Ahhhh, MidPoint! I look forward to it every year. September, for this lady, holds promise, romance, intrigue and MPMF. I started my MPMF.13 off right: grabbed a baller parking spot right after work in front of Coffee Emporium, grabbed a baller iced Americano and grabbed my (you thought I was going to say baller? How presumptuous) press pass. I think I did say out loud to myself: Let's GOOOO.
The first band I wanted to see was my pal Molly Sullivan at 8:15 p.m. at Japp's Annex. I had some time to kill, so I hung out on the Midway. Sidewalk Chalk was still grooving; they've got a rocking brass section, shimmery drums and soulful singers. I previously saw them on Fountain Square last year as part of the Indie Summer Series, and really enjoyed everything they had to offer. Great fun way to kick off MPMF.
I wandered around the Midway for a bit, checking out the numerous box trucks that comprise the Box Truck Carnival presented by ArtWorks. The Midway itself is pretty awesome, easily accessible and kind of reminds me of a corral for progressively more intoxicated adults. I don't mean that in a derogatory way; I, too, enjoy consuming beer freely in the open on 12th Street. The Box Trucks this year held a lot of potential — I wrote about the Midway for the MPMF Guide in CityBeat a few weeks back, so I was well-briefed on what to expect. Well, kind of.
The first truck I checked out was the Glam Rock Box Truck. Anyone who knows me is aware of the siren call the word "karaoke" holds, so of course I went in.The premise was great (for karaoke nerds like me), but box trucks just don't do karaoke justice, honestly. There are a number of songs to pick from, but not as many karaoke staples as one might expect. And for being called the Glam Rock truck, I didn't really see any Glam Rock hits on the list. The ladies running the truck seemed to be having a good time, though, so I did my best version of "Semi-Charmed Life" and went off to continue leading mine.
I wandered around the Midway some more, stopping in the Short Order Poetry Box Truck, which was 19 kinds of adorable. You step inside the truck, get paired with a stranger who asks you random questions (hi Adam!) and then they'll create a poem, on a typewriter no less, just for you, ready in just about 10 minutes. Mine had a lot of death and blood and dream imagery, just how I like 'em.
I listened to a few minutes of stand-up in the comedy Box Truck before heading to Lucy Blue's. I notoriously put off eating until I'm ravenous, so I decided to carb-up on pizza in preparation for the long night ahead. I met up with friends at Japp's and we ordered drinks and chatted before wandering to the Annex to hear Molly Sullivan.
Every time I see Molly perform, I'm more and more impressed. She's really fleshed her sound out (the addition of friends on the drums and bass is the perfect complement to her singer/guitarist combo), and lots of people are noticing — she recently won the Last Soloist Standing contest at FBs, grand prize being a large cash sum. Molly's a charming vocalist; her voice is flexible and searching, and she's always been good at melancholy intonation. I heard a fresh version of "So It Goes" from the No No Knots days, and some of her newer material had an almost Jewel-when-she-still-had-a-snaggle-tooth quality to it. I really, really dug it. So did a number of other people — quite a dedicated following was there. I'd say Molly Sullivan's first solo show at MPMF was a great success.
I had been planning all week to see Kurt Vile at Grammer's, but there was about half an hour before he was supposed to go on and I ran into my pal Caitlin, who told me the mythical history of Shuggie Otis. I was intrigued, so I walked with her to Washington Park. I still don't know how I feel about the fact that they've moved the stage to the permanent pavilion instead of in front of Music Hall; there's such a grandiosity to playing in front of that gorgeous building that just isn't matched by the pavilion — and I know there are lots of sad Instagram accounts crying right now — but I understand the convenience. We'll see how I feel about it tonight.
Anyway. Shuggie Otis. Skyrocketed to fame by age 21 and receded into the abyss of obscurity? And then he joins David Byrne's label and comes back? Tell me more. Shuggie had a groovy Soul/Funk sound brought to life by a huge backing band, complete with a stellar saxophonist. Glad I caught a few minutes, but I was on a Kurt Vile MISSION, so I started the trek to Liberty Street and Grammer's.
Well, by way of my car. I grabbed a jacket and was headed north, but as I walked by Below Zero Lounge, I heard a voice too great not to stop. If Ryan Adams and Adam Levine and the bearded lead singer from Maps & Atlases had an Asian baby, it would be St. Lenox. He was just plain awesome. I wanted to hang out with him, I wanted him to sing an album of lullabies, I wanted to stay for his whole set, but I'll be damned if I wasn't going to see Kurt Vile.
I didn't see Kurt Vile. Whoever guessed that two paragraphs ago knows that my ominous overtone was poorly done. I got stopped again walking by MOTR, this time by Fort Shame from Columbus, Ohio. I feel like so many times when a woman is a lead singer of a rock outfit, the instinct is to compare her to another female vocalist, but it has to be one who's personality is somehow perceived as similar, or stylistically akin (and I do mean clothes, not just shredding), so I'm not going to compare Fort Shame's Sue Harshe to anyone, because I don't think that's fair and, honestly, it's a little reductive. I'm just going to say that she does credit to anyone singing Rock. And the band had a star saxophonist, which was super fun.
I did hear via Twitter that Kurt Vile sang the word "yeah" for like fifteen minutes at the beginning of his set, so I said it a bunch to myself as I walked back to the Midway to hear Ha Ha Tonka and didn't feel too bad about it.
The first time I saw Ha Ha Tonka was two (or three? who knows) Midpoints ago at The Drinkery. These guys have all gotten hair cuts since then, but they sound even better. They sound like what folky Rock cut with a raucous night of varying emotions that ends with hanging out with friends and beer staring at the river would sound like. You know the kind of night I'm talking about. They're just the tops. Tight and talented musicality and great stage presence is only topped by their impeccable four-part harmony. Just magnetic. Second or third time's the charm, gentlemen.
I finished my night seeing Bleached at the Know Theatre, which last year held all the buzz bands I wished I'd been able to get inside and see (something about being "at capacity"), and I wasn't disappointed. Punk Rock girls with a guy drummer. Ramones cover. Misfits cover. I thoroughly enjoyed my attempt at head-banging AND the fact that these girls didn't try too hard. I feel like a lot of Punk-esque bands nowadays are all like "I AM PUNK! LOOK, SEE, I AM!" but Bleached was more like, "Fuck Punk. We're just Bleached." Own it, dudes.
And then I walked back to my car and went home and passed right the heck out. I'll see ya at MPMF for round two tonight.
This holiday weekend is shaping up to be a scorcher, so be sure to add sweatbands to your “things to bring to Taste of Cincinnati” list (along with your Tums and earplugs). Below are some local music suggestions for Sunday's Taste.
Lollapalooza Day 2 dawned bright and early — I woke up a tad late, having burned the midnight oil too long the night before.
Rule No. 2 of Lollapalooza: Get enough sleep. Always. Especially if you’ll be walking every-the-heck-where.
I had been invited to an after-party Friday night, sponsored by Belvedere Vodka, at the W Chicago City Center downtown. I went in my sweaty Lolla regalia, and was rewarded with performances by Two Door Cinema Club and Fitz and the Tantrums.
Machine Head has given us six studio albums with the seventh upcoming in September called Unto the Locusts (listen to the first single, "Locust," below). The band has headlined every Metal festival across the country and has been inspiring up and coming Metal bands for years. CityBeat caught up with lead singer Robb Flynn to preview this week’s Mayhem Festival, which hits Riverbend this Wednesday. Flynn discussed the path that Machine Head has taken to get to its place among Metal's elite, the group's craziest fans and the band's new album.
Duke Energy Center isn’t the first place that comes to mind when the words “sacred space” are uttered, but evidently God don’t give a damn (sorry — dang) about the venue, just so long as you’re singin’, praisin’ and believin’. The big building formerly known as the Convention Center is the site of the 42nd Annual Gospel Music Workshop of America National Convention.
That's a fair but lacking description of the festival, but
only because the programming isn't bounded by much other than the
desire to explore. MusicNOW has showcased numerous flavors of World
music, often new avant Chamber/Classical works, a "who's who" of the top
names in "Indie" music (Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, The National, Bon
Iver, Andrew Bird, Grizzly Bear), a few legends (Philip Glass, Kronos
Quartet) and newer and/or more obscure artists, meshing together to
offer Cincinnati music fans (and the many who come in from out of town) a
truly unique musical experience. Sold out audiences have seen
one-off performances and collaborations, including commissioned
works and world premieres.
Below is a sampling of some of the artists featured this weekend — though with MusicNOW's encouragement of experimentalism, take it as merely a surface introduction. The artists will more likely go beyond any pigeonhole you can come up with, which is the best thing about MusicNOW.
• Tonight's kick-off is headlined by Anti- recording artists Tinariwen, a Malian ensemble whose creative North African sounds resulted in a Grammy in 2012 for its fifth album, Tassili. Read CityBeat's interview with Tinariwen founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib (via translated email exchange) here.
Here's the official video for Tassili track "Iswegh Attay" (with translation!):
• Arcade Fire member Richard Reed Parry has been a part of several MusicNOW festivals, composing commissioned works and playing with bands like Little Scream and Bell Orchestre. This year, Reed Parry will perform the songs of his Indie Folk project, Quiet River of Dust. The project made it's live debut at the National-curated All Tomorrow's Parties fest in the U.K. late last year (where Reed Parry performed three very different sets) and a recording is presently in the works. A review from the music blog Let's Get Cynical described it as "a quirky and engaging performance – the first song I hear is about a boy who gets lost at sea and turns into a fish, if you want some sort of indication of what we’re working with. The fact that this is the trio’s first ever show also highlights ATP as the kind of festival where you get to see things you don’t get anywhere else." Kinda like MusicNOW.
• Rounding out tonight's opener is Buse and Gase, the Brooklyn duo of Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez, who make trippy avant grade music on various handmade instruments. The group name actually comes from two of those instruments — the "buke" is described as a "six-string baritone ukulele" and the "gase" is a guitar/bass guitar combo.
Here's Buse and Gase's official clip for the tune "General Dome."
• Saturday's headliner is MusicNOW 2013's most known performer, Glen Hansard. The Irish singer/songwriter began catching attention as a member of the group The Frames, then broke out on his own and won an Academy Award for "Best Original Song" in 2008 for "Falling Slowly" from the film Once, in which he also starred. Hansard's first solo album, Rhythm and Repose, was released last summer on the Anti- label (album bonus track "Come Away to the Water" was, oddly enough, covered by Maroon 5 and Rozzi Crane on the soundtrack to the blockbuster film The Hunger Games).
Here's the video for "High Hope" off of Hansard's solo debut.
• Saturday will also feature the performance of new works composed by Dessner, Reed Parry and Serbian composer Aleksanda Vreblov. The new pieces will be performed by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, which has collaborated with everyone from the New York Philharmonic and Cincinnati native (and Jazz piano master) Fred Hersch to Lou Reed, Barbara Streisand and Talib Kweli. The organization works often with composers on new pieces.
Here's a clip of Dessner working with the Chorus on the piece "Tell the Way" in 2011.
The Chorus will be joined by young string ensemble The Ariel Quartet, which formed in Israel and moved to the States in 2004. Last year, the group was named "quartet-in-residence" at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. The quartet has won numerous international awards for its work and has performed all over the world. Also lending a hand with the new works is Shara Worden of MusicNOW vets My Brightest Diamond.
Below is a clip of the Ariel Quartet performing Mozart.
• Last year, music now featured pioneering composer Philip Glass. This year, Steve Reich plays the role of "legend" on the bill. The Guardian's Andrew Clements once wrote that "There's just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history. Steve Reich is one of them," while many others consider Reich one of the world's greatest living composers. Reich's experiments have been fearless and creatively fruitful and influential, be it his early work with tape loops or his interactive "Clapping Music," a 1972 piece performed entirely with handclaps.
Reich will join Sō Percussion for a performance of that piece and more, including a new commission from Daníel Bjarnason (the annual Esme Kenney Commission, named for a young student from School for Creative and Performing Arts student who was murdered in 2009). The Brooklyn-based modern percussion group (featuring Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting) formed about a decade ago around the collective influence of pioneering NeoClassical experimentalists like Reich, John Cage, Kronos Quartet and others. Sō has commissioned works from numerous composers and has also been acclaimed for its own compositions. Outside of the modern Classical world, the ensemble has collaborated with artists like Medeski, Martin and Wood, Matmos and Dan Deacon.
Here's a cool mini-documentary from PitchforkTV about Reich and featuring Sō Percussion.
The three days of music are held at Memorial Hall, next to Music Hall, but this year there will also be an art exhibition at another great, vintage Over-the-Rhine venue, The Emery Theatre. An exhibit of works by Nathlie Provosty and Jessie Henson will be up at the Theatre Friday, 4-7 p.m., Saturday, 12-4 p.m. and Sunday, 1-7 p.m. Bryce Dessner will perform at a "gallery party" on Sunday 4-6 p.m. The Emery happenings are free and open to the public.
By all accounts (from people who actually attended or performed), last month’s huge Bunbury Music Festival was one of the best-run fests of its kind this area has ever seen. Organizer Bill Donabedian no doubt scored some tips from the operators of the big annual Blues celebration, the volunteer-driven Cincy Blues Fest, which has been doing the “well-run music festival” thing at Sawyer Point Park along the riverfront for many years now.
This weekend, the Cincy Blues Fest — one of the finest Blues events in the Midwest — returns to Sawyer Point to celebrate its 20th anniversary. That's a remarkable two decades of providing Greater Cincinnati live music lovers with some of the finest Blues being made locally, regionally and nationally, a rare and impressive achievement for any music festival.
This year’s main stage national headliners are especially strong — Webb Wilder on Friday and Duke Robillard on Saturday — but the Cincy Blues Fest always has a ton of interesting and engaging artists performing throughout the fest’s multiple stages.
Aside from the lineup featuring a few higher quality headliners than the past couple of years (like Robillard, Wilder, Trampled Under Foot, Super Chikan, Sista Monica, etc.), this year’s 20th anniversary celebration isn’t really being overblown, likely because the Cincy Blues Society and the army of volunteers that work the fest always do such an amazing job running the event; it’s already quite special, no matter what birthday the fest is celebrating.
One of my favorite elements of the Blues Fest is its undying support for our local players and singers. This year, Cincy Blues Challenge winners Chris Yakopcic and the Noah Wotherspoon Band have main-stage slots (they’ll also go to Memphis this winter to compete for Cincinnati in the International Blues Challenge). Yakopcic performs at 5:45 p.m. Friday, while Wotherspoon and Co. play at the same time Saturday (following a band of students associated with the Blues in the Schools program, for which the fest raises money).
The three side stages — always creatively
programmed — have a heavy local presence. Friday, visit the “Blues: The
Next Generation” stage for sets by younger area acts like the Wade
Baker Trio, Brian Keith Wallen Band, Scotty Bratcher and (again!) Noah
Wotherspoon and his band. The “Next Gen” stage starts at 5:15 p.m.
Friday "The Next Generation of Blues" stage lineup
5:15 p.m. Wade Baker Trio
6:20 p.m. Jellico Motel
7:05 p.m. Brian Keith Wallen Band
8:10 p.m. Carson Diersing Band
9:25 p.m. Scotty Bratcher
10:40 p.m. Noah Wotherspoon Band
As the name suggests, the St. Vincent DePaul Local Stage is chock full of local talent. Friday, the stage features Bad Men on a Mission, Them Bones, the Doug Hart Band, Leroy Ellington’s Blues Band and Blue Sacrifice.Saturday, catch the Blue Birds Big Band, the Gradual Taylor Band, the Leo Clarke Band, The Juice, Chuck Brisbin & the Tuna Project and Balderdash.
And perhaps the fest’s most notable and
renowned side stage, the unique Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame Stage,
on Saturday will feature appearances by Jimmy Rogers, Todd Hepburn, Liz
Pennock & Dr. Blues and Ricky Nye, plus players from across the
planet. The Boogie Woogie stage closes out with a “grand finale jam”
just before midnight.
Saturday Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame Stage lineup
4:30 p.m. Jimmy Rogers
5:10 p.m. Todd Hepburn
5:50 p.m. Liz Pennock & Dr. Blues
6:50 p.m. Ricky Nye
7:40 p.m. Mark Braun
8:30 p.m. Rob Rio
9:20 p.m. Cynthia Girtley
10:10 p.m. Bob Seeley
11:00 p.m. Fabrice Eulry
11:50 p.m. Grand Finale Jam
Here are the lineups for the Budweiser Main Stage this weekend:
Friday Budweiser Main Stage lineup
5:45-6:45 p.m. Chris Yakopcic
7:00-8:15 p.m. Super Chikan
8:30-10:00 p.m. Sista Monica
10:15-11:45 p.m. Webb Wilder
Saturday Budweiser Main Stage lineup
5:00-5:30 p.m. Blues in the School (BITS) Band
5:45-6:45 p.m. Noah Wotherspoon Band
7:00-8:15 p.m. Southern Hospitality
8:30-10:00 p.m. Trampled Under Foot
10:15-11:45 p.m. Duke Robillard
Tickets are $20 each day (two-day passes are
available Friday at the gates for $30), or grab yours early through
brownpapertickets.com for a $5 discount. Or you can join the Cincy Blues
Society (cincyblues.org), the creators and managers of Cincy Blues
Fest, to receive an even deeper discount.
Be sure to pick up a copy of this week's CityBeat, which includes a pull-out guide for the Cincy Blues Fest, with artist bios, schedules and more. For further ticket info, updates, details on the new Cincy Blues Fest mobile app and much more, visit cincybluesfest.org.
Several local acts have been notified in recent weeks that they have been chosen to perform at this fall’s MidPoint Music Festival. Organizers today revealed its second wave of national acts that will join them at the Sept. 27-29 fest — Andrew Bird, Ralph Stanley and his Clinch Mountain Boys (revealed a couple of weeks ago at a MidPoint Indie Summer concert), The Walkmen, The Antlers, Hospitality, Rich Aucion, Stepdad, Eternal Summers, White Arrows, Dirty Bourbon River Show, Hume, Sidewalk Chalk, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Kitten, F. Strokes, Wooden Wand, Hundred Waters, Golden Boy, Tim Easton and Army Navy.
Keep up to date with the latest MPMF news at mpmf.com and this here music blog at citybeat.com. Early Bird All Music Access and Loyalty Presale passes are sold out. A limited number of All Music Access Passes ($69) and VIP Passes presented by CVG ($169) now on sale. Washington Park Day Tripper passes will be available soon. Get your tickets now at CincyTicket.com.
Check out news songs from The Antlers and (previously announced MPMF band) Grizzly Bear at NPR here.
Here's the latest music video from The Walkmen, for their tune "Heaven."
And here's a recent CNN piece on Andrew Bird.
Beginning Sept. 3 at the Art Academy of Cincinnati's Childlaw Gallery (1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine), the people behind the massive photography exhibition FotoFocus will set their lenses on the many great concert photographers in the region.
Reverberation: Capturing the Live Music Experience will coincide with the MidPoint Music Festival, located just off the 12th Street MidPoint Midway (the strip featuring vendors, food, live music the box truck carnival and much more). Hours will be extended during MPMF, with the exhibit staying open until 9 p.m. on Sept. 26 and 10 p.m. on Sept. 27-28. (Normal hours, starting Sept. 3, are 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Mondays-Fridays, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays). The exhibit closes Sept. 29.
The work of 29 artists will be featured in the exhibit, including shots from legends like Melvin Grier (an award-winning photojournalist who shot many years for The Cincinnati Post) and Michael Wilson (whose portraits have been featured on the covers of albums by The Replacements, Over the Rhine, Lyle Lovett, Ron Sexmith and many others), as well as Maurice Mattei, Sean Hughes, Keith Klenowski and Kara Smarsh. (Click on the names to check out some of the artists' work.)
The full lineup for this year’s MidPoint Music Festival is expected to be announced before Friday’s MidPoint Indie Summer concert on Fountain Square, but the schedule for one specially-themed hub of venues is now known. The stages along Jackson Street, the small cut-through road on which Know Theatre (which has two MPMF stages) and ArtWorks (one stage) are being collectively rebranded as “MidPoint’s Bioré Strip,” named for a product from sponsor Bioré Skincare, and will celebrate pioneering women in music and the female artist’s important role in local music and MPMF’s10-year history. The stages on the “Strip” will highlight women solo performers and acts with a female presence, a collection of performers from across the globe that includes the biggest acts at the festival (Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, The Watson Twins), buzzing up-and-comers (Jessica Lea Mayfield, The Worsties, Lydia Loveless) and local favorites.(Carole Walker, Kelly Fine, The Fairmount Girls). See the full three-day lineup below.