Hard to believe, but the annual South By Southwest music showcase/festival/conference in Austin, Tex., kicks off in only 11 days. As always, the huge event is featuring some artists from the Greater Cincinnati area. Two SXSW-bound local acts are playing kick-off shows soon to help raise some funds for the trip (the price of gas today makes traveling all the more difficult for independent acts).
• Great Cincy rockers The Harlequins are heading to Austin for SXSW for the first time. The band is slated to perform at the festival on March 16 with the esteemed Gringo Star. Frontman Michael Oliva says the group will be playing shows on the way to and from the festival in Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky.
The Garage/Psych Rock trio — which is planning a new EP release in April — is performing its "bon voyage" show on March 7 at Over-the-Rhine's MOTR Pub with guests Stephen Paul Smoker. The show is free, but the band will be offering a limited edition screen print of the night's show poster (right over there, to the left) for $5. The band is also sweetening the pot by releasing a new single for free at the MOTR gig.
You can also help The Harlequins out by donating to their gas/van rental fund online. In keeping with their DIY ethic (the group got into the festival without any label or other backing, a rarity these days), the band is eschewing Kickstarter in favor of direct donations through their secure Paypal account, accessible on the trio's official site. Here's the link to donate. Below is a little video spiel if you need further convincing.
• Always dazzling Indie Pop locals The Seedy Seeds are returning to SXSW this year, journeying to Austin with pals The Ridges, a fantastic Athens, Ohio-based orchestral Indie Folk squad that has become a favorite in Greater Cincinnati thanks to regular show dates locally. The two bands will be performing shows together around the South and Midwest on their way to Austin.
The groups team up for a show at the Southgate House Revival on March 6. The Seedy Seeds are encouraging fans to purchase advanced tickets to the "Supercolossal Little Giant Ye Olde South by Southwest Sendoff Show"; for just $6, if you buy your tickets before "day of show," you will receive a hand-draw postcard from the Seedys while they are on the road. Click here to get your tickets now.
Here's a piece of groovy promo featuring both bands and the tour dates.
Despite Frank Ocean's deft leg-syncing and Taylor Swift's torture-porn-disguised-as-wholesome-circus, Akron, Ohio's Dan Auerbach and The Black Keys were The Grammys' big story last night, winning five trophies, the most of any artist.
While the Keys won the Grammys for Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance, Auerbach scored two solo Grammys for his production work, winning the trophy for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) and also winning one for producing Dr. John's Locked Down, the Blues Album winner.
While Grammys for album winners are usually given to the producers, engineers, mastering engineers and artists, hopefully Cincinnati's Brian Olive will also score one for his work on the LP. Auerbach — who has produced albums by both Olive and Cincinnati's Buffalo Killers — enlisted Olive (an original member of Cincinnati's Greenhornes) to work on the Dr. John album. Olive has songwriting credits on every track on Locked Down, and he's also credited with playing guitar, percussion and woodwinds, as well as providing background vocals. (Check out CityBeat's profile of Olive from 2011, about his Auerbach-produced Two of Everything album, here.)
Kudos to Mr. Olive! That's him — the handsome feller with big side-burns playing sax (and a little guitar) in this video for the album's "Revolution."
Check out all the winners from last night's Grammys here, and click here or here for some extra musings about the show.
"Bohemian Rhapsody," one of the trademark songs by legendary rockers Queen, was fittingly released on Halloween in 1975 and its strange, epic Rock operatics were an instant success across the globe (it only reached No. 9 on the U.S. singles charts initially, but a re-released version on the heels of its appearance in Wayne's World made it to No. 2 in 1992). Though a bit silly, history has treated the tune well — it's regularly included in innumerable "Best Rock Songs Ever" lists and polls and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.
Here's the beginning of BBC's The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody for some background (the rest of the parts of the program are in the right column if you click the "Watch it on YouTube" link).
The song has been covered numerous times over the years (though mostly not until the ’80s/’90s, likely due to its "untouchable" status in the minds of some; how many "Stairway to Heaven" covers are there?). Sometimes the versions are cheeky parodies (of COURSE Weird Al recorded "Bohemian Polka"), while other times it is presented fairly straight up (like P!nk's live version).
This young month has already seen the issuance of two new(-ish) covers of the song. The Flaming Lips tackled the track in 2005, recording it for the Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen compilation. But yesterday, a new video of the song was posted to the group's YouTube site. It's fairly faithful, with just a little of the Lips' freaky glaze sprinkled on top. The new video is a bit more glazed — and decidedly NSFW (due to female nudity).
Puscifer, one the side-project bands from Tool frontman Maynard James Kennan, has recorded the song as well, set for release on a new EP, Donkey Punch the Night, due Feb. 19. It's a strong version, but even more faithful to the original.
Who does it better?
Personally, I don't think it gets better than this — The Muppets version of "Bohemian Rhapsody," released in 2009 (and currently boasting over 30 million views on YouTube). Animal steals the show.
California native and acclaimed Jazz composer/saxophonist Donny McCaslin got a fairly big jump on his music career, performing with an ensemble of experienced musicians by the time he was 12. If there was any nepotism involved (the group was McCaslin’s father’s, a vibraphonist), the criticisms probably faded quickly as McCaslin started his own group in high school and managed to get them booked multiple years at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
The saxophonist studied intently and performed in youth orchestras that traveled the globe, all before earning a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He moved to New York City in the early ’90s and found work quickly, replacing Michael Brecker (a huge influence on the young musician) in the group Steps Ahead and going on to play with the Gil Evans Orchestra and many others.
By the mid-’90s, McCaslin — who had deeply explored the various aspects and possibilities of traditional Jazz — began to collaborate on more experimental Jazz projects, including the group Lan Xang and Ken Schaphorst’s big band (alongside John Medeski and other unique top players). McCaslin’s creative curiosity set the tone for his diverse solo albums, which have been widely acclaimed for the composer’s successful risk-taking.
When McCaslin plays the Blue Wisp Jazz Club tonight (with shows at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.), he’ll be supporting on of his most compelling releases yet, 2012’s Casting for Gravity. The album was inspired by McCaslin’s interest in Electronic music, an uncommon ingredient in most forms of Fusion. The album roams from textural, ambient explorations (particularly on a cover of Scottish electronica duo Boards of Canada’s “Alpha and Omega”) to quirky, funky meditations like the glitchy “Tension.”
It’s a recipe that shouldn’t work, but Casting for Gravity is a fascinating listen that makes one wonder if visionaries like John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman might not have pursued this direction if they were born 60 years later. It’s primarily a progressive Jazz album, with tasteful electronic flourishes. Instead of aping Electronic music nakedly, McCaslin seamlessly incorporates the arrangement spirit of Electro masters like Aphex Twin or more contemporary EDM artists into his own compositions.
Tickets for tonight's shows are $20 (students can get into the 9:30 p.m. show for $15). Here is a clip of the band performing the latest album's track, "Stadium Jazz."
• The husband and wife duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, better known as Shovels & Rope, were slated for an appearance at MidPoint Music Festival here in Cincinnati last fall, but an offer to open for Jack White convinced them to bow out of the fest.
Given the hardscrabble road the pair has traveled over the past five years, it’s hard to argue with their choice. Denver native Trent and Nashville-raised Hearst had been in several bands before crossing paths in Charleston, S.C. (they’d met on tour over a decade ago), eventually playing in each other’s bar bands and becoming friends.
In 2008, the pair formalized their friendship by writing and recording the album Shovels & Rope and releasing it under their own names.
The duo ultimately decided to name its group after the title of that debut album and released O’ Be Joyful last summer to ecstatic press notice, with frequent references to Johnny Cash and June Carter and John Doe and Exene Cervenka (although they’re just as quick to namecheck The Cramps and the visceral pairing of Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello). (Preview by Brian Baker)
Shovels & Rope's success continues to rise, as evidenced just last week by their network TV debut on David Letterman's show (see below). But even on a local level, their ascent was obvious — tonight's appearance at the Southgate House Revival was moved from one of the smaller rooms in the venue to the larger "Sanctuary" room after it was clear that they could fill it. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $12 at the door (while they last).
Last Friday at Bogart's, CityBeat and the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards presented a showcase featuring some of the best new local bands of 2012. (Check out some pics from the event here.) This coming week, four brand-new acts (featuring musicians from other established groups) will be playing their first shows ever. Here's a round-up of the new bands (possible nominees for next year's CEAs?) debuting.
• Joey Cook of Indie Pop greats Pomegranates has a new solo project called Danny and His Fantasy. Cook — who also headed up the side project Firs and has done a few solo shows with friends and bandmates — leaked the great track below via YouTube a couple of weeks ago. The piano-laden track "Too Out of Touch" is a great slice of dancey and wonderfully melodic Pop, highlighted by Cook's soulful falsetto, that wouldn't be out of place on an of Montreal record.
Danny and His Fantasy's debut show is this Friday at Mayday in Northside. Cook will be joined at the free show by Phil Cogley, the Indie Pop maestro from Columbus who performs under the name The Saturday Giant. Cogley's been making waves from our state's capitol, recently earning a slot on Columbus Alive's annual list of "Bands to Watch" for 2013. Locals Speaking Suns also perform.
• Also Friday, Pop Goes the Evil plays its first live show. The new crew debuts at MOTR Pub, playing a free show with Indiana rockers Left Lane Cruiser. Pop Goes the Evil is fronted by singer/guitarist Lucas Frazier, formerly of the popular, kick-ass local Rock outfit The Dukes Are Dead. The new group — rounded out by drummer Jordin Goff (also of The Yugos) and bassist Evan Roberts (organist for heavy local band Grey Host) — has issued a couple of great music videos, showcasing a swaggering, energized Pop/Rock sound that's not chasing any trends, opting instead for a more timeless appeal.
Here's the second single from Pop Goes the Evil, "Golden Apple."
The sixth season of TV One's entertaining and informative Unsung series, showcasing artists who did well but didn't quite reach the heights many expected, kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. with an episode about the late, great Soul star Isaac Hayes. Next week, on Jan. 30, the series focuses on a group that was formed at Kentucky State University and ended up calling Cincinnati its home base — Midnight Star.
The R&B/ElectroFunk nine-piece band was a major success in the ’80s, giving the music world massive hits like "Slow Jam," "No Parking on the Dance Floor" and "Freak-a-Zoid." But the band eventually splintered — due to "arguments over money and management," according to the Unsung synopsis — with Reggie Calloway and brother Vincent leaving and eventually forming Calloway (which had success with the smash "I Wanna Be Rich" in 1989).
Midnight Star carried on and produced a couple more albums that featured R&B chart hits before taking a break. The "hiatus" ended in 2000 and Midnight Star continues to this day, performing most recently at the Macy's Music Festival last summer. Click here to read up on the band circa 2013.
The Unsung series has a loose definition of "unsung" (as the Isaac Hayes episode suggests), but its profiles of various R&B/Soul, Hip Hop, Funk and Gospel artists are always fairly illuminating. The show has dedicated episodes to a wide range of successful artists, from The Ohio Players and Zapp to Kool Mo Dee and Big Daddy Kane to George Clinton, The Spinners and another Cincinnati-affiliated star, Bootsy Collins.
Unsung (Documentary) - Bootsy Collins... by GENERATIONDISCOFUNK
The rest of Unsung's season six includes episodes on EPMD, Lou Rawls, Eddie Kendricks, The Whispers, Mint Condition, Johnny Gill and a special two-hour look at the Disco phenomenon.
TV One is channel 217 for local Time Warner Cable subscribers (1217 for the HD channel).
Slanted Indie Pop crew Maps & Atlases formed in 2004 and, in 2010, released its breakthrough LP Perch Patchwork, the Chicago quartet's debut for the esteemed Barsuk label. Since Patchwork, the band has spent tons of time touring, which has included several dates in the Cincinnati area. The band's compelling latest release, Beware and Be Grateful, was issued by Barsuk last spring and is perhaps the finest example of the group's dynamic sound yet. M&A's sound is uniquely layered and structured, full of subtle, unexpected outbursts and song twists, yet still overflowing with magnetic melodies and spine-tingling harmonies.
The band performs tonight at Oakley's 20th Century Theatre with like-minded locals Archer's Paradox, who are readying for the release of their debut album a little later this year. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $15.
Here's the video for "Remote & Dark Years" from the latest M&A album.
• The end of The Grateful Dead, with Jerry Garcia’s 1995 death, didn’t do much to squash the band’s incredible popularity. To satiate some of that Dead thirst, various members from throughout Garcia’s and the Dead’s history have brought the legendary band’s spirit to that huge fan base on a fairly regular basis. Two Dead-affiliated artists have been sitting in with Chicago-based jammers Terrapin Flyer for the past few years for shows and tours. The band will be joined by Melvin Seals, who played Hammond B3 organ with the Jerry Garcia Band for 15 years, and Mark Karan, who played guitar with the post-Dead band The Other Ones and Bob Weir’s Ratdog, when they swing through Stanley’s Pub tonight for a 10 p.m. performance. Tickets are $20.
Here's some footage of the collaboration from last March, doing a version of Dylan's "Maggie's Farm," a Dead fave.
• Over a decade ago, Minnesotans Paul Sprangers and Scott and Evan Wells were integral parts of Hockey Night, a wildly eclectic Indietronic outfit that blended the lo fi Rock and snarky humor of Couch Flambeau with a next generation love of Electronica, Hip Hop and mad crazy sampling (remember "Battlestar Scholastica" from their 2002 debut Rad Zapping and "For Guys Eyes Only" from their 2005 swan song Keep Guessin'?). The band's ugly dissolution would have beaten the musical aspirations from lesser men, but Sprangers and the Wellses were made of sterner stuff and, after a brief hiatus, tapped drummer Nicholas Shuminsky to form Free Energy in 2008.
Free Energy, now based in Philadelphia, exploded into the wider consciousness when LCD Soundsystem¹s James Murphy produced the band's debut album Stuck on Nothing in 2010, causing UK music magazine NME to erroneously tout them as Murphy's new band. While patently false, the claim focused an extraordinary amount of attention on Free Energy and Stuck on Nothing; Spin and Rolling Stone cited the album and band among the year's best. With their just-released sophomore album Love Sign, Free Energy (now also featuring guitarist Sheridan Fox) reinforces and expands their new musical direction, a Classic Rock/New Wave Pop hybrid that enthusiastically references everything from The Cars to The Outfield to Cracker with equal amounts of affection and adrenaline. And in familiar ’60s Pop/Motown fashion, "Electric Fever," the album's infectious first single — originally leaked 10 months
ago — is the lead track on Love Sign. Free Energy might not be breaking any new ground but they go over the old territory with an ass-kicking intensity.
The band plays at Newport's Southgate House Revival tonight with Sweatheart and Homemade Drugs. Showtime is 9 p.m. and tickets are $8 at the door. (Preview by Brian Baker)
Click here for even more live music options tonight in Greater Cincinnati.
• Combining some of the idiosyncrasies of modern Indie Folk with uplifting Pop melodies, Chamber music arrangements and an Americana grab-bag of various other influences, the trio Plume Giant makes a glorious noise that is buoyed by the clever, collaborative songwriting, as well as the trio’s vocal chops, which add a slanted, colorful layer to the group’s sound via frequent and flawless harmonies. The threesome — which formed after meeting each other while attending Yale — makes this glorious noise with fairly spare acoustic instrumentation (Oliver Hill plays guitar guitar and viola, Nolan Green plays guitar and harmonium and Eliza Bagg plays violin, harmonium and various other instruments). But the sound of the group’s recent debut full-length, Callithump, is full-bodied and far from minimalistic. On the dynamic 2012 release, the trio explores traditional Appalachian music, swingin’ Jazz, Tin Pan Alley pomp and breezy Folk Pop, but all of it is filtered through Plume Giant’s distinctive vision, with hints of the avant-garde beneath the inescapable harmonies and lovely aura.
The now Brooklyn-based trio performs a free show tonight in Over-the-Rhine at MOTR Pub with like-minded Cincinnati-based Chamber Folk ensemble The Happy Maladies. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Here is Plume Giant's smile-inducing "We Got It Made" video from their debut LP, followed by The Happy Maladies' "New Again," taken from The Emery Sessions live music video series. The Maladies' song is the title track off their 2012 release, which was nominated for "Album of the Year" at the upcoming Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.
• At the Southgate House Revival in Newport tonight, Indianapolis progressive Bluegrass group Flatland Harmony Experiment performs a free, 10 p.m. show in the venue's "Lounge." Formed just a couple of summers ago, FHE has toured the region regularly, found success on radio outlets and through online Bluegrass/Americana/Folk music channels and are seemingly on their way to becoming an even bigger presence on the national festival circuit (in June, the trio will compete at the 40th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Band Competition). The trio (Scott Nelson on upright bass, Kris Potts on Mandolin and Johnny Plott on banjo) uses the tools of traditional Bluegrass and the members clearly have a firm grasp on the music's rich history (not to mention some delicious chops and textured harmonies that'll send a shiver), but they let the songwriting go wherever their contemporary minds might take it. Fans of groups like Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon and The Infamous Stringdusters will love this Experiment.
Last year, the string band released its debut full-length, On Our Way. Here's the album's "Secret in the Seams":