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.
One of the bands on my MPMF.11 itinerary is The Ridges, a Chamber/Folk/Indie/Pop ensemble from Athens, Ohio. They have interesting instrumentation (cello, trumpet, accordion, etc.) and their songs are remarkably infectious. Read what I wrote about them in the MidPoint guide here. The group just sent us an MPMF promo video in advance of their performance Thursday at the Cincinnati Club (9 p.m., followed by The Sundresses and Those Darlins) and have graciously allowed us to "world premiere" it right here. The clip features The Ridges — who played the MidPoint Indie Summer Series in August on Fountain Square — performing acoustically outside of its MPMF venue. You can check out some more music by The Ridges here. Enjoy!
MPMF news and musings: The official MPMF.12 "Kick Off Celebration" is set for Wednesday, Sept. 26, in the Hanke Building just off Main St. (215 Michael Bany Way, between 12th and Reading). The free, open-to-all (21-and-up) party starts at 6 p.m. and will feature music from DJ Ice Cold Tony (who will be laying down some mash-ups featuring MPMF artists) and great Cincy rockers 500 Miles to Memphis will blow the rest of the roof off with a set starting at 9 p.m. There will be giveaways, free Vitaminwater, free Eli's BBQ (while it lasts) and a chance to win a pair of VIP tickets to the CityBeat-sponsored New Year's Eve blow-out at Bogart's featuring music by The Afghan Whigs.
And now, with the countdown down to just 8 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
Tennis (Denver, CO)
It’s been a breakthrough year for Colorado Indie trio Tennis, starting with the winter release of its stellar (and highly anticipated) sophomore full-length, Young and Old, on Fat Possum Records. After touring its comparatively lo-fi, critically-lauded debut Cape Dory (crafted by core duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley), the duo took its vintage Pop songs into the studio with The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, who helped give the songs a more direct punch (resulting in the addition of a drummer to the fold). Where acts like Best Coast and Jesus and Mary Chain rewire the classic Pop of the ’60s, Tennis write songs that often recall the ballads of ’50s Pop, something more evident and effective on Young and Old, which charted well and performed exceptionally at college radio. The band’s songs have been used on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and are becoming favorites in the fashion world, and they’ve also made a fan out of the Republican (one of "the good ones") daughter of an almost-President, Meghan McCain, who tweeted her joy that Tennis had become the soundtrack to her summer this earlier this year.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Lesley Gore, Dusty Springfield, the house band for Mad Men (if they had one). (Mike Breen)
Tennis performs at the Know Theatre on the Bioré Strip's Main Stage Saturday, Sept. 29, at 11:45 p.m. Here's Tennis' clip for their swoony tune "Pigeon."
The Bonesetters (Muncie, IN)
Bonesetters don’t necessarily sound like a lot of bands but they fit well in the Midwestern construct of talented groups crafting a complex sound out of relatively simple ingredients. Sparse guitar melodies, both plugged and unplugged, are appointed with spartan rhythmatism, unexpected instrumental counterpoints (mariachi trumpet, keening violin, gentle vibes, wheezing harmonium) and a quiet sense of Indie Rock urgency on Savages, Bonesetters’ full-length debut from late last year. It’s easy to understand why Muncie loves Bonesetters, it’s harder to understand why they don’t play here all the bloody time.
Dig: Clem Snide, My Morning Jacket and Gomez making high lonesome carnival Surf Rock for emo hodads. (Brian Baker)
The Bonesetters perform Thursday in Washington Park at 5 p.m. Here's the band's debut album, which you can sample below, then download the whole shebang for free.
LOCAL LOCK PICK
The Dukes Are Dead (Cincinnati, OH)
Rock & Roll
If you’re a local Rock fan who has yet to catch a live show from exciting Cincinnati foursome The Dukes Are Dead, you’ve missed out on some great shows … and you only have this one more before The Dukes Are Dead are dead. In just a couple of years — first as “The Dukes,” before adding “Are Dead” to avoid confusion with the 17,000 other bands with the same name — the foursome amassed a loyal following and even got into theater, becoming the house band for the local staging of “Rock musical” Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Though the band’s last show (sure to be a debauched blow-out) is this one at MPMF, there is hope for fans — in their farewell note on Facebook, it was announced that the members will each continue to pursue making music in the future.
Dig: No-nonsense Rock & Roll, bands with names that turn out to be prophetic. (MB)
The Dukes Are Dead's final show is Saturday, Sept. 28, at 8:30 p.m. at The Drinkery. The kind gentlemen of The Dukes are also giving fans some final recorded music as a parting gift — sample below then click on the player to download your free copy of the five-track EP, Before We Died.
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
We've written a bit in the past about the new film-meets-music "One Shot Music Video" series, beautifully shot, black-and-white short films of various local musical acts shot at the historic Emery Theatre (which is back in action as a functional venue this weekend). Shot by world renowned photographer Michael Wilson with audio help from the musical duo Pop Empire, the clips are filmed in one continuous take (thus the name).
The project has started to take shape and is on a roll now. Pop Empire's Cameron Cochran reports that the series is now named for the venue — "The Emery Sessions" — and will be comprised of footage from 10 artists, all shot at the theater. It's a great way to not only spotlight local music, but also show off the theater in a great light.
Wilson and Pop Empire have completed a couple of videos for Daniel Martin Moore for the first of the series. The second in the series is Over the Rhine (longtime compadres of Wilson's, who has shot OTR album covers and promo shots — including the one above — since the band's very beginning). OTR is familiar with the surroundings; the band played the "preview party" hosted by The Requiem Project which re-introduced the 100-year-old theater to locals late last year.
Here's a clip of Over the Rhine's Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist performing "The Laugh of Recognition" from the twosome's latest album, The Long Surrender. (Click over to local blog Each Note Secure to check out another clip from the project.)
Cochran also runs the all-free, all-digital "record label" The Recording Label, which has issued stellar recordings by The Kickaways, Vacation, Sacred Spirits and Pop Empire. He says working on "The Emery Sessions" inspired him to give the label a more local-specific name. The Recording Label is now called Cincinnati Recording Service. Click here for the new site.
And here are a few words from Cochran on the Sessions and the label:
If we are consuming light then sound is accompanied by sight. Many musical performers understand this concept and will incorporate a visual component to their audio performance. The idea behind the "One Shot Music Video" is to approach music from the opposite direction. The audience approaches the music from a visual perspective first because whether they know it or not the first performance they see is the photographer's. It is the photographer's eye that navigates them through the musical performance. The hidden live performance is the one done with the camera.
The Emery Theatre was the perfect place to begin our exploration of this relationship between listening and watching live musical performances. Each musician we have recorded and that we are going to record have a love for this amazing space and understands what the Emery Theatre means to our great city of Cincinnati. It is perhaps our own experiences working in this theatre and the pride that has developed for our hometown of Cincinnati that inspired us to change the name of The Recording Label to Cincinnati Recording Service. This name change is also a tip of the hat to another person who loved his city as well as the power that American music has to bring people together, Memphis' very own Sam Philips.
Were it not for the Grim Reaper, two celebrated musical couples would be celebrating wedding anniversaries today. Country music superstars Johnny Cash and June Carter (soon-to-be Carter Cash) tied the knot on this date in 1968 in a Franklin, Ky., church. The bride wore light blue; the groom wore (duh!) black. Their relationship was the basis for the celebrated biopic Walk the Line, which showed the couple's rocky patches in all their glory, as well as their dedication to each other. The couple had just one child together, John Carter Cash (born in 1970). The couple managed to put their problems behind them and remained married until June's death in May of 2003. Cash passed away five months later.
June co-wrote (with Merle Kilgore) one of Johnny's biggest songs, 1963's "Ring of Fire," which is said to have been inspired by her conflicted feelings for Johnny.
Hip Hop star Young Jeezy performs tonight in Corryville, bringing his tour behind the recent Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition album to Bogart's for an 8 p.m. show. The Def Jam Records recording artist released his major label debut, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, in 2005, spawning the hit single "Soul Survivor," featuring singer Akon. The South Carolina-born, Atlanta-based MC (once a member of the group Boyz n da Hood) put out two more albums — The Inspiration and The Recession (in ’06 and ’08, respectively) — which featured guests from R. Kelly and Keyshia Cole to Nas and Kanye West (their collabo "Put On" was nominated for a Grammy), and he's appeared as a guest himself on singles by Usher ("Love in This Club") and Rihanna ("Hard"). The Thug Motivation masterclass skipped ahead to 103 (perhaps Thug Motivation 102 is audit-only?) and was released late last year after several announced release dates came and went. The album landed at No. 3 on the album charts its first week out (in the midst of holiday shopping fever, making it more impressive).
TM 103 once again features a pretty heady guest list, with cameos by Yo Gotti, Lil Wayne, Freddie Gibbs, Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Jill Scott, Snoop and Ne-Yo, who appears on the most recently released single "Leave You Alone." Check the video below (NSFW for language, excessive head tattoos and gratuitous product placement for Crown Royal and Ciroc vodka). Tickets for tonight's show are $25 (plus fees). Read more about Jeezy here.
• Indie rockers Brighton MA — neither from Brighton nor Massachusetts — hit MOTR Pub tonight for a free show with great locals The Mighty. The Chicago band was formed by two members of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir upon their departure from that acclaimed Indie Pop ensemble, emerging as a successful and acclaimed unit in its own right not long after. An intense mesh of Folk, Rock and Pop, the band's songs have been used on TV shows (like Gossip Girl and Community) and in a successful Jack Daniels ad campaign last year during the holidays. The band also scored a sweet tour van to take a trip on Route 66 for an extensive promotional web series called "Rock the Route," which was sponsored(-the-hell-out-of) by Red Bull. Earlier this year, the group released a new 7-song EP called Billboard Sun, a warm-up for their second full-length, due later this year. Tonight's show starts around 10 p.m.
Oh, and Brighton, Mass., is the neighborhood in which singer Matt Kerstein was born (in case you were wondering).
Here's the band's "Good Kind of Crazy" (aka "the song from the Jack Daniels commercial"):
Last Friday at Bogart's, CityBeat and the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards presented a showcase featuring some of the best new local bands of 2012. (Check out some pics from the event here.) This coming week, four brand-new acts (featuring musicians from other established groups) will be playing their first shows ever. Here's a round-up of the new bands (possible nominees for next year's CEAs?) debuting.
• Joey Cook of Indie Pop greats Pomegranates has a new solo project called Danny and His Fantasy. Cook — who also headed up the side project Firs and has done a few solo shows with friends and bandmates — leaked the great track below via YouTube a couple of weeks ago. The piano-laden track "Too Out of Touch" is a great slice of dancey and wonderfully melodic Pop, highlighted by Cook's soulful falsetto, that wouldn't be out of place on an of Montreal record.
Danny and His Fantasy's debut show is this Friday at Mayday in Northside. Cook will be joined at the free show by Phil Cogley, the Indie Pop maestro from Columbus who performs under the name The Saturday Giant. Cogley's been making waves from our state's capitol, recently earning a slot on Columbus Alive's annual list of "Bands to Watch" for 2013. Locals Speaking Suns also perform.
• Also Friday, Pop Goes the Evil plays its first live show. The new crew debuts at MOTR Pub, playing a free show with Indiana rockers Left Lane Cruiser. Pop Goes the Evil is fronted by singer/guitarist Lucas Frazier, formerly of the popular, kick-ass local Rock outfit The Dukes Are Dead. The new group — rounded out by drummer Jordin Goff (also of The Yugos) and bassist Evan Roberts (organist for heavy local band Grey Host) — has issued a couple of great music videos, showcasing a swaggering, energized Pop/Rock sound that's not chasing any trends, opting instead for a more timeless appeal.
Here's the second single from Pop Goes the Evil, "Golden Apple."
Those retro/modern/futuristic urban-gothic sonics are perfectly reflected in the brand new video clip for "Oxygen." The ominous video — written by Thomas Stemrich (Director) and Josh Chiara (Director of Photography) of local band Holy Beast — was shot over three days in Northside and Over-the-Rhine.
The nutshell synopsis of the video:
"In New Berlin, in the basements of post-industrial mansions, lost youths pray to shrines for nothing and participate in rituals that don’t matter. But tonight, one of New Berlin’s daughters is through with the minutia, ready to dive beneath the insincerity of cult posturing, and finally awaken the beacon of change that swells beneath the city streets. Will this be another lost night in Neverland or will she finally meet the beast of her dreams?"
Stemrich and Chiara have made other music videos, including "Night Drive" for the local act Polar Sky (Polar Sky and Skeleton Hands both record for locally based Racecar Productions). Sharfe says "Night Drive," and now "Oxygen," are unofficially akin to part of a "series," with the Polar Sky clip setting the "New Berlin" tone initially, and the Skeleton Hands' video taking it further.
"In the New Berlin videos, we see Cincinnati through a dystopic lens," Sharfe says. "Prostitutes, cults, deities, people with holes in their torsos. Strange stuff."
Skeleton Hands are currently taking pre-orders for copies of Gone on vinyl. Click here to get in on the action. "Oxygen" will be available as a single this fall through Racecar. The single release will feature remixes, including ones by Kontravoid and the aforementioned Polar Sky.
The duo also returns to the MidPoint Music Festival this year, coming up towards the end of September in various venues around Over-the-Rhine and Downtown. Skeleton Hands is slated to perform at 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, at MPMF venue Below Zero Lounge (on Walnut Street, next to Emery Theatre). Click here for MPMF tickets (or visit Fountain Square Friday night between 8-11 p.m., where you can buy tickets in person — one night only — for $10-$20 off).
Archer’s paradox, according to Wikipedia, is the phenomenon whereby "in order to strike the center of the target with an arrow, the arrow must be pointed slightly to the side of the target."
Archer’s Paradox, the band, according to the two members I spoke with on a hot Thursday — much the same.
“It started about a year ago. I disbanded from a band I was in earlier (with Mia Carruthers, of MTV’s Taking the Stage fame) and Stefan Wright (drummer) and I started making songs in my room by myself,” says project founder, Seth Huff, “and then Cam (Nawaz, synth and backup vocals) started coming over out of nowhere, and we started hanging out and he was like, ‘Hey, those songs are pretty good’, and here we are, a year later, with four other people, having fun.”
Originally conceived as a two-piece consisting of Huff and Nawaz performing live with recorded backing tracks, the duo realized that direction would be “the most boring thing in the world,” says Nawaz, “so we quickly moved past that. And we realized that we have numerous friends who are really good at playing instruments.”
The band was fleshed out with Wright on drums, guitarist Alex Solin, and bassist Mark Wilson.
Working with a five-song EP recorded solely on Huff’s MacBook Pro, Archer’s Paradox has a distinctly DIY vibe. Very calculated in their approach to publicity and performing, Archer’s Paradox only performed its first show this year at Rohs Street Café during the sixth The Heights Music Festival in Clifton.
“We’re all about the DIY thing. That’s kind of like our religion. If we had to pick a religion, it would be DIY,” says Huff, who writes all of Archer’s Paradox material.
More shows followed, and in “a stroke of luck”, as Nawaz says, Archer’s Paradox earned a slot at the inaugural Bunbury Music Festival, held at Sawyer Point today through Sunday. Nawaz details how, while informing friends via text of their latest project and upcoming show, Wright happened to text Ian Bolender, a former bandmate from another band (Ellison), who happened to be an employee of Nederlander Entertainment, which happened to be the company booking Bunbury Music Festival. Bolender responded within 15 minutes with the offer of having Archer’s Paradox play Bunbury.
“We make our own luck,” clarifies Nawaz. “We use every outlet of who we know and every resource to our absolute maximum potential.”
Huff agrees, relaying how other shows have fallen into place just as harmoniously. I point out that maybe instead of finding "luck," Archer’s Paradox has serendipity on their side.
“THAT’S our religion,” Huff jumps in, eagerly. “I take back that thing I said before.” We note the fact that the letters “DIY” are also in ‘serendipity’, and thusly, the band’s definition is fully confirmed.
“Work smart, not hard,” Huff continues. “Observing the way other bands do it, you can learn a lot and make a game plan from that. If you have decent music, you have a really good shot if you learn to use the machine that is the Internet.”
“We knew we didn’t want to take the ‘let’s get signed right away, let’s get distributed’ path before playing anything,” Nawaz chimes in, referencing internet-phenom bands without much substance to back up their product.
“You have to gain the respect of fans and then they’ll actually want to pay for the music,” says Huff.
At this year’s Bunbury Music Festival, Archer’s Paradox will have their biggest chance yet to do just that.
Archer’s Paradox opens up the Landor Stage at Bunbury on Sunday at noon. Listen to them here and check out this clip for the group's song "Patience."
The superb, now veteran local Indie Pop group The Minor Leagues are gearing up for the release of their new album, North College Hill. The album was recorded last summer with Sean Sullivan at The Butcher Shoppe, the Nashville studio owned by legendary singer/songwriter John Prine and Grammy-winning engineer Dave Ferguson (Johnny Cash, U2, Ryan Bingham), and was recently mastered by Michael Bond from the band's label, Datawaslost. The Minor Leagues recently made the album's first single — "Ghost Maps" b/w "Please Don't Throw My Love Away" — available as a free download from their new website (www.minorleaguesmusic.com).