Younger local musicians and the music fans who love them might find it hard to fathom, but once upon a time, Cincinnati’s corporate Rock radio juggernaut WEBN was one of local music’s biggest allies, a wild, wooly and eclectic FM outlet as open-ended and freeform as any internet radio station or podcast. In the ’70s and ’80s, before inflexible, homogenized playlists made it impossible for even major label Cincy bands like The Afghan Whigs to get spins, the annual WEBN Album Project compilations gave major exposure to local and regional artists. Saturday at the Madison Theater, the WEBN Album Project Reunion Show flashes back to that era. In this week’s CityBeat, Brian Baker caught up with one of Cincinnati’s most popular bands ever (and an early Album Project participant), The Raisins, whose seminal lineup is reuniting for Saturday’s event, joining several other AP alumni. Brian also caught up with some of the other participating musicians to discuss the Album Project’s legacy. Below are their thoughts, as well as some vintage video clips from the era.
By pure coincidence, the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the recording of legendary Bluegrass track "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in Cincinnati's Herzog recording studio on the same evening as Earl's grandson — former BR549 member and successful Indie/AltCountry singer/songwriter Chris Scruggs — is playing just across the river at Newport’s Southgate House.
Revitalization group 3CDC's live music programming throughout the past few summers has helped turn Fountain Square into the heart of Cincinnati's increasingly active downtown area, drawing thousands to the Square every week to catch everything from Reggae and Salsa to Hip Hop and Indie Rock.
The group will be doing the same thing in Over-the-Rhine at the newly renovated Washington Park across from Music Hall. The Park officially opens tomorrow (July 6) with a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony. The christening will be followed by tours of the park, then a free 5 p.m. World Choir Games "friendship concert" at the Bandstand.
Like with Fountain Square, Washington Park's weekly music series will showcase local musicians, with live performances on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Wednesday will be "Bandstand Bluegrass" night, featuring some of the best area Bluegrass artists. The shows begin July 11 and will run every week, starting at 7 p.m., until Sept. 5. On Fridays, the Park features "Friday Flow," a night of R&B and Soul that starts July 13 and runs each Friday through Sept. 5.
The lineups for Wednesdays and Fridays have yet to be announced, but more details have been made available about the every-Thursday Jazz in the Park series. Beginning July 12, the lineup has been curated by local Jazz pianist Chris Comer, who held a similar role on Fountain Square last year. The first Jazz in the Park concert is July 12 and features Comer and his quintet, plus special guest Napoleon Maddox from the progressive Jazz/Hip Hop group IsWhat?!
Jazz in the Park performances run 7-9 p.m. through Aug. 30. Other shows in the series include the P&G Big Band (July 19); The Cincy Brass (Aug. 2); Steve Schmidt (Aug. 9), Ricky Nye Inc. (Aug. 16); and the Dick Sorice-Dan Jackson Quintet (Aug. 23).
Along with many other special concerts — like Over the Rhine's (the band) free show July 22 and the rare joint performance featuring Cincinnati Pops, May Festival Chorus, Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Ballet — the Washington Park summer schedule is filled with other types of events, from community festivals to "dog programs" to movie nights and special "Curiosity Saturdays" for kids.
One of the coolest physical changes to Washington Park is the interactive Classical Music Walk of Fame, a project in conjunction with the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and InfoTrust which will enable visitors to use their smartphones and tablets to play various musical selections through the park's sound system or through the very cool "musical fountains," which will change appearance/flow/color depending on which music is selected.
Here's a quick overview of how the interactive Classical Music Walk of Fame will work.
To read about all of the things Washington Park has planned just this summer alone (remember, it will be a primary venue for the MidPoint Music Festival at the end of September) click here.
Music Tonight: Ohio musical pioneers Rocket From the Tombs perform at the Southgate House with local greats Buffalo Killers and SS-20. Formed in 1974 in Northern Ohio, the pre-Punk legends might not get the credit of some of Punk's other earliest engineers, from New York and the U.K, but their importance in shaping the music (and the New Wave/Alterntaive/Indie music that followed) cannot be overstated. Like many great artists (Van Gogh, Poe, Kafka, etc.), RFTT weren't appreciated in their time, something not surprising considering they existed for only about a year and never released a lick of music. The band's split spawned two other wildly important bands — Dead Boys, featuring Stiv Bators and TFTT's Cheetah Chrome, and Pere Ubu with RFTT's David Thomas and Peter Laughner (who passed away in 1977). Both "new" (and distinctively different) bands took some Rocket tunes with them — Dead Boys claimed songs like "Ain't It Fun" and "Sonic Reducer," while Pere Ubu took with them "Final Solution" and "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" — all "Punk" classics. In the ’00s, RFTT compiled live and archival recordings so the band would finally have something in the record stores and, in the process, reconnected and, in 2009, the band convened to record its official "debut album" nearly 35 years after originally forming. Read Steven Rosen's interview with frontman (and Art Rock icon) David Thomas for this week's CityBeat here. Showtime tonight is 9 p.m. and admission is $15. Click below to listen to Rocket From the Tombs' rendition of "Sonic Reducer."
Ill Poetic — the multitasking Hip Hop artist who made his bones in the Cincinnati and Dayton scenes and writes a monthly words-of-wisdom column for CityBeat called Hip Hop (Un) Scene — will be providing some dispatches from the road this month for us as he embarks on the J. Rawls-headlined “#Ohio Takeover Tour.” The tour (featuring a roster of Ohio acts) is an early promotional push for The Hip Hop Affect, the anticipated new release from Rawls, a renowned DJ/producer whose credits range from work on the first Black Star album to working with Madlib and The Beastie Boys. Recently, Rawls leaked the new track “We’re on Top (#ohiotakeover),” a “posse cut” featuring 23 MCs from the Buckeye State.
This Saturday is Record Store Day, which began in 2007 as a way to celebrate (and draw business to) independent, brick-and-mortar record shops all over the globe.
In the Cincinnati area, four longtime record shops with loyal fanbases will officially participate — Everybody’s Records in Pleasant Ridge, Shake It Records in Northside, Mole’s Record Exchange in Clifton Heights and Phil’s Music & Memories in Latonia, Ky. That means you’ll be able to get your hands on some of the thousands of exclusive, RSD-only releases coming out this year from a wide range of acclaimed artists, new and old. (See the huge "The List" of exclusives below.) Other stores may also be doing fun, interesting stuff for the "holiday"; be sure to visit all of your favorites. That's what the day is all about.
• The local shops usually do it up big for RSD. At Everybody’s Records, you can listen to live music (including a 2 p.m. acoustic set from Jody Stapleton and Brandon Losacker of Jody Stapleton and the Generals) and DJing (from local Reggae DJ squad Queen City Imperial Soundsystem at 5 p.m.) throughout your RSD adventuring at the store.
• At Shake It, Grammy-winning (for his work on Dr. John’s last album) rocker Brian Olive performs at 6 p.m. (he and his band play MOTR Pub later on Saturday for free), while Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker of Wussy play at 8 p.m. Shake It is offering a 10% discount on purchases for anyone bringing non-perishable food items for Churches Active in Northside’s Choice Food Pantry.
• Shake It’s “record label” branch is also getting in on the RSD fun, putting out a pair of new, limited, exclusive releases by a couple of local music giants. Saturday at the shop, you’ll be able to pick up a live vinyl album featuring a performance at Shake It by The Greenhornes over a decade ago. The Live at Shake It Records 2001 LP featuring 14 tracks representing the band’s first three albums (one song was previously released by the label on a 7-inch in 2002, but it went out of print instantly).
Shake It will also release an EP of songs by Walker and Cleaver — a.k.a. Wussy Duo, which plays when the full band is not available. The CD features seven tracks from the slimmed-down lineup.
• With Record Store Day falling on 4/20, it should be no surprise that critically-acclaimed Cincy-area rockers Buffalo Killers would get in on the action; pot references are sprinkled throughout the band’s discography and their deft blend of vintage Psych Pop and swampy Blues Rock is certainly THC-friendly. The trio — which tours frequently and has made fans out of The Black Keys, The Black Crowes and many others across the U.S. — is coming through big with a new six-track, 12-vinyl EP titled Ohio Grass. The follow-up to the band’s fourth and finest full-length, 2012’s Dig. Sow. Love. Grow., has more than just a title reference to the smoky stuff — the EP’s cover (see above) features a giant, burning joint and the vinyl itself is colored “Herb Green” (as noted on the pot-leaf sticker also gracing the cover). The EP is a Record Store Day exclusive through the band’s label, Alive Naturalsounds Records.
The Buffs will be spending 4/20 in Dayton, performing an in-store at Omega Records to celebrate the release and RSD, but on Friday, Buffalo Killers perform a free show for Cincinnati fans at MOTR Pub with special guests, The Cincinnati Suds. Showtime is 10 p.m.
Click below for a huge list of Record Store Day exclusives from the RSD official site. (Click here for more, including the special RSD releases that will still be available post-Record Store Day.)
On Sept. 19, Scruby released Boy Genius, which is his second Hip Hop mixtape in less than a year. In two weeks, Boy Genius is less than a thousand downloads from surpassing Best Foot Forward, which Scruby released last November.
Over the 10 months since officially entering the music scene, Scruby has taken off. While making Boy Genius, Scruby studied at Ohio State University and played a few shows. His biggest shows included opening for J. Cole at May’s BuckeyeThon Benefit Concert at OSU. Recently, he opened for Machine Gun Kelley and performed at Ohio University’s 10Fest.
Along with live performances, Scruby and his team at LandSea Media produced enough videos to keep fans entertained while they worked on Boy Genius.
The wait for the new music was worthwhile. I was instantly blown away at the quality of the music. It didn’t sound as if it was produced in a dorm room, but rather a professional studio. The audio was balanced and the vocals weren’t hidden under a blanket of bass.
As for the lyrics, Scruby uses a mix of wordplay and comedy in his songs, and it works. His tracks follow a life of love (or rather, lovemaking), success and partying. Although I find these themes to be a stereotype of rap, Scruby pulls off the stereotypical rap lifestyle with ease.
Mixtape opener “Double Time” features Cincinnati’s own DJ ETrayn. He welcomes fans to the musical journey before the song begins. The start of this track is reminiscent of Dumbfoundead’s “Green.” This song makes me want to lean my driver’s seat back and drive with one hand on the steering wheel while doing 50 in a 25.
What seems to be a fan favorite is “Fux With Me.” Crowds at 10Fest wore shirts donned with "I Fux With Cal Scruby." The song isn’t my personal favorite, but I enjoy the tour of people who "fux" with Scruby and how he doesn’t let it slow him down.
My personal favorite is the bonus track “Midwest City,” which is a tribute to his hometown, that city where they sin two times. This closes the album and leaves me wanting to hear more from Scruby.
Even though high school is long gone, I can’t go somewhere
without hearing about the guy who was super cereal about ManBearPig and now,
he’s super cereal about his music.
On Sunday night, hundreds of local musicians — as well as the many of the fans who love them — had Covington's Madison Theater packed to capacity to celebrate the 16th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.
It was another love fest, as the music, laughs, camaraderie and drinks flowed throughout the tight three-hour ceremony/party CityBeat founded over a decade and a half ago as a means of honoring Greater Cincinnati's music makers (and, originally, local theater artists and productions).
Though it has lessened over the years as more people have grown to understand the CEAs better, there is still plenty of griping about the awards every year. The vast majority of complaints are about who gets nominated. It's understandable in light of the talent that is overlooked annually. Having so many talented and deserving artists in our city making quality music is a good problem to have. But if every worthy musical act in the Tri-State area were to be nominated for a CEA each year, the categories would include dozens of nominees and the show itself would have to be a sleepover affair. You think the Oscars are too long? Sit through one 16-hour CEA show and you'll be begging for a witty Billy Crystal musical number.
Like every year, the sport of CEA bashing is quickly forgotten once inside the venue for the ceremony. The awards celebration is the one time of the year where fellow musicians from every genre — some friends already, some friends-to-be, others perhaps only known via social media messages — gather in one place. There doesn't seem to be a ton of competitive spite within our music scene and the musicians I've talked and worked with, for the most part, are always pretty down to earth. (As if on cue, the griping returned right after the show — a comment on Sunday night's blog post featuring the winners of this year's awards deemed the whole program an embarrassment. Sixteen years of my life, wasted! Oh, anonymous trolls, where would you be without the internet?)
The CEAs can't help but become a communal love fest. (Yes, the drinking probably helps this quite a bit, as well.) In general, there seems to be a lot of internal support amongst local musicians, and it feels like external support and appreciation (outside of jerky, anonymous comments) is on an upswing. The CEAs are always a great reflection of that community spirit.
Ben Davis of Indie Pop duo Bad Veins kicked off the CEAs with his trademark taped accompaniment, but without bandmate, drummer Sebastien Schultz. Davis' performance was still compelling, capped off by that timeless ode to magic and mystery, The Muppets' chestnut, "Rainbow Connection." The singer/multi-instrumentalist set the tone (and the bar) for the night's performances, which included plenty of revelations and some fun, novel surprises.
Those unexpected moments are always the performance highlights of any awards show and this year's CEA lineup and production provided loads of highlights. Local Boogie Woogie torchbearer Ricky Nye rumbled through a great set of rollicking Blues, building up to a cool collaborative climax as Blake Taylor and Jonathan Reynolds of fellow CEA "Blues" category nominees 46 Long joined the pianist/singer. Nye and 46 Long had been embroiled in a mock online feud leading up to the show. Music heals! (Nye ended up winning the category.)
International Punk sensations The Dopamines gave the show a jolt with their explosive performance, launching into Guided By Voices' "A Salty Salute," but only after bassist Jon Weiner managed to insult nerds and "old fucks" in his introduction (they're "Punk," he reminded everyone later). From there, the trio launched into a mini-set of their own adrenalized anthems with fiery swagger. Fans were made.
The same can be said for singer Jess Lamb, the soulful vocalist who wowed the crowd with a few hypnotic songs, joined by her guitarist and bassist (who doubled on throbbing kick-drum). The sparse set-up belied the soaring sounds conjured, guided by Lamb's remarkable voice. Lamb was nominated for a CEA in the R&B/Funk/Soul category, a testament to her unique sound, which comes closer to resembling Florence and the Machine than, say, Usher. We may need to create an "Alternative/Soul/Rock" category to accommodate Lamb next year.
The Hip Hop/Rock band Gold Shoes are also keen hybridizers, and their CEA performance was a great display of the group's unique spin on Hip Hop fusion. The band provides a dynamic backdrop that's spiced with elements of Funk, Rock, Pop, Jazz and beyond. But the group isn't just providing a playground for frontman Buggs Tha Rocka to unleash his tight, captivating flow. The group writes melodic songs with strong, unique chorus hooks. Their CEA performance was a clinic on how to combine Hip Hop with other types of music without sounding like a cheap Pop grab (" … featuring Adam Lavine!"), Gym Class Heroes or, God help us all, Limp Bizkit.
The Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, which provided a great experience for VIP ticket buyers in the balcony, reminded everyone of the Queen City's place in shaping popular music with a segment presented by the group's president, musician Marvin Hawkins. After talking a bit about the organization's plans to continue honoring the area's rich musical past in 2013 (expect a lot of King Records-related events in honor of the locally-based groundbreaking label's 70th anniversary), Hawkins joined a host of local Roots musicians for a spin through a pair of songs from the recent collection, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, a project spearhead by Bob Dylan that involved writing songs from a cache of unearthed lyrics written by the American music icon. The all-star band assembled — including Magnolia Mountain's Mark Utley and Renee Frye, David Rhodes Brown and Sylvia Mitchell — expertly played songs they had recorded at the Music Heritage Foundation's downtown headquarters, in the same space once occupied by Herzog studios, the site where Williams recorded "Lovesick Blues" and other classics.
The CEA show itself ran smoothly and first-time host Ted Clark proved to be a great fit for the show. Clark's deadpan, sardonic humor — familiar to those who flock to his "live talk shows" at MOTR Pub — was reminiscent of Zach Galifianakis and sometimes he had great lines that were maybe to subtle for the CEA's "party atmosphere." But from those of us paying attention — bravo, Mr. Clark.
There was an array of entertaining acceptance styles from the winners, ranging from choked-up and sincere to pumped-up and enthusiastic to more matter-of-fact. Wussy had a huge night, taking home the Album of the Year (for Strawberry) and Artist of the Year CEAs, capped by some funny lines while accepting. Drummer Joe Klug joked that, for anyone doubting they deserved the Artist award, Wussy "played Little Rock, Ark., four times in the past year."
The award presenters — a collection of local music supporters and personalities, mostly from radio and press outlets, as well as sponsor reps — did a great job hammering home the "support local music" message of the CEAs' mission. But presenter and CityBeat Arts and Culture Editor Jac Kern provided one of the funniest bits in CEA history with her tribute to Beyonce — via a soon-cut-off lip-synced performance of the National Anthem.
Culture Queer capped off the show (or warmed up the after party?) with a set that captured the fun of the night, rocking out a trio of quirky, animated Electro Indie Art Pop gems with their trademark film backdrop. The sprightly CEA trophy hostesses came out for some dancing on finale "Born Again," their funky get-ups matching CQ's twitchy, offbeat anthem — and the jubilant, colorful energy of the entire night — perfectly.