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.
Friday, Apr 27 - MerleFest Festival Grounds
Every morning I wake and thank baby Jesus I am a biped, agile and have been blessed with a no mess ability to pee standing up. And in a steady torrent. Just about anywhere without attracting attention (well, there was that county deputy in Abington, Va., a while back who got a bit riled). Middle age is good.
Here's a tip for you campers. Your welcome to stay up as late as you want, but if it's 3 a.m. and your talking like your in your living room, don't complain at 6 a.m. if I'm banging pots like I'm in my kitchen.
Oh, and you've pitched your tent in poison ivy.
Thursday after an early evening catnap (middle age) to the sounds of Daily and Vincent (meh — great Stanley Brothers style harmonies, lay off the Cracker Barrel shtick), I made my way over to to the Dance Tent to catch some Blind Boy Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks. This Asheville, NC, street ensemble features five guys doing hokum string/jug band/blues music from the late 1920's and early ’30s. Guys in newsie caps, mutton chops, bowler hats with tattooed ears (ouch, that had to hurt), nose rings — yep, total 20-sumpthin freaks.
Calling out tunes by long (and soon to be) forgotten Blues and string players from the early part of the last century, Blind Chocolate plays hard-driving, bawdy, syncopated, all-acoustic string music. Lyrically rich in double entendres, liquor and murder. This ain't the square dance stuff my Uncle Blake played and my dad danced to in parlors across the Cumberland Plateau during the Great Depression; this is the music found in jukes and bars and back room drinkeries and the kids love it. Every 10 years or so, string music comes back into fashion, and that, my friends, is a good thing. John Hartford is clapping from his grave. It's comforting to witness people giving over to the coherent dissonance of barely tunable instruments, played together and with vehemence. Banjolin, steel guitar, washtub bass, washboard and tenor banjo, three guys trading vocals, four guys shouting in unison and giving call-backs. Dwight Hawkins (Blind Boy Chocolate?) plays saw, bones and the short scale tenor banjo in a style I've never seen before. And does it really well. The banjolin player, Nicholas Marshall (one of the Milk Sheiks?), occasionally picks up a thoroughly modern looking mandolin, temporarily breaking the temporal enchantment. After a lull at the top of their long set as people wondered in and grew accustom to being ass-to-elbow, the crowd was jumping and yelling, kids from 8 to 80 whirled and shimmied.
After a few cups of coffee this morning (Friday), I headed over to the Americana stage to check out another Asheville based band, The Honeycutters. North Carolina has a rich history of Alternativecountryrootsrockamericana bands. From The Backsliders to the Avett Brothers, this state churns ’em out and the natives support band after great band. The Honeycutters fit the Avett Brothers mold of instantly likable songs and gifted melodies. It's got to be hard, after playing clubs and bars, to get up early enough to hit the stage by 9:30 a.m. The Honeycutters brought their 'A' game and delivered an instantly familiar and pleasant set. Just what my psyche needed after listening all night to my campground neighbors. The mandolin player plays in well-worn territory while acoustic guitar player Peter James fills the space with sweet crosspicking and occasionally lays into his guitar in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of early Paul K. Lead singer Amanda Anne Platt's beautiful alto fills the air — add in some tasteful three part harmonies and you have a AAA Radio winner.
From the Americana tent, my soul freshly refilled, I headed back over to the Cabin Stage for a set by Blues historian, storyteller and performer Frutland Jackson (Fruit Land). Hailing from Chicago, Frutland covers seamlessly and flawlessly all styles of blues from delta to north Mississippi to Chicago to Piedmont, all the while telling in a remarkably engaging and non-professorial way what distinguishes one style from another. I've seen plenty of Blues player who like to lecture during performances, and mostly I feel like shouting, "Shut the fuck up and play!" but Frutland had me wanting to bum rush the stage in awe and anticipation that he may answer some questions I have about Depression-era singers and groups. First set I've seen in a lonnnnng while that ended to soon. Most of his songs were originals done in a specific style with a voice that ranged from guttural to heartfelt tremble (think Ledbetter doing "Goodnight Irene"). Outstanding!
Some of the many things to do at MerleFest besides running from one stage to another trying to catch acts is sitting around and playing music with other attendees. Along with an open mic area, there are three tents set up where you sit down and play — Old Timey, Bluegrass and Anything Goes. The Anything Goes tent is like a hippy camp-out with one bazillion guitars around a raging fire in the middle of the night, playing Casey Jones minus the alcohol and LSD. The stuff nightmares are made of, but if you've never done this kind of thing, there's no reason to be a jaded asshole like me — grab your guitar and jump in. Everyone is clean and welcoming.
I sat around the Old Timey Tent as it had the least guitar-to-other-instrument ratios. (By the way, aspiring musicians — learn guitar to impress the girls or boys; learn something else for a working job.) A couple of old timers were letting fly on some fiddle tunes. Quite nice. The guitar player was strumming a pre-1935 Martin D18. I know about these things, and they tickle me pink.
Time for lunch!
One of the Midwest’s best new music fests, Cincinnati’s own Bunbury Music Festival, presents its second annual event this weekend. With another stellar lineup for the three-day affair — including headliners like Fun., MGMT and Cincinnati-bred Indie Rock stars The National (whose latest album debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s album chart), plus a great number of Greater Cincinnati’s top acts — a “sophomore slump” seems impossible.
Be sure to arrive early and check out some of the lesser-known acts; there are a lot of up-and-coming gems to discover. Below is the full schedule (click here to auto-download a PDF version of the schedule from the fest.)
Shows run Friday-Sunday and start at 2 p.m. Gates open at 1
p.m. each day. Tickets are $65 or $130 for three-day passes. (Kids 10
and under are free with a paying adult.) Keep your wristband on; Bunbury
allows re-entry, if you need to run to the car and pound a 40, er, grab
From BunburyFestival.com, here is what is and isn't permitted to bring to Bunbury:
What to Bring (Allowed Items)
- Sun Gear (e.g., sunglasses, sunscreen, etc.)
- Seating (e.g., folding chair, blanket, etc.)
- Bug Repellent (no Deet)
- Rain Gear (ponchos are best, but small, hand-held umbrellas are OK)
- Baby strollers
- Empty water bottled (no glass) or Cambelbak
- Wall mounted rapid charger (charging stations provide iPhone and mini-USB chords, but if you have your own chord, you won't have to wait)
What NOT to Bring (Prohibited Items)
- Weapons, fireworks or explosives of any kind
- Illegal substances (including narcotics) or drug paraphernalia
- Framed or large backpacks
- Glass containers of any kind or coolers
- Food, beverages or Cambelbaks that are full
- Carts, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, or personal motorized vehicles (including Segways). There is bike/scooter parking outside the event site
- Tents, large umbrellas or chairs that are NOT sand chairs (seat more than 9" off the ground)
- Pets (except service dogs)
- Any audio recording, professional camera or video equipment
- Moshing, crowd surfing, and/or stage diving
- Vending without a Bunbury license or permit
- Bills over $20. We won't accept them at the beverage booths.
There's more fun AFTER Bunbury at the Bunbury official after-parties, with loads of drink specials and no cover charge. Tonight, DJ Ice Cold Tony will spin at the official after-party at downtown's Igby's. Tomorrow, Bunbury performers Chairlift will DJ the after-party at aliveOne in Mt. Adams. And Sunday's after-party at downtown's The Righteous Room will have DJing by great Cincy Electro duo You, You're Awesome. (Friday and Saturday's parties start at approximately 11 p.m.; Sunday's starts at around 10 p.m.)
FRIDAY, JULY 12
MAIN STAGE: The Features (2:45 p.m.); Delta Rae (4:15 p.m.); Tegan and Sara (5:45 p.m.); Walk the Moon (7:45 p.m.); fun. (10 p.m.)
ROCKSTAR STAGE: Beat Club (2 p.m.); The Dunwells (3:30 p.m.); Red Wanting Blue (5 p.m.); Youngblood Hawke (6:45 p.m.); Devotchka (9 p.m.)
CINCINNATUS STAGE: Billy Wallace (2:45 p.m.); Pete Dressman (4:15 p.m.); Josh Eagle (5:45 p.m.); Jay Nash (7:45 p.m.)
BUD LIGHT STAGE: Public (2 p.m.); American Authors (3:30 p.m.); Everest (5 p.m.); Sky Ferreira (6:30 p.m.); Tokyo Police Club (8:30 p.m.)
LAWN STAGE: Alone At 3am (2:45 p.m.); Old Baby (4:15 p.m.); We Are Snapdragon (5:45 p.m.); Seabird (7:15 p.m.)
AMPHITHEATER STAGE: The Mitchells (2 p.m.); Ohio Knife (3:30 p.m.); State Song (5 p.m.); Buffalo Killers (6:30 p.m.); Those Darlins (8 p.m.)
SATURDAY, JULY 13
MAIN STAGE: Empires (2:45 p.m.); Robert Delong (4:15 p.m.); Twenty One Pilots (5:45 p.m.); Cake (7:45 p.m.); MGMT (10 p.m.)
ROCKSTAR STAGE: X Ambassadors (2:00 p.m.); Civil Twilight (3:30 p.m.); Chairlift (5 p.m.); We Are Scientists (6:45 p.m.); Divine Fits (9 p.m.)
CINCINNATUS STAGE: Margaret Darling (2:45 p.m.); Taylor Alexander (4:15 p.m.); Tim Carr (5:45 p.m.); Christopher Paul Stelling (7:45 p.m.)
BUD LIGHT STAGE: Culture Queer (2 p.m.); Vacationer (3:30 p.m.); The Mowgli's (5 p.m.); Oberhofer (6:30 p.m.); Atlas Genius (8:30 p.m.)
LAWN STAGE: The Ready Stance (2:45 p.m.); The Bears Of Blue River (4:15 p.m.); Black Owls (5:45 p.m.); You, You're Awesome (7:15 p.m.)
AMPHITHEATER STAGE: New Vega (2 p.m.); Messerly And Ewing (3:30 p.m.); Ben Walz Band (5 p.m.); The Pinstripes (6:30 p.m.); Bear Hands (8 p.m.)
SUNDAY, JULY 14
MAIN STAGE: Joe Purdy (2 p.m.); Gregory Alan Isakov (3:30 p.m.); Camera Obscura (5 p.m.); Belle & Sebastian (7 p.m.); The National (9 p.m.) (Read CityBeat's interview with The National here.)
ROCKSTAR STAGE: The Knocks (2:45 p.m.); A Silent Film (4:15 p.m.); Night Terrors of 1927 (6 p.m.); Yo La Tengo (8 p.m.)
CINCINNATUS STAGE: Ben Knight (2 p.m.); Jake Kolesar (3:30 p.m.); Mark Utley (5 p.m.); Channing & Quinn (7 p.m.)
BUD LIGHT STAGE: Gringo Star (2:45 p.m.); High Highs (4:15 p.m.); Savoir Adore (5:45 p.m.); Black Joe Lewis (7:45 p.m.)
LAWN STAGE: Mia Carruthers (2 p.m.); Bethesda (3:30 p.m.); The Harlequins (5 p.m.); DAAP Girls (6:30 p.m.)
AMPHITHEATER STAGE: The Upset Victory (2:45 p.m.); Green Light Morning (4:15 p.m.); The Hiders (5:45 p.m.); Daniel Martin Moore (7:15 p.m.)
Here is Bunbury's official Spotify playlist for the fest featuring many of the performers:
And, finally, here is the map of the Bunbury Festival grounds from bunburyfestival.com: