something different and don’t repeat the same thing. It is a really useful tool. 

As far as making the set list, I will compile a history of whatever it is that we have played and whoever is feeling it that day will pick songs and make a set list for that night. It’s interesting — one of the things that makes it fun for the fans is that any combination of the six of us can write a set list, we try to mix it up throughout the tour so it is staying fresh for us and the fans every day. And now that we have about 180 original tunes, we have quite a few to choose from every day. So it is nice to be able to play for five or six days in a row and not have to repeat a song.

CB: I am just amazed that you can remember that many songs over that period. It is very impressive.

JC: You get to a point where you learn a song and as you are thinking about it and connecting the thoughts to the hands … after a while it becomes muscle memory. I think the only reason we are able to do this is because we made sure we play all these songs at a minimum once every couple months so you still remember it and we know how to play them. When we do different covers, one or two every show, we may only play those once or twice a year so that is something where we will run those entire songs the day of the shows and pick what we want to do to get it back. Thank God for muscle memory or we’d be in big trouble otherwise.

CB: You guys have been together for almost 20 years now. Have you experienced multi-generational fans yet?

JC: We have. It is a pretty cool thing. There are a lot of things I never expected to hear when we were talking to fans. Certainly one of those things is finding parents and their kids who are both fans, finding all these people that have said they make great friends at the shows and (travel) around the country to see each other, maybe somebody met their husband or their wife at a show. Those personal connections and stories that have happened with the band because of our music I think are one of the main things that keep me looking forward to the shows because I know that there are a lot of people out there that this means a lot to. It’s an engaging thing musically, but it has become a really cool social event bringing people together. Our fans, more than most bands, like to have a good time but they are there for the music. You go to our shows, you are going to meet some friendly, hopefully intelligent people. Our fans aren’t starting fights or getting crazy. It is cool to see the community develop as it has. It is something I never imagined that would happen.

CB: I (photograph) a lot of different genres of music and talk to a lot of different people. The Jam Band music scene seems to be a little more collaborative and supportive group with each other. You have collaborated with a ton of artists over the years. Do you have any favorite collaborations you have done? How do you go about choosing who you are going to work with next?

JC: I think some of that sense of community emanated from the festival scene. It is interesting because it is a shared thing with the bands as well as the fans. One of the things I do is Jam Cruise; I have done 11 of the 12 of them. I know all the artists like family. It’s cool to have these bonds develop and I think because of the style of music we play, because it is more collaborative and there are a lot of good musicians on the scene, it encourages the idea of collaboration. 

If I had to name one as my favorite, we actually just got to play three concerts in New York with Joshua Redman, who is this really talented, really adventurous sax player. He has won Grammys and played with the best of the best, and the fact that he still wants to come back and play with us every once in a while is a really great challenge for us and really engaging to do. I think we have one of the most extreme varieties of styles in our music. As a result, we either play with people like Josh, who are in the Jazz scene, or someone like Mavis Staples, who is obviously a legendary R&B singer. We are friends with Huey Lewis, who is one of the most amazing guys out there in the music business, (and we’ve played more) current things like something Electronic with STS9 or something acoustic with Yonder Mountain String Band. I think we are lucky that we are in the time we are because bands used to be more closed off and competitive with other acts out there. It is a lot more fun when you can be friends with people and make music together.

CB: You lost your original drummer, Mike Mirro, last year. 

JC: Yeah, inevitably things come up (about him) all the time. Most of the time it’s funny things that he said or jokes that have carried on. Most recently, we did a holiday show with some members of the band in Chicago. He actually has a charity now in his name, the Michael A. Mirro fund for Neuroscience Studies. We were able to give a pretty sizable chunk of money to that. It is good to have his presence pop up in daily conversations, but even more than that, the charitable aspect of trying to contribute to studies that help people who have the challenges like Mike had. We miss him dearly and he was a close personal friend, so even though he wasn’t with us in the band anymore (when he passed away), we had collaborated a bunch of times since he left the band. It was a really horrible, tragic loss.

CB: The festival lineups are being announced really early this year. Can you tell me what you look most forward to with the festival performances? What do you think is one of your greatest festival moments?

JC: I think the artist camaraderie is a really exciting thing with festivals. We have been lucky to play so many great festivals. One of our favorite annual ones we always do is Summer Camp in Illinois and that is something we co-headline with moe. and they always have other great headlining artists. Steve Miller Band is going to play this year. Widespread Panic is going to come back. There are a lot of great artist always at that one. 

As far as career defining festivals for us, I’d have to go with Bonnaroo. We played the first one. Up to that point we had been playing at clubs in Cincinnati like Ripley’s, and maybe the Southgate House. We got asked to be a part of that first Bonnaroo. We were nervous because we got like a 5 p.m. Friday slot. We were wondering if anyone was even going to be there yet. We ended up playing in front of 10,000 people that day, a completely jam-packed tent. It was in 2002, and that was our first moment where maybe people knew who we were on a national scene. That is something I will always remember.

CB: You mentioned some bars you played in Cincinnati over the years. Do you have any favorite Cincinnati moments or memories?

JC: There are lots, to be honest. One of the early ones I’ll never forget. We played the last night at Ripley’s before it closed with our buddies Ray’s Music Exchange, a great Cincinnati band. That was kind of an emotional and cool night. That was the first night of us going out on a tour on the East Coast and Ray’s was headed out to the West Coast. I also remember probably just three or four years ago, one of my favorite things we did (was when) we played at Moonlite Gardens and Mad Dog, who is Ray’s former trumpet player, put together a horn section for us. We did a little back and forth competition, playing songs back and forth, and we had the horns up in the balcony and we were on stage and it was just one of those cool unique moments that hasn’t happened before. People are always trying to come up with fun things like that to do. You never know with Cincinnati because there are guys looking to get some kicks out once in a while and do something interesting and out of the box.

The Taft is one of our favorite rooms to play. I think we have only played there twice before. It is exciting to come into one of your favorite rooms and play for a sold-out crowd.


 
 

 

 

 
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