Cincinnati's Heartless Bastards are gearing up for some heavy promotion for their third album, The Mountain, due from Fat Possum Records on Feb. 3. Along with a non-stop string of tour dates with The Black Keys, Gaslight Anthem and Andrew Bird, the group has a scheduled appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman on Feb. 10.
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.
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.
I hate festivals. I hate that they’re always at the peak of a heat wave or in the middle of a tornado warning. I hate that 90 percent of festival goers don’t understand the concept of deodorant. I hate the rushing around to multiple stages and the trying to decide who you like best when two awesome bands are both playing at 6 p.m I hate that my friends hate festivals, too, and always refuse to go with me. And I really hate the lack of cold beverages.
And yet Saturday afternoon found me in the middle of the crowd at Bunbury falling hopelessly in love with some band called “Imagine Dragons.”
It began during the second song I heard after arriving late to the Bud Light Stage. The lead singer, Dan Reynolds, bounced from one end of the stage to the other. The crowd around me sang along to songs I’d only heard once before, throwing their hands above their heads, voices to the sky and adoration at the stage. They practically worshiped a guy I’d only seen once in a small picture on Wikipedia. My love deepened when Reynolds spoke with absolute sincerity about how much it meant to see so many people singing along to their songs. Imagine Dragons hadn’t even performed in Cincinnati until their stop at Bunbury.
Then, as it often does, my heart melted at the sound of motorcycle boots and a palm on the chest as they thumped out a beat. Finally, my mug o’ love filled with melt-y heart goo, overflowed when the drummer, Daniel Platzman, flung himself off the stage after their set and bequeathed drumsticks to his adoring fans. These guys were perfect. Their music was made for screaming and dancing and the band members seemed so genuine.Nothing gets to me faster than a shaggy-haired dude saying a heartfelt “thank you” to his fans.
Thirty minutes into my time at Bunbury and I was madly in love.
It happens all the time, my falling in love at festivals In 1998, it was Hanson at a radio station festival in Miami. In 2001, it was a boy named Justin at the Buzz Bake Sale. Last year, it was The David Mayfield Parade at Appalachian Uprising and Avett Brothers at Memphis in May. This year I fell in love with Ben Howard at Bonnaroo and Imagine Dragons at Bunbury.
That feeling you get when you realize you’ve happened upon something amazing is pretty rare. Festivals, though, are like breeding grounds for that sensation. I’m certain that while music fans think festivals exist so they can see all their favorite bands at once, their organizers think festivals exist only for the purpose of making people gain new favorite bands.
Study any festival schedule and you’ll see what I mean. At some point during the day there will be about an hour of time where there will be three bands playing and you won’t have heard of any of them. You’ll call that, “dinner time.” However, as you wander along, looking for the perfect supper, you’ll also shuffle past three stages of random music. Almost inevitably the sound from of those stages will catch your attention and pull you across the grass to the barricade. Forty-five minutes later, you’re buying the band’s EP and mass texting your friends to tell them to check out this new band you just heard.
On Saturday I saw, among others, Manchester Orchestra, Gaslight Anthem and Weezer. (Weezer!) They were awesome, just as I’d expected. I flew from stage to stage, trying to catch as much of everything as possible. But the show that held my attention for the longest time was on the smaller stage and it lured me in while I was looking around for something to drink other than beer. The performance I’ll remember years from now won’t be Weezer, whom I’ve waited so long to see. It will be Imagine Dragons and it will be a memory of yet another time I fell in love.
In the words of James Hetfield (Metallica, y’all), “Nothing else matters.”
However, I’m supposed to report on the entire festival. So, here’s how the rest of my evening went something like this: I had Taco Azul for dinner and they were yummy beyond belief. I left for a bit to make my first ever walk across the Purple People Bridge to score photos of the fest from afar and I don’t regret that decision.
I spent a very long time wandering from one end of the park to the other in search of cold soda/pop, found none and I spent a hot second hoping that my poor editor thought to bring his Diet Pepsi from home. So, I bought a warm beer and immediately regretted that decision. I refused to use the porta-potties. I wandered by a DJed stage and considered how much better that section would be if it were more like Bonnaroo’s Silent Disco where everyone listened to music through headphones instead. Also, I briefly questioned the logic of scheduling the festival on the same weekend as a Reds game and the World Choir Games.
It was an awesome day. Fell in love, lost five pounds from sweating so much, and saw (here it comes, again) Weezer! And you know what else? I still don’t smell like a hobo.
As people were busy contemplating the chance of the original Guns N’ Roses reteaming for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction early next year, news came down that a Cincinnati Entertainment Awards "Hall of Fame" band (and one beloved, influential and respected worldwide) will definitely be reuniting in 2012. The Afghan Whigs will play their first show in 13 years on May 27, 2012, in London for the All Tomorrow's Parties festival offshoot, I'll Be Your Mirror. The band will also perform a headlining show at I'll Be Your Mirror USA 2012, playing the fest Sept. 22 in Asbury Park, NJ. Tickets go on sale in early January. On the downside (for Ohio Rock fans), the Whigs replace Guided By Voices at the September show; according to the IBYM release, GBV has broken up (again) and canceled all 2012 dates (despite being on track to release an album of new material early next year). Check out the full press release below. UPDATE: GBV, according to their publicists, have NOT broken up (again); they have merely canceled a few shows.
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.