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by mbreen 06.26.2009
Posted In: Music Commentary at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Like Mike?

Michael Jackson's dead — what more can we say? The response to Jackson's death has made me revisit a long-running question that's rolled around my squishy mind for a few years now: Is it possible to separate an artist's personality and deeds from his or her creative work?

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by Deirdre Kaye 02.06.2012
Posted In: Music Commentary at 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

I <3 the Banjo

A rant, an exploration and a playlist

I caught a tweet from Noam Pikelny (The Punch Brothers) the other night. It said the new Rascal Flatts song “Banjo” made him want to kill a small pet. While I tend to steer clear of anything involving Gary LeVox and the gang, I will listen to anything involving a banjo. So, I clicked on his link to a YouTube video.

I made it to the end of the chorus before I not only stopped the video, but I shut down my entire web browser. The last two lines of the chorus are, “And you kick it into four-wheel drive when you run out of road and you go, and you go and you go-go-go/’Til you hear a banjo.”  

Of course I understand that “Banjo” is supposed to be a fun, light-hearted song, but I still don’t appreciate the fact that these “country artists” have once again tried to associate the banjo with little more than Deliverance.

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by Mike Breen 03.15.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: March 15

Prince is inducted into the Rock Hall and Lightnin' Hopkins' 100th birthday

On this day in 2004, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted a fairly heady class of artists, welcoming Traffic, ZZ Top, The Dells, Jackson Browne, Bob Seger, George Harrison and Prince. Prince was inducted by Alicia Keys and the notoriously shy singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist gave a slightly humbled (for Prince, at least), short speech of acceptance (he couldn't resist mentioning his efforts to get out of his contract with Warner Bros. — at least he didn't paint "Slave" on his face again). Below is his speech from that night (from rockhall.com):

"Please be seated. Thank you Alicia ... thank you Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s definitely an honor. I don’t want to take up too much time, but I would like to say this. When I first started out in the music industry, I was most concerned with freedom. Freedom to produce, freedom to play all the instruments on my records, freedom to say anything I wanted to, and after much negotiation Warner Brothers Records granted me that freedom and I thank them. Without any real spiritual mentors other than artists ... whose records I admired ... Larry Graham being one of them ... I embarked on a journey more fascinating than I could ever have imagined. But a word to the wise. Without real spiritual mentoring, too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay. And a word to the young artists ... a real friend or mentor is not on your table. A real friend and mentor cares for your soul as much as they do the other one. This world and its wicked systems becomes harder and harder to deal with without a real friend or mentor. And I wish all of you the best."

Prince's performance during the tribute to Harrison (who had died just a few years before his solo induction) was much ballyhooed for his stunning guitar solo, a reminder of just how multifaceted the eccentric performer's talents really were/are. Check the clip below.

Click on for Born This Day featuring would've-been 100-year-old Lightnin' Hopkins.

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by mbreen 12.12.2008
Posted In: Music Commentary at 12:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Grammys Better But Still Pretty Sucky

Let me start by saying that I know complaining about the Grammys is about as effective as complaining about Grandma’s driving at night. And I know it’s about as tired as bitching about people driving while talking on their cell phone.

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by Deirdre Kaye 12.29.2011
Posted In: Music Commentary, Local Music, Live Music at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

No More Tears: An Alternate Southgate House View

This might seem somewhat blasphemous, but I hold no real alliance with the Southgate House. I moved back here from Florida to go to college. The greatest benefit to moving here was that I was no longer in the South Florida concert rut. Cincinnati is right in the path between a lot of much larger cities. I was excited to be somewhere that would, hopefully, get more concerts than Palm Beach. This proved mostly true. But, more often than not, I still find myself heading to Cleveland, Chicago or Nashville for gigs. Which is why, after living here for six years, I’d only stepped foot in the Southgate House a couple times. But that’s only a minor reason as to why I’m not exactly heartbroken to see the venue close.

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by mbreen 08.30.2011
Posted In: Live Music, Music Video, Music Commentary at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Squeeze the Day for 8/30

Music Tonight: Cleveland Art Punk band HotChaCha bring its dancey Post Punk rhythms and soulful melodies to Newport’s Southgate House tonight, playing the club’s Parlour room. The show is the fourth date on the Northern Ohio foursome’s extensive nationwide run with eclectic upstate New York Indie septet Summer People (which has been compared to The Cramps and Nick Cave), promoting the two bands’ split 12-inch EP release, Do It. The vinyl release is a limited edition, but in cyberspace, there are no limits, so give the EP a listen here.

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by Deirdre Kaye 02.27.2012
Posted In: Music Commentary at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Band By Any Other Genre …

As musical genres become more fragmented, is it time to give them up completely?

Depending on how specific you get with your generalizing, genres can be vague or finite. Generally speaking, one cannot be “in a relationship.” That relationship must be defined. Casual or serious?  Straight or homosexual? Open or monogamous? Films are Rom Coms, Thriller or Family. Nothing, though, has been more categorized than music.
Metal is no longer just Metal. It is Death Metal, Post-Metal, Heavy Metal, Black Metal, Metalcore, Doom Metal. A band cannot simply be “Pop/Rock.” They must be, “Psychedelic Indie Folk Pop.”
What is “Pop,” anyway? Wasn’t “Pop” short for “popular?” If a band is truly “Indie” (i.e. independent from a record label), it’s probably not getting much air time. How is it popular? Today “Pop” means “fun, light-hearted” and “Indie” might suggest “mellow” or “artsy.” But, if “Pop” means fun and your Aunt Flo really gets a kick out of Chris Botti, wouldn’t that make him Pop? I can’t imagine that the King of Pop, MJ, would be OK with that.
What about musicians like Jamie Cullum? The kid plays a mean piano … it’s pretty jazzy. But he covers Radiohead and Rihanna. Why only file him under Jazz?
Genres can both help and hinder the expansion of a band’s listener base. In a previous post, a reader denounced my description of The Punch Brothers as Bluegrass. It wasn’t perfect, but it was intentional. To say, “They experiment with traditional Bluegrass instruments” might scare off some loyal Bluegrass listeners who have (somehow) missed The Punch Brothers. Humans are creatures of habit and “experiment” suggests the exact opposite. So, you tell them to listen to “Rye Whiskey.” That’s Bluegrass. They’ll like it.  They’ll buy the album, take it home and give it a whirl. At first “Rye Whiskey” will get the most plays, but as they busy themselves with dishes, bills and laundry, the album will carry on until the end. They’ll hear other songs that catch their interest. They’ll become a fan of the band, not just the song or the genre.
As bands become less describable and more eclectic, what would happen were we to do away with the genres completely? Forget splitting up bands and musicians into their vague or distinct genres, just throw them all together and alphabetize them.  Assuming they carry the artist you’re looking for, you’ll still find the album at the record store eventually, right?  (Honestly, it might save you the hassle of looking for The Clash only to find some idiot electronics guy filed it under Pop.)
If genres ceased to exist, what would happen to awards show categories? Billboard charts? Radio stations?
To begin with, award shows would be a lot shorter. Instead of “Best Rock Performance” or “Best Pop Song,” can other, perhaps more meaningful, awards to be given? You could do the best of solo artists and groups. Or you could throw in things like, “Most Digitally Popular” and base it on YouTube and Spotify listens.  How many bands spent their entire year touring and selling out venues across the globe?  What about if “Best Solo/Group Performance” awards went to the musicians who sold out the most shows to the most fans? Would having less awards be a crime? Does Lady Gaga really need another trophy for someone to polish? Probably not.
What about radio? The first time I was in the mood for some Country and someone threw some Kanye into the mix, I know I’d immediately regret the genre ban. I’d be equally flummoxed if I were in the mood for Rock and Sugarland popped on after Nirvana. Without genres, we can’t have radio stations that specialize in generalizing our music. That change might open a few minds to some new music.
In the long run, though, we like to compartmentalize things.
Banning genres would also negate nearly half of the Billboard charts.  On the surface, this seems like an excellent idea, but we’d run into issues with smaller artists. There are certain acts that will never break into the overall Top 200. They may, however, do well on the World chart or the Independent chart. In a genre-less world, those bands would have to fight even harder for accolades and fans.
To quote Steve Carell (incorrectly) quoting John Lennon. “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not.”
I had big dreams of banishing genres. But they just aren’t practical. As sick as I may be of the ever-more-obscure labels and subgenres bands put on themselves, they’re a necessary evil.  Music has, for a long time, been a very segregated art. As bands try to clearly define themselves with new labels, all they’re doing is breaking down the walls finite genres can create and bringing in new, diverse fans. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
Besides, three-hour award shows aren’t really that horrendous.  I’ll sit through a million Taylor Swifts if it means I get to see Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl rock out to “Golden Slumbers.”
*Jim Pelz from the local group Hickory Robot was kind enough to answer a few of my long-winded questions about a musician’s view of genres. This blog would have come to a very different conclusion without him. Check out his band. We call it Bluegrass, even if he doesn’t.

by Brian Penick 03.01.2013
Posted In: Local Music, SXSW, Music News, Music Commentary at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Guest Blog: 'Musicians' Desk Reference' Campaign Hits the Road

Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians' Desk Reference. For more on the project, visit its Facebook page here.

Wow, what a month. Extreme highs and lows, minimal sleep and a work schedule that would make an outsider believe I had an armed guard with a shotgun pointed at my back … which in some regard is true, except that I am playing both roles.

I am going to attempt to make this blog entry significantly shorter than the last because, as you may have guessed, I have more work to accomplish. The ever-looming deadline for South by Southwest (SXSW) is creeping up and preparations with everything surrounding the presence of Musicians’ Desk Reference at SXSW grow almost exponentially by the day. 

This will be my fifth year attending the Austin, Tex., festival/conference (the largest music-related event in the US), and while it is my second time going without performing, I can already tell that this will be my busiest year ever. Taking meetings, handing out promo material and managing schedules for myself and my team are just a few of the things that will fill my week-long itinerary, all for the pursuit of introducing Musicians’ Desk Reference to some select individuals for endorsement. 

While there are many different potential outcomes to this journey, I feel confident that my inevitable glass of top-shelf Kentucky bourbon at the end of the week will be a salute to success rather than a drowning of sorrows.

The obvious focus of this month, or at least what the intention was to focus on, was our Kickstarter campaign for Musicians’ Desk Reference (our upcoming music industry progression eBook for you newcomers). We still have a little over a week to go and time will tell what the final outcome is. My original goal was to have the funding reached by interested parties to eliminate the need for a third party publisher, ultimately keeping the cost down for the user.

Click here to view the project's Kickstarter page.

In the event that this goal is not obtained in early March, never fear, as those who know me have probably deduced, I have several backup plans. Am I thorough? Yes. To the point that I am slightly neurotic? Probably. Regardless, nothing is going to stop the freight train that is Musicians’ Desk Reference. Nothing.

So in my attempt to clear my schedule for February to make way for this crowdfunding campaign, I actually ended up with a much busier month that originally anticipated. On top of all of our regular client work, The Counter Rhythm Group hosted our Locally Insourced Cincinnati Music Industry Trade Show, a fantastic show with Bad Veins, PUBLIC and The Ridges. We have been in negotiations with several of our clients for national support tours and we are in the midst of working a potentially huge licensing contract for a client.

In addition to a nationwide social media campaign and a getting ever so close to finishing the book, these past 28 days have seemingly become a marathon that we have just sprinted through. My next vacation is (literally) planned for 2015.

In closing I would like to take a second to thank not only those who have already donated to our Kickstarter, but also to those who (hopefully) will. There is still some time left (depending on when you read this; campaign ends on March 8), and sharing is something we are also encouraging folks to do. I would really like to try and go the independent route with this project, but I am prepared with other options in the end if that is not the case. At the least it has been quite a journey.

I also would like to thank those who have had to deal with my absentmindedness in (“normal,” non-music related) conversation over the past few weeks. I would like to say that this may change in the coming months, but knowing myself and how much I want to accomplish with Musicians’ Desk Reference, I would just plan on it for the next several months. It is by no means a way of stating that I do not care about what else is going on in the world, but should be viewed as a precursor to how significant I think this project can potentially be. I have dedicated literally half of my life to the music industry and I believe this is my biggest accomplishment to date. 

Goodnight, and thanks for reading!

by Mike Breen 02.06.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music Commentary, Music News at 02:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Super Bowl Gets Bowled Over By Pop Music

Musical highlights from Super Bowl XLVI

Since our Morning News and Stuff writer hates football and refused to comment on the Super Bowl (not even the Puppy Bowl!), I thought I'd take a minute to discuss yesterday's huge game. Well, the music heard during the TV broadcast, anyway.

While I'm not a huge Madonna fan (I love the idea of her more than her music), I thought her halftime show was excellent. Then I looked on the internets and it told me that I was stupid and it was actually horrible and, even worse, offensive! Things I learned: Madonna is, like, really old; she may have lip-synced during portions of the performance; and MIA said "Fuck you, America" with her middle finger. (Like Janet Jackson's boob, I wouldn't have even noticed had it not been overblown in cyberspace.)

Oh, and MIA, according to the AP report, also "appeared" to say a cuss word. (She didn't, clearly stopping her line, "I don't give a shit," at "Shhhh" — nice reporting AP!)

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by mbreen 12.11.2008
Posted In: Music Commentary at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Most Listiest Time of The Year

Every year come December, the CityBeat arts and music writers get all wistful as we begin to mentally compile our "Top 10" lists of the finest moments of the past 365 days.

To warm up around the office, we just start ranking everything — "Top 10 Office Smells" ("microwave" has been No. 1 for the past decade), "Top 10 CityBeat Writers' Overused Words" (I've ruled this list for years with such classics as "dynamic," "eclectic" and "good," though Jason Gargano won this year with "myriad") or "Top 10 Ways to Anger Our Remarkably Stoic and Peaceful Editor" (this year it's a battle between "Yell 'Phillies just got lucky!'" or "How's the Missouri football team doing this year?").

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