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.
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.
The Van's Warped Tour might not be the most financially successful summer package tour of all time (the promoter and performers work together to keep an ego-free environment and low ticket prices), but it's hard to argue that it is not the most successful overall, especially in terms of longevity. Now in its 18th year, Kevin Lyman's eclectic traveling festival has outlived all of the roving music events that sprouted up around the same time (from Lollapalooza to Lilith Fair) by creating a "customer friendly" experience that's also very "artist friendly."
The tour's 2012 finale is this weekend in Portland, but before shutting things down for the summer, the fest makes its annual stop at Cincinnati's Riverbend today. Doors open at 11 a.m. and music kicks off shortly after. The show ends around 9 p.m. Tickets at the box office will cost ya $42 (about a dime a band, by my estimation).
Click here for more local show details, including info on how you can "Skip the Line" and walk right into the venue.
The set-times for each act are decided just prior to the gates opening; if you're going, look for the giant inflatable Warped logoed amp to see when your favorites are playing. I also highly recommend grabbing the official Warped Tour app.
Be sure to support our local music scene reps — The Few The Fallen, Heres To The Heroes and Let It Happen will play the Ernie Ball Stage. Check out Let It Happen's recent video for "Bridges" from the great release, It Hurts, But It's Worth It.
Here is who's playing where (via Riverbend's site). (Welsh rockers Lostprophets are also on the bill, though not listed on Riverbend's site; all info is subject to change.)
MAIN STAGE: Taking Back Sunday, All Time Low, New Found Glory, Streetlight Manifesto, Yellowcard, Piece The Veil, Four Year Strong, Of Mice and Men, We The Kings, Breathe Carolina, Miss May I, Falling In Reverse, Blood On The Dance
TBD STAGE: Every Time I Die, Mayday Parade, blessthefall, Chelsea Grin, For Today, Memphis May Fire, Motionless In White, Rise To Remain, Sleeping With Sirens, The Ghost Inside, Vampires Everywhere!, Title Fight
TILLY’S STAGE: Senses Fail, Vanna, Polar Bear Club, We Are The Crowd, Man Overboard, A Loss For Words, Funeral Party, I Fight Dragons, Machine Gun Kelly, Oh No Fiasco
TBD STAGE: Echo Movement, G-Eazy, Stepdad, The Constellations, Ballyhoo!, Champagne, T. Mills, Tomorrows Bad Seeds, Mod Sun, The Green, Amyst
ERNIE BALL STAGE: iwrestledabearonce, Born Of Osiris, Chunk! No Captain, Fireworks, Transit, Cold Forty Three, The Scissors, The Few The Fallen, Here's To The Heroes and Let It Happen.
KEVIN SAYS STAGE: Make Do And Mend, Matt Toka, Tonight Alive, Skip The Foreplay, Sick of Sarah, Mighty Mongo, Captain Capa, I Call Fives, Hostage Calm, The Silver Comet, Twin Atlantic, The Darlings, Dead Sara
ACOUSTIC BASEMENT: A Loss For Words, Koji, Brian Marquis, Rocky Votolato, Transit Owen Plant, Anthony Raneri
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.
MusicNOW, the popular new music festival founded by Cincinnatian Bryce Dessner of internationally acclaimed Indie Rock band The National, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year when the fest returns March 11-15 at Music Hall, Memorial Hall and first-time venue Woodward Theatre.
On March 10, the Over-the-Rhine fest will be celebrated with the digital release of a compilation album featuring musical highlights from MusicNOW’s first nine years. MusicNOW- 10 Years will feature previously unreleased performances by Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Grizzly Bear, My Brightest Diamond and others.
The album’s “Trials, Troubles, Tribulations” by Sounds of the South, a project featuring Vernon, Sharon Van Etten, Megafaun, Matthew E. White and Fight the Big Bull, was recently released as a preview.
“The first track ‘Trials, Troubles, Tribulations’ gets at the spirit of the compilation and the event. It is an American bluegrass gospel song written by Estil C. Ball. Here it is performed by Sounds of the South, a project featuring Justin Vernon (Bon Iver, Volcano Choir), Sharon Van Etten, Megafaun, Matthew E. White, and Fight the Big Bull. The project, organized by Megafaun, initially appeared at Duke Performances in North Carolina and MusicNOW in Cincinnati, Ohio, and subsequently traveled to Sydney Festival in Australia.”
In the press release for the album, Dessner says, ““Many of my most significant memories as a musician have taken place in Cincinnati during the MusicNOW Festival over the last 10 years. When we started, we were driven to create an intimate music festival that was as much a creative refuge for the artists as it is for the audience to partake in intimate and rare performances. We have celebrated works in progress and new commissions, new collaborations and detailed music of all kinds regardless of genre or popularity."
This year’s MusicNOW festival features appearances by Stevens, Nico Muhly, So Percussion, Timo Andres, concert:nova with Jeff Zeigler, Cloud Nothings, Will Butler and more. The National will also perform at the festival on March 13 at Music Hall with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Click here for full details and ticket info.
Sounds of the South "Trials, Troubles, Tribulations"
Robin Pecknold "Silver Dagger"
Sufjan Stevens "The Owl & The Tanager"
eighth blackbird "Omie Wise"
My Brightest Diamond "I Have Never Loved Someone"
Dirty Projectors "Emblem Of The World"
Tinariwen "Imidiwan Ma Tenam"
Tim Hecker "Chimeras (Live) 2011"
Colin Stetson "Nobu Take"
Owen Pallett "E Is For Estranged"
Erik Friedlander "Airstream Envy"
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy "Love Comes to Me"
Grizzly Bear "While You Wait For The Others"
The Books with Clogs "Classy Penguin"
Andrew Bird "Section 8 City"
Justin Vernon "Love More"
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.
Last night, music fans at venues in four cities around the region (Newport, Columbus, Indianapolis and Lexington) got a sneak peek at some of the artists slated to appear at this year’s Bunbury Music Festival, which returns to Cincinnati’s riverfront parks July 11-13.
Last night, fans at the launch events tweeted out some of the lineup as it was announced (and some smart ass started a fast-spreading rumor that Vampire Weekend was playing; they are not). This morning, the lineup was released to the general public. It was previously announced that Fall Out Boy, Paramore and New Politics would be bringing their summer tour to Bunbury; those groups are scheduled to play the fest on July 12.
Here are the local and national artists that will be joining them at Bunbury’s third annual event (an additional headliner will be announced soon):
The Flaming Lips
Young the Giant
Fitz and the Tantrums
Red Wanting Blue
The Lighthouse and the Whaler
Fly Golden Eagle
Lamps and Voids
Family and Friends
Let It Happen
Kopecky Family Band
G.Miles and the Hitmen
Brent James & the Vintage Youth
The Fanged Robot
The Upset Victory
J. Roddy Walston & The Business
Lily & Madeleine
Brick + Mortar
Yellow Paper Planes
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Here Among the Mountains
Bronze Radio Return
Daniel in Stereo
Today is the last day to buy Bunbury tickets at their current rate; the prices increase at midnight. Right now, $130 gets you a three-day pass ($325 if you’d like the VIP experience) and one-day tickets are $55.
I sat down with Eshe & Tasha before their performance at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans on July 2, 2010 to discuss their musical journey over the years.
CB: It’s been a long time between albums 2006 through 2009. Why the break?
Eshe: We’ve been together for 15 years. We took a small break at one point and got back together in 1998-1999. When we got back into the studio it just happened organically.
CB: When Speech formed your group, it was as an alternative to gangsta rap. Music has changed a lot in the past 15 years. How do you feel about the current state of hip-hop and rap today?
Eshe: Well, in the beginning we just wanted to do good music that the family could listen to and was positive for the community and the world. It was just natural for us. We didn’t start out with an agenda. Today, I think there are a lot of good artists out there, but there isn’t balance in music. I have a daughter who is seven and I try to expose her to a broad view of music. There are a lot of great groups out there that are under the radar.
CB: What up-and-coming bands do you enjoying listening to or what is your current favorite?
Eshe: Great question! There are a lot of groups out that are under the radar.
CB: I know you talked on CNN today, and I’m trying to be better than Anderson Cooper.
Eshe and Tasha: [laughing]
Eshe: I like Janelle. She’s been on the Atlanta scene for some time now, but hasn’t had her big break. I like Janell!
Tasha: We love Janelle.
CB: You guys tour all over the world. What’s your favorite place?
Tasha: Australia! I love that place.
Eshe: We are going to be there in December to bring in the New Year over there. It’s so beautiful there.
Tasha: I love Australians. I could live there forever.
Eshe: I also love Japan, but I’m so glad I’m going to Australia in their summer and our winter. It’s going to be great.
CB: What’s been your most fulfilling career moment?
Eshe: Wow. [Long pause] I think for me it’s when we do shows and people come up to me and say “Don’t change” and “You inspire me.” and “I love the way you look because you inspire me.” I think it’s great when you can connect with people. I see babies at our shows all the way up to elders.
CB: Do you have any charities that you work with personally?
Eshe: I’ve taught dance at a number of locations. As a group, we have worked with UNICEF and homeless organizations across the country along with Feed the Hungry in Atlanta.
CB: What’s your favorite song to perform live?
Tasha: Mama’s Always On Stage. I’m not the best dancer in the world, but when you put that song on it makes you want to dance. You can dance as crazy as you want to and it doesn’t matter. When you see people come to the show, it gives them the freedom to dance any way they want.
Eshe: For me, I don’t really have a favorite because there are so many I like. I like Fishing For Religion, Mama’s, We Ran, and Bloody.
CB: I liked The World Is Changing. Is there a story behind that one?
Eshe: Have you seen the video? You’ve got to go out on youtube and see the video. In the video, we go through different eras. The 50’s, 80’s and the 90’s and show how the world is changing. Like rotary phones to cellular phones.
Tasha: Everything, even the style of dress.
Eshe: It’s simplistic, but shows the world is forever changing.
Tasha: It’s impossible to keep up with everything changing.
Eshe: It reminds you to appreciate the moment.
CB: What do you wish you knew 15 years ago that you know now?
Eshe: I wish I were more knowledgeable about the business aspect of the music business. At the time, I just wanted to sing. It’s 98% business, and the rest is the artistic part of it. I have balance now. At the end of the day, I understand the business, but I still like to perform.
Tasha: For me, it’s things in life. I wish that I would have known that things weren’t as easy as my mother created them to be when I was a kid. Parents shield you as a kid, but then when you get to high school and college you don’t know how to handle a situation. I wish I had been exposed to a little bit more so I would know how to make the right decisions and why it’s the right decision to make as an adult without looking for someone to give guidance.