This weekend, the Cincy Blues Fest — presented annually by the Cincy Blues Society — returns for its 21st year, a remarkable accomplishment for a music festival of any sort. The festival kicks off tonight and continues tomorrow at Sawyer Point along the riverfront.
The weekend features two main stage acts with serious ties to Cincinnati’s Blues past. Educator, author, DJ, singer and harmonica player Steven Tracy returns to Cincy to play the main stage on tonight at 7 p.m. with his band the Crawling Kingsnakes. A Walnut Hills High School graduate, Tracy worked with local Blues icons like Pigmeat Jarrett and Big Joe Duskin, becoming a part of the scene he’d later dig deeper into in the 1993 book, Going to Cincinnati: A History of the Blues in the Queen City. His writing career is extensive — Tracy has written dozens of album liner notes and edited/wrote/intro-ed several other books on a variety of subjects. Today, Tracy is a professor of Afro-American Studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Saturday at 6 p.m. on the fest’s main stage, Stacy Mitchhart and his band are slated to perform. Mitchhart grew up in Cincinnati and spent time playing music on the East and West Coasts before returning to his hometown in the early 1990s and forming Stacy Mitchhart and Blues-U-Can-Use, a staple on the local Blues scene for a few years. After a move to Nashville, Tenn., in the mid-’90s, Mitchhart’s musical career really took off. His albums have been widely acclaimed and done well commercially — his 2011 release, Live from B.B. King’s, debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard Blues charts — and he’s received high-praise for his showmanship and remarkable Blues voice. In 2008, Mitchhart was the subject of the well-received documentary NashVegas Blues.
Here is tonight's main stage schedule:
5:45-6:45 p.m. Dave Muskett
7:00-8:15 p.m. Steve Tracy & the Crawling Kingsnakes
8:30-10 p.m. Reba Russell Band
10:15-11:45 p.m. Watermelon Slim & the Workers
And here's the lineup for the Main Stage tomorrow:
4:15-4:45 p.m. Blues in the Schools (BITS) Band
5-5:45 p.m. The Juice
6-7 p.m. Stacy Mitchhart Band
7:15-8:30 p.m. Nikki Hill
8:45-10:00 p.m. Honey Island Swamp Band
10:15-11:45 p.m. Ana Popovic (all the way from Serbia!)
Some of the coolest things at the Cincy Blues Fest can be found on the “specialty” stages — a “specialty” of the fest — which this year includes a “Women of the Blues” stage on Friday, headlined by national act EG Knight and also featuring locals Rio & The Ramblers, The Juice and Tempted Souls Band.
Here is the "Women of the Blues" stage ((aka the Arches stage) schedule for tonight :
5:45-7 p.m. Rio & the Ramblers
7:15-8:30 p.m. The Juice
8:45-10:00 p.m. Tempted Souls Band
10:15-11:45 p.m. EG Kight
Saturday sees the return of the “Boogie Woogie Hall of Fame Piano Stage,” featuring an international cast of top-shelf Boogie Woogie pianists, including local favorite Ricky Nye and former locals (now Florida-based) Liz Pennock & Dr. Blues. The house band for the Boogie Woogie stage is Johnny Vidacovich (drums), George Bedard (guitar) and Chris Douglas (bass).
Saturday's Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame stage (aka Arches stage) lineup:
4:30 p.m. Ben Levin
5 p.m. Ari Borger
5:40 p.m. Ricky Nye
6:20 p.m. Liz Pennock & Dr. Blues
7:10 p.m. Bruce Katz
7:50 p.m. Al Hill
8:30 p.m. Axel Zwingenberger & Lila Ammons
9:10 p.m. Joshua Paxton
10 p.m. David Vest
10:40 p.m. Bob Seeley
11:20 p.m. Chris Conz
The Blues Fest again presents the St. Vincent De Paul Local Stage on both days of the event, always an excellent snapshot of the current local Blues scene.
Friday's St. Vincent De Paul Local Stage schedule:
5:45-6:45 p.m. Thomas Long & Blue Sacrifice
7-8 p.m. Noah Wotherspoon Band
8:15-9:15 p.m. Ralph & the Rhythm Hounds
9:30-10:30 p.m. Brad Hatfield Band
10:45 p.m.-12 a.m. G Miles & the Hitmen
Saturday's St. Vincent De Paul Local Stage lineup:
4:30-5:30 p.m. The Blue Birds Big Band
5:45-6:45 p.m. Jay Jesse Johnson Band
7-8 p.m. The SoulFixers
8:15-9:15 p.m. Doug Hart Band
9:30-10:30 p.m. Chuck Brisbin & the Tuna Project
10:45 p.m.-12 a.m. Leroy Ellington Blues Band
Here is a map of the Blues Fest grounds:
Tickets are $15 for Friday, $20 for Saturday or $25 for a
two-day pass (tickets can be purchased at the gates or here). Visit
cincybluesfest.org for everything else you need to know about the
One of the oldest free series of its kind in the region, the It’s Commonly Jazz showcases have now been running for 28 years, presenting marquee artists like Eddie Harris, McCoy Tyner, Javon Jackson and David “Fathead” Newman.
The free series — running every Thursday in August (lucky Jazz fans get five events this year) — returns to the outdoor Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park tonight. The opening show features renowned saxophonist Craig Bailey.
Nice interview from Greece with Bailey:
Here is the rest of the It’s Commonly Jazz lineup for 2013:
Trinidad-born Etienne Charles, acclaimed for his mix of island rhythms and Jazz, plays Aug. 8.
Charles jazzing up Marley:
Young tenor sax wiz J.D. Allen performs at the Aug. 15 show.
Allen and his trio play "The Matador and the Bull":
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/actor Gregory Porter on Aug. 22, presented with Learning Through the Arts, Inc. as part of the Crown Jewels of Jazz Heritage Festival. For tickets to (and more info on) the Crown Jewels fest — running at various venues in Over-the-Rhine and Mt. Adams Aug. 21-24 — click here. Here's LTtA's Kathy Wade explaining the festival:
Gregory Porter's official music video for "Be Good (Lion's Song)":
For the finale, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, who will be joined by his group of young Jazz lions, Wolfpack, comes to the ICJ stage on Aug. 29.
Warren Wolf's video biography:
Music runs 6-8 p.m. For complete info, visit itscommonlyjazz.com.
There is an old homily which quite wisely states that if something is operating properly, it might be considered imprudent to attempt a repair.
Or, in a slightly less circuitous manner of speaking, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
For well over a decade, the Sundresses have been anything but broken. Brad Schnittger, Jeremy Springer and Makenzie Place have been churning out a visceral pretzel logic version of the Blues with elements of manic Swing, hot foot Jazz, brutal Punk and blistering Indie Rock, heated to the temperature of molten rock and detonated over unsuspecting audiences with an animalistic ferocity. A formula like that is both tremulously volatile and erratically perfect. Why would anyone feel the need to take a wrench to it?
Needed or not, a-wrenching they have gone; for the first time in The Sundresses' long history, the tight-knit trio has added a new full fledged member with the hiring of former Dukes Are Dead drummer Dave Reid. The new lineup was unveiled on July 19 for the band's appearance at the MidPoint Indie Summer Series on Fountain Square, and then again a week later when The Sundresses tore through a set at the Mad Love for Mad Anthony benefit at the Southgate House Revival.
Rabid fans and casual observers may have differing opinions on how Reid's addition will impact the Sundresses going forward, but one thing is certain; this was anything but a routine lineup decision. Bringing in a permanent drummer changes the group dynamic, eliminates one of the band's most popular and unique live features and may actually set the stage for broader success.
After 13 hard fought calendars, the Sundresses have recorded sporadically — a few EPs, a split with Dylan Ewing's 4192, a pair of brilliant studio documents (2003's The Only Tourist in Town, 2008's Barkinghaus) and Off, their scalding and ingeniously marketed 2010 live album — and toured relentlessly, without a great deal of forward progress being notched. The trio has always generated a good deal of extremely positive press, and their string of five trips to Austin for South by Southwest has to stand as some kind of local record.
My personal obsession with the Sundresses began at their first SXSW appearance in 2004, which coincided with my first trip to Austin for the festival. As it turned out, the band's gig at the Blender Balcony was only the ninth out-of-town show in their two-year history, and I felt as though I had just witnessed the cosmic birth of a great musical entity. I still feel that way. I drank more than a dipperful of The Sundresses' Kool-Aid that night, and I've been feverishly blathering on about them ever since to anyone who will listen.
For whatever reasons, the brass ring of label offers and more tangible measures of success have eluded The Sundresses. At the same time, the trio has remained committed to the cause and continued to pursue their singular vision with an almost psychotic tenacity and zealous passion. And their focused determination may have made it difficult for those of us who love them unconditionally to admit that there was indeed a fundamental issue that may have been blocking their path.
From the very start, Brad and Jeremy envisioned and executed one of their most cherished gimmicks, namely their patented guitar/drum switch; at their 2005 SXSW show, Jeremy informed the audience, "You were supposed to close your eyes..." It has long been an admittedly fabulous element of their live presentation, but it may have been so entertainingly original that it became a detriment.
The basic issue may be that Brad plays drums with the subtlety and invention of a studied and seasoned beatkeeper and Jeremy plays with the brute force of a blacksmith hammering on an anvil. Both approaches to playing the drums have legitimate advantages and both clearly have a role in shaping the diverse sonic identity that the trio has been trying to define since forming The Sundresses in 2002.
Although it may never have been perceived as a problem, the difficulty with rotating drummers is that Makenzie — who learned how to play bass in order to be a part of the band — has had to adjust her groove based on those two very distinct drum styles. In essence, the Sundresses' rhythm section has never really had an opportunity to build a discernible foundation.
With Dave behind the kit, that opportunity becomes a reality.
Based on the Sundresses' roaring set at the Mad Anthony benefit on July 26, the band's newly established rhythm section has already started paying dividends. Makenzie is now locked into a single percussionist and she and Dave collectively control the band's tempo. Dave has the latitude to incorporate Jeremy's power and Brad's nuance into his singular drum repertoire and Makenzie is learning the joy of shifting gears without changing cars.
Relying on primarily new and largely unrecorded material, The Sundresses blazed through an all-too-brief ten song set with a rejuvenated energy that smacked of their early days. Opening with the swinging funky Blues of the brand new "Banker's Blues" and the loping howl of the equally fresh "Whisper Touch," the quartet bounced megawatt riffs through every body and against every conceivable surface in the Revival's sanctuary. They slowed down a shade for a spin through Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man," and Jeremy's quick documentary on the size of MA guitarist Ringo Jones' manhood before tearing into another relatively new track, "Zap a Deux," but it was all good in the hood regardless of speed or sonic profile. Finishing up with longtime faves "Hey! Hey! Bang! Bang!" and the propulsively jumping "Larry Nixon," the Sundresses gave both a glimpse at the sound of their much-anticipated third studio outing, hopefully coming out before the end of the year, and the direction they'll be taking as a quartet.
Perhaps one of the more interesting side effects from The Sundresses' expansion is the fact that Jeremy and Brad are now playing guitar together, which means their distinct stylistic differences are blending and cross-pollinating rather than occupying discernibly different spaces within the set. As they become more acclimated to this arrangement, and as Makenzie and Dave fully tune up the engine they've just rebuilt, it's bound to have an incredible impact on the songs they start writing. As it stands, the songs The Sundresses have already written sound magnificent coming from the newly minted quartet, proving once again that even the best can get better
• Macy’s Music Festival — still often referred to locally as “Jazz Fest” as a nod to the fest’s roots (despite a complete lack of Jazz nowadays) — returns to downtown’s Paul Brown Stadium tonight and tomorrow.
The festival is a Cincinnati tradition, a true “event,” regardless of what music is featured (which may explain the lackluster booking rut the fest was in for a while). But this year’s Macy’s Music Fest has one of the best lineups in recent memory.
Tonight's performers include headliner Jill Scott, plus Charlie Wilson, TGT (Tyreese, Ginuwine, Tank), locals The Faize Band and a rare performance by Cincinnati legend, Funk superhero and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Bootsy Collins.
Charlie Wilson is fresh off of receiving the BET Awards' Lifetime Achievement honors.
And here's the crowd rockin' to Charlie at last year's Macy's Music Festival.
Saturday’s lineup features newcomer Leela James, KEM, Prince’s ol’ pals Morris Day and The Time, Fantasia and blockbuster headliner R. Kelly, an arena-worthy star fresh off of his odd but successful (despite the many "Pee on Me!" signs in the hipster audience) 38-song, headlining appearance at the Pitchfork music festival in Chicago. But … MORRIS DAY AND THE TIME!
Morris Day and The Time - Jungle Love by DemonPreyer
Find more about the fest at macysmusicfestival.com. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. Prices range from $40-$85 (only single-day tickets are available). Showtime is 7:30 p.m. each night.
• If your tastes trend more towards old-timey music and Bluegrass (and your wallet trends more towards empty), downtown's Arnold's is presenting the two-night Tito's Old Time Music Festival, running tonight and tomorrow. "Tito's" refers to sponsor Tito's Homemade Vodka, an Austin, Texas-produced spirits producer; Tito's reps will be on hand and Tito's drink specials will be plentiful. There will be also a chance to win an Epiphone acoustic guitar and purchase signed fest poster created by local poster-art great Keith Neltner.
You don't have to be a vodka enthusiast to attend — there is some great local Roots/Americana music each night. Tonight, Western Swing crew The Sidecars kick things off at 7:30 p.m., followed by My Brother the Bear, The Goodle Boys and AltCountry greats Terminal Union, which just released an amazing debut album, Making Arrangements (look for a review on this here blog soon).
Besides all of the great music, one of the most fun elements of the MidPoint Music Festival (coming Sept. 26-28 to various venues in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown) is the MidPoint Midway, with its carnival-like atmosphere, music offerings, food and other vendors bustling along the fest’s 12th Street vein.
The “Box Truck Carnival” is one of the cornerstones of the Midway, showcasing the creative minds of Cincinnatians in the form of “box trucks” that are remade into … anything the re-designers can dream up. The organizers at ArtWorks call them “experimental ‘carnival’ booths.”
Last year’s box trucks included a photo booth (from Queen City Project), a “shadow-dance” club (from Golden Brown Enterprises), an improvisational comedy club (from OTR Improv), an interactive magnetic sculpture (from the Loose Parts Project) and a “Free Advice” booth (from Calcagno Cullen).
ArtWorks and Springboard Cincinnati recently put the call out for proposals for the third annual Box Truck Carnival.
Here are some of the details from ArtWorks:
Artists and creatives are invited to create unique interactive installations within the confines of a 16' or 24' long truck. Past submissions have included performance art, a photo booth, putt-putt course, dance party, and more.
Participants will be awarded a $500 stipend for materials and supplies, provided the truck is returned to the rental company with no damage or alterations after the festival. ArtWorks will cover the cost of one week truck rental, insurance, and mileage not to exceed 100 miles. Generators will be provided.
A panel will got through all submissions and pick 8-10 concepts they’d like to see come to fruition. If you’re proposal is accepted, you will be notified by Aug. 9.
The MidPoint Midway is free and open to the public. This year, the hours are 5 p.m.-midnight on Sept. 26 and 27, and noon-midnight on Sept. 28. (On Sept. 28, MPMF is planning some family-friendly fun — dubbed “KidPoint” — from noon-4 p.m. along the Midway. More info on that coming soon.)
See what you can come up with over the next few days. Deadline for submissions is this WEDNESDAY (JULY 31), 5 p.m. Click here for the submission form. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
(This post was updated to reflect ArtWorks' recently extended deadline)
After months of rising anticipation and weeks of weirdly intermittent and torrential rain, Bunbury's first day looked to be a winner. A great announced lineup, no precipitation in the forecast and nothing but sunshine expected for the day; against all odds, that's exactly what we got. But it wasn't the rain to come that presented a problem, it was the rain that had already fallen; the area on the Serpentine Wall that had perfectly pocketed the Rockstar Stage last year was completely swallowed by the rising Ohio River, and the stage had to be moved to the opposite end of the field housing the all important Main Stage. It turned out to be a pretty decent fix, all things considered.
After securing my Level Three media pass (which, in the hierarchy of accessibility, I think meant that if any band needed help moving equipment, I was obligated to roadie for them), I headed for the Bud Light stage for Public. I had done a story on them back in January; they were home for Christmas so given their proximity, they came to my house and we did the interview in my basement. My daughter had answered the door and let them in, and for weeks afterward she was telling her friends about the cute guys I had interviewed at the house. Public's teenage girl effect was fully evident at their Bunbury appearance, as squealy females shrieked their appreciation for every song, and randomly shouted "I love you!"s arced over the rather sizable crowd. The trio did songs from their self-titled EP, a new tune called "Honey Bee" and, taking a page from the infinitely talented and creatively twisted Richard Thompson, offered a thunderously blazing turn on Britney Spears' "Toxic." In the studio, Public has the sound of a ramped up Modest Mouse, but in the live arena, they definitely blister and kick a little closer to the Led Zeppelin vibe they claimed as inspiration during our conversation, adding a dollop of harmonic Pop to sweeten the deal. If teenage girls are any indicator — and they usually are — Public could be headed for Walk the Moon territory pretty quickly.
Next up, it was Alone at 3AM at the Lawn Stage. I love these guys; super solid, crunchy heartland Indie Pop/Rock that states its case without a lot of unnecessary flash or padding. The band had plodded along for close to seven years before solidifying a dedicated line-up behind vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Max Fender and bassist Joey Beck and moving forward; a good deal of growth occurred with the additions of Sarah Davis on keys and Chris Mueller on drums (and business savvy). That in turn lit a fire under Fender, leading to a pair of albums in the last three years — 2010's Cut Your Gills and last year's Midwest Mess.
For A@3's Bunbury slot, the quintet was showing off their new guitarist; Clay Cason's recent departure left a gap which has been admirably filled by Jake Tippey, taking a busman's holiday from his howling duties in the Frankl Project and proving every bit as valuable in a Pop/Rock context. The band roared through songs from their most recent albums, introduced a couple of new songs (Chris mentioned after the show that A@3 would be working on an EP, and then tracking a new full length for imminent release) and even dipped back into their debut album, City Out of Luck, for a spin through "Mexico." Max's gruff voice sits comfortably in the Paul Westerberg/Bruce Springsteen range and it's the perfect vehicle for expressing his blue collar love-and-life songs. Can't wait to hear the new stuff in the studio, kids.
Before setting out for the Rockstar Stage, I caught the opening of Ohio Knife, one of Cincinnati's brightest new entities. Initially a side project for the Chocolate Horse, vocalist/guitarist Jason Snell, guitarist Andrew Higley and drummer Joe Suer — who all played together in Readymaid as well — ultimately put the Horse in the stable to concentrate on the Punk-scrubbed Blues of Ohio Knife, and with good reason. The trio is a sweat-soaked hurricane in the studio (their 2012 EP was a marvel), but the live translation hits with the force and heat of a flamethrower in an ammunition dump, and it won't be long before the CEA nominees for Best New Artist wind up taking home some bling. Where are we with the full length, guys?
After a quick shot of Ohio Knife, it was time to motor to the other end of the festival to check out the Dunwells. The UK outfit fronted by, logically enough, the Dunwell brothers, has found a good deal of success with their debut album, Blind Sighted Faith, and its ubiquitous single "I Could Be a King." When they played the single, frontman Joseph Dunwell thanked Q102 for their support, but it bears pointing out that, WNKU has been beating the drum for the Dunwells for quite some time now (just as they had for the similarly Folk/Pop toned Mumford & Sons). That being said, the age of the crowd seemed to indicate that Q102's demographic was probably best represented here today, so perhaps the win should be scored in their column after all. However the commissioner decides to rule, the Dunwells put together a crisp and wonderfully vibrant set that pays homage to the West Coast sounds of the Eagles and CSNY. The one exception to that sonic blueprint is the aforementioned "I Could Be a King," which offers an irresistable Pop edge that shimmers like the best of Crowded House. When brother David Dunwell strapped on the old five string to play the hit, he noted wryly, "I think every Englishman should at some point come to America and stand in front of an American audience holding a banjo with no idea how to play it." I think he was being graciously self-deprecating. The Dunwells seemed to go down a storm and I think they would find a large and enthusiastic audience if they returned outside of the auspices of the Bunbury Festival. Quick note: If you see a Dunwells album titled Follow the Road in stores (for you youngsters, a building where your parents buy music) or online, it is actually a re-sequenced and remixed version of Blind Sighted Faith, with a few alternate versions tossed in for flavor.
I briefly considered heading over to the Bud Light Stage to see some of Everest (a pick from Bunbury worker bee extraordinaire Jacob Heintz), but opted to check out a bit of Tegan and Sara at the Main Stage before making a definite decision.
I've interviewed both Quin twins over the years — most recently, I talked to Sara the year after the release of 2009's Sainthood — and while I lean toward their early work as far as my personal taste is concerned, their last trio of albums have been fairly well stacked with radio-friendly Pop songs with the potential to reach a massive audience. The enormous turnout for their Bunbury set would seem to support their decision to go the pure Pop route, but the fact is that Tegan and Sara have been cultivating a large and diverse audience for the past decade and a half, and their synth-driven Pop direction was not enough of a departure to alienate any portion of their slavishly loyal fan base. Predictably, the bulk of their set was devoted to Heartthrob, along with faves from The Con and Sainthood; they also reached all the way back to 2002's If It Was You for "Living Room" and they threw in a cover of Tiesto's "Feel It in My Bones," on which they originally guested. As expected, the adrenaline and volume of the live experience ferments Tegan and Sara's sugary Pop confections into something with a little more bite. Even for those who weren't completely sold on their recent work (my hand is up), Tegan and Sara's live presentation could make you see the light.
After T&S, it was time to hit the Amphitheater Stage to see Buffalo Killers. If you missed seeing the James Gang in 1971, here's your chance. Because I'm old enough to have actually missed the James Gang (with Joe Walsh, that is; I was lucky enough to see the even rarer sight of the James Gang with Tommy Bolin. Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls …) that joke is only marginally funny. Luckily, Buffalo Killers have approximated the trio's fuzzy guitar assault and maniacally furious rhythm section here in the 21st century to give an indication of what Joe and the boys might have sounded like if they had stayed together a little longer and gelled a little better. And even though Buffalo Killers have managed to inject a bit of poppy sunshine into their bunker-busting sound, in the live arena the band still rumbles and shoots like a rhythmic Sherman tank. The Killers hit all of my teenage buttons (which were installed long ago and have never been fully deactivated, same as every man on the planet, I suppose) and any opportunity to witness their feedback-through-an-elephant-gun glory is a chance to time machine back to the days when electric dinosaurs roamed the earth and their squalling racket could be heard from sweaty and sparsely attended auditoriums to densely populated arenas. I love Buffalo Killers. They remind me that there is wisdom in remembering the past, joy in celebrating the present and excitement in anticipating the future.
After a brief stroll around the grounds to grab something to eat, it was back to the Amphitheater Stage for a healthy dose of Rock hard Americana with Those Darlins. The Nashville outfit has been down a Darlin since early last year when Kelley Anderson opted out of the band to pursue other musical projects (her new group, Grand Strand, got a good buzz after touring with Richard Lloyd last year), and her amicable departure has obviously changed the group's dynamic, particularly the absence of their signature three-part harmonies. The remaining Darlins — Jessi (Wariner), Nikki (Kvarnes) and drummer Linwood Regensberg — are carrying on with the-show-must-go-on determination; new bassist Adrian Barrera seems to be slotting in quite well and Those Darlins' core sound, along the lines of the Pandoras if they'd been influenced by Wanda Jackson and the Ramones, remains largely intact. Their Bunbury set did display a good deal more Rock and a good deal less twang than you'll find on their first two albums — 2009's Those Darlins and 2011's Screws Get Loose — and it's a safe bet that the new album they're currently working on will follow that blueprint as well. No one at the Amphitheater seemed too dismayed at the shift, particularly the hyperactive dance contingent in front of the stage. Two Darlins is clearly enough Darlins to make Those Darlins.
I bailed out of Those Darlins a bit early to make the long walk back to the Rockstar Stage to take in the Gypsy Jazz goodness of DeVotchKa. I've long been a fan of the Denver-based outfit (I came to them through 2004's How It Ends, fell in love with their version of the Velvets' "Venus in Furs" from the Curse Your Little Heart EP and adored their work in Little Miss Sunshine) but have never had the opportunity to see them in the flesh, and when I saw them on the Bunbury schedule, I knew there was little that could draw me away from their show. Luckily, their 9 p.m. slot meant they weren't programmed against anyone else, so the way was cleared for my first live DeVotchKa experience.
DeVotchKa lived up to and surpassed all advance billing with a set that walked the wire between frenetic and atmospheric but maintained high energy from start to finish. Even when they slowed the pace, there was an electric tension in their presentation that made clear something explosive could happen at any moment. And it usually did. All four members of the band — Nick Urata, Jeanie Schroder, Tom Hagerman, Shawn King — play multiple instruments so almost any sound is available to DeVotchKa, including theremin, boukouki, accordion, trumpet and Melodica. And Schroder does the heaviest lifting, either plucking with power and subtlety on her enormous upright bass or blowing away like Dizzy Gillespie on steroids into a gigantic sousaphone that looks as though it would be the punishment instrument for getting bad grades in high school band ("Okay, Baker, D in Orchestra, 10 solos with the death tuba..."). It wasn't a performance to analyze or interpret, it was a Gypsy Jazz soundtrack for a magic show, a feeling to wash over you like cool waves on warm sand, a Slavic Rock and Roll dance party. More than a few people on DeVotchKa's Facebook page declared it the best show of Bunbury's three-day weekend. It was most assuredly one of them.
Finally, it was time for fun. Not the fun that we'd been having all day at Bunbury, but the fun. that's topping the charts and recently played Saturday Night Live and won a couple of Grammys this year. Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of the band. I like their sound to a certain extent, it's energetic and entertaining and I really like Nate Reuss' voice. I actually interviewed him a decade ago when he was fronting the Format; ironically and perhaps presciently, he used the word "fun" a half dozen times to describe his band at the time.
At any rate, I hung around to see the show to be able to report how it was to my daughter, and because the band clearly doesn't take itself too seriously. When they accepted their Record of the Year Grammy for "We Are Young," Reuss said, "I don't know what I was thinking, writing the chorus for this song. If this is in HD, everybody can see our faces, and we are not very young." All in all, I was expecting a pleasant if unassuming concert experience.
And that's pretty much how it started, with the "Some Nights" intro, the title track to their sophomore album (it would show up in its entirety during the band's two-song encore, leading into "One Foot" from Some Nights). In fact, fun. performed almost all of Some Nights (save for "All Alright"), and over half of their debut album, 2009's Aim and Ignite, perhaps best represented by "At Least I'm Not as Sad (as I Used to Be)" and the nearly eight-minute closer, "Take Your Time (Coming Home)." Of course, they saved their anthemic signature singles for the second half of the set, first "Carry On" and then, two songs later, the epic Grammy-winning Pop of "We Are Young." Sandwiched in between though was a very charming version of The Rolling Stones’ "You Can't Always Get What You Want," an interesting lead-in to "We Are Young," a song that would seem to sport a diametrically opposed message. By the time fun. concluded with "Stars" as the second song of their encore, they had fired a confetti cannon (there was still yards of fun. confetti on the field when The National played Sunday night), performed the majority of their two studio albums and put on a show that proved they were worthy of their first-night-closing status. While I think they should remove the rather severe punctuation from their name, I have to say I was at least slightly converted toward a fun. lifestyle.
The band, which was formed in 2011 by Sebastien Hue and Pyn Wayne (and is currently a five-piece), has been touring to not only promote their forthcoming album, Dead in Ohio, but also finish it. Hue says the band has been collaborating with artists in places like Philly and New York City in order to complete the recording.
A good example of the band’s collaborative and creative openness (and truly unique sound and songwriting, which mixes Orchestral Pop, Indie Rock, Post Rock and whatever else suits the song) can be heard in the freshly-released single, “Predisposed.” The seven-and-a-half minute tune — featuring strings, percussion, piano and backing vocals provided by local guests — has electronic, Chamber music and orchestral elements, twinkling Indie Rock guitar flourishes and low-sung melodies that sound like a mix of Arcade Fire and Bauhaus, all spliced together and floated over hypnotic, unpredictable structuring.
On their old Facebook page, the band’s bio says the Formerly
Ghosts sound “cannot be contained in dead words and demonstrative
narratives attempting to describe something like a sound, a person, or a
band.” A lot of artists say similar things and are usually full of
shit. Formerly Ghosts are not. (Here is the band's current/active FB page.)
Here is "Predisposed." Click here to hear more from Formerly Ghosts.
Though there are few great excuses to not grab a three-day pass for this September's MidPoint Music Festival, stuff happens. Maybe you only have the time to catch one concert. Maybe you don't want to discover new music. Maybe you only have $20 or so to last you for the end of the year. Or maybe you're a younger music fan who can't experience any of the shows at venues that serve alcohol.
If you want to "a la carte" your MidPoint experience, the festival is ready to accommodate. Individual tickets for the MPMF concerts in Washington Park are on sale now. While the lineups are still being built, the Washington Park headliners have been announced. These tickets will guarantee you entry into the Washington Park festivities only. All shows are rain or shine.
Washington Park (as well as the open-to-the-public MidPoint Midway's many activities and performances) will be open to fans of all ages for MPMF. Here are the details so far; click the day to purchase tickets.
Thursday, Sept. 26: Shuggie Otis and Cody ChesnuTT + opening acts
Pricing: $20 advance; $22 at gate
Gates at 4 p.m.; show starts at 5 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 27: The Head and The Heart and Youth Lagoon + opening acts
$20 advance; $22 at gate
Gates at 4 p.m.; show starts at 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 28: The Breeders play Last Splash (Day Party with special guests/opening acts)
$25 advance; $27 at gate
Gates at noon; show starts at 1 p.m.
Three-day tickets — which will get you into everything (unless a venue reaches capacity, which is unlikely for the Washington Park shows) — are still available for just $69. VIP tickets are going fast.
Stay tuned for more info on MPMF.13.
Last year around this time, Ill Poetic — the Hip Hop artist who grew up in Dayton, cut his Hip Hop teeth in the Cincinnati scene and currently lives in and works out of Columbus — dropped the fantastic video for his excellent track "Gone," which was loaded with Cincinnati references and guest appearances.
Now, Ill Po (who was formerly a columnist for CityBeat) is set to release the single "Silhouette," taken from his superb Synesthesia: The Yellow Movement release (just as "Gone" was) and he's reaching out to fans (established and potential) to help make the accompanying music video he and partner David Damen of Arris Production have dreamed up.
Ill Poetic has set up one of the cooler (and comprehensively explained; let it serve as a guide for those thinking about going this route) crowd-funding projects you'll see. There are lots of great perks for various donation tiers, but also prize perks (dedicated to various Ohio Funk greats, a huge influence on the Hip Hop artist) for those who simply share the project on social media. You can even contribute via product placement if you're a business owner (at the artist's discretion, surely).
Find out everything you need to know about it at the Indie GoGo page here and check out the pitch video below.
Upon completion, thanks to a distribution deal, the video will debut on VEVO. Here's the nut-shell explanation of the song and video project from the Indie GoGo page:
The centerpiece of my new EP "Synesthesia: The Yellow Movement" is a song called "Silhouette". On the surface, this is a pretty straight forward, light-hearted love song. This song, however, is directed specifically toward those ladies who are genuinely music fans. A lot of artists tend to marganalize women as a 'target demographic' they can sing some cliche love sh*t to, and forget they can be music-nerds just like most of us dudes are. The majority of females who dig my songs are genuine, intelligent music fans who often school me on records I should check out. "Silhouette" is dedicated to those women who go out to shows and buy records because music is their life.
My partner David Damen (of Arris Productions) and I have an amazing concept for the video, but we want it done right. We have shot 3 videos on shoestring budgets and have garnered over 60,000 genuine views, heartfelt emotional reactions (reactions of which people have felt in their heart) and critical acclaim (from critics who acclaim things).
Since we're starving artists who are by no means rich or corporate, we're bringing the campaign to you. We're DYING for the opportunity to shoot a video with upgraded cameras & lenses and a full video production team and we really want to tell you about it. Hence why you're reading this right now. But first, feel free to check out the 3 videos we've created to get an idea of exactly what we've already made with a strong team, no sleep, and few funds.
Check out the full Synesthesia release below and/or click on the player to grab your own copy.
CityBeat spoke with bassist Elijah Thomson about the group's unique vision and feel and also where he feels the band is going in their evolution. Everest will be playing the Bunbury Music Festival at Cincinnati's Sawyer Point/Yeatman's Cove on Friday alongside fun., Walk the Moon, Devotchka, Tegan and Sara and many others. Everest plays the Bud Light Stage at 5 p.m. Friday.
CityBeat: What have you guys been up to since I saw you last summer at Forecastle in Louisville?
Elijah Thomson: We took a little break. We were touring with Neil Young at the end of the year, which was really fun. We were a little beat down from a year of touring. We took probably about six months off. We did a little tour in April with Minus the Bear, so we sort of violated our own hiatus to go out with those guys, but that was better. We just did a couple weeks' run from L.A. to Chicago, so we went out there to do a couple dates.
CB: I know Neil Young personally picked you guys to go on tour with him and open his shows. What was the highlight of playing with him?
ET: It has been pretty sweet over the years getting to tour with Neil and obviously a total honor to be able to play with an artist of that caliber and a living legend, as far as I am concerned.
On a certain level, it is still a gig — you know, driving and loading in and out and all that kind of stuff. I think for me personally, watching a guy like Neil night in and night out, it sort of proves that sort of mystical thing in music, what is compelling about somebody that can sustain them for so long.
People are coming out in droves to see Neil and for me it is a personal study on art and what it is that enamors people with art. With Neil, I think it is primarily an honesty with his art. He will put it out there. The first song on his new record is like 27 minutes long. That’s the kind of bravery that comes from having nothing to prove and I think for them, like us, we have to understand why that is important and to find a formula that works, but also (be) true to ourselves and true to our own desires musically. That is a process. It has not been instantaneous, but I think we are sort of on the verge of realizing that ourselves.
CB: Did Neil give you any advice?
ET: I think if there ever was, it was just (to) absolutely do whatever you want and don’t make any apologies and don’t play it safe. It was the kind of real world wisdom that is important. It is not about playing some game. We should not be concerned where we will be classified in a musical genre. It is more about making what you feel and letting other people classify it.
CB: You guys toured pretty consistently the past few years. Do you have any crazy tour stories on the road?
ET: One of the main things we talked about from last year, we seemed to be pretty slippery when it came to crossing paths with law enforcement. We were slippery, we had no issues. I don’t know how we did it. We had a couple close calls, but were able to talk our way out of it every time.
CB: Are you working on any new music right now?
ET: Yeah, the biggest change in Everest is a slight personnel change. Jason Soda, a founding member of the band, decided to resign. I don’t know if I should say why, but ultimately he needed more normalcies in his life.
His replacement — I hate to put it that way — his name is Aaron Tasjan, an amazing guitar player who we met while we were on the road with Alberta Cross. He was kind of filling in for guitar and when it came up that J was going to resign, Joel and I were talking about it.
I think it was a sensitive thing — who were we going to collaborate with and how were we going to take this opportunity to improve the internal chemistry? We had a really great rapport with Aaron and when we were on the road he watched our set every night. He would open the shows doing solo stuff and we would jump on stage with him and jam with him. His spirit has been really amazing since he has been playing with us, bringing a freshness and newness that we have really desired and I think interpersonally it has been good and natural.
Also, the drummer chair has been in rotation the last year and a half or so since Davey, our original drummer, stopped playing with us. Our drummer now is a guy named Dan Bailey, a guy I have known for years. I really respected his drumming. He is an absolutely astounding drummer. It was very easy to ask him to join. Bass players and drummers generally want to choose who they are going to play with. He has known this band for a while, since I have been in it, and he has been chomping at the bit to jam with us, so we are on this new plane that we have never really experienced. It is really sort of a beautiful and fun creative discovery.
I am excited to bring this to Cincinnati. There is a great spirit going on. The plan right now is to finish out this summer touring, a couple weeks in July and a couple weeks in August on the West Coast. Then we are going to go back in the studio. The sound checks for our shows have gone into much more depth with the music; I don’t like the word "jamming," so we will say "spontaneous musical landscapes." It is something we have been wanting to do for a long time and it is really amazing to go on stage and just not have it all pre-programmed, even calling out set lists on the stage, stretching songs out, kind of taking our time with things, letting things be different night after night and really encourage our creative flow together. We are really excited about getting in the studio and experimenting with this.
CB: What is your favorite bass to play?
ET: I play a Gibson Les Paul Recording bass (from) 1973. I have been playing it exclusively for about 12 years. I do own several basses. The first bass I ever had was a Gibson Les Paul Recording bass. My Dad was a bass player and he gave it to me. It was kind of his junker bass and I didn’t even like it but it was something.
It sounds really stupid and mystical, because it was the bass I learned on and I kind of wore it out and it was an awkward bass, but I was always coming back to it because it was familiar.
I was playing with a guy named Richard Swift (producer, singer/songwriter and current member of The Shins), still do, a really dear friend. Right around when we first started playing together, he said, “That is the raddest bass I have ever heard. You should only use that bass when you are playing with me.” I was like, “OK no problem.” I basically decided that was my thing and I was going to stick with it.
I haven’t played any other bass for years and years except in a studio, and even then it is only one song, maybe.
CB: Did you always want to be a musician?
ET: Like I said, my dad was a musician and so I grew up on the road and around music. My uncle owned a studio, still does, and we still work out of there a lot. I have been recording bands since I was 17 years old and have been playing music since I was 12 years old, always had guitars around. When I was a little kid I thought I was the talentless one in the family because I didn’t pick it up before the age of 10. I eventually found my way. This was always what I was meant to do, in a way.
CB: Somebody the other day said that the best way to become a successful musician is to not have a backup plan.
ET: I’d say so, and I’d say most true artists would rather downgrade and live in a shack and still be doing what they are passionate about. It really plays into the artist mentality. I am no spring chicken, so I certainly decided I was in for life. I don’t have a retirement plan. I don’t ever want to stop. This is what I do. I get into other things outside of music so it is not a total obsession. I found a way to make it this far. I don’t know why that would change in the future. If it does, it does, and I will figure it out. This is what works for me; there is no backup plan.
CB: Where did the band name come from?
ET: The story … I wasn’t in the band when they named it and maybe I wouldn’t have picked that name, but that is for another conversation.
From what I gather, Russ and Jason had named their studio Everest Recordings because of a pack of cigarettes that Geoff Emerick had. He was an engineer on a lot of the Beatles stuff and supposedly Abbey Road was originally going to be named Everest and they were going to do a photo shoot in Nepal. It became a logistical nightmare and, as the legend goes, Paul or somebody said, "Let’s shoot a picture out front and be done with it." So the name Everest has significance to them, however it is sort of a common thing for something to be named.
It is hard to Google something like that. That is something you have to think about nowadays and maybe it gets lost in the shuffle a little bit.
CB: What can the fans look forward to at Bunbury seeing you guys for the first time?
ET: As a band we are really relaxed and comfortable. Every new show is an adventure. Every show we have had with this lineup has been over the top amazing.
I guess what fans can expect is the unexpected. They can expect to see some sort of fine but not some self-congratulatory musicianship, people making themselves vulnerable in front of people and making up stuff on the spot and really trying to live in that spirit of Jimi Hendrix and Zeppelin and the kind of feelings those shows had when it was a beautiful thing of stream of consciousness. I think that is something rarer these days in music. I am happy and proud to be in a band that values that part of live performance.
Everest performed at Lousiville's Forecastle fest last
summer. Check out the "A Day in the Life" Forecastle photo series with
the group here.