Music Tonight: Music legend Paul Simon brings his tour behind the recent full-length, So Beautiful or So What, to The Bank of Kentucky Center on Northern Kentucky University's campus in Highland Heights for a 7:30 p.m. concert. The tour also happens to coincide with the even-more-recently-released retrospective compilation, Songwriter, a nice reminder of just how many iconic tunes Simon has crafted, classics like "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Still Crazy After All These Years," "The Sound of Silence," "Graceland" and "The Boxer," to name just a few. (Simon's first four solo albums were also reissued this year.) When Simon's current tour ends early next month, the singer/songwriter will turn his focus to next year's touring plans — a jaunt celebrating the 25th anniversary of his genre-defying smash hit Graceland (an anniversary "box set" — featuring a documentary and the usual array of B-side and outtakes — will also be released). Opening up the show in Northern Ky. tonight is progressive Bluegrass troupe Punch Brothers. The group was formed by mandolinist Chris Thile after his band Nickel Creek called it quits and also features musicians who have worked with Leftover Salmon, Jerry Douglas, Tony Trischka and other modern Bluegrass big-timers. Ticket prices range from about $54 up to around $86. Click here for more. Below, to get warmed up for what will surely be a calm, orderly shopping experience on Black Friday (right?), check out "Getting Ready for Christmas Day," a holiday tune on Simon's new record.
Music Saturday: If Herman Munster had decided he wanted to play stand-up Country/Rockabilly bass, he'd have a gig in the band of enigmatic performer Unknown Hinson offered to him immediately. Despite the high camp of UH's persona (his bio says he looks like "Dracula's nasty little brother who spent some hard years drinking and working as a carnival barker for a second-rate freak show"), the super-charged, funny-as-all-hell Honky Tonk he and his band pump out is seriously kick-ass. Billy Bob Thorton has called Unknown one of his favorite songwriters and a "genius picker," Simpsons creator Matt Groening has lauded his guitar playing (and comedic sensibility) and Hank Williams III has Unknown's face tattooed on his arm — all high (and kinda weird, fittingly) praise. Combined, the image and sound make for a thoroughly entertaining concert experience. Read more about Hinson (who voices the character Early Cuyler on The Squidbillies) from this week's CityBeat here. Unknown Hinson is at the Southgate House in Newport Saturday with The Lewis Brothers. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door. And bring all your gal pals — "womens likes it," or so I've heard. Give a listen to a li'l Hinson holiday cheer in the form of "Black and Blue Christmas" below.
It's looking like the historic Emery Theatre on the border of Over-the-Rhine and Downtown is back in business as a full-time functioning venue. Bands like Magnolia Mountain and Pop Empire have been using the Theatre to film music video projects and, next Saturday (April 28), the Emery hosts the "Rock This Town" benefit concert for CityLink, which helps resident "break the cycle of poverty" by providing employment training and other assistance. The event's music will be provided several groups of business people who can play instruments or sing (modeled on the "Suits That Rock" concerts that benefit the Carnegie Arts Center in Covington).
On April 27, the Emery will host a dual album release party/concert in honor of two new releases from the label Ol Kentuck, run by SubPop recording artist and Northern Kentucky native Daniel Martin Moore. One of the albums is a vinyl release of producer/guitarist/composer Ric Hordinski's Arthur's Garden (read more about the album here).
The other is the first release from a duo project consisting of Moore and singer Joan Shelley (pictured) titled Farthest Field. The event will also feature readings from authors Silas House and Marianne Worthington (who wrote one of the most engaging press releases for the album I think I've ever laid eyes on for the duo's debut; click the "Bio" pdf link on this page to read it).
It's a great time to check out the Emery circa 2012 because the concert is also free and open to the public. (Rock this Town's tickets range from $35-$100 — for a great cause, of course.)
Here are two video clips (shot by photographer Michael Wilson with help on the audio side from Pop Empire) promoting the concert, with music from Moore and Shelley's Farthest Field (officially available May 8).
MPMF news and musings: The official MPMF.12 "Kick Off Celebration" is set for Wednesday, Sept. 26, in the Hanke Building just off Main St. (215 Michael Bany Way, between 12th and Reading). The free, open-to-all (21-and-up) party starts at 6 p.m. and will feature music from DJ Ice Cold Tony (who will be laying down some mash-ups featuring MPMF artists) and great Cincy rockers 500 Miles to Memphis will blow the rest of the roof off with a set starting at 9 p.m. There will be giveaways, free Vitaminwater, free Eli's BBQ (while it lasts) and a chance to win a pair of VIP tickets to the CityBeat-sponsored New Year's Eve blow-out at Bogart's featuring music by The Afghan Whigs.
And now, with the countdown down to just 8 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
Tennis (Denver, CO)
It’s been a breakthrough year for Colorado Indie trio Tennis, starting with the winter release of its stellar (and highly anticipated) sophomore full-length, Young and Old, on Fat Possum Records. After touring its comparatively lo-fi, critically-lauded debut Cape Dory (crafted by core duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley), the duo took its vintage Pop songs into the studio with The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, who helped give the songs a more direct punch (resulting in the addition of a drummer to the fold). Where acts like Best Coast and Jesus and Mary Chain rewire the classic Pop of the ’60s, Tennis write songs that often recall the ballads of ’50s Pop, something more evident and effective on Young and Old, which charted well and performed exceptionally at college radio. The band’s songs have been used on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and are becoming favorites in the fashion world, and they’ve also made a fan out of the Republican (one of "the good ones") daughter of an almost-President, Meghan McCain, who tweeted her joy that Tennis had become the soundtrack to her summer this earlier this year.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Lesley Gore, Dusty Springfield, the house band for Mad Men (if they had one). (Mike Breen)
Tennis performs at the Know Theatre on the Bioré Strip's Main Stage Saturday, Sept. 29, at 11:45 p.m. Here's Tennis' clip for their swoony tune "Pigeon."
The Bonesetters (Muncie, IN)
Bonesetters don’t necessarily sound like a lot of bands but they fit well in the Midwestern construct of talented groups crafting a complex sound out of relatively simple ingredients. Sparse guitar melodies, both plugged and unplugged, are appointed with spartan rhythmatism, unexpected instrumental counterpoints (mariachi trumpet, keening violin, gentle vibes, wheezing harmonium) and a quiet sense of Indie Rock urgency on Savages, Bonesetters’ full-length debut from late last year. It’s easy to understand why Muncie loves Bonesetters, it’s harder to understand why they don’t play here all the bloody time.
Dig: Clem Snide, My Morning Jacket and Gomez making high lonesome carnival Surf Rock for emo hodads. (Brian Baker)
The Bonesetters perform Thursday in Washington Park at 5 p.m. Here's the band's debut album, which you can sample below, then download the whole shebang for free.
LOCAL LOCK PICK
The Dukes Are Dead (Cincinnati, OH)
Rock & Roll
If you’re a local Rock fan who has yet to catch a live show from exciting Cincinnati foursome The Dukes Are Dead, you’ve missed out on some great shows … and you only have this one more before The Dukes Are Dead are dead. In just a couple of years — first as “The Dukes,” before adding “Are Dead” to avoid confusion with the 17,000 other bands with the same name — the foursome amassed a loyal following and even got into theater, becoming the house band for the local staging of “Rock musical” Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Though the band’s last show (sure to be a debauched blow-out) is this one at MPMF, there is hope for fans — in their farewell note on Facebook, it was announced that the members will each continue to pursue making music in the future.
Dig: No-nonsense Rock & Roll, bands with names that turn out to be prophetic. (MB)
The Dukes Are Dead's final show is Saturday, Sept. 28, at 8:30 p.m. at The Drinkery. The kind gentlemen of The Dukes are also giving fans some final recorded music as a parting gift — sample below then click on the player to download your free copy of the five-track EP, Before We Died.
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
The superb, now veteran local Indie Pop group The Minor Leagues are gearing up for the release of their new album, North College Hill. The album was recorded last summer with Sean Sullivan at The Butcher Shoppe, the Nashville studio owned by legendary singer/songwriter John Prine and Grammy-winning engineer Dave Ferguson (Johnny Cash, U2, Ryan Bingham), and was recently mastered by Michael Bond from the band's label, Datawaslost. The Minor Leagues recently made the album's first single — "Ghost Maps" b/w "Please Don't Throw My Love Away" — available as a free download from their new website (www.minorleaguesmusic.com).
On this day in 1970, a Cincinnati native (whose "celebrity" we do not celebrate locally, Nick Lachey-style) released one of the few albums we will gladly tell you to seek out and download illegally, should you need to hear it. Lie: The Love and Terror Cult, the "debut album" from singer/songwriter/cult leader/convicted murderer Charles Manson, was recorded on Sept. 11, 1967, and released just months before the murder trial of Manson and his "family." A year after the album was released, four Manson Family members (including Manson) were sentenced to death (in 1972, the sentences were reduced to life in prison after California abolished the death penalty in that state).
The album's original pressing reportedly only sold 300 copies, but subsequent reissues (proceeds from which were given to the families of Manson's victims) kept the notorious cult leader's weirdly experimental, psychedelic Folk Rock songs alive for future generations of musicians to cover. Guns N' Roses were the biggest band to ever cover one of Manson's songs. The convicted killer was an aspiring Rock Star who had schmoozed his way into the SoCal music scene of the late ’60s, most notoriously befriending Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson (The Boys' reworked one of Manson's compositions on the 1969 album 20/20).
Other artists covering Manson over the years include Marilyn Manson (no relation) and wacky actor Crispin Glover.
Here's the song GNR recorded for its 1993 covers album The Spaghetti Incident?, "Look at Your Game, Girl."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and more …
The album is an endangered concept in music, with MP3s and streaming encouraging more and more people to listen to tracks “a la carte.” If people aren’t listening to a collection of songs intentionally put together by an artist in a specific order, why should the artist bother trying? It’s one of the reasons releasing EPs seems to have become more popular than issuing full-lengths.
With some exceptions, the “album as art” concept has long been dwindling amongst Hip Hop artists, many of whom have more fully embraced the hodge-podge “mixtape” format, which is perhaps more in tune with our ADD/social media-plagued culture.
So it’s beyond refreshing to hear the new release from Cincinnati MC Sleep, Branded: The Damon Winton Story, a collection of eight tracks that tells the story of a young man’s troubled upbringing. It’s not just that Sleep has compiled eight songs that kind of fit together; Branded is a fully envisioned tale that requires the listener to hear the entire album in order to get the total impact. And it’s quite an impact.
It helps that Sleep’s “concept album” is based on some excellent storytelling skills, contains some fierce rhymes (with a flow and timbre that recalls Jay-Z at his peak) and is supported by the excellent, often hauntingly atmospheric production of Dope Antelope, which brilliantly reflects the dark, chaotic, heart-breaking nature of the story. The way Sleep — half of local duo 2-Man Cypher — lays the story out is also sharply clever. In lieu of titles, each track is labeled as simply “Question,” followed by the track number. The album opens with a police officer hitting “record” to begin his interview with the main character’s social worker about “what could have led up to what transpired with him this past weekend.” To kick off each track, the social worker is asked about a different aspect of the trouble the young man had experienced and been in.
Working backwards from the incident (which isn’t revealed until “Question 8,” so the listener is left to wonder what transpired), Sleep creates evocative, harrowing slices of life, usually told from the main character’s point of view, but with other voices popping in occasionally to give an even bigger picture. The young man’s horrific surroundings are revealed gradually; the listener learns that he has self-mutilated himself, been molested, lost (or never had) faith or religion and had family involved in drugs. Sleep’s brilliance is turning the smaller stories from the big picture into vivid, cinematic tales in themselves — “If this is grown folks’ business/Then why when you conduct it, there’s a child as a witness,” he raps after it’s revealed that the main character’s mother had substance abuse issues. When the social worker tells the officer that the young man had been bullied over his clothes in school, Sleep echoes that pain with lines like, “The peer pressure to be above the status quo/It’s never ending, it’s never taking sabbaticals.”
By the last track, the listener is primed to hear just what happened to the main character, but when his fate is revealed, it’s not what most would expect, making the album that much more powerful. (In the spirit of not ruining the final act, I’ll refrain from giving away the ending.)
Sleep’s Branded shows just how much power Hip Hop still has to tell a realistic story poetically but without hyperbole. It’s an incredibly moving piece of work that stands as one of the best Hip Hop albums to come out of Greater Cincinnati in recent memory. And Sleep shows that if he ever gets tired of the Rap game (which itself would be tragic becomes the genre needs more voices like his), he’ll be able to find some kind of career as a writer, be it an author, a journalist, a filmmaker or whatever field he decides to lend his talents to.
If you’re a fan of intelligent Hip Hop or just great storytelling in general, you must download (for free or whatever you’d like to kick in) Branded immediately at sleep513.bandcamp.com.
Here is a music video for the track, "Question 2":
A pair of Cincinnati Hip Hop acts have recently released music videos showcasing new material. Both are compelling, well-produced clips for solid new tracks.
Alternative Hip Hop group Valley High issued the video for "That One Too" at the start of the month. The clip was directed by SnowRowe (who plays keys in the group) and, according to the YouTube page, the track is from the Valley High or Die Tape, due for release today. The group is fronted by MCs Moxy Monster and M.O. Click here for more on Valley High.
Last year, area MC Puck released the high-pro video for "Gitit," the latest of several clips. Now, Puck has returned with a new track and video that's perhaps his strongest yet. "Jordan Vs. Bird" is built around a hook from a remix of the band Grouplove's song "Colours." The video was directed by Dan Gotti. Puck is offering a free download of the track via his Soundcloud page here. Find out more about Puck here.
I may be imagining it (the eternal optimist that I am), but it seems like ever since the Southgate House locked its doors at the end of 2011, many in the local booking world stepped up their game instantly. Though it's only been just over a month, it certainly doesn't feel as if the Greater Cincinnati concert market has been gutted by the loss of that one great club. And with several spots slated to open later this year (new venues from the brains behind the Southgate and Mad Hatter, plus whatever happens to the actual Southgate House building), it only looks to be getting better.
More good news on that front came out at the start of this week. On Feb. 10, an unexpected, big-time venue entered the mix — or rather, increased its presence in it. Downtown’s gorgeous Taft Theatre already this year announced some concerts by more “mid-level” groups like Trampled By Turtles and JJ Grey & Mofro, cult faves and Southgate alumni. Now, the Taft and promoter Music & Events Management Inc. are opening a new venue-within-a-venue that will allow the Taft to book artists who have outgrown small clubs but aren't quite ready for the big room.
The Ballroom at the Taft — located in the theater’s lower level — was designed to be, according to the press release, “a showcase style club venue that will play host to a variety of live entertainment events spanning all types of styles and genres.”