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by Brian Baker 09.28.2012

MPMF.12 Day 1: Sky is Dry, Beer is Wet, Music is Fantastic

The first night of MidPoint almost looked like it would be a typical rain-soaked affair, but the clouds relented and the festival’s kick-off was gorgeous and every bit as big as promised.

My first stop on the musical pub crawl that is MidPoint was not a band but a party...well, the whole bloody thing is a party, but this was an actual event thrown by the towering presence known as Brian Kitzmiller to celebrate the one year anniversary of his marketing company, Reveal Concepts. En route to Japp’s, I ran into bassist to the stars Sammy Wulfeck and guitarist/keyboardist extraordinaire Brandon Losacker, who were jimmying their bank accounts at an ATM for a little walking around green. Sammy dropped two bombshells; he’s going to be a father in less than two months, and Ric Hickey has returned from his soul-searching California sojourn. Birth and rebirth. I love synergy.

Brian’s party was a blast (any party with free OTRs is bound to be), populated by a wide variety of great people (detailed later), with incomparable Rock and Soul sides providing a brilliant soundtrack courtesy of DJ Bryan Dilsizian, the hardest rocking platter daddy in town. Now that’s a party.

I had intended to make my way to Grammer’s for Dressy Bessy but I was making rather merry at Japp’s and, to quote the legendary Shel Silverstein, I got stoned and I missed it. So I headed over to Mr. Pitiful’s for my first band of the evening, the Demos out of Rochester, New York. Head honcho/zen master Mike Breen yardsticked these guys against the likes of Wondermints, the Shins and Big Star, and I would be inclined to agree; the sextet’s facility for melancholy Pop melodicism, hooky jangle and stellar vocal harmonies is the equal to any of those lofty references. Naturally enough, in the live setting, some of the Pop subtlety of The Demos’ debut full length, last year’s Lovely, is jettisoned in favor of a more bracing sonic presentation, like the amped up Strokes-like storm kicked up on “Nervous.” This was The Demos’ Cincinnati debut, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as they were being enjoyed, hopefully a sign that they’ll be coming back our way soon.

After a stop at Mr. Hanton’s for the most delicious hot dog on the planet (no snouts, hooves or ass jelly in these bad boys...it’s a meal on a bun), and a quick chat with MidPoint co-architect/bon vivant Sean Rhiney, my intention was to head down to the Blue Wisp to catch Black Taxi (which I heard was incredible) but, having gotten little sleep the night before, decided to conserve energy and drop in at the Main Event to catch Saturn Batteries and stick around for Sohio, one of my longtime local faves.

Saturn Batteries is the brainchild of Brad Gibson, who’s done bass stints in Walk the Moon, Young Heirlooms and Charlie Hustle, and is now trying his hand in the frontman role. If last night’s performance is the standard, Gibson should have made the leap a long time ago; Saturn Batteries taps into classic melodic Beatlesque Pop with a sugary Pixies icing, resulting in a sonic confection that is powerfully energetic without being jittery or pointlessly arty. The quartet churned out a good set and provided plenty of evidence that time and fine tuning could gain them a large and loyal following, locally and well beyond.

Next up at the Main Event was Sohio, a band whose studio efforts I’ve reviewed positively and often but have somehow managed to miss consistently in a live context. Sporting a new bass player, Sohio tore shit up good and proper and proved why they’ve been a fixture at MidPoint for a good many years. It’s a rare band that can direct traffic at the intersection of Americana, Rock both rootsy and garagey, Blues, Punk, Pop and Country without having an eight-genre pile-up. Sohio is that rare band, deftly balancing the noise that rattles rafters and the subtlety that breaks hearts. Their relative obscurity may be a product of their own design, but Sohio can and should be the next big thing.

I ducked out of Sohio’s gig a little early to hit Below Zero for a taste of the Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, but the duo was still setting up when I arrived, so I witnessed a good deal more than I anticipated. TPDR is a wild rhythm ride, a gene splice of They Might Be Giants and Ween that’s been mutated into an Indie Rock mash-up of American Bandstand and Burning Man. The music is performed by a rotating cast of characters and programmed by Neil Fridd, and with the music safely stored on a hard drive, Fridd and his lovely partner (presumably Haley Riddering, but that’s a guess based on limited research done on deadline) are free to roam the crowd, form a conga line, fall into a suggestive pile on the dance floor, snake string lights into the pogoing audience and deploy a giant gray parachute for everyone to dance under like a silky umbrella. TPDR is a glittery interactive Indie Rock dance slam and if they should venture away from the Brooklyn, New York base and into our cozy confines again in the near or distant future, you would be well advised to get in line.

After TPDR, I headed back to the Main Event for the finish of Jody Stapleton and the Generals’ set. Sparrow Bellows big bass master Sammy Wulfeck is providing the pulse for the Generals these days, and the Black Owls’ Brandon Losacker is doing double duty on guitar and keys so I was curious to hear this new iteration of Jody’s sound. I was always a fan of the Stapletons back in the day, and the Generals are yet another fine example of Jody’s consummate ability to translate influence and inspiration into his own singular sound. The Generals’ frame of reference is the sunny Pop of ’70s AM radio and the roar of Classic Rock, dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Jody’s hushed singer/songwriter vocals are a subtle counterpoint to the frenzy kicked up by Sammy, Brandon and drummer Nick Mavridoglou (spell check is obviously doing me no good here), kind of like Ray Davies recording a tribute to Wilco’s Summerteeth.

Finally, it was time for the last show of the first night of the 11th edition of MidPoint (that sounded a little more biblical than I’d intended), which for me was the inspired garage tumult of Nashville’s Turbo Fruits. From the opening stomp to the last ringing chord, Turbo Fruits (at one time, a side project for the late, lamented Be Your Own Pet) were alternately mesmerizing and pulverizing, whipping the assembled multitude at the Drinkery into a writhing mass of humanity, baptized in sweat, sanctified by volume and praising the gods of Rock for allowing them access to the forbidden Turbo Fruits.

At one point, frontman Jonas Stein gave a mighty Rock kick move and lost his shoe in the crowd, which someone was kind enough to return to the stage. Stein thanked the shoe samaritan verily, because, as he noted, he’d only brought two shoes with him. It was unclear whether he meant two pairs of shoes or just two shoes, but his gratitude was commensurate with that of a guy who was looking at going barefoot for the remainder of the tour. At any rate, Turbo Fruits kept their feet (with or without shoes) firmly on the necks of the MidPoint crowd for the duration of their hour-plus set, leaving everyone wanting for more at the conclusion and perfectly teeing up expectations for Friday night.

MidPoint 2012 Thursday Night Notes:

• Brian Kitzmiller’s one-year soiree for his new marketing outfit, Reveal Concepts, was, as noted, a blast. Mere moments after hearing Sammy’s news about Ric Hickey’s triumphant return, I walked into Japp’s and was greeted by the prodigal son himself. His relocation to California was a journey of self-discovery, an attempt to reconcile his past, present and future and come to grips with what he truly wants and how to get it. Sometimes you have to go a long way from home to realize what home means. And for Ric, this is home. Welcome back, old friend.

• Also was introduced to longtime photographer and soundman Chuck Madden, a guy that I saw running the board at every Raisins show I ever attended but never actually met. We traded a few stories over Brian’s free OTRs, and he gave me his card; I hope that we can trade more stories and quaff more brewage in the very near future.

• I ran into the Generals’ Brandon Losacker and Nick Mavridoglou at the Demos’ show, which they were digging but Mr. Pitiful’s $7.50 Jack and Coke sent them down to MOTR for the Filament. On my way out, I spotted Magnolia Mountain’s Mark Utley at the bar, who was anticipating the Space Capone show at the Blue Wisp.

• Ran into my Kroger pal and Faint Signal keyboardist/guitarist Paul Roberts on my way to the Midway. If you lament the days when bands like Rush, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Yes were relevant, you owe it to yourself to check out the band’s self-titled debut. They’ve got a serious Prog vibe, but not in a wizardy, disappear-up-their-own-ass way.

• As previously noted, just before hitting Mr. Hanton’s for another brilliant hot dog (they call them handwiches, I call them awesome), I crossed paths with Sean Rhiney at the Midway. His lovely friend Susan offered to buy me a beer, but Sean wound up paying for the trio of Goose Islands and I got the tip. Susan observed that it must be her feminine wiles, to which I responded, “I wish I had boobs. Wait, I do. I just don’t know how to work them.” Perhaps having another beer at this point was not a sound idea. At any rate, we had a nice chat about the old days (Susan could actually claim some ownership in MidPoint; she was dating Bill Donabedian and introduced him to Sean, and the rest is history) and the new days and kids (Susan was trying to recruit Sean into the wild world of parenting; he didn’t seem to be drinking the Kool-Aid), then we hit the night in opposing directions.

• Sohio’s Mark Houk bought me not one but two beers at the Main Event. I believed him to be a prince among men, but a two beer evening is proof beyond proof. I raise my hangover cure to you, my friend.

• No Matthew Fenton sightings on the first night. I tried to e-mail him this week but the message bounced. And I saw his name on the Twitter feed at Below Zero, but it wound up being a message from last year. Classic tweets from MidPoints past? As Mike Breen noted, that is retro at its most contemporary.

• Had a long talk with Sammy Wulfeck about the trials and tribulations of parenting. There is nothing more rewarding or more likely to make you want to stick your hand in the garbage disposal than having children. You can’t intellectualize it, you just jump. No one is ever ready to have kids. You can’t get old enough to be ready. You just do it. And it’s great, and it’s not, which is a capsule description of life. Sammy assured me he’d give me a call if he needed any advice … I fully expect the phone to ring right after they cut the cord.

• As I was walking by the line to get into the Dirty Projectors, I heard what appeared to be an able-bodied Indie Rock man say to his companions, “There’s going to be chairs in there, right?” Really? (In fact, they did.) Look, if you’ve got some physical disability not plainly apparent to the naked (or beer-clouded) eye, then by all means chair up. But you looked hale and hearty to me, so come on, dude, I’m 55 and I manage to stand my fat ass up for about 75% of the MidPoint experience. When I told this story later to CityBeat publisher Dan Bockrath, he smartassedly noted that I was seated while telling this tale. It’s not nice to pimp slap your elders, Dan. It is nice to buy them a beer … I’ll see you tonight.

• Ran into Mike Breen, Fairmount Girl/Culture Queer’s amazing Dana Hamblen, former Mad Anthony bassist Dave Markey and MA’s inimitable Ringo Jones at the Drinkery. Ringo, as he is want to do, put an enormous beer in my hand, which ultimately led me to regale Mike with the strange circumstances of my bygone days of chemical ingestion. He wisely slipped away when I went to the bathroom. That or I hallucinated him into being there in the first place. I’m never quite sure, and it’s happened before.
by Blake Hammond 11.15.2012
Posted In: Reviews, Live Music, Music Video at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Review: Ill Poetic's Synesthesia: The Yellow Movement

Columbus-via-Cincy Hip Hop artist Ill Poetic shows true colors on new EP

I’m not going to pretend I knew what synesthesia meant before listening to former Cincinnati/current Columbus-based Hip Hop artist Ill Poetic’s latest release, Synesthesia: The Yellow Movement. But after diving into the seven-song EP (and looking up the title on dictionary.com), I discovered that synesthesia is something like a music-induced hallucination where the afflicted see music as colors, which is the perfect description the album has on its listeners.

In the short amount of time it takes to get through this EP (just under 24 minutes), Ill Po takes the listener on a funky, soulful trip through his creative process. On the  first track, “Be Cool,” Po is kind of like Samuel L. Jackson in the diner scene of Pulp Fiction (without the Jheri curl), urging everyone from politicians to status rappers to just chill the fuck out and re-birth the cool like Miles Davis.

“Be Cool” then melts into a laid-back Soul cut, the highlight track “On My Way,” which features crooner CJ the Cynic. It’s probably just the producer in him, but Ill Poetic lets CJ take the reins of “On My Way” for almost the first two minutes before he brings his spoken-word lyrical styling to the production, which is reminiscent of early Kanye or Eryka Badu with, dare I say, an added dose of creativity.

The wait for Po's words is well worth it, however, when he spits that “Ghostface is my real estate agent." Again, I really don’t know what this means, but the sheer image of calling Sibcy Cline or Century 21 and getting Ghostface Killah on the other end of the receiver is pure imagery gold.

On the sixth track and first single off the EP, “Gone,” the song cleverly describes Po’s struggle to leave Cincinnati and pursue his dreams (his every body part attempting to convince his brain to dip-out), while the Jazz-style production makes the listener want to roll-up and take a road trip with this song on repeat.

The best part about this album, though, is when Ill says “You don’t have to be cool to listen to this; you don’t have to listen to this to be cool.” So for all the nerds, dorks, dweebs and losers out there looking for new music, have no fear. You don’t have to be cool to listen to this and listening to Ill Poetic won’t make you cool. But it surely couldn’t hurt.

Click below to preview and purchase
Synesthesia: The Yellow Movement. For more on Ill Poetic, visit his official site here.

by Deirdre Kaye 01.17.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 11:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
both staves:wars

Review: The Civil Wars and The Staves in Covington

On any given evening there is a crowd somewhere being forced to sit anxiously through an awful opening act. Then there are nights where concert-goers become wrapped up in the opening act. They become so enthralled that they call out for one more song, not minding that they are delaying the band they paid good money to see and hear.

The Civil Wars' sold-out concert at Madison Theater in Covington on Jan. 14 was one of those rare performances. And The Staves were that kind of opening act.

Read More

by Brian Baker 03.01.2012
Posted In: Reviews, Music Video at 02:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Review: Chuck Prophet - 'Temple Beautiful'

Chuck Prophet has more Rock cred than any one man should have a right to claim. His eight-year run in Green on Red in the ’80s resulted in some of the most influential sounds to emanate from Southern California’s Paisley Underground scene and his subsequent solo catalog has notched an impressive level of critical acclaim over the past 22 years. In that time, the names he’s worked with — as collaborator, producer, hired gun, pal — reads like a who’s who of contemporary musical accomplishment: Warren Zevon, Aimee Mann, Jim Dickinson, Lucinda Williams, Jonathan Richman, Kelly Willis, Jules Shear, Alejandro Escovedo and a good many more lesser but no less important lights.

Prophet’s recent work has been some of his most viscerally satisfying, beginning with 2007’s wide-ranging Soap and Water, his 2008 collaboration with Escovedo on his Real Animal album, and Prophet’s 2009 political Rock statement, ¡Let Freedom Ring! For his latest solo jaunt, Temple Beautiful, Prophet maintained a healthy power level while injecting a concept into the proceedings, namely making every song on Temple Beautiful about his longtime San Francisco home.

The album springs to life with “Play That Song Again,” a bouncy slice of ’70s Pop/Rock, followed by “Castro Halloween,” an insistent Pop anthem with the ring of the casual greatness of George Harrison’s best solo work and the bluster it would have had if he’d ever installed Tom Petty behind the glass to produce it. The title track, a tribute to the Punk club that occupied the space once held by Jim Jones’ People’s Temple before they decamped to their infamous digs in Guyana, is a blaring blast of Rock and Soul that pounds like The Ramones on a couple of bottles of cough syrup and swings like T. Rex with more garage and less glam, “Willie Mays is Up at Bat” sounds like Warren Zevon channeling Bob Dylan circa “Watching the River Flow,” and “I Felt Like Jesus” swaggers and nods with Surf Rock reverb and Roots Rock twang.

Five years ago, Chuck Prophet was trying to decide if he had anything left to say in a musical context, but Temple Beautiful finds him eleven albums deep in his solo career and sounding as energized and inspired as he was when he dropped his debut back in 1990; long may he do this, or any other damn thing his infinitely talented mind can conceive in a studio.

by Brian Baker 09.27.2014

MPMF 2014 Day 1: The First Night of the Rest of the Weekend

The first night of MidPoint is like a lot of firsts; first date, first kiss, first sex, first beer, first rectal exam by a hot proctologist. Hey, you have your firsts, I have mine. Anyway, MidPoint Thursday is always a magical time of reconnecting with old friends, making a few new ones along the way and experiencing an almost breathtaking amount of incredible music of every conceivable variety. 2014's version of that particular passion play lived up to and exceeded every expectation.

First up was a trip to the MidPoint Midway to witness the return of the mighty Pike 27. The band's late '90s/early '00s run included at least one EP and a great full-length in Falling Down Hard, but frontman Dave Purcell's shift into academia on the teaching side signaled the band's demise. Although Purcell's professorship at Kent State precluded him from actual band activities, he never stopped writing songs, and when he fortuitously returned to Cincinnati last year, he had an ass-pocket full of new material that suggested new horizons and possibilities. Purcell and original bassist Sean Rhiney (veteran and current member of any number of high profile bands and the co-founder of our MidPoint feast) resurrected Pike 27 with guitarist/local hero Mike Fair and drummer-and-more Dave Killen. 

This new iteration of Pike 27 is a powerhouse of scorching guitar, earthmoving bass and jackhammer drumming, and while there are vestiges of the band's Roots Rock history, everyone's balls are definitely within the vicinity of some wall or other and medal is being pedalled with controlled abandon. Start to stop, Pike 27 careened from song to song with the visceral intensity of The Old 97s and dashes of Alejandro Escovedo and Grant Lee Buffalo at their delicately nuanced and head-kicked obvious best. This seems to be a fertile period for long dormant bands to renew themselves and that can always be a problematic situation, but Pike 27 is clear evidence that having the right motivation to return can evolve into a stunning and most welcomed result.

On the heels of Pike 27's energetic and fabulous opening set at the Midway came the return of our beloved Black Owls, a well-documented force of nature in their own right. Pre-show, frontman David Butler promised that the Owls' set would be populated with nothing but new material with very few exceptions, and he was good to his word. Other than their recently installed cover of Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into the Fire" and set closer "Glorious in Black," from their 2010 sophomore album June '71, the oldest songs in the Owls' incendiary set were "Rook" and "Gasoline," the two songs from their most recent single. Everything else that followed an invocation from the inimitable King Slice was brand new and largely untested Owls material, perhaps all of which will be taken into Ultrasuede at the end of November in anticipation of a new album. It made for a set that crackled with energy and a certain ramshackle giddiness as the band roared through material that hasn't quite solidified. Butler is quick to credit the rise of guitarist Brandon Losacker's songwriting profile as the reason for the Black Owls' straightforward Rock shift and sudden prolific streak, but I'd be just as quick to point out the gelling of new (and perpetually fabulous) bassist Kip Roe, the malleable thunder of drummer Brian Kitzmiller and the continually developing chemical bond between Butler and longtime musical cohort Ed Shuttleworth as equal parts of the Owls' new equation. The band is clearly having an absolute blast with the new songs, and their joy is translating to performances that are pegging the needle past the insane levels the Owls had already established. Cincinnati's Black Owls, as Butler likes to refer to the band, is in the midst of a fertile and potentially explosive period of evolution.

After the Owls' incendiary set, it was a quick stroll over to the Know Theatre to catch the last half of the set from Cincinnati’s Darlene. The trio was firing on all badass cylinders to be sure, blasting out sheets of guitar squall with plenty of melodic counterpoint. A tweet from someone at the show asked the musical question, "Is Darlene the new Sonic Youth?" The answer provided by perpetual smartest-guy-I-know Matthew Fenton was a logical and correct "No." Darlene is a blistering Rock band, and guitarist Janey O'Laney is always teetering on the brink of a shred-fueled fit, with bassist Cuddly D (the infinitely busy Dana Hamblen) and drummer Robby D providing the slinky yet sturdy undercarriage. But the fact is that the trio, at its heart, is a melodic Pop unit. They probably hew closer to Yo La Tengo in their ability to go from pretty to visceral in a half a heartbeat, but Darlene isn't the new anything; they are Darlene, and that's an astonishing accomplishment. Besides, as Matthew rightly pointed out, Darlene may be the best-dressed band on any given night anywhere. Sonic Youth were never known for their sartorial splendor. So there.

After Darlene, it was time to cruise on down to Mr. Pitiful's to check out Steelism, an instrumental quartet from Nashville. If guitar, bass, drums, pedal steel and no vocals sounds like a crashing bore, you'd be half right. There was plenty of crashing; cymbals, sounds and gates, as a human stampede of MidPoint patrons made their way into Mr. Pitiful's to sample Steelism's wares. I know from experience that if a relative unknown doesn't grab a festival crowd in the first couple of songs, the crowd in question will leave fast enough to create a head-exploding vacuum in the area. If anyone left during Steelism's mind-melting set, they were more than offset by the several dozen who drifted in after the start.

Steelism is comprised of British pedal steeler Spencer Cullum Jr., Ohio guitarist Jeremy Fetzer, and a bassist and drummer whose introductions were lost in a crowd frenzy and a muffled mic (well, they weren't mixing for vocals, now were they?), who threw down a mighty and wordless racket, unless you count Cullum's talkbox vocals on the band's spin through The Beatles' "Something." You could call Steelism Surfabilly/Soulicana/Spaghetti Southern or you could just call it bloody good music; after running through a handful of originals from their new full length, 615 to Fame, and their cracking good 7-inch, The Intoxicating Sounds of Pedal Steel and Guitar, and covers of classics by The Ventures and Booker T. and the MGs, Steelism had the packed house at Mr. Pitiful's in the palm of their sweaty hands. At one point, Cullum indicated that the band was going to slow things down, and then offered the crowd a choice between a gentler vibe or "plowing on through." The overwhelming vote was for the latter, with Cullum noting, "No sensitive people here tonight." He certainly got a taste of what plowing through will get you in Cincinnati. Steelism finished up with a roaring take on the James Bond theme, which nearly pushed the frenzied multitude into religious conversion. I don't know what that church would be called, but they wouldn't have a choir; no words necessary when Steelism kicks open the doors of the sanctuary.

Then it was a quick jaunt down to The Drinkery to witness the Motor City madness of Flint Eastwood, a quartet of musical insaniacs from my home state to the north. In the studio, Flint Eastwood exhibits a certain heavy fisted subtlety that is charming and dancable in a visceral way. All of the relative nuance that is present on the band's EP, Late Nights in Bolo Ties, is tossed onto a bed of nails and jumped on until it experiences head-to-toe acupuncture in its live presentation. On stage, Flint Eastwood buries every needle in the red, thrashes about like lunatics after a napalm shower and entertains their audience at metaphorical knife point. Frontwoman Jax Anderson cajoled the crowd at The Drinkery to get involved in the show and when she got what she felt was a half-hearted response, she shrieked, "Nobody's too cool to have fun!" and put us through our paces like a Marine drill instructor on meth. She had us shouting then whispering "na na na"s, got us kneeling on The Drinkery's dance floor and then lifted us up like a demented preacher speaking in Rock & Roll tongues. All the while, the band was grinding out a gritty groove that sounded (and resembled) a full arena assault by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was draining and glorious and probably just another full-throttle 20-mile Rock & Roll hike for Flint Eastwood; it's pretty obvious these guys have one gear and it's "hellbent for bent hell." That's the Detroit method, bitches. Get used to it, get over it, get on it.

I reluctantly ducked out of Flint Eastwood's last two songs to hotfoot it down to MOTR for the remainder of Nikki Lane's set. Lane is a Country shitkicker with a decidedly different take on the genre, opting for a certain songwriting traditionalism while soundtracking it with a band that sparks and smokes with Roots Rock intensity and abandon and adopting a persona that suggests Wanda Jackson's pot-smoking, foul-mouthed twat of a granddaughter. Lane and the Thunder (she admitted the jury was still out on the name) roared through their MOTR set with equal parts ferocity and humor, as Lane used the space between songs to candidly muse about the intention of each one. "This is a love song," she noted appropriately prior to "Want My Heart Back," extending the title to, "I want my fucking heart back," and later opened "Sleep with a Stranger" with "This is a song about tonight, when you'll sleep with someone you don't know." Later, she dropped this indelicate observation: "This one's about my best friend. Sometimes she's a cunt, and I don't like that word, but she is. And when you're a cunt and your best friend is a songwriter, well, you get the short end of the stick."

Taylor Swift has written a lot of songs about the people in her life and I'm guessing she hasn't gotten around to any of her cunt friends yet.

Towards the end of her blistering and profanely hilarious set, Lane said, "We've got a couple more, then we'll pretend to go away, and come back for a couple more." She loves her covers as well; she hauled out a great take on The Byrds' "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," a loping yet intense version of Waylon Jennings' "Waymore Blues," and finished her encore with a blazing spin through a Tom Petty cover, not an old catalog chestnut but "Saving Grace" from the new album, a song that blends Petty's classicism with his well-earned experience. Lane clearly identifies with that stance, as she channels all of her Country influences through a blazing Rock filter, creating a sound that identifies with the past but erupts with white hot emotion in the here and now.


• To begin, a clarification for anyone who may attempt to buy me a brewski during MidPoint: For largely legal reasons, the Beer Buying Hall of Foam has been forced into a strike shortened year in 2014. I salute all who have so generously provided the nectar of the gods to a poverty stricken scribe on an annual basis and I promise that the commissioner will reinstate all practices and records next year, but for now, the Hall is strangely dark and quiet.

• In stark contrast to the Midway, which was lit up like a Kansas City whorehouse. Not that there were whores, but lots of lights. Boy, writing was easier with the Hall of Foam open. At any rate, within moments of arrival, I crossed paths with singer/songwriter par excellence Mark Utley and pianist to the stars Ricky Nye, who is in the throes of planning the upcoming Blues & Boogie Piano Summit, coming to the Southgate House Revival on November 7 and 8. After a quick chat, I headed to Mr. Hanton's for a heartstopping dog (not for health reasons but because it's so good … man, 2015 can't get here fast enough), choosing the Smokin' Hot Chick; my bill was cheerfully picked up by the always incredible Wes Pence of The Ready Stance, who joined me with a Smokehouse of his own. Can a Hot Dog Buying Hall of Fame be far behind?

• From there, the Midway was a blur of humanity. CityBeat photographer and local music denizen Jesse Fox took a shot of me and Class X Radio host/local music aficionado/empresario Eddy Mullet, which apparently didn't damage her equipment in any significant way. In sort order, I was greeted by King Slice, his pal Justin, the always ebullient and sometimes menacing Venomous Valdez, the entire Broadway cast of the Black Owls, Paul Roberts, Big Jim and Stu (sans his I'm Stu hat, apparently confident in my recognition skills at this juncture), and Jet Lab guitarist Nick Barrows and his wife Robin. At some point in the Midway proceedings, I spotted the elusive and long-absent Matthew Fenton, along with Eric Appleby and Tricia Suit, motoring out of the Midway zone. They were gone before I could track them down (they must have see me coming, damn them), but when I mentioned the sighting to Nick, he said they were headed to the Chromeo set and would be back for the Black Owls.

• In the meantime, Owls guitarist Brandon Losacker took a mob of us (Owls frontman David Butler, Venomous, Slice, Justin and myself) to see his new conversion van, a behemoth from a bygone era. Cooler in the console, heated/cooled cupholders, TV, retractable bed, wood grain dash panel and a hundred other crazy features that makes it essentially a Swiss Army van. Incredible doesn't begin to describe it.

• Back at the Midway — a brilliant set up that, as the astute and ever fabulous Venomous Valdez noted, will have to undergo some changes next year with the advent of the rapidly progressing streetcar system — Sean Rhiney, Dave Purcell and Dave's wife Amy were hanging around to watch the Black Owls tear shit up. My Class X compatriot Eddy was back to witness the Owls' splendor, and at some point in the proceedings, my boss Mike Breen appeared like a magician's assistant. Breen sightings at MidPoint are like spotting nearly extinct species in the wild, so it's always great to know that he's an actual warm human being and not some weird holographic editorbot. (Editor’s note: I am both.)

• Over at the Darlene show, I caught up with the always effusive and entertaining Mr. Fenton, along with Eric and Tricia. They were planning a trip down to the Taft to catch the Ghost Wolves and Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, both of which I dearly wanted to see but my recently bum left leg, the long walk and the chance that the St. Paul and the Broken Bones show would sell out the venue kept me from tagging along. On the way to Steelism, three guys on the sidewalk ahead of me confirmed that the show had gone clean and there was little chance of entry. The gimp makes a good decision every now and again.

• Also at the Darlene show was Leyla Shokoohe, former CityBeat intern, current CityBeat freelancer and now Marketing Manager for the Cincinnati Symphony & Pops Orchestra. You couldn't script a lovelier or more personable human being than Leyla, and yet she is savvy beyond her lack of calendars. She's a marvel and the CSO should count themselves lucky to be the recipient of her passion and skill.

• Over at Steelism, I ran into fellow scribes Steve Rosen and Chris Varias. I've known Steve for quite awhile through CityBeat and we've talked music at many a holiday party/CityBeat event, and I've read Chris' excellent work in The Enquirer for many years but had never had the pleasure of meeting him until Steve's introduction at Mr. Pitiful's. I had interviewed Matthew and Eleanor Freidberger for a Fiery Furnaces story several years back and when they found out I was in Cincinnati, they asked if I knew Chris, which I did simply by reputation. It turned out that they had grown up together in a Chicago suburb. An unpaintable small world, indeed.

• Paul Roberts was digging the confrontational magnificence and sonic head blast of Flint Eastwood; he stuck around for the end, while I headed to the Nikki Lane gig, where Big Jim and Stu were ensconced at the bar. Paul was right behind as soon as Flint Eastwood dismissed him for the evening. Head CityBeat honcho and perpetual suds buyer Dan Bockrath had bought me an invisible beer at Steelism, which I downed with dry gusto, but he showed up at Nikki Lane and put a real tonic water and lime in my hand, which was much appreciated. I could pretend there was gin in there, and that somehow made everything okay.

• As we left MOTR, Sir Bockrath and squire Dan McCabe, the architect of our annual MidPoint joy, were out front and the boss upbraided me with a casual, "You'll have your blog copy in by 7 a.m., right?" Yeah, let's say that, I answered, muttering to Paul and Stu, it'll be 7 a.m. somewhere. The lateness of this posting will tell you that deadline came and went and came and went again. I have a theory that I'm better at writing when I'm slightly hungover because I just want to get it done so I can take an aspirin and lay down. Not happening this year. I guess I could still take the aspirin, for old times sake.

by P.F. Wilson 05.06.2011
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

REVIEW: All Time Low at Bogart's

Putting a tour together that includes three opening acts is a daunting challenge, but one All Time Low has risen to. When the popular Pop Punk band brought its tour to Cincinnati's Bogart's on April 30, all four bands on the bill definitely had their supporters, but the fans seemed to enjoy each of the other acts, as well. Of course everyone was amped to see All Time Low. The group's much anticipated major label debut Dirty Work was pushed back until June, which meant "The Dirty Work Tour" was a rallying call for ATL fans to get pumped for the forthcoming release so they'll save up their allowance money for the big launch date.

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by Mike Breen 05.02.2013
Posted In: Local Music, Live Music, Reviews at 11:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tracy Walker Releases First Album in 10 Years

Veteran Cincinnati singer/songwriter presents "listening party" tonight in Oakley

Tracy Walker has been such a consistently popular presence on the live music scene, it’s hard to believe the Cincinnati singer/songwriter hasn’t put out a new release in a decade. Ten years after her excellent sophomore album, All This Time, Walker finally entered the studio with super-producer Erwin Musper and, now, she is ready to start celebrating her third full-length release, Coetaneous Vibrations. The album is available for download now through Walker's site here (under the "Music" tab) or you can order a hard-copy CD from CD Baby here.

Walker has the kind of voice and writing talent that just feels natural, so recording her might seem like an easy job. But Musper, as a really good producer should, truly pulls a lot out of Walker, showing her to be an even more dynamic artist and performer. Previously, Walker’s recorded material was always hard to describe, with elements of Folk, Pop, Soul and Rock dancing together for her own singular style.

But on Vibrations, Musper fleshes out many of the tracks with a classic Soul/R&B vibe, enlisting some top local players to create the crisp musical backdrop to Walker’s spine-chilling vocals and songs (a handful of which were re-recordings from prior releases).

Opening track “All My Life” has the vintage punch of seminal Soul artists from the ’60s and ’70s (and many of today’s revivalists), complete with a punctuating horn section, while the ballad “Blue” drips with emotion over a slow-burning Blues groove and tracks like “Hard Way” and “Brand New Life” are more upbeat and Pop/Rock-like, suitable for radio airplay.

Tonight at 6 p.m., Walker will host an album release/listening party at The Art of Entertaining (2019 Madison Ave., Oakley). The event will include snacks, wine, beer and live acoustic music from Walker. Tickets are $30. Seating is limited; for reservations, call 513-871-5170. You can also catch Walker live around town in the coming weeks. Visit tracywalker.com for local dates and more info on Coetaneous Vibrations.

Here's the new album's lead-off track, "All My Life," which appeared in an earlier form on Walker's 1998 solo debut, Naked:

by Mike Breen 10.25.2011
Posted In: Local Music, Music News, Reviews at 04:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Review: Mack West's "The Goodnight Trail"

 When veteran Cincinnati musician Zach Mechlem launched his latest project, Mack West, a few years ago, he didn’t just form a new band — he created a new genre. Calling the band’s sound “AltWestern” to describe the dusty, often cinematic quality of its modern American Roots music, Mack West released its self-titled debut two years ago to much acclaim and, given the evocative, visceral nature of the songs, attention from the world of music licensing. Tracks from the album were used on various promo spots and TV shows, including History Channel’s American Pickers

Going into recording the follow-up, Mechlem and original members Will Campbell (bass) and Greg Slone (drums) bolstered their membership, adding guitarist (and album co-producer) Steve Wethington on guitar and violinist Annette Christianson. While the mood and spirit of the debut is still intact on the resulting album, The Goodnight Trail, Mack West’s sophomore effort doesn’t exactly expand on the trademark elements

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by Iain McDavid 10.05.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews, Local Music at 01:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

REVIEW: The National at Emery Theatre

Cincinnati, for me, has always been contradictory and confusing. After living here for so long I’m still ambivalent as to how I feel about it. The National certainly pushed me in the more positive direction with their show Oct. 4 at Emery Theatre. The Cincy-bred band summoned fans with a free show in support of President Obama and filled the historic venue, front to back.

The National’s set was evidently well thought-out, opening with the powerful "Mistaken for Strangers," with the vocals and drums seemingly soaring through the theater.  If you haven’t had a chance to catch a show at Emery Theatre (my first experience was last week), you should certainly make that a priority. The theater, coupled with a band like the National, truly makes for an unforgettable experience. The venue alone creates a sense of intimacy between audience and act, something that is usually sacrificed to see your favorite bands.

From the very start of the set, the audience was completely engaged with the boys on stage, bursting into cheers and applause at the every songs beginning and end (and even during songs at times). The only drawback for me was the fact that Matt Berninger would simply not let me forget that the show was political. It seemed as if in between every song some sort of Democratic rhetoric (not that the other side’s rhetorical strategies are any better) was interjected.  Something about the importance of voting, or how privileged we are, which is somewhat obnoxious at that point. It’s highly doubtful that anybody was suddenly converted by The National, and even more so that anyone in attendance last night was slightest bit unsure about their vote.

I suppose that’s mostly my fault, though — I should expect such from a campaign concert.

All that aside, the audience was left in a state of bliss by the concert's end, as The National closed out their set with an unplugged version "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." Earlier in the night, I had spoken to a friend who had said the venue was acoustically pure, meaning that even without any sort of amplification, the sound would still resonate throughout the entire theater — and he couldn’t be more right. The sound was not hindered in any way (I was a few rows back) and it carried through the historic site as if I was the only one there. The closer truly unified the entire show into a ecstatic experience that I will certainly not forget. 

Click here for more photos from the concert.

by Brian Baker 09.27.2013
sarah laubacher_shuggie

MPMF Day 1: The Best Thursday Night Ever?

Last night was a glorious night for music and glorious music was made. Combinations don't get much better than that. Things didn't start so well, though; a quick e-mail on Wednesday revealed that, for a variety of reasons, my friend Matthew Fenton wouldn't be making his annual pilgrimage from Chicago to our fair festival. And then the drive down I-75 was infuriatingly stop-and-go for no apparent reason, which had me grinding my teeth all the way downtown.

Every molecule of that dour energy was dissipated with the first show of the night as Cody ChesnuTT hit the Washington Park stage like a hydrogen bomb of positive vibration. 

ChesnuTT's MidPoint appearance was also his Cincinnati debut and the sizable crowd that showed up to witness it was completely enthralled with his potent blend of Neo Soul, Reggae, Jazz and Pop.

ChesnuTT doesn't dress the part of Soul crooner; graphic T-shirt covered in cassettes, red cardigan, black sweats and an army helmet. The helmet is an odd sartorial choice, but ChesnuTT has explained that he's "fighting to keep the soul alive." Not the musical genre, but the spiritual essence at the center of all human beings. That's a pretty big mission for a singer/songwriter to assign himself, but last night's performance proved that ChesnuTT is more than up to the task. 

Drawing strictly from last year's gorgeous Landing on a Hundred (he no longer does any songs from 2002's The Headphone Masterpiece, feeling that he's moved beyond the events in his life that inspired that album), ChesnuTT blew any trace of negativity into the stratosphere and replaced it with a rock-solid groove (courtesy of his absolutely stellar band) and a message of pure love. Not Barry White let's-ease-them-panties-down love, but love of self, love of mankind, love of life, which should ultimately lead to unconditional love for one other person.

Not that ChesnuTT doesn't recognize the world's dysfunction. In his brilliant "Everybody's Brother," he sings, "I used to smoke crack back in the day/I used to gamble rent money and lose/I used to dog nice ladies, used to swindle friends/But now I'm teaching kids in Sunday school and I'm not turning back." On the album, the song thumps along on a hearty Funk beat, but on stage, ChesnuTT delivers that opening verse with a sermon-like intonation, and the band swells around him with Gospel fervor and Soul intensity.

No matter what vibe ChesnuTT is channeling at any particular point in the show, he is a master showman, imploring the audience to join him, engaging them to become an integral part of the proceedings. And when he sings, when he digs deep into his creative core and unleashes his soul though his vocal cords, sweet mother of all that's holy, he sounds like the reincarnation of Marvin Gaye, the little brother that Stevie Wonder didn't know he had and the lost Marley sibling all rolled into one otherworldly package. Anyone who was not smiling at the end of Cody ChesnuTT's performance last night is damaged beyond the help of therapy and psychoactive drugs. Please come back to see us again soon, Cody. If Foxygen's slot is still open, Saturday night would be just fine. (Editor’s note: Cincy’s fantastic Wussy has claimed Foxygen’s Washington Park slot tomorrow.)

After Cody ChesnuTT's splendorous opening, it was Blues/Rock legend Shuggie Otis' turn to lead the Washington Park congregation, which he did in scorching style. Otis was barely in his teens when he started playing guitar with his father, R&B icon Johnny Otis, ultimately leading to session work with Al Kooper and Frank Zappa when he was just 16, and his 1970 debut solo album, Here Comes Shuggie Otis, at 17. And while Shuggie has laid low for long stretches in his nearly 50-year career, his current resurgence is sweet vindication for those periods when an indifferent music industry ignored his virtuosic brilliance, forcing Shuggie to turn away from the industry.

Shuggie's set started a little hesitantly as he acclimated to the stage set-up; at one point, he jokingly asked, "Can somebody show me how to work this shit?" Somebody did and he was off, peeling off incendiary riffs and razor sharp runs with a casual intensity. The set's sole slow spot was a new song called "Special," that sounded like Shuggie copying the numerous Pop artists who have copied him, but he followed it with a blazing version of "Me and My Woman" that erupted from the stage like a volcano and oozed through the assembled multitude with the heat and inevitability of the resultant lava flow. Once he and his stellar band got going, Shuggie Otis provided a transcendent moment in MidPoint history, the redemptive return of an astonishing talent that should never have gone away in the first place.

Only one thing could have dragged me away from the hair-raising, slack-jawed wonder of Shuggie Otis, and that's the triumphant return of Cincinnati’s Mad Anthony. Since the July van accident that could have been the band's literal epitaph, drummer Marc Sherlock was restrained by a neck brace and an order against all relatively physical activity. Outside of a little rhythmic tapping to keep his chops up, Sherlock was virtually drumless for three months, while guitarists Ringo Jones and Adam Flaig hit the road for some acoustic dates to keep the rent money coming, then set off for its first cross-country tour, which culminated with last night’s homecoming.

And so Mad Anthony took the triangular stage at The Drinkery, their first show with their full current lineup since the accident that nearly cost them everything. Jones and Flaig brought plenty of their patented frenzy to their acoustic gigs, but they've clearly missed their hypertalented timekeeper, which was evident from the visceral fury that permeated every note of last night's show. Sherlock couldn't have looked any happier; with every roll, every cymbal crash, every massive kick, his smile was a permanent fixture, and Jones and Flaig responded with a tumultuous joy that was a palpable presence in the room.

At a normal Mad Anthony show, the trio storms into an audience's frontal lobe with incomprehensible power. If The Stooges ate Black Sabbath and shit out three perfectly formed babies the next day that grew up and absorbed Punk, Pop and Rock influences like a bar towel, then wrung out those influences into shot glasses and downed them one liquor/beer/sweat/adrenaline slug, that would be Mad Anthony. Last night's return to The Drinkery was all that amplified to the third power. Naturally, they finished with "We Love This Fucking City." Naturally, this fucking city loves Mad Anthony. It's worked out so far.

After the major nut-kick of Mad Anthony, I tooled down to Arnold's to catch some Beatlesque sweetness courtesy of Canada’s The Shilohs. They were really quite good, and I definitely wanted to hear more of them, but they seemed intent on a mid-tempo set in the key of "If I Fell," and I wasn't quite in the mood for that. So I headed back to The Drinkery to catch locals Frontier Folk Nebraska's set.

After Mad Anthony's blistering presentation, I chatted up Kelly Thomas for a few minutes outside The Drinkery, and she had noted that Frontier Folk Nebraska was veering in a decidedly more electric direction, rather a shift from their traditional acoustic roots. When The Shilos didn't pan out for me, I decided to witness FFN's electric evolution for myself. Good decision.

The new FFN is plugged in and ready to whip any ass in the house. Imagine a world where The Ass Ponys channel Crazy Horse and the Bottle Rockets and Uncle Tupelo and you'll be close to the barely restrained muscle emanating from the new Frontier Folk Nebraska. All of this was evident on the band's eponymous 2011 album, but it's magnified to an incredible scale in the live setting. FFN recently lost founding bassist Steve Oder to a graduate program, which could have seriously altered the band's chemistry, but new bassist Matthew McCormick seems to have settled in nicely, alternating between a pulsing beat and runs that emulate lead solos, forming a slinky rhythm section with drummer Nathan Wagner. Meanwhile, frontman Michael Hensley and Travis Talbert create a tandem guitar attack that perfectly balances nuance and power. I liked where FFN was and I love where they are.

After FFN, I found my car and took a drive down to the Mainstay to catch London's blazing Rock power trio Leogun. Vocalist/guitarist Tommy Smith is a revelation, a genetic hybrid of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page in one electrified body, wringing sounds from his guitar that invoke all the greatest '70s translators of the Blues while maintaining a firm stance in the 21st century. Anchored by the thunderous rhythm section of bassist Matt Johnson and drummer Mike Lloyd, as slippery and as solid as Entwistle and Moon, Leogun swaggers and swings with retro inspiration and contemporary energy. They peeled through a set filled with tracks from their phenomenal debut, By the Reins, but one of the highlights was their completely unexpected and timber-rattling take on Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie." Not sure when they'll be back, but I'll be there when they return.


• Music editor Mike Breen informed me that publisher Dan Bockrath was going to be making with the beers this year, but I had no idea he would begin his hop blitzkrieg so quickly and voluminously. Dan found me in the crowd at the start of Cody ChesnuTT's set and put a beer in my hand immediately. And just as I finished that first one, Dan reappeared at my side with yet another, claiming, "I feel so good I had to double down." After this MidPoint, I may be able to build a new wing onto the Beer Buying Hall of Fame with Dan's empties alone. You are a god that walks among men, Dan Bockrath, and I hope to see you every night this weekend.

• During Cody's lovely and moving "Love is More Than a Wedding Day," he announced that it might be a good time to dance with the one you love. I looked at Dan, Dan looked at me, but we dismissed the idea. It is a testament to Cody's soulful presentation that I actually considered it, though.

• Years ago, my good buddy Troy paid me the ultimate compliment when he spotted me at a show. He clapped me on the shoulder and said, "I know I'm at the right show when you're at it." The very same could be said for the ubiquitous King Slice. His appearance at a show is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Follow him and see where he goes next. That's where the party will likely be the best.

• Also ran into Magnolia Mountain's Mark Utley, who's in the teeth of planning the next Music for the Mountains benefit show. The second MFTM disc is chock full of traditional goodness and the album and the concert will raise funds to help eliminate the mining practice of mountaintop removal. As Mark noted, "Nature gives women the ability to forget about the pain of childbirth so they'll ready to do it again. That's how it was for me with this concert." The pain is always worth it, man (says the guy who's not feeling the pain) … good luck and God speed.

• And on my way out of Shuggie Otis, I chanced upon Jim Blase, co-owner of Shake It Records and quite simply one of the finest human beings I've had the pleasure to and good fortune to know.

• Lots of folks turned out for Mad Anthony's return, including Kelly Thomas, who was an architect of two benefit shows to help the boys get back on their feet (and who is actually collaborating with the band on some new songs, which should be awesome). Also in attendance was former MA bassist Dave Markey, and his ebullient mom, who may have been the biggest fan in the room; I'm pretty sure she knew the words to every song. It was a beautiful thing.

• Jim Blase was also hanging out at the Frontier Folk Nebraska show, obviously showing support for Travis, who still puts in some time behind the Shake It counter. I was about to head over to say hello again but ran into old friend Danny Rupe, who I never get to see anymore except at random and all to infrequent MidPoint shows. He put my digits and e-mail add into his Jetsons phone, so maybe I'll hear from him with a little more timeliness now.

• Slice, The Black Owls' Brandon Losacker, Dave Markey and Ringo Jones were all hanging at the Leogun extravaganza. I was looking for my Class X compatriot Eddy Mullet, who had designs on the show, but I didn't see him so his plans must have changed. God, I hope it wasn't a kidney stone; that's what derailed his Bunbury experience. After the show, I had a quick chat with Tommy and Matt from the band as they were packing up to go, and then Ringo and I closed the Mainstay, as he regaled me with tales of Mad Anthony, and promises that their new material is the best they've ever done. I know they'll prove it when the time comes.